Time Line: February 1962-November 1962
Plot: Season 2 focuses on the changing nature of American Society with the older more conservative generation slowly start to make space for the upcoming idealistic and beat youth. The storyline has jumped over a year since season 1. It also marks a society getting used to having a young and modern president like JF Kennedy. The story shows the tremendous sadness and mourning the whole nation goes into following Marilyn Monroe’s suicide.
Since the signing of Herman “Duck” Philips as Head of Accounts Services the agency begins to flirt with bigger more ambitious accounts. Duck has not exactly lived up to his expectations creating a bitter antagonism between him and Don. Their constant frictions lead to ongoing power struggles between the Heads of Accounts and Creative. This obviously does not go unnoticed in the agency. The agency signs a star comedian to do a TV Spot for one of their accounts which turns out to be a commercial success but with very negative effects on Don’s personal life.
Outside of the office, the viewer is treated to learn more about the personal lives of the main characters. Betty has taken up a hobby horse riding and wants to be more involved accompanying Don on his business dinners. Sal Romano, a closeted homosexual who is the Art Director at Sterling Cooper begins to develop an emotional attraction to Ken Cosgrove, the youthful and easygoing account executive at the firm who has a talent for creative writing outside of advertising. Joan is engaged to a handsome doctor and Peggy is trying to fit in both professionally as a copywriter as well as personally in the agency despite still having to face constant obstacles and prejudices whilst balancing out an overbearing family who push her more to towards religion following her shocking pregnancy.
Don Draper (John Hamm) – Don now 36 and established Creative Director and partner at the agency has to deal with an unexpected power struggle with Herman “Duck” Philips. Ironically he is the one who recommended the agency they sign Duck a year before based on his international experience. He realises he is getting closer to 40 and has to grudgingly begin to accept younger creative writers simply because the clients like the idea and Duck insisted on it. He is also forced to fire Mohawk Airlines upon the behest of Duck who then starts to negotiate with American Airlines. Don is against the idea of letting go of a loyal customer simply “out of a wink from American Airlines” and deep inside knows the giant airline company are not taking Duck seriously. He is later forced to fire Freddie Rumsen due to his alcohol addiction, an older copywriter whom he esteems as a professional and personally.
His family life does not get any better from before and he begins to have an affair with the manager and wife of a TV comedian the agency has signed. The few times we see him content is in the company of his children, Bobby and Sally. Betty this time confronts him when she finds out he is cheating on her and kicks him out of their home. His frustrations at work and personal disillusions lead to him to suddenly disappear for weeks in California on a business trip. In one of the series most revealing episodes he joins a group and wealthy hedonists and later goes to meet Anna Draper, (the widow of the real Don Draper). It is soon displayed that both Dick/Don and Anna have developed a strong friendship over the years. She understands him very well and encourages him to go back to New York to his wife.
Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) – Following her promotion as junior copywriter Peggy begins to show her incredible talent for copywriting. Yet she still has to face a sexist and sometimes hostile attitude from some of her co-workers. Her talent and tremendous work ethic however, do not go unnoticed in Don’s eyes who slowly begins to adopt her as a protégée and his favourite. Personally she still has to face the aftershock of her surprise pregnancy and labour more than a year before where being a single mother she was forced to give up her child in adoption. She is forced by her oppressive and old fashioned family to accompany them to church more often where she meets the new and young parish, who starts to develop an attraction for Peggy despite her lack of interest.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) – Pete is still excelling at work at Sterling Cooper. His ambition and zeal to bring in new accounts bring in added revenue to the firm. His progress is such that he is chosen to go to Los Angeles for an important business conference. Yet outside of work his life is far from perfect of idyllic. He is trapped in marriage where he has to live up to other people’s expectations rather than pursue his own happiness. His wife is obsessed with having a child which blocks him, furthering her own frustration. His father dies in a plane accident when he was flying with American Airlines, yet he does not display any outside pain or grievance due to the fact that their relation hardly had any affection and bordered on openly hostile at times. Such is his lack of connection with his father’s death that he accepts to pitch to American Airlines on behalf of Sterling Cooper shortly after the plane crash in order to win their business for the agency.
Betty Draper (January Jones) – Betty in an attempt to gain some control over her life has stopped seeing her therapist and begun a new hobby in horse riding. It is no coincidence that the control she has over a powerful and majestic animal gives her the reassurance she craves for and lacks with Don. She pushes to be more present in his business diners and in one of those evenings she learns the ugly truth that her husband is once again cheating on her. Whereas before she chose to suppress her anger, even her not acknowledging the ugly truth, Betty now has the strength to kick Don out of home.
Roger Sterling (John Slattery) – Following his double heart attack, Roger is now recovered and back in the agency albeit with a less involved role in the day-to-day operations. He is more involved actually in paying and surveying his daughter’s wedding, something, which at time frustrates him. He begins to envy older men with younger second wives or lovers and begins an affair with Jane, Don’s new secretary, a naïve materialistic and spoilt girl. He later divorces his wife Mona and begins an open relationship with Jane much to shock of his daughter and the disapproval of Don and Bert Cooper.
Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) – Joan has finally found a man who can provide her the life she desires, he does not work at the firm, or even in advertising, having a much nobler profession in medicine. He is handsome, ambitious and on paper seems a match made in heaven. Yet we soon find that her fiancée is not exactly perfect, being a petty jealous man capable of the ugliest of acts with Joan. At work she continues to command the secretaries, sometimes with severe discipline and upon Jane’s departure fills in temporarily as Don’s personal secretary, something both approve out of the mutual respect they have for each other.
Herman “Duck” Philips (Mark Moses) – Herman known as Duck is brought in to increase the revenue of the firm after Roger Sterling has to take a step back due to his health problems. He is in charge of Account Services and has up to now, not lived up to his expectations. He more often than not promises more than he is can deliver, something which irritates Don to no end since he is the one who recommended his signing. Don is further angered that Duck listens more to the clients than to him and forces his own agenda (signing new younger creative writers, firing Mohawk Airlines and then his copywriter Freddie). The truth about Duck is that he is a washed down salesman who had a previous breakdown in London due to his own problems with alcohol. His wife has left him and his children are openly uncomfortable in his company. His desperation to sign sooner or later become obvious to his clients who eventually decide not to go in his direction. Aware that the partners are not really satisfied with his performance he decides to scheme behind their backs for the sale of the company unbeknownst of the consequences it would have for him directly.
Ken Cosgorve (Aron Staton) – Ken, the likeable all American Account Executive continues to excel at the firm. His enthusiasm and positive nature help him bring in accounts for the agency, outside of work he continues to pursue his passion for fictional writing which sparks the jealousy of other executives like Pete or copywriters like Paul. In fact Pete openly sees him as him as a rival inside the firm and as his own nemesis. His talents and friendly demeanour do not go unnoticed with Sal Romano, the art director of the agency and a closet homosexual who begins to harbour a deep attraction for him.