'Mad Men': Going up, then coming up

Johnslattery_madmen_useAnyone else feeling a real Sopranos kind of vibe from Thursday's episode of Mad Men?

Obviously, no one got whacked -- although there was a little careless gunplay. But throughout the episode, and in the closing scenes especially, the sense of irony and impending cruel-joke dread that often surrounded Tony and his crew seemed to descend on Sterling Cooper, and Roger Sterling in particular. Creator Matthew Weiner learned well from his time with David Chase.

I'm really, really enjoying the relationship between Don and Roger, and both Jon Hamm and John Slattery are playing the hell out of it. Although there were some illuminating detours with Pete and Peggy -- and less so with Betty -- Don and Roger dominated the episode, and just about every scene they had together was electric.

The more we learn about Roger, the more pathetic he becomes. He cheats on his wife, drinks to dangerous excess, desperately clings to whatever youth he has left, is dismissive of his younger colleagues and, tonight, makes a pass at Don's wife while Don is out in the garage getting some more booze (which, by the way, led to a taut scene between Don and Betty that gave a real sense of Don's dark side). And yet, as Slattery plays him, he's almost a likable guy.

There are increasing signs, though, that Don is losing some respect for his boss. After the dinner incident it was clear that Don, if he still had any reverence for Roger, has pretty well let go of it. Not that Roger knows, given that Don accompanies him on an epic, multi-martini and raw-oyster lunch the day the guys from the Nixon campaign are due in for a meeting.

Jonhamm_madmenAnd that dark side Don has? Wow. It's one thing to want to take your boss down a peg, but faking a busted elevator (I'm assuming that was the purpose of the bills he was peeling off for the elevator operator) to get him wheezing and sweaty? That's cold. Don Draper has a little Tony Soprano in him, it would appear.

Other thoughts from Thursday's episode:

Good stuff with Pete tonight. He's not been my favorite character thus far, but his ordeal with the chip-and-dip platter -- and what he bought with the store credit -- was both sad and kind of hilarious. His speech to Peggy about what he'd like to do with the gun, though -- kinda scary. So, for that matter, was Peggy's reaction to it.

We also got an indication that Pete may actually be decent at his job. The older guys in the room shoot down his observations about JFK, but we know he's right on with his Kennedy-Elvis analogy.

Peggy gets more and more intriguing, doesn't she? I love the incredulous reactions the men in the office have to her writing copy, and I was kind of blown away by her wholehearted endorsement of Pete's hunting story. Being the good girl she is, though, she has to sublimate immediately with a sandwich and a danish.

Nuts to folks who say nothing happens on this show. Slam-bang it's not, but it gets more and more rewarding the deeper it goes.