Last Night On “Mad Men”: Facial Hair, Assholes and Joan vs. Peggy

Last night’s “Mad Men” premiere found a lot of our friends returning to their old ways. Don is divorced from Megan and plowing his way through every flight attendant and diner waitress he can find. Roger, Ted and Stan are experimenting with facial hair. And Peggy and Joan are getting things done, but not without some considerable setbacks. Those assholes at McCann that made a lot of people rich as hell are turning out to be horrible.

Here’s the scene. Peggy and Joan sit in a conference room, across from three McCann men. All they want to do is talk about how to get some of the pantyhose market share back from L’eggs, for their client Topaz. Instead, the meeting is merely a vehicle for these men to make the kind of rude sexist and disgusting comments that Joan has certainly dealt with every day of her life. Ever the people pleaser, Peggy gamely tries to steer the conversation away from Joan’s body to the business at hand, but it doesn’t go well.

Instead of uniting over the horror of what just happened, they use their time in the elevator to snipe at each other over various jealousies. Peggy implies that Joan should dress differently to be taken more seriously, and Joan rightfully shoots back that she can dress however she likes, and she dresses the way she does because she doesn’t look like Peggy. An unnecessary slight for women who should really have each other’s back, but can you blame Joan? It’s not like Peggy hasn’t had her share of setbacks, but still managing to crawl out of the secretarial pool and fighting tooth and nail to get to where she is, but Joan has done the same thing. She ascended the ranks through sheer force of will and talent, while also dealing with the fact that her body has been used as chattel of the agency. Remember how she slept with that dude in the fifth season so they could land the Jaguar account? I bet Joan hasn’t forgotten either. It’s no wonder that the veneer covering the seething rage that lies beneath is wearing thin.

I will always love Peggy — something about her resistance to dating, her dedication to her career, and her cozy little apartment are things that feel very real to me on a personal level. But, this season, I’m most excited to see what happens to Joan. It’s clear that she’s finally ready to take control of her life, in all aspects, doing away with the respectability politics that Peggy was hinting at. It’s still early in 1970 — the women’s lib movement is a bit further down the road, but I’m excited to see where it heads.

At the end of the exchange, Peggy snaps at Joan, “You know what? You’re filthy rich. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.” And she’s right, in a way. Joan has already put in the work and she’s given her body to the agency more than anyone should have to. She’s earned it.