After a hiatus of almost eighteen months, AMC’s Mad Men returned on Sunday evening with a two hour Season 5 premiere. We got a sense of how much time had passed by seeing that Don and Megan are married and now live in a de-luxe apartment in the sky, Pete Campbell resides in Connecticut and has the kind of commute Don used to have when he still lived in Ossining, and Joan is on maternity leave raising an infant who everyone thinks is her husband’s while it’s really Roger’s. Business-wise, SterlingCooperDraperPryce is struggling as much as it was last season. Pete Campbell is miserable, the secretary pool is in disarray without Joan, and Don is more focused on being an attentive husband than convincing clients to use the agency’s ideas (oh, if Betty could see him now).
A surprise 40th birthday party for Don serves as an excuse to get most of the major players together in one room, and to also create booze-induced tension, as is tradition on this show. I wasn’t crazy about the cabaret performance that Megan had arranged for herself, but was glad that it at least served as material for Roger’s mocking. Call me evil, but I was hoping that Don would have cast her aside by now. We see little cracks forming in their relationship, which reminds me of Dr. Miller’s statement to Don (right after he dumped her) from last season’s finale: “I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things.”
It’s also made clear that Megan knows all about the Dick Whitman secret. Since I’ve never trusted Megan, it seems inevitable that her knowledge of his true past will burn him in the near future. Unlike all the previous seasons, there was no lingering concern or feeling of doom in this episode about his secret coming out, so I wonder how long it is before that problem gets raised again.
Betty Francis and her husband are nowhere to be seen in the episode, only being referred to as “Morticia and Lurch” by Don when he drops the kids off after a weekend together. At the end of last season Don and Betty had found a moment of civility towards each other, but it doesn’t appear they’ve progressed much from that point. Roger Sterling and Pete Campbell have grown to be my two favorite characters on the show and I loved seeing them irritate the hell out of each other. I also got a kick out of the badger hair shaving cream brush that Don received from his kids because my father has received the same gift from me twice in the past.
Overall, I enjoyed the premiere. The show’s creators planted the seeds for quite a few story lines this season, as well as a look into a changing social climate surrounding the characters. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.