As two seasons of "Mad Men" is enough to indicate, that is not Matthew Weiner's way. As a "Sopranos" alumnus, the "Mad Men" executive producer graduated from the David Chase School of Storytelling. You not only don't give the viewers what they want, you confound them by toying with their expectations. Maybe you even make them question those expectations in the first place.
Want tidy resolutions to cliffhangers? Go watch "Desperate Housewives."
Weiner certainly had his pick of explosive story lines to detonate. We already know Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has re-entered family life after wife Betty (January Jones) tells him she is pregnant with their third child; she hasn't told him of the torrid one-night stand committed in retribution for Don's own infidelities. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) has finally told Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) of their child she gave up. Joan (Christina Hendricks) is to marry the man who raped her on the office floor. Sterling Cooper is on the verge of being reshaped in the wake of its merger to British ad agency Putnam Powell Lowe. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) has renounced his marriage to marry a comely young secretary.
All that should be revealed about the third-season premiere is that some of these sleeping dogs are roused, some are not. Some aren't even acknowledged. That's about as much detail as should be given rather than risk spoiling the fun (such is the peril of writing a "Mad Men" review, to risk telling too much even by saying what doesn't happen).
Perhaps the only predictable element of "Mad Men" is that the premiere is a return to form, the series is as spellbinding and elusive as Draper himself. If "Mad Men" is making some kind of significant creative recalibration this season, there's no evidence available in this episode.
The only significant new element to be found is the addition to the cast of Jared Harris as Putnam's financial officer, Lane Pryce. Together with Pryce's assistant, John Hooker (Ryan Cartwright), the interlopers' mere presence at Sterling Cooper carries a menacing undercurrent before either even so much as opens their mouths. The inevitable consequence of a merger being no different in 1963 or 2009, this installment of "Mad Men" reverberates in our recession-rocked era more so than the usual episode.
Airdate: 10-11 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16 (AMC)
Production: Lionsgate in association with AMC
Cast: Jon Hamm, January Jones, Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Bryan Batt, Michael Gladis, Aaron Staton, Rich Sommer
Executive producers: Matthew Weiner, Scott Hornbacher
Creator-writer: Matthew Weiner
Director: Phil Abraham
Supervising producer: Lisa Albert
Co-producers: Dahvi Waller, Dwayne Shattuck, Blake McCormick
Consulting producers: Marti Noxon, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton
Director of photography: Christopher Manley
Production designer: Dan Bishop
Costume designer: Janie Bryant
– Nielsen Business Media