Mad Men Recap: Shady Betty

They can't all be gems. Written by Scott Hornbacher and directed by Erin Levy, "Dark Shadows" felt like the first substandard episode of Mad Men, season five — and not just because it was quieter than other chapters, in terms of both audio quality (not much pop music or underscoring) and overall tone (thwarted, disappointed, needy). There were no opulent crowd scenes like the one that ended "At the Codfish Ball," no visionary montages scored to Beatles songs à la "Lady Lazarus," no viral-video-ready scenes of violence or sex (though Pete Campbell's film-noir-ish fantasy about Beth, his commuter train buddy's wife, edged in that direction).

And that's all fine and dandy: The quietness, at times the silence, was often deftly observed. The problem for me (your mileage will vary) is that dialogue, key moments, and certain performances just didn't play. As always, there were superbly acted, often devastating scenes, plus a couple of intertwined main themes that I'll deal with shortly. But a lot of "Dark Shadows" felt misjudged or half-baked. I rarely have such complaints about Mad Men. Read More...


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