Mad about Mad Men

The 50 glorious minutes that are the first episode of Mad Men season 4 more than justify all the show’s pre-premiere hype. Spoiler Alert: If you didn’t cancel all your plans between 10-11 pm last night and sit glued to AMC, then you’ll want to click away until you come to your senses and watch Betty and Don and the rest of the gang in all their season 4 glory.

Even though Don is a bachelor and works hard and comes home to a small, dark apartment and only sees his kids on weekends, our sympathies don’t completely go out to him. Neither, however, do they go to Betty. However maligned and naive she was last season, her harsh brand of motherhood doesn’t rub anyone the right way, least of all her new mother-in-law, who writes her off in 4 words, “She’s a silly woman.” I’d add a few more adjectives to the list, namely crazy, if not now then soon. At Thanksgiving dinner with her new husband’s family, she looks as if her perfect little head is going to pop right off her neatly manicured body, especially when her daughter Sally declares she hates the food. Betty’s motherly response is to shove a forkful of sweet potato into Sally’s mouth, which she promptly gags back onto her plate, effectively ruining Thanksgiving and painting a pretty accurate picture of her failures in the realm of domestic life. But no matter how loud the signals, she and the new hubby are too busy having lots of newlywed sex to care much about the children.

Whatever trouble Betty cooks up on the domestic front, Don’s life in the big wide world of advertising is the far more captivating, fast-paced plot line. Now living in a small apartment just south of Tribeca, Don is very much himself at his new firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, which is operating in a bare bones office, but still looks a heck of a lot better than lots of a fully functioning offices in Manhattan today. I think the brightly-attired secretaries and tasteful lamps help. The company is struggling for new clients, and Don’s aloof interview with an industry paper doesn’t help their image any. Cherub-cheeked Campbell is trying his best, but it looks as if Peggy, the only woman with the confidence to talk back to Don, will be taking on a bigger role in future episodes. It’s a good thing too; with all the women constantly falling at Don’s feet, it’s refreshing to have two (don’t forget Red) women very much in control of themselves.

It’s also nice to watch Don when he isn’t fully in control. He may be able to seduce any woman with only a few clipped words over martinis, but after his divorce and the brand new company, season 4 is very much a new beginning for Don, and he’s still getting his sea legs. In fact, he loses his cool completely after being chastised for his bad interview and a pitch to a conservative client turns sour. With new fire in his eyes he sits down to an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and as the episode closes he actually talks about himself. After three seasons of Don the quiet, steely executive it seems as though it may be a better business move for him to open up.