Tim Butler Garrett
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Silence and faces in Mad Men
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This chapter addresses Mad Men’s tendency to end its episodes by concentrating in close-up on the face of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), who is often pictured in moods of quiet isolation. Such moments undermine historical views of television as a medium whose meanings are chiefly articulated or reinforced by the spoken word (for example, see Ellis 1992). In doing so, the chapter argues, these moments open up further understanding of serial drama’s persistent fascination with the intelligibility of the human face on-screen.

Briefly looking at a range of examples across a number of episodes, the chapter shows how the interpretative challenge of reading the face is heightened in Mad Men by a frequent tension between the semantic void of silence and the floodgates of feeling opened up by the series’ powerful uses of music and song. It concentrates on two central examples: the ending of Season 4’s seventh episode, ‘The Suitcase’, and the closing moments of the Season 6 finale, ‘In Care Of’ (6.13). Each episode’s ending stands as an example of Mad Men’s fascination with moments that evoke a palpable sense of revelation between characters, of their silent exchange and communication.

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Moments in television

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