“Mad Men” is back! Last night’s two-hour fifth season premier came with so many unanswered questions about Don’s marriage, Megan’s self-awareness, and how sleazy Lane Pryce really is. So, which one of them is the worst as a human being? And which is the best? I assigned scores to each character’s likability.
1. Don Draper
Oh, Don, why did you marry Megan? The episode suggests from his many leers and schoolboy’s giddiness every time she’s nearby that it’s because she’s hot and they’re having a lot of enthusiastic sex, as people in young relationships often do. However! You might give him the benefit of the doubt and say, “Well he probably married Betty because she’s hot and look where that got him, so now he knows better.” But people tend to make the same mistakes with relationships over and over again (and so it seems safe to assume that, while he was faithful to Megan this episode, it won’t last). The whole point of the season premiere seemed to be that, aside from sex and Don seemingly wanting Megan to be happy, probably so that she has lots more sex with him, they are fundamentally different in ways that will be seriously problematic in the future. Like, how she doesn’t know better about throwing him a surprise party, which even Peggy warned her against.
Don started out low on the likability scale because last we left off with his ass, he had decided to marry his hot secretary. The new episode hardly made up for that because, while he claims he wants to make her happy by buying her terribly impractical white carpet she doesn’t need, and rushes home from work to have sex with her after she gets upset and simply must leave early (which she can easily do because she’s screwing the boss), he was kind of horrible to her about the party. Not once did he just lie and say, “Thanks for the thought. I can tell how much you love me, and that gesture meant so much, but next time I officially turn older, it would really mean a lot to me if you not seduce me in front of the entire office because that was so embarrassing.”
Likability score: 59%
2. Megan Draper
We’re supposed to dislike Megan because she slept her way from the receptionist’s desk to an office with a door, and is, overall, like the hot popular girl in high school no one liked for no specific reason other than her sunny existence was a pox on the subdued misery of everyone else. She ended up with the hottest guy in school then, and the hottest guy on Madison Avenue now. She married that hot rich guy (Don) without knowing how he likes to (not) celebrate his birthday, or even who his friends are, seeing as she had to ask Peggy who to invite to the Soiree of Awkwardness. Also, she hasn’t figured out that past college, surprise birthday parties should not be the de facto birthday celebration when you’re trying to figure out what to do with someone turning a year older, and to that I say thank God for e-readers, the nice-but-relatively affordable gift everyone likes! Anyway, back to Megan: she has black coffee for breakfast when she could have real food, and plays sex games with Don by getting mad at him and then cleaning the house practically naked and saying “YOU CAN’T HAVE THIS,” before letting him do her anyway. While that was an amazing sex scene and I feel like she deserves points for just participating in it so effectively, I hate that some of the hottest sex of the series happened because a woman was on her knees in her underwear cleaning her man’s apartment.
So what are we to do with this black coffee-for-breakfast, nice clothes-wearing, universally drooled-over, “buy me new carpet,” “you can’t fuck me, just kidding!”, “I hate cynicism” quote-unquote wife? Since she seems like a nice person and her party outfit was so great, she barely passes.
Likability score: 70%
3. Peggy Olson
There’s something comforting about the gradual embitterment of a woman working in an office, determined to claw her way to the top while pitching a bean ballet to client and overseeing another woman who was promoted because she’s doing the boss. And all the while she’s perfectly happy wearing boxy dresses and not trying to be sexy. She’s supposed to come off as a little too brash in the way she deals with Don, like when she makes a pointed remark at the Soiree of Awkwardness about working on some bean ads on the weekend, but can you blame her?
Likability score: 93%
4. Joan Harris
Joan continues to be The Best. She’s on maternity leave, but anxious to go back to work despite her mother’s urging that she stay home with the kid. She clearly enjoys being in charge of more than an apartment, an infant, and a mom with the hots for the plumber. Also, she doesn’t flinch when her mom insinuates she’s fat. She loses points for somewhat carelessly leaving the baby in the hall when she goes to cry in Lane’s office, but whatever.
Likability score: 92%
5. Roger Sterling
Roger’s hideous behavior is excused somewhat by his unfailing hilariousness. Like when he made fun of the stupid zoobie-zoo thing, every time he talks about how he and his wife hate each other, how he bribes Harry Crane and they almost bond over making fun of zoobie-zoo but he then makes Harry look stupid for not understanding how bribes work. He’s gross and slimey and upsetting if you think too hard about it, but if you just enjoy the jokes you can watch him like the Colbert Report. You’d be stupid to take any of it to heart.
Likability score: 79%
6. Lane Pryce
He’s such a good guy he personally returns a wallet full of cash to its rightful wet potato-resembling owner. Yet, he steals a picture of a girl out of it and has phone foreplay with her? Minus points for being gross but plus points for adding multi episode-spanning intrigue to the plot!
Likability score: 82%
7. Pete Campbell
Angry people suck. But +5 for the plaid blazer.
Likability score: 69%
8. Harry Crane
It’s probably not fair to hate him just because he wears short-sleeved dress shirts to work — the week-old deli meat of men’s attire — but stupidly talking about how he wanted to sleep with Megan even after he was warned she was standing right behind him seems like a more valid reason to add to the pile.
9. Stan Rizzo
This guy had the perfect part last night. All I remember about him is that joke he made about having to leave work because he had “tickets to the bean ballet” and how he got Harry to royally humiliate himself in front of Megan. What also enhanced his likability is how he seemed like the only one in the office aside from Pete — who apparently covets Don’s Manhattan apartment more than Don’s wife (bravo!) — who wasn’t drooling blatantly over Megan. As with the popular girl, all the dudes who drool over her are very easy to hate.
Likability score: 87%