Like anyone else who saw last season’s heist film-like season finale, I was jazzed to sit down tonight and watch the fourth season premiere of Mad Men. I wasn’t as in love with the premiere as I was with the finale, but it was interesting. One of the best elements of the show is that you’ve got to pay attention to understand what the hell is going on. Last time we saw Don and Co. they were starting their new firm working out of a hotel room and now they’re in some very hip looking offices. What has the gap in time been? What’s the deal with Don and Betty or Betty and her new…is that guy her husband? You don’t really have to wait that long to discover these details and they’re delivered in ways that don’t seem forced or ham-handed (Don talking to his lawyer, Don talking to someone in the office). This is why when Peggy’s guy friend said something about them being engaged, you don’t really know if it’s the case or not (was that the artist guy from the office or someone else?). You could probably figure out the exact week the episode was set thanks to his date being a bit of a chatterbox and awkwardly talking about murder.
But, Don’s not the only star here. Frankly, I think Peggy came off as the most interesting character, title of the show aside, I think the show’s really about her. She’s not mewling anymore and she does seem to understand her relationship with Don more now. I liked seeing more of her creative process, trying to come up with new tag lines for the ham campaign. If you’re interested in a much more detailed look at Peggy’s growth as a character through the lens of her costumes over the course of the season, along with Betty, Joan and other characters, do yourself a favor and go through Tom And Lorenzo’s Mad Style posts on their site, they are fantastic. Speaking of Joan, there wasn’t enough of her, though she seemed like the same, strong person. I hope she’s actually a part of Harry Crane’s TV team and not “just” a secretary, but she’s just so damn good at it. I would honestly watch an entire show of her just hanging out telling secretaries what to do, reading the entries in Creature Features or, well, anything.
One last thing that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the site before: I HATE Betty. I know she’s largely the victim thanks to Don’s shenanigans (by the way, he used that word in a way that didn’t sound ridiculous in this episode which just shows how awesome John Hamm is), but I just can’t stand her. I think she’s a bad mother who has no idea how to deal with her emotions because she’s had everything taken care of for her her entire life. I understand that that makes her a tragic figure (the product of her environment, not prepared for anything having to do with the real world), but the way she deals with her problems just sets me off. I hope her new politician boyfriend leaves her (how awesome is his mother in the role of “rich woman who knows how things really work”?).
So, there you have it. The season seems more focused on Don preventing what seems to be a downward spiral, but we shall see. Mad Men has a tendency to seem like it’s about one thing, then shake, bake and be about something completely different, which is what makes it so interesting.