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Hello, Hello, Hello: The Comeback 2.08 “Valerie Gets What She Really Wants” Discussion

19 Jan

The Comeback aired its season finale over the holiday break and there was no way we were going to let it get lost in the end of year shuffle. So while this is a little later than normal I am joined once again by Kerensa Cadenas to discuss all things Valerie Cherish, whether we want another season and how neither of us could keep it together for the final 15 minutes.

the Comeback 2.08 ValEmma: For a finale that included shit pouring out over Valerie’s driveway I don’t think there has been a sweeter or more hopeful episode of The Comeback and after fearing that something dark and awful would befall Valerie this was the ending I really wanted but wasn’t sure we would get. There is still no word on whether there will be a season 3 and even though I would LOVE to see more Comeback episodes I would also be okay with leaving the show here because it really is a perfect way to close out the series.

Valerie chose Mickey over the Emmys and all season they had been hinting at how much Val would do for both fame and recognition appearing on a show that annihilated her career and personality. Relationships have been strained and it didn’t appear like there was any way back for Valerie and Mark after their parking lot blow up but it turns out people can surprise you. As we’ve discussed before Valerie is not mean or cruel, she’s just a bit oblivious to how some of her actions might impact those around her and she is very driven when it comes to her career, but on the biggest night of her career and her crowning glory it is the man who has been by her side for 24 years who she runs to.

I don’t know how much Valerie has changed since this success because to me she’s still pretty much the same Valerie and this is apparent when she doesn’t realize that people are applauding her when she walks into Juna’s party. I think maybe she’s still the same but other people are responding to her differently, except Mickey and this is another reason why it is important that she leaves the Emmys for Mickey and not Mark. Juna’s long concerned hug encapsulates this and she can’t understand why she did Seeing Red in the first place, which is a pretty normal reaction because who would submit themselves to Paulie G and that portrayal? This is all part of the “everything is fine” big wide smile mantra she has perfected and it is why those moments of real concern for Mickey really stick with me. They are the OTP of this show and I can’t tell you how glad I am that they didn’t kill him off.

Do you think Valerie has changed?

the comeback 2.08 Juna hugKerensa: I’m not sure Valerie will ever entirely change but I do think that things personally for her got shitty enough where she had to realize what she was doing. If you think about it in the first season, yes, professionally things were a wreck for her, but at the time personally things weren’t bad. Maybe got a little strained because of the reality show but it wasn’t a complete utter rock bottom situation like this was with Mark leaving her and Mickey’s illness. She was crushing it professionally but kinda had to turn a blind eye to everything else until it was wayyyy past the point in which she could continue to do so.

I think that’s what made such a hugely emotional impact on me as well, for Valerie to go to Mickey during the Emmys, a time where she was finally going to shine is what’s important. Whether or not she entirely changes, for me isn’t the point, and I honestly don’t expect her to fully.

Do you think so?

the comeback 2.08 kitchen speechEmma: This is the night Valerie has been working/hoping for which is why it means so much that she leaves especially as everyone keeps telling her that she is going to win. I did wonder at one point that if she stayed then she wouldn’t win, but I’m so glad they went with the alternative. When Valerie gets the Mark text about Mickey collapsing she is initially unsure about what she should do with Jane telling her she has to stay because she is going to win. This is the perfect end for Jane’s documentary if Valerie does win and while I think we were both worried about the finished product (which we of course don’t get to see) Jane misses out on the perfect ending when Valerie leaves without her usual camera crew trailing behind her.

The big filming style switch threw me for a moment but it was jarring in the most magnificent way as the documentary format fell away and left us looking at Valerie in a completely new way. It is the perfect way to shoot this moment because Valerie is no longer starring in her own reality show and it was simply stunning. This is Valerie stripped down not trying to be the most liked best person and this is the most likable best version of her and those cameras aren’t there to capture it. And how beautiful does she look in that gown with the red umbrella?! From the awkward Uber pickup to Mark’s face when he sees her sitting in the hospital room. I’m getting teary just thinking about it.

And when she wins and her speech is so perfect; the kitchen speech prep calling back to the pilot was devastating in its loneliness whereas this is all love (well except for the unseen/unhappy other patient). It made me SO happy and I really was expecting this finale to be so dark whereas it was a big huge win for Val and us watching her. What did you make of the camera style switch and the way she won?

The Comeback 2.08 camera switchKerensa: I loved the camera switch. I thought it was such an interesting parallel that Valerie’s day to day is stunningly beautiful while the reality TV version of her life isn’t. I sobbed through those final 15 minutes and then when she actually won, I think my heart stopped for a minute. I think the way she won was perfect though, she got to share the moment with the people who really mattered to her, the people who’ve been rooting for her for years, not all the camera crews and all that.

Although, her practice speeches while eating in the kitchen would have been GREAT to see onstage.

Emma: Watching last night’s Golden Globes and with all the chat about rain earlier in the day made it hard to not think of Valerie Cherish.

The kitchen scene really works in a similar way to the no reality show cameras in the hospital scenes as it seems like she’s really forgotten they are there, mostly because I can’t imagine her eating this much on camera on purpose. This bit where she gets out the frozen cake (that’s what it is right?) is the perfect representation of those times where you do just want comfort food.

The crack in the wall and the torrent of shit that followed was very on the nose in how it mirrors what’s going on in Valerie’s life and it also gave one very disgusting (and hilarious) sight gag when Brad brings the dress over. This is followed by one of my favorite shots of the season as she is carried to the car by Billy and a shirtless Brad. What did you make of the whole getting ready stuff and especially Jane’s territorial attitude?

The Comeback 2.08Kerensa: Oh the getting ready stuff was incredibly uncomfortable especially when Valerie goes and begs her neighbor to let her get ready in his home. And all his points about Valerie being incredibly selfish were so on point.

Jane’s territorial attitude has been very apparent in the last several episodes and I’m not super surprised? I think she has that attitude a little bit about Valerie, who she does care about, but I think it’s grown more because this HBO project for her is a big deal. She’s making a documentary about women, that’s funded and that would eventually be on HBO–and show what we can assume will be Jane’s vision about women in Hollywood.

What do you think?

The Comeback 2.08 JaneEmma: You’re comments about Jane’s vision are spot on and really I would love to see a Jane spinoff show that runs parallel with this one to see her side of it all. I also think she cares about Valerie, but that she also wants to have an impact on both how Hollywood is run and with her documentary work. I don’t think she’s that bothered about accolades considering her Oscar is a doorstop and she is also aware that an award doesn’t necessarily equate to better work after. She obviously didn’t want Valerie to leave as it takes away from her documentary but in a way this empty chair is a much bigger moment for her to use in her doc. I also love that Paulie G goes up to accept the award and he is essentially shooed away.

We see some returning faces from season one including Jimmy who emphasizes that this is only one night and while it is important, it is not as important as the relationships in your life. I do wonder if this was the extra push Valerie needed when choosing Mickey over the Emmys. The other Room and Bored face making their first appearance this season is Chris and I was surprised (and skeezed) by the brief attraction I felt towards Kellan Lutz. I loved everything about these scenes from the girls following him around cell phone in hand in a zombified state to the fact he only had eyes for Val. In our last chat you wondered if Val was going to sleep with Chris and while she could have done she chose not to so were you happy with how this played out?

the Comeback 2.08 KLutzKerensa: For one, I think this is arguably Kellan Lutz’s BEST work. He’s really great actually. And I agree with you, I was weirdly attracted to him too? But for me, that attraction might not be brief 😦

I loved Val’s whole interaction with Chris. Mainly because that is a DREAM LADY SCENARIO. I mean, in every stage of life, haven’t you always wanted someone from your past irregardless if you were into them or not, to learn of their long yearning feelings for you, trying to get it in and then massively rejecting them?! I have had SO many of these (all dream unfortunately). I never thought she was going to sleep with him though. I mean it was obviously fun to be flirted with and when he swept her into the bathroom (!) But Val’s never wavered–at least–from what we’ve seen about Mark, so I never expected her to go there with Chris. Did you?

Emma: It’s so good and I love that she points out how good it has made her feel. That’s all she needs from this encounter is a self-esteem boost because even though she’s getting all these plaudits and praise nothing can beat a more personal moment like this. And we know Valerie cares what people think and to have a young, hot guy like Chris see her as a sexual being is definitely not what she was expecting. And like you I didn’t really expect to see her fall for his charms other than taking a ride home and the compliments as in her eyes she is still very much a married woman and I cheating doesn’t seem like a Val thing to do.

So the season ended in this really happy and inspiring way, which could be the perfect way to wrap up the Valerie Cherish story but I also want more. I want to see how Val reacts to this new found appreciation of her work and if her marriage can be salvaged as the end of the episode suggests it can. Do you want a season 3?

The Comeback 2.08 Emmy winnerKerensa: I don’t want a season 3. Valerie is very important to both of us and obviously an iconic character but I feel like that finale was the perfect ending for her.

I’d rather leave Val on a happy note than have to see her suffer again. Do you want a season 3?

Emma: I feel how I do about the end of Friday Night Lights in that I would LOVE to spend more time with these characters but both endings are perfect. The slight difference is with how few episodes there are in The Comeback’s run I think there is still a lot more story to tell, so if they announced a third season then I would resist. Seeing Valerie get the happy ending does make me reluctant for them to make more, but I wouldn’t say no to more Val.

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is an Editor for Snakkle. She also writes for Women and HollywoodThe WeekThis Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. You can follow her on Twitter to read her thoughts on teen TV, snacks and terrible pop music.

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Summer Rewind: The Comeback Episodes 10-13

24 Mar

Big things are maybe happening with The Comeback and there’s a chance Valerie Cherish may grace our screens once again. The timing of this announcement is pretty perfect as we’ve finally finished our “Summer Rewind.” That majority of this discussion with Kerensa Cadenas took place long before this announcement and it’s something we only address at the end. We’re both pretty excited about this possible return as we’ve become pretty attached to this character. We’re looking at the final four episodes; “Valerie Gets a Magazine Cover,” “Valerie Stands Out on the Red Carpet,” “Valerie Shines Under Stress” and “Valerie Does Another Classic Leno.” For more from our Summer Rewind head here.

The Comeback ep 10 bathEmma: So it’s been a few months since we last talked about The Comeback as various other projects/moving house/all the TV that is on has got in the way but we’re finally back to talk about the last four episodes of The Comeback. I’m pretty devastated that unlike Valerie’s own reality show, the actual Comeback didn’t get a second season and I completely understand why it is put alongside Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life as the one season wonders we wish there was more of.

In the final four episodes Valerie’s long standing battle with Paulie G comes to a vomit filled head (did not see that coming), her reality show premieres, the cast head to the People’s Choice Awards, Valerie gets a magazine cover and a Scandalous publicist. One thing I want to note is how each episode title is pretty much the Valerie version of what happens – “Valerie Saves the Show,” “Valerie Demands Dignity,” “Valerie Stands Out on the Red Carpet,” “Valerie Shines Under Stress” – Valerie tends to ignore negative aspects and tries to make the best out of a situation. We see this time and time again throughout The Comeback and instead of making things better, the opposite occurs. This is why her actual reality show is such a hot mess and a hit.

The first of our four episodes is all about Hollywood/celebrity fakery when her new publicist Billy (Scandal star and long time Lisa Kudrow producing partner Dan Bucatinsky) gets her the cover of “Be Yoga.” It’s not Redbook like Valerie wants, but it’s a step and the only issue is Valerie doesn’t really do yoga no matter how much she says she does. Thanks to Mark’s painkiller truth bombs Valerie has to keep correcting him on camera. Drugged up Mark is wonderful and I really like his character now after being so unsure for the first half of the season. He’s pretty genuine which is unusual in the world of reality TV and he’s not trying to be someone that he isn’t. In this episode he is even more blasé thanks to the painkillers and it makes Valerie’s sudden interest in yoga more transparent.

Turning the gym into a place of sanctuary involves a whole lot of remodeling which costs a fortune and this also feels like the show is passing judgment on the ridiculous amount of money people will spend on tranquility. It is a fad after all and after this magazine shoot how much time will Valerie spend with a $12000 Buddha?

Of course Valerie is doing this as a reaction to Juna’s very Rolling Stone Rolling Stone cover, the mock up looks like an actual issue and they’ve perfectly captured what kind of wet t-shirt image they would use for someone like Juna. And there’s a terrible pun to boot “Got Millken?” Valerie’s been saving all of Juna’s press clippings and this is part supportive co-star and part wish fulfillment. Hollywood’s such a breeding ground for competitiveness and longing, particularly when it comes to who is in demand that Valerie’s actions probably aren’t all that uncommon when there is someone who is considered the hot new thing versus someone who is in the second half of their career and it’s probably really hard to maintain a healthy, balanced attitude towards these things. This is why they need yoga and this also turns into a Juna thing as she’s invited along to Valerie’s yoga session. Juna of course ends up in US Weekly’s Stars They’re Just Like Us feature – this is my favorite part of this magazine because of how damn ridiculous it is. Valerie isn’t included and so her shining moment gets usurped by the younger star once again.

Valerie brings in a poster of when she posed in a barely done up shirt, super cleav and undone jeans from her It days and I’m glad that it didn’t come across as this desperate attempt to hold onto her youth. I think she just wanted to show that she is more than just a frumpy tracksuit. What did you think of this scene and particularly Tom and Paulie G’s reactions to it?

The Comeback ep 10 Rolling StoneKerensa: I really like the relationship between Valerie and Juna–while it does have those undertones of Valerie being jealous of Juna’s newly minted “it” girl status (I wonder if the show has got a second season if they would have explored this) it does seem based in a pretty genuine place.

I think that Valerie bringing in her poster to the set kinda straddles the line of that. She looks great in the picture (although I loved the line about her hair being 90s–when it looks exactly the same) and Tom and Paulie G’s reactions were pretty priceless. I thought Paulie G’s was creepy and condescending seeming per usual. I can’t with him, especially in these last episode. Holy crap.

What did you think about this scene?

The Comeback ep 10 posterEmma: The Juna/Valerie dynamic is one of my favorites on The Comeback as it really wasn’t what I expected, this notion applies to a lot of this show. I’m not sure if Malin Akerman’s work on Trophy Wife has influenced my feelings (because I love that show), but I’ve really grown to love Juna and all her naïveté. She could have been the bitch of the show and her super sweet persona feels pretty genuine. I’m really sad that we won’t get to see if success and fame would change her, from the looks of things I’d say probably not and she’s always been very supportive and thankful for Valerie’s presence.

It’s the writers after all that play the role of mean girl and their reaction to Valerie’s poster is typical of how they have been in every other way – Tom is sheepish and Paulie G is repulsive and yet he can’t quite bring himself to admit that he finds Valerie attractive. Paulie G has consistently used silence as a way to put her down.

After watching the penultimate episode I said on Twitter that Paulie G would feature on a most despised list and his systematic bullying has been the hardest aspect of this show to watch. When Valerie finally loses it and punches him in the stomach I definitely cheered, even when it was followed by the double vomit comet. I mean this also becomes her reality show defining moment even if it’s for the wrong reasons.

We’ve got a lot to talk about when it comes to these writers and especially Paulie G, what do you think they were intending to say with Paulie’s nice guy routine in his one on one?

The Comeback ep 11 JunaKerensa: I agree with you on everything about Juna and Trophy Wife which I love so much. It was really great that Juna’s character didn’t fall into the stereotype that it very well could have.

I cheered so loudly with the punch scene as well. It was just SO satisfying to see Valerie stand up for herself against him after everything she’s taken from him.

Honestly, with Paulie G’s sudden “nice guy” transformation in his one on one, I didn’t believe it for a second. My first thought was that he got paid to say that or threatened/told that the Room and Bored ratings would suffer–pretty much anything along those lines. While we’ve been aware that Valerie’s show would be spun into something unfavorable towards her, it sucked to see her witness it and Paulie G’s sudden respect for Valerie really was another double vomit punch in the gut. What did you think?

The Comeback ep 12 cupcakeEmma: I just hope Trophy Wife doesn’t go the way of The Comeback with one season only.

That’s a really great way to describe how Paulie G’s kind words felt and it highlights how these testimonials are the most fake aspect of reality shows.

As soon as Jane returned from doing Paulie G’s interview it was obvious that something was up and one aspect we haven’t discussed too much is the role of Jane and this final episode shows that as a producer Jane is here to interfere when it helps the narrative like asking Valerie to start a sentence with “I feel” but she also withholds information as she doesn’t tell Valerie that Paulie G was nice about her. This is why Jane prentends she’s sick for Valerie’s viewing party as she’s aware of all the behind the scenes aspects, no she didn’t edit the piece but she feels complicit.

For a brief moment I thought Jane was in cahoots with Paulie G, especially when she wouldn’t let her in her apartment, but then I remembered that Jane has been just as repulsed by Paulie G as we have been. The relationship between producer and reality star is a complicated one I’m sure and of course the timeouts that Valerie implemented are timeouts on her end only. I think Jane probably thought Valerie was an idiot at first, but she’s definitely grown to like her. It’s little things like Valerie giving her the gift bag she got at the People’s Choice awards (how I would love an wards gift bag) or how Jane tears up as she hears Valerie’s story about her scoliosis – I definitely want to talk more about this in relation to Valerie.

Despite being screamed at by Valerie and Mark, Jane looks really happy for Valerie at the end of the final episode and if there had been a second season *sob* I would have liked to see them explore Jane and her relationship as producer with Valerie. What do you think of the whole Jane aspect?

Also have you seen any of Kroll Show? PubLIZity nails everything about these kinds of reality shows.

The Comeback ep 13 Valerie and JaneKerensa: I love Kroll Show and PubLIZity is the best! Jenny Slate should be in everything! And it really does.

I think the relationship between Jane and Valerie is really interesting. And it became apparent that they bonded in small ways throughout the show. The first moment of that to me was when Valerie got her that gift bag from the People’s Choice Awards. I never thought that Jane was in cahoots with Paulie G. because she obviously hated him so much too. So I do think Valerie’s betrayal felt kinda justified especially because Jane disappeared because she had seen the final cut and felt ashamed. But I know Valerie plays herself off as being naive, but I mean how could she not have expected the show to turn out like that? I know that we are jaded with the amount of reality television we’ve both seen and by now we are aware of the editing tricks used, but did Valerie really think that it was going to portray her in a positive light?

And then when she kinda at the end of the show seems to accept this new public persona of Valerie–I wonder if the second season would have explored her doing the kinds of things she refused to do in this season? Would have it turned Valerie into a monster? I do hope that Jane would have stayed on in the second season to explore that relationship between the two of them because it became SO apparent how much Valerie ended up relying on her especially when the creepy mic guy showed up again.

The Comeback poster ep 12Emma: Now I want to take a look at the evolution between reality shows first and second seasons – how they evolve because of what the audience responded to in the first season. I mean it goes for scripted shows as well – the first season is written in a bubble of sorts as it hasn’t been seen by anyone so at that point no one knows what people will like/dislike. I mean Girls is a prime example as cable shows tend to have most of their season written/filmed before any of it has aired so they can’t respond to criticism until the second season. Network is different as they can tweak as the season goes along and this can be very beneficial. With reality shows I’m guessing it’s more of the cable model in that it’s all filmed prior to airing. With something like the Kardashians I find it so surreal that they make a huge deal about plot points that we already know the ending to – like the big engagements/breakups. In fact this is a show I’d like to watch S1 of just to see how different it is to the way they are now.

So slight digression there and my favorite Valerie moments are the ones where she is truly herself, like all of the smoking scenes in the finale are hilarious, as is every single time that Mark mentions the coke they did that one time. Speaking of Mark, I really changed my opinion of him over these last four episodes and think he’s really pretty great. He goes all protective over Valerie whenever Paulie G is mentioned and offers to come to the studio and when she turns him down he doesn’t go all macho man and let’s her deal with it herself. He’s also pretty hilarious when he’s high on pain killers. Mark isn’t part of the Hollywood scene and so his reticence at the start is totally understandable, especially when you factor in his own career as a lawyer. I don’t think he’s more reality TV savvy than Valerie, I just think it’s his natural instincts as a lawyer to not trust anyone, especially in this town. How do you feel about Mark now the show has ended?

The Comeback ep 10 Valerie and MarkKerensa: I ended up really loving Mark too. And like you mentioned, I think he’s really good for Valerie because he isn’t involved in Hollywood. Those smoking scenes were HILARIOUS. But I really do like the relationship that became established between them and how supportive he was of Valerie even when she was being nuts.

And I think that evolution would be super interesting especially in terms of The Comeback. Like if it had got a second season–would the show have hinted that Valerie’s sudden fame was because of the show that they were shooting? Also, if there was a second season, how would Room & Bored even be on the air still? Right?

The Comeback ep 13 ValerieEmma: Room & Bored did very much seem dead in the water even if they did get a People’s Choice nomination and I loved how this whole episode pointed out how BS this awards is and how it’s all decided before the night. And while I’m on the subject of this episode, it’s another occasion where they incorporate someone from another reality TV show; first it was The Amazing Race and this time it is Project Runway. So they’re skewering reality TV, while also writing a love letter of sorts to it. Valerie looks stunning in this red dress, even when it’s on back to front. What did you think about this episode and how it portrays the People’s Choice Awards?

A couple of things that probably would save Room & Bored for a second season – Juna’s level of fame (as long as she doesn’t) leave and the success of The Comeback. I would imagine they would want to keep Paulie G on as a writer (and by extension) Tom as there is a high level of conflict here which is good for The Comeback. There’s a lot of variables and it’s easy to see why a reality show about a sitcom star would be a logistical nightmare.

What are your other highlights from these final four episodes?

The Comeback ep 11 Valerie and BillyKerensa: I agree–I do think that it would maybe get another season because of Juna and The Comeback but I bet it would be done after that. I loved that episode and how it looked at the People’s Choice Awards—while I’ve never covered or been to an awards show I bet it’s probably pretty similar to how it’s portrayed there.

On the topic of reality TV, how do you think The Comeback would have fared in the reality TV landscape? Because when the show aired–The Comeback would have been on the cusp of reality TV really blowing up–as acknowledged through the EW cover and the other reality type shows that were shown at the upfronts. I kinda don’t think it would have lasted very long, what about you?

I can’t think of anymore highlights other than Valerie Cherish is our new spirit animal and I miss her terribly already. You?

The Comeback ep 13 smokingEmma: It’s hard to say how The Comeback would have fared and for every Keeping Up with the Kardashians there is a Living Lohan or Pretty Wild (I would watch more of either of these two) so like you I don’t think it would have gone beyond a second season. Hopefully Valerie wouldn’t have been too humiliated and she would have more opportunities beckoning.

One other thing I did want to address is Mickey and his big coming out. Mickey has been one of the overall highlights of the series for me and I’m glad he got a happy ending of sorts. His story is also still very relevant and while he is out to people like Valerie, it’s not a something that everyone in his life knows. On the clip package on The Comeback it infers that Mickey has a thing for Jesse so he hasn’t hidden his sexuality very well and Mickey uses the finale to come out to the world. The response is pretty much “well obviously” and yet because Mickey is a gay man he has to make a public declaration. On the one hand it’s frustrating that this happens, on the other as we saw with Ellen Page at the weekend (ed. note this was written last month) it is incredibly powerful.

The Comeback definitely deserves to sit aside the one season wonders of My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks; it’s been a joy to watch Valerie Cherish and I’m definitely going to miss her. And hey, we have a new catchphrase in our repertoire and if I ever hear “I don’t want to see that” it will be a huge reminder of this show. Can we get more Lisa Kudrow on Scandal please?

The Comeback ep 11 MickeyEmma: Woah regarding the news that this might be making an actual comeback?!?!  Any thoughts and feelings on this real chance that we’ll be getting more Aunt Sassy? And where do you think she’ll be in 2014?

Kerensa: God I hope it happens! Well, there’s no way that Room & Bored could still be running right? I feel like The Comeback would have gone in a couple ways.

1. Re-kickstarted Valerie’s sticom career and she’s having a Julia Louis-Dreyfus-esque renaissance and playing “unlikeable” women.

2. Or it’s relegated her to the dregs of reality television where she’s been a contestant on any celebrity reality show i.e. Dancing with the Stars, etc.

What do you think?

Emma: If there’s no more Room & Bored I hope this means Paulie G had bottomed out somewhere.

While I hope it’s your first suggestion, I think the second one is more likely and she’ll have done every reality show offered to her. Wherever she is I’d like to see a Valerie with some edge like the one we saw in the finale chain smoking her way through her feelings. I expect it will be quite the opposite and she’ll be putting a brave face on everything.

At the start of the series I didn’t really care about Mark, but I’d really like them to be together still. If not there better be Mickey, he’s her constant so I can’t see it any other way.

I’m so excited that this is a real possibility and here we were lamenting the loss of our spirit animal. This is one occasion where more feels like a good idea, there’s still plenty more to get from this well.

I do need to see that.

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is an Editor for Snakkle. She also writes for Women and HollywoodThe WeekThis Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. She was the Research Editor for Tomorrow magazine. You can follow her on Twitter and read her ridiculous thoughts about teen television at her website.

 

New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down: Mad Men Season 6 Roundup

30 Jun

The season 6 finale of Mad Men aired last Sunday and once again I am joined by Kerensa Cadenas to discuss all that went down in the finale, the season as a whole and what our hopes are for the final year. Mad Men is a show that sparks a multitude of articles (including here on TV Ate My Wardrobe) and these discussion pieces have been the most fun as we lament the actions of Don and cheer on the likes of Peggy and Joan as they continue to navigate a world dominated by men. One of us feels more sympathy towards Don by the end of this episode, but it’s actually Ted who is on the receiving end of our Sally Draper-esque disdain. We also discuss why everyone suddenly wants to move to California and the all important new addition this year; the wonderful and mysterious Bob Benson.

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Emma: We have a lot to talk as so much has happened since our last Mad Men discussion post; crazy conspiracy theories never amounted to more than just chatter, Bob Benson has shown that could teach Don Draper a thing or two about leading a new life and Sally started to spiral after picking a terrible time to try and retrieve a love letter.

I’m going to start with Don as he was the subject of our first discussion as we had both become increasingly tired of his behavior and descent into assholeville. Since then Don has continued to be a tough character to route for but they did something in the finale that made me do a 180 on my season 6 Don Draper feelings – he told the truth. This wasn’t a forced confession like his one with Betty, but a moment of clarity where he let the veil drop and he revealed part of his true self. It doesn’t make up for all of his actions this year (particularly when it comes to his affair with Sylvia) and it doesn’t justify all of those flashbacks (really did we need that many to understand that he is damaged because of his whorehouse upbringing), in fact hearing Don talk about his experience gave a lot more insight into his feelings about that time in his life than the flashbacks did. I get that we needed to see the exterior of the whorehouse so the final scene would have a bigger impact, but I don’t think we needed every other flashback that we’ve endured this season.

It’s the 1960s so their version of an intervention is giving someone an non specified leave of absence and while Don has done many terrible things in the past and probably needs to take a break, it’s a shame that it was a moment of reflection and honesty that has his partners kicking him to the curb and like I said in my review at least Freddy Rumsen got a night out and not a Thanksgiving morning ambush. The look or lack of look that Joan gives is heartbreaking and while I can’t judge her too hard (she’s got Kevin to think about after all), it’s sad to see him out on an island by himself in all of this. To top it off he gets to see his likely replacement and old nemesis Duck. It’s surprising that Don takes it as easy and as well as he does but he is resilient and been through much worse. Instead of hitting the bottle he takes his kid on a tour of the places he grew up and like the brief moment on their California trip when he took them to Anna’s house he reveals part of who he is.

Unlike the partners at SC&P they don’t turn away from him and the look that Sally gives him is one of wonder as she finally gets to learn about her father and who he really is. Sally has already seen one part when she walked in on Sylvia and Don sleeping together – Don lied and this is what he does best. Last week she uttered possibly the most devastating line of the series as she smoked with her mother “My father never gave me anything,” though both of them spending the night in a variation of a drunk tank shows that he gave her something – a desire to get drunk into oblivion. I pretty sure I’ve said this a million time but it’s worth repeating – Kiernan Shipka is one very special actress and I’m spellbound whenever she is on screen, it’s hard to believe that she is only 13. All I want for her is to end up as an Elijah Wood child star example and that she stays free of any kind of Lindsay or Amanda Bynes post child star shenanigans.

Ted is has been positioned as Don’s antithesis – he is light where Don is dark, he is sober when Don is drunk, he’s reliable etc and the one person who has consistently beat the Ted is awesome drum is Peggy. Last week Peggy called Don a monster and while his actions have been pretty despicable, he’s never led her on in the same way Ted has done. Oh Ted you finally succumbed to temptation and desire, did the classic “I’ll leave my wife” and then did the standard switcheroo and is now running away to California. Don spent the whole time trying to convince Peggy that Ted wasn’t the white Knight, partly out of his own selfish needs but also out of protection in a way as I think that Don really cares about Peggy, he just doesn’t know how to express this kind of sentiment.

I have WAY more that I want to say about Peggy (and especially that AMAZING pantsuit and being in Don’s office at the end) but I want to throw it to you and see what you think about Don’s clarity and revelation in the pitch meeting. Has this finale changed your opinion on Don?

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Kerensa: The finale didn’t change my opinion about Don at all. I do think that Don did realize something in that pitch meeting perhaps about himself and perhaps about how he will treat his children going forward when he shows the three of them the home where he grew up.

But in another truly Don moment, he comes to clarity at a time where it’s completely self serving. It’s all about his emotional growth, his path with no regard to what talking about his growing up in whorehouse means for the business, the other partners even Hershey’s. Yes, maybe it’s a step in the right direction for Don emotionally but like with all his other actions it still doesn’t take anyone else into account. Like everything else he did in the whole episode, I’m especially thinking about his rash decision to go to California and then take it back without really thinking it through at all or how it would affect HIS WIFE MEGAN. And also that he didn’t even second guess taking the idea from our boy Stan–who would be a much better fit in California with that fringed jacket and all his joints.  I’m increasingly becoming convinced that Mad Men is about a bunch of scared boys who can never deal with the responsibility of their actions and have to runaway to deal.

With Don’s leave of absence, I’m guessing a lot of that is that how do they fire him if he’s a partner? But I think they had every right to do so. Don’s behavior all season in the context of his work has been sloppy to nonexistent. He’s at the bar more often than he’s at the office. I feel like we’ve had many scenes where Don will just come in bewildered “We have a meeting?” They had to do this. While I would say I don’t know if I saw Don as rock bottom as like say in “The Suitcase,” (think that’s right) it’s been an increasingly downward spiral that his luck, good looks and perceived sexual charisma (I say perceived here because that sweaty Don/Sylvia sex that Sally spied made Don completely vile to me) could only carry him so far before he fell entirely.

On the Sally front, I completely agree that last week’s line was beyond devastating. And it does seem like Sally has unfortunately inherited Don’s tendencies for self-destruction. However, I am going to disagree with you about the look that Sally gives Don. I thought it was a mix of pity and even disgust–and in that sense might end up understanding Don better than she realized. I do agree that Kiernan Shipka is completely brilliant–if she is able to stick with Miss Porter’s–I want a Sally at boarding school spinoff.

Ted. Ugh. I have a lot to say about Ted. But before we get to discuss more about Ted and specifically Peggy, I want to know what you think about what happened with Megan.

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Emma: I really want a Sally Miss Porter’s spinoff – it will be like Gossip Girl in the late 1960s (but better). Plus Sally already has the headband/manipulation skills to perfection.

Oh Megan, I’m glad that she finally stood up to Don and that they left it ambiguous as to whether she has left him. All season she’s been set adrift and suffered the same issues as Betty with trying to fit her into the overall story. I know some people resent the screen time Megan takes up (this is very much the opposite of how I feel) and my only criticism of her this season is how oblivious she has been. Maybe oblivious is the wrong word, she’s known that there has been something wrong all year but she’s been willing to ignore it and pretend that everything is ok. The California move would be perfect for her as an actress and now that she has quit her job I think she’ll make the move anyway, especially as LA seems far less unstable than the East Coast at the moment (of course that will all change Megan conspiracy theory alert). There’s an interview with Kevin Rahm who plays Ted over at Vulture and he mentions a Megan, Ted, Pete Three’s Company type spinoff – I totally want to see that.

The only tie that Megan has to New York is Don and it’s hard to see them having a bi-coastal relationship (though it’s not outside the realm of possibility). Megan deeply cares for Don’s children, even if she refers to them as damaged; it’s very telling that she is not part of the trip to the whorehouse (fun for all the family!). Don calling Betty “Birdie” is a sign of affection and this can’t be pleasant for Megan to hear – if only she knew what went on at the cabin – especially as she has been trying to break through his many walls all year and been met with nothing. When Don tells Megan that he loves her, I really believe that he does but Megan’s “Fuck the agency” is also her way of telling Don “Fuck you.” This line loses some of its dramatic impact thanks to AMC’s censorship and it will sound better when I get the DVD.

I’m hoping we get more Megan next season, but at this point (like all things when it comes to Mad Men speculation) it is unclear.

And then we will move on to our girl Peggy.

Sally Draper and Blair Waldorf

Kerensa: OMG in a Sally/Blair face-off, who do you think would ultimately reign? I don’t think I could even guess!

I agree entirely. I really hope Megan did leave him. And I agree with you on the oblivious criticism–Megan’s not stupid, she knew there was something wrong and never addressed it for whatever reason. I hope she makes the move to California as well (although I don’t want to lose her on the show) and I agree that I think it’s hard to see Megan and Don having a bi-coastal relationship.

I didn’t think about Megan’s absence on that trip to the whorehouse–but you are right, it is super telling. On that phone call, when Don calls Betty “Birdie,” you could just see the hurt on Megan’s face. It was heartbreaking. And yeah, maybe Don loves Megan, but I don’t think he’s really capable of loving anyone especially in the ways they need, you know? Ultimately, I think Megan’s much better off without him.

So, there’s so much to talk about with Peggy. You already mentioned Ted a bit–should we start there?

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Emma:  Now I want to see face-offs between different TV characters much like that show that puts different historical groups against each other (the internet tells me it was called Deadliest Warrior). For this one I think Sally might have the edge, mostly because of who her parents are, but it would be a close fight that’s for sure.

We’ve seen this pattern with Ted this season where he’ll kiss Peggy/tell her he loves her/sleeps with her and then the next day he pretends like it hasn’t happened. In the moment he’s super into the idea of being with Peggy, but in the cold light of day he remembers that he has a wife and kids. With Peggy it would be a HUGE scandal and while men like Don and Roger have ended up marrying their secretaries there’s never been anyone in the position that Peggy is and it would hurt them both professionally (this is why I think Peggy tells Ted to slow down).

So Ted panics and joins the “I want to run away to California” club because this is the only way he can see a way out, even if it’s the coward’s way out. Peggy is so right to yell at him and it really cuts through everything when she says “Aren’t you lucky to have decisions?!” Because everything that has happened with Peggy with Ted has been on his end and so has her return to the SCDP offices. Getting away from Don was such a defining moment for Peggy last year and the fact that she had to return is frustrating for her. At least she has her friendship with Stan and I’m glad that these two are still firm friends – while I’d be happy to see something more between them, their friendship is pretty great.

There were two big outfits for Peggy – the one that had everyone practically drooling and we’ve never seen Peggy rocking that much leg or cleavage. It’s not how we’re used to seeing Peggy in the office but it did what she wanted it to and she snagged Ted (for one night only). This was in response to the look Ted’s wife Nan gave Peggy; Nan’s got to know right? And she definitely smelt the Chanel No.5 on Ted when he got in.

The other amazing costume was the Pantsuit of Power (thanks Tom and Lorenzo for that name!) and Peggy in Don’s office at the end. Now this is a sight that was striking and welcome and I hope next season sees Peggy continuing to break that ceiling. This feels like the first time she’s worn pants in the office and she just seems so in control. I love it!

What did you think of Peggy and Ted in the finale?

I sense a Bob Benson discussion soon, because I think he could be the season 6 secret weapon.

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Kerensa: Fuck Ted.

I mean I knew he’d never leave Nan–like you said all season he’s done the dangling one thing or another in front of Peggy and then takes it back again. He’s just SUCH a coward. He’s defined everything between them so that “Aren’t you lucky to have decisions?” line was cutting but so perfect.

And of course they both played their games with one another–when Ted brings his family in–and Peggy in that AMAZING dress and her Chanel No. 5 line. But all season there’s been talk about how Ted is the anti-Don (which you’ve talked about right?) and I actually think that maybe Ted is worse. I think that much of Don’s self-loathing and alcohol problems come from knowing he’s not a good person. And he’ll be out rightly terrible to people in ways that I don’t think Ted would be. I’m not sure on this but has Don ever told any of his affairs that he’d leave his wife for them? Not that I can remember.

Ted is the guy whose cowardly, bullshit behavior is coated in a mock turtlenecked, nice guy veneer. He’ll tell Peggy he loves her, but then tell her he’s leaving her (even though he loves her) because it’s better for her this way. Which is true, but ultimately the person it’s better for is Ted. He can go back to his life after his tryst with Peggy, runaway to California with his family and never think about it again if he doesn’t want to.

While I know our girl Peggy is super resilient–I know I’d be hurt. And like you said, she’s stuck again with Don because of Ted. She gets to go to the agency where she worked with Ted at every day. He gets a clean slate and she gets the reminders.

God I sound bitter, don’t I.

But I do hope that next season Peggy is just crushing it and she can rub it in Ted’s face while wearing some incredible pantsuit.

So, what are your Bob Benson thoughts?

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Emma: I like that you are straight to the point with your Ted assessment because he’s done enough flip flopping this season to deserve this. As you said Don knows that he’s awful with women but Ted genuinely believes that he’s done the right thing.

I do think that next year we’ll see Peggy rise above it and even though her gender will make it hard for her I think she’ll be on top in the end.

Ah Bob Benson, where to start?! When Bob first appeared I was happy to see James Wolk after his string of cancelled shows but who knew he would become one of the most talked about aspects of this season?! And that he’d be the downfall of Pete? While we still know a little more about him and that he’s effectively Don Draper 2.0 he’s still a mysterious figure and his motives aren’t all that clear – does he just want a good and prosperous life or is there something more insidious at play?

I think the answer to this question is whether he knew what Manolo was up to (and whether Manolo did kill Pete’s mother – I’m leaning towards yes, so this season did have a murder after all) and from his reaction I don’t think he did. We’ve seen that Bob is good at lying but he’s also let that good old Bob Benson smile drop a few times with Pete and this didn’t feel like a moment of deception. What Bob did though was ensure that he was the most valuable account man for Chevy and he did that by exploiting his knowledge of Pete’s lack of driving skills. As I’ve said before I like Pete so I was sad to see him humiliated this way, but it proves that you don’t fuck with Bob Benson.

One issue I did have with this story is how quickly Pete backs down and ends up reluctantly on the California trip. Considering Ken got shot in the face, Pete got off really easy. His discussion with Trudy where she told him he was free was heartbreaking, Pete’s been forever trying to find the thing that satisfies him and it’s never been his family. This could be a defining moment for him or he’ll end up miserable with a tan in LA. Can any of them find happiness? Also Vincent Kartheiser wins the award for best line reading with his “Not Great, Bob!” I’m going to miss Pete and Bob sparring with each other.

There’s someone else who’s wary of Bob and what his intentions are and that’s Roger. It’s hilarious that Roger can’t even fathom the idea that Bob and Joan can be buddies so all of his warnings to Bob read as completely ridiculous. Their unconventional Thanksgiving dinner was made all the more wonderful with Bob’s mini apron.

Roger’s another tragic figure of his own making but his moment with Kevin is adorable. And also if my daughter turned out like Margaret then I’d be a little sad too, she’s really awful.

Are you happy with where Bob ended the season? Is he a good guy?

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Kerensa: Oh Bob! I love James Wolk–he’s on my ideal men list, so if he’s reading this, he should give me a call.

I don’t think we still know that much about Bob at all. And I don’t know if I’d say he’s Pete’s downfall–although he certainly helped. Much of what brought Pete down this season was an accumulation of seasons of what he’s done to himself.

Yeah, I still don’t really know what to make of the whole Manolo plot. It just feel so weird and soap opera-y? And will we ever get any conclusion with it? Also is it horrible that I don’t think I really care either way?

That Pete and Trudy scene was so so heartbreaking. It’s kinda like everyone on this show though, they always want what they can’t have and when they get it, realize it was never what they wanted in the first place.

Vincent Kartheiser should win something just for “Not Great, Bob!” Which a friend of mine told me is how he’s going to answer anyone when they ask him how he’s doing now.

I feel bad for Roger and then I don’t. His threatening Bob was laughable. And I don’t think Joan has any pretenses at all about anything happening between her and Bob. And Margaret is pretty awful.

Overall, I don’t know what to think about Bob still. But I do know that if we get James Wolk in short shorts again next season I’ll be so happy.

Anything else for you about this last episode? Predictions for the next season?

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Emma: As far as predictions go to be honest I have no idea and it’s this uncertainty that makes Mad Men such a fun show to watch/discuss, in terms of things I want it’s Peggy and Joan ruling things at SC&P and Megan happy in Hollywood. Oh and I want more Betty, which is something I never thought I would say but she’s been so fantastic this season.

Have you got any predictions/hopes for next year?

Kerensa: Agreed. I have no idea what’s going to happen either. I hope Sally doesn’t go down a self loathing spiral. Totally want Peggy and Joan running everything. And I want Megan to get super famous and like be sleeping with Warren Beatty or someone equally sexy and famous.

I hope Nan leaves Ted.

I also hope that even though Trudy and Pete aren’t together anymore that we still get to see her.  I think that’s all I’ve got for hopes basically.

I agree with wanting more Betty. I want to see her being the HBIC of all these political wives.

Emma: Thanks for joining me Kerensa and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these post-Mad Men chats. It’s a change of pace but join Kerensa and me for a look at Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback as part of our summer rewind project.

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is a staff writer for Women and Hollywood. She also writes for This Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. She was the Research Editor for Tomorrow magazine. You can follow her on Twitter and read her ridiculous thoughts about teen television at her website.

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