Monday, March 26, 2012

Takeaways from the "Mad Men" Season Premiere

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Yarish/AMC
The best thing about being a fan of Mad Men is how rarely it disappoints you. After a 17-month long absence we were back in the familiar territory of Matthew Weiner's capable hands. Titled "A Little Kiss" Weiner wrote this episode himself and he moves the destinies of each of his characters forward with the quiet plotting confidence of a chess master and the balls of some great mammoth creature.

I'm not much for recaps. You won't ever find them here. As I see it if you're bothering to read about the show you've probably already seen that week's episode and there's no need for me to regurgitate it back to you. Conversely, if you haven't seen the episode you hardly want it spoiled by my play-by-play. If you really find yourself fiending for recaps though you can find some decent ones here and here. I'm more interested in sifting through and mining the episode gold. Here's what I've got so far:

  1. "You don't know her at all."This is the line Don swats Peggy with when she surmises what could be behind Megan's decision to leave work early. Don Draper is in love, guys. Isn't it strange to see him so unabashedly smitten? Like Peggy I was mildly horrified and embarrassed by the change in Don. It was akin to accidentally catching a glimpse of your father's balls when he sits the wrong way in his robe. It was just wrong seeing all his soft bits hanging out there like that for all to see. (What is it with me and balls this post? Bygones.) Far from Alpha Don, I was struck by how much of the episode he spent standing back and letting Megan happen to him. It was so satisfying to finally see him choke-a-bitch. Now that's the sadistic son-of-a-whore I came to see!  
  2. Hell hath no fury like Pete Campbell scorned. Based on what Weiner teases us with in the premiere, Pete's arc this season is going to be epic. Formerly dissed by Don and Roger, Season 5 PC is over being slighted. The last time we see Pete he's sitting in his new office with sun shining on his face, victorious. If I was Roger I'd mind where Pete's keeping his rifle these days. Blue-blooded indignation and self-righteous earnestness FTW. Didn't we used to know another rich white boy called PC with a similar temperament? Oh yeah.
  3. Roger Sterling, Joker Wild. On any other show, the guy who once sang in blackface at his country club would be the asshole. And I suppose he is, but it's a testament to John Slattery's abilities and Weiner's nuance that I love Roger anyway. In this episode the series' silver-haired id is so completely off the leash it's as if Weiner is making up for lost time. Roger bribes homely secretaries - "Why don't you buy yourself a fancy hat or a mask or something?" Becomes an equal opportunity employer - "Is it just me or is the lobby full of negroes?" and laments his wife's shortcomings, "I tried to get Jane to talk to me in that accent, nothing doing. She doesn't speak French, doesn't like me." And of course, there was Frère Jacques. But Roger also gives us two of the night's crucial elements. First when he says, "There's my baby! Now move that brat out of the way!" in reference to Joan and their illegitimate child, incidentally setting off a whole baby hot potato scene that is such a great wink at the audience. The other "The only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it." encapsulates the way so many of the characters feel about each other and is no doubt a theme we'll see manifesting itself throughout the season.
  4. Race will be a factor this season. No more sneaking around the perimeter of things, Weiner places race front and center by bookending the episode with scenes that directly confront race relations.
  5. Zou bisou bisou.
  6. Desperately seeking Betty. I know we're all supposed to be charmed by this French Canadian broad but I want my flaxen-haired dove-shooting, Sally-slapping ice queen.