The new season is set in 1966, and it’s playing out against an era of burgeoning social change led by the civil rights movement. The show to its credit deals realistically with the reaction on Madison Avenue, even if it is ugly.
The slick men at SCDP think the civil rights protests are a joke and have their fun with it. Protesters are doused with water bombs as they march below the high floors of Y&R’s offices. Sterling has a little fun with it by putting together an ad proclaiming that their firm is an equal opportunity employer.
The ad has its not-so-intended effect; black job-seekers fill the lobby. The agency, however, has no black employees that can be seen.
Of course the real action was Don’s (Jon Hamm) surprise 40th birthday bash, where the intersecting plot lines cris-crossed. Megan (Jessica Paré) created a scene with her vampy rendition of “Zou Bisou, Bisou.” The racy French love song was popularized in a 1960 movie by real-life actress Sophia Loren.
The scene had hints of Marilyn Monroe’s breathy singing of “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy on his 45th birthday in 1962. She scandalously over-sexed the song, capturing the spirit of the era if not the event.
The president was embarrassed, and Don threw a temper tandrum over Megan’s sexy song. In one of the show’s classic lines, Don mutters: “The only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it.”
Marrying your young secretary, it seems, was a function of the sex-charged business culture back in the day. But will that be enough for Don? Or is this the season he goes through a full-blown, mid-life crisis and gets caught up in the free-swinging ’60s?
Megan tries to appease her husband with a little reverse psychology. She strips to her underwear and suggestively starts cleaning while egging Don on by challenging his manhood. The end result: some satisfying rough sex for Don. Go Megan.
Critics of the show were most annoyed by the two-hour premiere’s languid pace. But it was probably a good thing to refresh our memories about all of the nuances of the various characters, and refresh the plot lines from the previous season.
“Mad Men got off to a very slow start on Sunday night, as though daring you to become absorbed in it again, but as the two hours proceeded, the show launched at least four rather magnificent set-piece scenes that remind you not just how good the series can be, but also how different it is from anything else TV has seen,” wrote Entertainment Tonight.
It’s only going to get better from here. Check out the video below.