Mad Men Season 5 premiere review

Posted on 28 March 2012
By Pierce King
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Mad Men Season 5 finally strode back onto our screens donning dapper new suits and got straight down to business last night after an agonising 17-month break.

Fans of the show could only imagine how Don Draper and co have been living through all the cliffhangers left open from last season.

Joan has given birth to Roger’s baby, Don has gone through with his hasty marriage proposal to his hot French-Canadian secretary and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce appear to be rising out of the ashes after Lucky Strike dropped them leaving them in financial turmoil.

The success of Mad Men lies in surrounding the characters’ personal dramas by having to also adjust to the swirling social changes of the mid to late 60s. The opening feature length episode was bookended by references to the civil rights movement.

Creatives at a rival agency are caught red-handed throwing water bombs on a black protest by a reporter and Roger chooses to rub salt in the wound by taking out an ad stating that SCDP are an ‘equal opportunities’ employer, which in turn sees their office overrun with ‘negroes’ looking for work.

It’s 1966 and the fashions have taken a decidedly kitsch direction, especially away from the office at Don and Megan’s plush new apartment, where we see Don’s surprise birthday bash for his 40th birthday. Megan (Jessica Paré) performed a sexy dance and sang in sultry French Zou Bisou Zou, a song made famous by Sophia Loren.

Much to her husband’s apparent embarrassment and horror. You can tell from Don’s pained expression that he is still struggling with the existential nightmare of living with another man’s identity and scorns his new wife for making him the centre of attention and bringing their colleagues into his home.

But somehow Don always seems to land on his feet, if only every man’s wife chose to vent her rage by stripping down to her lacy lingerie, snapping the elastic out of her cheeks and bending over to do the housework with a demure look over the shoulder.

Joan is struggling with raising her baby and feels isolated away from the office while her husband is in Vietnam and calls in, wearing a risque pink dress, to make sure she’s not been forgotten and gives Roger a knowing smile when he handles their baby.

Pete Campbell provides perhaps the best bit of fun in the episode when he smashes his nose against the wall in his cramped office wall after tripping over calling in one of the three shared secretaries.

The scheming junior calls a meeting of the partners in his room, which gave us the delightful vision of Don, Lane, Roger and Burt all squashed in on his tiny red sofa while he tries to illustrate how he cannot conduct business there and underlines his vital role to the agency as he handles most of the accounts.

Pete pushes the issue further by outlining that Roger has nothing to do except waltz into his business meetings and suggests that he take over Roger’s office.

Roger with one of his classic put downs says that Pete can conduct his affairs ‘in the crapper’ and offers to take him outside.

But perhaps sensing an uprising in the air, takes it upon himself to make Harry swap with Pete and pays him $1100 dollars cash to take the hit, again drawing our attention to what a swine Harry is when he asks: ‘so is this a monthly thing?’

Notably missing from the action was Betty – and we can only imagine that she is going to make a dramatic entrance next episode.

Jon Hamm has upped his game this series by stepping into a Producers role and has also directed episode 3, so we can look forward to his unique creative take on the story.