TV Review: Mad Men Episode 10 – “Christmas Waltz”

Written by Vanessa Vernick May 24, 2012


“Its Pearl Harbor Day, Have Some Respect”

Roger Sterling’s first line (and one of his only) in this episode refers to the fact that it is the anniversary of the bombings at Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941. Whether it was meant to be or not, I don’t know, but the notion of sinking ships seemed to be a huge metaphor for the events throughout the episode. As well, as much as I love “Mad Men”, it seems be very fitting for this episode since, in my mind, it is one of the worst of the season. The themes are interesting but the way they are executed, I just wasn’t a big fan. I actually had to watch this episode three times in order to really grasp what was going on. It felt like it was entirely dedicated to reintroducing absent and almost forgotten characters in the most utterly confusing manner possible.

Episode 10 begins with Lane who apparently is in a bit of a financial pickle. I knew from previous episodes that he had been having problems, but had no clue he was in trouble for possible tax evasion. When did this even happen? Furthermore, where has Lane been? For the one person on the show who always appeared to be so morally upright, this seems like quite the leap from his usual character. I understand that the writers were trying to make him more human and make him less one-dimensional, but I think they went about it in the wrong way and much too quickly.

Does anyone remember Paul? He was the the big Civil Rights activist and was dating the African American girl a few season ago? He makes a random appearance only this time, he isn’t an activist but a pacifist in the form of a Buddhist. I guess you could kind of see this coming for his character, but they paint him out to be something of an idiot. And the only thing I could think of when they were all chanting “Hare Krishna” was the George Harrison classic.

“Its Because You’re Happy”

What I did find interesting about this episode was that it seemed to be focused on the old debate about materialism vs. spiritualism/artistry. If you just look at Paul, the spiritual Buddhist vs. Lane, the man getting sucked further into the world of advertising and money, it seemed to question the definition of true freedom. What is freedom? How can we be free when we are enslaved to capitalism?

“This car does nothing for me.” To which Joan replies, “its because you’re happy.” After being served divorce papers by her abusive husband, Joan goes into a rage and unfortunately, the poor receptionist is at the receiving end. In order to comfort her, Don takes her to a Jaguar dealership to test drive a car after which they end up at a bar having a few drinks as friends. As well, you see the struggle between Megan and Don continue as she wants to find happiness through the arts and his loyalty remains in the realm of advertising. I think this is really well done because, like freedom, it also questions the idea of happiness; what it means and what brings people happiness. Does money solve all our problems or does it cause it? Can we really buy happiness like the world of capitalism seems to imply? Joan and Don’s scene seems to imply that people buy things because it is a way to bring them a tiny glimmer and sense of contentment. We are human and thus, we are predictable. We bore easily and we are, at heart, lonely creatures who purchase in order to fill a void.

Yet, by the end of the episode any question that it asks ultimately goes unanswered. Perhaps because none of us really know the answer. Or, it seems to say that whether we want money to be so central to our lives or not, it is there and its importance is not going away. You see that Paul has not really found enlightenment after all and asks Harry for help, and money. You see how Lane unravels throughout the episode because of his poor decision making and you see how easily one’s character is tainted and swayed. So, perhaps money is everything?

 

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About Vanessa Vernick

Vanessa is a writer and editor for We Eat Films and, thus, has a love for film (especially classic FIlm Noir) and a passion for writing. She is currently in pursuit of an Honours Double Major in Criminology and Sociology at Western, giving her a unique edge, and tries to incorporate a bit of this into much of what she writes. She is hoping to pursue her Masters in Journalism. When she's not writing, you'll usually find her glued to her TV or enamoured by one of the great, classic Penguin novels.

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