'Mad Men: Season 2'
(Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2009 / LGF)
Overview: Set in 1960s New York City, Mad Men explores the glamorous and ego-driven "Golden Age” of advertising, where everyone is selling something and nothing is ever what it seems. And the world of 'Mad Men' is moving in a new direction - can Sterling Cooper keep up? Meanwhile, the private life of Don Draper becomes complicated in a new way. What is the cost of his secret identity?
DVD Verdict: Compulsively watchable in Season One, 'Mad Men - Season 2' is even more so, for it is here that we explore the relationships between the characters in depth, and watch as the plot lines set forth become more involved and fascinating. I felt that Season 2 was the season of Betty Draper, although we also saw Peter Campbell's relationships both weaken and explode, Peggy grow into a more confident part of the team, and Joan Holloway give away her smoldering sexuality to a man who looks like the perfect match but who has sexual hangups that are hard to watch.
As played by the stunning January Jones, Betty in Season One seemed like a beautiful ice maiden, always perfect down to her manicured nails, never out of control, able to withstand her suspicions of Don's infidelity without cracking her veneer. In Season 2 all comes unravelled, and it is mesmerizing to watch as Betty's fragile hold on normalcy comes unglued. I found myself cheering her on as she finally took hold of her life and wrested from it the shreds of her dignity. I'm still not sure I like her, but I started to respect her.
Don, as always mysterious, inscrutable, and morally bankrupt, undergoes a sea change as well. Jon Hamm owns this part just as Michael C. Hall owns the part of "Dexter". I watched enthralled as he went from a defensive, combative, egocentrically ambitious man to one floundering for the meaning of his life. Without giving too much away, I can say that this was handled well by the writers, as they had to work within a time frame and could not accomplish everything by use of flashback without dragging Season 2 out too long. What makes Don Draper a fascinating character is the way, just when he seems like the coldest cad imaginable, he then becomes a loving father or a caring mentor. The writing in this series is truly fine.
All of the supporting characters are excellent and have an essential part to play, as it should be with a series of this caliber. John Slattery is always a favorite, so quick-witted and shamelessly lecherous, and the frat boy club of Ken Cosgrove, etc. are always fun and interesting to watch.
History itself is a star of the show, as we watch the sixties simmer and explode, much as Betty Draper herself. To those of us who lived through those years, the backdrop is every bit as interesting as the characters themselves. One can't help but mourn what has befallen regular programming on television, when you see what can be produced by people who really care. [JAB] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Audio Commentaries With Cast & Crew on all 13 Episodes
"Birth Of An Independent Woman Parts 1 & 2" - Featurette examining the rise of female independence in the 60's
"An Era Of Style" - Featurette exploring the fashion of the 1960's and it's lasting influence on designer's today
"Time Capsule" - Interactive featurettes paying homage to historic events on the 1960's and the daring generation that lived through them