Episode Reviews (7)
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New season & new faces - the British are here and they're stirring things up
Excellent start to the new season with changes being made at Sterling Cooper including the addition of two interesting new British characters.
When Don & Salvatore take a tip out of town to see a client, Don proves that although his wife is pregnant a leopard does not change his spots and Salvatore reveals more to Don than he should have done although Don handles it well on the journey home.
Pete Campbell again proves than he is not easy to please and is more like a spoilt child than ever.
It will be interesting to see how these story lines are going to progress over the next few weeks.moreless
Changes at Sterling Cooper
Although many will likely disagree with me, Season 2 didn't hold my interest the same way Season 1 did. During Season 1, Don Draper was such an enigma that by the time we hit "Nixon vs. Kennedy" and "The Wheel," the show that usually felt like a slow burn suddenly felt as riveting as any of AMC's other shows. However, Season 2 was a bit more methodical in its story-telling, and while I appreciated a lot of the character arcs, some of them felt rushed and the last few episodes of the season didn't pack the same punch that Season 1 did.
But enough of the complaining. Season 2 was still amazing television, and based on this premiere (which I think is the strongest premiere the show has had to date), Season 3 is going to be a pretty darn good one. The opening scene prepares us for what will likely be another season of Don Draper struggling to reconcile his two identities: he imagines the steps that lead to him being born. It's quintessential Mad Men, the flashbacks that merge effortlessly with the present, revealing just a sliver of Draper's life without showing the whole thing.
The episode itself was actually a bit more energetic than I was used to for a Mad Men episode, but that's likely because a lot has changed with the characters. Sterling Cooper has merged with Putnam Powell and Lowe, meaning the British have set up shop inside Madison Avenue and are making changes. They're firing people, giving promotions to Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove and just being generally disruptive of the usual way things run.
The best parts of the episode were in Baltimore, where Don and Sal go for a business trip to try and convince a company called London Fog (a raincoat manufacturer) to stay with them, despite the changes going on at Sterling Cooper. Here, Don and Sal prove to be a good team and have a good rapport with one another. I loved watching them take on new identities around the stewardesses. Don and Sal already live duel lives (Don, with his false identity and Sal with the secret of his homosexuality), so watching them adopt new persona's seemed almost like a metaphor for the show itself. When Don discovered Sal, I was curious at how Matthew Weiner and the rest of the writing crew would handle it, and I couldn't have asked for a better way: Don ignores Sal's proclivities and acts as if it didn't happen.. I guess what happens in Baltimore stays in Baltimore as well.
I could write more, but with this show, there always seems to be more to write about. Let's hope Season 3 can stay as consistent as the last two seasons were.moreless
Donâ€™s mother gives birth to a stillborn baby, of which we catch a brief glimpse (great analogy of Don's life). Subtle hints Sal is gay is replaced with a brazen display of such. Don catches Sal red-handed. Pete is promoted but has to share with Ken.
The curtain has been pulled back. Life before the 70's was not as pure and simple as we have been led to believe. Human nature has always been the same and the proof was offered up in this episode. The juxtaposition of period authenticity with 21st century shock and awe was well blended. The flashback to Don's "birth" was superbly blended with him standing at the stove current-day. The words coming out of Don's mother's mouth (remember that had to be the 30's) were unexpected and yet another layer of lies was added as the midwife presented Don's mother with a live baby named Dick. Pete's shock and disappointment was almost tangible and Ken's naivetÃ© was real.
Sal's performance was awesomely uncomfortable.moreless
Plenty of emotion, plenty of underplayed majesty.
The subtle nature of this show is one of its most endearing powers. The slow, untidy reveal of Don's previous life (here expressed in the opening with Don's strange moments of imagining the past; his birth, his adopted mother's taking of him in). This episode brings in new characters to be pulled into from the get-go; the agency has gone through tumultuous times, and here we find our cast rediscovering their limits and strengths. Major progression happens with some long-standing characters (Salvator not the least of which), and we see Draper at top form, his ability to grant ease to his subordinates while he himself is sometimes unhinged.
The birth bookends--Don's birth at the beginning and his daughter asking for the story of her own--is a perfect example of how well paced, plotted, and timed this show can be--subtle, again, but not too cocky with it. Not the strongest episode of the show--any episode in which Ken Cosgrove and Campbell play major roles often leads me dangerously close to being bored (both seem almost too adolescent for me; their roles in the company barely discussed, their abilities too unevenly contrasted)--but a strong episode to begin the season with.moreless
Mad Men is finally back! Sal and Don go out of town where a secret is revealed. Ken and Pete learn ther promotion is not what is seems. The British bosses get introduced.
Mad Men is back and the episode starts with a very "Soprano-esque" sequence where Don views his birth. It turns out its his "real" birthday (not Don's but Dick's) We learn the rather grim way he originally got to be named Dick and the rather embarrassing circumstance of his birth. Don could never know any of this of course and it was very surreal. Everyone knows the writer of the show worked on the Sopranos, and they were known for doing this sort of thing, it was artsy but well executed.
The great thing about this show is how the product ties into the show. For the new season, it is London Fog. At that time it only did raincoats but it was a big account and the firm sends Don and Sal to Baltimore to cement the client after Sterling Cooper cans Burt, the head of accounts. A case of mistaken identity happens when a pretty stewardess reads the name on Don's luggage that had his brother in laws name on it and gives Don carte blnche for infedelity as he casually assumes the new identity. (this time for fun and Sal played along) This led to the first great line of the new season as Sal remarks after the gorgeous stewardess practically picks Don up on the plane that "he never saw a stewardess that game" to which Don quizically replies "really?" Welcome to the world of Don Draper Sal! Don and Sal goes out to dinner with the stewardess and two other airline employees and they expand their cover story by saying they are accountants. When one of the employees seems to put Sal down for being an accountant, Don leaps to his defense by saying he is an accountant to then casually mentions they are accountants for...wait for it..the FBI! Now they got their cool back at the table. Watching it was like an instructional video on how to be a wingman to pick up girls. lol
The big reveal was Don discovers Sal's homosexuality when a fire alarm goes off and while on the fire escape he sees a bellboy in Sal's room. Luckily for Sal, Don is where secrets go to die, so if he is discovered at the office, it won't be by Don. The theme of the episode ties into this as on the return trip, Don asks Sal to be honest with him (which Sal thinks means they are about to talk about what Don saw) and instead Don pitches an ad for London Fog with the tagline "limit your exposure" which obviously has many meanings considering the circumstances, and Sal obviously got it.
At the office, the British bosses are introduced as well as setting up a story about the boss's male secretary, who obviously is defensive about it. The secretaries are perplexed with what to do with him, as this is quite a gender norm breaker for the time. He insists to all he is not merely a secretary, but is his boss' "right hand man". By the end of the episode however it is revealed his boss really only considers him a secretary.
Finally Pete and Ken, in an amusing bit, both get told they will be head of accounts, although they do not find out until later they will split up the business and share the title. This is a tortose and the hair story as the show shows each of their interactions with the brit boss and they are a study of contrasts. Pete, the whiny corporate shill, makes a mess of butt kissing, forgets to ask if he will get a raise but gets the job anyway. Ken, Mr. Laid back, is pleasantly surpirsed, casually makes small talk and asks about salary and shakes his boss' hand. The Brit was obviously more impressed with Ken.
Pete seeths about sharing duties with Ken, as Ken barely cares and Pete wants the status soo badly and tries to make it personal. Ken won't bite and points out to Pete the boss wants them to hate each other. Pete can see this too, but falls into the trap anyway because of his emotions.
All in all an enjoyable episode, well acted, and keeps up the theme of tying the product into the story and keeps up the "nothing happens/alot happens" vibe of the show.moreless
You would have to be "mad" to like this.
Mad Men was one of the biggest success stories at the Emmys last year, and no doubt will walk away with a few trophies again this year. But does the show constitute such achievements? Is the product really of the quality critics claim it to be?
The answer is no. This episode was not the sophisticated, charming, realistic look at 1960's life people believe this program offers; no, it was rather a pedestrian and hackneyed attempt to stereotype a generation of people into one group that does nothing but do the dirty deed and drink more than any alcoholic throughout history.
The scenes run for too long and too many low-level supporting characters get way too much time. I have no interest in Ken Cosgrove, because the first two seasons gave me no reason to care about him. Suddenly he is thrown into one of the top positions in the company? Sorry, I am not buying that.
I am sure people will love this premiere, but there is just so much superior television out there.moreless
Season 3 premiere
The best drama on TV by popular vote kicked off on a surprisingly good note. The trend I've observed in the last 2 seasons is that Mad Men is generally slow and painful to watch in the first 6 or 7 episode, and it starts to pickup around mid season. Season 3 began with a bang. The British have taken over Sterling Cooper, literally. It was very evident to see Bert and Sterling sitting like a bunch of wimps with no real power. We also see a character called Burt Peterson who is shown as the head of accounts, presumably the one who had taken Duck Phillips' job. And he is introduced with a firing scene - quite an irony considering the current job conditions. On account of that, Don and Sal are sent to Baltimore to assure London Fog, one of Peterson's account, that no harm would be done to their business. Typical Don, fools around with an air hostess under a different identity. Sal's homosexuality is finally revealed when Don sees him with a bellboy during the fire alarm mayhem. Price the new 'real' boss puts a strain on the relationship between Ken and Pete, when he gives the head of accounts post to both of them. Ken takes it easy, eager to take responsibility of his new role. While Pete shows his childish side, by showing his open disapproval toward the shared responsibility. This episode in short, tries to convey that things have now been shaken up. There is a new dynamic around. And it would be interesting to see how the characters of Don, and the other Mad Men, and Peggy progress over the next few months. Betty's pregnancy and Roger's marriage are some areas that haven't been touched here.moreless