For those who love incredible attention to detail and storytelling, Sunday night had to be joyous.
The world of advertising in the 1960s looks as if preserved in amber on AMC’s “Mad Men”, my runaway favorite show on TV. It’s not just close reproductions of set and behavior — it’s as if creator Matt Weiner decided to build a time machine and just start filming in 1962.
The second season began at as strong a gait as its first — right from the opening credits when you see John Slattery as a member of the cast, not a special guest. Slattery’s character, Roger Sterling, had his world turned sideways by a heart attack last season, but it certainly appears that Roger’s not quite the worse for wear, though a good deal wiser.
In fact, Roger’s brush with bad health may be serving as a cautionary tale for Don Draper, the creative director of Sterling Cooper who’s played by the deservedly Emmy-nominated Jon Hamm (above, with January Jones as Betty Draper). Don finds out he’s got high blood pressure and a helpful doctor tries to set him straight.
(Of course, Don keeps right on smoking and drinking, though he does chew his way through a sliced tomato for lunch at a bar. Start small, I guess.)
Elizabeth Moss’ character, Peggy (above, with Bryan Batt as Salvatore), was last seen having her baby in 1960, but has since seen her career rocket, going from secretary to junior account exec. And she’s got plenty of confidence, even seeing Don’s criticism as just that. I’m interested to see how she handles an opening salvo from head secretary Joan (Christina Hendricks) in what could be an awesome battle of wills, and also how she deals with being around the father of her child, the spoiled Pete (Vincent Kartheiser).
For me, though, the first episode was about Don’s wife, Betty, played by January Jones. I’ve heard more than once that the character of Betty is not easily likable, and I’ve got to admit she can be very hard to read. But there were a couple of instances where Betty proves that, given the right provocation, she could be as deceitful as Don — a man who switched identities with his dead commanding officer in Korea and who slept around with two other women in the first season.
Her car broken down, she needs to buy a fan belt from the tow-truck driver for $9 but only has three singles in her wallet. She’s able to charm her way into getting him to sell it for $3, but the conversation between Betty and the dashing driver showed she may have pondered doing more.
How much more? Weiner, Jones and the writers may be willing to expand on that this season — after all, Betty had several odd situations in Season 1: a bizarre friendship with an 8-year-old boy, and instances where she slapped a woman in a grocery store and fired a gun.
It will be interesting to see the tack Weiner takes with Season 2. As the Houston Chronicle notes, this could very well be a season about the women of “Mad Men.”