Don Draper is back and shows who’s the boss
At the season premiere episode’s open, he is asked “Who is Don Draper?” but rather than give a warm and professional answer, he is unable to answer because Don is and is not many things, and aside from advertising, keeping secrets (particularly his own) is what he does best. He is a clever ad man who feels it is more appropriate that his work speak for him but, as revealed last season, he is not really Don Draper but an enigma of what he thinks Don Draper, Ad Man, should be. It looks like the not so pretty or positive aspects of his life that he has tried to hide and leave behind may show up this season.
Like the newly single Don, the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency has moved on: out of the hotel room that served as a makeshift office to a new office with a staff so lean that everyone is expected to make more with less (just like in contemporary American corporate life) and this includes no conference table in the meeting room which, Bert Cooper mentions is, apparently, a little off-putting to one of the agency’s clients. Familiar faces from the old Sterling Cooper populate the new agency—head of media Harry Crane, copywriter Peggy Olson, office manager/queen bee Joan Harris and Draper nemesis/sycophant/ account manager Pete Campbell.
Unfortunately Betty has not fully moved on and although she is now Mrs. Betty Francis, her residual anger and bitterness regarding ex-husband Don seethes. Her life is now being part of a blended family—Henry’s mother and grown children—who all make their appearances at Thanksgiving dinner. Daughter Sally, distraught at her father’s absence, acts out at dinner which is noted by and commented on by Henry’s disapproving mother who basically tells him that Betty is “a silly woman” and doesn’t understand how Henry can “live in that man’s dirt.” She knows that Betty’s life is a mess and her relationship with Don unfinished. That unfinished marriage business includes the children, and the house where Betty, the children and her new husband live while Don pays for it all.
Now that Don is single, we see that he is not only living alone but is really alone. He has a “staff” of women for his personal needs—one who cleans and cooks for him, and a regular hooker for his sexual desires and she knows what he wants: S&M sex (punishment for his various past transgressions, perhaps?).
After his Advertising Age interview is deemed a failure, a new and more uncontrolled Don Draper emerges. He tells a client that could not share his vision for their product to get out of his office (after previously pointing out that the fledgling agency could not afford to lose them) and immediately gets an interview with the Wall Street Journal, kick starting yet another facet of Don’s persona.
The WSJ interview reveals the reinvigorated and improved Don Draper: bold and badass, getting into advertising warrior fighting shape by getting the agency up and rolling, demanding Betty and family pay rent for the house they occupy, and not accepting any more failure in business or in his personal life. He makes it clear (and commits to it in print in the WSJ) that Don is large and in charge, the new sheriff in SCDP town and will not be taking any prisoners. Undoubtedly, this is the mad man who will sell us (and we will buy and LOVE!) this season.
A side note: Matthew Weiner, series executive producer and writer of this episode, wrote the Advertising Age writer as a disabled veteran of the Korean war who is thanked by Pete Campbell for his service and sacrifice. Could this be a sly homage to the many disabled veterans of our current wars? Just asking…