Mad Men 4.08 "The Summer Man" Review

While my review of last week’s Rubicon had some faulty assumptions in it, I didn’t make the same mistake with my review of Mad Men‘s seventh episode of this year. In fact, my review of “The Suitcase” had one statement in it that came true: “This sobering death [of Anna Draper] could either push Don a significant step in either direction: toward redemption or damnation.”

Well, I really shouldn’t be gloating for that, because it was a pretty broad statement. But the fact of the matter is, it did push Don in the direction of redemption. In fact, this episode began (and ended) with Don becoming more recreational, and taking control of his life. This was done with the somewhat trite device of a diary entry, which I suppose was the only way to really convey Don’s complex inner thoughts. However, the fact that Don is trying (and apparently succeeding) to regain control over his life is a great development in the character — in fact, it’s perhaps the most major development that the character has undergone in the forty-seven episodes of the series thus far. Now that he’s lost the last aspect of his old life, he is able to move on and become a better person.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Some aspects of his old life still haunt him — he’ll never be able to get rid of the damage that all those years of smoking have done his lungs, and his coughing fit after going for a swim is a clear indication of that. But Don’s progress far outweighs his hinderances. He’s beginning to acknowledge his drinking problem, and by the end of the episode he begins to show restraint toward women — even the ones he really likes. Over the course of one episode, Don became in control.

Control is undoubtedly the theme of this week’s episode; Betty showed a distinct lack of it when running into Don at a restaurant, but like Don, over the course of the episode she gained it and was able to speak to Don without growing intensely angry. Like him, she is showing progress.

Meanwhile, Peggy showed control by firing a rowdy office mate in Joan’s defense, though that exercise of control only worsened the situation — Joan became resentful toward her, because it pushed Joan into a position of less respect. Peggy’s attempts to control her co-workers’ behavior seem like they will be unsuccessful.

This episode represents what might be a positive beginning in Don’s life; a rebirth. He shows self-control in his relationship with Faye, and he seems to be on the road to becoming a better person. Let’s hope he can stay on track.

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