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When Is Everything Going To Get Back To Normal? Taking A Look At The Upcoming Season Of 'Mad Men'

by Cory Everett
March 27, 2012 3:42 PM
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Mad Men - pete
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)
Pete seemed to have been conceived as a weasley adversary for Don in season one, but has become yet another example of the kind of complex characters that make this show truly great. There are no villains, and more and more, Pete seems to be the voice of reason. As his senior partners are distracting themselves with other things, Pete is holding the business together with the bulk of their client work. While it’s not surprising to see his ambition at the office, what was surprising was seeing him taking the train. “If I'm going to die, I want to die in Manhattan,” Pete famously told his his wife Trudy (Alison Brie) when the U.S. was under threat of nuclear attack. So it came as quite a shock to see him commuting from the suburbs in a house that looks a bit like Don’s old suburban home.

Though the nuptials started off a bit rocky -- he did sleep with Peggy on the eve of his wedding and profess his love to her a year or so later -- Pete and Trudy’s marriage has grown into one of the strongest on the series. (Maybe a low bar there, but that’s besides the point.) There are big changes in the Campbell house: After years of trying to get pregnant, Trudy finally had their baby; that could come at the expense of the spark in their marriage. He tells a fellow commuter, “there was a time when she wouldn’t leave the house in robe” but with a newborn baby at home, she’s not quite as dolled up and perfect as she used to be. They seem in good spirits at Don’s birthday however -- and check out Trudy’s groovy-chic wardrobe! -- so we’ll just have to hope that they can work it out.

Mad Men - peggy
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss)
Peggy continues to be an MVP at SCDP, and that’s something that becomes even more apparent as Don becomes a little bit checked out. After a presentation to Heinz that doesn’t go so well, Don shows up and instead of helping to push back on the client, he rolls over easily, telling them they’ll come up with something else. Peggy says of her boss and mentor, “I don't recognize that man. He's kind and patient.” With Peggy growing more independent and driven at work -- she and Pete will be running the place by the season’s end at this rate -- and Don pursuing his life outside of the office, expect the two to butt heads as the season rolls along.

Mad Men - joan
Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks)
Joan is one of the characters who appears to have been affected most during the time offscreen, as she has a new baby boy, Kevin. Her husband is still at war, the father (Roger) is still married, and apparently no one from the office has come to visit her on maternity leave. To make matters worse, her mother is staying with her to help with the baby and possibly putting more strain on Joan, who is anxious to get back to the office. Jon Hamm let slip that “the Don/Joan dynamic is something that we do explore” and gossip blogs immediately lit up with the thought of an onscreen hookup. While that does seem unlikely -- this isn’t “Friends” or “Gossip Girl” after all, where every lead character will pair off with another eventually -- there were a few hints during the premiere that something is definitely up between the two.

After Joan comes to visit the office for the first time since her pregnancy, Don gives her a warm greeting, complimenting her voluptuousness and telling her to get back to work. She returns the favor a few scenes later, as Lane recounts Don’s birthday embarrassment and she says she can’t imagine how cute Don would be blushing. Fans have often pointed to season three’s “Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency” (the lawnmower episode) -- where Don and Joan share an intimate moment together in a hospital waiting room -- as an onscreen pairing they’d like to see more of, and now they may get their wish.

Mad Men - betty
Betty Francis (January Jones)
For the first three seasons, Betty was a central character on the show who received equal importance with Roger, Joan or Peggy. But after her divorce from Don, it became clear that the story of her second marriage was not one that Matthew Weiner had much interest in exploring. We only got glimpses of her life with new husband Henry Francis, in what must have amounted to about 20 minutes of screentime all last season, and it appears that we’re going to be seeing even less of Betty in season five. She was nowhere to be found in the premiere, though Sally, Bobby and Gene were dropped at the foot of her ominously huge mansion. According to Weiner, Jones’ real-life pregnancy will keep her out of the show even more than last season when that wasn’t a concern. When we do get to see her, we imagine she’s not going to be picking up any Mother Of The Year awards, nor will her marriage to Francis be improved much, despite their spacious new digs.

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  • Stefano | January 14, 2013 7:53 PMReply

    my girlfriend family, they didn’t like me at all. Then I started reading The Playlist and life changed!

  • Geraldine Gill | January 10, 2013 7:27 AMReply

    My Name is Geraldine Gill I will never forget the great work you guys have done here.

  • loveth | December 28, 2012 7:58 PMReply

    just want to share my experience and testimony here.. the Playlist rules and they are better than all spellcasters.

  • moreen silver | December 17, 2012 4:50 AMReply

    I'm so happy for Mad Men!

  • andy sowers | September 13, 2012 6:55 AMReply

    when will I be normal?

  • Blessing | September 13, 2012 4:46 AMReply

    what a wonderful world we are living.

  • raprio | September 13, 2012 12:59 AMReply

    spell casters are from a cult!

  • andy sowers | September 11, 2012 2:27 PMReply

    when will I be normal?

  • Edward Davis | August 13, 2012 9:24 AMReply


  • Tamara | August 10, 2012 9:25 PMReply

    spell casters are frauds.

  • anon | March 29, 2012 5:12 AMReply

    megan is probably a little on the crazy side...

  • Digital ? | March 28, 2012 11:02 AMReply

    I also had that odd feeling I couldn't put my finger on, the characters perhaps - but visually I wondered if they've switched from 35mm to digital?

  • Lucy | March 27, 2012 11:42 PMReply

    I agree with Danielle wonderful recap and analysis! Keep them coming! You made me want to watch it all over again to look at things maybe I missed. Favorite show on TV, the writing is impressive. The only complaint I have is commercials. I wish AMC was like TCM. No commercials! cheers to you.

  • Danielle | March 27, 2012 8:26 PMReply

    Great recap and analysis, Cory. Please keep 'em coming for the rest of the season!

  • db12345 | March 27, 2012 5:39 PMReply

    Did anyone else have the unpleasant experience of watching AMC and having them air part of episode one then jump over several scenes to episode 2? The script kept making reference to things we hadn't seen. I watched the double episode on demand and noted that what was aired was 25 min of episode one, then episode 2. I wondered why it seemed hard to understand and they cut out the cool party scene to boot!

  • Darb | March 28, 2012 8:57 AM

    When did you watch it. I watched it live on the first airing at 8:00, and it had the party scene in, and wasn't just twenty five minutes for the first episode.

  • neologism | March 27, 2012 4:43 PMReply

    Great article!

    Oogle - that statue was a racially insensitive statue from Y&R with a joke resume attached to it. It was basically their reply to the ad that SCDP took out in the newspaper.

  • Oogle monster | March 27, 2012 6:03 PM

    Gotcha. Thanks!

  • Oogle monster | March 27, 2012 4:13 PMReply

    Also, I have a ques- at the very end of the episodes, when the front desk sec brings in that giant statue- what was it and why is it significant? Is it b/c they cannot accept gifts?

  • oogle monster | March 27, 2012 6:02 PM

    Ohhh ok, gotcha. I couldn't even make out what it was. Thanks!

  • Cory Everett | March 27, 2012 4:18 PM

    Great points on the 'actress' angle. The racist statue was sent to them by Y&R as a joke. Because it's offensive they decided not to send the lobby full of applicants away, since they likely saw them bringing that in and don't want the bad PR.

  • Oogle monster | March 27, 2012 4:11 PMReply

    A few things to add to the "Megan is an actress" bit: Joan's mother warns Joan that Megan is manipulative yet Joan may be the only one who sees through Megan from the beginning (Megan is a little apprehensive to approach Joan when she comes for the surprise office visit)... the scene between Megan and Peggy at the end where Megan essentially yells at Peggy and then snaps into a damsel in distress mood (and asks to go home) coupled with Megan deciding to clean the house in her bra and panties while Don watches and then quoting a line from Don earlier- "You can sit there and watch me" (not verbatim but something along those lines) are perfect examples of how strategic and "actorly" Megan may very well be.

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