August 24, 2009By Joe Diliberto Posted: Aug 24, 2009
This week I realized how much I missed MAD MEN thanks to a tiny little scene that most people probably sailed right past. Don and Betty were having a conversation in their bedroom. Suddenly the kids started making a ruckus. Don opened the door, barked at them to settle down, then calmly returned to his conversation. That little bit of business emphasized what a writer's show this is. MAD MEN doesn't just have time for characterization like that, it's all about characterization like that. I'm sure most people were fixated on pregnant Betty smoking and drinking, but they missed something about Don there. Don, as usual, was a rain-maker at work, landing an important account with the developers who wanted to demolish the old Penn Station to build a new Madison Square Garden. But as soon as Don sealed the deal, London backed out. (Real-world spoiler: MSG eventually was built on top of Penn Station, and its current owners plan to refurbish the arena. Meanwhile, the post office location across the street is scheduled to be demolished in order to build a new Penn Station. The more things change…)
Viewers also got a peek at Peggy's personal life. At work, she suggested that a campaign for diet soda should appeal to the women who would drink it rather than the men who create the ads. And her forward-thinking did not end at the Sterling Cooper offices. She stopped in a bar on the way home and picked up a college guy, practically against his will. She wanted to take a bite out of him, but settled for his burger. I had to laugh, because like 90 percent of current daytime soaps, Peggy's romantic encounter took place on a couch — but at least this one folded out into bed! Meanwhile, Roger's daughter didn't want him and new wife Jane at her wedding to Brooks. (Too bad we've only gotten to see Peyton List, ex-Lucy, AS THE WORLD TURNS in the recaps so far this season.) However — real-world spoiler alert, again — Margaret's wedding is scheduled for Nov. 23, 1963; I don't think that's gonna happen…
MERLIN was another double-header this week — or, if you prefer, a two-hour season finale. The opening installment saw Gwen's father Tom, the Camelot blacksmith, accused of aiding and abetting the alchemist Tauren, and Tom was subsequently killed trying to escape the dungeon. Morgana, railing against King Uther's narrow-minded literalism, was jailed for talking back to him. The show asked an extremely modern question: How far should a leader go in the pursuit of national security? Which individual liberties should be surrendered in the name of public safety? Uther has kept the kingdom (somewhat) safe from magic, but his policies have curtailed freedom and led to harsh justice. It would be many centuries before Benjamin Franklin would write, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety," but his question is still relevant today. The word "terrorist" was even used!
The second hour proved to be a bit of a letdown, going back to the "Will Arthur die?" well once again, after he was bitten by the magical Questing Beast. What was important was the revelation that the Dragon — who had been totally willing to let Tauren the alchemist kill Uther in the previous hour so that magic could be restored to the land — was so determined to install Arthur as king that nothing else mattered. He was even willing to align with Nimueh and try to roast Merlin! But the young wizard survived, and Merlin warned the beast, "You won't see me again." Will American audiences get to see the second season of this British import?