July 21, 2010

To Go Among Mad People

Mad Men's third season was a narrative list of bad choices. (If you haven't watched it ahead of Sunday's Season 4 premiere, that's your bad choice, and there are spoilers ahead.) Not that Matthew Weiner's characters have ever been what you'd call right-thinking in their personal lives, but by season's end they'd torn down everything they valued. Betty Draper chose what she believed was her only option to flee suburban ennui, pursuing the same ennui with a different man she barely knew. Peggy Olson went to bed with Don Draper's direct competition. And Don, leading with his chin, fell in with violent drifters and poached his latest extramarital partner far, far too close to home.

Maybe the creators were tired of the Sterling Cooper cloister, and wanted new sets. So assume that Season 4 will open in a new corporate space for the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce -- the only good choice any characters made last year, if you discount Don's coming clean about his past and Sal Romano's stand against sexual harassment. But Don's confession was forced, and Sal's
act went hand in hand with his denial of self; if only he'd sought help from the openly gay EuroSmith! (I'm not suggesting the two should have become lovers, the most obvious, tired dramatic path possible -- just that Sal might have found support in coming out to his workplace, if he'd only asked for it.)

I just pray that my favorite character, the
Mad Men camera, continues to make perfect choices as it's done all along. This video essay first appeared on this blog last year, on the eve of Season 3, and contains spoilers for Season 2. That said, if you're still worried that two-year-old plot points from a TV drama will burn your toast and poison your dog, I don't know what to do with you.



Thoughts/wishes/expectations for this new season? Did you find the third season unfocused, and hope for balance to be restored? What's the best way to mix an Old-Fashioned?

9 comments:

Dan said...

It's funny, I don't ever expect or desire anything from Mad Men. I just take what I'm given and it usually exceeds my expectations. I really can't predict what they'll do, because the show can be about anything in many ways. It's people and lives, stitched into the social fabric of the '60s. However, given the monumental changes to the show in season 3's finale, I hope the Draper's divorce is tackled well, Betty's split from Don is something fascinating (will it make or break her?), and the fledgling ad agency stokes plenty of good stories. I'm also interested to see if Sterling Cooper's offices will still be part of the series, or if that's all in the past now. I guess the bigger test of season 4 will be how they develop Don, now that most of his mystery and secrets are out in the open.

Bill C said...

Season 2 was just so incredible that I figured it'd be impossible to maintain its status quo, so I was pretty patient whenever Season 3 played a bum note. But then I saw Season 3 of "Breaking Bad", and realized it *is* possible to keep going up once you've reached the top, and MM started to seem a little...complacent.

I will be watching Season 4, obviously, but I hope the advent of the new agency puts a little steam in a locomotive that was running on fumes. The prospect of less Betty certainly bodes well.

Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo said...

My only apprehension is the timeline - in that we're getting too far away from the more interesting '50s/early'60s era and into the done-to-death post-Kennedy-assassination era of Americana. I mostly just want Betty to eat heaping gobs of shit...

But then the Sopranos split and got back together, so maybe this will follow the same path - who knows. I think the people behind this show are smart enough to keep things interesting.

Jefferson Robbins said...

If the final ep of Season 3 ends with the Beatles' Ed Sullivan performance, I might just shoot my TV.

Jefferson Robbins said...

Season FOUR, duh.

Patrick said...

I watched the premiere and remain perplexed as to why this show is "good". I have no idea what it's saying about anything, if it has anything to say at all, why it is considered compelling or realistic, or why it holds any appeal to anyone. Especially in a world that also includes Breaking Bad and True Blood.

The True Patrick said...

Well, that's a different Patrick than normal, jst so you know. I've never seen any Mad Men.

The other Patrick said...

Don't take that as an insult as much as a challenge. Help me out:
- What is Mad Men saying about anything?
- Why is it compelling and/or realistic?
- Why does it hold appeal?

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