Mad Men - Season Four
There’s only one to describe the recent Mad Men season four premiere - change. After leaving viewers with an incredibly climactic finale last November, the stars of AMC’s hit drama are back—but thing’s are different, and if the week’s episode is any indication, we’re in for a whole season of evolution.
Season 3 ended with a bang: 1963, crumbling marriages and office espionage. Betty discovers Don’s past life, then announces her plans for divorce; Sterling Cooper turns into Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in an inspired coup lead by the partners and orchestrated by Lane Pryce, a once spited British addition whose only purpose seemed to be to fire people (but who secretly loves the company and New York.) Peggy is having a surprising affair with turncoat Duck, but seems to think twice when her roommate casually asks “Why are you with him?” Pete and Trudy’s formerly rocky, dysfunctional union appears to be looking up, with Pete finally giving up on imitating his philandering superiors and telling his wife that he doesn’t want her to “take anymore trips without him.”
But now it’s 1964 and one year has passed, and who knows what’s happened in between? Don—once the epitome of classic, domineering masculinity—is living alone in Manhattan while soon-to-be ex-wife Betty has replaced him with a new husband and continues to occupy the Westchester house. When a potential client deems his idea too racy, Don does not win them over with suave persuasion but instead becomes explosively angry and kicks the men out of the room. On Thanksgiving, Mr. Draper calls a prostitute who, in a shocking twist, is not enamored with him and is entirely apathetic, claiming that she “knows what he wants”—which turns out to be several sobering slaps in the face. All remnants of the charming, mysterious, tall-dark-and-handsome ad man are gone and viewers are left wondering the exact question that the episode begins with: who is Don Draper?!
Over at the office—a colorful improvement to the muted old one— all our favorite characters are back. As we are introduced to the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the camera pans through rows of fresh faces, but also familiar old ones. We are particularly happy to see Joan’s return to the professional world after an awful stint as housewife to an abusive doctor. The ever-poised femme fatal office manager even has her own office now (it’s about time!), indicating some serious distance from the old Sterling Cooper sexism—especially when paired with the fact that Peggy has a cute new male secretary.
There are some notable absences, though. Duck, Peggy’s first real boyfriend in the show’s tenure, is markedly missing. The rest of the ambitious office youngsters are gone, too; Pete’s rival Ken Cosgrove, Peggy’s rival Paul Kinsey. Similarly, little Sally Draper’s lisp is nowhere to be heard. Neither are her manners: in a very un-Betty move, Sally refuses food at her step-grandmother’s table then spits some out when her mother force-feeds her. Sally, an increasingly prominent character on the show, is now rebellious and spiteful at her mother. In turn, Betty is slowly changing—hardening, almost resembling the strict hand of her late mother, of whom she often complained in earlier seasons.
In short, Mad Men's return was deliciously tumultuous and, as expected, did not disappoint. Mad Men is off to a fantastic start: the show has gradually turned into one of the most popular ones of today. In New York, its setting, Times Square hosted a public viewing to a crowd of 10,000 fans, many dressed in head-to-toe 60’s garb. In the past two weeks alone, The New York Times has featured two articles about the show, and both Banana Republic and Mattel’s Barbie have released Mad Men-themed lines. But one wonders what is to come. The show has long incorporated history into its plotlines, and as it is 1964 we can expect much more turmoil and unrest within the backdrop.
Also worth questioning is the instability of the quickly revolutionizing characters; it seems everyone has become at least a little bit of someone different. Perhaps most telling of this is the enigma, Don Draper. The episode begins with a frustrating interview between him and a reporter for an advertising magazine, in which Draper’s aloofness proves a pitfall for his new company’s publicity. In the last scene, however, Don is shown re-doing the interview, this time with the Wall Street Journal. The reporter’s questions, though much the same as the first journalist’s, are conversely met with lively, engaging answers—raised eyebrows and charismatic emphasis. From the beginning to the end of season four, episode one, Don Draper becomes a new man—but whom that is, exactly, we have yet to find out.
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