I love Mad Men, and I was thrilled to sit down on Sunday evening to watch the first episode of Season Four, “Public Relations.” In fact, I stayed up later than I had planned too to watch it. However, I left feeling disappointed. Disappointed for a reason which was hard to pin down. There wasn’t anything in the episode which scream “OMG, wrong.” (Perhaps I’m too use to the easy offenses thrown at me when I watch True Blood. To think, I had to use more brain power.)
When I finally figured out what went wrong was when I realized the episode was all about Don Draper. In fact, the episode opens with the question of “Who is Don Draper?” Out of all the Mad Men characters, Don is the one I have the least affection or understanding toward. And especially when this show is set during the massive cultural changes of the 1960s (feminism, civil rights, etc.), I find myself not caring what manpain Don Draper suffers from. Don may have grown up poor, but he’s achieved the American Dream.
In “Public Relations,” Don states that he’s a rich man. Okay, getting a divorce because things didn’t work out wasn’t that common at the time, but from my point-out-view, 50% of all marriages end in divorce and most are from “irreconcilable differences.” Cry me a river, Don Draper. Or more important, give Carla some screen time or a day off.
But, you might say, the episode wasn’t all about Don. There were scenes with Betty and Henry, Henry and his mother, and Peggy and Pete too. Plus, we got to see Harry and his sunburn. (Watch out for skin cancer, buddy. Even if it’s not the radar yet.) And there was the delightful little Sally spitting out the sweet potatoes and marshmallows at the Francis-Draper household’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Okay, Don wasn’t physically present in any of these scenes. But they were all about Don. Betty and Henry fight about Don. Sally fights with Betty (because Betty’s a terrible mother) because she wants her father. Peggy and Pete discuss whether they should bring in Don in on their stunt, and when it backfires on them, Peggy must confess to Don and ask for bail money. But mostly, everyone in “Public Relations” is overwhelmingly concerned about Don’s bad public relations. Concerned about how Don doesn’t want to be a superstar, even though they all think he totally deserves it. They all admit that Don’s the reason why they’re part of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Pryce. Even Pete, who hated Don, has changed to a tune of love that his earlier self would’ve mocked.
I had a hard time liking this episode because I simply don’t like Don Draper. Nor has the mystery of who Don Draper is been the force keeping me glued to this show. I’m much more interested in who Peggy is or who Joan is or if Pryce’s wife ever learned to like New York City.
Guess I’ll be tuning in on Sunday to figure it out.