I’m a late adopter of Mad Men, a show that undeniably has exceptional writing. After watching most of the series on Netflix, Mad Men has become one of my favorite TV shows ever (along with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones). Mad Men can be serious, but it always has a smart sense of humor; that’s what I love about it. The smooth and methodical way that the show is presented in is mystifying. I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately, so I took a look back at some of my personal favorite episodes of this great series. The episodes I ended up going with were all somewhat different from one another. One episode may have a more somber tone but another might emphasize humor or wit. Regardless, these five episodes are the ones that I’ve watched repeatedly after discovering the wondrous world of Mad Men.
#5 “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (Season 1/ Ep 1)
The episode of Mad Men that got me hooked on the series was the first one. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” is one of the best pilot episodes I’ve ever watched. The humor and wit of the script of the episode shined throughout the entire experience. We met Donald Draper, a dashing and brilliant advertisement guru. Draper negotiates in his everyday life, both in his work and his personal life. He is established as a complex ladies man with a mysterious past. Draper and his associates were all introduced in a short period of time in the best way possible. Everything happens with a final twist, Draper is a married man with kids. Finding out he was cheating on his wife was an unbelievable moment that blew me away. Don Draper is established as a Mad Man. Establishing the show’s premise and characters in an interesting fashion: This is how a pilot episode is crafted.
The first of many witty lines:
Pete: Of course I love you. I’m giving up my life to be with you, aren’t I?
Roger: How do I put this… Have we ever hired any Jews?
#4 “The Suitcase” (Season 4/ Ep 7)
The relationship between Don and Peggy is a complex one. Over the years, the two have looked out for each other while also gone at each other’s throats. So what happens when both of them are pushed to the limit? “The Suitcase” happens. After arguing about an idea for a commercial, Peggy has to stay late at the office with Don to come up with a few new ideas. Don was unaware that it was her birthday and her boyfriend was waiting for her at a fancy restaurant. Peggy assumed it wouldn’t take long to finally get out of the office, but she ended up spending more than an hour there. She called her furious boyfriend who was planning to surprise her by having her parents at the restaurant as well, and he broke up with her… over the phone… on her birthday.. in front of her parents. Jeez. Peggy then went to take out some of her anger on Don, who was also having a less than stellar day. After yelling at each other for a while, the two settled down and Don took Peggy out for a birthday dinner. The two then headed back to the office, only to be greeted by a drunk former employee who was madly in love with Peggy. Don fought him and lost, but Peggy got rid of him. The two spent the night sleeping in the office. In the morning, Don confirmed that one of his closest friends died. Peggy then comforted her boss in the wake of this news. Many things were said and many tears were shed. A lot of things happened in “The Suitcase” but the brilliance of the episode lies within the deep and intricate the relationship between Don and Peggy.
Best part of the Don/Peggy argument:
Don: It’s your job. I give you money and you give me ideas.
Peggy: You never say thank you!
Don: That’s what the money is for! You’re young, you will get your recognition. And honestly it is absolutely ridiculous to be two years into your career and counting your ideas. Everything to you is an opportunity. And you should be thanking me every morning when you wake up along with Jesus, for giving you another day.
#3 “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency…” (Season 3/Ep 6)
Every time I read the title of this episode I giggle, because for me, this is the funniest episode of Mad Men. Mad Men always has a sense of dark and subtle humor in its script, but this episode was so unexpectedly funny it became an instant classic for me. This episode had the biggest “Oh my God” moment of the series, since Mad Men is mainly a series that is more subtle than direct. So the story goes something like this. A new guy named “Guy Mackendrick” comes into the office for the first time, looking to lead the company into a new direction. The guy is handsome, brilliant and a bit cocky. After a board meeting with Don, Roger and others, the office has a party to celebrate Joan Harris, who is leaving the office after ten years of service. Since this is a Mad Men party, things get a little wild and out of hand. Everyone is drinking, laughing and having a good time at the office party, including the new guy, Guy Mackendrick. A worker even gets a lawn mower that was brought into the office a day before and starts to ride around on the lawn mower, in the office. Soon, everyone is taking a turn driving the lawn mower… even though they’ve all had a few drinks. Eventually, one worker loses control of the lawn mower and runs over Guy’s foot. Now, as we all know, lawn mowers have very sharp blades rotating at the bottom of the machine. So the guy’s foot is SHREDDED, spraying a few employees with his blood. This may sound like a serious en devour (and it is) but the way the show handled it was too damn funny. The scenario gave birth to some truly laugh out loud lines from the cast.
Paul: “He might lose his foot.” Roger’s response: “Right when he got it in the door.”
Roger: “Believe me, somewhere in this business this has happened before.”
Joan: “That’s life… One minute your on top of the world, next minute some secretary is running you over with a lawnmower.”
#2 “Commissions and Fees” (Season 5/Ep 11)
Mad men has never shied away from dark topics, but it never did it as directly as an on screen suicide. Lane’s death was spurred by the stress of financial problems. His wife bought an expensive car without telling him, he was paying for his son’s education, he owed taxes and was being forced to leave the company after forging Don’s signature and stealing money from the company. He couldn’t take the high pressure of his life so he looking for a way out. He found one: suicide. Lane was an amazing character; he was witty and smart… but he was also mad man. Seeing Lane’s body hanging from his office will always stay with me. Watching Don, Roger and Pete cut his body down themselves was a touching and surreal moment. Without a doubt, Don blamed himself for forcing Lane out of his job, but he never could have expected losing his job would send Lane over the edge. Heck, no one even knew Lane was close to the edge.
Notable lines from Don:
Don: “Even though success is a reality, its effects are temporary.”
Don: “What is happiness? It is a moment before you need more happiness.”
#1 “Shut the Door. Have a seat.” (Season 3/Ep 13)
As I was watching the series on Netflix, I scrolled through the episode list to take a look at the titles of some of the upcoming episodes. I was still on season one of the show but I scrolled through the titles and saw “Shut the Door. Have a seat.” It became my obsession to get to that episode as fast as possible. An episode with a title as serious as that couldn’t possible disappoint. I finally got up to the season finale of season three, and I was not disappointed. As the firm was being sold, Don didn’t want to be another prize pig on a sinking ship. Him Lane, Roger and Cooper devised a plan to get off the ship and create a new firm. Lane was the only one who could break the contract Draper and Roger were under, but he wasn’t willing to cooperate at first. That was until he found out he was in the same boat has they were. Lane severed their contracts so they could freely poach clients from their former company. The team gathered other notable people such as Pete, Peggy, Harry and Joan along with valuable accounts. While all of this was happening, Don was preparing for divorce between him and Betty. Seeing Don finding out Betty had an affair as well and also having to deal with telling his kids about the separation made the episode even more polarizing. It may sound mundane, but Mad Men has the ability to make the most boring of topics vastly interesting. I was grinning throughout the entire episode as Draper’s plan flourished into a new agency.
Simple yet awesome lines from the episode:
Cooper: “Lane, shut the door. Have a seat.”
Lane: “Well gentlemen… I suppose you’re fired.”
Peggy: “What if I say no? You’ll never speak to me again.” Don’s reply: “No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.”