Although I had my doubts last week about Mad Men‘s seventh season, I was not disappointed Sunday night with Episode 2. Everything about this episode was perfect. From the writing to the acting, it was flawless. This is the level of brilliance I have come to expect of Mad Men. Everyone always compares Breaking Bad and The Sopranos and Girls to Mad Men, but Mad Men is just on a whole other level that no other show has ever — and maybe will ever — reach. This might be an overstatement, but I truly feel that Mad Men will go down in the books as a perfect show. Although we can knit-pick and find small flaws from episode to episode, the story told will be brilliant — on a level never reached before.
However, the best part of this episode for me was Sally. Sally has always been an intriguing character to me, someone I looked forward to seeing, but this episode sealed the deal: Sally is my favorite character. The lives of the other characters are just their lives; we know how that generation lived and we know how they died, their legacy is set. Sally is of my parent’s generation. At least in my mind, that generation doesn’t have a cohesive identity, and their legacy is still to be determined. So, what happens with Sally will say a lot about what that generation stands for. I am excited to see what the writers do with her character in the resolution of their story.
Even though Sally is the wild card in the show, everything else that happened in this episode was just as wonderful. Joan moving offices, Dawn being promoted to Head of Personnel, Don getting dressed just for Dawn to deliver papers, Peggy and Shirley fighting over the flowers, Roger and Jim’s elevator ride — I mean everything was simply ingenious.
Most importantly, though, was the racial theme that FINALLY came out in this episode. I’ve bemoaned the lack of racial tension in Mad Men since its inception. I’ve been able to justify the lack of it by arguing that the kinds of people Mad Men follows through the show were probably pretty unaware of the on-goings of the civil rights movement. The only times I can recall the subject even coming up in past episodes were when Abe Drexler refused to tell the police the race of his attacker, when Abe forced Peggy to live in an “up and coming” neighborhood, and when we saw a few brief clips of Dawn meeting her engaged friend at a diner. This episode was the one that broke the mold — Cooper’s blatant racism leading to the promotion of a black woman finally broached the subject in a meaningful way. I hope to see more of this topic throughout the season as it was arguably the defining movement of the decade.
As I’ve said before, everything in this episode was simply ingenious. That’s all there really is to say about it.