5 Highlights From Last Night’s Mad Men: New Mustaches and Old Lovers, Is That All There Is?
DON’S NEW/OLD LIFESTYLE.
It felt like a dream. Though Mad Men picked up months from where its last half-season left off, it first dropped us into a moment of torrid professionalism, with Jon Hamm at his most powerfully flat. Our first glimpse of the deeply lucrative McCann-Erickson merger was watching Don Draper seemingly alone in a room with a model, directing her towards his wishes—the life of an advertising executive functioning as a myopic series of demands.
“Look at yourself—you like what you see.” But while Peggy Lee crooned “Is That All There Is?” on the soundtrack (a song heard three times in the episode), we cut away to find the other executives in the room right there with him. This matter of business is an open secret, and they’re all in the money. After a long series of auditions, Don goes home with one of the girls, and she notices a piece of jewelry on his floor: “That’s my ex-wife’s.” The cycle is complete, and Don is back to his old ways, which have always felt both old and new at the same time.
RACHEL MENKEN’S GHOST.
The season premiere featured at least one major callback to the beginning of the series: the reappearance of Rachel Katz (née Menken), Don’s mistress from the first season and the former head of a major department store with which he used to do business. In an uncanny moment, he first sees her in a dream as one of the models entering his office, as they speak to each other through the language of advertising—until he wakes up in bed with one of the models. The next day, his secretary informs him that Rachel has died. Don goes to the shiva meeting and learns that she passed away from leukemia.
In the meantime, Don keeps returning to a late-night diner to visit a waitress, Diana, who strongly reminds Don of his old friend—and who has now become his latest ghost. (This show always withholds character information purposefully, to such a degree that I was wondering whether Diana was an older character or not.) But after he feeds into his sexual compulsion, he hasn’t found any answers, falling ever deeper into the uncanny valley. “When someone dies, you want to make sense of it, but you can’t,” she tells him.
Let’s just talk about those mustaches for a second. It’s April in 1970, and we got to see both Roger Sterling and Ted Chaough sport brand-new tufts of hair above the upper lip. Is this a symbol of increased professionalism, or is the look not really working for them? Decide for yourself.
PEGGY HAS THE BEST FIRST DATE EVER.
Peggy has been living without romance ever since her fling with Ted ended disastrously. Her new co-worker, John Mathis, tries to set her up with his brother-in-law, Stevie Wolcott, and the worst first date ever becomes the best first date ever.
He tells Peggy that his brother described her as “funny, and fearless”—and her confidence spikes a fever pitch, resulting in one of the most passionate encounters we’ve ever seen on this show. They don’t sleep together, but they make plans to go to Paris in two weeks. Let’s hope that things remain this torrid while they’re sober (and that he doesn’t have any ulterior motives).
THE MANY FACES OF KEN COSGROVE.
As one of Don’s forever put-upon underlings at the office, one-eyed Ken Cosgrove considers quitting the office to pursue his aspirations as a novelist, and living off his wife’s family riches (which even she would prefer him to do). But then her father (Ray Wise) tells the family that he’s retiring from the very account Ken represents at the agency. Before he’s able to quit, McCann-Erickson fires him and replaces him with Pete.
Ken has a complicated history with McCann-Erickson, having quit another agency they used to own a few seasons back, and insulting them in the process, taking millions in accounts with him. In another sudden act of revenge, he announces at the end of the episode that he’s leaving to work for Dow with a new position as head of advertising. So much for that writing career, Ken!