Dog Days Are Over - Mad Men Season 5 Preview #3
The wait is finally over, and Sunday is a two-hour reintroduction to the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. I am, like all of you, done with the wait, with the vague rumours, the speculation, and I'm really, completely done with features on what Kiernan Shipka is wearing. I'm not sounding the alarm on the CHILL OUT SHE'S TWELVE but I feel like my finger's been hovering over that button for awhile.
The promotion has been far and wide, but I have to wonder whether it's intentional that I've seen few pieces featuring Christina Hendricks interviews. I wonder whether she hasn't been made available because she wouldn't be able to say very much without giving anything away. We will most certainly know the outcome of Joan's pregnancy on Sunday night, and I suspect it would be hard to discuss Joan without talking about the unthinkable - that if she's a mother, she would have had to sacrifice her position in the agency. And of course, maternity leave was unthinkable back then. A “leave” implies you're coming back - completely atypical in 1960-something. But of course there could have been a million things that might have happened in the meantime, and depending on what year it is, maybe times and attitudes are changing. The question, of course, will be which ones.
I have to say I never thought of Joan as wanting to be a mother. She seemed unmoved by children she met in passing and much more concerned with nurturing the “girls” who so desperately needed her tutelage in the workplace. I doubt Joan would call herself a pioneer, but I can't shake the idea that she knows, somehow, that what she's doing at work is more than merely being “office manager”: she is training a generation of women. How will she feel if she puts that aside for a child? Or if she decided she would, and then never got the chance?
On the one hand, I think about how much I want to see Joan and Roger interact again. I've missed the crackle of the two of them, evenly matched, acknowledging the bittersweet truth that they bring out the best in each other. But then I remember what Joan already knows - that Roger's been through everything before: two wives, one child, a bumpy business road. If none of that has changed him into the person she once hoped he could be, nothing she can say will either -- will it?
Don, of course, is more open to being changed. I've said before that he is largely defined by the women in his life, and when we saw him last, he was preparing to add another to his roster: Megan, the young blank slate who smiles at children and loves Don somehow, without (we assume) having ever investigated any of his flaws. Who knows who Megan is, or what expectations she'll put on Don? At easily half his age, will she resemble the women he's known before? From what we know now, she's loving and sweet and utterly a fan of the man he is. Which...seems to fit the pattern.
Don married sweet, beautiful Betty - and has his head was turned regularly by strong, complicated women who don't fit into traditional packages. Rachel, Bobbi, Dr. Faye, Anna - Peggy, to some extent - all challenge Don's idea that he knows what women want, that by putting them in the right bra or beer or lipstick that he can satisfy their desires. It should be that easy - it seems that easy - and yet these women who want more keep popping up in Don's life. It's like he's attracting them, or something. Like even though, on one level, Don is dying for romantic simplicity, he can't accept that the intriguing women he's drawn to tend to make his life more complicated.
One thing I am looking forward to seeing is the evolution of Don's creativity. The reason he remains so untouchable is because he's continued to tap into the “magic” that makes his name. Despite a few missteps in the last season, the legend that is Don Draper remains. But every year, younger people get more inventive and ambitious. Someday, especially if he has a new life, Don may want not to work so hard. The allure of the office at 11 PM may pale. How will he handle it, other than with crushing resentment for whomever takes his place - even if that person is saving his ass?
And of course, we can't go forward into Sunday night without discussing the Don-Joan rumour. When pressed about the pairing, Jon Hamm has taken to saying "how do you know they haven't or won't [be involved with one another]?" This is, of course, a place the show could go but it's also something that Hamm could say on the press line to get you interested, just like anything he could say. "How do you know Don won't join a cult?" Same effect. What I mean to say here is that while I think the Don and Joan pairing has certain intriguing moments in it, the characters have always played it as though they know how that would play out. This could, of course, be because they've tried it, something we'll learn about in a flashback. Or it could be just gut instinct on their part...
But this is why I watch Mad Men. They're creating history. These characters don't know what's going to happen to them but since it happened in the “past”, they have an insight I can't have. There's an understanding of the era that I can't relive; I have to trust them to show it to me, since I have no real frame of reference to flesh out the world they show me. I have to live through them utterly and it is the most delicious task.
Mad Men returns, finally, for its 5th season two hour premiere on Sunday, March 25th.
Attached - Christina Hendricks in NYC this week promoting the show and the cast of Mad Men at the NYSE after ringing the opening bell.