The fourth season of Mad Men premiered last night, revealing the aftermath of the creation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and the dissolution of the Draper marriage.
To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of insiders from the worlds of television, advertising, and fashion--Richard Drew, Danielle Robinson, Leigh Davenport, and Catie Cambria--to provide their takes on all the sex, the clothes, and of course, the drama.
Richard Drew (TV producer and creator of the blog Remote Patrolled): This was a confident and fresh episode that took the show in a whole new direction, and successfully built on the Season 3 finale (in my book the show's best moment to date).
Many shows peak in their first season and then struggle to recapture that early success, but Mad Men is getting steadily better as the show matures. Gone was the sometimes leaden pacing (although I did feel too much time was spent on Don's blind date). Unnecessary characters like Paul and Ken have been jettisoned, and the show suddenly feels unpredictable and new, freed from the shackles of Sterling Cooper and Don's doomed marriage to Betty.
For me though the highlight was seeing my favorite character, Peggy, front and center and holding her own. Peggy's transformation from mousy secretary to independent woman has been a joy to watch and seeing the now glamorous and confident Ms. Olson giving orders to her male subordinate ("chop, chop"), standing up to Don ("now you're just being spiteful") and drinking spirits with the guys (on work time of, course)--I just wanted to stand up and cheer her on.
It's one of the ironies of Mad Men that it actually has the best females characters on TV. Now let's just see more of Joan and watch permanently unhappy Betty's new marriage unravel--and we'll be all set for another great season...
Danielle Robinson (account director at New York advertising company Footsteps Group): At the end of last season, we witnessed the bold birth of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. And like thousands of other fans, I couldn't wait to get a peek inside the new agency.
"Who is Don Draper?": the opening query posed to Don by a reporter from Ad Age did nothing to quench my thirst for intel on the new agency. At this point in the series, we're all too familiar with Don's personal identity crisis. Show me the new agency! Then, five minutes into the episode, it happened. Set to a brassy Broadway-esque tune, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was revealed as Don, Roger, and Peter walked through the glass double doors and along with Bert waltzed down the hallway.
The theme of identity played out well throughout the episode. Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce was alive and thriving, but struggling to define its place on Madison Avenue amid giants like Y&R. Peter described the agency as a "scrappy upstart" capable of winning accounts that the big guys can't because while the big guys' creative department takes up six floors, they don't have Don. Every agency, big and small, thinks that they have the best talent and the burden of proof is always on the agency. This season will undoubtedly be an interesting coming-of-age story about Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Meanwhile, Don's identity is now more complex than ever as he transitions from creative director to managing partner and he realizes that just as his clients need to decide what they want to be, so does the new agency. He also realizes his responsibility in shaping the agency's identity by attaching it to his own.