Mad Men Season 5 Premiere: Recap & Review

Mad Men Season 5 Cast PhotosAfter 17 months of hiatus, Mad Men came back and nestled deep back into a specially reserved space back into my heart. Even within the first five minutes of the premiere, my stomach fluttered  in such a way that only happens when you reunite with long lost good friends. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration or maybe I just need to get out more, but it certainly felt that way. During the gap between last season and the premiere, the lives of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce churned away and upon our meeting again, we have caught up  with one another on how we’ve been.

Spoilers ahead!

In the season opener, the Civil Rights Movement is on the forefront of everyone’s attention in the world of Mad Men. The youth are restless and change is afoot. College kids are rioting, people are demonstrating, and racial politics will be much more dominant in this season other than Kinsey’s and Lane’s former interracial relationships. With Roger’s prank on A&R will come a new African-American secretary in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

The openness of the late 60s is definitely being showcased via costumes. Megan has cropped her hair, wears mod eyeliner and swing dresses. Women are wearing colorful floral prints, and white go go boots while men are downing colorful pants and bright plaid jackets. The young are talking about politics while  “smoking tea” with their best black gay friends.

Regarding the lives of the characters…

Don had just turned 40. For the first time ever, Don’s life has become stable. By marrying Megan, he has successfully combined his home and work life. He’s smiling, patient, and finds happiness in spending time with his children. Perhaps he won’t stray from his new wife? The two are perfectly matched in that department and he won’t need to find satisfaction elsewhere. Instead of finding solace in his work, he has found happiness in Megan. He even told her about Dick Whitman! Unfortunately however, his lack of drive and ambition is making him lose his edge. Like the Heinz client who thought it’d be a great idea to have beans holding  protest signs in order to capture the college-age demographic, Don is becoming out of touch. He’s no longer interested in being innovative or creative and has become set in his ways. Unlike most episodes where action and key conversations are held in his office, Don is instead shown in other people’s offices, in hallways, and especially at home. Work is no longer his life and he’s perfectly happy with that.

As Pete quipped, “Stable is that step backwards between success and failure.”

Mad Men Season 5 Episode Photos

If Don is now the old man, Roger is being hit with a bout of dementia. His charisma can no longer sustain his business relationships and has resorted to flirting with secretaries in order to snoop on other people’s scheduled client meetings. He uses his position and power to overwhelm others who stand a threat to him (namely Pete) and uses money to solve his problems instead of actively fixing them. He impetuously involves himself with a feud with rival ad company A&R and prints a barbed insult cloaked as a want ad as an equal opportunity employer which causes numerous black applicants at their door. Unlike Don’s successful marriage, Roger’s secretary-turned-wife is no longer of interest to him. The two trade barbs during the party. Regarding Megan’s gift to Don at the party, Roger asks “Why don’t you sing like her?” to where Jane replies “Why don’t you look like him?” During a toast to Don and Megan with his wife at his arm, he comments, “Something worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it.” Seems like Roger picked the wrong secretary to marry.

Pete’s now commuting to work via train after him and the missus move to a house in suburbia. He’s having a hard time dealing with the fact that it takes him ages to get to and fro without getting any work done, especially now that he is now a junior partner and has a large amount of clients on his Rolodex.

This episode afforded Lane to be developed as a character full of contradiction. After finding a wallet in a taxicab, he gives the driver his business card in case anyone calls. Within the wallet he finds that it belongs to a man as well as photograph of a buxom young woman named Dolores, who later calls him about the wallet.  He engages in rather creepy flirty conversation with her while staring at her picture. When the owner comes for the wallet, he keeps the picture for himself. Even though that entire side story showed a not-so-nice facet of Lane’s nature and his depiction of women, during Joan’s visit to the office, he is shown to be a  character who is able to empathize with women. After confronting Lane about Roger’s want ad in the paper that made her feel insecure about being let go from the office, she ends up baring her soul to Lane who sweetly comforts and listens to her distressed feelings of feeling lonely even though she has everything that she thought she wanted (married, baby) but is still dissatisfied and craves to be back at work. It’s the most authentic we’ve ever seen Joan be with any male on the show, more so than her own husband or Roger.

Most importantly…

We finally get to see Megan.

The character whose femininity and nurturing attributes convinced Don to impulsively ask her to marry him has changed dramatically since we last saw her. She’s now confident, modern, and a sexpot. Still very much a career woman, she seemingly has no interest in having children or even taking care of Don’s kids. Other than the obligatory “good morning” and comment about the children’s birthday present to their father, she doesn’t stick around. During Joan’s visit she was entirely disinterested in Joan’s baby until it was thrusted upon her and she quickly leaves.

Joan’s mother calls her “conniving,” Megan’s friend said she was “a good actress,” and the entire episode makes me wonder if marrying Don was a calculative move to get ahead in her career. She married a partner and is instantly wealthy, and because of Don she is now a copywriter. Don has always told Peggy to use her brain and not her feminine wiles to get ahead, but Megan was promoted because of it. She doesn’t seem to be nearly as talented as Peggy, as the most she could contribute was to change the denominated value of some coupons. Peggy did more when she was still a secretary.

Megan plans a surprise birthday for Don (even though Peggy explicitly stated that Don would hate it) out of love and perhaps as an opportunity to be a showboat. She performs a provocative rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou” that was surprising and mortifying for Don. The party and the performance causes friction between the Mr. and Mrs., as the two don’t see eye to eye about the party. Megan’s young and hip, and throwing parties is what she does. It was an expression of her love for him, whereas Don believes parties are a waste of time and money and hates being the center of attention. Don turns down her advances, and Megan leaves hurt and confused. She does seem to truly love Don, but she doesn’t understand his cynicism and darker nature. Megan is then again faced with unexpected reactions as she becomes fodder for office gossip, with people teasing her performance and talking about her in inappropriate ways. She lashes out on Peggy, declaring that everyone at the office is cynical and serious all the time, where instead of people smile, they smirk. Why can’t people just have fun? She’s an interesting foil to the other characters in the show and she’s turning out to be a very complex character.

Then came something as shocking as when Don told the hooker to slap his face during sex last season.

After Don returns home after hearing from Peggy that his wife had left early and was upset, Megan begins to pretend clean the house in black lacy lingerie, telling Don to not look or talk to her. Don, who’s totally turned on, overpowers her and the two engage in some sexytimes. Don’s a kinky guy, and Megan is understanding of his sexual quirks and is capable of using his dominant/possessive nature in engaging in a power play herself. She’s able to turn her anger into deviating a plan that turns their problem into scenario that is easily rectified by copulation. She might be the one who is capable of handling Don as opposed to being swept off her feet by him.

I can’t wait until the next episode!

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By Contributing Blogger:  M. Do.

Comments

  1. Absolutely wonderful post! There’s so much going on in this episode it’s just mind boggling. Heard the show posted Jessica Pare’s “Zou Bisou Bisou” on iTunes and on a 7-inch vinyl single. How cool!

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