I re-watched Red in the Face last night, and I kept getting a feeling like the beat is off. Episode director Tim Hunter has done some of MM’s best episodes, and some other great television as well. I can’t put my finger on it.
Take the slap: Betty and Helen talk. Betty does not appear to understand what Helen is upset about. Then Betty slaps Helen. Just like that. There’s no pause, there’s no sudden recognition or understanding or indeed anger on Betty’s face. There’s no moment of warm-up. Just talk slap. Like that.
Or Pete sitting in the dark with the gun while Trudy yells off-camera. It’s a great scene, a great shot. But it feels like it’s in a different show. There’s no other scene in any Mad Men episode remotely like that. It’s like it’s playing to a different music.
Or the hunting fantasy scene, which is brilliant, but let’s face it, the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen on television (and I’m counting the dancing dwarf on Twin Peaks).
The overall impression, for me, is an episode that only feels like Mad Men about half the time.