It’s been almost a year and a half since the last episode of AMC’s critically beloved drama Mad Men aired its last episode. Amid whispers of the show’s cancellation and creator Matthew Weiner’s firing, AMC and Weiner conducted backroom talks that eventually (rumor has it) led to slashing the budget of The Walking Dead instead.
Where we left off, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) had ended his marriage with frigid, hateable ex-beauty queen Betty (January Jones); she then married boring, stable old Henry Francis creating what’s sure to be a horribly unsatisfying relationship for both of them. After turning down strident, smart New Yorker Faye Miller (Cara Buono, who was pitch perfect in the role), Don proposed to his secretary Megan (Jessica Pare), a naive, pretty young thing with big dreams and an easygoing sensibility. Don (or Dick Whitman, as those who know him best – and hate him most, it seems – call him) has been struggling with an identity crisis the last few seasons.
It’s been a year and a half in the show’s world as well, putting us squarely in 1966. The civil rights movement is getting off the ground, and the good old boys in the Young and Rubicam offices decide to toss makeshift water balloons at the protesters outside their window. Not a smart move, guys. So begins a feud with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, with SCDP placing an ad in the Times stating they’re an Equal Opportunity Employer. This, of course, backfires in their faces when a whole crowd of African Americans shows up with resumes, prompting Roger Sterling (the wonderful John Slattery) to mutter, “We can’t have one of them in the lobby!” The times, they are a’changin.
And with changes come power struggles. Everyone in this episode is fighting for footing in the midst of a sea change.