Monday, April 06, 2015

MM Good

Mad Men is back with "Severance," the first of its final seven episodes.  It took a while to get back into the groove, since the episode was unsettled and unsettling.

The show burst into public consciousness almost eight years ago.  The original plan was to do five seasons, starting in 1960, going through the decade by jumping ahead two years each season.  Instead, they slowed it down and stuck around a little longer--too long if you look at the lack of Emmy nominations recently.  And now we're starting (and finishing?) in 1970.  When we last left the crew, Bert Cooper died the night of the moon landing, and Don Draper was saved from termination when Roger secretly sold Sterling Cooper to giant McCann Erickson, making all the partners so rich they couldn't complain.

So everyone's back in New York (except soon-to-be-divorced Megan, presumably still out in Los Angeles, and Betty Francis, MIA--maybe on The Last Man On Earth?). And, except for Don, they've all adopted the shaggy 70s look.  And where are they?

Don still seems adrift.  (If there's anything we can count on, that's it.) He's still having sex with random women, and is haunted by the death of Rachel Menken, whom we met in season one, and whom he was willing to run away with when he felt lost.  He dreams about her and then is shocked to learn she just died of leukemia.  There's an uncomfortable scene where he visits her shiva.  Will Don pull out of it?  Why start now?

Ken, who's often been the odd man out, is now officially out.  He used to be at McCann and they hated him, so they want him gone.  Meanwhile, his wife has been asking him to quit anyway and become the writer he always had the talent to be.  He might have done it, but now he's mad, and with his father-in-law at Dow retiring, he takes over there in advertising and will be a thorn in the side of Sterling Cooper.

Meanwhile, it's still the bad old days when Joan and Peggy, in a pitch for a panty hose client, have to put up with tremendous sexism--a bit overwritten.  They have to put up with it, but partner Joan is rich now and can at least buy whatever expensive, sexy clothes she wants.  Peggy has risen through the ranks, but not a partner, she snaps at Joan.

Speaking of Peggy, she goes out on a date with a relative of an employee, and the two seem to hit it off.  Will this lead to something, or is it just another in a series of disappointments for Peggy.

Roger, Pete, Harry, Ted and the rest have a lot less to do, but are still their entertaining selves. In fact, with the mustaches and sideburns, just their looks are a punchline.

So a quiet start for a series that caused such a stir.  But, as always, it's impossible to say where things are going, and where they'll finish.


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