Under the Radar

Mad Men Season 4 Premiere: A New Man Back From War


Watch the entire episode here.

The Season 4 premiere of Mad Men begins with an off-camera voice asking the one question that has driven the entire series: who is Don Draper?

After three seasons of smoking, drinking, womanizing and masterful strokes of advertising genius, any loyal viewer probably still doesn’t know how to answer that question. We know that he was born Dick Whitman and that he seized an opportunity on a Korean War battlefield to start his life over as Don Draper. But even the most fanatical fan of Mad Men still knows little about what drives this man personally and professionally.

This eagerly-anticipated premiere ushered in many new directions where the story could go –the terms of Don and Betty’s divorce are still in a ‘negotiation’ phase, Betty is already remarried, Don Draper’s return to single life and the growing pains at the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – but ultimately, the episode (appropriately titled "Public Relations") centered around Don’s inability to talk about himself and the impact that could have on his professional life.

That off-camera voice that starts the episode is soon revealed to be a reporter from AdAge who himself lost a leg in the Korean War. While Roger Sterling sees this as a punch line, Don seemingly has a moment of quiet reflection – perhaps a rare flash of guilt or even fear that he could once again be exposed.

We are one episode in and Season 4 already feels like the writers have hit a reset button – now that Don Draper is single and living in Greenwich Village, his romantic life may not be the force that drives the narrative from here forward. Perhaps this is our chance to see precisely what legacy his brief time in the Korean War had on Don Draper.

War may change people – but few as radically as Dick Whitman.

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