Jul 2010 27

“Who is Don Draper?” A man who won’t meddle with the meddlers apparently, as the Season 4 premiere of “Mad Men” showed us.

The show picks up almost a year after the coup of Sterling Cooper, and the formation of the new Sterling Cooper Draper & Price. With their swanky new table-less offices, full of colorful couches, the new team is barely keeping their head above water. This is due to the fact that Lucky Strike accounts for 71% of their billings.  But this episode isn’t about the new firm, as much as it is Don Draper and his importance to firm.

This story’s opening line also start the episode, as Don marginalizes and brushes off the interviewer that is writing a story about him and the firm.  Draper doesn’t care, and it of course comes to bite everyone in the ass.  Throughout the episode, every familiar face tells Don how important he is – and what he means to this company. But Don brushes them off, and suggests that his work should do all of his talking.

Don watches his buzz inducing commercial for Glo-Coat Floor Wax with pride at his new bachelor pad, reaffirming his position that his work speaks more words than he could ever to help the company.  But Don also seems rather lonely, outside a way too familiar prostitute that comes around to slap him around, literally.  And while he is trying to be as cordial and understanding as possible with Betty and her new beau, his patience is trying with them as well.  Though Don’s laid back, let the work do the talking, attitude comes to a head when two incidents happen: Jai Alai leaves the firm after Don fails to mention them in the fore mentioned interview and Don’s great idea can’t sway a couple of square clients.

Watching Don lose it on the client is an all time great Mad Men moment and speaks so much to the character.  This is a guy that left Sterling Cooper to leave a creative blaze in his wake and make sure that when a client comes to him they will do anything he wants.  Don has gotten to the point that he realizes two things, one: he isn’t going to deal with someone that doesn’t realize his brilliance, and two: sadly his work won’t speak for itself when you are trying to sell idiots.  Enter one of Mad Men’s best scenes as Don throws out some clients, calls for an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and the new Don is ready to sensationalize and sell the aura of Don Draper to everyone that wants to listen.  It is his way of realizing that he can make himself look amazing and that people will probably do anything he wants down the line if he sells himself like he sells his clients product.

I have to imagine that this new power will come back sometime down the line, and Don’s arrogance could end up backfiring in a big moment, but it is some great television to watch Don Draper sell; whether it’s himself or Glo-Coat.

The episode while mainly focusing on Draper still managed to get us in touch with the rest of the SCD&P team.  Pete’s voice is strong and well respected a year into the firm and while we only got to see him in the workplace, he worships Don and knows just how valuable an asset he is.  Pete and Peggy do have a bit of a misstep in their attempt to get creative, and again it gives Don another great opportunity to tell somebody his way, is the right way.  Sterling’s quips are as sharp as ever and you can see the enjoyment he has in getting involved in Don’s bachelor life.  Cooper is still Cooper, preaching a conference table free boardroom.  Joan has an office and is as vital to the team as much as anyone else in the firm. And later in the episode we finally get to see what Betty is up to and I can’t quite get a handle.  She is happy on the very surface interpretation we see, but Henry seems to have a short fuse with her, might not have the libido Betty needs, and has his mother quietly whispering to him to get rid of Betty.

Also, the music cue and final moments of this episode, where the New Don Draper shifts into gear, is one of the series finest moments and just plain cool.

All in all, Mad Men’s 4th season is off to an amazing start and is one of the show’s best episodes.  Instantly reminding us that it is the best show on television, sorry Breaking Bad, it’s only by a hair, it is great to have Don Draper and company back in our lives.  The season is set up well for Don to have a very intriguing path and I can’t wait to see what Weiner and company have in store for the rest of the crew housing the beautiful offices of Sterling Cooper Draper & Price.


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