Annie Leibowitz photograph of Don and Betty Draper (John Hamm and January Jones) for Vanity Fair
Ah, Season 3 of Mad Men - so very much anticipated but in reality a bit of a letdown. Don't get me wrong, this is still the most stylish and one of the most intelligently scripted series on television, but I wondered how the series could live up to the excellent cliffhangers that Season 2 presented. It couldn't, it didn't, and it hasn't.
While Season 3 is as good as Season 1, the suspense and sheer storytelling genius of Season 2 is missing. Here is how Season 2 ended: When it seemed that the Draper marriage was over, Betty announced she was pregnant. Roger Sterling left his wife of twenty-something years for Don Draper's twenty-something secretary. Peggy Olson received a promotion and her own office, but still had a tough time gaining acceptance; Joan Holloway embarked on the marriage from hell (she found her doctor, the epitome of husband material, but he raped her); and Trudy Campbell can't conceive the baby she so desperately wants, which is ok with Pete, whose ambitions don't include having children, and a revelation between Pete and Peggy that was stunning.
Season 3 starts off with Don and Betty together, Roger Sterling in the dog house with his soon-to-be-married daughter, Sterling Cooper closely supervised by Lane Pryce, their British parent, and Peggy experimenting with bar hopping, sex and marijuana while trying to be one of the boys. Her relationship with Pete this year seems to be nonexistent, so that her cliff-hanging revelation at the end of Season 2 has fizzled out.
The problem with Season 3 is that much of the material seems rehashed and not so fresh and new. There is very little movement forward in each episode, and the suspense from Season 2 is missing. Having said that, I make sure to watch Mad Men when it comes on, which, surprisingly, makes me a minority in the office, for I am convinced that my co-workers would love this series if they gave it a chance. The sets are luscious and so retro. The references to the sexual and social mores of the 60's bring me back in time, and the obsession with drinking and smoking reminds me of the parties my parents once gave, when the air would be filled with smoke. Those were the days of the three-martini lunch, and people would drink hard liquor like water.
Thankfully, AMC has already given the green light for Season 4. Who knows, maybe Season 3 will soon start to pick up where Season 2 left off, and leave me dangling on the edge of my seat again. I have hope yet.