Mad Men, Season 4

Week 1: Don Moves to Greenwich Village
Talking television.
July 26 2010 5:11 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 1: Don Moves to Greenwich Village

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in Mad Men. Click image to expand.
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in Mad Men

I, too, am happy to hear that Ken Cosgrove will return, though I can't help but think that with Ken remaining an adman the world is being denied one of its great fictional fiction voices. How long will we have to wait for the sequel to "Tapping a Maple on a Cold Vermont Morning"? Will we never get to read such future classics as "Morning Fog Over the Portsmouth Harbor"? (Not that you asked, but my all-time favorite fictional fiction writer has to be Owen Wilson as Eli Cash.)

We've also been waiting for the return of Mad Men and the premiere struck me as deliberately low-key, unwilling to shift out of second gear. I was expecting Season 4's debut to "cause more of a squeal." Still, there were some promising plotlines. The key moment, as you said, Julia, was when Don threw the team from Jantzen out of the office—snapping his fingers as if they were disagreeable dogs.

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In the past, Don was a cynic about the ad business, but in this episode we have glimmerings of Don as an adman-artiste. Will Don develop the full-fledged arrogance of the adman who believes that the product itself is irrelevant compared with how it can be marketed? He's very willing to tell clients how to run their businesses. I see a nice tension developing here among Don's creative ego, the more practical Roger, and the shiny-faced Pete—not to mention the mercurial Bert Cooper, who, you'll notice, is the only one who talks honestly to Don, telling him that "Turning creative success into business is your job, and you failed."

As for the ad itself, I loved how the Jantzen guys were taken aback by the topless model, mostly because of the glorious deadpan dialogue that followed: "I think I explained our product is for modest people." Modest people of the world, unite and take over! I love it when Mad Men captures what you might call vintage behavior, whether it be prudery from a swimwear company or martial parenting from Betty.

How do we like the new office? I was expecting more of a departure from the old, though maybe we haven't had a chance to really look around yet. There was definitely some op-art thing going on in Roger's space. Was Peggy perched in front of a large piece of school-fair spin art? My art history coursework fails me—help me out in the comments. The one genius detail is that Bert Cooper doesn't want a conference table in the new space, since "A circle of chairs demands a conversation." I hope that isn't the last newfangled office idea we hear—any chance SCDP will start a softball team?

Betty is indeed married to Henry—and Henry's mother. She had the sharpest machete in the episode, confronting her son about his new wife while he breaks down the Thanksgiving table: "She's a silly woman. Honestly, Henry, I don't know how you can stand living in that man's dirt." Ouch. I'm interested to see if Betty comes up with some sort of counterattack against this Panzer tank of a mother-in-law.

And, yes, Julia, more of Anna Camp as Bethany, please. Who doesn't love a former member of the Mount Holyoke gymnastics team? I liked her theatrical diction—"I want to lift a shadow off this evening"—though her reference to slain Civil Rights activist Andrew Goodman was a little too shoehorned. But I can see Don wanting to figure her out, since she's doubly interesting: Not only is she beautiful, but she also represents a new kind of thinking that Don needs to understand for his art—I mean, work.

Don's Greenwich Village digs were much more down-and-out than I imagined. It's like they dropped him into a Hopper painting. Wasn't the café in Nighthawks supposed to be near Waverly and 6th? And, finally, back to the Advertising Age interview that opened the show: Is this the first we heard that Roger Sterling is writing a book? If so, please send me a galley.

I'm really full, John. Over to you.

Agger

Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.

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