Recap & Reactions: Mad Men returns with “A Little Kiss”

I recently took the time to catch up on Mad Men, AMC’s critical and populous smash hit, by watching all four previous seasons on Netflix Instant Watch. Luckily, I managed to do so in time for the series’ eagerly anticipated return earlier tonight. We here at Wrecked have been wanting to branch out, content-wise, so I’ve decided to take advantage of Mad Men‘s heated, two hour re-entry into the pop culture atmosphere and start a series of episode reaction articles. Safe to say, spoilers and personal opinions after the break.

Something I greatly admired about each new season of the series is how handily it deals with the passage of time between the current season and its predecessor. Season five is no different, picking up a year or so after the ending of season four. We are now some time into the marriage of Don and Megan, Joan has a baby boy, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce seems to be doing much better for themselves. Pete and Trudy are also new parents, and we got a few scenes depicting Pete’s life as a commuter (a subtle arc that I felt was explored quite well).

The episode was double-stuffed, clocking in at just over two hours of airtime. While the complete episode certainly had a definite overall arc, each hour was nicely partitioned into two major sub-arcs. The first hour was largely concerned with catching up with the core characters, culminating in a surprise birthday party that Megan decided to throw for Don. All of the major characters except for Joan were in attendance, and we spent a significant amount of time within the awkward party atmosphere. Don was really not into the whole surprise party thing, but I felt like the writers and art department did a characteristically stellar job in crafting an honest depiction of the period, full of casual racism/sexism and discussions of “domino theory.”

Seriously, sixties, what the fuck is up with that suit? Why worry about racism when there's this.

Alongside the birthday party plot, we also get to see the younger staff (Mad-Men: First Class, as I like to call them) deal with the new Heinz beans account. As has consistently been the case with this show, the actual advertising business scenes are some of my personal favorite. I find the reasoning behind each ad design wonderfully fascinating and the discussions about their effectiveness equally so. I felt the sequence with the Heinz ad worked quite nicely, as it illustrated yet again how much the advertising mentality has changed since those days. The “bean ballet” ad sounded like something that would have no problem finding its way onto television screens today. Whether that says something positive or negative about advertising today is something I have yet to decide, but I’m leaning toward negative.

Mad-Men: First Class. Codenames from the left: Hubris, Punchcard, and Inkwell. Not gonna lie; I'd read those comics in a heartbeat.

The second half of the episode is a bit more meandering, wrapping up the handful of disconnected subplots left lingering after the party. I found Lane’s subplot odd and uncomfortable but quite interesting. Between the taxi scene and the final scene of the episode, we got a great sense of his bizarre, extremely polite racism. The scene where he has that awkwardly sexy conversation over the phone with that lady was quite uncomfortable to watch, if only because we have to sit through his bumbling attempts at being naughty.

As for the rest of the characters, we pick up with them pretty much where you’d expect. Roger is still a total douchebag, and his relationship with Pete is just as hilariously whiny as ever. I like Lane’s relationship with Joan, and I hope they don’t try to force a salacious affair on it. I think they’ve got quite an endearing bromance going on, and I feel like any sexiness would come off as forced and unnecessary.

Overall, it wasn’t a particularly bombastic premiere, but Mad Men has never been a particularly bombastic show. Not much has changed, but the writing and acting is just as classy as ever. Feel free (encouraged, even) to share your own thoughts in the comments.

Plus, the opener featured an appearance by Dominic Dierkes of DERRICK Comedy. I can not overstate how happy this made me.

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About Darren Orsetti
Amateur screenwriter. Amateur blogger. Life-long haver of skewed priorities.

2 Responses to Recap & Reactions: Mad Men returns with “A Little Kiss”

  1. Zack says:

    Great show good review. How was there not a single Betty moment?
    Two misremembers. Peggy still hadnt gotten megan and Don a wedding gift implying they were married and Joan was invited but didnt think she was because Megan invited people so late. It was said so by her mother.

    • Darren Orsetti says:

      Ah, yes. Thank you for the corrections, I will edit those points immediately.

      It’s not the first time they’ve waited to get to Betty in a season opener. There probably just wasn’t any room among these particular plot threads to get started on Betty’s. Judging by the preview for the next episode, there will be plenty Betty soon. I don’t actually consider Betty a major character at this point, anyway.

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