“The Beginning of Things:” A Look Back at Mad Men’s Best Episodes

(Because, why not?)

Finally! After a two-year hiatus, the hit AMC show “Mad Men” will grace television screens tonight with a two-hour debut. 

The last time we saw Don Draper, with the Season Four finale “Tomorrowland,” he was newly engaged to his secretary, Megan, after proposing to her during a trip to California, and dealing with his failed marriage to Betty (including the decision to move out of the home shared with his family during the first four seasons).

“Mad Men” is known for not sticking to a strict timeline, with months or years occurring between new seasons, but it will be interesting to see where the show picks up when it debuts.

Before the show premieres, we thought it would be a good idea to look back on some of our favorite “Mad Men” episodes.

5. Season Three, Episode Twelve – “The Grown-Ups” – This episode revolves around the timely news of President John F. Kennedy’s death, and we are able to see how each group of characters deals with the news. It’s very accurate, according to members of my family who grew up around that news, and it serves as strong character-building points for many of them.

4. Season Three, Episode Six – “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” – This episode almost says goodbye to one of my personal favorites, Lane Pryce. The owners of Sterling Cooper, British-based Putnam, Powell and Lowe, visit the advertising agency to reassign Pryce to India, while introducing his replacement. During a “farewell” party, well, the replacement does not work out. (Fast forward to the :50 to watch the events unfold)

3. Season Four, Episode Thirteen – “Tomorrowland” – We see Don come to terms with his divorce from Betty, as well as his abrupt engagement to secretary Megan during a trip to California. In one scene, we see Don slowly transform into a normal father, as he is planning a trip to Disneyland with his three children. All four are sprawled across the bed in their room, looking at a map. It’s very subtle, but it’s a strong image.

2. Season Three, Episode Thirteen – “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.” – We see the birth of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce after Don learns of Sterling Cooper’s sale to McCann Ericson, Betty’s request for a divorce from Don after putting up with his adultery for too long, and the trust Don puts in a faithful few around the office (who he asks to come form the new agency with him). The writing is so strong in this piece, including the banter between Don and Bert Cooper: “Young men love risks because they can’t imagine the consequences.”  “And you old men love building golden tombs and sealing the rest of us in with you.”

1. Season One, Episode One – “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – The one episode to rule them all (and also the one to start the craze known as “Mad Men.”) This was, by far, the best episode of “Mad Men” I have ever seen. It was the best written and has so much smart dialogue. It set the bar high for AMC’s “Story Matters Here” mantra and kept clearing it. I love it because not only are we introduced to Don, but we never really get that introductory “here’s who everyone is.” The story just starts.

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