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Siegfried Zhuravlev
Siegfried Zhuravlev

Mad Men - Season 1 Episo...

If you watched Mad Men for seven seasons, then you may think, like I do, that there were no bad episodes. So to rank them is an exercise in the relativity of excellence; an excuse to rewatch them in a compressed period of time (as opposed to the years over which I had originally seen them); a new way for me to see all seven seasons as one whole story with strengths (and sometimes tiny weaknesses) and callbacks; a personal exorcism that evoked laughter and tears; and, as someone said to me recently, something that could be perceived as trolling. It certainly was a show that inspired its fans to know an inordinate number of episode titles: There will be fights.

Mad Men - Season 1 Episo...

"For Those Who Think Young," the Season 2 premiere, began the tradition of Mad Men seasons starting slow. It's Valentine's Day, 1962, 16 months since the Season 1 finale, which took place on and after Election Day in 1960. Don is trying to be good, he tells his doctor during a physical, and we also learn at this checkup that he's 36 years old. At the office, Peggy is thin again (after a mysterious disappearance) and is pretty well integrated in the copywriting job Don gave her at the end of Season 1. Paul (Paul Gladis) has a beard; Harry's wife is pregnant; Pete's wife desperately wants to be pregnant; Duck and Don are trying to work together; and there's now a copier machine that Joan can't figure out where to place. Don has a new secretary, Lois (Crista Flanagan), whom Peggy hazes. "You were crying in the break room, which I have specifically forbidden," Joan tells Lois later in the episode. Lois was painted as a woeful idiot in Season 1 when she developed a crush on Sal (Bryan Batt). But here, Peggy is establishing herself as Don's mentee, a cut above her secretarial roots.

Don and Betty are back together (after the events of "Meditations in an Emergency") and she is visibly, uncomfortably pregnant. They even seem a little happy. But happiness in Don always comes with darkness, and this season premiere opens with Don warming milk for Betty as he imagines the scenario of his own birth. First, he sees Abigail Whitman (Brynn Horrocks) giving birth to a stillborn. Then he sees Archie (Joseph Culp), his father, going to a prostitute, who says to him, "You don't have a sheath." She has sex with him anyway, gets pregnant, gives birth, dies, and then baby Dick is taken to Abigail and Archie's house to begin his miserable life. But it's all good at the Draper house! Really, things seem OK right now.

"Christmas Waltz" activates the two key plots for the rest of the fifth season: Lane's fall and the pursuit of Jaguar. At the beginning of the episode, we find out that Lane's financial situation has gotten worse, and he owes taxes in England, due immediately. His solution to this crisis is both ill-chosen and surprising, since he not only steals money from the company by pretending they've gotten a $50,000 surplus that's in fact an advance, but he also forges Don's signature on a check. These are the decisions that will lead to his shame and suicide.

When members of the press received Mad Men premiere screeners, they came with a note from Weiner specifying what he didn't want spoiled in anything written before it aired. That is annoying and persnickety, of course. But always on the list is the time period in which the episode is set: And that truly is (was!) one of the pleasures of watching a new season of Mad Men. Where are we? When are we?

"Public Relations" is the season premiere after the events of "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." when Don, Roger, and Bert stage a coup and start their own agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. So how's it going? Yet that's not the question that kicks off "Public Relations," since this is Mad Men and we have to return to our overarching theme: "Who is Don Draper?" That's the first line of Season 4, delivered by a reporter from Advertising Age who is interviewing him. Being interviewed seems to signify that things are going well, especially since he appears to have made a splash with a campaign for Glo-coat, a floor cleaner. And the new office looks sleek and busy. But within minutes, we find out that they're overpaying for it, they lie about having a second floor, and they don't have a conference room table yet. It's been 11 months. And it's hand-to-mouth. Things get worse when the article about Don comes out: It calls him a "handsome cypher" and compares him to Dorian Grey. They even lose jai alai as a client because of it, since Don didn't mention him. Lucky Strike is the majority of their business, Lane informs them forebodingly.

The fifth season reveals Pete Campbell's depths, and explores the mundane tragedies of his life, many of which are self-inflicted. Through Mad Men's arc to this point, Pete has always been with Trudy and he has always been a striver at work. Now that he and Trudy have a daughter and a suburban house, and he's not only good at his job but also recognized for that, he's in a confused state. He takes a driver's ed class since he never learned to drive because of his Manhattan upbringing (I can relate, Pete), and finds a college-bound woman to want. She flirts with him, but as soon as someone age-appropriate joins the class, Pete is ditched. And he can imagine how she thinks of him because it's what he thinks of himself. After he and Lane have a fistfight in the office, and Lane wins, Pete rides down in the elevator with Don. His face is beaten and swollen. "Why are we even having a fight at work?" he asks plaintively. "This is an office. We're supposed to be friends." And then he pauses, and starts to cry. "I have nothing, Don." (I'm crying typing this.)

As far as the rest of the episode goes, "Signal 30" sets up so many things for the rest of the season. After the Jaguar account (temporarily) falls through, Lane asks Joan, "What do I do here? Truly?" And Don, whose hard-luck narrative of his early life has always focused on the farm days with his father, shifts his story forward to his post-Archie life. At the fancy Manhattan brothel where he, Roger, and Pete take Lane's friend from Jaguar, Don does not partake. The madam wonders whether he's a cop, and then whether he's gay. "I grew up in a place like this," he tells her out of nowhere. When she says there aren't other places like it, he says, "You're right, it wasn't as nice. We called it a whorehouse."

Don, her other half, is also alone. He sells Kodak so hard on his family, and life being a carousel, not a wheel, that he almost believes it himself. He fantasizes telling Betty and the kids that he's changed his mind, and can come to Thanksgiving after all. But it's a fiction. In reality, he's returned to an empty house. In bringing Mad Men's first season to a close, Weiner is showing us the opposite final image from the pilot: Don is now deeply alone. Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (anachronistically) plays over Don's pensive face and, for once, Don seems to be unable to heed its message of denial.

From the pilot episode of Mad Men, viewers became interested in the sometimes tough but always entertaining world of 1960s advertising. The main characters all go on a compelling journey, from Peggy dreaming of becoming a copywriter to Don coming to terms with his past and thinking more about what his future will look like. Major changes are set in motion for everyone and these plotlines have ripple effects in every season after the first one.

This episode still holds up well, as it introduces fans to the fascinating and tricky world of 1960s advertising. New York City is just as much a character as Don and his co-workers and love interests, and viewers learn about the power dynamics between the executives and secretaries at the Sterling Cooper. There's so much to keep viewers invested here and it's a smart introduction to the series. It's no wonder that the show kept fans hooked for 7 entire seasons.

Peggy doesn't love hearing this, and it's clear to fans that Peggy has strong beliefs about her place at Sterling Cooper. While Peggy is young and innocent here, and it's obvious that she will struggle a lot, fans can tell from season 1 that Peggy's career will likely be different. When viewers come back to these season 1 episodes, Peggy's inner confidence despite the tough world that she has entered stands out.

If Don wasn't great at coming up with ideas and making clients happy, the whole show would feel lackluster, but he's definitely got an incredible amount of talent. This pitch is a key part of season 1 since it's when fans learn that while Don might be emotionally unavailable and while he might hide his past, he will always excel at the office.

In the episode "October," Adam dies, and Don finds out about this tragedy in the season 1 finale "The Wheel." While it's heartbreaking to revisit this plotline, it does get better with time as fans can look back and see that this is the moment when Don realizes that pushing his feelings down might not work out for him.

While Roger has some funny quotes on Mad Men, Don isn't known for saying hilarious things or enjoying life all that much. That changes in the season 1 episode "Red in the Face" as he plays a prank on Roger.

This is the closest that Don comes to showing his emotions in season 1, and fans see the cracks in his perfect foundation start to show. It's a crucial storyline that proves that Don is holding a lot of feelings inside of him and there's much more that viewers can learn about him. This scene alone makes it easy to keep watching the show.

It's incredibly sad that Peggy doesn't realize that she's pregnant in season 1 of Mad Men, and her affair with Pete proves how tough relationships were in the '60s thanks to awful power dynamics and sexism. Pete doesn't treat Peggy well, and of course, he doesn't respect his wife Trudy, either.

In the season 1 finale "The Wheel," Betty can tell that Don is cheating, and she has definitely felt a disconnect in their relationship for a while. This is one of the most significant parts of season 1 because Don feels that his life is relatively stable while he's married to Betty. Things get much wilder and more intense for him after this. 041b061a72


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