"Who is Don Draper?

A valid question at any point in the series, but even more so now. Show creator Matthew Weiner has stated that this season will work out that knotted and thorny tangle this year and it’s as good a time as any.

There are the changes in his personal life, even more muddied than I would have imagined: not only does he have a frosty ex-wife and two children to passively father, he also has to deal with that somehow perfect/somehow menacing Henry Francis living in his house, with his ex-wife and growing children. Sleeping in his bed, for Christ’s sake. And for all that, Don keeps a surprisingly level head.

Could be that he’s getting everything he (thinks) he needs from a pugilistic call girl and a dowdy, mildly pestering housekeeper (oh Don, just get into some therapy for God’s sake). But Betty, in her justification for staying in the home far past the date set forth in the divorce proceedings, does save her from looking like a simple ice queen; saying that she wants to provide as much stability for the kids in a time of great turmoil is laudable, if not believable. More understandable is her refusal to let go of everything from her past. As angry as she is at Don (and with good reason), she is not completely prepared to live a life without him.

Also, it’s not surprising to see more of the running time devoted to Sally Draper (as evidenced by Kiernan Shipka’s appearance in the opening credits), it looks like Bobby Draper may step into the light a little more, perhaps as a clown and diffuser of familial tension. Which there will be plenty of, if the Thanksgiving in this season’s opener is any indication.

For a show devoted to style and production design, it makes sense that just as much time and attention would be paid in creating the new offices of Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce. It wasn’t until I saw the new office, with gleaming floor-to-ceiling windows, white floors and even a globular modernist lamp on Sterling’s desk, that I realized how much the old office stood in as that early 60s holdover of the previous decade. Whereas the old office was dark and apparently filled with antechambers, the accent now is on transparency (including a good running gag about their lack of conference room table). The question is, how good is that for a self-made man like Don? Will he embrace the opportunities it presents (much like of that coming decade) or will he disappear completely?

Before watching this episode, I would have guessed the latter. Having seen it, I’m likely to believe the former. There is a leit motif in the episode about “the second floor”. It seems that the new firm has been talking themselves up as taking over two floors of the Time Life Building, but the reality of it might be less impressive (even Bertram Cooper refuses to engage in that tale-telling). But along with the suggestive campaign Don creates for the family-friendly Jentzen swimwear company (“So well built, we can’t show you the second floor”), and Don’s reaction when they reject it (that is to shoo them out of his office), it seems that Don is ready to take care of business and sell the idea of what’s going on in the second floor, even if that’s the only way he’ll be able to fill it.

And a random thought: I hope Betty doesn’t move–how will we ever see Francine if she does?


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