Television reviews aren’t our usual fare, but it’s hard to resist talking about the return of our favorite television show after a 17-month hiatus. We (along with the rest of Mad Men‘s viewing public) have been waiting patiently through protracted contract negotiations and grand-scale Matthew Weiner hissy fits. So last night, the Hus-b and I set the DVR, waited patiently for the Little Lady’s bedtime, and then hunkered down with some Vietnamese take-out (an apropos supper, as it turns out) to watch the long-awaited return of Mr. Donald Draper.
Plenty of the 3.5 million viewers who tuned in will be complaining that “A Little Kiss” wasn’t worth the wait (what could be, really, after nearly a year and a half?), but we thought the episode did a lovely job of tying up loose ends from last season as well as setting up this season’s impending drama. Here’s what P&V has to say about the return of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (and Campbell) gang:
Don is Old. (We Get It.) The aging of Don Draper was a central theme of the episode, with Don turning 40 (and Dick Whitman six months before that), Megan calling him a dirty old man and Bobby candidly telling his father that he’ll be dead when Bobby reaches 40. We found it all to be a little heavy-handed compared to Weiner’s usual finesse. The scene where Don grimaced at his white shaving cream beard was the subtlest jab at Don’s advancing age.
The Kids are All Right. The youngest members of the SCDP team were striving just as before, with Peggy working nights and weekends, and Pete aggressively chasing down new (and old, in the form of Mohawk Airlines) accounts. Peggy and Pete also seemed more than a little irked by their superiors’ apathy. Every office scene seemed to commence with a reference to a partners’ meeting that virtually everyone had missed, and the Don-Peggy and Roger-Pete antipathy received a lot of screen time. Pete’s rejection of the SCDP office hierarchy and foot stamping about what he deserves seemed very Gen Y to us, except we suspect that few Gen Y’ers have to contend with drunk partners crashing their biz dev meetings.
Megan. Wow. Who knew? We left last season believing that Don had married a sweet, French-Canadian Mary Poppins, an anti-Betty who would dote warmly on his children and soften his hard edges. WRONG. Megan, as it turns out, is needy, manipulative and kind of kinky. Megan craves Peggy’s praise on her coupon copy at work (and complains to Don that none of their colleagues like her), and begs for Don to notice her as she cleans up the impeccably decorated Draper home in black lingerie post-surprise party. Don, for his part, is seemingly hooked on Megan’s sexy brand of crazy (that is, when she’s not embarrassing the hell out of him with birthday burlesque numbers). Am I the only one still holding out hope that Don will run into a widowed Rachel Menken on the street?
Are We Supposed to Root for Pete Campbell Now? During the first several seasons of Mad Men, we loved to hate Pete. We despised his smarmy little face, his abuse of the office secretaries (and neighbors’ babysitters) and his mysterious hold on our heroine, Peggy, and we liked nothing better than to watch Don make Pete feel small. But now in Season 5, is it possible that Pete has traded in his black cowboy hat for a white one? In the wake of the Y&R water bombing debacle, Pete is the only SCDP employee appalled by the incident. (Did you cringe like we did when Don deemed the stunt “funny”?) We also found Pete’s support of his postpartum-stricken wife, Trudy, to be quite endearing, although the advice of his crude train companion seemed to give Pete some pause. As well, there was a marked similarity between the late-night kitchen greeting between Pete and Trudy, and the Season 1 scenes when Don would return home to a waiting Betty. (The kitchens are too similar not to be deliberately so.) Perhaps this is what Weiner meant with all of his cryptic talk about how things will change yet stay the same in Season 5: is Pete the new Don?
Ewwwww. Lane couldn’t manage to perform a good deed (returning the lost wallet) or catch up with a work colleague (Joan) without getting straight creepy. As the episode ended with Lane collecting resumes from black secretary applicants, we already knew that Lane had found his next target.
The Blue Elephant in the Room. Our favorite scenes last night featured Joan sashaying (with some uncharacteristic difficulty) into the SCDP offices with baby Kevin. The reaction of her colleagues to the tiny blue bundle revealed oh-so-much: Megan and Peggy’s visible discomfort holding the infant, and Roger’s excessive bluster (and Joan’s visible pride) as Roger inspected his son. The back-and-forth between Peggy and Pete as they argued over who should take the infant was both hilarious and heartbreaking, a peek at what *could* have been.
BFFs or Frenemies? The friendship between Megan and Peggy seemed, at first blush, to be kind of adorable. Look at them hugging, smiling and comparing notes about Don! But it turns out that Megan is no fool and Peggy is ready to out-Miyagi Joan after seasons of subtle abuse. Peggy encouraged Megan to invite Don’s accountant to his surprise birthday party (oops!) and tattled to Don when Megan went home sick. Turns out Megan has the upper hand this week, because Peggy sending Don chasing after her is *exactly* what Megan wanted. We also wondered exactly how high Megan is in Don’s trust tree when Megan answered Peggy’s question about where to put Joan’s baby with an off-hand “on the steps of a church.” BURN.
Aside from the major themes, there were some other memorable tidbits we can’t go without mentioning:
- Who was Joan talking about when she told the new secretary that she knew a girl who once had her job that “ended up with everything”: Peggy, who rose from secretary to creative in a single year? Or Megan, the newly-minted Mrs. Draper and copywriter? Or perhaps Jane, the one-time secretary of Don who married Joan’s maybe-or-maybe-not true love, Roger?
- Are we the only one who noticed that Megan refused breakfast in favor of black coffee? Perhaps an eating disorder is yet another sign of Megan’s latent insecurity?
- What exactly is Roger up to chasing after Pete: trying to reclaim his former success by stealing Pete’s thunder or just messing with the kid for lack of better amusement?
- Season 5 Harry is skinnier and douchier. (Just like Jonah Hill!)
- The sight of Pete’s BB gun being moved into his new office was a thoughtful, clever nod to Season 1. We can’t decide whether it was meant as a sign of how Pete has grown or as a reminder that Pete is still a ruthless little prick.
- Megan’s coral chevron-patterned frock coat = amazing. We MUST have it.
All in all, we can’t complain about a show that gives us *this* much to think about. We’re already looking forward to next week’s episode, with one small request: MORE SALLY, PLEASE!