Ego Te Absolvo
Sean T. Collins, script
Colin Panetta, art
Ego Te Absolvo
The latest episode of my Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire podcast is up. This week my co-host Stefan Sasse and I talk about three powerful women of Westeros: Margaery Tyrell, Melisandre of Asshai, and Lysa Arryn. Enjoy!
When you look at Theon’s situation, where do you come down on what he wound up doing? Do you find fault with it? Aside from the child-murdering, of course, which I’d hope you do.
I would say that the worse thing he does is the kids, yeah, but I definitely think he’s just trying to prove himself in a really fucked-up way. With the child-murdering … I’ll be honest with you, mate. When I was shooting it, I had a bit of a problem. There’s this look of regret that I gave when the bodies of the two children bodies get raised on the ropes. I look torn about it. And I always thought Theon would just enjoy playing the trick on the whole village. That’s how I would’ve liked to have played it. Then we sat down with David and Dan and [director] David Nutter and decided that there needed to be some sort of regret there, to make it morally correct. But I always thought for Theon that he would just sort of enjoy playing the trick on Winterfell.
My latest column for Wired on the world of Mad Men as seen through its ads is up. This week: The Heinz that wasn’t there.
* “The prestige that comes with ketchup.”
* Pete’s apartment: good for backroom deals as well as affairs. And Pete as part of the three-man braintrust along with Don and Stan? You know my soft spot for teamwork and rapprochement, so they sure were playing my song there.
* Dawn’s initial conversation with her friend was the first time Mad Men ever had two not-white people talk to each other, right? Is there a not-white-person equivalent of the Bechdel Test? But I think that was simply the most dramatic example of what this episode was about, which was how people who aren’t Alpha Males navigate the world built by and for Alpha Males. Dawn, Scarlett, Harry, Joan.
* Always nice to return to Joan’s apocalyptically orange apartment. She has an older sister? And she was married before?
* A good old-fashioned elevator door closing on Don shot. Love it. Love that Don seemed more intrigued than irritated by Sylvia’s refusal to tell him what she was up to.
* It’s easy to forget that Ken Cosgrove was once the biggest creep in his cohort, because now he seems like such a mensch, especially in comparison to everyone else but also, I think, because maybe he became one over the years. I mean, he is legit shamefaced that he just came into Harry’s office just to complain.
* “Harry has great ideas!” She’s not wrong, as far as it goes, yet Harry’s incapable of capitalizing on them in anyone’s eyes but his clients and the networks, I suppose.
* “So…Project K. What does it stand for.” “Project Kill Machine! “That’s not what it stands for.” Bob and Ginsberg, now there’s a dynamic.
* “I’m tellin’ ya, it clears the cobwebs,” Stan says, looking like he’s been awake for six days.
* “I think a hot dog and a hamburger are too similar. Plus, a hot dog cries up for mustard.” DON STONED
* Megan in a French maid outfit. You’ve got to be FUCKING kidding me.
* “Megan, I don’t care.” Don’s response when Megan tries to tell him about her storyline from an in-world perspective was hopefully completely devastating to anyone who’s ever worked in a creative field ever, or really just anyone who’s ever wanted to talk about the minutiae of their job and been shot right down.
* Casting Leland Palmer as a Dow exec is so next-level brilliant I can hardly stand it. Sell that, Don.
* Scarlett’s dress could not have been more orange.
* My favorite, laugh out loud, pump my fists in delight moment during Harry’s boardroom freakout? “No, please. Let him go on.” Roger Sterling just wants to watch the world burn. Of course, this fire got out of control.
* My least favorite moment? Pretty much every moment, after a certain point. Harry, you piece of shit. Going for the jugular of someone who really has nothing to do with what he’s so resentful about.
* So is Joan’s deal an open secret? Or is Meredith the mousy secretary made prominent in this episode because she’ll be the one who leaks it to the office? Or does Joan’s newfound self-confidence (as represented by a blue power suit instead of her usual floral-display palette) negate that whole potential storyline?
* Don’s against the war. It doesn’t surprise me that he is, but it does surprise me that he says so.
* “You’re worried about people hating what you’re selling.” Life!
* “I’m sure he’s a man who plays many roles.” Life!
* “Let’s go back to our pad, smoke some grass and…see what happens.” Don’s face during every second of the scene from that point forward is worth a price beyond rubies. I mean, the whole scene was marvelous, a head-on collision of two brands of debauchery from opposite ends of the decade, but watching Don Draper react to being propositioned for a foursome? Goodness gracious.
* I loved that the exec and his wife were basically “hey, it’s cool, don’t worry” and apparently meant it. I loved that Don’s lines around appropriate and inappropriate forms of sexual indiscretion are so bright and red. I loved the Drapers’ mutual bafflement that the swingers have been married for 18 years.
* “What did I say?!” “What did he say?” “He said I’d want you.” Phhhhheeeewwwwwwwwwww, that is sexy.
* “I was different than you, Mr. Crane, in every way.” BERTMERKED
* I don’t like that Joan feels forever alone. I mean I don’t like it for her, not I don’t like the writing. I want her to be happy, more really than any of these other assholes, since she is not an asshole herself.
* I’m not 100% convinced I buy her sartorial and attitudinal turnaround following the pep talk from her sister, but maybe that’s seeing such makeovers in a million shitty shows and movies talking, rather than how it works within the Mad Men context.
* Don serves Heinz another ad that isn’t there, another absence. There is no man at Royal Hawaiian. There is no ketchup in the Heinz ketchup campaign. In “The greatest thing you have going for you is not the photo you take or the picture you paint — it’s the imagination of the consumer. They have no budget. They have no time limit. And if you can get into that space, your ad can run all day.” What’s running in Don’s imagination-space all day?
* The great Heinz staredown. This is a funny show.
OH MY GOD I JUST REALIZED THAT’S THE FIRST TIME DON SAW PEGGY SINCE SHE QUIT, OH MY GODDDDDDDDDD [they saw each other at the movies, I've been told ] and he stops and listens to hear what she says and she quotes him and ugggggggh the FEEEEELS
(* sorry, I’ve been spending a lot of time on tumblr)
* “Heinz, the only ketchup.” Peggy tries to directly inflate their ego, Don tries to get them to have enough faith to let go of it?
* I saw an animated gif of Stan flippin’ Peggy the bird before I even started writing this.
* Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but when Ted tried commiserating with Don about the disadvantage their firms are at due to their smaller size, I wondered if there’s some merger storyline coming, so call me maybe?
* Don staring daggers at Megan following her love scene was deeply alarming. More alarming to me than the chase around the apartment after she disappeared from the Howard Johnson’s last season.
* “I’m sick of tiptoeing around you everytime something good happens to me.” Yeah, she’s got Don’s number.
* “You kiss people for money. You know who does that?” Yeah, Don’s got Don’s number.
* “I pray for you…For you to find peace.” I’m not optimistic.
Started strong, ended strong, maybe a little shaky in the middle but who cares: I reviewed tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone.
[NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU:] The thing that I love about all these things that happen – some of these really horrible incidents – is that the characters actually are really truthful. I can totally understand why Locke gets so angry with Jaime. I mean, I don’t know anything worse than when I meet someone who has a sense of entitlement just because of who they are – “Hey, I’m famous, so I should be treated differently.” When you meet people like that, you just want to punch them. And that’s exactly what Locke does. Granted, he takes it to an extreme because he’s also a bit of a psycho, but I think you still understand where he comes from.
Same with some of the things that Jamie says to other characters, like Brienne. They’re very hurtful, but most of the time he actually comes from a coarse truth, which makes it bite so much harder.
[ROLLING STONE:] That’s what was devastating about what happened to Jaime: For the first time we see him perform a truly selfless act, putting himself on the line to save Brienne from Locke and his men, and he’s immediately punished for it.
[Laughs] I know, I know. Now, what if the question was put to Jamie – “You can either save this lady or you can save your hand.” I’m pretty sure he would save his hand, I’m sorry to say. Maybe losing his hand will make him answer that question in a different way later on in his life. For him as a character, for him as a person, I think, he needs to lose that hand.
My new column for Wired.com on the world of Mad Men as seen through its ads is up. This week: the Jaguar war.
* Yeah, the two-hour first episode counts as the first two episodes again. Hey, I don’t make the rules.
* The opening Welcome Wagon scene = orange as FUCK. And Pete and Trudy are BALLIN’. I don’t know why I thought that both of them being very attractive at the same time but to two different sets of people would unite rather than divide them, but I did. Call me a cockeyed optimist.
* That was some stare from Don when Sylvia opened the door. Thousand-yard stare.
* Young Dick Whitman looks like Moe Howard. Didn’t see that coming.
* You know Jon Hamm’s directing when you get a fade from one scene to the next. Hooray!
* “I don’t think about it. They’re both good company.” Don to Sylvia on eating with Dr. Rosen and Megan. That’s…phhhhew, that’s something, Don.
* The Tet Offensive, Munich…miscalculations and underestimations all over this episode. Herb didn’t see Don coming. Stan didn’t see Peggy (or, really, Ted) coming. “This is how wars are won!”
* Peggy’s awkwardness as a boss is endearing in large part because she’s in no way a lovable loser. This is just the one part of it she’s not that good at.
* There were two moments in this episode that made me laugh so hard I actually pumped my fists as if to tell the show “way to go!” The first was the reveal of the blue and green glass partitions walling off the bedroom in Pete’s affair apartment. HOLY SHIT. I kind of imagine the set designer unveiling that to Matthew Weiner and just bringing the house down with it.
* “Sometimes you gotta dance with the one that brung ya.” Oh, Don.
* Pete’s assignation was attractive. Actually, Pete isn’t looking so terrible anymore himself. I think he lost weight?
* Megan’s miscarriage knocked me for a loop. That was an extremely well-crafted scene from top to bottom, in fact. The initial fake-out with the soap-opera storyline, Megan’s adorable red nose, watching Sylvia’s reactions knowing what we know, “I’m such a horrible person,” Sylvia brutally dressing Megan down because of how she was raised (lol), Don giving Sylvia the stare again upon his return home.
* I know the Quest gag bugged Peggy, but her reaction — “Of course, when you want them to be funny, they’re useless” — was so perfectly crushing, all the more so for them not even being there to hear it and her not delivering it to be some epic smackdown, that I feel like she totally triumphed over it, even if she herself doesn’t think so.
* That Jaguar asshole. Ugh. Joan’s eyes as he leaves, and once Don leaves her in his office. I think it’s kind of wonderful that Don hates this guy.
* “Jesus christ watching Joan walk into Don’s office, I want to throw a parade for these two human beings” – from my notes.
* No one calling the cops about Brenda’s spousal abuse was crushing.
* “You know, we’re losing the war.” “You wouldn’t know it from looking around here.” Plus ça change.
* Pete’s affair panic was exquisite to behold. All that waiting for the other shoe to drop, all not even knowing if the first shoe dropped.
* “You enjoy how foolish they both look.” “You will feel shitty right up until the point where I take your dress off.” Crash cut to later when he’s doing exactly that. “Because I’m going to do that. You wanna skip dinner? Fine. But don’t pretend.” Don’s confidence in this scene borders on cruelty — “Well then that’s news. Isn’t it.” — and is absolutely magnetic. When Sylvia told the waiter “We’re in a bit of a hurry” I gasped.
* Loved the cut from Trudy walking into her bathroom to Don walking into his apartment.
* Jim Garrison on Carson delayed for a report on the Tet Offensive. The most ’60s film clip ever?
* “If you so much as open your fly to urinate, I will destroy you.” Honestly, I’ve never really thought Trudy as a character did Alison Brie any favors as an actor — separately they both come across like something created in a laboratory to be seen as perfect to men of their era, and when the two are overlaid you don’t get the depth you see in Brie as Annie on Community, where the idea is that her perfectionism made her crazy — but this ferocious scene was a new thing entirely.
* Ted’s seemed so kindly and rational so far this season that it was weirdly comforting to watch him carpe diem with the Heinz ketchup story he gleaned from Peggy. That’s a little more like the Ted who tweaked Don a couple seasons back.
* Second-best thing about Don blowing up Herb the Jaguar Asshole’s local ad campaign pitch: Herb was too stupid to realize he did it on purpose.
* BEST thing about Don blowing up Herb the Jaguar Asshole’s local ad campaign pitch, and the second thing in the episode that made me laugh so hard I raised my fists aloft in triumph: Roger smiling at it.
* Is it just me or did we get a li’l bit of realness from Brown-Nose Bob when he talked about the family business?
* “It’s all about what it looks like, isn’t it?” Poetic Pete is good Pete.
* Don watched his pregnant mom fuck. Okay, sure.
* Don collapses outside his front door. In Roger’s words, “It means we gave the Germans whatever they wanted to make them happy, but it just made them want more.” In his own words, “And so we keep saying yes, no matter what, because we didn’t say no to begin with.”
I reviewed tonight’s intricate and nasty little episode of Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone. I thought they handled that final sequence awfully well.
I interviewed Sophie Turner about playing Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone. She’s terrific in the role and very very smart about the character, who’s become maybe my single favorite in the series.
* Opening on a scream and someone performing CPR on someone else with a big exploding orange sun-like light above his head, then cut to Megan Draper’s bare midriff while Don read The Inferno? Sold. Gone, gone is the critic who once used the phrase “on the nose” (gag, choke) to describe symbols, dialogue, and scenes in this show — to show that I not only got it, but, I suppose, to condescend to Matthew Weiner a bit for having made it so easy. When you look at the rest of the show, I’m not sure how you conclude that Weiner’s not an intelligent, thoughtful artist in full control of what he’s doing and with full awareness of how it reads. Remember when Eyes Wide Shut came out and people condescended to Stanley fucking Kubrick? “The line readings are stiff!” “That’s not what New York City looks like!”"Rich-people orgies are totally different, believe me, you don’t wanna know, nudge nudge wink wink.”
* Like Eyes Wide Shut, Mad Men is working on a hyperreal level where…I don’t want to say the subtext becomes text, but the text is like a thin translucent film overlaid on a subtext that’s pawing and snuffling at the surface to be let out, like the Zuul dog behind Dana Barrett’s door in Ghostbusters. You have to come to it and let it operate on its chosen level, otherwise what’s the point? If all you want to do while watching two hours of Mad Men is chortle over how Don looks like he’s in a coffin while sleeping, that’s your journey, man. It’s not the show’s, and it’s not mine.
* (To be fair, I didn’t see a ton of this on twitter last night, not that I was on Twitter for very long, having gotten a very late start on watching the show. But I saw a little, enough to sense it was the tip of the iceberg, or at least so I thought. If I’m smacking a straw man around here, please let me know.)
* Sunburns, flowers, fires. I’m glad to see the telltale orange has stuck around in this season’s color palette. I’m even happier to see purple added to the equation. Why does this make me happy? No idea. I’m rolling with it.
* Actual verbatim notes taken during shots of Jessica Paré as Megan Draper in the opening minutes:
Megan stoned in a bra, jesus christ
Oh for the love of god with Megan already
I don’t know where Matthew Weiner found the Being John Malkovich doorway into my id, but I’m propping that shit open permanently if this is the result.
* And you know, it has an obvious narrative purpose as well, making Megan such a first-round knockout in this episode. Don moved on anyway.
* “You some kinda astronaut?” “I’m in advertising.” It’s a lulzy exchange, but it too has a much later echo: Don’s pal Dr. Rosen, whom he’s cuckolding but for whom he has super-obvious and genuine admiration bordering on an especially collegial version of awe, referring to himself and Don as “guys like us” because of how their work brings them in contact with life and death, him literally, Don mentally. He’s an astronaut of the mind, Barton Fink in Buzz Aldrin drag. (There’s obvious guilt here, too: Don’s actual brush with life and death sent him fleeing by any means necessary, and it involved a fellow G.I., etc.)
* “The man who can’t sleep and talks to strangers” would have been Don’s George Hearst-style Native American sobriquet, I suppose.
* Was it Cindy or Sandy, the violin player? Either way I’m sorry to see her go so quickly. So much to unpack there:
** “I can’t imagine it getting any darker than this.” “My mom’s dead.” Laughter. Anyone who can shut down Mrs. Francis that totally is alright by me.
** That violin recital in a pink dress was straight-up Alicia Witt playing the piano for the Haywards and Palmers in Twin Peaks.
** Fascinating, too, to make her the object of erotic fascination for not just Bobby, but also allegedly Henry, and quite clearly Betty as well. They cast a normal-looking teenage girl to play this normal teenage girl, after all, but the combination of youth and talent and girl-ness was enough to drive everyone up the wall anyway. That makes for a more challenging examination of this phenomenon than, say, Pete’s driver’s-ed dream girl getting fingerbanged in class.
** “It just makes me feel so much.” Anyone who can coax this kind of poetry out of Betty is also alright by me.
** Also anyone who can coax a holy shit elaborate rape-of-a-minor fantasy out of Betty. Whoaaaaaa. Betty Raper. (As I’ve said before, “Don Draper” is an awfully…evocative name, though still second place compared to his real name, which is basically Penis White Guy.)
** Betty’s right about things having changed since she was a girl in the city, too, but not (or not only) in the way she thinks. The counterculture provided a whole new established pathway for someone like our violin player. That trail had been blazed, and now your life had a new option.
* The fascinating thing about this season of Mad Men is that we’ll mostly be examining the impact of the counterculture on squares. Weiner famously throws pretty much everything he’s got in the tank into each new season of the show, so this doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny, but you have to figure there was a degree of planned obsolescence to the show’s aesthetic from the start. So much of its appeal in popular culture was in its sharp suits, drinks at the office, cigarettes, girls were girls and men were men Rat Pack aesthetic, which reads as stylish today — yet he had to know where things would be headed, and that he might alienate his audience by going there. Flash forward eight years from the start of the show and there are elements of the counterculture that read stylish today as well, no matter how much people still like making fun of hippies, but we won’t really be looking at the counterculture head on, will we? No, we’ll be examining the counterculture through its impact on square culture. Those clothes are mostly ugly, that version of hedonism is mostly ugly. Stoners in the office, big beards and goofy mustaches, Pete’s sideburns, loud jackets. It’s going to be interesting.
* Hey, the doorman is Little Carmine from The Sopranos! Still at the precipice of a crossroads, I see.
* Roger in therapy is fucking phenomenal — he really is Watchmen‘s Comedian. I mean, almost verbatim, if you ask his therapist: “What exactly are you joking about?” He’s so funny in this episode, as in all episodes — “Either it’s funny or it’s not; I don’t know how you can control yourself”; “A stroke. In the bathroom.” “…Well, I asked, didn’t I.”; “Takin’ pictures?” “Yeah, we’ll be done in a second.”; “This is my funeral.”; “He was just saying what we were all thinking.”; rubbing his secretary’s back with a drink in each hand — yet his outlook is so relentlessly hopeless and bleak. Marvelous.
* Human ear necklaces! Just a nice long multi-minute scene featuring people poorly recounting something they saw on TV, the purpose of which is to keep us thinking about human ear necklaces for a while in the middle of the show. Sure, go for it.
* Don: “I had an experience.” Sea breezes and the sound of the ocean in his head, instead of explosions. He wants to be blank.
* I loved, loved, loved Peggy as Don in drag. And I say that as…well, not an insult, if not a compliment. You can hear his speech patterns in her voice, for pete’s sake, so I don’t think it’s an inaccurate description; compare her to her appearance and demeanor in the pilot episode and it’s a total transformation that took place under Don’s tutelage, so it’s fair. And she’s not quite got it down just yet — note the repetition of the phrase “a great ad” as she tries to sell the headphone people on not just going with the first idea they come up with. But there’s a kindness in her that Don usually lacks, and I think her underlings and clients — and boss, who gave her quite a look there at the end — respond to that even when she’s not showing it and they’re not aware of it. That’s her trade-off for Don’s white-hot melancholy and sociopathy. I’ll take it.
* “Why are we contributing to the trivialization of the word?” Don Draper, white-knight for love. Between this and “the jumping off point,” I really love out not in control he is of his own subtext becoming text. That’s usually the makings of great art, but great advertising? I’m not so sure.
* “In life we often have to do things that are just not our bag.”/”I want you to be yourself.” Can we get Roger’s therapist in here to break up this superego/id fight?
* Don begging Little Carmine to tell him what’s on the other side is one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen on a television.
* Not insightful, but at least honest: I just enjoyed the contrast between the old spaces — the ornate home where the wake took place, the Francis mansion — and the new space — never-better-looking SDCP. Like cutting from Cleopatra to 2001.
* What to make of Roger’s collegial relationships with the women in his life? What to make of Joan’s mostly-absence from that group, other than receptively overhearing his compliment while she posed on the stairs?
* Until I read it online it never even registered that Peggy and Rizzo don’t even work together anymore. Like, literally, when Ted Chaough told her to send her people home because they’re afraid to leave without her express permission, and Rizzo came back on the phone and said he heard the whole thing, I thought “Man, he’s in good spirits considering she’s keeping him at work late.” So I’m now cribbing this from whoever first pointed out, but how nice is it to see Peggy and Stan have this late-night phone-call work-wife relationship now that they’re not even working together anymore.
* Bob from accounts = classic late-season Sopranos means-to-an-end supporting player. Which means we’ll probably be seeing more of him than that.
* Ken taking him down was Ken at the meanest we’ve seen him since his gross womanizing days earlier in the show. But I don’t even think he’s in the wrong.
* By the end of the show my notes really just dried up. “The jumping off point.” “Giorgio died.” “Vacation slides. The Carousel.” “The skiing doctor, amazing.” Weiner found the route to the real and he’s just going back there over and over and over again. (With director Scott Hornbacher’s considerable help in this episode. Man oh man.)
* A little bit devastated by that final reveal, frankly. Où est le Diamond Head d’antan?
My review of tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones is up at Rolling Stone. I talk a little bit about how one might endeavor to pick up Wayne LaPierre, were one so inclined.