by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz
Unlike the prior season, this season’s opener had me glued to the TV set from beginning to end. The episode is titled Time Zones, and Joel Murray as Freddy Rumsen opened it with an entrancing monologue (an ad for Accutron watches) that also serves both as a metaphor on time, and on the value of objects for those of us who are fond of our material possessions – especially our watches.
The pitch of Rumsen’s voice, the flat delivery, and the use of this monologue as the opener for the final season brings us into a Twilight Zone* of sorts, in keeping with the T-Zone title.
Rumsen’s appearance bracketed the episode. Keep in mind that he was forced to take a leave of absence from the ad agency after drunkenly urinating in his pants and then passing out right before an important meeting. At the end of the episode he pleads with Don, “Why don’t you stop this Cyrano bit, and march your ass in there and get us both a job”. Murray is magnificent as Freddy.
Roger’s descending into depravity, and yet his daughter forgives him – which he can not understand.
Don Draper continues his downward spiral and there’s enough foreshadowing compressed in this season’s first episode to make us certain of his destiny.
Or is there?
Walter Dellinger, Supreme Court Advocate, writes at the WSJ,
I liked this episode a lot. In part, that is because I am an incurable optimist. This episode is so grim that there is only one way to go for its central characters and that is some version of up.
There seems to be a minor anachronism: Don glides through LA airport on a background of colorful mosaics. In 1967, for The Graduate‘s opening sequence, Dustin Hoffman’s character did the same, but the tile were white. By 1997, the tiles were small and colorful for the Jackie Brown credits.
As for the clothes, the women’s clothes signal the direction of their lives:
- Joan in respectable suits,
- Peggy in Mary Tyler Moore’s tam,
- Meghan in ever-more-short miniskirts signaling desperation.
Among the men, Pete’s preppy early-metrosexual style shows him for the ___ [fill the blank!] he is. Don’s still wearing a trilby, which makes him slightly out of step with the times.
The year is 1969, and, unlike the earlier seasons, by 1969 I was in the continental US, and old enough to remember the news events that took place. Mercifully, I was not surrounded by adults sinking into alcoholism.
You can watch the full episode for a limited time online at the Mad Men website.
Of course AMC practices the 4 P’s of marketing, and, for promotion, you, too, can have a Mad Men avatar! Mine’s a pretty good likeness:
*The Twilight Zone aired from 1959 to 1964.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on US and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.