Mad Men Rewatch: A Day’s Work

 Posted by on March 5, 2015 at 5:18 am  Mad Men, Season 7
Mar 052015


Continuing with my Mad Men Season 7 rewatch, last night I watched 7.02, A Day’s Work.

This is in some ways, a magnificent episode. It is elevated by everyone’s performance, of course, and most especially, by Jon Hamm’s stricken face in the final scene, when Sally tells her father “I love you.”

Nonetheless, the sitcom plot of Peggy and the flowers is a little much, a little cringey. Basketcases certainly called it out as a sitcom device in our original Open Thread, but Elisabeth Moss sold it with such intensity that the material was very nearly elevated to pure drama, at least on first viewing. Nonetheless, upon rewatch, I found myself dreading the whole flower embarrassment. I mean, even Peggy cringed in embarrassment, so how do we avoid cringing too?

The problem with the episode is that the shuffling around of “the girls” is also a little sitcom. There’s a lot of plot device to make sure that all that happens, and it’s all very written; you can see the writers’ hands in making all the dominos fall just so. The two sitcom plots (moving the secretaries and the Flowers Incident) interconnect. Combining them means that A Day’s Work, while it has great moments, will never be among the truly great Mad Men episodes.


  12 Responses to “Mad Men Rewatch: A Day’s Work”

  1. This episode was definitely more “sitcommy” than we’ve come to expect from Mad Men–however, it did move the plot along nicely in many important ways. Dawn now has Joan’s job, Joan is now an “account man”, we see just how desperate and hurt Peggy is about Ted and her life in general and we get a glimpse at the state of race relations at the time (Cooper’s comment about Dawn, a serious racist by today’s standards but typical for the times and Dawn and Shirley’s exchange about how everyone mixes them up–funny–but not really and Lou’s comment about not being able to fire Dawn). The episode’s weaknesses are more than made up for by the Don and Sally scenes–in the diner and the “I love you” as she left the car reminded us that this is in no way a “regular sitcom” TV show.

    • Absolutely. A weaker Mad Men episode is great by any other standard.

    • Barbara beat me to the punch, but I agree with her in that the episode was most notable for its endpoints.

      Joan’s move upstairs was long overdue even if it was motivated by Cutlerian machinations. What I really treasured was Don’s reconciliation with Sally – a thaw of sorts since the worst recent (and truly cringeworthy) moment for Don (in the NBA a “flagrant foul” brings a brief suspension – Don got his suspension for the “remainder of the season”)

      I imagine racists, especially if they are “typical”, don’t think of themselves as racist. I wonder if, when confronted by Cooper over the new receptionist, Joan remembered how ugly she was with Kinsey’s black girlfriend at his party (by now seven years earlier)?

      Does anyone ever have a first date on Feb 14? In the elevator with Peggy (and Ginz) Stan implied that he had a date that evening. But if he didn’t and had asked Peggy out? That would be so soapy that none of the writers would think of it (or toss it out at the writer’s table).

      • My personal experience of people who change their stripes (were racist or homophobic and are not anymore) is that they kinda rewrite the past.

        Plus, Joan wasn’t so much racist, as using racism as a weapon against Paul. I mean, the primary behavior was cattiness; racism was just handy.

        • I regarded her subsequent catty comments with Kinsey as fair game between intimates. Her nastiness with with Sheila was not fair – even if “justified” somewhat with her implied history with their friend-in-common.

        • When Joan is unhappy, she is a straight up monster. No one but Cooper has been spared from being ripped by her laser sharp tongue.
          The Startegy, and Waterloo are the only eps that can be considered for the pantheon in S7.1 IMHO.
          The first 5 eps were like the Old Testament for me: He is coming. He is coming.
          Then Don is finally back in the last 2. And the wait ended.

          • But the New Testament wouldn’t have nearly the same impact and meaning without the Old Testament leading up to it.

  2. This was the episode I didn’t like because of how it was shot. Very jagged, particularly the diner scene. I wanted a profile shot of Don and Sally talking. An organic conversation, but the way it was filmed made it seem too obvious that every line was filmed in isolation. line. cut. line. cut. The flow of the conversation and reactions didn’t feel natural to me at all. It felt like I was watching moments spliced together rather than one continuous situation.

    • Tappan – Having listened to hours of commentaries by Weiner, DP, editor, and various directors, I now sometimes think of where the cameras are and how shots are pieced together. Sometimes. Mostly that’s all transparent (thank goodness).

      It occurs that editing styles can be likened to writing styles. I’ve read commentaries on the Lee Child thrillers that remind me of your line/cut/line/cut crtitique. For me, that’s no distraction, for others its almost a dealbreaker.

    • But I think it also communicates the disconnect between them. There was a lot keeping them from being unified.

      So emotionally, it might have been false.

      Even at the end with the I love you, we don’t see them connected in the moment, and it’s so moving. Sally reaching through the disconnection. And Don so taken back.

  3. Don’s face in the diner when he’s teasing Sally about skipping out on the check and then at the end when she says she loves him…his facial expressions…without saying a word–say it all. THAT is great acting and acting like that covers a multitude of sins in the script!

  4. They do use sitcom plots from time to time, but it’s interesting that the more enjoyable ones (Mrs Blankenship’s death) are actually more serious.

    There isn’t a lot at stake with Peggy’s flower mistake. Or so it seems. There is a serious note here on the powerlessness of women and black women in particular. And Peggy pulled something normally only men could do (move a secretary/get her in trouble) for her own personal reasons/failings. And only other men did in this episode.

    The women are at the mercy of men’s decisions. Even Joan waited until Cutler gave her permission to move up…Peggy’s been at the mercy of Ted… But maybe one of the things we dislike most is she handled it like the men and forgot her roots. Forgot the “we got to stick together” promise she gave Dawn, when it came to Shirley, and Shirley did nothing wrong.

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