Sunday, August 23, 2009

Don Draper: Problem Solver

Fall TV season may still be a month away, but it sure doesn't feel like it with Top Chef, Project Runway, and most importantly Mad Men all premiering within the same week. And unlike last season, Mad Men's showing no signs of waiting until the fall to really get going.

That's right, no episodes centered around a new copy machine this season. Last week's premiere got the season off to quite the start, having a number of those "this won't happen for years" things happen all at once. Pete got his big promotion (sort of)! Sal got together with a guy! Don knows his secret!

But first, let's talk about what they didn't address, namely a lot of the cliffhangers from last season. Duck Phillips? Gone without a trace. We even got to see his replacement (or replacement's replacement?) following him out the door. Hard to think of a better exit for him than his season-ending meltdown. Continued tension between Peggy and Pete after she told him about the baby? Don't expect that for awhile. At least in episode 2 we found out about Roger and Jane's status (married!)

We've also gotten a taste of life under British rule. Impressively, episode 2 already showed some colonial tension, with Don questioning new boss Pryce after Home Office pulled the plug on the Madison Square Garden account (which was a nice bit of New York City history right there). Figured it would take more than two episodes before they'd start getting into it. My favorite new character though is Moneypenny (sadly missing from episode 2), a Pete Campbell lookalike male secretary who thinks of himself as more powerful. So essentially a British Pete Campbell. Awesome.

As for the original, Pete had one of his best episodes when he finally got the promotion he tried to blackmail Don for in season 1....only to lose all the joy from his goofy victory dance when he found out he had to share the honor with Ken. For Ken (and most rational human beings), it was a cause of celebration. But as Pete whined in his best little girl voice, "Why can't I get everything all at once? Why do I have to wait?" Personally, I'm happiest when Pete's at his most slimy and ambitious, so his competition with Ken is my favorite new storyline this season.

Though the bigger shocker last week was Sal, taking action where he couldn't just two seasons ago, and having to now share his secret with Don. That scene on the plane afterwards, where Don asks him to be completely honest before going into a new pitch for London Fog...amazing. Between that scene and the one with Pete and Ken in the elevator, it's clear that Mad Men's at its best when everything's said in the subtext.

Now, admittedly, this week wasn't quite as jaw-dropping as the premiere, but it still had a fair amount of forward motion. We got a nice return to the Don/Peggy relationship, as each of them set to problem solving in their own way. Don wooed a client (who he would later have to drop) and ended a feud between Betty and her brother by dictating what would happen. Must be scary to have Don Draper as a brother-in-law. While Peggy decided to follow Joan's lead (or more accurately Don's) by picking up a guy in a bar and slipping out in the middle of the night. Bye bye birdie indeed.

As great as the season's started out, I was satisfied as soon as I heard that opening theme music. It feels good to be back in the '60s.

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