We’ve waited 17 months for this comeback; on the show, only mere months have passed. (Season 4 took place between November 1964 and October 1965.) Instead of jumping two years in time, as we saw between Seasons 1 (1960) and 2 (1962), Mad Men head honcho Matthew Weiner starts us in June 1966, right in the middle of the fast, changin’ times.
Unlike Phillip, I deliberately decided not to go back and binge on Mad Men seasons 1 through 4, or read any press about the premiere, mainly because I wanted to see how well the storytellers in charge of this show would put me back into the experience and I was curious as to what feelings or memories from 17 months ago lingered and which ones didn’t. Some thoughts:
There’s a country song popular in the late 1990s that went, ”I’m so happy that I … can’t stop cryin.” This is exactly what I started singing at the end of this episode. Joan makes motherhood seem about as appealing as an all-expenses paid trip to Sudan. Pete’s headed down the Don path (quite literally — he’s now taking the train home to suburbia), Roger’s obviously in the no-client-sunset of his career and Don’s “happiness” only makes me anxious.
In hour two, that white carpet served as a maybe-too-on-the-nose metaphor for Don and Megan’s life together. Don wanted it for facile reasons and it was great when it was a white carpet. But it quickly got dirtied and needed replacing. Will Megan? But I am in an argument with myself about this one. There are signs of hope for their relationship — she’s obviously “up” for things in a way Betty wasn’t (Betty didn’t like it so rough), and Don has clearly shared his Dick Whitmanness with Megan and she really does “know” him in a way his first wife did not.
More on the Zou Bisou: It really is glaring how different Don is now that he’s found a girl who he sees as his “whore” rather than as a “mother.” In previous seasons, Don’s Madonna/whore complex (complicated by the fact his birth mother was an actual prostitute) was played out through his wife Betty and his string of ladies-on-the-side. Betty’s sexuality was never something Don was persuaded by. When she wanted to return to modeling, he talked her into staying in her role as a housewife. When she donned the sexy black getup for their anniversary, he couldn’t perform. And when she wore that sexy yellow bikini in Season 2’s “Maidenform,” he verbally dressed her down, calling her “desperate” and humiliating her. But in the same season, Don was enjoying a masochistic relationship with Bobbi Barrett.
So tonight, to have Megan writhe in front of him before a crowd of his coworkers, and Don ultimately responding favorably with a tumble in the carpet debris… is this a changed man, indeed? Has he found a wife who he doesn’t see as a mother? I’m really interested in this relationship, how it’s changed Don, and what y’all think about what we’ve seen.
On business, Pete said it best: “Stable. It’s that step backward between successful and failing.” Don doesn’t “really care about work” anymore. This is huge, people. What?! He built his entire fake identity/life around this and now he’s coming in late, leaving early, and being “kind … patient” to clients, as Peggy described.
I’m very interested to see what the writers do with the black secretary SCDP has been forced to hire because of their prank. This show has consistently kept the battle for civil rights as C plots or smaller (remember when that poser Paul went on the freedom rides?); but it’s 1966 now. We know civil rights won’t be a subterranean story line much longer.
Roger: “There’s my baby.” AWWWWKWARD.
While I still think Jane Sterling sucks, it was so so funny when Roger asked her why she doesn’t sing like Megan and she said, “Why don’t you look like [Don]?” ZING!
And … Harry Crane is still an idiot. That was some funny shizz.
Can’t wait to read what y’all thought.
To the Steinway of walking sticks,