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Mad Men Power Rankings: Season 5, Episode 7 – “At the Codfish Ball”

Let’s welcome Julia Ormond to the world of Mad Men! Still trying to figure out whether I prefer ascending or descending order for these lists; let’s stick with ascending for now.

10. Pete Campbell — Mostly because we needed to fill a slot. At least he got screen time over Pryce and Cooper.
9. the French language — How do you make Mad Men even classier? Up the amount of French (and accompanying subtitles) by bringing Megan’s parents to town.
8. Roger Sterling — Seriously, was there any doubt about him and Mrs. Calvet from the moment they appeared onscreen together? Kinda wished for a better twist here.
7. Glen Bishop — On television, it’s not totally clear to me why this Sally-Glen relationship still has legs. In real life, being a Weiner might have something to do with it?
6. Don Draper — Still a hound dog, still being manipulated by his (surprisingly) better half.
5. Peggy Olson — Really surprised how whipped Peggy is by boyfriend Abe; what happened to the ambitious girl who exploded in last week’s pitch meeting?
4. Abe Drexler (Peggy’s boyfriend) — See above.
3. Sally Draper — Sticking it to Grandma Francis, clandestine phone calls with Glen, making Papa Draper uncomfortable with your dress AND witnessing Roger Sterling being serviced? Not bad for an episode’s work.
2. Joan Harris — So good to have Joan back in the office. Here we see her returning to her role as Peggy’s advisor in the ways of womanhood; her congratulating Peggy on moving in with Abe has the perfect amount of ambiguity.
1. Megan Draper — Edging into dangerously unbelievable territory with her orchestrated takeover of the Heinz dinner, but pretty clear the writers don’t want us to ever underestimate this woman. Betty never held a candle.

Mad Men power rankings – Season 5, Episode 6: “Far Away Places”

2012 began with not less than a few delusions of grandeur from this (would-be) blog writer, the most urgent of which was a fantasy vision of starting several sports columns related not to favorite sports teams but favorite shows I follow.

Four months and one already-abortive Cubs season later, I find myself with exactly 0 posts of original content for the year. Well, readers, this post aims to rectify that by jumping straight into a (hopefully) recurring column in which we rank the top characters in Mad Men after each episode of its latest season.

We begin our rankings in medias res — after Episode 6 of Season 5, entitled “Far Away Places” — so if you haven’t watched the episode yet (and can somehow go on living with yourself), consider this your warning. Also, I’d be remiss to mention the Mad Men power rankings on Grantland which, while well-intentioned, seem a bit rambly to this humble reader. This list is not meant as a rip-off or a snarky reaction to that feature, though; truth be told my years of experience writing ridiculous lists and reading ESPN already had me making power rankings for everything well before Mad Men existed.

So without further delay, here are my top 10 Mad Men characters in ascending order as they exist in our April 22, 2012 version of 1966 (I’m going off of memory as ’66 being the year this season is set…this is where an intern fact checker would come in most handy):

10. Jane Sterling — Forces Roger to go to the LSD party. This episode was all about women (trying to) put their men in place, though I guess it ultimately backfires for Jane (see #4).
9. Pete Campbell and Lane Pryce (tie) – Pete did the sensible thing and laid low after being forcibly laid low by Lane’s fist last week. Smart move. Lane also avoided getting into another Season 5 scene that had you wondering, “What have I done to deserve this much Lane Pryce?”
8. Michael Ginsberg — I’m not really sure how to treat the revelation that he was born in a concentration camp. Is it a setup? A way he gets in the head of his coworkers, or a way Mad Men writers force compelling story? Only time will tell.
7. Sally Draper — Little to do in this episode, but I’m not putting anything past her. Kiernan Shipka could sell eating ice cream as a revelation.
6. Don Draper — Yeah, I know he actually kicks a door in to confront Megan, but somehow it still felt like Don was totally de-pantsed this episode. It’s really interesting that the writers have completely changed the behavior of their main character this season and there’s still enough going on that we feel like we’re watching the show called Mad Men.
5. Bert Cooper — Bert is like the wild card deus ex machina at this point; he’s had so little to do for these past few seasons that his confrontation with Don about slacking off near the end of this episode is a welcome bolt out of the blue. Here’s hoping he stirs up more trouble soon.
4. Roger Sterling — Not as many memorable lines this episode, but that LSD trip is just the right amount of weird. Also, you really feel for him when he asks Don to go out on the town like old times and Don immediately wants his wife to be a part of it.
3. Peggy Olson — Yeah, Peggy paid for going postal in her Heinz pitch but it was a well-deserved release; and her surreal moment in the movie theater actually brought her closer to her boyfriend which is, you know, cool and certainly not condoning anything on my part.
2. Megan Draper — Going into this season one of the biggest questions was how the writing staff would handle this character given all the pitfalls of Betty, but overall I think they’ve done a pretty decent job of transcending trophy wife humdrum-ness: Megan’s shown depth in both wanting a career and refusing to bend to Don’s every wish.
1. Matt Weiner — It’s been so long since this show was on the air that I’d totally forgotten what astounded me about watching Season 4 live: somehow it really feels like we are living in each moment (of the historical past!) with these characters. Anything can happen to anyone at any time, and Episode 6 just proves it again: Roger and Jane breaking up through an LSD trip, Megan suddenly going postal on Don while eating ice cream, the debatable use of Rashomon structure, even the show’s continued use of murderously abrupt act breaks. Weiner’s the goddamn madman to rule them all, and still not a moment feels contrived as it’s happening.

2011 in Review

You didn’t think I’d skip tradition, did you?

I’ll say this, 2011: you taught me a lot. And while the natural inclination is to shower you with nostalgic encomiums, the more truthful answer is that you were a fairly uneven year filled with highs and lows both visceral and numbing. There is, not for the first time, possibly too much to think about, but here are a few of my favorite things from the year that was 2011:

Anything written by David Foster Wallace, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, “Bossypants” by Tina Fey, “Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” by Haruki Murakami, “100 Bullets”, “Batman: Year One”, the idea and spiritual philosophy behind Grantland, the first hour of Super 8, the cinematic styling and evocative soundtrack of Drive, Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class, Rose Byrne and Emma Stone in anything, the “Life’s a Happy Song” number from The Muppets, “Upular” by Pogo, “So Insane” by Discovery, “Brand New Shoes” by She & Him, the entire Foster the People album, my iPhone 4S, my work iPad 2, my 3rd generation Kindle, Apple TV, any coconut water I found anywhere, Philz coffee, the Blue Bottle bar at work, Mister Lew’s Win Win Bar, the bookshare at the gym of the Opera Plaza, the magazine rack at Books Inc., the super rolls at Them Ky, brunch at Brenda’s, any macaroon served by anyone anywhere, any Off the Grid or Underground Market I made it to, Derrick Rose’s Adidas commercial, the relentless Tom Thibodeau, the new and improved Jay Cutler, the ingenious storytelling mechanics of “How I Met Your Mother”, the midseason 2 finale of “The Walking Dead”, “Lie to Me”, “Archer”, the killer supporting cast of “Parks & Recreation”, season 4 of “The Wire”, Zooey Deschanel in “New Girl”, Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live”, “Game of Thrones” nights at the former house of Brad and Ben and Motts, all Netflix streaming apps, Time magazine for iPad, the redesigned UI of Path, Comic Zeal, Kindle for iPad and iPhone, Plants vs. Zombies, Jetpack Joyride, the gorgeous production values of Castleville, Final Fantasy VII on PSP, Dragonvale, the vastly improved controls for Mass Effect 2, Mark pushing the button to open the NASDAQ on the day of the IPO, the Frank Lloyd Wright tour in Chicago w/Mom and Dad, biking along the Embarcadero with Caryn, New Year’s dinner courtesy of Seeyew and Ashley, the Super Bowl party at the Potrero house with a stunning number of rabid Packers fans, Cubs vs. Giants at the company suite, Red Door Cafe w/Ben and Steven, the single trivia night I attended, the Gun Store in Las Vegas, the Asian party house at Sundance, conversations in the car with Emilio, conversations with Kishan in San Francisco, random startup parties with Anthony, watching plays written by or starring friends or friends of friends, shooting zombies and Smuggler’s Cove runs with Ben, pizzas with Caryn, drinks with Liz, comics talk with Chris and Stephen, anticipating the baked good every morning in the cafeteria at work, any time I went snowboarding, Mars Bar with the team at work, Rebecca’s Christmas party, Cathy’s birthday dinner, Thanksgiving II at Sallie and Danielle’s, Henry and Melissa’s first dance at their wedding, launching my first iOS game, reuniting with Curtis and Vee on the dance floor of the holiday party, the incredibly long summer-in-the-fall-in-San-Francisco, the mild winter in Chicago, falling asleep at night listening to Steve Jobs interviews and speeches, the brief and wondrous life of Steve Jobs.

新年快乐!

Consider this

I can’t believe this week is almost over, but when I reflect on it I realize that it’s the smallest increments of time that seemed to matter the most.

On Monday night I wrote fiction for exactly 11 minutes and loved more than every minute of it.

On Tuesday I spent exactly 36 minutes studying Chinese and didn’t even realize that much time had passed.

On Wednesday I read exactly 9 pages of Amy Hempel (who I’d never read before) and was completely blown away.

On Thursday I spent exactly 104 words writing this blog post and tried to put life in every word.