A discussion group for a bunch of Mad Men obsessives so impatient that we can't wait for Season 4 to come on BBC4. Spoilers aplenty - beware!

Rules of the group - no discussion of an episode until at least the Tuesday after it's aired on Sunday in America. A summary of the show to start, and then discussion beneath. Thought pieces that don't necessarily fit into the chronology of the series welcome; theories, links, character assassinations too.

Hugo Tillman portrait. 


Hugo Tillman portrait. 

2 years ago
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S4E2 Discussion

From Wiki:

Don gets a Christmas letter from Sally which highlights his depression. Now sober, Freddy Rumsen returns to SCDP with a new client but his chauvinism leads to conflict with Peggy. Roger mistakenly invites Lee Garner, Jr. to the firm’s Christmas party, forcing Lane to expand the party’s budget. Sally receives some awkward attention from a classmate. Don gets drunk and has an ill-advised one-night stand. This episode takes place right before Christmas, 1964.

4 years ago
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S4E1 discussion

From Wikipedia…

Don’s secretive demeanor results in an unfavorable interview by an Advertising Age reporter, leading an important client to fire his ad agency. Creative and Don struggle with a bathing suit account for which the client wants to project a wholesome image. Pete and Peggy work together to secure increased budget from a client with an ill-advised publicity stunt involving two women fighting over a baked ham. Roger attempts to find a girlfriend for Don, setting him up with a friend of his wife. Betty and the kids spend Thanksgiving with her new husband’s family. Betty gets into a fight with Don over her delay in moving out of the house. This episode takes place the week of Thanksgiving, 1964.

Here’s our email chain posted in order of how it happened. As we’ve only just moved it to Tumblr, it’s a bit clunky - next week’s discussion will be more orderly and Tumblr-friendly, once we actually figure out how to do that…


- I loved the ending, with Don realising he has to reveal more of himself if he’s going to succeed in this new world. Nice parallel between him and the swimsuit firm having to be persuaded to reveal more flesh in their adverts

- Of course, Don revealing more of himself will lead to a whole heap of trouble

- Peggy looks very different. And what’s the deal with her ‘boyfriend’?

- Joan remains awesome. And now has her own office!

- I love that we’re already finding out that Betty’s new home life is almost as screwed up as her previous one

- Don’s hiring hookers to punch him in the face during sex? Wow. Would have been cute casting if they’d hired the girl from Californication who used to do that to David Duchovny

- Line of the episode: “I can use my expense account if I say that they’re whores”. Oh, Pete. (although you know Roger would totally sign it off)

- I miss Sal. Hope he reappears at some point

All in all, great episode and can’t wait to see where they go with it in this series


For me it was a real Betty episode. Before there was always something to admire and respect about Betty- even if it was her amazing dresses, but now, what’s happened? She’s a spoilt brat and I’m left pitying her new husband, as well as the children.

Peggy is also now super sassy and confident in her new surroundings. You do see a serious side to the new firm but you never get the idea that the new staff are really in trouble.

Regarding the old characters- will they ever return to Stirling Cooper? I do miss Sal and Ken..


I know what you mean about Betty - before, I felt really sympathetic towards her, thinking that her motherly ineptitude was down to the horrible situation she was in. Now she has everything she wants, yet she still can’t be nice to her kids. I do think the storyline that she’s in is a bit obvious for Mad Men though - mother-in-law in hating son’s new wife shocker - which makes me think that there’s going to be a lot of complications with Don, either divorce-wise, or in terms of rekindling something, if only fleetingly. I can’t wait to see what happens with Sally though, especially as she’s now a cast regular (her name is in the titles), when she wasn’t before. Also, it made me feel kinda sick to see Henry in Don’s place in the bed. Interesting to see Don entirely in the right over Betty for once too, when she and Henry turned up really late.

The relationship between Don and Peggy is weird, almost like a father chastising his daughter. All the relationships in the show are either defined by sex, family or rivalry (I think?), and the first one definitely isn’t applicable in the case of those two.

John - great point about him realising he has to reveal more of himself, I hadn’t thought of that. I read one review of the episode that drew on the cowboy imagery throughout - the little kid “behind bars” in the floor cleaner advert; Don silhouetted in front of the saloon doors to the kids’ bedroom in his apartment; and then when he talks to the Wall Street Journal journalist at the end, and says they had to “holster up their guns” - that’s pretty much the equivalent of him squaring off with public perception of him.

I totally didn’t get the bikini advert though - “so well built, we can’t show you the second floor” - what? I get the link to their charade about how their office has two floors, but don’t really see how it ties in with the bikini advert.

I really like how as we’re heading into the mid-60s, the show’s writers are drawing on the ad men as celebrity phenomenon - Roger says to the one-legged journalist that he’d get him to read his book, and when Don finally lets down his guard, the journalist’s face lights up. If you’ve not read this article do so! It’s an awesome piece by Will Dean about Jerry Della Femina, one of the original ad men who wrote a book called From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbour, which is being reissued.

Anyone think it interesting that the prostitute Don’s sleeping with looks a bit like Joan? And obviously, his date is the spit of Betty, though seemingly wilier.

Predictions for episode 2? This episode seemed slower than usual, but the tension was so amazing!


All through this episode (and, indeed, the last season) I was thinking what the endgame will be for Don Draper. Who will he become, in the eyes of the writers? Where will he eventually end up? What will he be?

Are they imbuing him with the experiences that will form the traits synonymous with where advertising (“the creation of desire”) ended up in the 80s and 90s? Is that where the series will end? If the ad industry really came of age in the eighties, I could see Draper there, sitting atop the biggest agency in the world.

By the end of the episode, it made me really understand what the series is truly about - progress, development, modernity; how we respond to changes in the world. After much of the previous two seasons showing Don out of step at times with things, here we have him suddenly engaging with the brave new world. The dude’s even got a working girl punching him in the face (as a metaphor for what? I’m not sure yet).

Other observations?

- Neat to see Peggy as the archetype of a new form of advertising. It feels like this season may draw back from her a little for some reason. Not sure why. It feels like we’re seeing her professional growth rather than her personal turmoil this time and I like that idea.

- I think Sal will be back somehow. Aside from the great character, I can’t see the makers abandoning their only gay character, especially as the mid-sixties unfolds. Too much potential there too.

- Harry’s put on weight - a reflection of his higher salary and success? He’s more confident now too.

- Peggy to Draper: “We’re all here for please you etc” reminds you how the agency can’t cope without him as a central figure. He’s paternal to those beneath him (as Laura notes) like a stern father and to those above, he’s a link to the central demographic they’re trying to capture (note the lucky strikes in his pocket as he leaves for the date - with lucky strike the firm’s main client)

- Joan’s still Queen Bee - I like how Harry reports his TV success to her first. Shows that she knows everyone’s secrets and confidences still, in this new firm. Love it.

- I’m not a Betty lover at all and I’m unsure how Don’s estrangement will leave her story in the series sitting comfortably alongside everything. She’s obviously an asset to the show but if they want to keep her onscreen in a way that’s natural, they need to keep the possibility of her and Don getting back together as something real. Which I think they did with the scary mother-in-law.

- Another theory that came from a late night conversation. Each key character represents a demographical stereotype: Betty as selfish, wanting it all, Peggy as modern independent, un-materialistic, Joan as potential home-maker etc etc. Thoughts?

- Pete’s “We’re very grateful for your sacrifice” made me laugh.


One of the main reasons I love Mad Men is for its sheer refusal to conform to any sort of conventional form of storytelling or narrative. The subtle way Sal’s wife realises he’s gay, the totally out-of-the-blue lawnmower incident, the way each character never really behaves in the stereotypical way you expect them to (for example, I do like Pete at times…) - Mad Men’s storytelling doesn’t think for you, it presents you with a complex moral minefield to navigate for yourself (much in the way real life does).
So with this episode I found myself wondering (as Paul referenced) are we supposed to pity Don Draper or does he deserve everything he gets? In the beginning Don was presented as some sort of lovable rouge character - a one-dimensional no-pants-dance machine who saves the day and looks fucking cool while doing it. Women wanted him, men wanted to be him and so on. Yet as you spend more time with him and see what he’s risking and putting at stake the facade starts to crumble and he becomes pathetic - there have been plenty of times when Don’s needed someone to take him aside and go “oi mate, what the bejebus are you doing? Grow up, you bloody ninny”.
So, what are we thinking? Personally I found myself feeling sorry for him but then that might be because…
To my next point. I hate Betty. If there was a Camp Betty - I would definitely not be in it.
Now, I admit that she is a victim of circumstance and has been treated awfully at the hands of Don* but - for me, at least - she encapsulates everything I don’t like about the attitudes of that era. She’s regressive, materialistic, superficial, cold, conservative and totally happy to accept and embrace the role that society has dictated without question. She’s the polar opposite of Progressive Peggy (is this why Don admires her?) and most interestingly of Sally Draper (who seems dead-set in rebelling against authority and her mother’s choices).
Great spot with the parallel between Don having to be more open and the bikini firm, I didn’t make that connection. I thought Pete and Peggy were great in this episode and I can totally see something happening there…
I thought Joan was underused but then when isn’t she?
In terms of pace I agree with Laura about it being slower than usual but I thought it worked in setting up the new chapter of Don’s life. And also, yes, BRING BACK SAL.
*In regards to this it’s interesting to hear the differences in opinion between men and women. I’ve spoken to a few men who - for reasons they can’t explain - regard Betty’s adultery as far worse than Don but why? Do the men of this group feel the same way? How about you, Snapes, you bastion of feminism? I suppose it does come back to double standards but it’s an interesting observation.


You’ve all pretty much said everything I was thinking. (And a lot of thinks that didn’t even cross my mind)

Everything felt a bit weird to me, I don’t know whether it’s the jump in time, or the lack of a lot of the old characters (Sal!), or maybe just because I couldn’t watch 8 episodes in one sitting.

But either way, I can’t wait to see how far Don opens up, and whether it sorts him out, or he completely self distructs.
I’ve never liked Betty, and now I like her even less, for once I sympathised with Don in his family situation.

I hope the show keeps it’s comedic moments even without the Jokers from the old office (I didn’t understand the banter between Peggy and that other dude in the office, was it funny?)

And Sally is going to rule this season, things are going to KICK OFF.


The banter between Peggy and … the guy whose name I’ve forgotten is from a ’50s sketch show by Stan Freberg.

Listen to the original John and Marsha song here.

Tis not exactly Je T’aime Moi Non Plus…


Have to admit, I was wondering what the whole “John….Martha…John…Martha” thing was all about!

Second time around, I did notice how much Happy Slappy Hooker looked like Joan - that must have been intentional.

As for Betty - I always used to like her as a character. That famous scene of her shooting the neighbours pigeons was incredible. But I slowly began to dislike her during season 3, and episode 1 of season 4 just confirmed that all of her worst qualities weren’t down to Don, but were simply her. The aloofness, her childishness, the bullying of her kids - that scene were she was literally just shovelling the food into Sally’s mouth was just chilling. There’s a girl who’s going to grow up with issues, if she hasn’t got them already. I enjoyed watching Henry quickly realise that this marriage isn’t all he thought it was going to be.

Don’s new love interest is an interesting one. Think there’s more to her than meets the eye somehow.

I loved the new offices too - the scene where Don, Pete and Roger were walking through the office and we saw the first glimpse of the staff was excellent.


And here’s WHY it was in the show:

This is the entire exchange — done over and over to hilarious effect — from Freberg’s classic “John and Marsha,” a parody of soap opera dialogue that would be the first of many hit records he would release in the 1950s. After a few years, he started writing commercials. He won 21 Clio Awards in his brilliant career, and Advertising Age named him one of the century’s 100 most influential figures. He’s considered “the father of comic advertising.”


- I loved the points made about the flesh of the bikini, and how you present yourself linking up with Don’s need to present himself as the face of the company. I’d tie that in with the abundance of Glass in the new office - the place is just a fishbowl, with everyone watching each other. It was great to see Don make himself that centre of attention. Though the question of “Who is Don Draper?” that the show opened with turned out to be nicely ironic: he’s just yet created another, business-friendly model of himself, in a series of versions of ‘Don Draper’.

- Re the ‘Betty is a Bitch’ comments: do we think they’re ever going to make Betty likable again? I feel a bit sorry for January Jones, having to play such a cow all the time (and though she was a bad mother and many other things in series 1, at least we were loosely on her side). I think she’s an amazing character, but there has to be some sort of growth there, just to keep it fresh? Then again, I suppose there’s an argument to be made that that’s a very Hollywood thing to want, as a viewer, to see the character somehow ‘come good’ (and if Mad Men gave us what we want, Sal would be here…which I don’t think he ever will be, in disagreement with a couple of you).

- as Stephen kind of said, the point of empathy is again interesting in relation to Don. Who is of course an absolute cunt, yet we find ourselves rooting for him (perhaps in part down to the narrative POV of the show). His family history contextualises him greatly, and I guess that’s what we don’t quite have with Betty (or not to the same depth - the relationship with her Mum only only goes so far). Still, perhaps that’s just me, or some deep rooted sexist issues I need to resolve, but I feel sorry for Don and not Betty, but can’t explain why.

- Peggy means serious business this year: her square off with Don - once he begs you to work with him, why suck up any longer? - seems to just be the beginning. I think it’s great how she can still get afraid of him too, when he’s cross, in that way that someone who’s your superior will always kind of be able to make you feel like a child again.

- I need more ‘Joan In The Workplace’. Most Tragic Mad Men Moment Ever has to be when she started to work with Harry etc and they brought someone else in, pushing her back into the office role.

- From a musical POV, was that the first kind of ‘garage rock’ moment the show’s ever had, on the closing credits? What better way to signpost this ‘New Don’….

And you can never watch this too many times.

4 years ago
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Hugo Tillman portrait. 


Hugo Tillman portrait. 

2 years ago
5 notes

Hugo Tillman portrait. 


Hugo Tillman portrait. 

2 years ago
5 notes
FlavorWire's Mad Men reading list

FlavorWire compiled a list of all the books read in the series thus far, and added some extra-curricular reading to help you understand the show. Like this, by Jerry Della Femina, one of the godfathers of the advertising age.

4 years ago
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