The fourth season of Mad Men premiered last week, 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.
They weigh in on this week's show, in which Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce celebrated the holidays and dealt with an unexpected visitor.
Richard Drew (TV producer and creator of the blog Remote Patrolled): Last week's Mad Men was all about change—from Peggy's confident new look to shifting trends in the advertising industry (exemplified by Pete's PR stunt and Don's risqué swimsuit campaign). This week, though, seemed to focus on the generation gap as the young staff at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce suddenly seemed even more at odds with their older colleagues.
We had Peggy, slightly more "proper" than last week, clashing with the returning Freddy Rumsen, now sober but still old-school in his views regarding marriage and women. Fact is Peggy is smarter, sharper, and a better ad exec than Freddy ever was—but has to work twice as hard to get half as far. Now you can see her merely tolerating Freddy to get the job done.
Then there was Don himself, still the lothario, but rapidly becoming a figure of pity. For me the most telling moment of the episode was when Don's secretary Allison had to retrieve his keys and come to the rescue of her drunken boss. "He's pathetic," sneered new assistant Joey. What a turnaround for the man who had it all.
Of course Don and Allison ended up having a drunken one-night stand—an awkward fumble on the couch that made neither party look good. And earlier Don made moves on his student nurse neighbor—a flirtation that felt both creepy and desperate. At times like this, you can sense Mad Men is not going to end well for Don Draper. Is this the beginning of the end?
Danielle Robinson (account director at New York advertising company Footsteps Group): This episode put a spotlight on the complexities of client-agency relationships, especially for an agency leaning on one or two accounts for the majority of their revenue. From welcoming the return of Freddie Rumson—who arrived with the $2 million Pond's cold cream account in hand that he stole from J. Walter Thompson—to throwing an over-budget holiday party all because Lee Garner, Jr (the head of their biggest client, Lucky Strike) invited himself to the festivities, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is seemingly unable to turn down client demands even when integrity and reputation are at stake.
At the holiday party, Garner forced Roger to don a Santa suit and he even got flirty with his wife. When Roger Claus presented Mr. Garner with a Polaroid camera, Mr. Garner quipped, "You didn't need to do that." That's when Lane mumbled a reply that summed up the agency's position perfectly: "Yes, we did."
Meanwhile, we learned that while Peggy is anything but traditional in her professional life, she has chosen a very different approach to her dating life. She led her boyfriend, Mark, to believe that she is a virgin—perhaps to get him to marry her, perhaps to try to finally live up to what her family expects of her. Whatever the reason, by the end of the episode she sleeps with him (shocker!). It will be interesting watching this storyline unfold and finding out if Peggy gets what she wants.