Mad Men Season 4 Episode 1 Recap

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It might take a couple episode for me to get all analytical again, but let’s give it a whirl. Last season ended with endings and beginnings, this episode did the heavy lifting of telling us where we are this season. We’re almost exactly a year after last season’s finale. Henry Francis and Betty are married and living in the Draper residence. Don’s living in an apartment, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have moved into two floors of the Time Life building.
-Everyone is going to start these recaps with the first line of the season. “Who is Don Draper?” I don’t know if that’ll be a theme to the season, but it is consistent with the series’ theme of, “What do you want me to say/do?” which Don hints at in the next line, “What do men say when you ask that?” Finally copping out of the interview with, “We were taught that it’s not polite to talk about yourself.” This scene, a failed PR ploy, is instructive to Don’s idea of the agency. He thinks he can create good work and the clients will come.
-However, Peggy and Pete’s PR campaign, a couple of women fighting over a canned ham in the grocery store, was successful… “until it wasn’t”. Don’s frustrated with this. It’s a stunt, and it’s not the image he wants for his agency. These stunts don’t have value as work (and you can’t charge for them, anyway). It must have struck a chord with him, though, because that combined with throwing the Jantzen prudes out of the office, convinced to be the Don Draper the agency wants/needs him to be in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
-“Next time just have one meeting.” Pete Campbell is convinced that SCDP’s size will be an asset. The small upstart. I wonder if this will be a theme of the season, small vs big.
-Don’s in a rush, seems grumpy (with the maid), tired (sleeping in his office), and tells Pete how it’s not worth having meetings they don’t have a chance at because every hour is accountable to the growth of the agency. I wonder if time, Don wanting more of it, will pop up again.
-Even in an apartment, Don has a maid.
-Not much to say about Don’s date except she wants to come off as sophisticated. Let’s use this to talk about the prostitute Don hires on Thanksgiving. TO SLAP HIM! That was sort of a “Sal in the park” scene, wasn’t it? I forget exactly what she said, but I’m hoping it was, “I know what you want me to do.” That would be a perfect counterpart to Don’s question (I swear, it’s tattooed on his back), “What do you want me to do?” I don’t think anyone saw the slap coming because Don has been more dominant in the past.
-Harry Crane looks terrible. Why is that?
-Just going to mention Sally Draper. I’m so glad she got made a series regular so she can be in more episodes. She really adds a lot.
-Peggy’s “fiance”. OK… “All we want to do is please you.” Peggy wants Don to know that she’s learning, he wants her to know it’s not happening fast enough.
-Two anachronisms things to ground us in 1964 today, John and Marsha and The Murder Andrew Goodman. (If you’re scoring from home, that’s one point for Paste Magazine and their list of 16 things about 1964 that could be featured. 15 to go.)
-“Believe me Henry, but everyone thinks this is temporary.” That’s a zing for Don. I also liked Henry Francis’ mother getting in on the Betty hate, mentioning that the kids are terrified of her, and that Henry could have gotten what he wanted without marrying Betty. Is Betty holding onto the past by not looking for a new house to move into? It wouldn’t surprise me. Henry does want to move, though, so we’ll see what happens.
-I’m happy about the pitch in this episode. The office scenes and actual business of advertising were something that were lacking in season 2 and 3. Of course, Season 3 had a pitch in the first episode, too, so we’ll see if that keeps up.
-There was a lot about image and appearance in this episode, what’s the image of the agency, how does Don come across in an interview, women fighting over a ham… I think there’s going to be more of this.

I was happy with this episode. A couple surprises (the prostitute and the slap), good dialogue, an ad pitch… Glad Mad Men is back.

Mad Men Season 4 Episode 1 Recap

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