This web criticism series is one of my favorite things on the Internet. Amanda Marcotte and Marc Faletti deliver crisp, evocative and provocative analyses of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Dr. Who on The Orange Couch.
One of the things that I love about the series is how deliberate it is. For the season premiere of Mad Men, Marcotte and Faletti focus on four objects that are offered, exchanged or thrown away in this episode: Sandy’s violin, Roger’s mother’s ring, Don’s lighter and Giorgio’s shoeshine box. By focusing on these four symbols, The Orange Couch cuts directly to one of Mad Men’s overt themes: decline, decay and death of the old guard.
I noted in my quick Mad Men s06e01 review that Todd VanDerWerff had also seen the episode held up by four tent poles: Don, Roger, Peggy, and Betty. Those don’t dovetail as nicely with my “circling the drain” sensation as as the four exchanges detailed by The Orange Couch.
I also really appreciate the editing of The Orange Couch. For example, I also noted that I had a general optimism about Peggy’s start this season. After watching this recap, a lot of my optimism can be traced to the exact moment (again, good editing) when Ted compliments Peggy and she does not demur. She smiles and says thank you.
Mad Men is a big show. If it is flashy, it is flashy in the way of an ocean liner: massive and impossible-seeming. I like to watch episodes more than once. I like to read multiple reviews. And still, there is almost always something hidden in a scene. I missed that moment on the first viewing. I’m glad I had The Orange Couch to redirect my attention.
Quick note for those tempted to subscribe to The Orange Couch via YouTube: I also recommend Amanda Marcotte’s head notes for the videos, posted at Raw Story. A sample:
Even death is questioned in this episode as a change you can believe in. The characters are fascinated by the heart transplant and this possibility that even if your heart stops, you might somehow still be alive. The doorman goes to the other side and comes back, saved by our valiant new character the heart surgeon. Don is haunted by the fear that even death is no escape from the grind.