Diving into a new season of Mad Men is always exciting and a little confusing. I’m filled with questions immediately – “What year is it?” “What’s going on with Roger?” “Are they still together?” “Who’s that?” “Why did she say that?” It can be hard to just sit back and enjoy the show, rather than trying to solve every tiny mystery.
But as the season unfolds, what’s important becomes clear.
This season (the second last, or “first half of the last season” if you’re a lawyer) picks up only two months after the last one left off – not much of a time jump compared to some past seasons. At first, it felt like so much had happened since we’d last seen the characters. But by the end of the episode, I realized they hadn’t progressed as much as I’d thought.
So where is everyone? Don is trying to get his life back together – he’s sober, for now, and pitching ads via Teddy Rumsen. Ironic, given Teddy’s own issues with alcoholism. Megan is pursuing acting in L.A. They’re still married, but it’s obviously not working. Don’s children aren’t seen in this episode – are they even mentioned?
Pete in LA, Bob is in Detroit, and Ken is crumbling under the pressure back in New York. And we see that Peggy did not step into Don’s shoes in his absence – he was replaced by a man named Lou Avery, who doesn’t seem to have the same aggressive, arrogant brilliance that both Don and Peggy possess. He seems easy to get along with. Even before Peggy broke down, alone in her apartment, we could tell she was having a rough go.
One of my favorite storylines this week was Joan’s. Her interactions with Ken were fun to watch. She’s a partner and he’s not, but he’s head of accounts and she wants to be an accounts person. So she let him boss her around a little, and she knew when she was in over her head. A meeting with the new marketing guy from Butler Footwear, who wanted to take their advertising in-house, rattled her. But with a little coaching, she was easily able to turn the tables – because she’s Joan Freaking Harris.
- Fun guest appearances! Cougar Town‘s Dan Byrd as the confident, MBA-educated marketing guy and Neve Campbell as Don’s charming company on the red-eye back from California. And I don’t know about you, but I recognized Pete’s pretty realtor as Logan Echolls’ cute, short-lived girlfriend Hannah on Veronica Mars.
- While Don struggles to stay sober, Roger has totally spiraled into a messy, hedonistic lifestyle that he doesn’t even seem to be enjoying.
- Ken couldn’t toss Joan her misplaced earring because his eye patch messes with his depth perception. Poor guy just can’t win.
- What’s up with Roger’s daughter? Scientology? Born-again Christian? Some other weird late 1960s cult?