"Who is Don Draper?": Mad Men returns

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

"Who is Don Draper?"

So season four of AMC's Mad Men begins, with a one-legged reporter probing the creative mind behind the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. As viewers know, mysterious ad man Draper (played by Jon Hamm) - with his gruff, Midwestern demeanor and cache of deep, dark secrets - is not fond of talking about himself, and, let's be honest, even he might not know the answer to that particular question. And hell if we know.

Over the past three seasons of the award-winning drama, which returns this Sunday at 10 pm, the complexity of Draper (born Dick Whitman) has remained constant, and we're not likely to ever figure him out. But that's part of the fun.

It's now Thanksgiving 1964, and a lot has changed since the game-changing events at the end of season three. Sunday's episode finds our anti-hero struggling with the professional, personal, and social consequences of his split from Betty, who is now living with her new lover Henry and the three Draper children in the home Don pays for.

The new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, in the words of an effervescent, somewhat less rape-y Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), is a "scrappy upstart" of an ad agency instead of a Madison Avenue powerhouse, and it seems that most of the team is pleased with that. Don, however, is having difficulty coming to terms with that as well. He now has to fight for business and market himself - his work is no longer enough to prove his worth.

John Slattery as Roger Sterling steals his scenes with a few great quips as his character, along with young wife Jane, tries to get Don laid without having to pay for it. This, perhaps, is the most shocking development - really, when was the last time the seductive Draper needed help in the sexytimes department? Indeed, things aren't looking up for dapper Don, and the juxtaposition between his misery and self-loathing and the happiness of his ex-wife and co-workers is marked for a show that trades in subtleties.

But not everything is what it seems with the characters of Mad Men. Something tells me creator Matthew Weiner has plenty of surprises in store this season, particularly with the trajectories of Betty, Peggy, and Pete. But that's just a hunch, as this Don-centric premiere shares little about what's in store for anyone but Draper.

Needless to say, there will be plenty to talk about. Join us on July 26 at 12:30 pm for our first-ever Mad Men Monday live-chat, where we'll discuss and dissect what's said - and more that's not said - in Sunday's episode.

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