It's been a few months: Don and Megan are together and living in the city, with a fantastic mod apartment in which it would seem Sally's taken to Megan like a little lesbian. Roger's as aimless and sad as ever, and Pete's found new reserves of the whiny ambition that powers him. Joan's taken some time off after giving birth to Roger's baby while she awaits her husband's return from the War and her drunkenly helpful mother's eventual absence, but all she can think about is whether any of them at SCDP can survive without her special touch.
Both hours of tonight's long awaited premiere center around the lead-up and eventual fallout from two events: A racist prank at rival agency Y&R, where they drop water balloons on protesters, and Don Draper's 40th birthday party. In the former case, the junior partners at SCDP decide to run an ad touting themselves as an Equal Opportunity Employer -- not in the Want Ads, but in the regular advertising -- as a way of selling themselves as progressive. Which, by the way, they all have decided to be, in that particularly stuttery way of the mid-1960s where they've bought into civil rights but still find themselves stepping in giant puddles of Flannery O'Connor every few minutes.
We spend the first two acts getting into the status quo at the firm, which mostly involves Nader jokes, Peter in charge of the art department and possibly a big-fish airline client, continued financial worries for SCDP, and some awesome new secretaries. Stan Rizzo is thankfully still around, and along those lines we get some rather lovely surprises regarding Megan: First of all, she's moved into Creative, like she wanted. Secondly, she and Peggy get along famously. And third? She knows all about Dick Whitman, totally gets it, and just wants Don to be happy. Even if that means throwing him his Don Draper birthday party, six months after the fact, in their home -- and against Peggy's advice.
After Roger uses his goatish reputation to find out where Pete's taken Mohawk Air for lunch, reschedules so Pete will be late, and then gets drunk off his ass with them, Pete realizes he's going to need to up the ante: Roger's self-destruction has been going on for like a decade at this point, and apparently he will just never accomplish it. That, plus somehow managing to bloody his own nose, puts Pete on the warpath once again.
But it's not just Pete who's getting impatient with the older generation -- remember when Don was Now and Roger was the old guy? -- because let me tell you, for all her affection toward Megan Peggy absolutely hates what happiness has done to Don. After a crappy pitch to rebrand Heinz beans as some sort of Cirque de Soleil of beans -- and Don's calm acceptance of the client's know-nothing ire -- Peggy makes it clear that a happy Don is a Muggle Don... Including to Don's face, after getting stoned -- with the crazily dressed and surprisingly hip Campbells, her own beatnik journalist boyfriend, and wonderful Stan Rizzo -- in a rant about her hard work and his lack of gumption which of course does not faze him (but does inadvertantly piss off Megan).
But that's not the big news for the birthday party: The big news is Megan's pretty amazing performance of some French pop hit that's probably a direct reference to something but just reminded me of Ann-Margret attempting to throw something in the wastepaper basket. It gives all the dudes boners, which seems to be a good thing until the party is over, and Don makes it very clear that this new act -- the super hip-and-cool urban couple with an open floorplan and sunken living room -- might end up being just as exhausting as any of the bullshit Betty ever thought to perpetrate.
Although it's surprising how well these characters fit into this early-model fondue party of a culture: Lane and his wife Rebecca sit easily on the step, trading barbs with Ken and his gal, and giggling at Roger's shticky gimmicky personality, while over here you have Trudy and Pete dressed like Missy Elliott and acting bitchy and kind of awesome toward everybody that walks by. Even after Peggy blearily goes off on Don, you still can't be sure things are going to end up in a shitshow until stupid Harry gives Don a walking stick for his birthday, which is just like yelling YOU ARE OLD.
Which is essentially what Megan does, after he lies in bed whining for a good twenty minutes about absolutely nothing, showing how game and smart she is in the process and how unwilling she is to buy into his bullshit even as she's enabling it... Although all the sunny-side-up adoring indulgence in the world doesn't keep her from stalking out to the balcony once his words slice a little too deep, to stare Frenchly into the night and apply an even smokier eye.
I must admit, in the fifty years since last season ended, my thoughts have been almost entirely of Megan: Who is she? What will she be? Was Faye the one that got away? Is this a midlife crisis? Is this about Anna? Why didn't any of the thousand Fake Betties make it through the vetting process, but this "Frere Jacques"- humming maniac is the one? Is she the new Midge, or that pretty teacher, or what? On what model is she built? Will Peggy like her? (Yes.) Will Joan like her? (Probably not.)
We get two very different answers, over the two episodes, but for the purposes of this first one: The answer is that Megan is exactly what she appears to be. Fun, smart, sexy, a Helen Gurley Brown rather than a Marilyn or Jackie, who just wants to open the shades on Don's life and let some light in. I always thought Don fell for her when the kids spilled that milkshake in California and she didn't immediately pull out a shotgun or riding crop like Betty would have, and I think I was right. She is accepting without being complacent, funny without being particulary goofy, and way more equipped to put up with his Don Draper bullshit than anyone should be expected to be.
And the reveal that she loves Dick Whitman every bit as much? Kinda made me want to marry her too.
Next hour: The full repercussions of the Equal Opportunity ad are far-reaching; Lane displays the finest soul you could imagine, and more than a little romance to him; Pete and Roger's scheming escalates alarmingly; even Megan's crazy bitch side is still marvelously awesome and appealing. -- Jacob
Hello! It has been a long time -- far longer in real time than in show time, which might possibly have helped erase the bitterness of Dr. Faye's unceremonious, capricious, ill-considered dumping... OH WAIT. In that massive stretch of time, though, I did re-watch the whole series and while listing all the wonderful little things I either caught anew or was reminded of would take a recap in itself, I will say this: When Betty found out her father had had a stroke, she confided to Don, "God, you know I've been dreaming about a suitcase?" You're welcome. And let's get to it!
We open on what we will learn is Madison Avenue, with a group of twenty or thirty protesters that are mostly, but not exclusively, African-American (although the only Caucasian I see marching with them is wearing priest's vestments), and whose chants demand equal employment opportunities for them. In an office a few floors up, a group of bored white dudes express their annoyance at what's going on below. One of them opens the window and yells down for the protesters to get a job and if that's his idea of clever irony, I'm guessing this firm's advertising copy isn't on Don Draper's level. One of the dudes then comes up with the idea to pour some water out the window on the protesters and soon they're filling paper bags with water and dropping them on the people below. Their indolence, of course, is irony that actually works, not that they're aware of that...
...and they're soon faced with bigger problems, as a bunch of angry African-American women, with at least one kid and one white reporter in tow, enter the firm's reception area and tell the woman on duty about the infantile bombardment. The receptionist, archly but I believe sincerely, denies any knowledge of it, adding that they're on the executive floor, but said "executives" immediately blow up their own spot by running in from the bathroom with a fresh batch of projectiles ready to be launched. They hang their heads in shame, appropriately looking like little boys as a result, and the whole tableau is just screaming to be rendered as a New Yorker cartoon.
Presumably the next day, a plastic alarm clock goes off and I realize time must march on even on this show, but as we move to the later sixties (and I don't think that much time has passed -- I'm guessing we're mid-1966) one of the things I'll miss most is the sleek set design of the previous era. The deco revival couldn't last forever, I guess. Sally's slow to arise, which at first seems to explain the continuation of the xylophone coming from my television, but the sound persists even though she makes no move toward the clock; instead, she wanders down a rather long, carpeted hallway full of the half-unpacked boxes that signal a recent move. When she reaches the cheap wooden double doors at the end, she attempts to open them but finds them locked. Presently, Don opens up, dressed only in his boxers. I could be wrong, but I thought he used to be more modest around his kids. Perhaps this is meant to be a signal of the more freewheeling attitude of the later sixties. Of course, analyzing why the show would have Jon Hamm in as few clothes as possible threatens to violate Occam's Razor, but Mad Men has earned our trust by now and the place's general disarray backs up the idea that people have generally become less uptight. Anyway, Sally tells Don she thought this was the bathroom, but he points her in the right direction, and given you practically have to squint to see where he's gesturing we can take the point that he spent a pretty penny on this place. Sally makes no move to leave, instead stealing a not-particularly-subtle glance inside, where a Megan-shaped woman is asleep, naked and facing away from them. Don asks Sally if she'd like breakfast...