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Lifestyle

April 7, 2013

'Mad Men' Returns, Heavier than Ever

(Continued)

Elisabeth Moss's Peggy Olson, meanwhile, seemingly thrives in her new job at a rival agency, trying to work last-minute miracles on a client's Super Bowl ad crisis while, back at Sterling Cooper, Don seems to be losing his touch: Moved by a sort of transcendent experience at the Royal Hawaiian, he comes up with an ad pitch that is eerie and existential — and bluntly perfect.

"It's a little morbid," the client tells Don.

"Well, heaven is a little morbid," Don says. "How do you get to heaven? Something terrible has to happen."

"We sold death for 25 years with Lucky Strike," Roger tells Don later. "You know how we did it? We ignored it."

"Mad Men" is that rare thing that can be as infuriating as it is perfect. I've gone back and forth (and hot and cold) on it as much as a critic can; I warmed to it last season but feel a familiar chill this time. "Mad Men's" real genius as a TV show is that it encourages you to tease out its meanings and themes, all of them personal. As it happens, "Mad Men's" time frame has arrived at the year of my birth, which, oddly, does not make it feel closer or more real. In fact, it makes the show feel more remote, imaginary and somehow sadder than ever.

Cheer up — at least it's on.

Mad Men (two hours) returns Sunday at 8 p.m. on AMC.

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