This week in: Television – Mad Men Returns

Don Draper waits patiently for the cellphone to be invented

After a wait of 17 months, fans of Mad Men will finally get new episodes starting this Sunday (9pm ET, AMC) as we return to the 1960s and the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The show, which has won the Emmy for Best Drama Series in each of its first four seasons, had its return delayed in part because of contract negotiations between the creator, Matthew Weiner, and the network – but fans are now guaranteed at least two more seasons, with Weiner remaining at the helm.

Spoiler Alert, I am going to reference events up to the end of season four, so if you are still planning on watching the show, look away now…

Last time we saw Don Draper/Dick Whitman, it was October of 1965 (there are always clues to date when events are occurring in Mad Men – Don had taken Sally to see The Beatles at Shea Stadium – which was August 15th 1965, and then in the finale of season four had told Betty he would see her “the weekend after next, what is that, the 23rd?” – making the only month it could be October) and he had just got engaged to his French-speaking secretary with a big smile, Megan Calvet. Matthew Weiner will never reveal what jump in time there will be between seasons, so fans will be trying to figure out when the action is taking place, as well as what will happen with the characters.

  • Will the Don and Megan wedding have actually taken place? Will they still be together, or will this whirlwind romance already have fizzled out?
  • Should Don be concerned that the only person we have seen him tell his true identity to, Dr. Faye Miller (Betty and Pete Campbell discovered it by chance and Don/Dick had no choice but to be honest) has now been jilted by him and could want to gain revenge on him?
  • Did Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce survive the loss of Lucky Strike’s business and will they still be struggling to sign new business? Did Don’s letter to the New York Times stating why he had given up tobacco actually work, or did it doom the agency like the rest of the partners feared?
  • Since Lucky Strike has taken their business to BBDO, can Salvatore return to the agency now that Lee Garner Jr. is not able to call the shots?
  • Who will be looking after the Draper kids now? Betty fired the one person who had been raising them through the first four seasons, Carla – because she allowed Sally to see a kid that her mother had a vendetta against – so will there now be a custody battle? If they are still together, Don and Megan might be the best option for the children, given that Megan does not flip out over a milkshake being spilt, and her parenting techniques will be more effective than Betty “Go to your room” Draper’s.
  • Will Don and Betty have an affair? Both are now involved with other people, but there was definite chemistry between the two of them in the final scene in their former home at the end of season 4 and Betty was adjusting her makeup and clearly waiting with anticipation for her ex-husband to arrive. Betty “I misbehaved” HofstadtDraper Francis (she could have her own ad agency with just her last names alone…) also admitted to Don that her marriage to Henry was not perfect – a perception she had previously wished to portray.
  • Will Joan’s husband, Greg Harris, make it back from Vietnam alive? He looked like a sitting duck during his last conversation with his wife, who had told him that she was pregnant, but had fudged the maths to make Greg believe the baby was his, when we know it is in fact Roger’s…It would be too easy for the show to just kill him off at war, so I expect he will make it back and start looking closely at his calendar.
  • Will Peggy and Joan – who had always butted heads before – continue their alliance which came about when Peggy wanted to complain that Don’s impending nuptials gained more congratulations than her and Ken Cosgrove signing the agency’s first new client in 10 weeks?
  • When, in historical terms, will the series return to? One practical consideration must be that Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper, will have matured considerably in the hiatus between seasons and that may have played into Matthew Weiner’s thinking. Mad Men often uses music of the era to place the show in context, and The Beatles’ “Revolver” and Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” were both released in 1966. It would be a shame if the show jumped past July of 1966 and Lane Pryce would not be able to celebrate his native England’s victory in the World Cup…If there was a bigger jump, to 1968, then the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Senator Robert Kennedy may form the backdrop to the wider narrative, given that the death of President Kennedy was used wonderfully by the show in season 3.

Whenever the events are taking place, it will be good to have Don Draper and the stylish world of Mad Men back in our lives for the next 13 weeks and then, Breaking Bad will be close to making its own return.

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