'Mad Men' Resumes: Ain't That A Kick In The Head!

Hell's bells, Mad peeps! We're back!

I know we're all madly anticipating Sunday night's season 4 premiere. But try to relax. Have your kid pour you a drink. Dab some tuna on your saltines. Then take your shoes off and pull up an ottoman: we have a lot of deliciousness to discuss!

Work-wise, at least, "Sit Down and Close the Door," the final episode of season 3, could not have ended on a more exhilarating note. Last we saw Don, he was carrying his office belongings out of Sterling Cooper in a cardboard box bearing the Velveeta logo, possibly signifying that he was going to be The Big Cheese at the new agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Velveeta, of course, is fake food stuff, a sly joke from the writers. But given all that's happened to him on both the domestic and professional fronts, Don might actually have a chance to start over, and, as Dr. Phil says, "Get real."

Then again, this is "Mad Men." There's a reason Velveeta was invented: unlike the frequently stinky or melty real deal, processed food has an endless shelf life and is easier to package and ship. Odds are that Don will continue to process himself as a product, package himself neatly to the outer world, and numb himself with booze and sex in order to continue the painful charade of being Don Draper.

And he'll isolate. That's the core of the show: a man in isolation. And that's the message of the latest poster promoting the new season. The photo shows Don, seen from the back, still dynamically suited, starched, and Brylcreemed* [See SPOILER below], standing alone in an empty office, facing the floor-to-ceiling windows. The only object in the room is a mid-'60s-period landline phone, attached to a long cord, which stretches near his feet on the floor. Is it a landline, a lifeline or a land mine?



Mad Men poster

The creators often target the back of Don's head-- perhaps to reference his inscrutability. That way, we can't read his face. If you remember, we were introduced to Don in the pilot from behind: we see his well-dabbed coiff from the back, as he smokes and doodles on a napkin in a bar.

Plus, all along, the show's signature graphics showed a silhouetted Don-like figure from behind, with his arm around the back of a sofa. In the case of the latest poster, does the setup mean he's ready to wage a full-frontal assault on the world? Expose himself? Or jump? Just like the show, it raises more questions than it answers. Some things never change. It also suggests the beautiful, animated opener, a Hitchcock- like view of someone jumping. Yes, hold on to your homburgs: the message is ambiguity, though it leans more to something ominous than gleefully high-flying.

It could also suggest just how empty Don's life is, including his home life.** [See SPOILER below]

When you think about it, the birth story of the new agency is very much like Don's switch in identity: both created in trauma, overnight, forged out of a war, like a lightning-quick raid.***[See SPOILER below]

So this brings us pretty close to the opener, and here are my questions:

1)Will Don still be able to have sex with women if he no longer has a wife to cheat on?

2)If there is a divorce, will Sally (the excellent actress Kiernan Shipka) start acting out big-time, and need to be shipped off to live with her dad, where she'll run around the city, unattended, for all hours?(And will the lisp get worse from the trauma?)

3) Despite the male names on the door, will the agency turn into a ''gynocracy," as the English twit put it?

4)If so, will Joan now be able to rule over the world, and will Peggy Olson turn into Mary Wells Lawrence?

5)Will Sal start a new career as an Ann-Margret impersonator?

6) How crazy is Pete? Is he happy with Trudy or once again a weasel?

Oh, so much to chew on, Mad friends. How are you guys feeling? See you after the first episode!


SPOILER SECTION: *The year is 1964, so the story line hasn't jumped in time to the '70s.

** I was half hoping that Don and Betty would reconcile, but I'm afraid that's a pipe dream. They've moved on. According to a piece in the New York Times, Betty has indeed married Henry Francis, the creepy belly-feeling assistant to the New York governor, whom she's kissed once. He persuaded her to take no money from Don and run off to Reno to marry him immediately. I know -- it's pretty devastasting news. And apparently, Francis' mother has problems with Betts' mothering. That's gonna be rich!

***And it seems Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has moved, too, out of the suite at the Pierre and into proper offices. That bodes well, not only for the new agency's solvency, but perhaps more importantly, for employee sanity. All those alpha males in one room would not work -- they do not play well with others. Nor would Peggy and Pete be able to sit so close to each other for an extended run.

17 comments about "'Mad Men' Resumes: Ain't That A Kick In The Head!".
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  1. Ellen Lebowitz from Ellen Lebowitz Press, July 21, 2010 at 2:43 p.m.

    Thank you for the great read, Dorothy Parker.

  2. Michael Greenberg, July 21, 2010 at 2:55 p.m.

    Are you sure it's Brylcreem and not Wildroot Cream Oil (Charlie)?
    Love the show, love the blog. Can't wait for both.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 21, 2010 at 3:04 p.m.

    Dorothy, you are a goddess of words with analytical skills to be envied. I am sure many of your loyal readers would love to read more of your writings besides these historical articles. Could you direct us ?

  4. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, July 21, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.

    And, we finally get to read the musings of Dorothy Parker. I've been pining for almost 10 months!

  5. Marilyn Casey from MC Public Relations, July 21, 2010 at 3:43 p.m.

    wow! Thanks for the update, Dorothy. The dark underbelly of your musings make watching the show even mo' betta'.

  6. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost, July 21, 2010 at 3:43 p.m.

    For those who are interested, there's a marvelous "recap" on iTunes for free called "MAD RULES." There are about 10 of them and they're all things characters said throughout the first three seasons with prime examples...

  7. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost, July 21, 2010 at 3:49 p.m.

    Here it is on YouTube:

  8. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY, July 21, 2010 at 4:26 p.m.

    Yay! So good to see you again. Yes (would be an awful waste otherwise), maybe/maybe, yes, yes/maybe, no (definitely an awful waste), pretty/weasel.

  9. Melissa Aymami, July 21, 2010 at 5:22 p.m.

    The "Mad Rules" recap on iTunes is great!! I highly recommend you check them out...

  10. Henry Harteveldt from Forrester Research, July 21, 2010 at 5:31 p.m.

    Best part of the summer is seeing fresh posts from the MM blog again. Thank you, Dorothy Parker!

  11. Michael Stafford from Lewis Stafford Company, July 21, 2010 at 6:21 p.m.

    "A little dab will do us"...until Sunday. Should be fun!
    Sammy Kahn

  12. Randall Hoffner from ABC, Inc., July 21, 2010 at 10:46 p.m.

    Great pre-season opening blog! Fabulous to see you back, and to see MM back.

    Good perspective on the back of the head. Also, I saw Matt Weiner somewhere once say that the DP is obsessed with the backs of peoples' heads. Great serendipity, no?

  13. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV, July 21, 2010 at 10:54 p.m.

    TERRIFIC article, Dorothy. Glad you were renewed along with "Mad Men."

  14. Laura Haessler from University of Denver, July 22, 2010 at 3:57 p.m.

    Wonderful to have you back, D. I thoroughly enjoy your posts and am looking forward to reading your engaging insights again this season.

    I had to smile when I read your head allegory. Per MW, (as reported by Ben Zimmer of the NYT) a head reference will get "colorful" in an upcoming episode.

  15. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, July 23, 2010 at 12:47 p.m.

    Might anyone know who's going to be playing Betty's disapproving mother-in-law?

  16. Maddy Mud from McMarketing, July 26, 2010 at 1:32 p.m.

    I was hoping it would jump in time (per my comment from the last blog), but this eppie was really good.

  17. Cece Forrester from tbd, August 5, 2010 at 8:05 p.m.

    Hey Dorothy! I've been watching Mad Men for a while but just discovered your blog between seasons. You have some impressive literary criticism chops. I wonder if you teach literature. You notice symbolism, metaphor, themes, foreshadowing, irony, motifs, allusion, every layer of meaning. You let us see how much fun the writers must be having with this series. Nicely done.

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