There’s a very telling still image on the inside sleeve of this box set – Don Draper, looking as dapper and suave as ever, sitting in an office, adopting a pose of ceaseless elegance (albeit with a concerned countenance to his face), up to his waist in water. He is in all likelihood on a short, direct path to drowning. That kind of quiet desperation fills every frame and nuance of Mad Men’s brilliant third season.
If Don Draper’s perfect early 60s life was the product of an elaborate web of lies and deception, there had to come a point where the whole thing came unstuck. Without a true sens of self, Don’s bound to fly off the handles at times, like in season two’s extended parlay into life in California. Upon his return, Betty was pregnant, and as Season 3 began, we begin to see all aspects of his early life and childhood that informed his crippled psyche.
In a season that gives a hint in the early episodes as to where it is headed, or at least the narrative device that will encapsulate their collective experience, the show works amazingly as an allegory for the change that the 60s brought to the American people – the roles for women, the dutiful housewife, secretary or aspiring career woman; the changing face of American politics in the Kennedy era. The twelfth episode, ‘The Grown Ups’, concerning the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination and the Draper’s marriage ending, is probably the best episode of the entire series, brilliantly directed by Barbet Schroeder.
Jon Hamm has his finest moments in this season, as does January Jones as the besieged and fed up Betty. Jared Harris makes a welcome edition to the cast as the British overlord of the recently purchased Sterling Cooper. I’m hoping that Elizabeth Moss will have more to do in Season 4, as her Peggy seems to be the cornerstone of the show and was comparatively underused in this season.
The best drama on TV. Right up there with the best dramas ever on TV.