Holy cow. For those complaining about a lack of plot developments thus far in the season, this episode more than makes up for this season’s slower-than-usual pace. Matthew Weiner wrote this one alone, and it almost feels like a response to fan complaints, despite the episode being written before the airing of the season’s first episode. Characters yell at each other, they cheat, they come together, and in some cases they fall, both literally and figuratively. There is also more of a focus on the agency itself than individual character moments but I don’t think Weiner is quite as good at the workplace drama version of the show compared to the character study version seen so often in the show’s best episodes. That’s not to say that this episode isn’t expertly done. In fact, this is one of the best “work” episodes in a very long time, especially in how it tackles the themes of acting on impulse and the ramifications of those actions.
“For Immediate Release” is filled to the brim with plot and characters but director Jennifer Getzinger knows how to transition quickly without sacrificing the importance of certain scenes. The episode begins with Bert, Pete and Joan discussing the possibilities of making SCDP a public company. There is an inclination to go for it right away and the characters are excited at how much richer they could be. Right away it’s suspicious that Don and Roger are not at this meeting and it might explain their actions later in the episode. Meanwhile at CGC, Gleason tells Ted that he has cancer, explaining that as the reason he’s too tired to draw rocket ships for the new Chevy campaign. Gleason’s attitude is fatalist in nature, fearing that he’ll have to quit being a partner despite Ted’s protests that he can “beat this thing.” At this point I started thinking about how the rest of the season would be plotted out: Somehow, things would deteriorate enough at both agencies for them to merge or consolidate in the final episode of the season. Little did I know that this process would be expedited and the two agencies would have merged by the end of the episode.
It’s fun watching these agencies come together by the end, not just for the process itself but in how few characters are involved in it. Both agencies jump at the chance to pitch to Chevy in Detroit and hop on the next plane as soon as they have some semblance of a plan. When Don and Ted converge at the hotel bar, I couldn’t help but assume that the two would play each other. They both agree that it’s a lost cause so they proceed to tell each other about their pitch ideas for Chevy. A lesser show would have had Don or Ted lying to each other or stealing the other man’s idea for the pitch. I’m not sure if either of them really were telling the truth, especially since Ted’s pitch doesn’t involve rocket ships, but I’m also not sure if it matters. They impulsively agree to combine their resources and make the pitch together. Though Ted notes that none of their partners are there to agree to this collaboration, Don smugly states that “none of them are here.” This seems like Don getting a subtle bit of revenge over his being left out of the shareholder dealings. Once again, Don does whatever he wants without the consideration of other people’s lives or feelings. Joan expertly notes this when Don gets rid of the Jaguar account: “Because we’re all rooting for you on the sidelines, hoping that you’ll decide whatever you think is right for our lives.” Though Peggy doesn’t say anything to this effect, she feels the exact same way as Joan when she finds out that the agencies have merged. Elisabeth Moss sells Peggy’s disappointment well at having worked so long to be rid of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce only to be swept back into Don’s web again. Just when she thinks she’s gained her own independence, a man has once again decided her fate.
Pete goes through his own struggles in this episode, and it shows through in his public confrontation with Don. Similar to last week’s confrontation with Harry, Pete enjoys the grandstanding of public shaming his co-workers in his own insecure attempt at showing his dominance. To some extent, Pete is in the right about Don throwing the Jaguar account away so dismissively but his presentation is so . . . Pete that it’s hard to take his side. After he sees his father-in-law at a brothel engaging in extramarital sex with “a massive Negro prostitute”, his first inkling is to tell Trudy. Of course, Trudy denies the accusation immediately and determines that this is the last straw, throwing him out of the house permanently. He also meets with his father-in-law, who tells him that he never deserved to marry his daughter. Much as it’s gratifying to see Pete get verbally abused like this, it’s not going to do anything but fuel his selfishness and his insecurities.
Throughout the episode we have characters that act on impulse, disregarding the feeling of those other than themselves. Pete tells Trudy about her father without any idea of how she would react. Megan’s mother Marie lashes out (in French) at dinner with the Herb and his wife without regard for how the account might be lost. Ted impulsively kisses Peggy after she tells him he’s “strong” without thinking about the repercussions of their workplace relationship. Each character wants the immediate release of gratification so badly that they fail to see how damaging their actions can be to other people. I’m intrigued to see how the partners at both SCDP and CGC will react to the merger and how the characters’ personal lives will interject into their workplace performances. For Peggy’s sake, I would have liked to have seen her away from Don and company, at least for one season, but I’m sure there will be some interesting stuff coming up now that everyone’s under the same roof.
MVP: Elisabeth Moss
Guest Actress: Julia Ormond
Writing: Matthew Weiner
Directing: Jennifer Getzinger