“Mad Men”: Episode 3, “The Good News”

Madmengoodnewsdoncar

I know everything about you and I still love you.

The third installment of “Mad Men’s” fourth season, “The Good News,” is my favorite episode so far. This one, written by Jonathan Abrahams and Matthew Weiner and helmed by Jennifer Getzinger, had great perfs, twists and moments to savor.

I love Melinda Page Hamilton as the non-conformist Anna Draper. She is the soul and the conscience of Dick Whitman/Don Draper. She’s a sage too — realizing the power of the youth movement that will change pop culture, end the Vietnam war, etc. If Hamilton wasn’t so good the character would be highly unbelievable, but she just plays her so well. And I don’t believe for a minute that Anna Draper is in the dark about her bone cancer. As her fusty older sister Patty said, she’s been going to doctors all her life, as a polio victim.

The geographical casting of those two is just right. Patty would very definitely live, and play bridge, in South Pasadena; Anna is part of the boho beach scene. San Pedro is such a cool little enclave — a tiny finger on the outer edge of Los Angeles’ city boundary. It’s very insular and very independent in its own way. (I found myself wondering how Don would have gotten from Peedro — as the locals call it — to South Pas back then. A quick Google check confirms that the Harbor Freeway had been completed through downtown by 1964 and of course the Arroyo Seco Parkway was there to connect up to Pasadena. But I bet tipsy Don was thrown by those curves!)

There was something cold about episode 2, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” — though I suppose that was the point, as Don Draper spends the holidays alone for the first time since he’s settled in to his life as a divorced guy. And we might as well well start calling him Hester for the way he’s forced to wear that D as a scarlet letter. Everybody seems to throw divorce in his face all the time — especially attractive women that he’d like to seduce but can’t. He’s even feeling his age. Anna’s comely, pot-smoking, hitchhiking niece Stephanie rubs it in as they dance to Patti Page’s “Old Cape Cod.” 

“The Good News” was anything but cold. Jared Harris and Christina Hendricks deserve shoutouts for great work, and for providing perhaps the most memorable scene. Lane Pryce, the American-phile Brit, just loves him some fried chicken, and Joan knows it.

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