By Cory Everett | @modage June 12, 2012 at 9:59AM
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.