What a thrill it was to hear the Mad Men theme playing in real time last night. This show never quite picks up where it left off, making the first few episodes feel full of significance that we can’t quite grasp. Last night’s season premiere was no exception. When we left off last winter, Betty was on route to Reno, baby Gene in her arms, Harry by her side, to get a divorce the new-fashioned way. Don was assembling, and invigorating a dream team to break away from the about-to-be-purchased Sterling Cooper. When the episode opened last night, Sterling Cooper Draper Price was in full swing, complete with a shiny set of new offices. We quickly learned that the company, in spite of the names on the door, is still (in Pete Campbell’s words) a scrappy start up. On the other side of town, Betty and Henry are married and living in Don and Betty’s house. The children have grown, Bobby is still a little boy, but Sally seems more like a teenager without her baby fat and lisp. The stage is set for another wonderful season of sunday night television.What will this season hold?
Advertising: I think it’s safe to say that this season will give us more moments in the conference room– though Bert Cooper may have to man up and buy a table first. The past two seasons have been sadly lacking in great advertising moments, but I think Matt Weiner knows we want to see more of the conversations with clients that got us hooked back in 2007. We also want more Sal, but I fear he may be gone forever since he’s been replaced by that young and adorable art man who has all the inside jokes with Peggy.
Broken Home Fallout: Last season Sally earned herself a place as one of Mad Men’s most compelling characters when she accused her mother of making her father leave. Her raw anger as her parents told her they were splitting up was gut-wrenching and poignant in spite of the fact that it followed all of the divorce talk scripts available. Is it me or do parents only ever assemble the children in the living room to inform them of a divorce or of another sibling? The children always know what is coming when the talk happens in the living room. This season Sally will continue to deal with the new situation she has found herself in. Last night, she made quite a scene over some sweet potatoes at Henry’s mother’s house at Thanksgiving; surely, more is to come. What I think this show has done so brilliantly is to place us (and our sympathy) with the children and not with the adults involved. Don was consistently unfaithful to Betty, even after she begged him to stop, and yet, I still feel, like Sally, that it’s all Betty’s fault. Of course, the show is ultimately about Don Draper, he is the character with the most complexity, for whom I am willing to make all the excuses. But there’s also something right about Sally’s fierce protection of her father. He’s the figure that she rarely sees (before and after the divorce) so of course she idolizes him, and places all the resentment she feels upon her mother, the woman who is actually present for all the ups and downs of a given day.
Don’s Love Life: The more I think about it, the more I quite enjoyed the ‘mount holyoke gymnast Betty look-a-like’ that Don took on a date this week. You’ll recognize the actress that plays Bethany Van Nuys, Anna Camp, from Season 2 of True Blood, where she played Sarah Newlin, the vampire-hating preacher’s wife. I can’t help but read her Mad Men character Bethany through Newlin. They both seem overwhelmed (and simultaneously stimulated) by the evils of the world, and the inappropriate advances of men. But surely there will be other women for Don, especially now that he seems to have bitten the bullet and embraced his role as the rebellious cowboy of the Advertising business.
Many questions remain: Will Joan and Roger rekindle their affair now that they are both in unhappy marriages? Are their marriages still unhappy? Is Peggy getting married? Does Peggy have a steady? What’s up with Don wanting to be slapped during sex? Hopefully we will learn the answers to some of these questions next week…