MAD MEN: Scene of the Week

Finally! After what was an eternity, Don, Peggy, Roger, Joan, Pete, and the gang are finally back on our screens. As we inch closer towards 1970 (the show’s final destination), Don and Roger are different levels of miserable in their respective marriages to the too-young Megan and Jane. New mother Joan is exhausted and worried for her future. Peggy has evolved from Don’s mousy secretary to the true power behind the agency. Only Pete provides any competition for that title (and did I mention that he is what Don once was, daily train rides, yard, a dog on the way, and all?).

Back to Mr. Draper. He’s playing house in the city with the afore-mentioned Megan. No one except Don ever thought this marriage was a wise move, and now it’s glaringly obvious that all Megan is after are the perks without the work. Her party for Don and her, admittedly, charming French song is all about her desire to shock and entice with no thought for how Don, the King of Hiding in Plain Sight, feels about her actions (and this from a woman who apparently knows the sad saga of Dick Whitman? Cold!).

Poor Joan. She would have been happy as the adored wife of a doting older man (Henry Francis would have done better to fall for a Joan instead of a Betty), but contentment was also a possibility in the work place (remember her joy when reading the As the World Turns scripts?). Instead, she’s basically a single mother who parades her baby through the halls of SCDP (loved the game of pass the baby; Peggy and Megan, naturally, couldn’t get rid of the kid quickly enough). Joan is left to sob to Lane, who listens and reminds her of her value, so she’ll be back at work soon, and likely with an African-American in her secretarial pool (about time!). And what’s the deal with Lane? Relaxed with his wife at Don’s party to barely allaying her fears that their son’s tuition is unpaid to taking responsibility for a lost wallet (for the cash?) to lusting after a photo of the girlfriend of the owner of said wallet. I worry for Lane this season, especially in his light of his comment that he’ll be at work “for the rest of his life” (how long might that be?).

So much to like in this over-sized premiere. Hard as it is to pick just one moment (and I almost went with Don and Megan “cleaning up” after his party), as I reflected on the episode today, I found my mind going back to that final image. What is intended as a joke brings a slew of applicants to the office, and while the men are quickly sent away, Lane smiles through his anxiety and starts taking resumes. Only one of these women has a chance at employment, and that individual will likely find obstacles in the forms of every character we’ve grown to know and love and hate over four full seasons. But what a sign that the old guard is losing its grip, that Pete was always ahead of the game (he wanted to target “the Negro market”), that Peggy is the future, and that Bert, Roger, and even Don are the past. As the opening credits have always suggested, it’s bound to be a long, slow fall. And one that I’ll watch until the ultimate moment of impact.

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