I kind of feel like I’m not even ready to talk about last night’s Mad Men premiere yet…. but when has that ever stopped me?
First off, I love to track the emotional state of Don as demonstrated by his posture. I keep a running mental tally of times he is shown sitting as he is in the opening credits, seated with his arm over the back of something. In control, powerful, relaxed. At the end of Season 1, when he’s sitting on his stairs after finding the family has gone to Thanksgiving without him, he’s the opposite of that – slumped, hurting, sad. In all the promotional posters for this season, he’s standing in an empty office. To me that said he was finally ready to stand up and take on the challenges of his own life.
This episode was, I thought, fantastic. I thought it was so fantastic I have no patience for people who weren’t impressed by it. Like, are you kidding? At the end of last season, Matt Weiner and the writers tore the Sterling Cooper world apart. They brought back people, they sent others off into the sunset – where at the end of season 2 Draper was rebaptized, in season 3 he was plunged into darkness, and here he is up and kicking like a Lazarus that was only mostly dead to begin with.
I think it’s pretty clear he’s still working from a place of anger, but he’s also making a very concerted effort to be a present father when he can, not to punish Betty (while not accepting or indulging Henry’s politeness more than necessary – that "Everyone thinks this is temporary" line was great) for leaving, and he’s completely invested in doing work he is proud of, having assembled a team he can rely on.
And of course he has issues. It is hilaaarious to see the famously seductive Don Draper as lost and sort of gawky as an 8th grader at a dance. When he knew he had Betty at home, he went for the aloof alluring types because he knew what they’d want from him was exactly what he wanted to give (with the exception of Rachel Menken, who saw him so clearly). But now, he’s a bachelor. He lives in an apartment and has to go on dates and, for lack of a better word, mean it.
The arc of guarded-interview to office retribution to liberated-interview was awesome – I loved seeing all the Sterling Cooper employees up and functioning. Even Bert Cooper has a role now, other than being Mr. Miagi off in his office – he’s steering, providing stability, bringing his experience to bear. Pete is in his element, Joan has a freaking DOOR, Harry can tell people to "fix it" when they screw him up, Peggy has a creative partner and an age-appropriate boyfriend…. I just love everybody and I cannot WAIT to see how they begin to rebuild.
Will anyone else from Don Draper’s past crop up? Do Pete and Trudie have a baby? Is Joan’s Rapist Husband dead in a jungle yet? And what of Paul Kinsey and Ken Cosgrove? Kurt and Smitty? Peggy’s roommate? Stupid Jane Stupid Sterling? Duck? Crab? Crab? Duck?!
OMG and I almost forgot the scariest part of the episode. Don Draper is paying for sex. DON. DRAPER. PAYING FOR IT. Seriously – the rest of the world is supposed to have some hope of finding that special someone when Draper himself is turning to party girls? Like I wasn’t out of the running enough already? That was an INTENSE scene, and it took me directly back to Don going walkabout at the end of Season 2. He found himself in a similar position (…) with Joy, but where that experience was about letting go and lightness and openness… This was what?
Punishment? Atonement? Slapping him back to himself? That didn’t really happen until Peggy reminded him that he’s the Pied Piper for this merry little band so he needs to take care of us. I mean, them. All those lessons about relationships he was forced to learn at the send of S3 I would hope have stuck with him. I think they’re reflected in the confidence levels of all the SCDP denizens, but so far it looks like he’s still trying to keep everyone at arm’s length (the better to slap you with, my dear?)
Ok, clearly I need to adjust my ratio of sleep to Season Premiere re-watching.
Your thoughts, Mad Men fans? (Consider the comments a warm cozy haven for more spoilers)