Time Line: November 1964-October 1965
Plot: Almost a year has gone since the dismantlement of Sterling Cooper and formation of the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency. Times are rapidly changing in the US and this is clearly reflected in the story line and behaviour by the main protagonists as well as their surroundings with the new more modern office in the Time Life Building.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP) now a start-up has to compete with major and mid size agencies whilst beginning almost from scratch. This leads to constant frictions between the over prudent and frequently misunderstood Lane Pryce and some of the old timer executives more accustomed to a lavish lifestyle, namely Roger Sterling. SCDP still relies heavily on Lucky Strike as their main source of income to survive and to attract new business. This creates even further friction since Roger who without paying too much attention to his duties remains indispensable due to his tight personal relation with the tobacco giant’s president. The agency aims at internationalising its business and pitches to Honda to advertise their motorbikes much to Roger’s disapproval who doesn’t want to do business with Japanese companies after Pearl Harbour. Don continues to be the main power horse at the firm and its main attraction for potential customers. On a personal side he is paying his previous excesses dearly and despite still excelling creatively, his personal life is a mess and is incredibly unhappy outside of work.
After almost two years of having agreed to join them in the newly found SCDP Roger has to bear the unbearable news that Lucky Strike are definitely breaking their business relationship with them, which puts the entire company on the brink of foreclosure. The founding partners have to undergo considerable financial sacrifices where they have to put thousands of dollars each to save the company whilst massive layoffs occur. This leads to Don taking one his defining moments with a bold move publishing an ad in the New York Times called “The Letter” where he openly criticises the tobacco industry thus closing the doors to any possibility of any other tobacco company doing business with them in the future. Despite risking the company’s future this bold move puts their name further on the map and may be the one thing that saves them on the long run.
Don Draper (John Hamm) – Don, now one of the founding partners at SCDP continues to be one the most respected figures in the advertising industry. He continues to be a leading figure at his firm, revered by his clients for his creative genius and envied by his competitors. Yet his divorce gets the better off him personally. He doesn’t know how to cope with his new life outside of work, living in a small, dull apartment in the Village and decides to either stay late at work or go through alcohol binges. He also begins to sleep with prostitutes and dating shallow younger women. During his Christmas vacation he decides to visit his dear friend Anna in Los Angeles on his way to Acapulco but when he learns she has cancer (unbeknownst to her) decides to stay with her and help her out at home. After some months, when she passes away, he is visibly affected breaking down in tears in front of Peggy.
His relationship with Peggy continues to be a contradictory balance between a mentor and an abusive superior. It is only after she openly confronts him about his overbearing nature that he decides to back off a bit with her.
Neither he nor Betty know how to properly cope with their divorce and are openly hostile with each other, which obviously has a negative effect on their children. Sally, who suffers more than the rest escapes her home and ends up in Manhattan at Don’s office and pleads to stay with him, something which he has to turn down. After realising his binge drinking has gone out of control, he decides to take a grip on his life and takes up swimming, drinking less and begins to date Dr. Faye Miller, a psychologist who works for a market research consultancy which collaborates with the firm. Faye, despite being physically very similar to Betty (blonde, attractive) represents the embodiment of the emancipated professional woman. She is intelligent, independent and emotionally mature. For a while it seems she and Don make the perfect couple. Yet, on a late night at work, he sleeps with his newly appointed secretary Megan Calvé and a on personal trip to Los Angeles with his children he realises he has fallen in love with her and proposes her to marry him.
Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) – Despite her initial aversion to join Don at the newly found SCDP, Peggy finally acquiesces, aware of the pulling power his creative genius has. She is now one of the senior members of the creative department and is given more freedom and independence to do her work. Yet she still does not get the recognition she craves for, even when her ideas lead to award winning adverts. This lack of open appraisal from Don continues to gnaw at her. She has to endure working with the newly appointed Art Director, an unbearable and arrogant “jug head”, Stan Rizzo.
Like Don, she struggles to find happiness outside of work despite dating a new man, Mark, a well-meaning yet old fashioned and overbearing boyfriend. Being at the centre of a cultural change with more women gaining personal independence and professional influence she is seen admiring Faye Miller. She befriends Joyce, a photo editor and Abe, a liberal journalist working at the same building. She attends a clandestine beatnik party where she kisses Abe and slowly after begins to date him. Abe openly questions her profession in perpetuating mass consumerism which leads to an uncomfortable argument and the two stop dating for a while. Yet Peggy respects that he challenges her and admires his independent thinking. One Summer day at a group outing at the beach, both of them rekindle their relationship.
Her relationship with Don continues to have the antagonistic nature it had previously. Despite Don’s promise to treat her more fairly when trying to convince her to join them at their new project, he still mixes displays of approval with hostile rudeness. One evening, (unbeknownst to Don) on her birthday she is forced to work late with him and after a tense series of arguments between both of them, she ends up breaking up with Mark and lashing out at Don for treating her poorly. This changes Don who begins to treat her more as an equal.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) – Pete with an admirable work ethic continues to be the sole source of new business. He is also one of the founding partners (albeit a junior one) of the new firm. With Roger Sterling’s careless management of their only account Lucky Strike, Pete fights on to bring new accounts like Honda or Sugarberry Ham. Yet despite all of his efforts, he is still not regarded on equal terms by the other partners. He is the only partner without his name on the wall. Some major decisions like bringing Ken Cosgrove (Pete’s nemesis) to work for the agency were made behind his back. His lack of personal charm obviously accounts for this, since despite all of his achievements like Don had predicted years back, no one really likes him.
Outside of the office, his wife, Trudy is finally pregnant and besides his initial disenchantment he seems content with the idea of having a child. His relationship with his in-laws is still awkward at times. He openly uses them to gain more business at the company and Tom who has sussed him out openly resents him when the two are alone.
Betty Draper (January Jones) – Betty, like Don is not aware of how to properly manage their divorce. This generation of parents seem to be the first one were divorces started to happen regularly and do not have an older reference to look upto. Much to Don and their children’s discomfort she continues to live in the same house she had with Don, this time with Henry. She is openly hostile with Don and pays her frustrations mostly with Sally whom she clearly sees as resembling Don in character. She is excessively domineering and asphyxiating towards her daughter, which leads her to escape her home and try and live in Manhattan with Don.
Roger Sterling (John Slattery) – Roger who grudgingly joins Don and Bert to form their new start-up a year back hasn’t given up on his careless lifestyle at the new firm. He shows a somewhat petty side to his personality with his jealousy of other prestigious names in the industry like Ogilvy and attempts to write his memoirs much to Don’s humour when he finds out.
In one of the season’s most revealing episodes “The Waldorf Stories”, the viewer learns of how Don starts working at Sterling Cooper. In a series of flashbacks, we see a younger Don attending Roger whilst working as a sales attendant at a fur shop. Don is impressed with Roger’s status as “an important man in an important company” and relentlessly tries to get an interview with him. One morning he tracks him down whilst going into work and convinces him to go for a drink, Roger ends up drunk and Don arrives the next morning to work for Sterling Cooper claiming that whilst inebriated Roger offers him a job as a copywriter. It is unclear whether this is true or whether Don made the offer up.
Being an old timer in the industry, Roger openly feels threatened by the young and relentless Pete and sabotages his meeting with Honda, which could have brought international business and prestige to the firm. His professional duties are sometimes left as simply getting drunk with clients during working hours. This careless attitude eventually lead to Lucky Strike to breaking off their professional relationship with SCDP leaving Roger in a very vulnerable position.
Joan Holloway/Harris (Christina Hendricks) – Joan is trying to form a family with her husband Greg. Being an instrumental part of the firm she acts as one Lane’s main supports managing the company’s finances. Like Pryce ,she is also pragmatic and helps to keep a tight control of the company’s numbers even in dire situations with the departure of Lucky Strike.
Unfortunately she has to endure the impertinence of one of the junior copywriters and the sexist workplace that looks the other way with his crude and vulgar jokes about her making it openly clear how some things have not changed.
She still harbours feelings for Roger and on a drunken night out, they have sex, which leads to an unplanned pregnancy. Despite him offering to pay for an abortion she ends up having the baby and vows not to reveal this secret to her husband who has left for Vietnam.
Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) – Now one of the founding partners at the firm, Lane continues to manage the finances with rigour and attention. He frowns upon any frivolous expenditure and is openly uncomfortable when they are forced to raise the budget for the office Christmas party. Outside of work he is having serious problems. His wife, who never found it easy to settle in New York has temporarily left him and gone back to London. He begins to date a black waitress much to his father shock, who savagely attacks him and coerces him to break it off and get back with his wife.
Sally Draper (Kieran Shipka) – Sally who is growing up as an independent young girl is going through a rough time dealing with her parents divorce. She misses her dear father and hates the idea of living in the same home with a different paternal figure. About to enter teenage she begins to feel curious about the female body and physical pleasure. Her mother instead of treating this as a natural change in her daughter chastises her and absurdly takes her to therapy.
When it comes to her visits to her father, she continues to champion for him, her admiration for her “daddy” has not waned one bit and is overly critical of the women he dates, like Faye Miller. For some reason she instantly trusts Megan more which moves Don to visualise Megan more than Faye as a possible life partner.