Mad Men, “Public Relations”: I’m Donald Draper, b**ch.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Dickens wrote, and it seems the same is applicable at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the scrappy upstart that may be wondering if it’s bit off more than it can chew.

It’s a rare thing to see a show genuinely reinvent itself, especially a show as popular as Mad Men. But if “Public Relations” is any indication, it looks like that’s exactly what the show’s done. But while the stakes in Don’s world have definitely been raised and all of our characters seem to be in uncharted waters as far as their relationships with each other go, it still feels like our Mad Men, albeit a little brighter and snazzy in that this-is-how-bases-on-the-moon-will-look-one-day sort of way.

While things look like business as usual in the beginning of the episode,we can already see how different things have become. Don has always been a prize pony, as Connie Hilton might say, but now that the new agency is struggling to find its place in the world, he’s become more valuable than ever. And as his worth has gone up, so it seems that potential clients’ excitement over dealing with him has, too. The bottom line is that, if Don can’t deliver, everyone hurts.

Things are no less hectic back at the shiny new offices of SCDP, which look like they were taken straight out of the show’s title sequence. Things are a little more cramped, although we don’t see all of the hustle and bustle we saw at Sterling Cooper. From the people who have carried over to the new agency, I think we see the biggest change in Peggy, who’s really come out of her shell.

Not only do we see how different things are for Don, but also for his better half (although some might argue that point). I guess you can’t even call Betty Don’s better half anyway, as she’s now remarried to Henry Francis. It wasn’t any big secret before, but now that Betty doesn’t have her crappy marriage to Don to hide behind, I think it’s going to become that much more apparent what a bad mother she is. Henry already walks around with a look on his face that says he got more than he expected by marrying her.

But divorce or no divorce, Betty’s still under Don’s thumb to a certain extent. She has yet to move out of the house, which Don owns. And I doubt that’s something he’s just going to ignore for too long. When he asked Betty how long it would be until they were out, and Betty threw her hissy fit about not having found the right place for the kids, Henry stepped in, telling Don that their staying there was only temporary. This prompted one of the best lines of the entire episode: “Believe me, Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary.” Zing! I’m glad to see that things are about as cordial as they were when they were still married.

Now that Don’s officially on the market again, he’s free to pursue his philandering. Jane sets him up on a date with a friend who looks like she’s actually going to make Don work if he wants a chance with her. Of course, when Don’s feeling lazy, he can always call exotic-looking prostitutes to come over and slap him around for a while. That dominatrix stuff may have been the episode’s biggest surprise, and I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Oh! Don feels guilty over the way he treats the women in his life, so he’s punishing himself!” I likely culprit, I’ll admit, but I don’t want to believe that the show would be so overt in its thematics.

Mad Men is a show that, unlike so many others, really hasn’t dipped in quality in the three + years its been on the air. Still, it still seems to have found a new energy that wasn’t there before. It’s flashier, it’s cooler and it’s meaner. Don’s got the world by the tail, but does he really? He copes, but you have to think that that can only go so far. There’s only so much the world can heap upon him. And when he breaks, as Fox Mulder might say, it’s going to be the biggest s**tstorm of all time. Don’t let the flashy lights fool you, things may not be as pretty as they seem.

Stuff I liked:

  • “John!” “Marsha!”
  • “It’s the Daily News. It’s one, big section.”
  • I like the character fine, but Joey sort of reminded me of Roy from that episode of The Simpsons. I half expected him to say things like, “Heeey, Mr. D!”
  • The picture of Kennedy hanging up in Peggy’s apartment.
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