FREDDY! Wait, Freddy? As I was listening to him deliver that campaign, all I could think was, “Freddy has come a long way since the pissing-the-pants days. I had no idea he was capable of anything of that caliber, and I did have a little nagging piece of a thought kernel in the back of my mind that I should have realized was worthy of inspection. I’m sure I was the only person who thought to myself, “Oh, of course, you fool,” when Freddy showed up at Don’s. But I digress. I wasn’t surprised to see it was Peggy he was pitching it to. I wasn’t even surprised to see she wasn’t the new Don instead of that dolt, Lou, but I was certainly disappointed. A word about the new Don: Dullsville. As someone who has worked in the advertising world before, albeit in the media buying piece of it, I can say that the creative arm of advertising is where the excitement is. If Lou had been sucking the life out of the creative area of the ad firm where I worked, I certainly wouldn’t have been desperately praying nightly to the gods of career advancement for any opportunity to jump to that area.
Don: Ever since Don and Sally shared that look at the end of season six while standing in front of the whorehouse where Don grew up, I have been waiting for this season to start with unbearable anticipation. Would this be, FINALLY, the season where Don would start to show some character growth? I felt that look they shared, as well as the fact that he took them to his childhood home in the first place, was a giant first step. So, I watched this episode with a hyper focus on Don, and Jon Hamm’s facial expressions as he plays Don with a tightly-controlled intensity that leaves me mystified as to the dearth of Emmy wins.
I am a little surprised to see that Megan and Don are still together. I thought the bicoastal preview was telling. They are clearly living separate lives and that is currently working for them. “You’re not here long enough for a fight.” In their first scene, I was struck how Megan just sets the scene by getting out of the car and walking over to Don. She just looks like California to me. And he looks like New York, or more simply, not California. She’s in the driver’s seat literally and figuratively out there. I am interested in seeing if there’s more from her perspective to explain Don’s lines, “She knows I’m a terrible husband.” “She doesn’t know that much, but she knows.” But this line, “I keep wondering, have I broken the vessel,” is the key to why they are still together, I think.
All of those references. Sorry, but I have to get back to work. The second time, surprisingly, is Don’s reason why he declines his attractive sleep partner’s invitation to party. “Why would I expect anything else?” “Well, blame Madison Avenue for that.” Those couple of references earlier in the episode to getting back to work are why it wasn’t a big reveal when Freddy walks into Don’s apartment. It was terrific, don’t get me wrong, but they had done their work in the episode to set up the reveal which I always appreciate. And I thought, “OK, it’s better at least. Don’s lied so many times. But when he said he’s got to get back to work he was actually getting back to work.” And in his mind, he probably thinks he’s close to legit since he’s still getting paid from SC&P for whom he’s doing the work through Freddy. Well, he’s doing work for other agencies, too, but I suspect that might be at Freddy’s urging. Of course, Freddy’s got bigger plans. He’s got the muse at his disposal, and he’s making a name for himself.
I am curious to see where the season leads, but I saw some signs of progress, with a clear signal that you should never bet on him. Watching him try to close those sliding doors had my feet sweating. I focus on the man falling in the opening credits as I’m supposed to, and I cast Don as that man again, though I’ve cast a few others over the seasons. That last scene was very effective. I wonder if Don will remain that man as the season progresses, or if they will try to have us substitute one or two others again. (A quick aside: does the clue to who will be the man falling in the opening credits lie in who remains in a suit during the entirety of the series? I’m sure that’s a stupid question as the opening credits have probably been meant to lead us astray all along. And here I am. Astray.)
Joan: My primary focus was on Don this episode, but after Joan pulled that fantastic Avon maneuver last season, she was my secondary focus. I’m thrilled to see her come into her own here. She’s always been the backbone of the agency, but it’s so good to see her do something for herself. She’s always done what she’s had to do to keep the agency going. Now, she’s obviously got the agency’s best interests in mind, but she’s making moves to further her own agenda. It’s great to see because I have no doubt she’ll succeed. “Actually I can answer that. You’re going to need another pad.” I loved watching her checkmate the shoe guy who wanted to bring the advertising in house. He was in over his head, and it was fun to watch her take him down.
Roger: I didn’t expect Roger to be embracing that lifestyle quite so fully, but it makes some sense with his ally Don gone, the agency leaning more Cutler, Chaough, rather than Cooper, Sterling, and the environment at work more productive and, therefore, even less Roger-friendly. He’s feeling lost, aimless, and alone. Clearly, the lifestyle doesn’t fit him well, though. I expect something tragic’s coming Roger’s way.
Ken: Head of accounts sure doesn’t agree with poor Ken, and I am so sad to see that the eyepatch is a permanent fixture. Makes for good physical comedy, I guess. Poor Ken. I love the guy and to see that he has effectively swapped places with Pete makes me die a little inside.
Peggy: It breaks my heart to see Peggy so sad at the end. All she has is work, and she works for a douche without a soul. But worse than that for her, she works for a douche without a soul who lacks talent. He has no vision or creativity. That creative meeting was polite and lifeless: lacking any creative fire and invention. There was plenty of ass-kissing which I’m interested in seeing explored further as Lou seems to me like all bark and no bite. Clearly that’s not correct since they all seem much more intimidated by him than they ever were by Don. Thank goodness she still has Stan. “None of this seems related to coffee. Buck up, chief.” I thought there was a romantic spark there between those two, and I am still hoping for that. I think they are good for each other.