The AMC television program Mad Men, which aired its final season in May 2015, tells the story of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his family and colleagues in New York between the years 1960 and 1970.
The period drama, created by Matthew Weiner, explores the changing American culture of the decade through the ever-evolving advertising agencies of Madison Avenue.
Given the volume of content that Mad Men provides, this review will focus specifically on Season 4 of the series. (Spoilers Ahead)
Season 4 of Mad Men, which originally aired in the fall of 2010, begins with the exciting birth of a brand new advertising agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
This fresh start for the main cast of characters brings glamorous new offices, with brighter colors and bigger windows than before. The new agency also provides exiting new arrangements of power within the office.
Peggy, played by Elisabeth Moss, starts fresh this season with a promotion. The new, open floor plan office spaces mean she gets to take charge in creative meetings with her copywriting subordinates.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) also starts anew with a promotion, but in classic Mad Men form, his windowless and emasculating office immediately makes his Junior Partner position at the firm clear.
The first half of the season follows Draper through an especially volatile emotional period.
As an Executive Partner of an important advertising agency, Don Draper’s affluence alone should be able to provide him with compensation for his dire emotional problems, but as a creative man with a hefty past, Draper spends the first seven episodes of season four exploring new depths to alcoholism.
The despair and anger driving Draper through these episodes apexes in episode seven, “The Suitcase.” In this iconic episode, Draper’s vulnerability reaches an all time high as he anticipates making phone call that will surely break his heart.
He channels this anger into berating Peggy, one of his usual workplace verbal punching bags. This time however, the marathon of criticism falls on Peggy’s birthday.
Movie critic calls Mad Men season 4 ‘cornerstone’ of seriesIn a storybook-like evening, Peggy and Draper fight, bond, drink, and heal while the rest of their co-workers watch Muhammad Ali take down Sonny Liston in their iconic second fight.
This delicate tapestry of character development and cultural context is the cornerstone of the whole series, making Mad Men an iconic show, and Matthew Weiner a genius.