Vincent Kartheiser and Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
In case you've been living under a rock, Mad Men returns Sunday night, and the critically acclaimed, multiple Emmy-nominated AMC drama wastes very little time sucking viewers back into its slick, dazzling world.
But as satisfying as the Season 3 premiere is (yes, we've seen it; no, we won't spoil it... much), Mad Men devotees hoping for answers to all their burning questions will be, as usual, out of luck.
Read our recaps of Mad Men's second season
What you will see is this: Don (Jon Hamm) and Sal (Bryan Batt) take a business trip to Baltimore to reassure a jumpy client. Sterling Cooper's merger with a British firm will loom large. And viewers will get resolution to the cliff-hanger announcement that Betty (January Jones) is pregnant.
What's become of Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) since she dropped her own baby bombshell, however, is clearly out of sight. But that doesn't mean it's out of mind.
"I don't think it's dead, and I don't think it will never come up again," Moss tells TVGuide.com. "But I think there's a lot going on and a lot to deal with, so in pure Mad Men style, we don't just leap back into things that the audience wants us to. Although things may not be as on the nose as you want them to be, her past has a huge effect on everything that she does, and you do see that in the third season."
Check out photos of the Mad Men cast
Kartheiser and Moss both agree that career will come first for their characters this season. "Anyone who has had a secret relationship [in the office] will relate," Kartheiser says. "Sometimes you go a long time pretending a person is just a friend or a work associate. [Series creator Matt Weiner] does a really good job identifying exactly how much these two people are willing to risk their jobs in love or squabbles or whatever may transpire.
"They've chosen their paths," he says. "After someone does something like that to you — they had your kid and gave it up — where do you go? I think that's something that Matt is going to touch upon, and I think sometimes in these situations, what doesn't happen says so much more than what does."
Peggy appears quite happily settled into her new role (and new office) at Sterling Cooper as the show resumes, but Pete's future is much more unclear. "There's a part of him that's been very discouraged," Kartheiser says. "His dream of being the account guy is gone — there have been a lot of firings in the office and they're all on pins and needles. He got into this industry, and spent a few years working his way to account manager and now he's feeling that plateau."
Suffice to say, that plateau will be shaken in the first episode, for better or worse. And when it is, Pete turns to his wife, Trudy (Alison Brie). Kartheiser found that to be an interesting development, considering the turmoil depicted in the couple's marriage last season.
Read our Mad Men preview featuring Brie
"I think it's great that his wife is the first person he calls," he says. "I think that shows a level of commitment to her that maybe last season wasn't there. The fact that he can call her and they can be kind of cute with each other shows real involvement in one another's lives."
There's a new man in Peggy's life as well, but he's a product of the merger with Putnam, Powell and Lowe. "The British are a huge part of this season and PPL has a huge impact on Sterling Cooper," Moss says. "The effect they have is not only a romantic one, but I think it's much, much more powerful than that. They are a presence that is going to be deeply felt in Season 3."
Both actors agree that change is in the air — at Sterling Cooper, in the 1960s setting, and for Mad Men in general. "Change is coming, and... there's a feeling that nothing is off the table," Moss says. "There's an element of heightening things, which is great because you have to take the show somewhere."
One thing that won't change is the show's ability to shock the audience. "In the third season, although things are definitely touched upon from the past, there are things I never expected to happen and storylines I never dreamed of," Kartheiser says. "It just shows that Matt isn't married to the past and these old plotlines. I think this season, overall, surprises us more than maybe the second season did."
Bryan Batt: Season premiere "doesn't lull you back... a lot happens"
Sunday's premiere features at least one jaw-dropping moment. Can we expect those all year long? "Yes, and that's an emphatic yes," Moss says. "And it's both in obvious ways and in less obvious ways. There was a lot of reading the script this season and a lot of 'Wow, I can't believe they are going to do that!'"
Mad Men's third season premieres Sunday, Aug. 16 at 10/9c on AMC.
Need a quick refresher? Watch our Mad Men recap video below.