June 5, 2013
Don Draper hallucinates, again
I've mostly been liking this season of "Mad Men", and I've appreciated the many surprises and odd happenings that have popped up a show that was getting dangerously predictable. In particular, I liked the surprise merger, the disorienting break-in of Don and Megan's apartment by the kids' "grandmother", and every exchange between Joan and Peggy (especially this week's), whose relationship has always been one of the show's best and most complicated.
But one aspect that's getting irritating and sometimes comical is the overuse of hallucinations. Don Draper seems to hallucinate with such startling frequency that it's got to mean one of two things: his grasp on reality and overall psychological health are rapidly disintegrating toward total psychosis, or the show's writing is too reliant on a schlocky, soapy crutch. Do normal people hallucinate as much as as Don does? Of course not--just like amnesia is a much more common problem on daytime television than in real life--but it sure is a convenient plot device!
In the last couple of seasons, here are the times Don has hallucinated (that I can remember) and the alleged cause of his hallucination:
- A mystery woman from Don's past, she shows up in his apartment, they sleep together, he strangles her to death; cause: fever, self-loathing
- A ghostly Anna Draper, right after she died; cause: being extravagantly drunk, grief
- Don's dead half-brother Adam; cause: a hot tooth, gas at the dentist's office, guilt
- All kinds of weird stuff in "The Crash" episode from a few weeks ago, including a tap-dancing Ken Cosgrove; cause: a speed injection from Dr. Feelgood, a bizarre sense of office humor
- And this week, a pregnant hippie Megan and a dead Private Dinkins while at a Hollywood party; cause: smoking hash, regret, and (I guess?) severe mental illness
If we're supposed to conclude from all this that Don Draper is living on the razor's edge of sanity, and starts seeing things that aren't there whenever he runs a temperature or uses even the most pedestrian of recreational drugs, then OK, our protagonist is highly mentally unstable. If we're supposed to see hallucinations as a metaphor for the destabilizing, chaotic changes the American culture was going through in the late 60's, I can live with it, but it's clumsy and obvious. But if the writers keep using hallucinations because it's an easy way to visualize Don's emotional state and the people and things that he's haunted by, then they've really got to come up with something new.
My favorite thing in this week's episode are Don's sunglasses and Harry's rented Mustang.
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