Friday, March 2, 2012

The Big Questions For Mad Men Season 5

We are now just three weeks (!) away from the Season 5 premiere of Mad Men.  In prior blogposts, I reviewed Season 4 ( and suggested episodes from Seasons 1-4 that should be watched to get ready for Season 5 (  Today, I am going to discuss the big questions that surround the show's 5th season:

When Are We?  I'm also an unabashed, though recovering, LOST fanboy, so this question seemed particularly apt.  We all know that Matt Weiner likes to do some minor time travel between seasons.  In this way, plot points can be inferred without having to see things happen.  For example, Season 3 found the nascent Sterling, Cooper, Draper Pryce Advertising Agency operating out of a suite at The Pierre hotel.  When Season 4 started, the agency was ensconced in the Time Warner Building without our having seen any of the transition.  Similarly, Season 2 ended with Betty finding out she was pregnant with Season 3 picking up about 7 months or so later, as she was in the late stages of her pregnancy.  

The minor passages in time also allow for subtle changes to the scenery the show inhabits.  The societal evolution, interior design and fashion all reflect the country's passage from the show's beginning, as the Eisenhower era drew to a close, to where it left us in Season 4, with the Rolling Stones and Beatles, Vietnam, the beginnings of urban decay and the budding growth of the youth movement.  A jump of just a few months from the Season 4 ending in October 1965 is unlikely to show much change.  A more meaningful transition deep into 1966 or early 1967 would be a watershed. 

The Second Mrs. Draper.  The whirlwind courtship of Megan by Don resulted in their engagement at the end of Season 4. Although rushed, the Don and Megan romance had a certain ambiguity.  On the one hand, it is easy to see Megan as a sort of Betty 2.0, someone raised with good social graces and a liberal arts education but with better mommy skills and a greater capacity to feed Don's ego while never challenging his stature.  Her presence in his life dovetails with Don's attempts to get more in touch with himself and reduce his drinking; however, when Don was challenged to fully evaluate himself by Dr. Faye, he opted for the safer route Megan offered of tacit acknowledgement that his best efforts at self-improvement aside, he may fail.  On the other hand, if Don truly does want to be a better person (and become one), he claims Megan is the woman to help him do it.  Ok, who are we kidding, Mad Men would not be Mad Men with a chaste, monogamous Don Draper. 

The Other Mrs. Draper.  No, not Anna.  She's dead.  But Betty, who, when we last saw her, was making goo goo eyes at Don just before he dropped the engagement bomb on her.  As fans of Mad Men know, Matt Weiner was a writer on The Sopranos, who spent most of its 5th season slowly angling Tony and Carmen back together after they separated.  Might history repeat itself?  It's an intriguing possibility, as Betty's role became much more peripheral during the 4th season, where she was often reduced to a tantruming harpy lashing out at whoever angered her at a particular moment.  If not, we will see what direction her up and down relationship with Henry Francis heads in.  

Baby Sterling.  When we last saw Joan, she was in the early stages of a pregnancy resulting from a one off encounter with Roger while trying to convince her husband Greg, currently on a tour of duty in Vietnam, that the child is his.  Quite the soap opera.  It is clear Joan wants this baby, it's less clear how Roger will react once she delivers.  One of the things I enjoyed about the latter part of Season 3 and Season 4 generally is the connection between Roger and Joan.  They complement each other perfectly - she is the nurse maid and mother figure for his terminal arrested development and he is the financial bulwark offering the life of home and family she so desperately craves.  These two belong together.

The Future of SCDP. This is actually three questions in one.  First, what will become of the ad agency?  At the end of Season 4, the firm was teetering on he edge of insolvency after losing American Tobacco and North American Aviation.  The partners had to take out personal loans to make payroll and a round of layoffs thinned the company's ranks.  Peggy swooped in and closed a new account in the season finale, and Don pitched both Heinz and the American Cancer Society, but came up empty handed.  In what shape will we find the agency when Season 5 starts? 

Second, will Bert Cooper still be with the agency?  In the fallout that resulted from the loss of American Tobacco, Coop bade farewell to the office, but we could not tell whether he was serious or not.  Although Bert's role was significantly reduced in Season 4, his presence would be missed if he was not padding around the office barefoot when Season 5 begins.

Third, did Lane Pryce give up his "chocolate bunny" for the fog of London?  Lane's father traveled from England to New York to communicate, in no uncertain terms, that Lane had to get his marital home in order.  All of the changes that could come from an ascendent SCDP (new characters, or perhaps the return of some old friends?) offer additional plot points and story lines that are yet to be told.

I Know Pronounce You Man & Peggy.  In Season 4, Peggy rejected straight laced Mark for rabble rousing (and we can assume, Jewish?) socialist-hippie Abe.  As I discussed more fully in my season review, Peggy's internal struggle between wanting to be a wife and not finding anything as interesting as what happens in the office was on full display.  Will Peggy, at the ripe old age of 26, finally find her husband or will she train her sights on career advancement at the expense of a husband.  

Like all of you, I cannot wait for the new season.  What are some of the big questions you want answered starting March 25th? 

Twitter: @scarylawyerguy


  1. I'll reply to the Big Questions:

    When Are We? I'm with you - Spring of 1967 - eighteen months after Ep 413 - if only because Kiernan Shipka has aged that much too - but also because the writers will get to sink their teeth into the big changes leading up to that time. Finally the leap will incorporate resolution of other Big Questions

    The Second Mrs. Draper: The loopy impulsive Draper at end of S4 does not bode well for what will be a young marriage at Ep 501. Teaser photos of Megan pursuing Don in a parking lot indicate the honeymoon will have been short. Of course you are right that Don will not be monogamous. My gut tells me there will be no fourth Draper child, either.

    Mrs. Draper the First: A tryst and perhaps an affair. A new Carla with the Riding Club as cover and a very busy Henry will make that workable. But no reconciliation - another gut call.

    Baby Sterling: Given that Mr. Harris is all too aware of Joan's former life with Roger and his med school training, it's quite possible he could become suspicious - which could lead to some sticky situations. Joan is all too aware of the "terminally arrested development" you cite, so will be reluctant to try to break up two marriages to form one.

    The Future of SCDP. Because Weiner will want to move on to other good stuff and because they sucked the juice over the company's shaky finances, SCDP will be on firm footing at the opener - roughly as firm as the S4 opener - though perhaps leaner, without a $25-million account paying the bills. Robert Morse has appeared with the other actors in public lately (hasn't he?) so Cooper will still be padding around - after all, his exit was impulsive and he still has a big equity interest - which would not be readily sellable until SCDP gets back to terra firma.

    I Now Pronounce You Man & Peggy: Abe and his crowd were more beat than hippie. He'll let the hair grow - but as a professional he'll not adopt a hippie look. He will want to marry Peggy, but she won't accept - that is, if he proposes. Some real romantic tension could be sustained with that question un-asked.

    Will Pryce give up his "chocolate bunny" for the fog of London? He will give up both. I took his groveling post-cane-whip to be final vis-a-vis his infatuation. Mrs. Pryce wife will never return to New York and Mr. Pryce is more (much more) than infatuated with America and his entrepreneurial adventure with SCDP.

  2. Great comments. Another true fan! Can't wait for March 25th!

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