Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Review: Mad Men Season 2 Premiere

Mad Men, Season 2, Episode 1: For Those Who Think Young 9/10It's Valentine's Day, 1962 and we catch up with the characters last seen Thanksgiving of 1960. Don Draper resists change and reads poetry; Harry's wife is pregnant and Pete's is not. Peggy is a successful if put-upon copywriter, and Betty's lack of sexual fulfillment begins to leak out inappropriately.

This has been Hell Week at Basket of Kisses. My weekly news roundup feature was daily. It was impossible to keep up. So last night, we had a Laptops-and-Martinis season premiere party at my sister's, and I am tired and fascinated.


For a viewer new to the series, the characters were introduced in almost rapid-fire fashion, many at the height of emotional expression, but I cannot say if the introductions were intriguing or confusing. For me, the groundwork for a fascinating season 2 was laid, but as a standalone epiosde, it was unsatisfying. I never felt that way about any season 1 episode, each of which was a movie in miniature.

Still, there is plenty to latch onto. Don lives in a space of sorrow and contemplation, while virulently resisting change at the office. Betty longs for sexual fulfilment, giving her husband a sexy Valentine's surprise, but real connection is unavailable for her. She is becoming interested in observing those who misbehave, and makes you wonder how long she will keep herself from misbehaving. She views herself as old, past "all that," but she is frustrated and full of longing. Horseback riding as a new hobby is symbolism not lost on me. Meanwhile she reconfirms her commitment to making sure her daughter has an eating disorder ASAP.

Peggy is the subject of gossip and conjecture. Thin again, the office wags wonder if she had a secret pregnancy, and only Pete seems clueless. But her writing is excellent, and the intensity of her mentoring relationship with Don is riveting.

Trudy weeps for the pregnancy that isn't happening. Those of us who saw season 1 know that Pete doesn't shoot blanks. Why is Trudy so delicate (other than that marriage to Pete cannot be good for one's self esteem)? Was there a miscarriage?

All in all, an excellent establishing-the-season episode, but I'd have preferred something more self-contained.