Mad Men: Season 2 Mad Men: Season 2

Mad Men: Season 2 Mad Men: Season 2
The men in the grey flannel suits are back with their second season (set in 1962), which is packaged with a truck-full of special features that perfectly complement the series' characters and setting. Like a steam locomotive leaving the station, it takes a while for season two to gather speed (a criticism also levelled at season one). After a few episodes though the pacing picks up, the conflicts heighten and the characters hook the viewer. This is excellent character-driven television and not costumed melodrama. Creative director Donald Draper (Jon Hamm) remains the pivotal figure in his Madison Avenue ad agency and within his troubled marriage to Betty (January Jones). Like all the characters at the Sterling Moss ad agency, Draper shows depth and complexity, appearing more successful and happy than he truly is, a crucial theme in this series. The genders remain firmly defined, though Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) wins small battles against her male colleagues. Homosexuality, women's equality and black civil rights bubble beneath the surface and you realize it's only a matter of time before they explode in American society and this series. Twelve episodes are spread across four DVDs, each episode generously graced by two audio commentaries: one by head writer/creator Matthew Weiner and the other by cast members specific to each episode. Altogether, the commentaries leave no stone unturned. "Birth of an Independent Woman" is a thoughtful 41-minute documentary about the women's movement split across two discs. It places into context the role of women (and men) in 1962 America and tracks the rise of feminism. One of the most striking things about Mad Men is the subservient role of women, and this doc does a superb job explaining why and how that changed. Another smart featurette is "An Era of Style," which gives a concise (22 minutes) but well-researched history of '60s fashion, dividing it into the Kennedy "classical" era, the mod era of the Beatles and then the hippie era. You realize how importantly clothes reflected the social politics of the times and how drastically that era changed. The "Time Capsule: Historical Events of the 1960s" clips offer historical background of the '60s by mixing archival clips and contemporary profiles of everything from Jackie Kennedy to the Maidenform bra ad campaigns to the Civil Rights protests. These are classy touches. The discs are housed in a sturdy cardboard gatefold held together in a plastic slipcase, featuring a white dress shirt and tie on the cover. It's the perfect look for an exceptional DVD package. (Maple)