When we last saw Don Draper, Betty had dumped him for Henry Francis and he’d just started his own ad agency. Now it’s time to pick up where we left off to see what happened to the infamous ad man. Some time has passed and a few characters have made some improvements while others have unfortunately remained the same. A lot can happen in a year, so why is 50% percent of the cast doing the same-old, same old?
- Director: Phil Abraham
- Writer: Matthew Weiner
- Cast: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Robert Morse, John Slattery
Episode Title: “Public Relations”
The show picks up Thanksgiving, 1964, a year after the third season finale. Don has hardly been a monk, but he’s not the Don Draper we know and love, either. The Nordic Betty gets a cold shoulder from the rest of the Francis family. A publicity stunt spirals out of control but Roger, on the other hand, has not changed. At all!
- A New Don Rising: Don has apparently spent the last year in a funk, developing some bad habits, which we see him break out of by the end of the episode. A change heralded by him knocking over some of that classic Draper reserve, and the first garage rock song we’ve ever heard on the show being played over the end credits.
- Roger, Still the Snarker: He may be a jerk, but a year and a new challenge apparently hasn’t affected Roger’s smart-ass tendencies. Once again, he gets all the funniest lines, but none better than walking in, seeing Don on the couch, and quipping, “Oh good, I’ve caught you in a vulnerable position.”
- Peggy: Just…Peggy. In keeping with the show’s policy, she’s looking better every season, and almost manages to show up Roger in the smart-ass department just doing the classic “John and Marsha” radio play, a neat little nod to advertising and comedy legend, Stan Freberg. If Don’s the male lead, then Peggy’s the female lead, and she gets more complex and fun with each episode.
- The Kids Are All Right: Granted, it’s not like they’ve had a lot of time to shine, but the Draper children make the most of their limited screen time this episode. Sally in particular has a scathing restaurant review we won’t ruin here.
- Back to Zero: Aside from Don and Peggy, a bunch of characters have hit the reset button; Lane Pryce is still officious. Joan is still the haughty secretary. Betty seems to actually have regressed. Not that we’d be aware of any of this, because most of the characters have maybe five lines. Speaking of which…
- There Are Other Characters Too Guys: The third season closed with Pete Campbell showing some racial awareness and his marriage strengthening; Joan realizing she isn’t going to have a happily-ever-after with her husband and needs to earn it with herself; and Peggy having a great ego boosting moment. Even Lane Price got a great moment. You thought you might learn a little about how these fully-fleshed out characters have spent the intervening year? Nope! It’s all about Don, this episoe. Granted, most TV shows would kill to have supporting characters like this, but still.
- And What The *#&@’s Going On With the Rest Of the Cast?: At least the people who jumped to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have screen time. Wondering what’s up with Ken Cosgrove? How about Paul Kinsey? Anybody else? Forget about it, they’re not here. Granted, we know we’re not seeing any of Sal this season (BOOOOOOO!!!), and we’re assuming at least Paul and Ken will make appearances, but ouch.
It’s a little too Don-centric to be an absolutely great episode at this point in the show. But it’s still a good start to the season and shows that “Mad Men” has lost none of its edge.
“Mad Men” airs Sundays at 10pm on AMC
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