Mad Men Season 2 “The Good News”

While an show title tends to encompass that episode as far as themes go, I think Joan’s line at the very end of the episode kind of retroactively sums up the whole thing: “Alright, gentlemen, shall we begin 1965?” All the events take place around New Year’s Eve without really showing the big moment, which is exactly how they handled the Christmas holiday. Unlike most TV shows, they’re not pandering to what audiences might expect from a holiday themed episode, they’re giving you something new and complicated that you’ve got to sift through, at least partially.

Joan, Don and Lane take the spotlight this episode, so I’ll address them thusly. We start the episode off with Joan visiting her possibly gay OBGYN (I just got the vibe) which tells us a few things we didn’t know before. First off, Joan’s off the pill in an effort to start having kids before her rapist husband leaves for basic training (he might fool some of you with being a good guy, but I won’t forget). We also discover that Joan had a pair of abortions, one done by a woman claiming to be a midwife, the other by the OBGYN. He doesn’t think it will effect a future pregnancy. The third thing is that she and Greg have been married 2 years. I guess you could have figured that out somehow on your own, but I like nice solid numbers thrown at me from time to time.

Joan’s husband has to do rounds on New Year’s so Joan tries to get a few days after the New Year’s break off. She gets shot down pretty harshly by Lane who finishes things off with a “Now don’t go crying.” Excuse me? Joan? Go crying? You’ve got another think coming, you bloody git. Joan doesn’t get the days off, but does get some roses with a somewhat dismissive note that she tears into Lane about, but as it turns out, his stupid secretary sent the wrong messages to the wrong people. Joan fires her on the spot, showing Lane exactly how tough she is. I think he got the message even if having it yelled in his face didn’t do the trick. Later Joan tries to throw a belated New Year’s party for Dr. Hubby when he gets home, but just ends up cutting herself. I cringed like crazy because I’m a huge wuss. Joan’s not wanting him to stitch up her finger worked on two levels for me. On the first, I could totally relate because my mom’s a nurse and anytime I hurt myself badly, she was the last one I wanted helping me (you don’t want to see someone you love coming at you with a needle). The other level–the one I assumed the writers were going for unless they were specifically trying to needle those of us with medical people in our family–is that she doesn’t believe he’s got the skills to be a doctor (I wasn’t sure either), but as he says, this is basically the equivalent of her filing papers or something. No big deal for him, like firing that idiot secretary was no big deal for her.

As you  might expect, Don takes up most of the screen time. He’s going to Acapulco, though as far as I remember, we’re never told explicitly why (at first I thought it was a business trip, then figured it was for the holidays–they must get a week off or something for the New Year’s holiday). Anyway, he stops off in Cali for a while to see Anna, his other wife. I love this character. She’s impossible not to. And I think it’s awesome that Don loves her too, but not in a sexual way. I think this might be the only person on the show Don loves absolutely with the other candidates possibly being his kids, but the jury’s still out on that one. Don visits Anna for a while and they experience each other the way that only two people with nothing to hide from one another can. She even delivers one of the greatest lines of anything ever: “I know everything about you and I still love you.” That really is love, isn’t it?

Don meets Anna’s niece who I would have bet one of my freelance checks on him hooking up with her when he goes to drop her off after a night of drinking and dancing (which Anna was along for most of). He does try, but instead of getting some ass, he gets the unfortunate news that Anna has bone cancer and doesn’t even know it. The doc told Anna’s sister who told her daughter, but didn’t want to worry Anna with the news. So, as Don leaves later in the episode after having it out with the sister who doesn’t think too highly of him, Don leaves, knowing everything about Anna and–I think–loves her even more.

Don goes to Acapulco (we see him get a Happy New Year hat and a drink on the plane, that’s the extent of the festivities) and turns right around to find Lane as the only one in the office. He said he was heading back to London to see his wife and kids, but after the flower mix up she told him it was over, though, let’s be honest, this was pretty much written on the wall since last season. For a little while, I was thinking that the obviousness of this situation was a little boring on the writers’ part, but this kind of thing happens in real life, you know? We all know couples who you just know are going to break up even if it takes them a while to find out themselves.

Anyway, Don and Lane are hanging out in the office, getting drunk separately and then they decide to go to a giant Japanese monster movie. It looked like Gamera to me. They get dinner, Don calls some hookers and they meet them at a club. The quartet then heads back to Don’s creepy man apartment (one of the girl’s comments on it’s “manliness,” which I assume translates to “grossness”). Lane bangs one of the broads in Don’s room while Don presumable takes his usual girl out on the couch as he doesn’t want anyone having sex in the kids’ room. What a good dad. The next morning is that very distinct kind of awkward when you’re trying to pay your colleague back for a prostitute you had sex within inches of him. Gross.

Again, I’m left marveling at how good of a show this is. The writers do an amazing job of creating these characters who are so dense and interesting and different, though still relateable and then bouncing them off of each other and the supporting cast and the results all feel perfectly organic. I don’t remember seeing Don and Layne interact much aside from the office and that dinner they had with their former wives, but seeing them together was really fun. Same with Layne and Joan, two characters who hadn’t interacted much and clearly didn’t know each others’ boundaries. I’d say they do now. It’s also interesting to see that the men in the firm are becoming more and more modern as most of them have ex wives now (Roger, Don, Lane, better look out Pete). Speaking of which, as I mentioned, the episode doesn’t involve Pete or Roger whatsoever (aside from brief appearances in the last scene) and Peggy only pops in for a minute. That’s how strong the show is, it can survive and even thrive without some of it’s bigger cast members (oh, also no Betty, thank God).

2 thoughts on “Mad Men Season 2 “The Good News”

  1. I thought this was an absolutely amazing episode, and my favorite so far this season (okay, so we’re only three eps in…). The characters are indeed amazing, and it’s remarkable the way Jon Hamm seems to be deconstructing Don the Master of the Universe. And bravo to Lane getting some more screen time.
    I also wrote about this episode, if you’re interested in taking a look: http://wp.me/pFs3T-KE

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