10 October, 2010

Mad Men Starts Firing Chekhov's Guns But Rubicon May Be This Season's Best Show

In my 11 October 2009 post I wrote “At the very least, Mad Men writers have forgotten “Chekhov’s Gun”, the principle that "a pistol on the wall in the first act must be fired by the last act." Well, in tonight’s episode Mad Men’s writers fired the pistol on the wall marked “what happens if the agency loses their biggest account?” Layoffs. Internal squabbles among the partners. A partner (Cooper) leaves the firm in a huff because he doesn’t approve of a “Hail Mary” play Draper makes to save the company.

I’m glad Mad Men is also firing the pistol on the wall marked “Don Draper’s kids and ex-wife.” For seasons now the Mad Men writers have been showing us way too much of Draper’s immature, snobby wife (Betty) and his daughter (Sally) in ways that add nothing to the show. Well, now the writers have taken those family pistols off the wall, placed them in the hands of a child psychiatrist and started firing. Finally, the writers have noticed what viewers knew all along: that Betty is a bad mother and Sally is a normal, smart little girl who is crying out for love, guidance and attention from the selfish adults in her life.

Oh, and in tonight’s episode, Don Draper didn’t commit adultery. That doesn’t happen very often so it’s worth mentioning.

Now to what’s fast becoming my favorite TV show, Rubicon. In tonight’s episode we learned the meaning of the title Rubicon but we haven’t yet learned the significance of the four leaf clovers although we have some clues about why if you find one in your morning paper you’re likely to die.

In tonight’s episode, Rubicon’s writers took a lot of pistols off the wall and started shooting. The blue-eyed, New Jersey-born convert to radical jihad finally struck by sinking an oil tanker in Galveston Bay in an effort to choke off ¼ of the US oil supply. Will Travers and his team actually figured out what the blue-eyed terrorist was going to do but not in time to stop him.

And API chief, Truxton Spangler, who is up to his eyeballs in treason, corruption and dead bodies, finds out that several members of his team including Kale Ingram (Will’s boss) are working against him and have discovered at least some of his (Spangler’s) involvement in the blue-eyed terrorist’s strike.

I think what I appreciate about AMC’s 3 great dramas : Breaking Bad (new season starts soon) , Rubicon and Mad Men – is that they all assume the viewer is intelligent. The plots are complicated and if you step out of the room to get a coke and miss something they make no apology and don’t help you catch up by spelling anything out for you. You have to pay attention. You have to pay attention to every piece of dialogue and every peek into a character’s past or state of mind or you won’t understand that character.

If you haven’t yet seen Rubicon, you’re missing this season’s best new show.

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