If there’s one thing that best exemplifies Mad Men’s separation from the rest of modern television, it is the show’s devotion to uncertainty. Nobody on the series knows what he or she wants — a unique concept for a TV drama, as a lack of defined goals makes a character more difficult to identify, relate to, and write for. But the piercing confusion that envelops Don Draper and his clan are exemplified at the forefront of the best episodes of Mad Men, this week’s pseudo-season finale being no exception. We see Don struggle with the question in regard to every aspect of his life: what does he want out of his job? His career? His relationships? His marriage? Himself? As he learns courtesy the dancing ghost of Bert Cooper, he has no idea.
“Waterloo” gives us just about everything we could want from a penultimate chapter Don. Finding out he could well be ousted from the company — the Jim Cutler team sees no room for Don Draper on its staff — Don burrows deep into himself to figure out what he wants. During a phone call with Megan, the pair tacitly agrees that there is no hope for their marriage, ending it with quiet civility and Don’s insistence that he will always “take care of her” … the desire to do so being the only thing that ever really drew him to Megan, or to any woman, in the first place.
But with Peggy, we see Don’s heart. He insists that she take the reins on the Burger Chef pitch in Indiana, investing more furiously in her future than in his own. After last week’s reunion of their good graces, however manufactured this endeavor might have been, we see Don finally pass the torch to Peggy in earnest. We see her deliver a magnificent pitch, one that maintains a quavering humanity all the while nearing technical perfection. And if you watch Don’s eyes throughout the scene, you see everything he feels about Peggy shine through: hesitation and reluctance, sure, but also hope, affection, and respect.
The episode uses the ’69 moon landing to usher in a “new era” for the agency. One without Bert Cooper, who passes away while watching Neil and Buzz step foot on the surface, uttering an awed, “Bravo.” A fitting sendoff to a character who has always felt like he existed in another time… and perhaps on another planet. Bert’s passing is the impetus for Roger to seize kingship — something he has always lacked in his personal life, as indicated by his daughter’s palpable absence during a scene of the Sterling-Hargrove family watching the groundbreaking event — of the company, instituting a purchase from rivals McCann. This deal will make him the leader he has always wanted to be (well, the leader he suddenly thinks he has always wanted to be), will keep his faithful pal Don in employ, and will earn all of the partners a hefty sum of money.
Don agrees, assuring the befuddled Ted that the other side — unemployment — is a barren hell scape. But after the next five years (or, as Ted puts it, their entire lives) are signed away, Don has no choice but to burrow deeper. Mad Men has always been creative in the delivery of its characters internal battles. We cap the episode with Don growing teary through a hallucination of Bert and the office ladies dancing to the Good News number “The Best Things in Life Are Free” — a particularly ostentation method of showcasing Don’s piercing emptiness.
He belongs nowhere. Not in his marriage, not in his family, not in the job to which he has devoted himself nor outside of it. Don is alone and wholly without. And he has no idea how to fix that.
The episode does everything in its power to insinuate the worst for Don: the professional linking of him and Ted assigned in the same hour that showcases Ted’s spiraling depression and likens him outright to Lane Pryce would have us believe that the man falling from the skyscraper in our old friend the opening theme could be Don himself sometime soon. But just as Don seems to when he watches Peggy transform into something that even she thought impossible, just as a long-expired Bert manages in his dying breath when he recognizes the gallantry that mankind is still capable of, we must find hope.
Episode grade: A, because Dancing Bert Cooper's Ghost is the greatest television experience since the moon landing itself.
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Duncan: 'Jen & Ben are the real thing'
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's Daredevil co-star Michael Clarke Duncan is sure the couple are set to wed later this year and he's convinced they're perfect for each other. The former bodyguard was a special guest at the Las Vegas, Nevada, premiere for Garner's Daredevil spin-off Elektra, where Affleck sneaked in a back door. And he gushed about their romance, calling it the real thing: "They're so good together and I can see the love in them. It's not one of them Hollywood things. When they marry, it's going to be real and it's going to be for a long time." Duncan wishes his friends every success, and hopes they don't end up like Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston--another celebrity couple who the hulking actor felt sure were destined to stay together forever. He adds, "In Hollywood, there's so many pressures on you, especially when two superstars marry--because you're gone, your wife is gone, you probably don't
spend enough time at home alone."
Jolie hopes to adopt tsunami orphan
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie is so moved by the effects of the Dec. 26 tsunami in South Asia, she's embarked on plans to adopt one of the region's many orphans. The brunette beauty, who is a United Nations (UN) Goodwill Ambassador, recently announced plans to travel to hard-hit Sri Lanka in the coming weeks to help out as best she can, and now she also hopes to have one of the children in her custody. She tells TV show Celebrity Justice, "I think if children need a home, to adopt them is wonderful. I will be looking into the orphans that have just lost their parents, but always wherever there's a need. So we'll see how big my family grows over time." The plight of the world's orphans has long been a subject close to Jolie's heart--in 2002 she adopted Cambodian orphan Maddox.
Paltrow: 'Martin isn't a baby-sitter'
Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow has hit out at claims she bosses rocker husband Chris Martin around. The Coldplay front man has been left holding the couple's seven-month-old daughter Apple while Paltrow promoted her recent movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which hit cinemas in the U.S. and much of Europe last year, but has yet to be released in Australia. But Paltrow insists she doesn't force Martin to baby-sit. She tells Pagesix.com, "I've never said that. I hope he doesn't read this, he would kill me. I definitely don't boss him around."
Cruise and Kidman embarrass their kids
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's adopted children are so embarrassed by their showbiz connections, they once tried to change their names. Cruise and Kidman have found that while Isabella, 12, and nine-year-old Conor enjoy their family life at home, they're not too thrilled about their pals knowing who their parents are. Kidman admits, "They're embarrassed--they're very embarrassed. They actually deny us, which is okay. They tried to change their last name and they go, 'Don't come (to our school), whatever you do, don't come!' I go to Conor's soccer game and Bella's there on the sidelines and she's like, 'Don't touch me!' Then I tease her and kiss her and she gets really angry. Anyway, she's gonna kill me because I'm not actually allowed to talk about them. So I'm in huge trouble now!"
Garner's co-star worries he injured her
Jennifer Garner's Elektra co-star Will Yun Lee cringed when he heard the actress was fighting nerve damage because he felt sure he was to blame for her health crisis. The stunning action girl had to pull out of promotional duties for the film last week after suffering a back injury in a stunt on the set of the Daredevil spin-off. And when Lee heard that, he almost pulled out of attending Saturday's premiere in Las Vegas, Nevada. He says, "I accidentally slashed her with my sword and there was blood everywhere, but she stuck her hand in the dirt and kept going. I thought I was going to get fired, but she was ready to keep fighting. I was a nervous wreck, I turned white. We almost had to shut the day down because of me." But Garner herself insists her injury wasn't that bad--she got an extended Christmas break out of it. She says, "I wasn't feeling well over Christmas, I didn't know why, I thought I had some kind of infection and it turned out that I had bashed up my back a little bit. But I did get a couple of extra days off over my Christmas break, so that was a bargain, and it all turned out OK. I'm feeling OK and ready to get back on the horse."
Will Smith sells off hotel project
Will Smith has scrapped plans to develop a hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, because he feared the project would be a huge flop. The actor and his brother bought a derelict property in the city's Society
Hill five years ago with a view to developing it as a top hotel. The businessmen secured millions in tax incentives from local authorities to get the project up and running, but a recent plunge in hotel business in the city has prompted the Smiths to sell off the land. The sale is great news for Smith and his partners as they've made three times what they paid for the site in 2000. Smith's real-estate company, Treyball Development, regularly invests in building projects in Philadelphia. The brothers currently co-own a former furniture company and a funeral home among other projects.
Portman to go back to school?
Actress Natalie Portman has been targeted to front a new TV series about a fictitious boarding school shrouded in "drugs, elitism and pretentiousness". The sexy Leon beauty's New York pals Taylor Materne, Hobson Brown and Jardine Libare have teamed up to pen a script and film a pilot for the New England, America-based show. And the budding trio have asked their superstar friend to lend her talent to their planned production, reports Pagesix.com. Materne says, "We are not trashing the boarding schools like Hotchkiss, St Paul's and Andover. We are just giving an honest portrayal."
Moore to take care of his health in 2005
Controversial filmmaker Michael Moore has made a New Year's resolution to take care of his weight, and worry less about everybody else's problems. Moore, who has exposed his findings on America's gun violence and the current Iraq war in Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 respectively, admits his wide girth is something he's now going focus on in 2005. He says, "I think maybe just this year (I'll) just try and save myself, instead of everything else. (I'll) just take better care of myself, because we should all take better care of ourselves. Too much fast food. I grew up in the Midwest, so I have a basic Midwestern diet--stuff with grease on it!" Before Moore starts working on his body, he has his next documentary to make--Sicko, about America's health care service.
Jackman makes musical pact with Disney
X-Men star Hugh Jackman is set to show off his musical skills in a string of movies, after signing a special deal with Disney. The Australian actor has signed a non-exclusive deal with the filmmaking giants through his new venture with Chicago executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. The deal came about after Disney bosses were impressed with Jackman's Tony-winning performance in the Broadway show The Boy from Oz. The actor says, "I'm lucky that at the time my career in movies was building, the movie musical genre that had been in the desert for 20 years started to come back. As an art form, the musical is Mount Everest: tough to pull off, but exhilarating and timeless when it works. And when it is done badly, it stinks to high heaven." Jackman says Disney will develop as many as three projects at the same time--and he's hoping none of them will be remakes. He adds, "There might be a classic out there that can be redone and find an audience, but I am personally more interested in finding something new."
Foxx unveils plans for new comedy sketch show
Collateral star Jamie Foxx is clearing some time in his increasingly busy schedule to work on a TV pilot for a new comedy sketch show. The comedian has had the Untitled Jamie Foxx Sketch Show in the works for a number of years, but became too busy to devote his attentions to it, as his movie career took off. But now the funnyman has embarked on a search for an ensemble of comedic actors who can do improvisation, original characters and impersonations, to star in the show. The project will follow the format of Foxx's popular 1990s show In Living Color, which featured Jim Carrey, Chris Rock and the Wayans brothers among its cast--and Jennifer Lopez as a member of the Fly Girl dancing troupe.
Grace compares work on show to taking crack
Actor Topher Grace is having great difficulty imagining what his life will be like once he leaves That 70s Show--because he likens working on the sitcom to taking crack. This season of the comedy will be Grace's seventh and last, as he moves on to pursue other acting opportunities. But he admits leaving his co-stars--including Ashton Kutcher and Wilmer Valderrama--behind will be a tough adjustment. He says, "Thinking about the end makes me really sad, but I wanted to go out on top, out of respect for the show. Still, I can't even imagine that last taping. Being in front of the audience every Friday night is like crack. I mean, what I imagine crack to be like. Anyway, it's amazing, and it's been a big part of my life. My cast mates are like my family--we've gone through so much together--and I will miss working with them."
Law delays Miller wedding
Movie hunk Jude Law has shattered his fiancee Sienna Miller's hopes of marrying this year--by announcing they "could be engaged for years." The Alfie star proposed to the stunning actress on Christmas Day and Miller, 23, is so impatient to marry 32-year-old Law, she has been visiting London's most exclusive jewelers searching for a finger band to equal her diamond engagement ring. But Law has refused to wed the blonde beauty until the media attention has worn off, and he fears that could take years. He explains, "We could be engaged for years. If we do wed, it will be well away from the press."
Star Trek movie scrapped
The latest installment in the Star Trek movie series has been scrapped by film-makers who were disappointed by the finished screenplay. Paramount hoped to take the sci-fi franchise back before William Shatner's Captain Kirk took charge of the Starship Enterprise and prequel the legendary TV series--but plans have been put on hold. A source says, "Paramount was not happy with the direction the story was heading." But Hollywood insiders insist a follow-up to 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis will be made: "Star Trek will return to the big screen at some stage."
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