Mad Men s1e1: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes


image courtesy of this Gallery

Hello, hello! Due to my own personal mania and a splash of popular demand, I’ve decided to undergo the Herculean task of rewatching and writing about all 92 episodes of Mad Men. Now these won’t be super duper in depth like my season 7 reviews, and I’m sure I’ll combine a couple of episodes into each post at some point, but certain episodes will merit more yappin’ than others. So uh, here goes!


image courtesy of Imgur

With the opening shot of the Mad Men pilot, we are greeted with the back of a shadowy figure at a bar. He’s in a crowd of breezy people, yet he is alone. Who the hell is this guy? What’s his deal? Here’s a vaguely fried Don Draper in a bar, grasping at straws for his upcoming Lucky Strike meeting.

The pilot of any series will lay out the greater themes to come, and Smoke gets in your Eyes is no exception. And one of the things I find magical about a well written show or movie is how we, the audience, are merely dropped in. This isn’t the beginning of something, we are entering into something, this narrative as it has already progressed.

The character introductions are sort of hilarious. We’ve got Peggy, the oldschool Brooklyn girl trying to make it at her first big job in the city. Pete, the boorish young guy who’s about to get married to the photo of Matthew Weiner’s mother as Trudy hadn’t been cast yet. Sal, the closeted gay man who makes approximately 100 innuendos implying that he’s gay. Joan, the snarky fun girl. There’s jokes about technology and the lack thereof in 1960. Pilots, man.. thankfully the rest of the series is far more subtle.

The real meat of this episode starts with Don getting schooled in a meeting with Rachel Menken. Here, we can see that she’s cut from a different cloth. She is serious about her business, and apparently Don is having none of that. He really fucked it up, and has to do some damage control later on in this episode..

And then, the Lucky Strike pitch. This pitch defines a lot of what the series is ultimately about.

“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is?

Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear.

It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK.

You are OK.”

Does Don really know what happiness is, or is he just trying to reach out and touch people with what he thinks happiness implies? The notion that he’s adrift is emphasised when we see his meeting with Rachel at a bar that evening.

Don: The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call “love” was invented by guys like me to sell nylons. You’re born alone, you die alone, and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.

Rachel: I don’t think I realised it until this moment, but it must be hard being a man, too.

Don: Excuse me?

Rachel: Mr. Draper, I don’t know what it is you really believe in, but I know what it feels like to be out of place. To be disconnected. To see the world laid out in front of you the way other people live it. And there is something about you that tells me you know it too. 

Don: .. I don’t know if that’s true..

I mean, good goddamn. Rachel immediately saw through his elaborate bullshit façade and succinctly called him out on it. He showed his ass just a little, and she doesn’t have time for that. This brief but potent exchange lays important groundwork for the episodes to come. Don is both fascinated and bewildered by her honesty.

At the end of the pilot, I found myself faced with a couple of questions. Why do we want what we want? Is that all there is? The more you dig into those questions, the more you’ll find, and the deeper that hole gets. The show will grapple with this dizzying idea for the next 7 seasons.

Don heads home to the suburbs of New York state, set to Caravan.

And ah fuck, this guy’s married??


image courtesy of Imgur

Hey-o, thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “Mad Men s1e1: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

  1. Pingback: Mad Men s3e3: My Old Kentucky Home | the MARS DEN

  2. Pingback: Mad Men s5e3: Tea Leaves | the MARS DEN

  3. Pingback: Mad Men s5e4: Mystery Date | the MARS DEN

  4. Pingback: Mad Men s6e1&2: The Doorway | the MARS DEN

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