Some Thoughts on the Return of Mad Men

Spoiler alert: I’ll be discussing the events that occurred in the episodes that aired Sunday night, so if you haven’t seen them yet and don’t want to know what happened, you may want to skip this post until you’ve had the chance to catch up.

My cable was finally restored Monday night, so I was able to DVR an encore presentation of the season 5 premiere of Mad Men. It’s so good to have the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce gang back! However, after a 17 month hiatus (plus 2 days for me), there was no way that the show could match my heightened level of expectation. It was fabulous, of course, but the show had been away so long that my anticipation simply set the bar too high. This show always moves at a slow pace, particularly in the first episodes of the season, which I should have been more prepared for.

During the downtime between seasons 4 and 5, fans kept themselves busy by guessing where we would find the characters when they show returned. How far in the future would the show jump? Would Don and Megan actually get married? What would the status be of Betty and Henry’s marriage? What would the financial situation of the firm? Would Joan have the baby? For the most part, we received answers to these questions: The show picks up about 9 months after the events at the end of season 4; Megan is in fact the new Mrs. Don Draper; Betty and Henry are still married, though we don’t know how happily as they didn’t appear in this episode; the firm is doing good, but not great; and Joan did in fact give birth to Roger’s adorable little bastard.

With that business out of the way, Sunday’s episode was all about power – who has it, who wants it and who fears losing it. We see that beyond the happy and perfect veneer of the current Draper marriage that there is a bit of a struggle over who is in control. Pete believes he deserves more power as the person who brings in the most business to the firm, which puts him in direct conflict with Roger, the person most likely to lose power in Pete’s rise up the ladder. Joan fears that she has lost power while out on her maternity leave and returns to the office to reassert it. The African American protesters outside of Y&R want power, though that is clearly going to be a prolonged struggle. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Other observations:

  • Even though Don hasn’t always been the best father, it’s clear how much he really does love them.
  • Sally Draper is clearly a little more uneasy about the idea of Megan the stepmother vs. Megan the babysitter. Hope they have a lot for Sally to do this season, as Kiernan Shipka is a fantastic little actress (though not so little any more.) I hope she doesn’t “age-out” of the role.
  • Welcome to the fold, Bobby Draper #4. Hope you like January Jones more than your predecessor.
  • Don referring to Betty and Henry as “Lurch and Morticia” was pretty hilarious, especially given that house they are living in
  • Harry remains a douchebag. Consistency is important.
  • My goodness – the Roger and Jane Sterling marriage sure did go to pieces pretty quickly. They can barely stand each other. Best exchange of the night:

Roger: “Why don’t you sing to me like that?”

Jane: “Why don’t you look like him?”

  •  “Zou Bisou Bisou” has been stuck in my head all day. And I really loved the dress that Jessica Paré wore while singing it.
  • I’ll be curious to see if this season will focus more on the Civil Rights movement. We may have reached a point where these characters will finally be unable to avoid the conflict.
  • Somewhat surprising that after his love affair with his “chocolate bunny” last season that Lane was so hesitant to leave the wallet with the African American cab driver. I guess I thought he would have been more enlightened than that.
  • Any speculation on whether the owner of said wallet is going to turn out to be “somebody?”
  • Speaking of which, Pete continues to be the only main character that seems to have problems with the racism of the times, which adds an interesting dimension to him.
  • Despite all they have gone through, Pete and Trudy Campbell continue to be a pretty good team. Hopefully Pete will realize this and not listen to the men on his morning commute.
  • Was anyone else SHOCKED that Megan knows about Dick Whitman? When she made reference to it, my jaw literally fell open. A very interesting development.
  • Joan continues to be awesome. The scene when she visits the office was the best of the episode, partially because it subtly reminded us of all the relationships and dynamics in the office. I especially enjoyed the look between Peggy and Pete, given their history.

Anxiously looking forward to next week. Between this show and the return of Game of Thrones, it will be a great night of television.

What did everyone else think?


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