Mad Men deconstructed: January Jones steals the show this week
It's because so much of their work isn't about what their characters say, but what they don't.
This week's episode "Souvenir" was a perfect example, using a convenient device -- all the Sterling Cooper gang facing the last long weekend of summer -- to explore how trapped some of the characters feel in the framework of their lives.
This week, its was mostly January Jones' turn to shine, as complicated housewife Betty Draper. We've always known that Betty had more going on behind those Grace Kelly good looks. But tonight's episode cliched the source of her sorrow, as we saw her relive the days when she was a high flying fashion model by traveling with Don to Rome on a business trip.
Landing without kids in a country where Don Draper clones will whip out their sleek Zippo lighters the minute a cigarette touches her lips -- as a jet-lagged Don tries to keep up with her in a country where she knows the native tongue -- Betty Draper was in her own slice of jet-setting heaven.
What else did we learn?
--That young Pete Campbell is indeed the kind of nudnik who would take advantage of a woman while drunk and alone. Always feeling sorry for yourself can give you license to do a lot, especially when the wife's away with relatives.
--That proud Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks, at left) was likely hurt enough when she wound up working as a department store dress shop manager; but to have Sniveling Pete find her there was probably too much to bear.
--That Don isn't the only one who knows how to use bedroom alliances to get what he wants; I'm still wondering when Betty decided she wouldn't sleep with her fling-turned political ally, after he turned up to help with her Junior League mission to stop a local development.
Other fans may disagree, but I love Med Men when it's in this mode; slowly revealing layers of the characters in ways that are both telling and realistic.
You don't need to crush a character's foot under a lawn mower to show us some movement and character development.