Mad Men: Season 2 DVD Review

Mad Men's Don DraperThe Golden Globe-winning series Mad Men brings Season 2 to DVD this Tuesday, and along with it all 13 episodes of some of the best drama on television. Season 2 builds upon the foundations created in the first season while giving the characters more things to do, and more importantly, more avenues to explore.

The second season begins where the first left off, give or take a few months. Peggy has returned to her previous weight having secretly given birth to a baby, though she has given it to her mother to raise and has no interest in being involved in his upbringing. Don Draper, meanwhile, continues to have a wandering eye, but this time things come back to haunt him, forcing him to make some tough decisions – and forcing his wife Betty to do the same. The firm partners must also consider a potential buyout, among other things.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Mad Men, but considered it to be slightly overrated. The acting was terrific, the writing spot on, the direction fabulous and the stories well carved, but there was just something that left me thinking, Isn’t there something more? Compared to such shows as The Sopranos or many other classics, Mad Men had the drama without the power, the characters without the energy.

Season 2 is also emotionally muted, albeit intentionally so. But it quickly becomes clear that Season 1 was just an introduction to the characters. We get to see a little into what they’re thinking in the first season, but the second starts to open things up. Some tensions burst, men finally get caught cheating and more than one conflict boils over into a steaming mess. In hindsight, Season 1 was a pitch-perfect masterstroke, and Season 2 is even better.

My only fault with the production (I realize this is a contradiction to my “pitch-perfect” statement in the previous paragraph) is that Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, is so hard to read it’s hard to relate with him at times. Though Hamm does a tremendous job of letting subtle hints about his true nature creep through his poised exterior, his character does seem unnecessarily muted at times. It’s his character’s complexities that drive the show, and yet his complexities are often confusing and contradictory. This is fine, but with so little explanation about why he does the things he does, it becomes frustrating after a while. [SPOILER ALERT] After he essentially gets caught cheating, what does he do? He travels to California on business and, while deciding what he wants to do in regards to his family and wife, ends up running away with another gorgeous woman for a week. Why does such a smart, caring husband and father act impulsively like this time and time again? It’s hard to say for sure, and without more insight into his character, it’s hard to believe his rationale and motivations.

Still, the faults are minor. Mad Men Season 2 looks great, is once again well acted and features some extremely addictive storylines, despite the fact that, compared to most other television shows, very little actually happens.

If you haven’t watched Mad Men, consider doing so. It is an intriguing, addictive and unique look at advertising in the 1960’s. Mad Men isn’t for everyone, but if you do discover that it is for you, you’ll be hooked.

The Mad Men: Season 2 DVD includes feature-length audio commentaries, a featurette that explores female independence in the 1960’s, a featurette about the show’s fashion, and some other, more interactive featurettes that explore the historical events of the show (the events in the show align with the Cuban Missile Crisis).

Season 3 begins on August 16, 2009 on AMC.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: DVD Releases, TV Series
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