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September 15, 2014

Jane After Dark: Mad Men, season two - Meditations on a stylish TV show

by Jane Boursaw, posted Aug 9th 2009 4:15PM
Mad Men - Season Two
First of all, I have to say that I'm terribly distracted at the moment, because my daughter is watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even though I just watched it a few months ago, I wouldn't mind watching the entire series again from start to finish. But, alas, there are other things in my stack o' DVDs, so I'll have to be content with hearing it in the background while I work. She just watched the first two eps, and I had totally forgotten that Darla showed up in the very first episode. Interesting. Anyways...

I'll get back to The Wire -- I still have season five to watch -- but this week's Jane After Dark is all about Mad Men. Sometimes I fall deeply and madly in love with a TV show, and that's how it is with AMC's love letter to the 1960s. I raced through season one right after it was released on DVD, but stupidly waited for season two on DVD. I bought it last week and watched the entire season, devouring it like a hearty tenderloin that's perfectly cooked, so I'd be caught up for the season three premiere on August 16. If you haven't watched season two yet, spoilers follow after the jump...

Maybe the reason I'm so enamored with Mad Men is because I remember a time when men wore hats, women were supposed to stay home and have babies, gays and blacks were looked down on, smoking and drinking were part of the workday, and a pall of nuclear war hung over the world. Unfortunately, some of that still holds true today.

But the Mad Men sets alone, with their wood-paneled rooms, static-filled black-and-white TVs, and rotary phones are like a trip back to my childhood. I had to laugh (but not in a good way), when Betty just shook out their picnic blanket and left the trash where they dined in the great outdoors. Yes, people tossed trash out the windows of their cars back then.

Season two builds amazingly well on the foundation that was set in season one, and the characters' lives continue to deepen and get more complex. We learn a little more about Don Draper's stolen identity and the people who were affected by it. We learn that Betty is teetering on the brink of emotional collapse; all I could think while watching the last episode was, I sure hope she doesn't go the route of Kate Winslet's character in Revolutionary Road.

Joan Holloway, with her cool and womanly demeanor, is perhaps not as strong as we've been led to believe. The scene of her fiance attacking her behind closed doors in the office was disturbing, mainly because she just "took it" when she should have ditched him right there. Then again, he's a doctor, and even though she's Joan Holloway, she's wedged in that precarious era between women "taking it" and women "standing up for themselves."

And yet, mousy Peggy Olson seems to get stronger with each passing episode. I'm glad she finally told Pete about the baby, but he's such a wuss. I think he just said he loved her because she's moving up in the office. I don't get the feeling that he's been pining for her all this time.

Love Colin Hanks as Father Gill, and I'm fascinated by the gay Salvatore storyline. The writers aren't throwing it in our faces, but rather letting it build slowly and steadily. And Duck? He's a live wire ready to go ballistic at a moment's notice. He reminds me so much of Gig Young, though (everyone's favorite movie sidekick), it's distracting.

Really, all of the Mad Men characters are so fascinating to watch; it's hard to pick a favorite. What's your feeling on it? Got any favorite Mad Men characters? Looking forward to season three?

Who's your favorite Mad Men character?
Don Draper89 (30.6%)
Betty Draper31 (10.7%)
Roger Sterling31 (10.7%)
Joan Holloway37 (12.7%)
Peggy Olson67 (23.0%)
Pete Campbell6 (2.1%)
Paul Kinsey3 (1.0%)
Salvatore Romano5 (1.7%)
Harry Crane7 (2.4%)
Ken Cosgrove2 (0.7%)
Bertram Cooper5 (1.7%)
Herman "Duck" Phillips1 (0.3%)
Father Gill2 (0.7%)
Freddy Rumsen3 (1.0%)
None of these; I'll tell you in the comments below2 (0.7%)

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slutty_whore

I vote for Betty Draper. There's a scene in Season 2, where she catches her daughter smoking, and as punishment, locks her in the closet. It was such a metaphor for Betty's relationship with Don. You can feel how trapped she is being a mother and a wife; those responsibilities have negatively impacted her.

If I could vote twice, I would also vote for Peggy. The scene where she asks Roger Sterling for the office, whereas the "men" who had been there longer, probably deserved it more than her, but were too scared to ask him, crystallized her character for me. She has no fear and is the antithesis of a "take it" kind of woman, esp. when juxtaposed with Joan's rape scene. Peggy doesn't need a man to be whole, or a family to feel fulfilled.... she is career-oriented, or better yet, career-determined.

August 14 2009 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to slutty_whore's comment
Kiko

Yes, but remember she's young. At least ten years younger than Joan and just discovering her ambitious side.

September 16 2009 at 8:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

They're all amazingly well-acted; but for favorite character, I've gotta go with Don. He's a horse's petard for all the lying and screwing around, of course, but man! - when did they stop making men that sexy?

It's kind of refreshing to step back from the women's lib, "sensitive guy" era, and remember when men were men: even if said men were usually more trouble than they were worth! Guys like that are kind of like those classic, gas-guzzling, ozone-depleting muscle cars are now - you can't justify actually driving them around every day, but it sure is nice to hear that big old engine roar!

August 10 2009 at 9:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sxg926

Don Draper is my favorite character in Mad Men. He has sexy smile, wise mind ans brave heart. By the way , other characters are also excellent.
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August 10 2009 at 4:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Age-K

It's very hard to pick a favorite character in Mad Men, but a little bit easier after season 2. I'll admit that, as people, in the first season, I didn't really like any of them. Sure as characters they were fascinating, but I had issues with their decisions. Usually, I find it very hard to enjoy a show or book when I don't like any of the characters, but Mad Men was so great in every other way that I couldn't help but keep watching. Then, in season 2, all of a sudden the characters became more sympathetic and though I still didn't necessarily like some of the things that they did, I understood where they were coming from and why someone like them would make that decision, etc.

S.1, I really wanted to like Peggy, but I felt like she kept making really bad choices so she still kind of bothered me. S.2 I really came to like her character, so she's the one I voted for. I still don't necessarily agree with everything she's done, but based on where she's come from and what she's been told and the examples that have been set for her at work/home, I understand her character now and can relate to a lot of her (especially the pro bono work...oh my god, was that a familiar scene!)

Harry is the character I most relate to--that person just trying to be a good guy, and kind of at the mercy of others.

And Pete is another character that totally grew on me in s.2. All the horrible and obnoxious things that he has done--he's really a product of his environment...He's been told what he should be, how he should act, how he should be treated, and he just believes it, as messed up as it all is. After s.2, I really feel bad for the guy because he just doesn't understand why people react to him the way they do.

Definitely looking forward to s.3.

August 09 2009 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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