Friday, October 29, 2010

Old Thomas Wayne

Once upon a time, Batman was being hunted by a villain who had not shown his face, but appeared in visions and fears and predictions. Grant Morrison took the template from a benign character, an Army psychologist in a much older story, and made him into what Batman called "the hypothetical ultimate enemy." Like the monster in a horror movie, this enemy, the Black Glove, was scarier for having stayed in the shadows, and even when he'd started to make his move, Batman still called him "a mysterious Doctor Hurt who seems to have appeared out of nowhere." One clue at a time, Grant Morrison has told us that the enigmatic Doctor Hurt, who goes by many names, was in the past Thomas Wayne -- not Bruce's father but a Thomas Wayne who lived in the 18th century and, apparently, all of the time since then.

Old Thomas Wayne, for brevity's sake "OTW", is said to be the black sheep of the family, who led a sect of devil worshippers. As we have seen Hurt's plans come to fruition in two different stories in the present -- first Batman, R.I.P. and then the first sixteen issues of Batman and Robin -- we've gotten some snapshots of his backstory in at least two of the issues of Return of Bruce Wayne.

There is much to say about what Doctor Hurt is, how his statements -- often, provably lies -- may be used to determine what he has been and what he has become, and how the "devil worshipper" from 1765 became "the Devil" plaguing Batman in RIP. Rather than try to take all of that on in one post, I present here the more objective facts of OTW's life. Even in the basics, there are blanks where one can only speculate. But as nearly as can be patched together, this is the timeline of OTW's life:

~1645: Malleus = Nathaniel Wayne. (ROBW #2) He is almost certainly not Old Thomas Wayne, but he's the only other bad Wayne we've seen. His overzealous witch-hunting in the 1640s brought a curse upon the Wayne family and that curse probably took the form of OTW. There is also the journal of unknown authorship, probably Martin Van Derm, at the end of ROBW #2 saying that the Devil was not yet done with Gotham. Any adult alive for Bruce's adventure as "Mordecai Wayne" would be dead before any of the other events involving OTW unless "the Devil" stepped in way before 1765. There is no portrait of Nathaniel in Wayne Manor. Because OTW, in ROBW #4, identifies his meeting with Barbatos as being one with Thomas Jefferson, it seems that the original case of unnatural life extension coming to an evil Wayne must have taken place long after Malleus was dead.

~1730 or earlier: Born. (ROBW #4) Alan Wayne, writing over a century later says that Thomas is "at least" 150 years old. He wouldn't know for sure if Thomas were much older.

1765: The original Barbatos ritual with Thomas Jefferson, patterned on the one in the story "Dark Knight, Dark City." (ROBW #4)

~1880: Doctor Thomas Wayne is trying to get the casket back, and believes it to be the key to the same Barbatos he encountered before. We don't know how he lost access to it after having had it once. At the end of the Bruce/Hex fight, Alan Wayne ends up with it. (ROBW #4)

1889: Jack The Ripper killings take place. OTW is seen leaving by ship for England in attire like classical representations of JTR with accompanying narration saying that he seeks immortality "in blood." This could match the role of bloody murder in extending the life of Manfred in "Gothic." (ROBW #4)

~1978: Thomas and Martha Wayne take Hurt in, showing him kindness. (B&R #15) He poses as young Thomas and begins trying to frame Bruce's parents, believing that the slander will destroy their souls. His stated goal is to feed souls to Barbatos. (ROBW #5) It is not stated that he caused their deaths, but he is working against them immediately before and after their deaths. He obviously desires command of the Wayne estate, having used it soon after their deaths and having now tried to seize control of it at least twice. (Batman #677-681, B&R #13-15)

~1980: Simon Hurt works at Willowwood, in a role reflecting the Isolation Experiment and other evil psychology seen later. It seems like the Black Glove is in a sort of "rough draft", not quite as it was in RIP. For the first time we see him make someone a deal. Even though Nichols does not provide Hurt with his technology, Hurt says that Nichols wins, meaning that the terms all along were for Nichols to do evil, not to help Hurt per se. We can see that Hurt takes his deals seriously in that he lets Nichols go after Nichols turns his back on evil, but condemns Mayhew though Mayhew tries to do evil. (ROBW #5)

~1980?: Newspaper headline: GOTHAM'S HURT MISSING. The original date, seen dimly in Batman #678, was 1978, but the key idea may be that it is about 30 years in the past. It is hard to say where in the timeline this fit in. The terminal nature of the meaning may imply that it represents Doctor Hurt disappearing altogether from public at the end of the events of ROBW #5. However, he somehow becomes a psychologist working with the Army again.

~1988: Jacob Nkele, a wealthy African national leader, wins Jezebel and her mother in a Black Glove wager. (Batman #681)

~1998: Hurt is heading an experiment for the Army. Batman volunteers, and Hurt gains access to Bruce's mind. (Batman #673-674, #679)

~2000: Hurt runs an experiment for the Gotham City Police Department. This ruins three policemen, making them Hurt's slaves. This story is told primarily in Batman #664-665 and #672-674. One panel shows numerous policemen drawing their guns on him when they discover the cruelty and evil of his work. Hurt's whereabouts after this are unknown.

Unknown: Eduardo Flamingo is subjected to brain surgery that turns him into an evil killer working for Hurt. (B&R #5)

Unknown: Lazlo Valentine is subjected by Hurt to psychologically damaging experiences that turn him into Professor Pyg. (B&R #3, #14)

~2006: A monk tries to kill Batman, citing a message from his "dark master." Bruce obviously takes this to be the same mastermind who is after him in RIP. (Batman #681)

~2007: Hurt runs a contest between Good and Evil with John Mayhew trying to kill Batman and other heroes. Wingman, who was tempted by fame as a hero, also took part. This is one instance of an annual meeting of Black Glove members which must go back to the Eighties, but possibly much further. (Batman #667-669)

~2008: RIP. Hurt's long-term plan to bring down Batman unfolds but falls short of killing him. (Batman #676-681)

~2009: Hurt takes up, or resumes, an identity in Mexico as El Penitente. El Penitente has a legitimate belief in the power of a priest's forgiveness. He directs an upcoming attack on Gotham from Mexico before returning to put his plan into high gear. (B&R #4-11)

~2010: Hurt returns to Gotham, taking the identity of young Thomas Wayne and trying to corrupt the whole population. His plan to beat Batman and Robin has just been derailed. (B&R #12-15)

And so, to a respectable degree, we know where Hurt was and what he was doing. And yet the Hole in Things remains. What is his actual relationship with Barbatos, and what does he believe it to be? Is he one man with one mind, or does he host another darker spirit? Are his Satanic leanings delusions brought on by a chance encounter with an item of Darkseid's technology? Before we get to the end of the story that Batman and Robin has been building for over a year, another post in this blog will take choice passages from Doctor Hurt, which contain at the very least a high number of falsehoods, and try to patch together what is going on in the mind of Batman's erstwhile "hypothetical ultimate enemy."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home

I read the seven issues of this crossover in a fairly short span of time. It's a fairly large chunk of reading material -- the same number of issues as Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, or Final Crisis -- and it came out in just two weeks.

I haven't read the titles of the various bat-characters besides Batman too much since -- no typo here -- the Seventies. That's not to say none -- I read a few of the Red Robins in Yost's run, and most of the last several of Nightwing, and I've read some others along the way, including back issues pertaining to big events. But mainly it's foreign to me, and it's been a while since I've read that which I've read.

I think crossovers are usually inherently weak because a larger plot is handed to writers who operate better when they are setting their own agenda. To make the parts fit together, there has to be some pretty specific instruction about how each issue begins and ends, and constraints on what happens in the middle. I don't expect much of a crossover no matter which characters are involved, and which writers are contributing.

That may explain the feeling I got at most times, that the writer was largely going through the motions, and following familiar patterns, not much different than, say, JLA comics of the Sixties. The heroes uniformly exceed expectations, the villains are slightly overconfident, and we find those things out mainly because someone is saying them.

Heat flows from a warm body to a cool body, and the comics about Batman's supporting characters usually derive much of their energy from Batman himself. It flatters a supporting character to have Batman guest in their titles; in this case, the crossover is about Bruce Wayne although the supporting cast appear as each issue's title character (Yes, Commissioner Gordon has a tough-looking logo; doesn't your city's police commissioner?). These interactions deviate fairly little from a standard template: Bruce questions his proteges' performance but has, overall, faith in them. Given that similarity, and the requirements to start and end in predetermined places, the stories don't allow a lot of room for creativity.

Fabian Nicieza, who wrote three of the seven issues, gets the most leeway. He also wrote the beginning and ending of the crossover so he didn't, unlike the other four writers, have to pass the baton with every issue's start and finish. He takes advantage of the leeway to create some interesting situations: Bruce working against Dick and Damian, and sparring, as part of a ruse, with Tim. Nicieza also gives R'as an interesting sideplot concerning his memory; the topic of immortals' memory has also come up in Return of Bruce Wayne and before that in the works of Borges; one wonders which inspirations led to Nicieza concocting that subplot for the seventh and final issue.

Two characters who are not the title character for any issue have larger parts that spans the seven issues. Vicki Vale has Bruce's secret and takes a long time to figure out what to do with it. Her hesitancy fills her life with danger and also makes her story overlong and tiresome; we knew that she wouldn't reveal the secret anyway.

The other character to appear in each issue is, naturally, Batman himself, wearing a capeless, Iron-Man-esque version of his usual costume. When not protecting Ms. Vale, he is checking up on his allies in the guise of "the Insider", making his evaluations and generally doling out passing grades.

The compressed release schedule allowed the whole set of issues to come back in two Wednesdays a week apart. The first fourteen issues of Batman and Robin add up to only twice the number of comics but took fifteen months to come out. So, the road home was not a long one. Nor did it provide many sights relative to its length. It leads, it seems, not home at all, because the final stinger tells us to look for Batman, Inc., which will leave Gotham by the second issue. Bruce's return to the modern day earns a lot less fanfare than one might expect from the company's flagship character taking a two-year absence.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Batman and Robin 15

Batman and Robin #15, the penultimate issue in Grant Morrison's run that christened the title, is where the lines that were so numerous and crossed earlier in the series come -- almost -- all together. From ten figures, some of whom proved to be the same individuals -- identified as villains in the early going, we are now down to three main villains plus countless Fiend henchmen, and the identities are rather clear.

As the entire structure of this run matches the same pattern as Morrison's longer run on Batman, this issue corresponds rather closely to Batman #681, with many story elements here intentionally mirroring story elements there. Parallels can also be drawn between B&R #14 and Batman #680, and so on backwards throughout the runs. The significant deviation from this is that everything stops just short of completion in #15, with some big finale events of unknown nature yet to come. Moreover, the grimmer tone of the Batman run is more bizarre and comedic this time around; Morrison had called it farce, and it's interesting to see that farce can happen with the plot much the same, but a few funny lines and facial expressions providing the seasoning.

Just as Batman #681 began with Bruce as Batman -- the more serious of that dynamic duo -- in a coffin, this issue begins with Damian as Robin -- the more serious of his duo -- in a coffin. The Joker, whose precise plan remains unknown, and must culminate next issue -- acts primarily to set Damian loose on Hurt, much of this shown in the preview. As Damian would want to do this anyway, the Joker doesn't actually do much here, but it is in grand form that he does it, dancing with the skeleton of Bruce Wayne's great-great-grandmother and telling a knock-knock joke. The inherent repetition in a "knock knock" joke ("knock" is repeated; so is the name used in each joke) plays on the theme of twins and counterparts that is all throughout this run. In a line that Damian doesn't understand, he refers to a friend of his as God's right-hand man. "Big Mike" is a brilliant double reference, using the name of the solder-angel Michael who leads God's army against the Devil in Hebrew Apocrypha and the Book of Revelation, and also the first U.S. hydrogen bomb, the test "Mike" being part of the series known as "Ivy Mike". So here, the nuclear bomb that we saw last time, ironic greeting painted on it as in Doctor Strangelove, is the weapon that the Joker threatens to use against his enemy, the Devil. But that's a plot that has to play out next time. The heroes might not need to worry that much: The weapon that the Joker wields in this issue, the "gun" that Damian thinks is aimed at his back, is just a banana. The Joker's nuclear bomb may be a barrel of old rags.

Hurt's plan, though, is culminating now. The city is in chaos, as we see when a woman tries to sell her children to the pimp and drug dealer Lone-Eye Lincoln, who debuted in Batman #678, and appeared wearing this same outfit in Batman #700. Hurt, posing as Thomas Wayne, makes an unknown offer to the city to stop the problem, an offer that is sure to do untold harm if accepted. Hurt also tells us that his desire is to be an evil Batman, driving around the city preying on the weak (the victims of choice named in devilish plans in Batman #666 and B&R #14, not to mention Final Crisis). Hurt's plan to recruit an evil sidekick is to Damian, bargaining for a soul that Damian doesn't even believe in. The leverage he holds is the life of Dick Grayson, who is menaced with brain damage as was Bruce in Batman #681.

But while RIP, like other Morrison stories such as Superman Beyond, had a ticking clock, this story has one that has been peculiarly fixed. Alfred set the clock to 10:47 and it remains at 10:47, even as days go by. If something bad is coming when the clock reaches a certain point, it's never going to happen. The sky, however, is beyond Alfred's reach. The eclipse that Hurt waited for appears in the window over the scene as Hurt kicks in the painting of Thomas and Martha and smashes the white knight figure that I pointed out a couple of months ago.

Outside of Wayne Manor, a chaos suggested by a detail chosen from the center-right of the Triumph of Death painting whose name was the title of B&R #14, Hurt's plan may be undone by a cure that Commissioner Gordon finds: when he is angry enough, he fights off the viral addiction. Emotion as a trigger is also a recurring Morrison theme: Damian was made vulnerable to Talia's spinal control system when he became angry. The means to overcome Hurt's citywide threat may thus be in the hands of the masses and not just the heroes. Ordinary people saving the day is also a Morrison theme from Justice League stories including the "New World Order" story that began his run and the Mageddon story that ended it. An idea that he uses to begin and end his run in another title is apt to end this one. A smaller detail mirroring the Batman run comes when Pyg stares at a snail and gives a speech about horns, duality, deuce, and the Devil, terms that came up in Damian's detective work in #666 and the Joker's sassing Hurt in #681.

Inside the Manor, we find out a bit more about the Hurt backstory: that Thomas and Martha were ultimately entirely good (Hurt's lies to the contrary convinced many inside the story and a few readers as well), plus the entirely new information that they had taken Hurt into their home. The promise of more backstory between Bruce as a boy and Doctor Hurt echoes Hurt's line to Bruce in Batman #678 ("How you've grown"). It also advances a bit the notion that perhaps Hurt planned the deaths of all three Waynes, as suggested by Joe Chill back in Batman #673, so that he could take on the role of Thomas, with this plan being irretrievably ruined by Bruce surviving, and telling the world that Thomas was dead.  Hurt's plan now includes wearing Thomas's face (symbolically, but the phrase recounts literal face-wearing through Morrison's run, including Hurt wearing Mangrove Pierce's face back in Batman #667), ruining the Waynes as immoral people and Bruce (as suggested in the dossier as told in Batman #677) as mentally ill.

Dick planned for this encounter with Hurt, but when the plan fails, Grayson improvises, an ability which is Morrison's signature characteristic for Dick Grayson in this run. That Damian knows about Hurt's backstory as a man who has lived a very long time tells us that the book Bruce holds in Wayne Manor in ROBW #5 has come into to the possession of Dick and Damian, telling them everything that Bruce knew at that point in time, including the Miagani whistle that opens the casket. This is all they need to win the day. The casket that Hurt won in B&R #12 holds nothing more than a bat-tracer and a note with the same message Bruce had to the god he defeated in Final Crisis: "Gotcha!" Then Dick and Damian take down Hurt with the signature double-punch seen several times in this series.

The who's who questions remain in principle ambiguous: Hurt believes that he's the Devil, but Damian, who doesn't believe in souls, doesn't. And the lone figure on the final page seems overwhelmingly to be whom we hope he is. There is doubt: A Morrison interview said that Bruce returns after B&R #16; post-return comics previously on sale show a Dick Grayson who seems not to know where Bruce is; eclipses have previously sent Bruce away instead of bringing him back; and, the B&R #8 reveal about the clone showed that Morrison is willing to overturn a "big moment" like the one at the end of Final Crisis #6 with a twist. But everything else is telling us that when Hurt thinks that he's summoning Barbatos, he gets the only Bat God there ever was, with Bruce Wayne speaking in words like icicles, "Turn around, Doctor. It's all over."

Update: Note the Morrison comment in a recent interview: "So in 'Batman And Robin Must Die!' it's all kind of upside down. It's not really a Batman story. It's a Joker story." This means a certainty that the Joker will figure large in the next issue, and thus a good likelihood that he is the Bat-God on the last page.

Also note that the Joker left a banana peel on the stairs leaving the Alan/Catherine tomb. To continue the idea of this story as RIP turned farce, it would be fitting if someone, particularly Hurt, slips on the banana peel next issue.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Batman and Robin 15 Preview

Grant Morrison's run on Batman and Robin has followed a highly regular structure: One long story with five story arcs of three stories each; the five tie together, but each is readable on its own. This structure may be altered a bit as the fifth arc reaches its third but not necessarily final issue. Issue #16 will end the "season" that Morrison started with #1, but without knowing how #15 wraps up, one can't know what business will be left for #16 to take care of.

The chaos of this fifth arc is structured a bit further with each issue titled for a particular death-themed work of visual art; these are shown at right (clicking will enlarge the image, although the rich detail of the originals is still not evident). It is worth wondering if the paintings unlock a code that would tell us more about the issue that comes out tomorrow. Two of the issues are already in our hands, and there is possibly a bit of detail to decipher.

Hugo Simberg's The Garden of Death shows none of the title figures, but shows, in Simberg's own words, a place where the dead rest on the way to their eternal afterlife. The issue itself begins with a focus on the Wayne murders, through an enigmatic scene that depicts an alternate version in which Thomas pays Chill to kill Martha and Bruce. Then Thomas lives a public life with a private evil side. This is similar to claims that Doctor Hurt made in Batman, R.I.P., but clearly deviates in fact, because Bruce did not die and an evil Thomas did not continue to live on in public. As we saw more of the Black Glove's involvement with the Waynes in ROBW #5, one may speculate that the reason why Hurt did not assume the life of Thomas Wayne (as he is doing now in B&R) is specifically because Bruce was left alive and had borne witness to the death of his real father. This would terminally ruin Hurt's plan, and would add a great deal of texture to Hurt's reasons for hating Bruce Wayne, beyond the already-sufficient motive of his incorruptibility.

The second issue and the Bruegel painting The Triumph of Death share one obvious trait: An abundance of figures. Dick Grayson is mobbed twice by Dollotrons, who are individually by far his inferior in combat, but as a group manage to give him some trouble before another blow takes him down. The mob of Dollotrons resemble the army of skeletons who attack the living (also numerous). This painting also appeared in Batman #667, with Doctor Hurt posing before it in the video shown to the Club of Heroes.

Finally, Dürer's Knight, Death, and the Devil shows three figures who unambiguously represent for Morrison's purposes Dick Grayson, the Joker, and Doctor Hurt -- the preview at the end of B&R #14 makes that clear, with each name appearing over a panel depicting the respective character. So we might expect the stage to be cleared of crowds, and a proper showdown between the three central characters to follow. We also know that Damian will play a major role -- Morrison has said that this will be the moment that his character flaws will be redeemed -- but that could span the range from turning down a deal with the Devil to accepting one for the greater good.

The preview released today shows the Joker holding Damian hostage in what is almost definitely the rail line under Wayne Manor, where the Satanic Batcave is linked to the place where Dick found the casket which is now in Hurt's possession. The Joker dances with a skeleton who is very likely Catherine Wayne from ROBW #4, the woman who died in childbirth delivering Kenneth, the great grandfather of Bruce. Kenneth's son Patrick was mentioned in ROBW #5. This underground passage was where the Joker was attempting to enter when he was struck down, coincidentally, by Talia's plan in B&R #11.

In the battle between Batman and Hurt, the Devil holds the cards, and the Joker has identified him as the most evil man in the world. But for all of Hurt's smugness, that we know that Dick has had Alfred prepare the manor (where else would a knight live?) and the cave in some way that is guaranteed to bring Hurt's downfall. Knowledge is power: We saw Bruce holding the book that was in the casket in Wayne Manor at the end of ROBW #5, and it was clear that Bruce had, to every extent necessary, figured things out. That certainly means that he has figured out how to beat Darkseid's plan in ROBW. It may also mean that at that time, c. 1980, Bruce has left the critical clue (or the book itself) for Dick Grayson. It is clear, though, that at the end of ROBW #5 the book is on the grounds of Wayne Manor outside of the casket unless Bruce actually placed it in the casket at that time. If he did, then he probably altered the casket in some way that will ruin Hurt's plan. If he didn't, then the book is waiting for Dick to find it. The latter is more likely; Dick has confidence in and knowledge of what is coming.

The Joker has said that what is at stake is that "everyone dies", "in the crossfire" of the dominoes falling, dominoes that he started falling, and that no one, "not even me", can stop it. This implies that the Joker has set into motion a doomsday threat that is the real problem to solve; if he cannot stop it, this could be because some mechanism has been put into place. As it's the Joker who is involved, it could even mean that he is compelled to carry out some horrible act that he cannot resist perpetrating. It seems that he means to use Robin as a weapon against Hurt, but the form that this takes may not be good for Damian. It definitely ends with Damian tied up in the Wayne Manor library. Are the ropes holding him a ruse? The cover shows Damian making a Satanic deal; how will events mirror their equivalents in Batman #666?

This story will come to its climax in this issue and the next one. Robin in a coffin ("Robin Graves"... a pun on grave-robbing and Robin being "grave") and Batman with a bullet in his brain. The heroes begin this final act from a position of weakness. This sequel to RIP, with the farcical elements added by the Joker's interference, has yet to up the stakes (the Joker's atomic bomb should do that) while the action and revelations about the past tie up a three-way war. It's hard to predict the course of events, but the Dürer woodcut makes the Knight look very impressive.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mad Men 413

"Tomorrowland" puts Don into meaningful one-on-one scenes with so many beautiful women that their names take a couple of minutes to scroll during the credits. Each of these interactions has shown flashes of unbearable asymmetry, with Don apologetically distancing himself now from Peggy, Faye, and Betty. In contrast, he proposes to Megan with a suddenness and neediness that recalls the drunken passes he was making earlier in the season. It is so rash that she hesitates for a few seconds before her nearly-as-rash acceptance.

Though the Draper-Calvet engagement is unexpectedly sudden, everyone can easily interpret it as the kind of thing they say they expect. Roger says, ambiguously, "See, Don, this is the way to behave." Roger, of course, is married to a much younger and very attractive woman whom he found through work. A woman whom, the last we saw, he was prepared to leave in order to get back to another much younger and very attractive woman whom he found through work. Joan and Peggy both effortlessly understand the dynamic of the wealthy man but that it is so easily explained doesn't temper their reactions of distaste. They see the treadmill of eternally young secretaries rising to prominence of one sort or another, and know that they will have to run very hard just to lose less ground. Joan's life is a tangle where promotions bring no raise and the risk of exposure as she incorporates her real pregnancy into a very high-stakes fiction. It's finally paying off for her that she married a poor doctor: He won't figure out that she's not showing as much as she should be because she lied about the dates to make him out to be the father.

The engagement is particularly wounding to Peggy, not necessarily because she wants to be with Don; it is enough that he told her that business is the reason why he never made a play for her. It is more than enough that he tells Peggy that Megan reminds him of her. This reduces the basis of attraction, the reason why Don is making this leap with Megan instead of Peggy, to nothing more tangible than looks. The consummate ad man stumbles badly there in debasing himself, Megan, and Peggy in just a couple of sentences.

Faye ought to get tired of being right. She said earlier that Don would marry again within the year and so, it seems, he will. She says now that Don only likes the beginning of things. This can be interpreted on the time scale of relationships (months) or youth and human lifespan (the several years of youth that Megan has over Faye). Of course, Don is also gaining a hybrid wife/servant, who is still answering his phones, and who caught Don's eye in this episode while excelling in caring for the Draper children.

Henry and Betty's relationship shows us, at the very same time, one of the ways that these May-December relationships can flame out. Neither party has gotten what they wanted out of that, and Betty is less likely striving for friendship than a rekindled romance when she confides in Don about how things are not going well. Don and Betty look disarmingly natural together until the news slips out.

Meanwhile, Don employs uncharacteristically sentimental language in his proposal, appealing to fate when he remarks on how many things needed to happen for them to get together. He doesn't specify that his sleeping with Allison, the death of Miss Blankenship, the firing of Carla, and his unexpected acquisition of a diamond ring are four of those things.

The episode makes such a perfect soap opera that it is easy to miss it doing what Mad Men does best, using the various subplots as mirrors for each other. Via Don, SCDP has come to pitch the American Cancer Society precisely because tobacco had fired SCDP; substitute Betty for tobacco and Megan for the ACS, and there's not much difference between Don's business and professional lives. Faye, meanwhile, sees herself as the tobacco in Don's personal life although the comparison is flawed: Tobacco let go of Don instead of vice versa.

The "rebound" is also paralleled in the business of Topaz, who was forced to make a decision on short notice. Peggy's business success comes thanks to insider information about a desperate party who had the urgent need not to be single -- not so very different from Megan's romantic success. The unsavory confusion of business and one's lovelife is also paralleled by Harry offering some combination of work and social interaction to "Carolyn Jones", who looks near enough like Megan.

In an important contrast, Ken declines to use his future in-laws to wrangle an account, saying that he will eventually lose every client he has, and implying a commitment, instead, to his bride-to-be. Don takes the opposite approach, seeing every client as a relationship that he hopes remains permanent, and he's fooling himself if he can say the same about his romantic life. He certainly understands why he moves on in his business life; he tells the ACS that he had an "impulse to move forward." And so he leaps into life's next chapter cannonball style, beginning the adventure of tomorrow in a place called Tomorrowland. Stephanie perhaps helped Don into it, noting that she and he each have their lives ahead of them. This is technically true, but Don has quite a bit less of his left ahead, and he is much more apt to live that part making the same mistakes that he has made before. Don may not know how much he's talking about himself when he tells the ACS that teenagers think first about themselves, and that they mourn for their childhood more than they anticipate their future. It's been quite a while since Don was engaged to a woman this age. He has a pretty beginning to look forward to.

- - - - -

My previous Mad Men Season Four breakdowns:

Ep 01 Public Relations
Ep 02 Christmas Comes But Once a Year
Ep 03 The Good News
Ep 04 The Rejected
Ep 05 The Chrysanthemum and The Sword
Ep 06 Waldorf Stories
Ep 07 The Suitcase
Ep 08 The Summer Man
Ep 09 The Beautiful Girls
Ep 10 Hands and Knees
Ep 11 Blowing Smoke
Ep 12 Tomorrowland

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne 5

This close to the end of a story, the loose ends start wrapping up. So it is with Return of Bruce Wayne #5, much less because it is the penultimate chapter in a six-issue story than because it is the fourth-to-last chapter in a fifty-issue story that will reach its turning point next month. While the heroes are named on the front covers, the dominant force behind the scenes has been the enmity of Doctor Hurt, whose story will be providing its final answers very soon.

ROBW #5 itself has a plot twist that is revealed to us when we see Marsha Lamarr walking with Professor Carter Nichols and it becomes clear that she is "the woman", the "visitor" who serves as the ultimate temptation that Doctor Hurt offers the scientist. The betrayal is made clear to Bruce when he notices Marsha's absence and he is struck from behind. Betrayal is a common weapon of Hurt's -- Dick Grayson has been struck from behind by Jim Gordon in the most recent pages of Batman and Robin #14 and Bruce was betrayed by Jezebel as part of the coup in Batman, R.I.P. The plot of the main events of this story is thus complicated by acting and other lies. Lies within lies, actually.

Consider the seemingly simple question of whether or not Bruce, in this story, is the detective mentioned as far back as Batman #677 in the dossier that incriminates the Waynes. The dossier asserts that there was a detective hired by Martha's family. As it turns out, neither Marsha nor the others who arranged that dossier believed that there really was a detective, and considered Bruce to be play-acting, and he did not create any dossier himself. And yet he really did serve as a detective in the case, and was the person to whom the dossier referred, even though it was intended to be false. Lies within lies.

Since Infinite Crisis, Grant Morrison has been using old-time continuity selectively as a pattern for a new retelling of Batman's backstory. Two of the characters in this issue -- Doctor Hurt and Carter Nichols -- go back to the Fifties and Forties, respectively. Marsha Lamarr tells Bruce to wear a replica of the Thomas Wayne batsuit to frighten Thomas's murderer into confessing; this is the plot of Detective #235. But that plan is utter deception; she is sending Bruce into a trap so that he -- a nobody, in the eyes of the Black Glove -- can be sacrificed for their dark purposes. Nothing like the older story actually comes to pass in this issue, except as a lie. Nor, in fact, does this issue confirm the suspicion that the Black Glove had the Waynes killed, although it seems extremely likely.

Beyond the unreliable nature of Marsha Lamarr as a narrator, this story is complex because Bruce is being used for three entirely different purposes.

First, he plays the role of a detective during a meeting with his own grandmother, Betsy Kane. Why does this meeting take place at all? Lies within lies. Perhaps it falsifies the existence of a detective to explain the existence of a dossier that frames Thomas Wayne. Does it feed Betsy's belief that Thomas was really evil? It may help that belief along, but that's apparently not necessary -- she is already solidly convinced, for reasons that will merit comment later. Lastly, it helps lead Bruce along in the lie, because it gives the impression that Marsha was using the meeting to get the key to Wayne Manor -- a key she almost certainly did not need. However, it makes Marsha's phony investigation seem more plausible.

Second, Bruce is to play the role of the human bat in a ceremony of sacrifice patterned on the one in the 1990 Peter Milligan-penned Dark Knight, Dark City. Summoning the demon Barbatos requires a carefully-prepared human sacrificial victim who is dressed like a bat. Marsha's poison lipstick (Bruce is, like Jesus, betrayed with a kiss) and the batsuit bring this about. And now we must ask, if that is the role this suit plays in one masquerade involving the Black Glove, why did Thomas Wayne wear such a suit? When Doctor Hurt wears it, it seems to imply power within the Black Glove, but Thomas may have worn it because he had been set up as a victim on some other occasion, maybe some lunar eclipse earlier during the same year.

Third, Bruce's murder is being filmed (by Mayhew, the aspiring director) as faked evidence that Martha Wayne was a Satanist. Marsha in disguise shows us why the Black Glove, in RIP, note Doctor Hurt's fondness for actors. (She mentions two others who could have played the role that Bruce plays; this could be another crucifixion reference, but more directly refers, possibly, to Mangrove Pierce and John Mayhew.) The Black Glove's plan is marvelously complex, in that duping Bruce during one day could help bring about three different goals.

But there are two other goals that Doctor Hurt has that day, and these offer conflicting evidence on who and what he is. First, he is trying to tempt the members of the Black Glove to evil for evil's sake. We see this most clearly with Lamarr, who had been offered eternal life, and ultimately sinned and loses years off a natural life span in the process. She goes on to die young, after becoming Mayhew's fifth wife of six, a death first described way back in Batman #668.

While Hurt succeeds with Lamarr and with the other Black Glove members, he fails with Nichols, who is offered wealth and fame (similar to the successful temptation of Wingman in the Club of Heroes story), but ultimately rejects them, backing out of the ritual at the last moment, a role played by Thomas Jefferson in Milligan's story. He goes on to be an ally of Batman as illustrated in many older stories as well as Morrison's Batman #700.

Hurt's desire to tempt others casts him again as the classic literary Devil, a motive he didn't display in his chronological prior appearance in ROBW #4. (There can be no doubt that Hurt is Old Thomas Wayne, or is what Old Thomas Wayne became, after Morrison's latest interview.) So perhaps something meaningful happened to Old Thomas Wayne sometime during the last hundred years, during which time he apparently began the Black Glove, took up the "Simon Hurt" identity, and perhaps committed the Jack The Ripper crimes. By the time of RIP, he is able to cast a curse, and perhaps do more. He seems to have more tricks up his sleeve than retarded aging.

What seems less devilish is his goal, seen also in ROBW #4 and B&R #14, to procure the bat-casket to attain immortality. Driven to attain immortality, he seems much more man (though one with supernatural longevity) than metaphysical. Among the many telling facts in this issue is that he is simply unable to find the casket, even though he is now, as in RIP, given free access to Wayne Manor. He asks for Nichols' time travel device to bring Barbatos to him, so that he can make use of what is almost certainly the Ancestor Box to give himself another jolt (perhaps an infinite one) of prolonged life. This is a goal he has attained before the possible future in Batman #666.

On a more straightforward note, we finally get a sense of how it is that The Devil would be living as an Army psychiatrist in order to brainwash Batman many years later. We see that he has used this job to make soldiers relive past trauma, possibly torture for torture's sake. At some point, he has to disappear from this role, per the "Gotham's Hurt Missing" headline from Batman #678. But he returns to it later. For now, he occupies the role at Willowwood Asylum, serving as a tie to the "Thomas Wayne, Jr." story from World's Finest #233.

Perhaps the most striking revelations of this story are in the language that ties Doctor Hurt's devil worship to Darkseid. Look at these two speeches.

Bruno Mannheim, 52 #25 (speaking of Gotham): "I'm looking to establish a new world order of crime, with its own capital city."

Doctor Hurt, B&R #14: "I give you Gotham! The new capital city of crime! ... [Where good men] must succumb to the new order of things."

Morrison's depiction of the cult of the Crime Bible and the armies of King Coal, who mention Mannheim in B&R #8 inextricably intertwine these worlds of evil. 52 joins older continuity in linking Mannheim to Darkseid. Hurt's comments in this issue explain that what seemed like demons and myth during his first encounter with Barbatos are now known to be "dark science". While he adopts all the Satanic of ritual and echoing Pyg's line about "Gotham" being a "goat home" (notice the near-anagram intended there), he also references, like Mannheim, the rock and the rage, the "dark side", and Apokolips' fire pits. This issue makes it clear that in Morrison's DCU, the one kind of evil is the other. Most likely, good is related, too, and a man in a wheelchair warns "Batman beware the hole in things." This is like Metron's appearances in Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis, although this man who "can't actually speak" lacks the blue squarish pupils that were Metron's telltale feature in those stories.

ROBW #5 is dense with offhand statements of fact that illustrate much more backstory. A GCPD Mayor James has been killed, replaced by the undoubtedly corrupt Mayor Jessop. Marsha's story of corruption (assuming she's not lying about that) also mentions Police Commissioner Loeb who was introduced in Batman Year One.

Yet more is told about Bruce's family. The Kane side shares a name with both versions of Batwoman, the younger of which is a target of those who follow the Crime Bible. They also sold Kane Chemicals to 
Ace Chemical, which is part of the Joker's origin in The Killing Joke. According to Batman #682, Ace Chemical also bought Axis Chemical, and that story also references Apex Chemical, which is the organization behind the mystery in Batman's very first story in Detective #27. On top of that, the given name of Betsy Kane figures to be the same as that of the original Bat-Girl, Betty Kane. You can't say that Morrison's not playing a deep game here.

Bruce's grandfather Roddy turned down Hurt's temptation, which apparently led to Hurt causing, somehow, his stroke. The agonizingly neglected invalid (wasps crawling on his immobilized face -- torture but no one seems to notice) moans out words of warning for Bruce. Words that he seems to say include "Army", "Martha", and "Hurt" while Betsy looks into her teacup and sees Hurt's "W" scar and the twin bat-symbols (of Bruce and Dick?). These words certainly would make apt warning,  and make, with the man in the wheelchair, a salient pattern of two disabled men assisting the hero with information. This pattern is familiar from aforementioned Morrison works as well as Twin Peaks.

Along the way, we find out that a constellation of facts about the Waynes, through the filter of disinformation fed to Betsy Kane. We find out that Martha's necklace is a Van Derm heirloom, via Alan Wayne's wife Catherine from ROBW #4. Thus, the famous pearl necklace, if as "worthless" as Betsy thinks, may actually belong to Anthro's wife from ROBW #1, and be more or less the world's first necklace.

We also know that Thomas Wayne had an evil night life, and appearances before Betsy that seem to stand out from his usual demeanor, and these are almost certainly the work of Doctor Hurt standing in for Thomas. This suggests that perhaps Hurt looked young about thirty years ago, but has aged since then at almost a normal rate, adding urgency to his quest for immortality. The maligning of Thomas Wayne seems to have left to him -- or Hurt? -- being kept in the secret batcave, covered up by Bruce's grandfather Patrick and his great uncle Silas (from 1958's Batman #120, and one of the portraits in B&R #10). This coincided with Bruce being sent to boarding school, which is a story element from Morrison's "Gothic". Meanwhile, Carter Nichols is revealed as a school friend of Thomas's.

It remains to wonder why the Black Glove did not thoroughly smear the names of Thomas and Martha while they were still alive. This may yet be revealed; it may be a plot hole.

While big and complex answers to many questions have arrived, and others seem to be on the verge, we also get a quick, easy answer as to what threat Darkseid has made of Batman's trip through time. In a dash of throwaway pseudoscience, the issue opens with Red Robin explaining that the trip itself is bringing an explosive dose of Omega energy.

Bruce Wayne, as a sort of Batman, appears in the present at the end of this issue. But he is not arriving directly from the Black Glove ritual. He has gone to the End of Time, served as the Archivist, and encountered the rescue team of Superman, Green Lantern, Booster Gold, and Rip Hunter before using their Time Bubble to pop into the Hall of Justice. The next issue is likely to tell of a more complex path through time, possibly giving Bruce at least one stop to pick up the Ancestor Box from the casket before going to the far future. Perhaps the use of a non-Darkseid time conduit breaks the effectiveness of the Omega Sanction, but clearly Bruce has more to do to escape this trap. For despite the use of the Time Bubble, the bells of the Ancestor Box are ringing as the JLA are caught unprepared. We know who will play the key role in ending the threat.

We now await more of the Doctor Hurt saga in B&R, with whatever comeuppance awaits him, whether it be defeat in battle, or the metaphysical despair that he has always been something less than he thought he was. He may have to suffer from the revelation that his Barbatos was the Miagani tribute to Bruce.

Meanwhile, ROBW #6 will provide the conclusion to the tale of Bruce's Omega Sanction, a science fiction story whose forthcoming twists and turns seem almost utterly impossible to guess now, except that they will end with Bruce Wayne back in his own time, ready to begin a distinctly new era as Batman.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne 5 Preview

Tomorrow, the long-anticipated resumption of Grant Morrison's Batman saga comes with Return of Bruce Wayne #5. This issues comes after a delay of several weeks, but it also follows on build-ups begun during Batman, R.I.P. and even in Infinite Crisis. That crisis provided a soft reboot, allowing the creators (primarily, Morrison) to redefine the terms of Batman's past, so long as nothing drastically changed the present. Instead of beginning this process with a beginning-to-end redefinition, Morrison started by telling a story in the present, as though nothing much had changed, but at irregular intervals, he has served notice that the backstory has already changed -- we can say that it changed with Infinite Crisis, but off-camera. In doing so, he tends to pattern things loosely on older continuity, but with a very free hand to modify whatever he wishes, not only recording a new mythology, but using it to drive a story being told now. (Geoff Johns has followed a similar strategy with Superman, choosing to write an origin that focuses on events that played into his current stories rather than, say, the stories of a few years earlier.)

What makes ROBW #5 central is that we are going to revisit the general timeframe of the Wayne murders. To be specific, Bruce is revisiting that era in person, having arrived not too long after the murders have taken place. The time travel journey of the Omega Sanction is going to give him an opportunity to interact with his own personal past, putting the adult Bruce in a world (of about 1980) where the child Bruce is just beginning a life mission. That Morrison would revisit this time frame had been promised by the flashbacks to the Wayne murders in his 2006-2008 run in Batman. My take, from over a year ago, on how inevitable this chapter of the story was can be seen here. Now that chapter is upon us.

The key story from the past is Detective #235. Morrison has been teasing a return to that story from the time he showed the Thomas Wayne batsuit from that 1956 comic in the first issues of his own run. Now, the preview for ROBW #5 shows that batsuit as the actress Marsha Lamarr asks Bruce to wear it. Very likely, he will wear it for the same reason he wore it in 1956 -- to intimidate the people responsible for the Waynes' deaths into thinking that Thomas has returned, supernaturally, to haunt them.

The 1956 story was itself a retcon of the 1948 story in Batman #47 that showed Batman confronting Joe Chill, the mugger whose unplanned killing of the Waynes set the course of Bruce's life. Detective #235 added the significant detail that a mobster named Lew Moxon hired Chill to settle a score. In both of these stories, Batman confronts the person behind his parents' deaths and the encounter results in the death of the malefactor. Morrison has revisited the first of those stories, that of the gunman Chill, in Batman #673. The last page of RIP hinted that the new Lew Moxon is actually the Black Glove, probably Doctor Hurt himself, who has intriguingly chosen to wear the Thomas Wayne batsuit. Why? As part of demonic worship? Does the cowl have some power? Did it affect Thomas when he wore it, and will it try to do so when Bruce wears it?

The answers, and another step closer to the shadowy backstory of Doctor Hurt himself, may come tomorrow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mad Men 412

A line or a circle? Businesses, comic strips, and all human lives have to decide if they see life as a progression or a cycle -- one thing after another, or the same things over and over. There's more than one proverb arguing for each perspective. The last time Charlie Brown tries to kick the football is indistinguishable from the first time. And so it is with addiction and other character flaws. Don's constant inconstancy, Roger's elegant callousness, the firm on the brink of catastrophe. Is Mad Men taking us on a journey or in a circle?

The Heinz man says that "food is cyclical" and he's convinced that beans would inevitably return to the position of dominance that ketchup had taken over, "But I don't have that time. So I want to force the issue." The mid-Sixties was a perilous time to begin waiting for the past to return. Unhappily, for many the rear-looking optimist, the past was not to come back soon or ever.

For an addict, the past is all too certain to repeat. And so this episode brought back Don Draper's first on-air dalliance, Midge Daniels, whose life chose a most unfortunate moment in which to freeze. Once upon a time, Don might have left Betty for Midge. Now Midge is being prostituted out by her husband so one or both of them can get another heroin fix. Midge and her husband disagree on whether he reminds her of Brendan Behan (an incurable Irish drunk who died at 41) or Dylan Thomas (an incurable Welsh drunk who died at 39 -- actually, not far from Midge's apartment). Behan or Thomas -- they have this to look forward to. (Incidentally, for the number-minded fan, the Consumer Price Index lets us calculate that all of the prices for which Don is offered Midge, as well as the massive inconveniences that Pete Campbell faces, tabulate 7-to-1 in today's dollar's.)

Which brings us to Don, who has habits of his own. He's tamed alcohol down to a manageable intake. The explosive potential of his infidelities simmers with bookend shots placing Megan literally between Don and Faye. Don didn't think about his actions leading to the end of his business relationship with Faye, so he certainly didn't think about it outing their personal relationship. When Don calls Megan his bodyguard, he may be giving his future self a line to rue, if Megan proves to be less cool-headed than she was when she promised perfect discretion on their night they had sex in his office. Faye unknowingly provides the same potential when she tells Don to have "his girl" make dinner reservations. (Don may subconsciously have Ted Chaough's prank in mind when he chooses a place the Kennedys used to frequent.)

The overall geometry lesson is clear: When life is bad, you wish it to be a line leading to change. When it is good, you wish it to be a circle. Fate curses you by offering you the opposite. Sally's mental wellness is a line... she shows progress and can start cutting back sessions. Betty's is a circle: She still yearns to see a child psychatrist (even with the comic animals painted on the wall), years after her first psychiatrist fairly or unfairly compared her to a child. In order to break Sally's burgeoning relationship with Glen, she agrees to let the family move to another town. Much earlier, Betty had nurtured Glen's crush, itself a remarkably childish fixation, and the worst Betty has to risk from his contact with Sally would if he told Sally that her mother had confided in him when he was even younger.

Much as that plot resembles The Graduate, the end of the episode will inevitably be compared to Jerry Maguire, with Don's treatise promising higher ideals to the world, infuriating his colleagues (who can't do away with him just yet), and garnering the admiration of both Megan and Peggy as a two-headed stand-in for the Renee Zellweger character. And yet, that comparison is categorically too favorable to Don. What drove Don to write it was not an actual epiphany but a calculated risk that the open letter would be good for business. As the firm faced a vicious cycle (every potential new client believes, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, that the firm will not survive the next few months), Don's letter was an attempt to do as Peggy suggested when she turned Don's words back to him, to "change the conversation." Don can't accept his colleague's criticism, but neither can he Megan's praise. He lets her know that he is interested, as we always have known him to be, in seeming rather than being. And she knew that.

But when we first heard in the voice of his journal that he was quitting tobacco, did we think that he meant he was quitting his personal habit or anything otherwise lofty and not merely making a business move? Did we think that he ripped the binding out of his journal for nothing? The creators are to be commended if we believed that Don was on a line and not a circle, because he had a lit cigarette in his left hand while he spelled high ideals out with his right.

- - - - -

My previous Mad Men Season Four breakdowns:

Ep 01 Public Relations
Ep 02 Christmas Comes But Once a Year
Ep 03 The Good News
Ep 04 The Rejected
Ep 05 The Chrysanthemum and The Sword
Ep 06 Waldorf Stories
Ep 07 The Suitcase
Ep 08 The Summer Man
Ep 09 The Beautiful Girls
Ep 10 Hands and Knees
Ep 11 Blowing Smoke

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mad Men 411

"Were you lying when you said your career came before everything?" That's a line from 1927's The Jazz Singer, the first "talkie" Hollywood ever made, but it could have fit into just about every scene in "Chinese Wall." Men -- and sometimes women -- sacrificing the rest of their lives for career has been a theme illuminating the series as a whole. But in this episode, it glowed white hot, leaving virtually no one with their non-work life unscathed.

To see Ken Cosgrove walk out of dinner with his fiancée and her parents is to be reminded of Peggy's missed birthday dinner four episodes back. Ken, having at least shown up before hearing the black news about Lucky Strike, walks away without incident. In the next scene, and others throughout the episode, Pete Campbell is called away from his wife's labor. In one of Mad Men's "sign of the times" moments, his father-in-law admits to having been absent from his daughter's birth, and cheerfully excuses Pete to do the same. Perhaps it was excusable for men to be at baseball games while their wives delivered, but Ted Chaough is driven enough to turn up for Pete's wife's delivery so that he can hard-sell Pete with a job offer -- a car and driving lessons included. That work should take precedence over the birth of one's daughter is so taken for granted that when Don accuses Pete of having the delivery as a higher priority, Pete rebuts the accusation instead of accepting and defending it.

Screenwriter Erin Levy adds a deliberate "from the cradle to the grave" universality by showing the SCDP men trying to save their business with a mercenary approach to David Montgomery's funeral. They whisper strategy between eulogies, and that the event is for them purely a work event is highlighted when Megan asks Don how the funeral went and Don, thinking of business, not reincarnation, replies, "We'll see."

Birth and death fall by the wayside. Naturally, so does love. Don without hesitation asks Faye to break the titular "Chinese Wall" of confidentiality that should keep her from using her insider status to help Don, her lover. After Don makes his Jazz Singer confession that his career "is everything to me", Faye becomes the episode's lonely mouthpiece for the alternative perspective, saying, "I know the difference between what we have and a stupid office." Eventually, she recants, and gives Don an "in" with one of her other clients. And in the betrayal that makes her regard for Don painful to behold, we get a suggestion that Sex -- for Don, following up the lingering gaze he held on Megan last episode -- actually does trump Work even though Birth, Death, and Love do not. In Megan, he may have found his perfect woman -- one who wants him to go home and sleep alone after they are done for the evening. And his flirtation with truthfulness may have received its own eulogy when, undoing the ending of "The Suitcase", he asks Peggy to shut the door to his office.

Roger joins Don as a man who betrays the love of the beautiful woman in his life. In fact, he betrays two, keeping his dark secret from Joan until he begs for the consolation that she can't give. This feeds Joan's best line of the series thus far, "I'm not a solution to your problems. I'm another problem." Soon enough, Roger burns with Bert's brutal but accurate assessment of him inside as his wife Jane (who poses when nobody else is around) lovingly presents him with his now bitterly ironic autobiography in hardcover. (How many copies will this book sell? Ten? Five?) He signs Jane's copy with the agonizingly specific, "To my loving wife", with no comment about loving her back.

Once again, Peggy has hope of being the moral survivor in this dark world. She finds love with Abe despite the fact that his leftism may endanger her role as a cog in the corporate machine. But she has more experience than most people in juggling work and non-work: Stan's pass at her leaves him in need, again, of reading material to cover the sight of his lap, and later asking her, with double entendre he does not intend, "No hard feelings?"

Is there hope for the men of SCDP? Don doesn't see it when his shifty eyes look past the loving and trusting Faye before he nuzzles her hair. Maybe it's there in the eulogies for David Montgomery, who felt that his daughter and not the Buick account was the best thing he ever did. Then again, why are all of the stories about the late Mr. Montgomery about his work?

- - - - -

My previous Mad Men Season Four breakdowns:

Ep 01 Public Relations
Ep 02 Christmas Comes But Once a Year
Ep 03 The Good News
Ep 04 The Rejected
Ep 05 The Chrysanthemum and The Sword
Ep 06 Waldorf Stories
Ep 07 The Suitcase
Ep 08 The Summer Man
Ep 09 The Beautiful Girls
Ep 10 Hands and Knees