Top positive review
"Nostalgia, it's delicate but potent" - Don Draper (Spoilers ahead!)
on April 29, 2017
In the fifth season of “Mad Men” Matt Weiner & Co bring us the best of the series yet. 1966-67 finds Sterling, Cooper, Draper, & Pryce much better established after their breakaway from the old Sterling-Cooper and growing their business. This season seems to have a theme of new beginnings starting with Don now married to former secretary and wannabe actress; beautiful and young Megan (or the “Canadian sexpot” to quote Roger). Speaking of Roger, he’s decided after an illuminating LSD trip to divorce his much younger wife Jane and move on. Betty’s now married to Henry Francis is having her own mid-life crisis and has gained weight with resulting unhappiness. Peggy faces her own fork in the road and makes a major career decision which will start a new chapter in her life. Joan has a new baby, returns to work at the agency, and finds her marriage to her absentee Army surgeon husband going down the tubes.
Don starts this fifth year of the show on his 40th birthday where his 26 year old wife (Jessica Pare’ who’s as pretty as the former Mrs. Draper and expresses far greater warmth) throws him a surprise party (which he loathes) and performs a seductive song and dance routine for him and the crowd (Google it, she does a nice job). He seems to be happier than we’ve ever seen him, not drinking as much, and amazingly not indulging in the serial infidelity for which he’s become famous. Picking up the slack in that arena is Pete Campbell; always a bit of a jerk he’s bringing his “A”-game to work but his personal life is not satisfying him. Trudy’s made him leave NYC for the Connecticut suburbs so their new baby can grow up in the fresh air and Pete hates it. He has an unexpected encounter with the wife of a fellow commuter from the train (played by Alexis Bledel of “Gilmore Girls” fame who in mid 60’s wardrobe and coif looks like a young Jackie Kennedy) and tries to put the moves on an 18 year old in his driver’s ed class. Lane Pryce faces his own personal troubles of a financial nature and makes a very poor decision that will have serious ramifications for him.
As usual, the attention to detail in set dressing and wardrobe is incredible. If you were in your youth back then you will recognize so many things from that time which will have you waxing nostalgic. For example, Howard Johnson’s is a client so Don and Megan pay a visit which gets Don excited about eating orange sherbet. Ho-Jo’s were ubiquitous back then with their famous orange roofs and today there’s only one restaurant left operating, so sad. Watching Pete on the train seeing the Long Island Rail Road logo in the car brought back memories growing up just a few stops away from his in Cos Cob home. Don’s pitch of the Jaguar campaign really connected with me; he describes testing the iconic XKE Jag and passing a 10 year old boy staring at the car as he passes by. I had that same experience and can remember seeing an E-Type Jag for the first time, it started a lifelong interest in automobiles for me.
Some fellow reviewers didn’t like this season and didn’t think much happened which is surprising. There was lots of character development and we got to know more about almost every key player at SCDP. Also some dislike Ms. Pare’ and don’t think she’s attractive or find the role of Megan annoying but to me she was a welcome change from the frosty, detached Betty (January Jones). Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Mos are just excellent and keep getting better in these parts. John Slattery plays Roger as such a lovable rogue you can’t help but like him. Vincent Kartheiser tackles the challenge of playing Pete Campbell and takes an insufferable butthead and manages to make him engaging (you’ll still enjoy the thrashing he gets not once, but twice). And finally, Christina Hendricks as Joan has evolved into a complex character who can get by on her looks but has plenty of brains and isn’t afraid to use them. I’m looking forward to seeing where these terrific actors takes us in Season 6.