UK TV review: Mad Men Season 7 Episode 3 (Field Trip)
Chris Bryant | On 03, May 2014
Episode 3 opens in Mad Men’s most relaxed position: Don smoking in a cinema. He sees the cars pull away and the couples that adorn the screen, as they hold hands and fall in love – a contrast to what follows, as Don stops watching and gets back in the game.
His attempts to help Megan in her career only push her further away, giving Jessica Pare another chance to berate and overreact at her husband, evoking a paradoxical controlled panic that she’s perfected. Don professes his fidelity and, for once, really has been behaving himself. Fleeing to New York, with his job and relationship now in limbo, he picks the one that matters most.
Also in town is his first wife, Betty. Following Don’s lead from last week, she decides to reconnect with her children, taking Bobby on a school trip and a picnic. Unsurprisingly, she’s strict, lost and a little spiteful, no more a grown-up than the others on the school bus. As her friends find success and completion in their working lives, Betty has no goals and yet is still struggling. January Jones, not in this series enough so far, continues brilliantly pretending to be someone pretending to be okay.
Lou Avery plays a bigger role once more, still producing a masterful balancing act between nasty and boring. Now, we see how others in the office deal with his rude, soulless way of doing things. Later, he fails to solve a real problem, one which will be exciting to see in Episode 4.
Throughout Field Trip, the writers ensure that the characters we know and love have changed, but are consistent. Betty, for example, is richer and slimmer than ever, still draped in beautiful clothes and always smoking, but she’s beginning to realise how astray her life has gone. The same people work at SC&P, too, but with Dawn occupying Joan’s job and Peggy answering to a man with little creative sense, it can only be a small time before it all starts to crumble.
One enjoyable shift is that someone finally listens to Harry Crane. Keeping Harry as one of the more annoying visionaries can only be a rather annoying bit of envisioning by the writers themselves; he’s funny and good at his job, but his ego (especially with Cosgrove on the sidelines and Pete in Los Angeles) is getting quite out of control. A forward-thinker at Sterling-Cooper nine years ago, a partner of the firm – Jim Cutler – finally hears him out in his techno-ranting about computers. The chain reaction it causes, though, is distressing.
The episode ends on a fiery, optimistic note. Don ends up in one of those moods where the odds are against him and yet he never loses. He may be repeatedly propositioned by women during interviews or made to feel unwelcome in a certain office, but Don’s at his best when facing the impossible. Shackled, hindered, sober. His journey has been somewhat scrappy and political, but Don Draper is back.
Mad Men: Season 1 to 7 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.