'Mad Men': The Rise and Fall (and Rise?) of Don Draper

This week's episode offers a glimpse at the past of the show's main character. Will he ever return to his younger, hungrier self?



The fourth season of Mad Men premiered last month, revealing the aftermath of the creation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and the dissolution of the Draper marriage.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 Peggy and her creative partner clash and Don finds himself in an unusual work situation.

MORE ON Mad Men:
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The Atlantic Mad Men Panel: 'Mad Men': Bad Behavior All Around

Richard Drew (TV producer and creator of the blog Remote Patrolled): So that's how Don Draper first got his foot in the door at Sterling Cooper—he lied his way in! How appropriate for the man whose whole identity—and marriage—was built on a series of falsehoods.

I loved seeing last night's flashback to when Don met Roger, if only to see a younger, hungrier Don in action again. We've missed him. Don held back while drinking with his future boss so he could manipulate the meeting to his own advantage. Smart and ballsy.

Fast forward years later and Don is drunkenly stumbling through a client presentation, passing off a budding exec's work as his own and going to bed with one woman and waking up with another ... while forgetting to pick up his kids. Oh how times change. I wonder what the past Don would make of his present-day version. He probably would have fired him in disgust.

In contrast Peggy and Pete still have the old Don's hunger and drive. Peggy turned the tables on a sexist art director, beating him at his own game and later berating Don to get his act together. Meanwhile Pete took down the cocky Ken Cosgrove, laying out the ground rules for his employment and making clear who's the boss this time around. Both characters are finding their power—and watching them use it is one of Mad Men's true pleasures.

Don had better watch his back with those two around, although he's doing a pretty good job self-destructing on his own. Even Don's body seems weary, pasty and sickly. So when will the turnaround begin? Or is this a permanent decline...?

Catie Cambria (fashion publicist at Donna Karan New York): Are we watching the old guard shift to the new?

Don wins a prestigious Clio award, but then proceeds to spin off into his usual blur of booze and sex. Meanwhile Peggy is picking up the pieces, while resentful that he does not acknowledge her contribution to Glo-Coat.

These days, Peggy seems up to any challenge. She stands up to the misogynistic Stan, who sneers at her, "You are ashamed of your body, or should be at least." Peggy confronts his words and strips down, forcing him to do the same. As they discuss copy for Vicks Chemical, she constantly mocks Stan's aroused penis until he embarrassedly throws his clothes back on and admits defeat, calling her the "smuggest bitch in the world." Peggy's control of herself and her nude body is a great twist from when we saw her vulnerable in her boyfriend's arms. She takes this self-possession and confidence to Don, who drunkenly sold a tagline from a young man they interviewed (and made fun of) to Life Cereal. She tells Don to "fix it."

Roger is the other piece of this once-powerful team, and in a flashback we see him buying a young, lovelorn Joan a mink stole. After they win a Clio, Roger begins to swim in martinis. Joan sizes him up and tells him he is going from "lubricated to morose," and then abandons him.

Don is forced to hire the overeager young man whose idea he stole, and Ken Cosgrove is hired because, as Lane tells Peter in confidence, "Roger is a child." At the end of the episode, we flash back to Don and Roger riding up in the elevator, and as the door closes, I felt like we are seeing the end of era, even though we are at its beginning. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Past Mad Men panels:

'Mad Men': Bad Behavior All Around

'Mad Men': One-Liners, Sex Talk, and Nude Photography

'Mad Men': A Not-So-Happy New Year

'Mad Men': The Beginning of the End for Don Draper?

'Mad Men': 4 Takes on the Season Premiere

To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of insiders from the worlds of television, advertising, and fashion—