Mad Men Season Opener – Worth the Wait?


Long answer:

The episode “Out of Town” is an interesting balancing act. As we headed into the second season, many of the questions were left unanswered in a delightful/maddening tease. I was curious if Matthew Weiner would try that approach again, particularly with the increased scrutiny and expectations of this new season. Instead of trying to replicate or invert, he manages to dispense a good deal of information while still leaving a good deal unexplained. Without spoiling anything, I would say the following aspects are addressed but not fully investigated:

  1. The fate of Duck Phillips.
  2. Changes at the agency since the Brits took over.
  3. The increasing importance of TV at Sterling Cooper.
  4. Joan’s wedding plans.

There is still much left to explore of those items and, hopefully, the first point in particular: considering the potential for drama around Duck Phillips’ departure and the office meltdown witnessed in “Out of Town”, it has become increasingly clear that Sterling Cooper is not a happy, healthy place to work.

Just as interesting are those elements left untouched so far:

  1. Peggy and Pete.
  2. Pete’s relationship with his father-in-law.
  3. Peggy and Pete.
  4. Betty’s state of mind post-reconciliation.
  5. Peggy and Pete.

I’m curious to see how the Peggy and Pete dynamic will play out: I have a sense that the true nature of their connection might fade into the background and devolve into a bitter workplace rivalry.

The opening of the episode was quite theatrical and struck me as too “stagey” by half at the time, but upon reflection it makes sense. We’ve spent a time away from the rhythms of Mad Men and it does the audience well to reacquaint themselves with the measured but steady tempo unseen in standard network TV fare.

Just as interesting is the connection Sal and Don experience during their trip to Baltimore. I’ve always thought that if anyone in the office could accept Sal’s true nature it would be Don: as I mention in the book (shameless plug alert!), there is a closeted nature to Don’s Draper/Whitman existence that can easily be seen as a gay sensibility.

Which leads to a bigger point: I think one of the reasons Don inspires such a strong following in the workplace is that everyone can look to him and identify an aspect of themselves, or at least a characteristic they’d like to emulate. This knack for identification makes Don a successful boss and a successful ad man.

One niggling point: I’m generally on-board with the ads Don creates, but his London Fog pitch is the first time I was left standing on the platform. Outside of the thematic resonance of the tag line, I couldn’t help but emit a shuddering ‘Bleccch” while the Sterling Cooper lackeys proclaimed its brilliance.

Short answer: Yes, it was worth the wait.

Also: John Doyle wrote a good article on the show and also mentioned the book launch (shameless plug alert!):

http://bit.ly/CNwzG

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