Mad Men TV Club regulars John Swansburg and Julia Turner were on Slate’s Facebook page on Monday to chat with readers about the Mad Men season premiere. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity. To see the full conversation, click on this link. See all of Slate’s coverage of Mad Men, Season 5 here.
John Swansburg: Hi all, I'm Slate's Culture Editor. I hope everyone goes home from this chat and has sex.
Julia Turner: Hi everyone! I'm Slate's Deputy Editor, and one of its official Mad Men commentators. What'd you guys think of the premiere?
Mary Sprague Edwards: At first I was thinking ... huh, this is it?
It didn't start with a bang or anything, it was more like an easy re-introduction to each of the characters as their basic (and mostly unlikable) selves. Like Megan expressed later in the show, I was thinking, these people are not good people. (And those were the characters I usually LIKE.)
My favorite part of the show was definitely when Joan (and her breasts) brought the baby in and Roger says, "my baby!" misdirecting the comment to Joan. Then seeing Peggy with the carriage as Pete walks into the office and awkwardly stands near her, and then gets the baby handed off to him. OH!!!! The true weight of those scenes was just painful and delicious!!
Julia Turner: You're right, Roger had so many good lines in this episode. I was particularly fond of his rendition of Frere Jacques.
Logan Ertz: Loved it. Thought the dynamic between Don and his wife is really interesting. Megan seems to have a real internal strength about her.
Julia Turner: Logan, I think you're right that Megan has a strength about her we haven't seen in many of Don's paramours. I loved the scene where he said something like "Don't spend money on stuff like that" and she said, "It's my money." Working gives her an independence Betty never had.
Ginger Nash: I thought it was weak. The characters are becoming caricatures of themselves and the storyline was just not compelling. Hopefully, the second episode is better.
Amy Pogue: Weak, and seemed to drag on.
Monica Wilson: I watched half and got bored, so am glad I'm not the only one who was underwhelmed. I'll watch the other half this evening.
John Swansburg: I'm surprised that so many folks are saying they didn't like the episode. As I noted in my first TV Club post, I loved it.
Julia Turner: And I was fond of the first episode too—every member of the gang had a great moment.
Kristen Shaw: What a stinker!
Lynda R. Knezovich: I thought the premiere was somewhat restless. It may have been an attempt to catch us up on most of the characters; however, I had to wonder why Betty was conspicuously missing. The scenes changed too often and it just seemed to fall flat. I didn't have that "I can't wait until the next episode" feeling that I usually have. It was a good show but not what I'm used to from Mad Men. Still the biggest fan, though!
Steven Bear Swyryt: Very happy Betty was non-existent. I think everyone grew tired of her and her cold demeanor, regardless of what happened to her because her reactions seem to be worse than the actual problems.
John Swansburg: I think Betty's absence was in part due to January Jones' pregnancy. Prepare yourself: She'll be back soon enough.
Kim Kennedy: I enjoyed it, but "restless" is a good descriptive word. I think two hours of anything with commercial pods that are increasingly long really take the pace out of the show. The dialogue was very slow in spots. Don, the main character, is not moving the story but he's in every scene, but all said, it's good to see the characters again, and I suspect this was a set-up for the rest of the season,
Julia Turner: My mother told me she gave up watching because the commercial breaks were so long. Ironic that the ads should disrupt the Mad Men.
John Swansburg: It's funny, I didn't find that the episode dragged at all, except maybe in the scenes with Lane and the wallet. But Julia and I had the benefit of watching screeners with no commercial interruptions. I wonder if I underestimate the effect of ads padding out 90 minutes to 120.
Julie Kramer: The ads really take the spark out of it. By the second hour I had a hard time maintaining focus. But I was surprised by how interested I was in Meghan, and in her relationship with Don. I think the actress and the writing both are bringing in a complicated new dynamic.
Jenna Sauber: I enjoyed the episode, but I agree with others that it felt restless, and unfinished in some pieces. I was getting annoyed at some of Pete and Peggy's moments ... it's like they were going over the top to remind us who these people were. Given all that, I still had some hearty laughs, especially around Harry's moment in the kitchen, and most of Roger's lines. The Don & Megan scene where they make up was interesting, to say the least.
Julia Turner: Maybe the episode left viewers "restless" because so many of the characters in it are restless. Roger seems dissatisfied with Jane; Don with Megan; Joan with motherhood; and Pete just seems dissatisfied with everything. (“There was a time when she wouldn't leave the house in a robe.”)
Gabriella Iacovetti: They needed a moment to reintroduce everyone and have the viewer catch up with where the characters are now. They did this as efficiently as possible, given the sheer number of vital characters. Once that was done the stories moved along and were reflective of the tumult of the mid-60s. They're just setting up what's to come this season. I thought Roger in particular had some really funny lines that punctuated the dialogue nicely. As for the ads, I watched from my DVR so I could speed through most—but I tend to find that the smartest and chicest commercials are aired during Mad Men. I am looking forward to the rest of the season.