In case you haven’t heard, the fourth season of AMC’s Mad Men premieres tonight at 10 PM. But you’ve probably heard. As I mentioned last year, Mad Men is quite the buzzworthy show, which means promotional material and spoilers are somewhat hard to avoid.
Luckily, I have been able to stay somewhat sheltered from the released information about this season—I prefer to enter new seasons with no preconceptions. This is particularly exciting in the wake of last season’s Mad Men finale, which set up a totally new realm for the characters to inhabit.
Season Three ended with almost all of the main characters—Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Peggy Olsen, Pete Campbell, etc.—leaving Sterling Cooper to start a new agency. Meanwhile, Betty was flying off to Nevada to marry Henry Francis. In other words, there are a lot of things to be explored as the new season picks up.
I’m hoping the show only jumps a few months ahead in its timeline, so that the aftermath of all the characters’ decisions can be fully explored. Creating an agency with little money and few clients is probably going to be a more daunting task for Don than he realizes. Pete and Peggy working in such close proximity is also likely to take its toll on their psyches. And Betty uprooting herself to fly to Nevada with someone she knows even less than she knows Don is also going to have its negative sides.
If I had to guess, though, the show will jump ahead enough to ignore a lot of these issues. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the new ad agency, will be up and running relatively smoothly, and Betty and Henry will already be married. Part of this feeling comes from a skepticism about the show that Season Three inspired. Last season made a habit of glossing over issues and rushing through stories, so it seems likely that the show will gloss over most of the logistical bumps that the new agency would have faced.
Also, Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator and head writer, likes to jump ahead, leaving the audience to wonder about the loose threads from previous seasons; after Season One, the show jumped 15 months into the future, and Weiner implied that the only reason for a smaller jump after Season Two was Betty’s pregnancy.
This is not to say that I’m pessimistic about Season Four, just that I no longer trust the show like I did heading into Season Three. There are so many cool potential stories that last year’s finale set up that, even though some will certainly be ignored or given less time than I’d like, the show’s new season is bound to get off to an exciting start. Heading into Season Four, Mad Men is looking for the same thing most of its characters are looking for: a fresh start.