‘Mad Men’ Season 6, Episode 10 Review – Transmissions To Do Harm

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Jon Hamm Mad Men A Tale of Two Cities Mad Men Season 6, Episode 10 Review – Transmissions To Do Harm

Jim Cutler is trouble. Behind that dapper façade beats the heart of a man who has only his best interests at heart. Sure, that pretty much sums up anyone on Mad Men, but the series has been playing with overt concepts of duality this season and the moment Jim Cutler beat Roger at checkers it was clear that the head of accounts for CGC was more than some pale imitation of SCDP’s wisecracking Lothario.

Worse yet, there seem to be enough people among the remaining SCDP and CGC camps who think of Jim as someone suited to help run the place while most of the other partners (i.e., Don, Roger and Ted) are otherwise engaged in attracting new business or the never-ending conflict that is Chevy. Jim’s idea of running the place, however, is securing clients for his side of things (well, his and Ted’s) and continuing to think of this conglomeration of advertising minds as two separate entities battling for control of the whole.

That’s a fairly fitting description of where Mad Men has seen the social and political discord of 1968 take the country. And since the series has seen fit to throw in an all-pervading sense of anxiety, paranoia and general distrust among not only the staffers of the newly christened Sterling Cooper & Partners, but the United States in general (and Mad Men viewers, if you’ve had the pleasure of reading one of the countless theories on Megan Draper’s link to Sharon Tate or the posts attempting to unravel the enigma that is Bob Benson), then, naturally, when someone like Jim Cutler is left to tend to the flock, things start heading toward an inevitable revolt.

John Slattery and Vincent Kartheiser in Mad Men A Tale of Two Cities Mad Men Season 6, Episode 10 Review – Transmissions To Do Harm

It’s not a full-on insurgency at the office; it’s more like a culture clash with Ginsberg railing against what he sees as Cutler’s inexorable ties to the establishment, linking Jim and all men of his ilk to the continued horrors of the Vietnam war and the other societal woes permeating the late-’60s landscape. Ginsberg’s outspokenness and “insubordination” is enough for him to stage a sit-in, rather than join newly appointed Manischewitz account-man Bob Benson at a meeting. Ever the go-between/opportunist, Benson uses what lessons he’s learned from his ‘How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success In Selling’ record to end Ginsberg’s non-violent demonstration and get him out the door.

Bob’s rise to prominence is practically meteoric. After hanging around all season, slavishly handing out cups of branded with “We are happy to serve you,” securing Pete Campbell some toilet paper and a well-bred Spanish nurse for his mother, or convincing mulish nurses that Joan had swigged some furniture polish, it seems there’s isn’t a single situation the chameleonic Bob Benson can’t see an opportunity in. If anything, he parlayed Joan’s minor medical emergency into continued employment and the chance to break out a truly spectacular pair of shorts for a day at the beach with the otherwise sun-deprived Ms. Holloway.

The morning after protests outside the ’68 DNC turned into utter turmoil, finds Roger, Don and Harry in California, drinking tall glasses of Carnation Instant Breakfast and discussing the brand’s favor amongst adults and its ability to stand out (or lack thereof) next to the youth-centric cereals, while glib comments regarding hippies and police batons cause one Carnation exec to brand Nixon an opportunist. This mix of powdered power breakfasts and divisive political opinions yields fewer positive results than one of Harry Crane’s brightly colored ascots, but what’s $27 million in potential billings when Harry’s been invited to a lush party in the Hills?

Harry Hamlin Kevin Rahm and Vincent Kartheiser in Mad Men A Tale of Two Cities Mad Men Season 6, Episode 10 Review – Transmissions To Do Harm

So much of season 6 has been marked by specific references to the many horrific events that marred 1968 that Mad Men has felt more explicitly about the ’60s than it has in seasons past and ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is as guilty of this as any other event-laden episode this season. But aside from Joan asserting herself by trying to land the Avon account, the episode’s bright spot also brings about the return of Danny Siegel (a mustachioed Danny Strong), which sees Roger, unfettered by any familial obligation of politeness, release a barrage of insults that result in a vicious groin-punch by the diminutive copywriter-cum-movie producer. But it also brings us back to the perplexing duality of Don.

In the past, California has been a place where Don could shed his guise and disappear into anonymity, have a meditative swim or walk out into the ocean and be washed clean among the waves. This time, however, Don disappears into drug-induced hallucination of Megan which transitions to a one-armed and dead PFC Dinkins before he realizes he’s face down in the pool. That moment of comprehension, followed by resuscitation from Roger, speaks to just how out of control everything is, and how things that were once a source of comfort and stability (e.g., SCDP, California, the status quo) have all pretty much gone out the window, or, as Pete Campbell demonstrates in the closing moments, up in smoke.

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Mad Men returns next Sunday with ‘Favors’ @10pm on AMC. Check out a preview of the episode below:

 

Photos: Jamie Trublood/AMC, Michael Yarish/AMC

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  1. Weiner and Co. continue to turn out great stuff. Best hour on television.

  2. Great review!

    Today I finally remembered from which SCDP/SCDPCGC/SC&P department Bob Benson hails from – Accounting! I can’t help but wonder if good ol’ Bob Benson will be the undoing of SC&P.

    I’ve decided Don Draper needs to stay away from the hallucinogens. Stick with the liquid form of decompression, Don!

    • Bob Benson works in ACCOUNTS, not ACCOUNTING. But as he humbly confessed to Draper in the opener, he’s in the ‘outfield.’ He did state that his first job after Wharton MBA program was working with Money Managers, but they disillusioned him by being dispassionate drunkards so he excitedly decidedly to opt-in to people oriented world of ACCOUNT management. What makes his character intriguing is that he has taken his ‘admonishments’ like an adult, the personal digs roll off his back (Ginsberg’s comment last night questioning his sexuality led to a pat on Ginsberg’s back) and whether he’s a weasel with a long term agenda or just an ambitious ‘normal’ person is what makes him intriguing amongst his dysfunctional cohorts who need to act out in the face of every ‘curve ball.’

  3. Brilliant.

    Love your take on all of this.

    Christina Hendricks, I thought, was remarkable in this episode.

    As for the duality of Cutler – and how can we not adore his name? – I’m not quite ready to accept that Roger won’t pull something out of his bag of tricks, but even Roger’s shrink has led the glib Mr. Sterling to recognize himself as a “curious child with a full head of hair and a thriving business.”

    The child is no match for the wily adult.

    After last week’s delectable episode, this one felt transitional and slightly jagged – appropriate for the times I suppose, and setting us up (one has to believe) for some unexpected demise…

    Can’t help but worry for Megan.

    http://dailyplateofcrazy.com/2013/06/03/mad-men-season-6-episode-10-a-tale-of-two-cities-a-clash-of-cultures/

    • I get the feeling good ‘ ole Bert Cooper might be biting the dust by the 11th or final episode. Since he added himself to the death list. I got the feeling it’s a hint for his exist and also Megan’s.Also does anybody think Harry might die next season due to his LA connections always going to the hills to party. 1969 was the Charles Manson killing spree year.

    • Maybe I’ve been reading to many conspiracy theories about Mad Men the past few days (or watching GoT) but I also have the feeling that something dark is in Megan’s future…
      I’ve always thought that torwards the end of the series something will send Don spiraling out of control and couple the times they’re living in with the business seemingly always on the verge of collapse if something were to happen to Megan that could be the final straw for Don.
      After this there’s only 1 season left so it would happen soon.

      • Funny you should mention that as I’ve always thought the opening credits – the careful setting down of the briefcase and falling out the window – was an omen of what will inevitably become of one Dick Whitman/Don Draper; unable to keep up the charade and unwilling to face those betrayed, he leaps and falls to his death. The ultimate reality check will be few notice and even fewer really care.

  4. “Dying doesn’t make you look whole. You should see what you look like.”

    Probably the best line of the season so far. A more apt way of describing everything about Don I cannot imagine.

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