Okay, don't hate us, but...
there isn't going to be a Mad Style post today.
We said don't hate us!
It's like this, we love doing them and we love that so many of you love them and we know we promised to have one up every day this week, but kittens, each post is about 8 or 9 hours of work. And unfortunately, as fabulous as we are, we don't (yet) have a staff of servants to do our day to day drudgery like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and taking the cats to the vet to get their shots updated so we can get approved by the animal shelter to adopt that gorgeous calico we've had our eyes on since last weekend. Something had to give and today we looked at each other and came to the conclusion that we simply weren't going to get one out in time today.
We DID get to see the screener for the premiere episode and since AMC doesn't give out screeners just out of the kindness of their hearts, we figured we'd do them a solid and tantalize you with some tidbits and a general review. This is a spoiler-free post for the most part, but if you don't want to know anything about, say, what year it is or whether or not the Draper divorce went through, then you probably shouldn't read any further. We'll talk about the new status quo without giving out too many details.
One thing Matthew Weiner and his writing staff have always been good at is playing with the expectations of his audience. Last season, we saw fan favorites Joan and Sal leave the world of SC, seemingly forever (Joan eventually came back) and had the driving plot point of the show - Don's secret past - ripped open and laid bare to his long-suffering wife, something that no one saw coming or expected to see for a long time. Now that the show is in its 4th season and more talked-about than ever, he's got even more material to work with. There was a bit of a wink to the audience as the opening shot of the season was a very tight closeup of Don's face as someone off-camera asked "Who is Don Draper?" Considering the previous 3 seasons revolved sometimes exclusively around that very question, for a brief moment, our hearts sank. Oh, no. They're not going to THAT well again, are they? Fortunately, they didn't. Turns out Don is being interviewed for a profile in Advertising Age and the person asking the question was just a journalist conducting an interview.
After that, it's a matter of setting up the new status quo, with a quick look at every major character, plus the introduction of one or two new ones. Mad Men has established something of a narrative pattern for itself: a slow start, a frustrating middle, and then a bomb-drop of an end. How refreshing that this time, the start was just as energetic and eye-opening as the finale from last season.
It's November 1964, almost a year after the events of season three's energetic season finale. Without giving too much away, the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is ensconced in a gleaming mid-sixties office in the Time-Life building, all glass and aluminum and space age furniture. Not that it's all well appointed. There are file cabinets piled on top of file cabinets and a conference room without a conference table and no matching chairs. The new SCDP feels raw and energetic (a bit like the new Mad Men) and there have been some rather drastic changes in how the characters relate to each other. If you have been a fan of Peggy's slow realization of her full potential, then you are going to have to be restrained from leaping out of your seat at one or two moments that show just how self-confident and respected she now is. She and Don get a couple of truly electric moments, given what we all know about their past history.
In fact, a lot of the characters get to do some slightly shocking things. Pete is so likable it's downright unnerving. And did you ever think Harry Crane, of all people, would yell "BULLSHIT!" in a meeting attended by Don, Roger and Bert, and then storm out of the room? And when you see who he's mad at and why he's mad at them, you'll really be shocked at how much things have changed for these characters.
On the Don and Betty front, well...we still have angst, but at least this time it's of the post-divorce variety, dealing more with custody and financial issues rather than the demons each of them brought to their marriage. Betty and Henry are married now and that looks to be a marriage with its own set of problems. There is one scene with Betty, Henry and Don where Don manages to get in a really good burn at Henry's expense that also makes us wonder exactly what the writers have planned for this particular trio.
Don's new life as a bachelor isn't exactly what you probably assume it would be. We don't want to say anything more than that. And he doesn't exactly wow his colleagues at work, but we also don't want to get into that, except to say he did something jaw-dropping during a client meeting.
Lest you think this episode was all dark and angsty, it's probably one of the funniest episodes the show's ever done. Roger, of course, gets in one laugh-out-loud inappropriate comment after another, but Peggy, of all people actually has a couple funny moments as well. She and Pete once again make a great team and there isn't a hint of their past evident. Joan only makes a couple brief appearances but there's something a little intriguing that we won't get into but it raises some questions as to what exactly her role is in the new SCDP.
On the style front, it's clearly 1964, bordering on '65. It seems most of the internet has already seen Peggy's new bubble-do, but wait till you get a load of Betty's Lady Bird hair and matronly Chanel suits. Joan gets a couple of new dresses and freshens up her wardrobe with some modern touches that still feel very like Joan. Peggy is never going to be on the cover of a fashion magazine, but she does manage to bring her wardrobe up to date. And the men are all suddenly wearing patterned ties and colors you never saw them wear before.
And that's all we're gonna say about that. Trust us, it was one of the best episodes of the show we'd ever seen. Really. There wasn't one boring moment or wasted line and pretty much every character got a brief moment in the spotlight. Can't wait until we can all talk openly about this on Monday.
And we promise, we'll have a Mad Style for you tomorrow.
[Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/Mike Yarish/AMC]
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