After almost two years off the air, Mad Men finally returns in fantastic fashion.
After 18 long and torturous months, Don Draper and the guys and gals of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce FINALLY return with the Mad Men two-hour Season 5 premiere, Episode 5.01: A Little Kiss, Part 1 and Episode 5.02: A Little Kiss, Part 2 Sunday, March 25 at 9 PM ET. Before I start with the review, let's take a moment to revisit where we left off after the Season 4 finale way back in October 2010.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in a bit of a rut when Season 4 finale starts, after Don Draper's (Jon Hamm) New York Times editorial about cutting his ties with the tobacco industry after losing their biggest client, Lucky Strike cigarettes. The letter attracts the attention of the American Cancer Society, while Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Ken (Aaron Staton) finally break the firm's slump and sign a new client, Topaz pantyhose. After a trip to California, to settle the late Anna's affairs, Don returns with a new fiancee, his secretary Megan (Jessica Paré), news that steals Peggy's thunder of drumming up new business.
Attached to my screener of this Season 5 premiere was a letter from series creator Matthew Weiner (who wrote this two-part episode), which asked that I not divulge certain plot points that come up, so while there are certain things I won't spoil, I will say that I absolutely loved this two-part premiere. One of the things I always enjoyed about the show is that it started out in 1960, although there is still the style and mindset of the 1950s securely intact. The men are the kings of their castle, and the women lovingly attend to their needs without complaint... unless those men happen to step out on them, of course. While I can't say what year Season 5 starts out in, I will say that we start to see the 1960s we have come to know. No, we don't see any swinging orgies or love-ins, but, in true Mad Men fashion, 60s attitudes start to subtly creep in, particularly with the women, and they have intriguing effects on these men in the grey flannel suits. The episode starts off with an embarrassing mistake made by another ad firm, Young and Richman, which gets exploited later in the episode by SCDP. Both the exploitation and consequences which face the firm are rather hilarious, and shows just how much this world is changing, whether the mad men like it or not. Actually, there is quite a bit of very effective humor in the episode. The show hasn't transformed into a straight-up comedy, but there are many more comic relief moments here than in episodes past.
This theme of change is most prevalent when Megan decides to throw a surprise party for Don's 40th birthday. When Megan tells Peggy about the party, she says, "Everybody's going to go home from this, and have sex," which is a pretty dead giveaway that at least the mentality of the swinging 60s has crept into the show, which also illustrates the sizeable gap in age between Don and Megan. There is also a very intriguing scene with Pete, his lovely wife Trudie (the always lovely Alison Brie), Peggy and her journalist boyfriend, which shows how out of touch the ad men and their wives are with the ways society is changing. Since Don is the kind of guy who always has to be several steps ahead of everyone else, this doesn't sit quite well with him, but the party also shows off the lavish new pad Don now lives in with Megan. It looks like it's just a disco ball away from being an Austin Powers set, and it's a bit surprising to see such a straight-laced guy like Don living here. It is never overtly said, but one has to wonder if the decision to move into this place was more Megan's than Don's.
I'm really interested to see how this season treats Pete (Vincent Kartheiser), since he seems to be more petulant than usual. He clashes with Roger (John Slattery), who seems to be hovering over Pete's calendar, seemingly looking to poach clients, and spends a good deal whining about having a small office. We also get introduced to an interesting character named Howard (Jeff Clarke), who Pete converses with on the train ride into work. We don't know if Howard is another ad man or not, but it will be interesting if he keeps popping up on the train.
The only thing that slightly bothered me in this episode is the recasting of Bobby Draper, Don's young son who is now played by Mason Vale Cotton. Jared Gilmore played Bobby last season, but I assume his new gig as Henry Mills on Once Upon a Time prevented him from coming back to Mad Men this season. It is always kind of annoying to see a brand new actor play a character we've seen before, but it happens from time to time.
After almost two years off the air, Mad Men finally returns in fantastic fashion. It's going to be rather intriguing to see how these men who are so set in their ways react to the radical changes that appear to be on the horizon, which will challenge their libidos and their entire way of life. There are a bunch of plot points I couldn't reveal, but suffice it to say that a LOT happens in this two-hour premiere, which sets up what should be another stellar season of what I believe to be the best show on television.
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