By Jordan Magrath
Wow, what an episode. Three weeks in a row, we’ve gotten some interesting character episodes. This shouldn’t be that surprising, since “Mad Men,” prides itself on being a character and period drama. However, these episodes have essentially been case studies of different characters. Last week, we got Pete’s story. On this week’s “Far Away Places,” they upped the ante, showing Peggy, Roger, and Don’s lives, all interweaving in a very non-“Mad Men,” fashion. Not only did the stories show vastly different things, but they connected so well, making this one of my favorite episodes (both of “Mad Men,” and of this past year of television).
Starting with Peggy, she uncharacteristically verbally berates a client when they deny her pitch. When she gets taken off the case, she decides to unwind at the movie theater. That’s when we get odd moment #1: the movie handjob. During the movie, a stranger passes her some weed, then tries to seduce her. She takes matters into her own hands (pun intended), giving him quite the theater experience. Peggy’s had her definite ups-and-downs in the romance department, but this still wasn’t anything expected.
She then returns to the office, passes out, and wakes up to a frantic call from Don. This is the waypoint that connects the stories, but it also creates a bit of suspense not knowing what’s going on. Peggy’s story finishes off with Ginsberg telling Peggy an odd tale about being born in a concentration camp. It really hits Peggy in a strange way, leading her to call her boyfriend and admit she “always needs him.” In the span of one afternoon, Peggy’s complicated love and work life is put on display.
Then, we get Roger’s story. We know he has a baby with Joan (who is single once again!) and his love life hasn’t been the greatest. He attends an LSD party with Jane (Peyton List), leading us to odd moment #2: the acid trip. After not feeling the effects, Roger starts to notice some truly strange stuff – including booming music every time he opens the cork. I have to hand it to “Mad Men,” for portraying the trip in a much different way than other shows would have.
During their trip, Roger and Jane admit to each other they aren’t happy with how the relationship is going. They decide to break things off. Like Peggy’s story, it puts both his personal and work life on display.
Lastly, we get to the third narrative – Don’s. Don had quite the episode a few weeks back (as well as the premiere), but again we’re shown how complicated his personal life is. And, like the others, it connects with his professional life. Bert calls him out, saying he hasn’t been working much lately. It certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed with me, but I think it allows the others to progress professionally, while we get to see the inner workings of his enthralling personal life.
So, what crazy antics were in store this episode? While visiting Howard Johnson’s hotel with Megan, who is struggling to get out of Don’s shadow, she calls him out for his controlling nature. She has a good point, as Don always tells her what she wants to do. She doesn’t have much of a voice. Their argument escalates quickly and eventually Don storms off.
Feeling remorseful, he turns around, but can’t seem to track her down. In a panic, he searches high and low for her, but can’t find her. This results in the frantic phone call to Peggy earlier. When he returns home, he finds Megan, leading to odd moment #3: the apartment chase. Don’s mean streak again surfaces, he wrestles Megan to the ground. It was reminiscent of the cleaning debacle from the premiere. And, like the other two stories going on in “Far Away Places,” it highlights the different aspects of the character’s personalities.
In my favorite episode of the season, “Mad Men” connected three stories, three moments, and three characters non-linearly in a stylistically and developmentally effective way. It wasn’t a typical episode of “Mad Men,” but “Far Away Places,” had a rich narrative that drove three of the shows best characters. There remains plenty of drama, which involves each and every character, and I can’t wait to see how they all continue to progress.