MAD MEN “The Good News” Review

Mad Men Season 4

(Note: I will be reviewing Mad Men for Dani this week, but never fear, she’ll be back next week!)

It’s New Year’s in third episode of MAD MEN‘s fourth season, “The Good News.” But really, there was little good news. Especially for Don. And Joan. And Lane. The good news was for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce who, it turns out, had an outstanding fiscal year. This is excellent news for fans of the show, for I’ve a feeling Mad Men itself might be in trouble if the company went into the gutter.

Joan is back! Yay! And she’s sad. Boo! She has been married two years. She is still on the Pill, waiting for her husband (the jerk Greg who, despite his gifts for healing, is still a jerk and always will be a jerk) to get out of military duty. He has not yet been deployed; in fact he doesn’t even know when or where he’s going. Composed and reliable Joan is frustrated at this uncontrollable uncertainty. Like her pregnancy plans, she seems to want to routine in her life.

Betty and Joan are the two Ice Queens on the show, yet where Betty seems to have little understanding of her psyche, Joan is perfectly aware. Betty lashes out; if she cannot find someone to blame, she’ll find someone weaker than her (her children). Joan rarely lashes out. I might go so far as to say Christina Hendricks is the most nuanced actor on the show. She raises an eyebrow or tightens her lips instead of sputtering a monologue. So when she burst into tears whilst her husband was fixing her hand, telling her the ‘donkey dick’ joke he tells children to calm them down at the hospital, you realize just how out of control she feels her life has spun.

Of all people, it’s her husband (jerk) who calms her down, as if she was one of his child patients: ‘Joanie, I can’t fix anything else,’ says her husband with a charming smile that, had I not seen him raping her on the office floor I may have fallen in love with him, ‘but I can fix this.’ He’s still a jerk. But his smile is really pretty.

Allison bids Don good morning and does her usual secretarial business; only the lingering looks remain as a reminder of their tryst in last week’s episode. Don is as cold as ever.

On the plane heading to Los Angeles, Don loosens his tie. He loosens his identity. He returns to Dick Whitman. Dick is not at all cold. He is warm, loving, fun and happy.

He goes to see Anna, the one person in the world who, as she herself says, “I know everything about you, and I still love you.” Ironically, she is possibly one of the only women he does not have a sexual relationship with her.

He hits on her niece who stops him with devastating news: Anna has cancer. But they do not wish to tell her as it is so severe there is no hope. Don/Dick struggles. Of course he wants to tell her. Would letting her die in absolute peace be the right thing? He is caught between two rights that are both, to an extent, wrong. So he leaves the only person who has ever wholly loved him, possibly the only person he has ever wholly loved, with promises to bring his kids next time. He knows, and maybe even she knows, there won’t be a next time. On her wall, at the bottom, where he has to honker down to the size of a child he paints: Dick + Anna ’64. The performances: heart breaking. I defy anyone not to cry.

New Year’s Eve, Don and Lane go out for a joyless drunken night with prostitutes and booze. Lane wants to dull the pain of his ending marriage. Leaving the smoky club with their prostitutes, the singer sings ‘House of the Rising Sun’; it is a song about a brothel. What do you think that means? Am I being too analytical?

Anyways, Lane is so morose about his wife leaving him that he snaps at Joan: “I understand that all men are dizzy and powerless to refuse you but consider me the incorruptible exception,” telling her “don’t go and cry about it”. He apologises to both women by sending them flowers but his secretary mixes up the notes, sending he wife the note intended for Joan that reads: “Joan, forgive me. Lane.” Oops.

It was an episode, like most, that simmered. The tension mounts, the characters and performances get even more complex, the writing is as sublime and deliciously intricate as ever.

At the company, Joan says, “Alright gentlemen, shall we begin 1965?”

Let’s.

What did you think of the episode? Do you wish Don and Betty’s children knew Dick Whitman (isn’t that weird)? Did you enjoy Lane and Don’s boys night out with a bunch of prostittutes? Are you in tears about Anna? Sound off in the comments below!