Public Relations or “Who Is Don Draper?”

26 Jul

‘Public Relations’ wastes no time in setting up its focus for the first episode- after the events of last season’s finale who has Don become, or more specifically who is he pretending to be. A year has passed and while much has changed outside Don is still dealing with the past. That the interview is conducted by a one legged Korea vet is telling, were he a different kind of man they could have bonded over their military experience, which would’ve lead to a more compelling interview. Don isn’t capable of that kind of honesty, so the article is a flop, and like the reporter’s hidden injury he returns to hiding behind his cool facade and drinking alone in his old fashioned apartment.

Betty seems to have fared no better, despite getting almost everything she wanted. She’s still living in their old house, but the excuse that it’d be too much disruption for the children doesn’t seem to convince Henry. She seems more sexually assertive, but doesn’t seem to enjoy it. Henry’s family (especially his mother) aren’t keen on her parenting skills, and Betty just shrugs when Don wants to see the baby. Cold.Sally is still rebellious, angry that (at least to her) Betty drove Don away. ¬†Kiernan Shipka (who plays Sally) did a lot with very few lines this week, and with news that she’s moving up to featured actress means that her character will play a pivotal role in weeks to come.

This is what's known as 'subtext'

Life at the office seems at first glance much more cheerful. They’ve moved from the hotel to the TimeLife building, and there’s an immediate difference in outlook with all the bright colours and modular furniture. Joan has returned to her rightful place as Borg Queen of SCDP, Roger is working on both his novel writing and scotch drinking skills and Harry continues to be an intelligent and productive worker to the praise of nobody. Peggy has changed, with a fashionable new haircut and an attitude to match, she even does a very Don-like trance while coming up with an idea for their thanksgiving ham campaign. Despite all her quips and newfound penchant for afternoon scotch she’s still a woman, and still subject to another of Don’s speeches. This time she doesn’t give in so easily, and the shift in their relationship seems far from over.

There’s a lot of talk about the second floor, which may or may not contain anything.Put this down in Matthew Weiner’s ambiguous-metaphorical-red herring-file, but I’m going to suggest that it’s representative of their point in history. They’ve reached that point of no return, nobody is getting away with a few hand gestures and a joke to appear bigger than they really are. 1965 is coming, and everyone’s going to have to come up with new ideas to survive. Somewhere in his post-spanking sex haze, Don figured this out, and his deliberate botching of the Jantzen deal gave him a jumping off point to present New Don, the cool modern guy who’s all about the present. But like so many of Don’s disguises, this one has a time limit.

If, like me, you were wondering about the fates of those not asked to join SCDP, Cosgrove’s name is still in the credits so it shouldn’t be too long before we meet those guys again. Next week’s episode is called “Christmas Comes But Once A Year”. Sounds like a blast.

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2 Responses to “Public Relations or “Who Is Don Draper?””

  1. Brooke July 26, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    I can’t wait for next week. I was chatting with my office buddy about it this morning and we agreed: the season opener was OK until BLAM! the last two minutes Don came out of his coma. I love MadMen – I feel like I’m getting to peek into an era I wasn’t around for.

    • liamjordan July 27, 2010 at 6:38 am #

      I feel the same way. There’s been plenty of movies set in the era but this one feels more ‘real’, whatever that means.

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