It's A Good Thing It Didn't End With The Fourth Season
Welcome back, Mad Blog followers! It’s been an impossibly long, long 17 months! But apparently the two-hour “Mad Men” opener this Sunday is so dazzling that it more than repays our patience with the toddler-aged wait.
In the interim, however, there’s no denying we put up with a lot. While "MM" creator and show runner Matthew Weiner was in protracted negotiations with AMC, where were we to turn for the intoxicatingly complex plots, emotional character developments, and obsessive recreations of the past that we had all come to rely on, if not worship? Other than the Republican presidential debates, of course? (Ba-da-bum!)
Unfair? Well, here’s just one nugget on the theme of history repeating itself, and/or Weiner’s prescient historical choices: in the PILOT episode, which takes place in 1960, a soon-to-be-traumatized Peggy goes to see Joan’s “friend,” a patronizing gynecologist (who smokes in the exam room!) and gives her a prescription for the just-released “contraceptive pill.” He tells her that even though it’s expensive and she’s paying for it, it doesn’t mean that she has to “turn into the town pump.” Shades of Rush!
Incidentally, another thing I wanted to get off my chest: I was not a fan of the mannequin poster promoting season 5. (The falling man image is not my fave, either.) But this one shows Don looking good from the back, in homburg and suit, as he apparently window-shops (for a life?) He’s seen reflected in, and looking though, the glass of a department store window. That’s certainly an apt set-up for the main theme of the show: the inside-out duality of identity, and the power of the male gaze. But in this particular tableau, the faceless female mannequin is naked, with her clothing pooled around her feet, while the male dummy sits regally in a chair, attired in a velvet smoking jacket, striped pajama pants, and slippers.
Weiner explained it as a “dream-like” image, suggesting the surrealist art of de Chirico. But to me, it looks like the man is inspecting the woman and that she will soon be on her knees. And for people who don’t get that "Mad Men" is really about the liberation of women, the image will just reinforce and condone your everyday jeans ad, where similar power inequities usually are just reduced to a crude suggestion of a BJ.
So where were we? Oh, yes -- with “Tomorrowland,” the last episode of Season 4, where the writers left us with one hot mess, with the characters (although still outwardly starched and inwardly girdled) in deep, um, disarray.
It all sounds so soap operatic: lushly curved Joan, newly promoted to director of operations, still married to what’s-his-name, (Greg Harris) the washed-up surgeon with rapist tendencies who left for the Army, is still preggers by Roger, the old but dashing office heel, after a mugging led to a sidewalk clinch. Meanwhile, Peggy, who earlier had given up a baby at 20, and had a nervous breakdown and a break with the church over it, is the single female copywriter and rising star at the now sinking break-away shop, Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. Ever-scrappy, (and, unlike Don, in touch with the coming “youthquake”), she snags a low-rent pantyhose account. (Maybe it turns into L’Eggs?) Pete the impregnator (post-Peggy, he has finally produced a baby with his own wife, Trudy) still feels underpaid and underpraised. Lane is still British.
The biggest shocker, though, is that main character Don, that man of Brylcreem and mystery, who changed identities in Korea, who has weathered major bouts of mad drinking and mad sex, and seems to have hit bottom both at work and with his divorce and kiddie problems, rose up impulsively and asked his young secretary, raven-haired Canadian vixen Megan, to marry him. Why? Well, 25-year-old Megan proved herself to be the Messiah (or at least not Betty, the refrigerator mom/ex-Mrs. Draper) on a trip to Disneyland when she effortlessly cleaned up Bobby’s spilt milkshake without screaming at the kid or crying about her fate. The nuptial move proves that Don is still exercising his true talent: the ability to disassociate from reality.
Will Betty be insanely jealous and take it out on the kids? Is young Sally doomed? Will the Bobby character be played by yet another child actor? (It’s the equivalent of the disappearing, and ever-replaced, drummers in rock-n-roll bands.)
Frankly, my two major fears about the coming season are: a) that Don will actually marry Megan; and b) polyester.
SPOILER ALERT: We do know that Megan is in the season opener, and even has a musical number; and thankfully, the drama is still set in the 1960s (1967 or so) with nary a leisure suit in sight.
Oh, but there’s so much deliciousness ahead! As an Englishman previously said, “Enjoy your champagne and delicatessen!”
What I relish most, Mad Blog-wise, are the genius commenter threads. Please go ahead and comment on your feelings about the coming season. I will post my reviews on Tuesday mornings.
Meanwhile, here’s to the returning Mad Men! Let’s hope it’s all that, and a box of Velveeta!