TV Recap: Mad Men, ‘Forecasting’

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New Business PLOT SUMMARY:

Roger (John Slattery) asks Don (Jon Hamm) to write a “Gettysburg Address” about Sterling Cooper. This has Don thinking a lot about the future – not just for the company, but his own life. Joan (Christina Hendricks) heads to LA for a meeting and ends up in a romance with an architect (Bruce Greenwood). Glen Bishop (Marten Holden Weiner) returns, now 18-years-old, and announces he’s going to Vietnam to both Betty (January Jones) and Sally (Kiernan Shipka).

The Cameos: Bruce Greenwood, who normally plays JFK in everything, pops up as Joan’s new love interest. Marten Holden Weiner, Matthew Weiner’s son, returns for the final time as Glen.

Sally Draper of Mad Men.
Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Favorite Performance: January Jones as Betty Draper. Since marrying Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) Betty’s been one of those characters that lies on the outskirts of the series, popping in on the occasion. She’s been relegated to a one-note character for the most part – the cold, bitchy mother sitting in the lap of luxury, and not being totally comfortable with it. (Her “Fat Betty” arc was amusing, though.) In this episode, we see her icy demeanor melt away for the first time in ages. With Glen she is warm and maternal, but also open and honest. Her barbed tongue has been softened by Glen’s awkward gaze. And despite the temptation laid before her, she takes the moral high ground, doing what’s right for everyone by rebuffing Glen’s advance. For Jones, this was probably her final big dramatic scene, and it was a fitting way to send her off. Her performance was beautifully done — it’s subtle and quiet, but bursting with so much emotion. We’ll obviously see one more scene of Betty “being Betty” but this is the performance we’ll be remembering when the series concludes.

The Little Thing We Loved: While the series is set in the 1970s we haven’t been subjected to too much of its fashions, outside of Ted and Roger’s terrible mustaches and the occasional sideburn. Bruce Greenwood, however, stole the fashion show with his super wide collars and his penchant for ascots. It was pure 70s tackiness to a perfect T.

The Supporting Scene Stealer: Any time Kiernan Shipka is on your television you know scenes are going to be stolen. Sally Draper is one of the great characters to be created in Mad Men, and Shipka knows how to make the most out of every second she’s on screen. Her scenes with Jon Hamm at the end, and the teary phone call she had with Glen’s mom were both total gut punches, and Shipka nailed them perfectly. If Mad Men ever spun off a series to follow Sally Draper, sign me up to watch it.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men.
Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC

The Best Part of the Episode: Bravo to AMC for putting a bow on the most awkward relationship in the series…and recent television history. Betty and Glen have had this awkward soulmate relationship despite their huge age difference. It’s obvious that Betty finds now “street legal” Glen to be attractive as she’s visibly floored seeing that chubby weird kid from up the street all grown up. It’s also obvious that Glen, despite who came to see Sally, is really there for Betty. Their second encounter in the kitchen is both awkward, and touching. Despite their obvious connection, and attraction, they are two ships in the night, that are regrettably passing each other by. Had either been born in a different era, or if Betty were not married, these two would’ve ended up together. Betty’s rebuffing of Glen’s advance to kiss her, was truly a heartbreaking moment, and truly a surprising one. This is Mad Men, fidelity really isn’t the name of the game, but Betty holds to her vows in a moment of true, honest character strength – a rare moment for this character. The ultimate end of the relationship is perfectly punctuated, as the two caress the other’s face, in the most awkward, but sincere way possible.

The Part We Could’ve Done Without: It was a little creepy when Sally’s friend was obviously hitting on Don and Don seemed to revel in the attention.

Final Thoughts: ‘Forecasting’ is a typical latter-day episode of Mad Men — the moves are very obvious and the overall story is barely advanced, but the acting makes it watchable.

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

The episode felt like one big ‘pile on Don’ episode as everyone seemed to be bagging on him. It was deserved and justified, of course, but it was a bit much. His realtor, Peggy, Sally, that random art guy whose name always escape me. All of them telling Don how sad he is, how vain he is, how he’s not good as he thinks, etc., etc. etc. We get the point. Don’s not a good guy, he’s sad, he’s got an ego. We’ve known this for six and a half seasons. If the episode has just focused on Don’s empty apartment and the sale of it, this would’ve been a powerful metaphor for Don’s empty life. However, having all of these examples of Don’s character cancelled each other out. There was no impact, it was more of a droning, broken record.

The Joan storyline was entertaining, providing Christina Hendricks some great moments, but we saw the end of the arc coming a mile away. Also, how much of a waste are Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Peggy (Elizabeth Olsen) right now? Dropping in to crab at each other? Then Peggy doing her “Peggy thing” aka getting mad at Don and storming out? Let’s do something interesting with these characters.

This final handful of episodes is doing a great job of putting a bow on storylines for supporting characters – however we’re not seeing much headway with our main character. Don is swimming the same sea he’s been swimming in since we first met him. He wants happiness, he’s looking for truth, but he screws it up with all his character flaws. Let’s go somewhere with him – where does he end up? What’s his forecast? We really don’t know. This writer is looking to be told “this is how it ends” right now, but let’s get an idea, let’s have the chance to develop some theories. It’s frustrating to watch the story advance at snail’s pace with just a couple of episodes left in the series.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Mad Men airs Sundays on AMC

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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom
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Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named 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