Mad Men: Season Two

by Robert Newton

National Film Editor

Tuesday July 14, 2009

A television series as trailblazing as "Mad Men" is not the kind of thing a fan wants released in a no-frills, episodes-only DVD package, just for the sake of having them. Kudos to Lionsgate for anticipating many fans' needs in putting together the fine Mad Men: Season Two set. While the packaging - a sleek shirt box with a see-through window - may not be as fun as the Season 1 metal cigarette lighter, what's inside makes for many engaging and productive hours.

This season's 13-episode arc, which starts 14 months after the end of Season 1, has New York ad agency Sterling-Cooper facing growing pains, while their superstar, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), deals with fallout from his secret identity. Gal Friday Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) starts her rise to copy writer, with the first episode suggesting that women will figure prominently in the company's future, with the inclusion of Jackie Kennedy's televised Nielsen-dynamo February 1962 tour of the White House. Other threads include one featuring closeted ad man Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt) and another that pits Draper against eager-but-creepy scribe Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). Standout performances include January Jones as Draper's mentally unbalanced wife Betty and John Slattery as Draper's philandering, middle-aged mentor, Roger Sterling. False season-ender Episode 12, "The Mountain King," is the most haunting and memorable, in which office manager Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) is raped by her fianc? on the floor of the office.

Each episode features a detail-rich audio commentary by creator Matthew Weiner and at least one cast or crew member. While the Season 1 set had a surplus of behind-the-scenes featurettes, Season 2's is relatively modest, with the slightly sterile tangential trio of "Birth Of An Independent Woman," An Era Of Syle" and "Time Capsule" being the only featurettes in the mix.

Season 3 begins airing on cable net AMC on August 16, with a Season 2 music collection on CD following on August 18.

Robert Newton is the National Film Editor for EDGE. He is also Editor of North Shore Movies Weekly, and a film and TV writer for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He is also an award-winning novelty recording artist (aka "Fig"), and runs The Cape Ann Community Cinema on the island of Gloucester, MA.