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Undeterred by less-than-stellar advance reviews and the high probability Pete Campbell would not, in fact, dance the Charleston, Mad Men loyalists turned out in droves for the premiere of the show's fourth season on AMC last night. Here's what a handful of them had to say:

  • 'Mad Men' 2.0 Last night's premiere contained the show's "first serious curveballs," writes the New Republic's Matt Zoller Seitz. Change is in the air and it isn't limited to the characters. The show has also remade itself technically. "'Mad Men' flat-out looks and feels different than it used to," observes Seitz. "The show is more cluttered and claustrophobic." Familiar characters "seem less guarded, more frank--newly prone to brusque, at times even crass, comments and behavior."
  • Who Is Don Draper? It's the show's central mystery, one audiences are no closer to solving today then back when the show debuted in 2007. That's fine by Salon's Heather Havrilesky, who praises creator Matthew Weiner and his writing staff for their devastating appraisal of the show's breakout character. Season four Draper isn't the king of cool, writes Havrilesky. He's "the ultimate dysfunctional American patriarch," fueled by "ego-driven compulsion to be a leader." Only now, divorced and floundering professionally, are viewers able to see Don Draper for what he is--"a man who questions his own worth at every turn."

  • A New Leaf The gambit of taking Draper down a peg is already starting to pay big dividends, writes Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly.

I like this new Don. I like this likably unlikable man who tells off some prospective clients peddling Jantzen's bathing suits because he views their fussy primness as both dumb and hypocritical. I like this new Don who goes back to his Greenwich Village apartment and barks at the day-maid for moving his shoeshine kit… and then proceeds to prove he’s just as fussily prim as the pious bumpkins he booted by sitting down right after work and immediately shining his shoes for the next day of butt-kicking.

  • The Ham Bombs New York Magazine's Logan Hill grouses that the episode's pivotal subplot--a disastrous PR scheme dreamed up by the ad men involving rioting and ham--didn't hold up under close scrutiny. "In 1964," notes Hill, "pop art (which has barely touched this show) was booming and the Factory was roaring — as were all those questions about the differences, or lack thereof, between art and products."

  • Heart of Darkness TV Squad's Bob Sassone missed the "caper vibe" of last year's season finale. The revamped narrative is supposed to infuse the show with energy, but Sassone came away from the premiere with a clammy, claustrophobic feeling, noting "I felt an overwhelming sadness in tonight's episode."

  • Just the Start Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle was ecstatic over the show's return, but cautioned fans from placing too much emphasis on the first few episodes of the season.

It's important for first episodes not to be jumped upon looking for definitive conclusions. Good storytelling rolls out slowly. There are feints and dodges. When Season 4 of 'Mad Men' is over, not everything we leapt at in the first episode will remain relevant.



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