Finally! Mad Men comes back tonight and I’m all caught up. You know what? It feels good. And now I’m all ready for another round of exploring what makes a man, sexism, sexual politics, marital life, the world of advertising, the working generation of the 60s, race relations, and how a whole new age of America was created.
I really liked season 1 of the show, but felt it fizzled a bit towards the end. After the big Don Draper vs. Pete Campbell showdown (Nixon vs. Kennedy), I felt it just kind of drifted towards a conclusion. But season 2 was better in every single way, starting ridiculously strong, and only getting more intense and deeper not just into the character’s heads but into the world they inhabited as it came to it’s conclusion.
A quick recap of where last season left us: the Madison Avenue advertising agency Sterling Cooper has merged with the British advertising firm, Putnam, Powell, & Lowe, opening it up for more international business, but also for reshaping. Don Draper’s sometimes naive wife Betty found out about his infidelities and threw him out of the house, causing Dick/Don to examine how much he really cares about this perfect/fake world he’s created, and go on a journey of self discovery to California. He returns just in time time to thwart a coup by accounts head Duck Phillips. Salvatore’s crush on Ken Cosgrove continues to go unrequited and Sal remains in the closet, and Roger Sterling has left his wife with plans to marry Don’s young secretary, Jane. And Peggy, fresh from another success and rise up the ladder of power, finally tells Pete about their child that she gave up.
But let’s go just a little deeper…
“Find the job you want. Then become the person who does it.” I think in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what Dick Whitman has done with the Don Draper persona, both as an ad man, a husband, and a father. But, really, just as a man in general. The California storyline was one of my favorite things on TV in a long time and it was a fascinating journey of a man trying to reclaim his soul only after trying to rid himself of civilized concerns. But that way lies nomadic hotties and hedonism. It was like watching La Dolce Vita coming to the aerospace-minded sunny California of the 60s.
Betty Draper. Like I said yesterday, sometimes when you watch Betty, you just want to feel bad for her, to protect her. And sometimes you’re infuriated with how clueless she is, and with her sense of entitlement. The surprise pregnancy was an interesting pop up at the end of last season, and I guess I’m glad that Betty got a little of her own in the end, which is a weird thing to say. When it comes to infidelity, it’s really not about getting even, but sometimes you’re lost and you need certain things. I tell you what though: I hope to never see that weird kid Glen again.
Although, it kind of feels like Betty’s interacting a kind of young Dick Whitman in those scenes.
Betty really is the Draper household and while things appeared willing to mend at the end of last season, nothing was exactly better. I’m dying to know how that’ll progress, especially now that their new bundle of joy has presumably arrived.
“It will shock you how much it didn’t happen.” Truer words have never been spoken and the relationship between Don and Peggy has been interesting to say the least. I like it. Peggy walked into the offices of Sterling Cooper as herself and you get the sense that when she leaves, she’ll be Don Draper.
Sins and Confession. The storyline with the priest, played by Colin Hanks, was irksome but interesting though. I felt like, as it was first introduced, that we were in the store for some kind of aborted attempt at romance between her, but then he really hit home to her an important point: you need to confess your “sins,” in this case, the child she had by Pete Campbell, but gave up. And so we’re clear, that child is not being raised by her sister, but was put up for adoption, right? Regardless, I liked that Peggy did the right thing, not confessing that thing hanging over her to not to Colin Hanks’ magic savior, but to the baby’s daddy Campbell.
Shame. And not only did she tell him she had his kid, but that she knows full well that she could’ve shamed him into being with her because of the kid. But she didn’t want that. And she didn’t want him. I wanted to hug her at that point. Peggy may always fall for the wrong boys, but at least she has herself.
Jackie and Marilyn. I found it fascinating that that’s how the men saw the women in their world, either trying to be Jackie O. or Marilyn Monroe. And yet, in their office, that’s really where the two most prominent women fall category-wise, right? Those two women being Peggy Olson, of course, and…
Joan Holloway. Ah, the magnificent Joan, played by the even more amazing Christina Hendricks, previously known as Saffron/our Mrs. Reynolds from Firefly. Joan is voluptuous both in body and spirit on this show. Jon Hamm’s Don Draper may be the spine of Mad Men, but Hendrick’s Joan is really the lifeforce of the workplace that the show is centered around. I kind of hope that Joan sticks around as Don’s secretary for a while, but I have to say that watching Joan’s fiance raping her on the floor of his office was one of the hardest things I’d had to watch on television all last year.
And the saddest part? She’s probably still going to marry that guy.
“Why would you deny yourself something that you want.” I think that line is crucial to a large aspect of this show, being that the male idea of playing around, letting the id run wild regardless of the consequences is the driving factor of large chunks of this show. And again, the California stuff was my favorite stuff from last season.
Nuts. Though I did like the Jimmy and Bobbie Barrett as well. Well, mostly Bobbie, but Jimmy was an effective villain, and my hatred for the actor playing him carries over nicely from Lost…
Trudy. You know what? I think that Pete Campbell’s adorable wife is going to be my new favorite character on this show.
The thing I love about her is that there is no pretense. She holds nothing back, and is completely honest about her feelings. And that makes it that much harder to watch how horribly her husband treats her. And yet the show is careful to point out via a very thin line that Pete isn’t necessarily a bad guy. He’s really just a small, childish asshole.
As Karina Longworth put it better, the way the show weaves literature into it’s core and plays out like great literature, is an excellent rebuttal to pretty much all claims of it being nothing more than empty style.
Shore leave. You know what? I hated him in the first season, but I’ve really warmed up to that old silver fox, Roger Sterling. I mean, he’s an immature, petty man, but I like that he has fun in life.
“If the world is still here on Monday, we can talk…” We all know how the Cuba missile crisis turned out, but the show really captured that sense of dread and fear I think. And I like how business went on, not quite as usual, but Don effectively let it be know: If this was the end of the world, he had other things to deal with. Like putting his house back in order.
And then there’s tonight’s premiere, dealing with the shake ups post-merger and with Don and Salvatore away on business, both supposedly succumbling to temptations…
Aren’t you excited?!