The unpredictability of ‘Mad Men’

This week’s Mad Men episode was probably my favorite of the year, and I couldn’t at first put a finger on why. Then I read this excellent point by Slate critic John Swansburg:

One of the pleasures of Mad Men has always been its unpredictability—it’s a fool’s errand trying to guess how the plot will twist—but that unpredictability has reached new heights this season. It’s no longer merely a question of story—now it’s a question of form, too. “Mystery Date” incorporated elements of horror, “Signal 30” culminated in a hilarious comic set-piece, and, as you guys have noted, last night’s episode dabbled in noir and the psychedelic while also experimenting with chronology. When I tune in on Sunday, I’m not just wondering what’s going to happen, I’m wondering how’s it going to happen—what mode will the series operate in tonight?

I love noir works like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, along with fragmented chronologies like Pulp Fiction and Memento. Seeing how Mad Men borrowed from both the noir and fragmented timeline genre, it makes a lot more sense why it clicked so well for me.