There’s been a great deal of discussion that season three focused too much on the Draper marriage, and that there wasn’t enough action in Sterling Cooper.
The truth is, there was no life in the office. And ultimately that became the punchline of the season’s arc.
The office was so painful. I wrote about it awhile back, how beaten down they all were. Joan, on her way out and clearing the way for Moneypenny. Peggy getting less than her share of appreciation, and still not fitting with either the creatives or the other women in the office. Roger and Bert, each in their own way put out to pasture. Pete and Kenny pitted against each other (although okay, that was not exactly lifeless).
First season we had Nixon vs. Kennedy; one of the great party scenes in television history. My Old Kentucky Home had some interest to it in the workplace (what with the drugs and all), but that was after-hours and all kind of strange. In Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency, there was an office party, but it was a celebration that had initially been a massive imposition. This was home office show and tell, and on a holiday to boot, and no one wanted anything to do with it. But then Guy was such an appealing presence that people got on board, and this was to be a party like no other. And for that brief moment, we all felt the spark–people were hopeful and full of life. Aaand then Lois and John Deere put an abrupt end to that.
And after that it was trudgery until the finale.
Sterling Cooper stopped being vibrant and it stopped being an interesting place to be every day. Whatever comes next is so exciting.