Mad Men. Season 5 Study Guide.
Step outside, look around, can you feel it in the air? A fresh new season is upon us! … Spring? What's spring got, Dandelions? Warm(ish) weather? Song birds? Finch, please! I'm talking about Mad Men! Season 5 is here, ya'll. The promotional posters are all around! IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL THIS TIME OF YEAR!
Spring comes once year, but we haven't experienced a new Mad Men since October of 2010! Who was even president back in 2010? Some black guy, I'll bet. What's that? Not convinced that Mad Men is the best? Well, I'm not a salesman, but you know who is? THIS GUY. Don Draper could sell a gay porno to Rick Santorum. See: THIS and THIS and OH, THIS and HOLY SHIT, THIS. But since the best drama on television hasn't been ON television for nearly 18 months (hope you've enjoyed your rein at the top The Mentalist! Just kidding, The Mentalist, you're terrible), let's take a crash course on what's been happening on Madison Avenue in the 1960's. Spoiler alert: it's sex, drinking and LOTS of sadness.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce
If this 1960's advertising agency were a boy band:
- Roger Sterling: the cute one
- Burt Cooper: the old one (The Donny Wahlberg)
- Don Draper: the mysterious one
- Lane Pryce: the responsible one
- Pete Campbell: the one no one wanted
In season 4, our favorite Mad-vertising agency barely stayed afloat after being dropped by their biggest client, Lucky Strike Cigarettes. They downsized their staff and operations (so long, lavish Christmas parties and nameless background characters!).
Making Mad-ters worse, Don and company are in a slump and haven't signed a new account in over 10 months. As a way to keep his pride and change the conversation, Don writes an open letter to the New York Times entitled "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco” –the business equivalent of "No, I dumped YOU”. Don's coworkers are bitter over his bold move, but burning the bridge may lead to potential business with the Anti-Cancer Society. But are anti-smoking ads really Don Draper's style?
But it's not all doom and gloom (yes it is), because just when you think all is lost, Peggy manages to bag a quarter million dollar account with Topaz pantyhose! SUCCESS! The slump is over, you guys, and everything may just work out because of teamwork and OH WAIT NO ONE CARES BECAUSE…
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Throughout season 4 we saw Don in a Don-ward spiral of booze, sex and self-destruction following the divorce of his nightmare ex-wife Betty and the death of his best friend, Anna -- the one person who truly loved Don for Dick and not just Don's dick. During his trip for California, DD employs the help of his toothy secretary Megan to watch his three kids (yeah, remember there's a THIRD kid?). In exchange for her help, Don agrees to comp Megan's California expenses, double her salary, and oh yeah, PROPOSE MARRIAGE TO HER! Let's sing the wedding song: ♪Here comes the temporary solution to sadness! Here comes the temporary solution to sadness!♪ Quick secretary recap:
- Allison - Don bangs her, breaks her hearts. She throws a brass globe at his head and quits.
- Miss Blankenship - Old lady who DIES in her chair at work because Don is that sexy.
- Megan: Also gets banged by Don... but then gets a ring.
Back at the office, everyone has the same reaction:
Now, obviously this marriage WON'T work. Afterall, this is Mad Men, not Glad Men – and Don's inherent want for structure and companionship will always be overshadowed by Don's insatiable lust for something beyond his current reality. As Dr. Faye so eloquently puts it, Don only likes the beginnings of things (remember Dr. Faye, the lovely, brilliant coworker that Don kicked to the curb for his 25-year-old secretary? #TeamFaye) But who knows, MAYBE they'll end up happily after ever. After all, doesn't this look like the face of a happily almost-married man?
From secretary to copywriter to creative team leader, Peggy is the model of a strong, progressive, modern woman. She WORKS hard (pulling an all-nighter with Don to hash out a Sampsonite pitch, despite it being her birthday) and PLAYS hard (partying with hippies, lesbians and her writer friend Abe to forget about the baby she abandoned). Still, despite saving the company and breaking the SCDP slump with her Topaz pitch ("One pair is all you need!”) her hard work is, as usual, unnoticed, unappreciated and overshadowed by a pretty face and another man in power marrying his secretary. How do you feel about that, Peggy?
In a world of complicated and morally ambiguous characters, Pete Campbell is perhaps the complicatedest and ambiguousest. Loyal yet conniving, confident yet insecure, a company man yet also a family man (he just fathered one child with Trudy Campbell, and ANOTHER with Peggy Olson), Pete is sleezy, SURE, but also perhaps the most forward thinking and valuable asset to SCDP. For example: Pete was able to book a meeting with behemoth North American Aviation, but later personally puts the kibosh on the deal to protect Don once they requested a background check, because, oh yeah, Pete knows Don's awful secret. Love him or love to hate him, Pete Campbell continues to keep us, and keep Don, on our toes. And if you're still on the fence about Pete, there's always THIS:
Roger Sterling & Joan Holloway
The mouth and the curves, the silver fox and the lady in red, the best and the BEST! Despite the fact that both Roger and Joan are married to the WORSTs (Joan to Vietnam surgeon and rapist Greg Harris, Roger to former secretary and dumb broad Jane Siegel), the two reignite their old flame by romantically banging in an alleyway after being mugged. As a result of their affair, Joan is prego with Roger's eggo and they mutually decide not to keep the baby… or so we thought. During in the season finale, Joan reveals that she is actually keeping the baby and claiming that it's Greg's! A fine plan, but how will you explain the premature birth and the baby's FANTASTIC head of silver parted hair?
Betty Draper & Henry Francis
Betty: Jesus, Henry, just once could you take my side?
Henry: No one's ever on your side, Betty.
With the emotional cognizance of a 7-year-old, Betty is incapable of dealing with the recent changes in her life… or just life in general. She slaps her daughter IN THE FACE after Sally cut her own hair, sends her off to therapy where she ends up bogarting the therapist for her own issues. Later she cruelly fires nanny Carla for allowing Sally's friend Glenn to say goodbye to Sally – granted, Glenn is a very creepy friend, but still...
"Betty Draper does not care about black people" - Kanye West
In the closing moments of the season 4 finale, Betty and Don share a moment in their old home in which they reminisce over the good ole days and Betty reveals that her marriage to Henry isn't perfect. Don's like, "No duh, also, I'm engaged now." Betty becomes even sadder and DON WINS EVERYTHING.
Okay readers, I will try my hardest to NOT make any masturbating jokes at Sally Draper's expense. She's a developing young female, and I'm trying to earn the trust and respect of my readers, so ultimately, to make a masturbating joke about a child would just be fucking myself… Dang.
What will happen with Don and Megan's marriage, the struggling Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency, Roger and Joan's baby? The answer to these questions and more (is sadness) will be revealed this Sunday night. Catch the 2 hour premiere and come back to Character Grades for analysis, puns and lots of homoerotic love for Jon Hamm!