Season One, Episode Four
[I'm a week late on this one, but forgive me: I'll have a piece on tonight's episode done sometime tonight, probably]
By the time Mad Men got to its fourth episode, it had filled in a lot of its gaps: we are thoroughly compelled by Don Draper, interested in seeing more of this world from Betty’s perspective, intrigued at the inner workings of Sterling Cooper, and curious as to how all of these people intersect in the historical mediation the show presents.
All except Pete Campbell, that is. To be honest, Pete Campbell was pretty much a snake before this point: a spineless, ungrateful punk at his worst, and certainly not the kind of character that any of us relate with. His insistence on rising the corporate ladder could be passed off as mere capitalist determinism, a selfish attempt to take for himself and to leave others in his wake.
What “New Amsterdam” provides is a new perspective, a glimpse into the fact that Pete Campbell’s life is just as complicated as everyone else’s in terms of the series’ primary characters. Over time, the show reveals the truth behind other characters as well (Joan and Roger Sterling are next up), but the familial and spousal pressures facing this character are some of the most eye-opening. No, it isn’t exactly surprising that he has some serious family issues, but it does explain at least some of his past behaviour while leaving plenty of qualities on the table that we as viewers will take issue with.