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The Pursuit: Fever Dreams on Mad Men

"You loved it." What does it mean to be a good man? Is it the ability to uphold one's vows--constancy, fidelity, honesty--or is it that one's actions echo forever in a relationship? We're given a prism in this week's episode of Mad Men ("Mystery Date"), written by Victor Levin and Matthew Weiner and directed by Matt Shakman, through which to view both Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Greg Harris (Sam Page), as well as the notion of the pursuit, which looms large over the action, casting a dark spell from which several characters find they cannot wake. It's telling that Michael Ginsburg (Ben Feldman) offers a disturbing fairy tale to the pitch clients rather than the agreed-upon campaign that he had already discussed with Don, putting everyone on the spot. He offers up a narrative that's certainly not in line with the Disney version of Cinderella, but casts the heroine as the prey of a deranged man, who pursues her down the darkened alleys and c

The Daily Beast: "Game of Thrones and Mad Men Characters Fight to the Death"

Don Draper vs. Tyrion Lannister? Betty vs. Cersei? Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, " Game of Thrones and Mad Men Characters Fight to the Death," in which I imagine 10 tongue-in-cheek battles between the characters of AMC’s Mad Men and their Game of Thrones counterparts on HBO. With the return of AMC’s Mad Men and HBO's Game of Thrones , Sunday evenings have become a tug of war, with the two critical darlings exerting an irresistible pull on the faithful. It’s hard to escape certain similarities between the two shows: both take place in distant times (OK, Game of Thrones , based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, is set in another world altogether), both delve into racial and religious issues this season, and both feature heavy drinking, illicit relationships, and completely inappropriate workplace behavior in worlds that celebrate ambition, cruelty, and Machiavellian power grabs. Which raises an imaginary questio

Caged Birdie: Replaceable Pieces, Replaceable People on Mad Men

"When is everything going to get back to normal?" Just how unique are we? Are we ever, in a sense, irreplaceable, or is our position in this world, and the lives of those around us, so tenuous that we're able to be replaced the very moment someone new and shiner appears on the scene? There's an irresistible sense of replacement hovering over the action of the latest episode of AMC's Mad Men ("Tea Leaves"), written by Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner and directed by Jon Hamm, which served to not only fill the audience in on just what happened during the between-seasons gap to Betty Francis (January Jones), but connected her plight to something deeper and more poignant. Just as the old guard must give way to the new guard, progress and change are inexorable twin spectres in the lives of all of us. Standing on the precipice of incalculable change ahead, there's a sense of both doom and possibility, that our lives--even in the face of such monumental

Games People Play: Thoughts on the Fifth Season Premiere of Mad Men

"Nobody loves Dick Whitman." It's been seventeen long months since we last saw Mad Men and the breathless two-hour season premiere goes a long way towards curbing our addiction, quickly bringing us up to speed in the changes within the lives of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), and the rest of the ad men at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. If Season Four began with a provocative question ("Who is Don Draper?"), the fifth season opener ("A Little Kiss"), written by Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, begins with more than a few declarative statements, about both the characters and the era in which they live, and those four little words, uttered by Megan (Jessica Paré), speak volumes about the sort of relationship Don is enmeshed in when Season Five begins. For a man who cloaked himself with secrets as a woman might a mink coat, Don Draper is li

The Daily Beast: "Mad Men: Where We Left Off"

Who remembers what happened 17 months ago? No one! Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, " Mad Men : Where We Left Off," for which I re-watched every episode of Season 4 of Mad Men (in a 36-hour period) in order to remind you where we left Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Joan, and the rest of the characters when the season ended. Television, like advertising, is typically a swift-moving beast. But it’s been a staggering 17 months since Mad Men aired its last episode. At the time, no one could have predicted that it would be March 2012 before AMC aired the highly anticipated fifth season of Mad Men , which returns this Sunday evening with a sensational two-hour season premiere. The reasons behind the delay are known far and wide, as protracted and very public contract renegotiations behind the scenes of Mad Men resulted in a longer than expected hiatus between seasons, and the show’s devoted audience is only too keen to catch up with the staffers of 1960s

The Daily Beast: "Fall TV Report Card: The Winners and Losers"

With the 2011-12 television season in full swing and the cancellation orders stacking up, Jace Lacob rounds up the season’s winners ( Revenge ! Homeland !), losers ( Man Up! Whitney! ), and draws. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest story, "Fall TV Report Card: The Winners and Losers," in which I offer up not a critic's list, or a Best of 2011 TV list, but a business story selecting the winners and losers (as well as draws) for the first half of the 2011-12 television season. (Those selections are in the gallery.) With the 2011-12 television season well underway, it’s become increasingly clear that this isn’t the best fall the broadcasters have ever had. Back in May, when the networks touted their new offerings to advertisers, it appeared they were trying to take some risks with their programming. But the opposite is true: most of those shows featured what the networks hoped were built-in audiences for retro brand settings ( Pan Am ! The Playboy Club !)

The Daily Beast: "The Fall TV Season Begins!"

Time to head back to the couch, America. The fall TV season is here and all of your favorite shows—from The Walking Dead and The Good Wife to Dexter and Boardwalk Empire —and a slew of new ones are soon heading to a TV set near you. Will you find Ringer to be the second coming of Sarah Michelle Gellar… or is it the second coming of Silk Stalkings ? Time will tell, but at least your TV favorites are back with brand new seasons, and lots of plot twists. To refresh your memory after the long summer, over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, entitled "The Fall TV Season Begins!," in which Maria Elena Fernandez and I round up a guide to the good and bad times of last season--or in this case, 23 cliffhangers--and offer a peek into what’s coming next this fall.

The Daily Beast: "Mad Men Up Close: Matthew Weiner and Jon Hamm on 'The Suitcase'"

Mad Men 's fourth season episode "The Suitcase" was instantly deemed a classic hour of TV. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, " Mad Men Up Close," in which series creator Matthew Weiner and star Jon Hamm offer an oral history of the gut-wrenching, Emmy-nominated episode "The Suitcase." Weiner and Hamm dissect six of the most powerful and indelible sequences from “The Suitcase,” the relationship between Don and Peggy, and Hamm’s performance, which Weiner called “magical.” Get your handkerchiefs ready. Season Five of Mad Men is slated to begin March 2012 on AMC.

Underworld: Orpheus Descending on the Season Finale of The Killing

I'll admit that I was completely unprepared for the level of vitriol directed at last night's season finale of The Killing ("Orpheus Descending"), written by Veena Sud and Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Brad Anderson. It wasn't a perfect season finale (it was woefully clunky and odd at times), but I also don't think that the series ender--or the first season itself--are worthy of the amount of gasoline that is being poured on it. For some, it's one match away from becoming an incendiary, because it failed to answer the series' central question: Who killed Rosie Larsen? Which is where I feel as though I have been watching a completely different series than other viewers. I'm not going to try to convince anybody that they were wrong to hate the finale, because this level of anger doesn't vanish thanks to some talking points. Television is a hugely subjective medium and our personal experiences with shows are just that: personal. What I will

Poster Boy/Poster Girl: Orpheus Rises on The Killing

Sometimes, the answer is staring at you right in the face. Other times, the truth lies far deeper beneath the surface, submerged inside the trunk of a mayoral campaign car. On this week's stunning episode of AMC's The Killing ("Beau Soleil"), written by Jeremy Doner and Soo Hugh and directed by Keith Gordon, the truth about Rosie Larsen's killer finally seemed within the grasp of Detectives Linden and Holder, or at the very least the initial prime suspect in the slaying of the teenage girl came back into the frame once more. Given that there is still one more episode left--likely one overflowing with further twists and turns--it's possible (but not all that probable) that there's still more to the story than we're seeing, another layer that's again deeper down in the murky water. But for now it seems as though the killer may have been unmasked. So what do I think about the latest twist to hit the rain-soaked drama series? Read on... It'

The Daily Beast: "Michelle Forbes' Good Grief" (The Killing)

Michelle Forbes has been a TV mainstay since the mid-'90s when she was on Homicide: Life on the Street —she's appeared on 24, Prison Break, Battlestar Galactica, In Treatment , and True Blood . But her role on the AMC mystery The Killing as the destroyed-by-grief mother of the dead girl at the center of the story has gotten her more attention than ever. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "Michelle Forbes' Good Grief," in which I sit down with Forbes (for a nearly four-hour-long lunch, in fact) and talk to her about her career, playing the anguished Mitch Larsen, and why committing to a TV show is like an arranged marriage. The Killing airs Sundays at 10 pm ET/PT on AMC.

Six Feet Under: What You Have Left on The Killing

"Who you are is five words: 'dead girl in a trunk.'" - Jamie While The Killing is largely about the investigation into the death of Rosie Larsen, it's as much an investigation into the lives of those left behind, an existential discussion of the way in which death invades our lives and how grief, often the only thing you have left after a loved one dies, can transform into rage. That a loving couple can become squabbling rivals in an argument that no one wins, or how a father's love can become misguided vengeance. This week's episode of The Killing ("What You Have Left"), written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Agnieszka Holland, traces both ends of the spectrum, following Linden and Holder as they attempt to ensnare Bennet Ahmed, Rosie's teacher and currently the prime suspect in her murder, and the Larsen family as they bury Rosie and attempt to make their peace with her passing. Bennet's alibi is rapidly unraveling this week as

Super 8: Flock of Butterflies on The Killing

"The girl who made that wasn't the pink-bedroom type." - Sarah Linden How well do we know anyone? Can we ever truly know our spouses, our children? The Rosie Larsen that we seen illuminated in her bedroom--the pink walls, that butterfly motif--is dramatically at odds with the Rosie who shot the Super 8 video that Bennet Ahmed shares with Linden and Holder: it's a much darker Rosie, a truer Rosie. This isn't a little girl capturing the easiness of carefree youth. She sees the skull beneath the skin, even as we see a flock of butterflies connect with Rosie as one of their own. In this week's episode of The Killing ("Super 8"), written by Jeremy Doner and directed by Phil Abraham, we begin to see that Rosie may not have been as innocent and wholesome as her parents believe her to be. While her teacher Bennet maintains that their relationship wasn't sexual, that the letters were an "intellectual discourse," the possibility that Rosie ma

End of the Line: A Soundless Echo on The Killing

"You said she didn't suffer." Rule Number One among homicide detectives: don't make promises you can't keep. Sarah Linden knows this, which is why she doesn't offer the Larsens the false hope that they'll catch whoever slayed their beloved teenage daughter Rosie. (In fact, it's Holder who makes that promise.) But Linden's seemingly innocuous white lie--telling Mitch and Stan that Rosie didn't suffer--was itself intended to assuage the consciences of the grieving parents. When they come face to face with proof to the opposite, it's as much a shock to the system, a jolt of brutal realization, as the news that their daughter was dead. In this week's episode of The Killing ("A Soundless Echo"), written by Soo Hugh and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, Mitch and Stan grapple with funeral arrangements for Rosie--the minutiae of grief and loss--as the investigators make some shocking new discoveries about Rosie's secret life an

The Devil's Due: A Hole in the Wall on The Killing

"Assumptions are your enemy, detective." - Sarah Linden What were Rosie Larsen's final minutes on earth like? As the trunk of the car filled with water and the darkness closed in around her, Rosie fought for life, attempting to claw her way out of her watery grave. Her mother Mitch (Michelle Forbes, whose performance just becomes more and more emotionally wrenching each week) attempts to experience those final moments, slipping underneath the surface of the water in her bathtub, her eyes open, her heart pounding. It's a moment of attempted rapport between mother and dead child, a heartbreaking effort to know, to understand, to vicariously put herself into Rosie's end in those murky waters. Continuing last week's strong start for The Killing , this week's episode ("El Diablo"), written by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton, found Linden and Holder attempting to unravel the mystery of The Cage, the Larsens gra