Mad Men returns for the first half of its final season and it finds everyone feeling a lot of stress. Unless your name is Pete Campbell.
Picking up two months after the season 6 finale, Don is still on the outs with SC&A and it doesn’t really seem like he has told anyone about it. He is out in California visiting Megan and she seems to think he’s there on a business trip, but she seems a bit too preoccupied to really care. In fact, I’m surprised at how far these two have seemingly fallen apart in the brief time they have been living apart. The two can barely sleep together and are completely off from where they were before their falling out. Megan is stressed about landing her first LA gig, but Don is just waiting on a phone call from his offices and is holding on really tight that they will surely call him back. He’s got to be better than his temporary(?) replacement Lou, who is pretty much the worst. Don is so out of whack he turns down an overtly willing seat mate (a delightful Neve Campbell) on the red eye back to NY. Their interaction on the plane is a highlight of the episode and the two had amazing, palpable chemistry. I was rooting for the two to hook up just so we could have more of Campbell throughout the season. Maybe she will pop back up, but for now Don is stuck with Freddy and broken porch door. Speaking of Freddy, the reveal that he is running around town pitching Don’s work for him was one of the best laughs I’ve had on the show in some time (It was somehow topped in this episode by Ken Cosgrove’s earring toss.). They leave Don on a pretty dark note sitting out in the cold, but I hope he finds his way back to SC&A; I think Peggy does as well.
Peggy is being assaulted from every angle this week and you can’t blame her when she breaks down and cries at the end of the episode. Don’s replacement, Lou, is the worst (literally, he is racist and sexist in his first minute of screen time) and he isn’t that receptive to Peggy’s “charms.” Used to Don’s tough love and Ted’s inappropriate affection, Peggy was overwhelmed with ears ready to listen to what she has to say, but Lou seems to care less about her and her ideas. Did I mention Lou is the worst? The tension between a just visiting from California Ted and Peggy is also about as awkward as it can get, but I like to think that her annoying tenants are actually what’s bringing her down more than anything. Don needs to get back to SC&A ASAP, for Peggy’s sake.
Joan is given a little face time as an account woman, even if it was to brush off a supposedly bothersome client, but it’s nice to see them try and give Joan a more active role in the business again. The client, played by an almost too baby faced Dan Byrd (Cougar Town!), wants to make advertising in house and I loved seeing Joan zig his zag by getting a crash course from a professor. Thinking the professor is making a pass at her shows how unhealed that wound is, but its nice to see her roll with the punches and not blow her chance to shine by getting upset at her misunderstanding. It doesn’t help that she has to deal with a very grumpy Ken, who you just can’t help but feel horrible for. Why is Matthew Weiner being so mean to everyone’s favorite accounts man? The eye patch, the phone calls, the constipation, where will it end?
Roger, mean while, is out on cloud 9 with the local hippie group as we see him only briefly, but two of the three times are with more than one person in his bed. I don’t know what Roger has gotten into these last couple of weeks, but his daughter seems to be a couple “Serenity Now’s!” from going off the deep end herself. Things are stacking up against Roger without Don to balance out against Cutler’s continued attempt to take over the firm, and I wonder where he might take the company with the zero resistance he seems to be getting.
Pete Campbell seems to be the only one enjoying life, settling right in to California, with a tan, a diner that is a slice of home, and a new blonde bombshell of a girlfriend. I couldn’t believe how chummy Pete was with Don either and I totally believed him that he was the only one who would stand up for keeping Don around. I can’t imagine things will stay this pleasant for Mr. Campbell for long.
A solid start for Mad Men, but after the past few season getting the two hour premiere treatment I couldn’t help but feel like the show was a little rushed this week. Still, they wasted no time setting up the emotional stakes for all of the major players this week (minus Betty and Sally) and I am ready to see these guys heading back in the right direction. Nixon is in the White House now, can it get much worse?