Don Draper (Jon Hamm) comes off as a bit of a prick when he does an interview and upsets his partners at the recently founded Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce ad firm, while also trying to convince a family-owned bikini shop that it’s ok to sell something sexy. At the homefront, Betty (January Jones) and Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) are living in Don’s house temporarily.
I’ve sort of stayed away from hearing about season 4 of Mad Men this year. Last year I did a bunch more to prepare for writing for the season on FSR, and in some ways it ruined what just watching and experiencing Mad Men does for me. That being said, the reviews for this new season will be just as in-depth and I’ll try to touch on more aspects of the show than I have in years past, like the costuming and music, for example, in the week’s coming.
When we last left Don Draper and his miscreants they were standing in a hotel room, having just been fired by the newly-very-British offices of Sterling Cooper and the foundation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce had just been laid. Flash forward about a year since the ending of season three and SCDP owns two floors of the Time-Life building (or so they say, but it’s really only one). At first, when I saw they weren’t still operating out of a hotel room I was disappointed, but just because they have what appears to be Sterling Cooper 2.0 (but dastardly small, according to Bertram Cooper), they still aren’t a “success” and that becomes evident pretty early on when everybody seems to be getting mad at Don for still treating clients like they’re expendable.
Let’s talk about what’s also become pretty evident . . . Is Don Draper becoming a villain? Or better question: Is Dick Whitman (Draper’s real name and identity, in case you forgot) consciously creating Don Draper to be a bad man? In episode one of season four we see Don bite into Peggy Olsen (the fantastic Elizabeth Moss), alienate himself from his partners and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), his ace salesman. On top of that, we see Don Draper getting fresh with a first date and getting slapped by a prostitute (and asking for “harder” slaps) within the span of ten minutes. Something’s changing with Don. And now that he needs to be a more visible leader, both officially and socially, it’ll be interesting to see just how long Dick Whitman’s alternate persona can last before the truth comes out publicly. What I love most is that the future of Don Draper is still very much up for grabs. He can still become the aimless drifter like he almost became in season two or we can follow him until he reaches the absolute top of his game and has nowhere to go but out the window (I’ve always hypothesized that the opening credits might be a bit more literal than metaphorical…that being said I doubt this series ends with Don Draper killing himself, but I digress).
Furthermore, this was a great episode. As a season premiere it satisfied everything we needed it to, and also stayed close to its chief and most interesting character pretty much the entire time. We’ll have time for half-baked subplots and peripheral characters later, let’s get re-acquainted with Don first. We got to see more of Betty and Henry’s awkward courtship and a great moment of tension between the two of them and Don. About the living situation:
Henry: It’s temporary.
Don: Trust me, Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary.
F*ck me, that’s good stuff. I give credit to AMC and the writers for showing an honest family breakup as well as how much it’s inevitably messing up Don and Betty’s children.
It also opened the door to some more questions that will likely get answered. Peggy seems to have fully embraced her independence, but what’s with the weird boytoy? How is Pete’s marriage to Trudy and when did he and Peggy begin working so well together? What’s going on with this new copywriter (Joey) that Peggy seems to be very flirty with? Why do the writers feel like we need three “Roger jokes” in every scene?
In traditional Mad Men style, some of these questions will be answered and we’ll anguish over the ones that aren’t, but overall t’is the storytelling we crave.
Best bit of dialogue:
Don’s accountant: How are your balls?
Don: …Come on.
What did you think of the Season Premiere of Mad Men?