The Season 7 premiere of “Mad Men” served up several revealing looks at its returning characters: Pete has taken to California like a fish to water, for instance, while Don and Peggy are floundering in their respective work situations.
The episode, “Time Zones,” also introduced a flurry of new characters — at least a couple of whom seem poised to play key roles as the season goes forward. Here’s a breakdown of who they are, the first impressions they make and the likelihood of them having an effect on the show’s final season.
Lou (Allan Havey) is technically not a new character: He made a couple of brief appearances in Season 6, most notably in the finale. He’s the guy who asks Don (Jon Hamm) if he’s “going down” following Don’s “take some time off” meeting with the partners at SC&P.
Although he’s a veteran of the ad business, Lou gives off kind of a substitute-teacher vibe here — someone who just wants to keep things running on time, without much consideration for what actually might be the best work. That proves enormously frustrating to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), who’s both used to more back-and-forth with Don and, as implied by the shot of her in Don’s office at the end of last season, probably thought she would be doing his job by now.
It seems likely that Lou will stick around for however long Don is away from the agency, if not longer. From Peggy’s perspective, at least, that will probably seem like forever.
Lee (Neve Campbell) is notable in the premiere for sparking with Don on a cross-country flight and not ending up in bed with him. Hands up, everyone who thinks that will last? Yeah, thought so. Don being affected by a stranger is nothing new (see the Vietnam-bound soldier in last season’s premiere, for instance), but something about the way Lee related her story seemed to hit Don on a deeper level.
From a practical standpoint, it seems rather unlikely the show would hire Neve Campbell just for a one-off guest role, so we can probably expect to see a good deal more of her as the season continues. With Don and Megan (Jessica Pare) living on opposite coasts, it’s also not hard to see him looking up Lee again to fill whatever emotional and physical needs he might have while in New York. It remains to be seen, though, if she’ll be willing or able to do so.
You guys, it’s Travis from “Cougar Town”! Sorry — had to get that out of the way. Wayne (Dan Byrd), the new head of marketing at SC&P client Butler Shoes, seems to represent a newish breed of young executive, business school-trained and more likely to rely on the principles he learned there than the more old-school, three-martini lunch ways most of the agency guys still practice (he orders a Coke at his meeting with Joan, for Pete’s sake).
One thing that’s not new: His initially dismissive attitude toward Joan because she’s a woman, and therefore presumed to be Ken Cosgrove’s underling. The practice of business may have been changing in 1969, but the culture still had a long way to go. To his credit, at least, Wayne isn’t too proud to ask Joan for ideas when she presents her forceful counter-argument to keep Butler’s business.
The professor (Mark Pinter) who helps Joan formulate her rebuttal to Wayne — and another example of the kinds of hurdles Joan has to face to be taken seriously. Though she initially misunderstands his “what can you give me in return” overture — he wants information, nothing more — the way he phrases one of his questions to her is awfully condescending. This feels like more of a one-time thing for Joan, but it would be interesting to see her go down the academic road a little more.
Pete’s L.A. real estate agent (Jessy Schram) is practically the embodiment of the way “Mad Men” perceives late-’60s California. Blonde, sunny and flirty, she’s helping Pete find someplace more suitable than his apartment “near the Tar Pits” (likely this mega-complex). Maybe she’ll give Pete something more than that too?
Megan’s agent (Johnathan McClain) plays a mostly comedic role in the premiere, calling Don a “matinee idol” and making a backhanded comment about Megan’s teeth needing to be fixed. It would be no surprise to see him again, given Megan’s job, and probably in scenes similar to the one he had in “Time Zones.”
A new secretary at SC&P, played by Sola Bamis. As with many of the actors playing office staff at the agency, she didn’t get a whole lot to do in the episode.