This premiere, of course, did reveal a few other things that would have seemed wildly improbable back when the show premiered in 2007: Joan’s handling her own accounts at the agency; Roger’s living in some sort of communal free-love arrangement with a bunch of unwashed-looking people; Pete’s in Los Angeles, wearing plaid pants and talking groovy about the vibrations of the city. (And Ken Cosgrove, Pete’s smooth-talking onetime nemesis, is now reduced to bumbling around the New York office in a near-constant state of frazzlement and suffering the embarrassing effects of having zero depth perception.) But “Time Zones” was, like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” an installment all about Don Draper and Peggy Olson and their lives at and after work.
Chris, Amy, what did you two take away from this season’s premiere? Any absurdly early predictions for Where Don Draper’s Life Is Going, or any guesses as to what “I have to get back to work” is really an excuse for?
Sullivan: Did everyone have the same thought as the first few minutes of the premiere rolled by? “Freddy Rumsen, what the hell? Sobriety definitely agrees with you, man!” And it does—Freddy seems to be doing just fine these days. But he never was and never will be Don Draper, a man whose advertising pitches can still give Peggy Olson a shiver of delight. Even if, as Freddy says, she had to "lift her leg" and futz around with the tagline.
I loved the way that first scene was shot, with Freddy staring straight into the camera, giving us the full Don Draper. Watch it again, now that you know it was all Don’s idea. Of course that’s not Freddy. But that’s why Don is one of the best. His words sell products; it scarcely matters who actually says them.
After a pretty dismal run on the job last year, it’s nice to see Don getting his game back, even if no one knows it’s him. I have a theory, Ashley, that while Don is obviously still lying—at least by omission—about a whole lot of things, he’s no longer lying to himself. That separates him from Pete, whose hug(!) of Don had a whiff of “Oh, thank God, someone familiar!” And from Roger, who is clearly on his 57th midlife crisis. And from Ken, whose attempts to forget that all he ever really wanted was to write short stories have turned him into a miserable, cranky mess. And even from Peggy, who collapses sobbing near the end of this episode once she stops pretending to herself that she doesn’t need a personal life because her professional life is so dandy.
That was heartbreaking. And not just because we’ve all been there, sister-friend. I just want to give Peggy a hug.
Back to Don, my theory is not based on much more than a few threads. He struck me as a man playing around with some ad campaigns as a workout, to prove to himself that he’s still got it. After all, everyone wants credit in that industry, even if Don is always chastising underlings who complain when he fails to credit them for their ideas. It also struck me that Don might have turned down Neve Campbell’s invitation because he was actually self-aware enough to see that she’d been gutted once by a man with an alcohol problem and he’s no longer lying to himself about his potential to spiral the same way.