March 26, 2012
Don Draper is back in the office after over a year-long hiatus and, Lord, how we missed him. His confident stride, his condescending sneer, his bottomless cocktail glass... Don—played perfectly by Jon Hamm—and his colleagues at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price are characters so fascinating they’ve garnered fifteen Emmys, two Golden Globes and inspired a clothing brand and a cosmetic brand to create lines in their homage. If you are a fan like me you have watched the first four seasons transfixed as these characters have evolved and encountered so much delicious drama. You’ve seen those in the ad agency do unspeakable things in order to get ahead and keep afloat, holding your breath each time Don pulls a great pitch out of his ass, saving the company once again—in classic Draper style of course.
But in fifth-season opener, Little Kiss, something is off. Don is… happy? Some time has passed since the cliffhanger we never expected, Don announcing his engagement to his secretary and one-time baby sitter Megan, and the two have gotten a swanky new apartment together. Megan is working as a copy writer (you know Peggy just loves that) and Betty is… nowhere to be found. That’s right—the stilted stepford wife we hate/love doesn’t make an appearance in the premiere. But you can’t help but think of her as you see Megan happily try out her wings as the new Mrs. Donald Draper by planning a surprise birthday party for his 40th birthday. We watch as she doesn’t listen to Peggy’s hint not to throw the party (Surprise party for Don Draper? Does she know this guy at all?), takes the whole trophy wife thing way too far with her little French burlesque performance and then can’t handle her first encounter with Don’s dark moodiness and dismissive attitude. We can tell right off the bat this chick might not be able to keep up with all the disappointments Don can dish out. She is so not Betty Draper.
Like what you're reading? Join Made Woman Mag's mailing list for updates, special promotions and more. Click here!
But Don is enamored with her and his relaxed attitude is echoed in the show’s slow pacing (reminiscent of the first season) and the lack of tension around the office. But at least they still have an office. And they have clients! Most of whom Peter Campbell has secured, while his counterpart Roger Sterling begins to look more and more like an old relic, hanging around the office. *Cough* Bertram Cooper. Peter has gained
even more confidence in himself as a partner and feels his value to company should be reflected in the size of his office. He then begins to vie for Roger’s office and the two trade insults, play pranks, lie, and cheat, reminding you again that Mad Men is synonymous with Bad Boys.
And what about the ladies of the office? Peggy seemed to be the only unchanged figure, as headstrong and mouthy as ever. She takes issue with clients from Heinz when they don’t go for her pitch and then badgers Don about it when he doesn’t back her up. She seems to be coming into her own as a copy writer and blossoming in her new relationship. As for Joan blossoming into motherhood… not so much. Our first view of what motherhood is for Joan is a super-close shot of her baby’s butt. Lovely. She seems unhappy and trapped by her new life as a mother; the bright walls in her apartment seem to swallow her up. Feeling that her position at the agency is threatened, she goes for a visit and although she feels out of place at first, she is reassured by Lane Price that the ship would go down without her. Seeing Joan back in the office reminds you of the efficient, self-assured Joan we love in her red dress, all curves and restrained sex appeal against the backdrop of the white walls of the agency.
I had expected a huge shocking opener for the 5th season (Maybe a Maury-like reveal of who Joan’s baby's daddy really is) but the show got off to a slow start Sunday night. For those in the agency it seems the past and future are at war and this premiere episode is the calm in the storm. I still thoroughly enjoyed this first episode and it reminds me that the show’s sometimes jarring pace is another reason I’m hooked. Will the agency be caught up in the brewing Civil Rights movement? Will the naÏve Megan be able to keep Don interested…and faithful? Can the happily-married Don keep his edge as the creative maverick of Madison Avenue when so much of his creativity was inspired by his picturesque-but-stifling family life with Betty and their kids? What’s up with all those shifty looks Sally Draper was giving Don’s new wife? Will Roger Sterling be made obsolete by a newer, younger model, Pete Campbell? And when will everyone realize that Peggy Olsen is going to run that place one day? Oh, how I missed the madness!
Tune in to AMC Sunday nights at 9 PST to watch more of Don and the gang. The next episode will be directed by Jon Hamm!