Oh, Mad Men, I missed you. A lot of people can't handle the slow burn of this show. "But nothing ever happens on this show!" Oh, really? What about when someone got their foot cut off by a riding lawn mower during an office party? Or when Betty uncovered her husband's lifetime of lies, including such basic information as his real name and where he is from? Or when most of the main players conspired to get themselves fired so they could run off and form their own ad agency? Or when Joan smashed a vase into her husband's head after he bitched and moaned about life not working out how he wanted, and this is a couple months after he raped her on the floor of her boss' office?
Yeah, that's right. And that was just last season.
This past Sunday evening, Mad Men came back for it's fourth season. I won't say I was sitting there ready with a cigarette and martini, but I had definitely been looking forward to the show's return all summer. We picked up a year after we left off: it's Thanksgiving 1964 and the employees of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Pryce are trying their darndest to keep their new agency afloat.
As is typical with the Mad Men universe, right when a character thinks they have obtained their greatest wish or goal, we see how incredibly dissatisfied and empty they actually are. In the case of Don, he has finally shed the "perfect married guy ad exec" life and is now supposed to be living the "perfect bachelor powerful exec life." Unfortunately, as anyone who has watched the show knows, Don is NOT comfortable talking about himself and so blows an interview that is meant to showcase him as the superstar of the new agency. Add to that his usual moves not working on a date, and we end up seeing that Don Draper has been taking comfort from a prostitute who beats him up during the act. Sad.
The thing I always loved about Don was that he is so firmly in the world but not of it. Sure, he was a big deal at Sterling Cooper, but his position was such that he could be seen as the big man on campus without ever revealing anything about his actual life or delving into his own past. The problem with starting a new ad agency is that you need a way to bring in clients, and everyone has decided that the way to do that is to showcase Don as the maverick genius, the big gun behind the creative upstart. So it sucks to be him: just when he gets the supposed freedom he longed for, everyone has turned their eyes and cameras on him and he's never been more trapped. He even kind of lost it there for a minute: yelling and throwing clients out of the office. That was the most cringe-worthy moment of the night; I can't remember seeing Don lose it like that at work before.
But at the end of the episode, we saw a new Don; one who is doing his best to embrace his superstar status. I think we'll find that Don will discover it's easiest to hide in plain sight and if he feeds the press, clients, and co-workers what they want to hear, maybe they won't ask him to reveal anything real.
And things aren't really going any better for Betty. She's married to Henry and has apparently decide to embrace middle age 20 years early with her tweedy suits and Lady Bird Johnson haircut. Her new mother-in-law hates her (calling her a silly woman--and did I mention I love the new MIL character?), and Sally is acting out. No wonder though, Betty is kind of a terrible mother, and I really really feel sorry for these kids. They are going to be so damaged. They're going to be about as damaged as...well, our parents I guess. Now there's a scary thought.
Everyone else has changed too; being a part of the new agency has caused the other supporting players to blossom. Peggy, Harry, and even Pete (when his lips aren't attached to Don's ass) have come into their own and are doing and saying things they wouldn't have dreamed of at the old agency. Example: Harry yelling "bullshit" and storming out of a meeting. He used to be so timid and unsure, I kind of love his new-found balls. And Peggy, while not making the best choices, is willing to stand before Don and take the consequences without flinching. We didn't find out too much about Joan (my favorite), but we know she has her own office and is clearly doing something more than just office managering. Time will tell, I am sure.
All in all, the fourth season premiere did what is was supposed to: we caught up with most of the characters and got an idea of where we are in terms of time and place and also how people's lives have changed. Now all we need to do is watch things unfold. As for me, I am keeping my fingers crossed that Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Price makes it big.
Quote of the night: "We are all here because of you." --Peggy to Don. Was it meant as thanks or an accusation? I sure as heck don't know, and I don't think Peggy knows either.
To read more about Season 4 Mad Men premiere, check out this interview with series creator, Matthew Weiner. Or check out what Tom and Lorenzo have to say here. Enjoy!