"Mad Men" Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2 – Television Review

8/09/2010 Posted by Admin

"Mad Men" Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Gita Gupte

Spoilers ensue, so read with caution.

AMC’s sleeper hit, "Mad Men," has been the network’s saving grace since 2007. It's a show depicting 1960s New York during the golden age of advertising, giving us characters whose lives are spun into such elaborate webs, that we can’t help but remain intrigued.

Recently, the season premiere brought us back into the world of Don Draper a year removed from the last time we saw him. Don and Betty divorced somewhere between the end of the last season and the beginning of this one. And now we see Betty remarried to Henry Francis, a man who we can’t quite yet decipher if he is good or bad. On  one hand, he is a home-wrecker, but on the other, he seems to be the quintessential family man that Betty always wished Don to be. Oddly, the two still reside in the Draper residence, as if Don never existed.

One would think that Don is happy with his newfound freedom, but all signs point to sadness and depression. Still, he is very much the lady-charmer, but something is missing – his heart just doesn’t seem in it. We also find out that he has started hiring prostitutes, which is an odd juxtaposition to his family history – like father, like son? I don’t think so.  This season's second episode, which highlighted the Christmas holidays, clearly demonstrates that Don is suffering feelings of detachment from the disbandment of his once “normal” family. We see that he has moved from the realm of casual drinking to borderline alcoholism. Additionally, he is starting to fall for women who are good and pure (a college girl who is similar to Betty when she was young, a nurse, his secretary). It seems Don is longing for what he once had, but never truly appreciated.

Another character who has seen major personal change is Peggy Olson.

The last time we saw her, she was still dowdy, but working on gaining the inner confidence she knows she should have. This time around, we see her with a full-on makeover. Her time living in Manhattan has served her well – she has stylish clothes, no-more awful bangs and a boyfriend who seems to want to be with her in a real relationship. We see her much more self-assured this season and her clout in the new offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Price is growing. As her outer self has changed, we see her inner self change as well. A scene in the second episode shows her denying her boyfriend sex – then we find out that he thinks she's a virgin. We see that Peggy wants a new start and wants to avoid the pitfalls of her past relationships. However, at the end of Episode 2, we see Peggy give in to desire and, though her boyfriend is pleased, we see her perplexed at her decision. Only time will tell if Peggy will remain a new version of herself or go back to her old ways.

When we catch-up with one of my favorite characters, Joan Harris (formerly Joan Holloway), we find her back in the position she was made for -- office manager of the new Sterling Cooper Draper Price. She is running the show and everyone in the office is grateful. We start to see a mild flirtation ensue between her and her former lover, Roger Sterling. Since we hate her spineless, failure of a husband and we hate Roger’s too young, too stupid and too drunk wife, Jane, we likely will be eager to see the sparks ignite as the season continues.

Of course, most of the regular players are still around – Pete Campbell and his wife Trudy, as well as Harry Crane and his wife.  Unfortunately, nothing worth mentioning has happened with these characters. Additionally, the second episode brought back Freddie Rumsen as a freelancer for the new agency.

A last plot worth mentioning is the contrasting views of the Draper children regarding the divorce. We see that Bobby Draper is seemingly well adjusted to his new life, while Sally Draper longs for her father’s return. As she develops a friendship with Glen Bishop over their shared status as the children of divorce, we see her subtly wage war against her new family – sure to make Betty’s recently acquired happiness short-lived.

I look forward to seeing what develops this season. The show remains captivating, albeit somewhat depressing – most of our major characters are completely unhappy, as evidenced by Roger Sterling commenting on how work life is much better than real life – but perhaps what this show is all about is driving home the idea that “the grass being greener on the other side” is simply a mirage.

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