“The World’s Gone Mad”
By Colin Hart
8.8 / 10
The great thing about TV is its unique ability to manipulate time itself. Not only do we grow up with TV, but we grow old with TV. Alex Trebek has been a family friend for as long as I can remember. The Simpsons have stayed the same age for over 30 years. And Breaking Bad, which lasted for five seasons on AMC, only took two years of story time.
Mad Men, on the other hand, is the rare TV show that truly makes you feel the passage of time. Set over the course of the 1960s, there are huge social and societal changes that take place every season. However, the characters themselves consistently struggle to adapt, which makes the weight of the passing years all the more impactful.
Season two opens on Valentine’s Day, 1962, fifteen months after the events of “The Wheel.” On the surface, not much has changed. The series is still as authentic and glamorous and sophisticated as ever. However, rumblings of social revolution are starting to gain traction. As a result, Sterling Cooper’s new head-of-account-services, Duck Phillips, pushes the agency to hire younger creative talent, much to the chagrin of Donald Draper.
The season premiere is titled “For Those Who Think Young,” but Don Draper is as old-school as it gets. His suave personality is based on chivalry, courtesy and respect. But even though he’s on his best behavior this episode, the ultimate irony is that he’s still a terrible husband and father.
For Don, not much has changed. He still shows up late to work, and he still spends lunchtime at the bar. His marriage to Betty seems to be on much sturdier ground than when we last left off, but he’s now having trouble getting it up in bed. Who knew that the most virile man on television could suffer from erectile dysfunction?
It’s almost as if Don knows that the era is slowly passing him by. He remains stuck in an eternal mid-life crisis. Nevertheless, his confidence and charisma welcome us back into the world of Mad Men with graceful aplomb. It’s good to be back at Sterling Cooper, even if the agency is shifting toward a younger demographic.
Maybe that’s why he spends the episode reading Meditations in an Emergency, a collection of impressionistic poetry by Frank O’Hara — “Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again.”
For the most part, the season two premiere plays catch-up with all the major characters. Joan Holloway doesn’t know where to put the new copy machine, Betty has taken up horseback riding and Peggy Olson, now a junior copywriter, works on an ad campaign for Mohawk Airlines. Meanwhile, a new mystery is introduced, as Don mails his copy of Meditations in an Emergency to an unnamed address, with the inscription “Made Me Think of You” on the jacket.
It may come as a surprise, but the premiere somewhat belongs to Betty Draper, who shows a more energetic side to her character. She wears sexy lingerie, runs into an old roommate now working as a call girl and later uses her good looks to bargain with a mechanic. It’s clear where season two is taking her.
However, it’s even clearer that the most interesting developments of the series take place at the agency. In general, Sterling Cooper has a very comfortable atmosphere, and the scenes directly involving the advertising industry are the most fun of the episode. It’s definitely the place we want to be.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call “For Those Who Think Young” a disappointment, but if you’re expecting action and pulse-pounding excitement, then you’ve come to the wrong show. Mad Men returns to TV in the only way it knows how — refined, elegant and completely unhurried.
Mergers and Acquisitions
- The episode ends with Don reciting one of the aforementioned poems via voiceover. In an expressive verse (a passage from “Mayakovsky,” which can be found below in the “Sloganeering” section), Don seems to allude to his secret identity, along with his general dissatisfaction with life. However, we don’t know to whom — or where— he mails the book.
- The other mystery from last season — what happened to Peggy’s baby? — isn’t mentioned at all. In regards to her sudden weight loss, the office rumors range from fat farm to being knocked up by Don and having his child. In reality, Pete Campbell was the one who knocked her up, though he remains unaware of the pregnancy. When considering this context, the scenes shared between the two carry far more meaning than meets the eye.
- Even still, the scenes involving Peggy mostly focus on her work life. She’s somewhat become Don’s protégé, but she’s still a bitch to pretty much everyone else in the office. Especially Don’s new secretary, Lois.
- John Slattery has been promoted to the main cast, which means that there’ll be a lot more Roger Sterling this year. That’s a good thing.
- The Draper’s new nanny, Carla, is introduced for the first time.
- Several of the characters watch Jackie Kennedy’s A Tour of the White House, and her graceful sense of style are an inspiration to all the Mad Men women.
- While waiting at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel for Valentine’s Day dinner with Betty, Don is transfixed by a classical ensemble playing an instrumental rendition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Song of the Indian Guest,” an aria from his Sadko opera. Great selection.
- Books play an important role in Mad Men, and Don is a very well-read man. Along with Meditations in an Emergency, which will continue to be alluded to throughout season two, Don has been seen reading The Best of Everything, Exodus and, we can only assume, Atlas Shrugged.
- “For Those Who Think Young” was written by series creator Matthew Weiner, and directed by Tim Hunter.
- “Young people don’t know anything. Especially that they’re young.”
- “There are other ways to think of things than the way you think of them.”
- “They can’t do what we do. And they hate us for it.”
- “Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting and modern. The country is grey and brown and white and trees. Snows and skies of laughter are always diminishing. Less funny, not just darker. Not just grey. It may be the coldest day of the year. What does he think of that? I mean, what do I? And if I do, perhaps I am myself again.”