Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-Ray]

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-Ray]
In its fourth season, award-winning AMC period drama Mad Men has hit a relatable groove now that the initial cultural shock of antiquated values and behaviour (pregnant women smoking, workplace drinking, casual sexual harassment, etc.) have become commonplace for the series rather than defining. For the first couple of seasons, the specificity of language, attire and pop culture referencing kept the goings on of ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and the Sterling Cooper agency at a distance, encapsulated by aesthetic, clever parallels and technical acuity. But throughout, the characters have quietly grown and changed, as have their relationships with each other, which is much of the focus during these 13-episodes, with Don devolving into an alcoholic, bed-hopping haze after his divorce from Betty (January Jones) while trying to build the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency. His deterioration is oddly humanizing, as are many of the similar life disappointments and challenges experienced by the overly quaffed advertising gang. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) has increased confidence now that she's gained comfort in her pioneering role as a copywriter, often struggling with her work/life balance, prioritizing career over relationships and marriage. And what's interesting is that even though she's essentially living a feminist life ― working alongside the boys, challenging female limitations in the workplace ― she's not a politically motivated person. She does branch out more this season, befriending a pretentious lesbian that works in the building, but she's more interested in climbing the corporate ladder individually than she is in making any sort of statement. Head office secretary Joan (Christina Hendricks), on the other hand, is conflicted this season, having settled into an unhappy, but not uncaring, marriage while routinely, reluctantly, flirting with the similarly married Roger Sterling (John Slattery), whose tumultuous dealings with Lucky Strike ― a major client ― threaten the stability of the agency. Beyond the sharpened human drama and complex interweaving of personalities and motivations there are a number of standout moments, such as Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) and Megan (Jessica Paré) trying to wheel Don's dead secretary out of the office to keep from shocking important clients, as well as the drunken fistfight between Don and Duck (Mark Moses) after Duck shows up at the agency looking for Peggy and decides to defecate in Don's office. As always, the Blu-Ray set includes an obscene amount of special features, with two commentary tracks on every episode (one with series creator Matthew Weiner and another with various actors), which dissect motivation, tone, themes and so on with great articulation and insight. There are also extended special features on divorce in the '60s and Don Draper's business style, which contextualize the social landscape of the time and the practicality of workplace decisions, respectively. Both use far too many clips from the show and feature too many glib generalizations to be much more than mildly informative diversions. Similarly, the supplements on the 1964 Presidential campaign and the marketing of the Mustang are intriguing mostly for stock footage and simplifying of information. (Maple)