In the simplest of terms, if there’s anything that the beloved Emmy winning AMC drama Mad Men has taught us about what it was like to work in advertising in New York City in the 1960s is that it was a man, man, man, man’s world. And while equality for women is just starting to poke its head through the cracked foundation of our society during that particular chapter of our nation’s history, appearances would make it seem like Don Draper and the other men of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are still running the show. Of course, if Mad Men has taught us anything else, it’s that appearances are often incredibly deceiving.
While the first three episodes of the fifth season haven’t exactly neglected the complex gents of Mad Men — they’ve introduced us to newcomer Michael Ginsberg, have made Roger Sterling fall faster than the shadowy figure in the opening credits, and reopened the door to the dark side of Don Draper with that horrific, murderous fever dream from last night’s “Mystery Date” — the men may have finally taken the back seat to the ladies for good. Aside from the storyline of Don’s guilt-wracked subconscious creeping its way back to the surface, “Mystery Date” was a terrific showcase for three of Mad Men’s most influential and continually evolving females: Peggy, Joan, and Sally Draper.
That’s not to say Peggy, Joan, Sally or any of the other Mad Men women haven’t been a – if not the – driving force of what makes the show work, but last night felt like something of a noticeable power shift. Peggy, a continual force to be reckoned with, negotiated a lucrative bribe from a desperate Roger (not even Harry could pull that off); Joan finally kicked her no-good husband Greg to the curb (and reminded him, in addition to not letting the door hit his ass on the way out, that he did something unforgivably terrible to her); and Sally (in an exceptional Kiernan Shipka moment) faced down the the scariest realization in growing up, that the adult world is filled with different kinds of monsters.
While the females on Mad Men may still face their share of struggles in their male-dominated environment (as Peggy so devastatingly put it last night, “I try, but I don’t know if I have it in me. I don’t know if I want to,”) they’re still leading the charge as the most dynamic and powerful forces for season five so far. Aside from last night’s Peggy/Joan/Sally-centric episode, just look at the episodes prior. The season premiere was two hours long, but does anyone remember anything aside from Megan and her slinky “Zou Bisou Bisou” performance? Episode two was titled “Tea Leaves,” but they may as well have called it “Fat Betty.” (Oh well, the Internet did that for them!)
Between the evolution of favorite characters like Peggy, Sally, and Joan and the additions of Dawn, the true reflection of the world outside of the walls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and Megan, who is perhaps Don’s first true relationship equal, is it too early to dub the worth-the-wait season five as the Season of the Women? Or has Mad Men, at its core, always been about them?
[Photo credit: AMC]