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You Only Live Twice: We Look Towards The Future As 'Mad Men' Wraps Up A Phenomenal Season 5

by Cory Everett
June 12, 2012 9:59 AM
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The fifth season of AMC's "Mad Men" came to a close Sunday night, wrapping up what has been arguably among its strongest seasons yet. No small feat considering the show has taken home four consecutive Emmys for Best Drama and been proclaimed one of the best shows on TV by nearly every critic reviewing the medium. After a run of 13 almost uniformly excellent episodes, it becomes harder to remember that this season had gotten off to a rocky start. When the network decided to pull the show out of its summer slot to make room for the other best show on TV ("Breaking Bad"), fans had to endure a brutal 17-month wait. Contract negotiations between creator Matthew Weiner and the studio were made public and gave both the network and creator some negative buzz to overcome.

And when the show finally returned this spring, the two-hour premiere may have satiated viewers' curiosity about what their favorite characters had been up to, but on the whole they weren’t sure if they were pleased with the answers. Picking up in June 1966 -- 7 months after the previous season four finale -- viewers were forced (as in previous season openers) to play catch up, filling in the gaps on what the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce gang were up to during the interim. As it turned out: they were up to a lot. Though mere months had passed in the show, the world had changed dramatically. And during the 10 months in which Season 5 takes place, our characters lives may have transformed even more. Join us as we dive into Season 5 of "Mad Men" and look towards the future of the series.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) began the season on "love leave" (as he was scolded by Bert Cooper at one point), so consumed with spending as much time as he could with his new wife Megan, he had totally checked out of work. Viewers got to see a side of Don they had never before witnessed: the faithful husband. Unfortunately, his happiness came at the expense of his company, which teetered on the edge of survival without its creative leader. As the season went along and Megan left to pursue her dreams of acting, Don realized his passivity at work was causing his company to be put in jeopardy and took a renewed interest in his career, winning the Jaguar account and making an aggressive play for bigger clients. Hamm spoke to AMC about his character's reversal, saying, “By the end of Season 5, Don is completely reinvigorated about growing this company and taking some big risks and really moving forward.” While the future at SCDP looks brighter than ever (financially anyway, though at a high cost), his relationship with Megan is much more up in the air.

Though some saw the Don/Megan relationship as a far different beast than his marriage to ex-wife Betty, this writer takes the view that we just never got to see the beginning of that one. Judging from brief flashbacks, one can imagine that young Don once worshiped Betty the same way he did Megan, but as Dr. Faye has pointed out, he tends to "only like the beginnings of things." And as the season wound down, it became clear that Don’s story was partially about the honeymoon phase of a relationship, which, judging from the final moments of the finale, are about to come to a close. When he’s approached in the bar by a young woman asking to pick him up for her friend, she asks “Are you alone?” Throughout the season his character had been unflappable, but now we’re not so sure. Weiner spoke about the final moments to the NYTimes, saying, “We don’t know how he’s going to answer but we know he’s in a different place. But you recognize that guy when he looks up. We haven’t seen him in a while.” Whether Don jumps into bed with both ladies or this is simply the first crack in his impenetrable armor isn’t as important as knowing that he’s turned a corner.

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  • c | June 12, 2012 9:20 PMReply

    Are you kidding? This season was completely uneven and heavy handed. Weiner's ego now takes precedence over good story telling and subtle writing.

  • Jonathan Igla | June 12, 2012 5:38 PMReply

    I know I'm nitpicking but, Sally only says ''dirty'' not ''it's dirty''.
    the chere mill and ews comparisions are apt thou.

  • cory everett | June 12, 2012 9:34 PM

    Yep, you're right. I thought it was "dirty" but I remember reading all the recaps which said "It's dirty" and thinking I was wrong but I was not wrong! And neither are you. Thanks!

  • Gabe NotToro | June 12, 2012 2:54 PMReply

    I have a different opinion from most of what is expressed here (Season 5 was, to me, easily the most erratic yet). But while I hate to nitpick, there's one point that I don't think is even up for debate - NO ONE with a last name other than Weiner considers Glen Bishop a "series favorite". Any intrigue the character has on paper is MURDERED by the fact that kid is the worst working actor on the planet.

  • Kevin | June 12, 2012 2:35 PMReply

    Great writeup and great season. If anything, I thought the season finale was a let down, but other than that, solid through and through.

  • b | June 12, 2012 2:22 PMReply

    my favorite season. easy.

  • david | June 12, 2012 1:22 PMReply

    I don't know, I really don't see how one can list "Tea Leaves" as the weak spot of the season but not list "Christmas Waltz" and its horribly on the nose revisiting of Paul. Mad Men does a great job of subtly bringing in movements and what not into the time line of the show but the whole Hare Krishna thing was really ridiculous and odd and just felt like a way to bring us up to speed on Paul and how horrible his life still is (and how we still don't care). It all felt a little obvious. Much more than "Tea Leaves" where that episode at least had many great moments for Jones and really fits in with the whole arc of the season in my opinion (which really dealt with death and fear of being left behind).

  • MacMuffin | June 12, 2012 12:23 PMReply

    ^^ LOL

    good work mod, good work

  • matthew weiner | June 12, 2012 12:20 PMReply

    faye told don he only liked the beginnings of things not peggy.

  • cory everett | June 12, 2012 12:29 PM

    Yep, you're right. Updated. Thanks!

  • jun | June 12, 2012 10:19 AMReply

    This season completely blew. Leave it to The Playlist to heap praise on something that was incredibly crappy.

  • Q | June 12, 2012 11:20 AM

    JUN you are a fool and the only reason that comment exists is because of the first amendment

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