TV: Mad Men

Good news for TV junkies and fans of the pornstache: Mad Men is back for the second half of its final season, and it’s full-speed ahead into the 1970s. We last left these characters in the patriotic afterglow of the moon landing, but now it’s April 1970 and things don’t look quite so rosy. Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the dash- ing ad man at the center of this epic, still faces the same problems of identity and isolation he’s been dealing with for the duration of the show. Personal lives around the rest of the agency are equally unchanged in the mid-season premiere: Roger (John Slattery) tries to recapture his youth, Joan (Christina Hendricks) has
to deal with sexism in business meetings, and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) goes on a blind date.

The themes and plot directions might seem like more of the same, but the sharp writing and killer performances that made this show a hit continue to do so. Those elements have defined the Mad Men’s success when the show could have diminished in quality over seven seasons. Here, the transition from 60s sophistication to 70s shag is nearly complete, but the cynical, darkly comic tone of the show remains.

The new episode, which aired this past Sunday, feels like classic Mad Men. When Don spills red wine on the white carpet of his apartment, he covers it up with a comforter—in keeping with his longstanding preference for stopgap fixes over actual growth. The show’s genius for character development is as luminous as ever in this episode, and Hamm’s acting is some of the best he’s done in the series. And if you haven’t yet watched Mad Men, it’s time to get going: you now have 10 years of plot, fashion, and social upheaval to get through.

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