The winner of the ham battle is you

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? 

* * * * * 
MAD MEN SPOILERS BELOW
* * * * * 
 

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)

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The winner of the ham battle is you

  1. meopta says:

    I’m not ready either – buuuuuuut –
    LOVED when his hooker is like “family dinner, oh wait, does it not work for you if I’m a person?” and he’s all, not really, but um, the right thing to do here is let you be a person so, um, it’s fine?
    I’m going to call this episode “In Which We Learn Being Punished By Betty Was Something Don Enjoyed Rather Than Endured”
    Don is still so into Betty. He hasn’t thrown her out, he didn’t keep the kids when she wasn’t there, he didn’t lose it when the baby wasn’t home – Don is still into remarried Betty like woah.
    Gloves are off for Betty as an abuser. Openly shoving food in the face and her mother in law calling her son out over the fear factor of Betty’s kids & her. Her deciding to remove the phone her kids use to call their father so they can’t ask for help. Betty’s going down.
    Pete’s a partner and STILL the lowest dude on the pole. Peggy’s move is going to come back at them, I think. A felt a hint of Peggy/Don in the air – and the Betty doppelganger Jane fixed Don up with won’t last long, I think.

    • Betty is not over being Mrs. Draper either – as demonstrated by the not leaving the house. She wanted a man with a family and boy did she get it and boy does it apparently suck. I love Henry’s “oh god” dawning realizations. Like, dude. You spent 2 afternoons with her that were not kissing in or around a car before promising to marry her. How did you /think/ this was going down?
      And Don was always into Betty. Each affair was giving him something the Fantasy Barbie Dream House Life wasn’t, but especially post-ocean-side-rebirth and baby #3, he was in it to win it…. until she still wouldn’t forgive him and he needed to dial up the guilt with that annoying teacher lady.
      I would be shocked if we ever saw the Supernumerary again. She is, quite literally, extra. I bet he goes to see her at the opera and meets someone real. If there were a God in Mad Men, it would be the recently widowed Rachel Katz nee Menken.

    • Betty is not over being Mrs. Draper either – as demonstrated by the not leaving the house. She wanted a man with a family and boy did she get it and boy does it apparently suck. I love Henry’s “oh god” dawning realizations. Like, dude. You spent 2 afternoons with her that were not kissing in or around a car before promising to marry her. How did you /think/ this was going down?
      And Don was always into Betty. Each affair was giving him something the Fantasy Barbie Dream House Life wasn’t, but especially post-ocean-side-rebirth and baby #3, he was in it to win it…. until she still wouldn’t forgive him and he needed to dial up the guilt with that annoying teacher lady.
      I would be shocked if we ever saw the Supernumerary again. She is, quite literally, extra. I bet he goes to see her at the opera and meets someone real. If there were a God in Mad Men, it would be the recently widowed Rachel Katz nee Menken.

  2. meopta says:

    I’m not ready either – buuuuuuut –
    LOVED when his hooker is like “family dinner, oh wait, does it not work for you if I’m a person?” and he’s all, not really, but um, the right thing to do here is let you be a person so, um, it’s fine?
    I’m going to call this episode “In Which We Learn Being Punished By Betty Was Something Don Enjoyed Rather Than Endured”
    Don is still so into Betty. He hasn’t thrown her out, he didn’t keep the kids when she wasn’t there, he didn’t lose it when the baby wasn’t home – Don is still into remarried Betty like woah.
    Gloves are off for Betty as an abuser. Openly shoving food in the face and her mother in law calling her son out over the fear factor of Betty’s kids & her. Her deciding to remove the phone her kids use to call their father so they can’t ask for help. Betty’s going down.
    Pete’s a partner and STILL the lowest dude on the pole. Peggy’s move is going to come back at them, I think. A felt a hint of Peggy/Don in the air – and the Betty doppelganger Jane fixed Don up with won’t last long, I think.

  3. merelyn says:

    Do Pete and Trudie have a baby? Is Joan’s Rapist Husband dead in a jungle yet?
    I WANT THE ANSWERS TO BOTH THESE QUESTIONS TO BE YES.
    I for one, thought it was a very solid beginning. However, I think I read Don very differently than you did. He struck me as a man who is struggling with coming to terms with the fact that the gamble at the end of S3 may have granted him more ostensible creative control, but also the limitations that come with working for a smaller company without the resources of the old SC. That scene where he kicked the swimsuit people out of his office struck me the Don Draper equivalent of “I can’t work under these conditions! I’m an artist!” or some such dramatic bullshit.
    And note the way the show imbues so much significance to the interior spaces its characters inhabit. The new SCDP offices- which, however downmarket, let me tell you, the Time and Life building does not look remotely that cute on in inside these days- with the phantom second floor and yes, Joan’s office, tell you everything you need to know about where the firm is at, a year later. Betty and Henry still living in the Draper’s old house tells you everything you need to know about the ways in which both Betty and Don have been unable to fully move on from the comforting fiction of their marriage.
    And most importantly, look at Don’s apartment, all shabby and poorly lit- it was hard to even figure out how it all the rooms fit together. It spoke to me of a Don who’s come down a few steps in the world, whose life has lost a great deal of the polish that used to glint in other people’s eyes and distract them from the fucked up guy below the surface. And without the glamor, Don doesn’t cut such a dashing mysterious figure anymore; instead he’s just a cipher, a person who has lost the ability to sell his most important asset: Don Draper.
    For me, in terms of Don, this whole episode was just watching the ways in which the wheels have come off. And that sex scene was soooo significant. It all suggested a person who wanted some release from being in control of their life in general. I wouldn’t ascribe such blankly sentimental notions to Mad Men, but maybe on some level Don is getting tired of all the bullshitting and the lies, now that everything he worked so hard for hasn’t turned out quite the way he wanted it.
    Unlike you, I’m not sure if we’re catching Don as he’s rising up from the hell of Season 3 or still on his way down- but in any case, it’s certainly not the Don Draper we’ve seen from seasons past.

    • You know me, I’m a Draper Half Full kind of gal. I do think he’s struggling, but I think the swimsuit thing was more to do with “Why Bother Building Something Of Our Own If We Still Have To Deal With Annoying People” than “I am an Artiste.” If the pitch had been any good, he’d have let Peggy be in the room – he knew it was a cheap shot and was annoyed both by his need to play it through and that he wasn’t even invested enough to really commit.
      I just have to believe Weiner wouldn’t have rent the world asunder just to leave it all broken and twitchy. What is this, Grey’s Anatomy?

      • merelyn says:

        I agree with you, but I don’t really see the difference between those two things. It seemed to me that their new reality means that sometimes they’re going to have to offer derivative services to annoying clients in order to play the bills and maybe Don needs to suck it up and deal instead of throwing childish shit fits because his creative integrity has been compromised or whatever.
        And I was with him- because yeah, those guys were annoying and didn’t know what they wanted- up until the point where he went back and kicked them out of their offices. That was super unnecessary, and totally taking out his own shit on people that didn’t deserve it. Basically it was kind of bridge-burning move that might have assuaged Don’s ego, but I’m not sure that SCDP has the privilege of turning away those kinds of people any more. And Don has a responsibility to the company now, which means he has to think of something larger than himself. (Which is exactly why he avoided being in this situation for so long.)
        I am hopeful that Season 4 is going to show SDCP on the rise and Don getting his shit together, but I also don’t think Weiner is going to make this a simple scrappy underdog triumphs story either.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ten bucks, they lose Lucky Strike.

      • Oh that’s /totally/ gonna happen – the preview was practically jumping the couch with its eagerness to tell us. I think that combined with all the “he hated the art” comments mean one Salvatore Romano is coming back and Lee Cigarettes Junior is peacing out.

      • Oh that’s /totally/ gonna happen – the preview was practically jumping the couch with its eagerness to tell us. I think that combined with all the “he hated the art” comments mean one Salvatore Romano is coming back and Lee Cigarettes Junior is peacing out.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ten bucks, they lose Lucky Strike.

      • merelyn says:

        I agree with you, but I don’t really see the difference between those two things. It seemed to me that their new reality means that sometimes they’re going to have to offer derivative services to annoying clients in order to play the bills and maybe Don needs to suck it up and deal instead of throwing childish shit fits because his creative integrity has been compromised or whatever.
        And I was with him- because yeah, those guys were annoying and didn’t know what they wanted- up until the point where he went back and kicked them out of their offices. That was super unnecessary, and totally taking out his own shit on people that didn’t deserve it. Basically it was kind of bridge-burning move that might have assuaged Don’s ego, but I’m not sure that SCDP has the privilege of turning away those kinds of people any more. And Don has a responsibility to the company now, which means he has to think of something larger than himself. (Which is exactly why he avoided being in this situation for so long.)
        I am hopeful that Season 4 is going to show SDCP on the rise and Don getting his shit together, but I also don’t think Weiner is going to make this a simple scrappy underdog triumphs story either.

    • You know me, I’m a Draper Half Full kind of gal. I do think he’s struggling, but I think the swimsuit thing was more to do with “Why Bother Building Something Of Our Own If We Still Have To Deal With Annoying People” than “I am an Artiste.” If the pitch had been any good, he’d have let Peggy be in the room – he knew it was a cheap shot and was annoyed both by his need to play it through and that he wasn’t even invested enough to really commit.
      I just have to believe Weiner wouldn’t have rent the world asunder just to leave it all broken and twitchy. What is this, Grey’s Anatomy?

  4. merelyn says:

    Do Pete and Trudie have a baby? Is Joan’s Rapist Husband dead in a jungle yet?
    I WANT THE ANSWERS TO BOTH THESE QUESTIONS TO BE YES.
    I for one, thought it was a very solid beginning. However, I think I read Don very differently than you did. He struck me as a man who is struggling with coming to terms with the fact that the gamble at the end of S3 may have granted him more ostensible creative control, but also the limitations that come with working for a smaller company without the resources of the old SC. That scene where he kicked the swimsuit people out of his office struck me the Don Draper equivalent of “I can’t work under these conditions! I’m an artist!” or some such dramatic bullshit.
    And note the way the show imbues so much significance to the interior spaces its characters inhabit. The new SCDP offices- which, however downmarket, let me tell you, the Time and Life building does not look remotely that cute on in inside these days- with the phantom second floor and yes, Joan’s office, tell you everything you need to know about where the firm is at, a year later. Betty and Henry still living in the Draper’s old house tells you everything you need to know about the ways in which both Betty and Don have been unable to fully move on from the comforting fiction of their marriage.
    And most importantly, look at Don’s apartment, all shabby and poorly lit- it was hard to even figure out how it all the rooms fit together. It spoke to me of a Don who’s come down a few steps in the world, whose life has lost a great deal of the polish that used to glint in other people’s eyes and distract them from the fucked up guy below the surface. And without the glamor, Don doesn’t cut such a dashing mysterious figure anymore; instead he’s just a cipher, a person who has lost the ability to sell his most important asset: Don Draper.
    For me, in terms of Don, this whole episode was just watching the ways in which the wheels have come off. And that sex scene was soooo significant. It all suggested a person who wanted some release from being in control of their life in general. I wouldn’t ascribe such blankly sentimental notions to Mad Men, but maybe on some level Don is getting tired of all the bullshitting and the lies, now that everything he worked so hard for hasn’t turned out quite the way he wanted it.
    Unlike you, I’m not sure if we’re catching Don as he’s rising up from the hell of Season 3 or still on his way down- but in any case, it’s certainly not the Don Draper we’ve seen from seasons past.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s