Tube Review: Mad Men and True Blood

Mad Men – S04E01 – “Public Relations”

Mad Men is back and in a big way. It’s been almost a year since Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was started thanks to Don’s midnight revolt against the British conglomerate. Since the, the agency has gotten some buzz around its challenging ad campaigns and relocated to offices in the Time-Life Building. Joan Holloway is not the queen bee, with her own office from which she runs the machine. Harry Crane is now a seasoned salesman to television companies, just returning from a trip to L.A. around Thanksgiving. Pete Campbell seems to have discarded his conniving ways and treats Don and his coworkers with respect. Peggy is one of the most drastic changes, appearing to be Head of Creative, with at least one male employee under her whom she makes no bones about showing she is in charge of.

Don is giving an interview to Ad Age magazine in the opening in which he is asked “Who is Don Draper?”, a question that works as the theme of the entire series. Don’s reply is defensive and awkward, and after the article comes out the picture of the agency’s figurehead causes them to lose the Jai Alai account, leaving Phillip Morris as 71% of their accounts. As Don deals with his partners irritation over this he is also handling the rather bitter aftermath of his divorce with Betty. Betty and the kids are still living in the old house, now with her new husband Henry. Don’s lawyer advises him to pressure Betty to finally find a new place and he does at the end of the episode. It’s pretty apparent Betty wants her “pound of flesh” for putting up with Don’s philandering and concealment of his true identity. She’s also the dominate one in her new marriage and is incredibly harsh on the now pre-teen Sally.

All in all, I felt things don’t bode well for Don Draper. There is a freshness and life in the new agency, but Don’s Manhattan apartment is a dark and cold den. He’s unable to bed what ever woman he wants anymore, and ends up calling over a prostitute who knows him well. In bed he shows an affinity for rough play, something we haven’t seen this full blown in the character before. In the end, his interview with a different reporter feels partially forced. Roger Sterling in particular really beat Don for fumbling the spot with Ad Age. We end with Don forcing a smile and telling a story that frames Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as a rebellious company that is willing to let a client leave, rather than compromise their fresh and edgy ideas.

True Blood – S03E06 – “I Got A Right To Sing The Blues”

This season of True Blood has been the one that really clicked with me. I think its because a lot of what is happening is pay off from the set up of the previous two season, in particular the conflict between the vampire kingdoms of Louisiana and Mississippi. At the end of the last episode, Russell Edgington, the vampire of king of Mississippi, seemed delighted to discovery Sookie’s powers. This episode though, he doesn’t really know what she is or what they are, only that its a great source of power. Bill’s cover is finally blown and his creator, Marlena is tasked with draining his blood resulting in complete death. Eric, discovering that Russell was the man who killed his father centuries ago, is playing like he has complete allegiance to the man until he gets a chance to kill him. On the subplot side, Tara finds a way to escape Franklin and apparently bashes his brains out, Jessica feeds on a patron at Merlotte’s, Jason learns the girl who he was developing feelings for is engaged, and Sam learns his brother has been forced into using his shifting to participate in dogfights.

It can’t be said that there aren’t enough plot threads this season. I personally enjoy how packed every episode is, in comparison to last season which felt like it drug by painfully slowly. Now every episode seems to give a a lot of information and move along at a brisk pace. The cast has definitely grown and even characters that used to grate on me (I’m looking at you Tara) are actually enjoyable now. I am hoping that she didn’t kill Franklin though, as he has been the new addition to the series that I have enjoyed the most. His schizophrenic personality added some interesting dark humor to the show. I also have really liked the werewolves portrayal as trailer trash, juxtaposed against the vampires as Southern aristocracy.

The plots that aren’t keep me interested are Jason’s pursuit to become a cop and Sam’s trashy family. The Jason/Andy side plot has a lot of potential but it seems to be going aimless now and is simply filler. I hope that it gets tied into one of the larger main plots in a cleverly unexpected way. I’m think Lafayette’s local V dealing could lead he and Jason into an intersection. Sam’s family’s story seems like it could be wrapped up next week. He arrives at the dogfight ring and rescues his brother, telling his parents he never wants to seem them again. Unless there is a really interesting twist added to that story its going feel like they are stretching it out for as long as they can. Despite these weak spots, the season has been great fun so far. We just hit the halfway point and I am excited to see where the characters end up because it seems like a big shake up is about to happen in the vampire community.

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