Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mad Men Returns!

At last!  One of television's most compelling series has returned after a ridiculously long hellatus.  I was thankful for the "previously on" recap, though I could have used a lot more.  Really, all I had remembered from last season's finale was Don's unexpected proposal to secretary Megan.  So I was very much looking forward to catching up on where we left off.

Time hasn't only passed for us, but also for the MM crew - though it's not specified how much.  Enough for Don (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) to have gotten married and still be very much in the honeymoon can't-keep-their-hands-off-each-other phase, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) to have moved to the burbs (life now includes "an acre of land, a wife, a child ...") and Joan (Christina Hendricks) to have given birth to son Kevin (still married to her doctor despite Roger (John Slattery) being the baby-daddy).

Some things haven't changed:  Roger is still a lush, Pete is still an uptight douche, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) still asserts her mind but feels ever-slighted and lacking deserved respect by her peers.  The show still has its spectacular production design, nailing  the 60s time period and capturing the decor and temperament to perfection.  Megan seems to be the most representative of the latter part of the decade, free in her modern style and fearless in her expression.  Case in point:  gifting her hubby with a sexy serenade at Don's surprise birthday party (in their luxury high-rise apartment, no less).  But is her confidence real or a facade?  Read on ...

Dear Don's turning 40, but you'd think he was turning 60 the way he carries himself.  At times he feels so very tired.  Another sign of the times:  40 seemed a much older age back then, given that the average life span was shorter than these days (when Don asked his son how old he'd be when the kid turned 40, his son replied "you'll be dead.").  Don wasn't thrilled at Megan's surprise and told her so after the guests had gone, even saying he didn't appreciate being embarrassed.  His attitude certainly put a downer ending to the festive evening.

By the way, Megan knows the truth about Don's true identity (he's actually been 40 for half a year).  I'm not sure if that's a new revelation or if that came about last season. She's definitely in the minority on that tidbit.

Don definitely seems like a changed man- happy, kind, patient (despite the glibness about his age) - and Peggy for one isn't thrilled.  After a pitch meeting where Don appeased the client instead of challenging them, Peggy admitted that the kinder, gentler Don concerns her ("I don't recognize that man.").  It'll be interesting to see how long this calm demeanor lasts.

Pete, on the other hand, is not a happy man.  He seems trapped by his home life and appears to still be low man on the partner totem pole.  His ire is mostly directed at Roger, hating the man for cutting in on his meetings and "persuading" co-worker and TV department head Harry (Rich Sommer) to switch offices (the bribe?  $1,100).  Pete feels he merits a larger office beacuse he brings in all the new business and should therefore have it - without Roger's interference. Pete's professional journey has never seemed like one wrought with success.  Is his time coming?  And if so, will it be deserved?

Joan loves motherhood but is ready to return to work.  Her position at the company, however, may not be secure, especially after her mother, who has been helping out with the baby, points out an ad in the paper for new help at the agency.  When Joan stops by with the baby for a visit, the "new girl" doesn't even know who she is.  And oh, how awkward some were around the baby - Peggy looked clueless, Pete asked "what's that?" (clearly some were made for parenthood more than others).  At least Lane (Jared Harris) assures her that he's been completely "adrift" without her.

As for Megan, working at SCDP isn't all ideal.  Don's thrilled to have her there, but between male co-workers talking sexually about her behind her back and others making fun of her party performance and assuming she has a hidden agenda, it makes her physically ill and insecure - a chink in the otherwise seeming confidence.  You can't help but feel bad for her.

Not making an appearance in the 2-hour return is Don's shrewish ex Betty (January Jones) - or "Morticia," as Don refers to her.  The character is one of the most unlikeable of the bunch, especially after last season, but she does add a certain tone to the show.  Curious to see where she is taken to this season.
By the end of the premiere, you feel pretty much back in swing with the show and its characters and anticipation for the coming season is peaked.  It'd be hard to top last season's brilliant "The Suitcase," but I look forward to finding out what's in store for the crew at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.  What new accounts will come their way, and what new players?  Will Don and Megan stay blissful in marriage or will he return to his adulterous ways?  Will the agency hire its first African-American employee?

Tune in and find out when Mad Men airs every Sunday @ 9 p.m. on AMC.

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