How satisfying is “Mad Men” eight episodes into Season 5 after a 17-month absence? There are rumblings and petulance – threats of not watching it if it doesn’t get more intense and brooding. In other words, we liked the old tightly wound Don, juggling wife, girlfriends and his secret history; not this new lovesick non-Don.
Certainly there have been some high points.
-Megan’s “Zou Bisou Bisou” song at the unwelcome party she threw for a Don Draper she doesn’t yet really know; and her underwear-clad foray into housecleaning as a sexual turn-on for the naughty Don whom Megan is beginning to understand better.
-The return of January Jones as a fat Betty Draper, so satisfying to formerly thin, now overweight, women everywhere (or am I generalizing from my own thrill?).
-Joan’s losing her cool over her soldier husband preferring the military to being married to her and raising the child we presume is really Roger’s - a rumpled, forlorn Joan we have rarely seen.
-Roger’s LSD trip – fun!
-Peggy’s storyline about moving in with her boyfriend – yay for Peggy.
-Sally Draper’s eyeful of Megan’s mom engaged in a sex act with Roger; that almost traumatized me, too.
But last Sunday something shifted. Don has been losing his virility as he becomes domesticated and monogamous. Accepting Megan’s decision to leave the ad agency and return to her pursuit of acting roles signals, though, a man who is coming into the realization that he loves one specific woman. Having accepted Megan as almost an equal in the advertising arena, Don actually respects Megan, which is the root of love from which harmony flowers.
That’s not consistent with the sexual tension we love to see between Don and any other woman. Where will the fireworks come from?
All is not lost, however. I believe the show will continue developing themes of women coming into their own in different ways. Peggy may not melt hearts with her new aggressive “I take no crap” stance with her ad peers as well as Don, but she is growing and changing. I’m hopeful that Joan and Betty will be able to do chin-ups soon, too. Although Joan has always been a strong woman, what if she actually said what she was thinking instead of excelling at manipulation (and walking). And what’s Trudy going to do when she discovers Pete sleeping with Howard’s wife? Could be interesting.
As Don recedes a little, Roger is stepping forward with his new acid-washed mindset. Pete is poised to flub big-time. Greenberg’s cockiness and unusual origin--in a concentration camp--are sure to take us somewhere.
Can Don regain his edge at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? Will he start smoking pot since it is only a matter of time before Megan lights up in front of him?
We can’t live in the past, dear ones. Time marches on. One of the first psychedelic rock albums, The Beatles’ “Revolver,” which figures in the last scene as Don tries to understand its appeal, was released in August 1966. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in June 1967. Don has less than a year to figure out what’s so appealing about the greatest music ever made and to accommodate to a world that is inspiring both the courage of Martin Luther King Junior and the Civil Rights Movement and the scourge of J. Edgar Hoover’s dirty tricks campaign against radicals and subversives.
The rumor is that someone gets killed this season. My worst fear is that it’s Sally.
How can you not keep watching?
Go to www.madmenshow.com to keep up to date on the timeline, discussions, conspiracy theories, and Christina Hendricks’ (Joan) wardrobe challenges.
Judy Kirkwood is certainly not giving up on "Mad Men," even though "The Good Wife" is on at the same time.