Weiner has come up with some impressive scenes beyond the fantastic, previously mentioned reintroduction. There are two that Weiner didn't flag to critics as spoilers, but I won't reveal them anyway because they certainly come across that way -- one as a distinct behavioral reveal and the other a haunting and intriguing hint about the struggle for change. (I won't even talk about the second kick-ass song Weiner uses in this episode, since that, playing over the lusciously shot and meticulously framed final scene, seems laden with meaning.)
One of the most artful aspects of the premiere is how it gives meaningful moments to so many supporting characters...while remaining largely about Don. He continues to sweat his significance, but he's trying to figure out how to make real change out of last season's sobering, liberating meltdown. He sees with clear eyes and accepts that he's broken, yet he's still at a loss as to how to fix himself. Like his late friend Lane, he's stuck in the in-between of here and there, yesterday and tomorrow, lost and found. You wonder if the answer he seeks is to abandon such binary thinking and cultivate grace for his present-tense self. Wherever Don's headed on this final flight of "Mad Men," the ride promises to be exhilarating.
"Mad Men" remains a landmark series, and unlike something like "Breaking Bad" needn’t be heavily defined or judged by how well the program wraps up its run -- although Weiner’s comments about his vision for the ending have done little to temper expectations. Nevertheless, this is one of those shows really more about the journey than the destination, despite the emphasis we’ve come to place on such things.
The episode, appropriately titled "Time Zones," is a bi-coastal exploration of where our characters stand both literally (New York or Los Angeles) and figuratively, Weiner's preferred method of study. While the brunt of the aforementioned minute moments are carried by Don and Megan, our hero/anti-hero...doesn't show up until about eight minutes into the episode. When he does, it's in a fittingly grand way...Don Draper is still treated like a god among men. He floats down his path instead of walking. Loud music blares "I'm a Man" by the Spencer Davis Group, before the declarative statement is upended by the nonchalant, emasculating act of Megan choosing to drive rather than ride next to her husband. Was it on purpose? It's hard to tell.