TV Recap: Mad Men, ‘The Monolith’

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The Low Down: Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) runs into an acquaintance from Vicks (played Josh McDermitt AKA Dr. Eugene Porter from The Walking Dead) who gives him two huge pieces of information. First, Pete’s father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack (which visibly shakes Pete) and that he is now working for Burger Chef, one of the nation’s biggest fast food joints and Sterling Cooper should pitch them. Grief be damned, Pete Campbell is making a sale and gets the entire team involved. Don (Jon Hamm) is put on Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) team as a copy writer for the campaign. Don lashes out, reverting back to his alcoholism to escape from his reality. The office atmosphere is interrupted by the addition of a new IBM computer, which catches Don’s eye. Meanwhile, Roger (John Slattery) must team up with his ex (Talia Balsam) to track down their daughter (Elizabeth Rice) who has left her husband and son behind to join a hippie commune.

Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The Bed and Booze Count: Don gets absolutely annihilated while Roger and some hippies spark a J. Roger’s daughter bangs a guy in the barn while Roger sleeps next to her.

Favorite Performance: Elizabeth Rice turned in her best performance tonight. Margaret Hargrove (nee Sterling) has been a periphery character that floats in and out of the world of Mad Men. Outside of her wedding which was turned upside down by the aftermath of the JFK assassination, she has never been a focal point of the series except for bugging Roger to giver her money. Tonight, Margaret was used as a stone cold dose of reality for the silver fox. When she unloads on Roger for never being there for her, Roger cannot shrug this one off, instead he walks away, covered in mud completely broken. Rice, whom we’ve seen be excellent in other projects, has never been allowed to break out of first gear (that gear being a spoiled, whiny brat). Tonight, her fire and passion just seared through the screen. It was this fire and bile that finally got to Roger. None of his divorces, or his heart attack or tens of thousands of other things that have gone awry have seemed to shake him. But, when his little girl tells him the truth, he’s done. If this is the last time we see Rice in the series, it will be a memorable one, no doubt, because the lasting effects could be massive.

The Supporting Scene Stealer: Joel Murray as Freddy Rumsen. Freddy, like Margaret, is one of those characters that has always floated along the periphery of Mad Men and is mostly remembered for being a raging drunk who peed himself in front of a client. Tonight, he comes in clean and sober and acts as Don’s wake up call. Sometimes it takes the fool to point out what really needs to be done. When he tells Don to “do the work” it hits Don like a thunderclap and suddenly he’s transformed. I’d like to see more of Freddy as Don’s guide into sobriety, but this late in the series, that probably will not happen.

Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The Best Part of The Episode: Tough to say, but the talk between Don and the computer guy was pretty intriguing. I liked seeing the old, creative Don with the wheels turning a million miles a second while someone talks. It was a small moment, but I think it might be a telling one. There was something here, and I’m probably reading too deeply into it, that seems like a foreshadowing. Is the computer and its potential going to be what Don hangs his hat on? Is what the computer guy said about humanity and business that inspires Don? Even if nothing comes of it this scene is one of the reasons I’ve loved this series. It’s a terrifically smart and well-crafted scene that just intrigues you to no end. It’s a scene that makes you want to crawl into Don’s head and live in there and experience what this genius thinks of.

The Part We Could’ve Done Without: Bert Cooper becomes more and more unlikeable every single season. First we have the racist comment two weeks ago, now he gives us a callous reminder of Lane (Jared Harris) Price’s death. At this point in the series the character of Bert Cooper adds zero to Mad Men.

The Little Thing We Loved: Any time we can get a drunk Don Draper to sing the “Meet the Mets” song, it’s always a good thing.

Final Thoughts: Ambivalence is the name of this week’s game. The first half of this episode carried over last week’s overwhelming and uncomfortable sense of awkwardness. It really, as my colleague Jason Stives said, ‘meandered’ about. Nothing really happened. It was actually kind of annoying state of affairs. We’re sitting here in episode 4 of 7 and nothing’s happening. Frustrations ran high during this part of the episode.

But, the second half of the episode really took a sharp, emotional turn for the better.

What this episode did was give a reality check to its resident Lost Boys of Neverland, Don Draper and Roger Sterling. These two golden boys, who always seem to bounce back from everything with a shrug, sex and a swig of alcohol, both hit rock bottom. Don gets scolded and given a life coaching moment by a man who was fired for peeing himself. Roger is verbally undressed by his seemingly superficial daughter who damns his entire fatherhood. Both of these character are now at zero and seeing where they go from here actually intrigues me. Most importantly though, it gives this series a sense of direction. With just three episode left (no joke), this series has to set in motion an end game, because up till now it’s been just an exercise in ‘being there.’ So, overall, ‘The Monolith’ is an episode you need to have patience with, the pay off is worth it.

Related Articles:

Review: Mad Men, ‘Field Trip’ (Jason Stives)

Review: Mad Men, ‘A Day’s Work’ (Bill Bodkin)

Review: Mad Men, ‘Time Zones’ (Bill Bodkin)

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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