17 Months Later: A "Mad Men" Refresher For Season Five's Premiere
Fans have had 17 months to wait for answers to the loose ends of “Mad Men’s” fourth and best season — that’s if we can remember any of them. Indeed, the extended break could make for some confusing viewing when the waiting ends Sunday with Season Five’s two-hour premiere, set presumably in 1966. (I’ll be recapping the episodes each week.) You may remember Don wanted to marry a secretary, but oh — what’s her name? To catch everyone up on the goings-on of our favorite Madison Avenue inhabitants, here’s a look at the key players and where we left off in their lives.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce: In the summer of 1965, the young agency took a hit when account Lucky Strike withdrew its business. The tobacco company accounted for almost a third of the agency’s billings, so as news of its loss spread and clients began to jump ship, down came cutbacks and layoffs. A stunt Don pulled — running a full-page ad in the New York Times decrying tobacco companies — continued to hurt SCDP’s reputation but at least brought in an account with the American Cancer Society. The future of the agency was unclear.
Don Draper: Don spent Season Four soul-searching and journaling, but even the relative emotional breakthroughs he had regarding his identity and his relationship with Anna Draper (and her death) didn’t stop him from continuing his generally self-destructive path. Yes, he proposed to his secretary, Megan, during a trip to California and to the surprise of everyone. Faye — the best woman he’s ever been with and whom he ditched for Megan — predicted the situation, however, in Season Four’s second episode. “You’ll be married again in a year,” Faye told Don at Christmas 1964. “What?” he asked. “I always forget,” she said, “nobody wants to think they’re a type.” We’ll see if the wedding actually took place.
Betty Francis: The former Mrs. Draper spent much of Season Four resenting Don, whom she imagined was having a grand old time living as a bachelor, and acting cruel toward Sally, whom she just misunderstands. It even took all season for her to agree to move out of the house she shared with Don, much to the chagrin of new husband, Henry. In truth, Betty wasn’t given much to do in 1965. She’ll surely still be as unlikable as ever this season, but it’s time for her to get the analysis creator Matthew Weiner almost solely leaves for Don. Surely the presence of Megan and her potential parenting of Sally, Bobby and Gene will give her plenty to act out against.
Sally Draper: The oldest Draper kid may have had the most dramatic arc for Season Four out of the family, from her acting out against Don’s dating habits to cutting her hair to exploring her body. Trips to therapy were deemed the answer, although Betty wouldn’t allow her to associate with neighbor Glen Bishop, one of the few people Sally feels understands her. She warmed to Megan, at least, both when visiting the SCDP office and at Disneyland. But is she ready for a stepmom?
Peggy Olson: Peggy had her own year of discovery, from dumping her lame boyfriend, Mark; dating Abe; befriending and at times flirting with photographer Joyce; driving co-worker Stan crazy by refusing to hook up with him; and learning more about her role in the agency and that she shouldn’t live for Don’s approval. She’s become more powerful, landing important accounts and even firing disrespectful employees (the misogynist Joey), but it being the 1960s, she still has an uphill battle ahead of her. Will she continue to be groomed into a mini-Don, albeit one less filled with alcohol? And is there a lesbian phase or turning point in her future?
Roger Sterling: He blew it when it came to Lucky Strike. Perhaps he couldn’t have avoided the client loss, but his handling of the fallout — not warning the agency about the departure and pretending to be in the dark about it all — made him look weak, even if his partners aren’t aware of his lies. That was his one account. With his memoirs already bound, what’s left for him to work on? Personally, his life was about to change dramatically as well, which brings us to …
Joan Harris: In the Season Four finale, a phone conversation between Joan and husband Greg revealed that she didn’t terminate her pregnancy as she had planned, the child being Roger’s. Greg doesn’t know, and odds are against him returning from Vietnam. Was she lying to Greg about being pregnant at all, or was she going to go through with the pregnancy and pretend the baby is his? Considering Roger already couldn’t leave her alone, she may be in for a dramatic confrontation or 20. Joan doesn’t deserve guilt or pressure, though; what she deserves is recognition for her work at the office, not to mention a raise to go along with the title Lane gave her in Season Four.
Pete Campbell: Pete’s also a new father, although he missed the birth of his daughter because he was too busy working to save SCDP in the wake of the Lucky Strike mess. And he did help, which is what he’s good at. Last season, Pete wasn’t quite as conniving as he was in the past, and he and Don even found somewhat of an understanding: Pete didn’t rat Don out when Don’s past was close to catching up to him thanks to a security check, even though it cost Pete a $4 million account, and Don covered Pete’s $50,000 share of money needed from partners to keep the agency alive. Pete no doubt still harbors resentment, but perhaps in Season Five he’ll settle down a bit.
Lane Pryce: Poor Lane. First his wife left; then his father hit him over the head with a cane as he tried to force him to return home to England; and who knows if Toni, his “chocolate (Playboy) Bunny,” stuck around. Lane spent last season alternately lonely and lovestruck but was constantly the SDCP partner who demanded frugality. By the end, they were listening to him, and if there’s someone who can help turn the agency around, it’s Lane. Now if only he’ll be able to turn his personal life around. He desperately needs to find happiness.
So, what are your predictions for Season Five and/or what would you like to see happen?
Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in Texas.