It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, MAD MEN World

Posted by: haro1d

Well, so far it’s been a subtly dramatic couple of opening episodes for the new season of Mad Men. I’m sure many thought we might have jumped forward to the Kennedy assassination, but we’re not there yet. When we’d interviewed him, Matthew Weiner had said that we’d know exactly what day it was when we saw the season premiere. Well, we did — it was Valentine’s Day. (Wasn’t that tricky of him?)

A number of things have changed in the interim since we last entered this “Mad” world, and are continuing to go in odd directions. Yes, Valentine’s Day has Ma and Pa Draper stealing away to a hotel for a bit of bliss, interrupted by Don’s “performance” trouble. Is it possible the stress of his high-pressure career, juggling various women on the side and continual smoking and drinking are taking their toll? The answer is yes, of course, and it’s leaving Betty … well, unsatisfied. So this week’s episode has her actively starting to look for excitement from other sources — like the guy who came to fix her fan belt on the side of the road. Will it lead to more than flirtation next time? Who can say, other than Mr. Weiner, and we know what a crafty one he is.

Loads of things are happening on Mad Men to change the landscape and power structure at Sterling-Cooper. Peggy is back in the office after having shed some weight and a baby. Trying to assert herself more firmly as one of the creative staff, she’s starting to throw around the weight she has left in a bid to set herself above the rest of the gals in the office. We also get a glimpse into her family life and find that that rather unstable look in her eyes likely has been there for a while — her mental health and the law have crossed paths at least once before. As she barely looks in on her newborn child, we see another ‘sweet pea’ in the room. Peggy’s mother refers to Peggy as the child’s aunt — but is she?

And what of Pete Campbell? His father has been killed in a plane crash that coincidentally has led to his taking the point in Sterling-Cooper’s bid for that airline’s account. It’s a situation that has forced Don into the position of strong-arming his own reliable client, Mohawk Airlines. Pete’s ambition is starting to pay off, and his target, Don, is having to pay a price as a result.

On the more mundane side of the Mad Men world, new technology has arrived in the office — a photocopier. (I hear Vegas is taking action on how long before that gets used for some kinky high jinks.) Somehow, it’s not hard to think that jobs will be lost because of it, but for now, it’s just scenery.

And speaking of scenery, I have to bring up what is perhaps one of a couple of fundamental flaws in Mad Men as a series: As much as I enjoy checking out all of the ’60s modern, Eames-era cool furniture and such, isn’t it a little overwhelming? Don’t you think there should be at least a few more not-so-hip pieces on the set? Especially in the younger ad execs’ homes, the ones who really don’t have the scratch to lay out for the brand-new stuff. More to the point, don’t most of the spaces look like they were designed and decorated by the same person or persons? (Well, look, it’s TV — of course they are, but hey, all I’m asking is for more suspended disbelief!)

Really, though, if this is what I’m finding to complain about in a series this good, am I not just nitpicking?