There are two shows that have been causing a lot of discussion in my house, each about as diametrically opposed as media can get: Legend of Korra and Mad Men.
So, of course, I want to talk about both of them. Light spoilers may apply, but I’ve gone to some efforts to obfuscate details of what have happened – though gloves will be off in the comments.
If you haven’t been watching Legend of Korra, you’re missing out on one of the best action-adventure cartoons in a long time. Like the recent Star Trek movie, no knowledge of past Avatars is necessary, but you get an emotional tie to the old references if you have seen Airbender.
The big question is, of course: Who is Amon, the masked leader of the anti-bender faction?
Being a kids’ series, Korra’s gone the route of peppering the show with so many dicks that frankly, it could be any number of obstructionist gits. For a while, I thought Amon was clearly Asami, as she is a) an avid follower of pro-bending and the cheating team got decimated, b) the daughter of a rich industrialist who can manufacture anti-bending tech at will, and c) infiltrated the Avatar’s camp by literally running into Mako. But what happened in “The Aftermath” indicates that this is probably not true.
The too-obvious choice was Tarrlok, the sneeringly evil politician, and if the show had chosen him to be Amon I’d have torn my teeth out. But the most recent show seems to indicate that Tarrlok has his own agenda that’s overlapping with Amon but not parallel (note how clearly I am avoiding spoilers here). So while Gini’s not ruling it out, I am. So let’s go nuts with the speculation: Who do you think is Amon, and why?
In other, subtler, news, the big twist of Mad Men is what Joan chose to do at the end of the last episode – which was heartbreaking, ugly, and stayed with me for a couple of days afterwards. It was the implosion of a lot of Joan’s dreams, conspired by everyone at the company, and I think it was the big watercooler moment of a season that had already had a ton of them. (Was there ever a more realistic depiction of an acid trip than Roger’s LSD shenanigans? I think not.)
That said, I’ve seen some people complaining that Joan’s reaction was forced, that big strong Joan would never act like that. And that’s something I feel is completely inaccurate. Like everyone else on Mad Men, Joan’s a complex character, and her primary drive has been to go with the way the wind is blowing strongest. She chooses her shots within that, yes, but unlike Peggy who’s decided to buck the system, Joan’s decided to surf it. She has her own agenda, and she makes good choices within that realm, but realistically she dresses sexy because she realizes that a) men are going to treat her like a sex object anyway, and b) given that choice, this is the easiest way to get what she wants. So she uses that for her benefit, while still maintaining her integrity.
With what happened last week, well, it became clear that no one in the company was going to protect her. Pete was the slimy little prick he’s always been, Lane was quietly manipulating her for his own hidden ends (and I think he’s gotta be the guy in the elevator shaft, since now he’s got nowhere to hide), Bert wanted his hands clean, and Don walked away in disgust (but Joan didn’t know that).
(The only forced bit, to me, was the complete abstention of Roger, who theoretically cares about Joan and you’d think would have some input. That absence seemed damning, particularly because honestly I’m not sure that Roger wouldn’t ultimately told Joan to do it. But that may be a matter of time, or cold orchestration on the part of the writers.)
So to me, when Joan discovered that she had been isolated, given the double-whammy of everyone there hating her if she didn’t and despising her if she did, she went the way that got her a bunch of cold cash. It was not a pleasant choice. It was a delightful scene where she turned her back at the right moment, forcing this to happen on her own terms. But Joan’s compelling nature is that she actually bends with the culture in a way that appears to be completely on her own terms, but often is a small choice made while bowing to outside pressures that even Joan cannot escape from. And she never, ever lets that heartache show.
So I think it was in character, and one of the creepiest episodes of television ever. And there are two episodes left in the season. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.