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.
Catie Cambria (fashion publicist at Donna Karan New York): In the first few minutes of the premiere, Don meets with a swimsuit company that refuses to call "a two piece" anything but that, even as it loses business to those who keep making "bikinis" smaller and their ads racier.
The episode, for me, revolves around this idea of covered up versus revealed. It pivots at a Thanksgiving dinner, when we finally get to see the newly married Betty. I expected her outfit to be triumphant, but instead she looks older and remarkably worn, covered in a matronly, silk long-sleeved dress. Meanwhile, Don celebrates by making love to a call girl. Though he lets her hit him (once, twice, thrice), he insists that she does not remove her brasserie (it is in a deep red color that harkens back to Betty's dress.) Still stranger is that the call girl seems kinder than Betty that evening; Betty's angelic floral nightgown in sharp contrast to her rage as snatches the phone out of Sally's hand, quashing Sally's chance to wish Don a Happy Thanksgiving.
This episode puts Don's losses in high relief, yet he maintains an aura of charm and of romance, and he is still the hero of our story. That is, until he pitches to the swimsuit brand a photo of girl wearing bikini bottoms whose breasts are covered by copy that says, "So well built, we can't even show you the second floor." It's a great joke of course, because the offices of SCDP claim to have a second floor but don't. Covering up the girl's breasts in the ad is of course another type of cover-up; the swimsuit company rejects the ad, and Don loses his professional cool and throws them out of the office.