Open Mic

After 18 Months, We Parse the 2-Hour Season Premiere of 'Mad Men': Kinky Sex, Greed and a Song for iTunes

Hillary Atkin Posted March 27, 2012 at 6:38 AM

The two-hour premiere of the long-awaited fifth season of “Mad Men” was a huge education.

First, it answered the big question: Did Megan actually get married to Don in the 17 months that have passed since the dapper Mr. Draper unexpectedly proposed to her in the cliffhanger season four finale? Oh, yeah, they did. And from the looks of it, it appears to be a relationship based upon truth -- as it is revealed that Megan knows about his real identity as Dick Whitman -- and judging by the last scene, kept spicy with kinky sex.

At the surprise 40th birthday party she gave for her husband, a centerpiece of the episode, Megan may not have been able to seduce Don, but she blew away partygoers with her daring rendition of the 1960s French schoolgirlish love song "Zou Bisou Bisou,” which roughly translates to "sweet kiss,” and is already rising up the charts at iTunes.

The Sterling Cooper crowd that populated the party weren't the only ones charmed. AMC says the show attracted a series record 3.5 million viewers, 21% more than the number who watched the premiere of season four in 2010.

Master “Mad Men” storyteller Matt Weiner has proved that the wait was worth it. He seamlessly incorporated the struggle for civil rights that was blowing up during the mid-1960s, along with referencing the Vietnam War and the viability of a gay lifestyle in New York City while exploring the motivations and machinations of the key characters, with one huge exception. We can only assume that January Jones as Don's ex-wife Betty was not seen due to a shooting schedule conflicting with her pregnancy.

So back to the lessons learned:

-- Lane is a perv. After he finds a stranger's wallet in the back seat of a cab and decides to handle the return of it himself because it has nearly $100 in it (and apparently because the taxi driver is black), he discovers a picture of a buxom brunette. He later engages in the 1960s version of phone sex with her, and somehow becomes hopelessly enamored of Delores. What's up with that, Lane? Aside from dealing with your stiff upper lip wife, who seems to be completely consumed by worry about the family's financial situation, it's funny that this woman should be the one to rouse your inclination to stray.

-- Harry is a bit oversexed as well -- and he can be easily bought by a big wad of bills. Cases in point: his vulgar depiction of what he'd like to do to Megan in the swanky Draper apartment -- which she overheard him foolishly trumpeting in the office canteen; his almost-telling of his sexploits after the party to Roger, who didn't want to hear about it; and his acceptance of $1,100 in cash to give up his office to accommodate the petty, ladder-climbing Pete. Clearly greedy and not that bright, he asked if it was going to be a monthly payment.

-- Pete is as weaselly and as ambitious as ever, but a family man at heart who has moved out to the suburbs with wife Trudy and their new baby. This is proven on almost a daily basis on his train ride into the city with other men who complain about their marriages and kids and plot to come home as late as possible, or not at all. That won't be Pete. He is more concerned with getting a bigger office to impress all the clients he's bringing in to the agency and competing with senior partner Roger -- even stooping to playing juvenile practical jokes on him to trip him up.

-- Peggy is taking herself way too seriously. Her campaign for Heinz baked beans, an animated ballet of beans called "The Art of Dinner," was absolutely the worst advertising strategy the show has portrayed. But Peggy didn't have a backup plan and she didn't take it well that the client absolutely hated it -- and was much more in tune with the marketplace and the image of their product than she was. She mistakenly thought Don would sell the campaign to them anyway. Another bonehead move: Peggy made a major social gaffe by complaining to Don at his birthday party about her workload, leaving him pretty much speechless, only to be whisked away by Megan. She later admitted she shouldn't drink at work functions, or perhaps at all, and did apologize, but she really needs to lighten up.

-- Joan’s new baby and her visiting mother appeared to be getting the best of her -- until her competitive juices get revved up by the company's ad in The New York Times, poking fun at rival Young and Rubicam for their racism -- which she misinterprets as a want ad that will leave her out of a job. Joan sure does clean up nicely. That hot pink dress she wore into the office, armed with the unwieldy baby stroller model of the time, almost brought us to tears -- just like she broke down in Lane's office that she was lonely. Guess what, baby? Joan is almost back at work -- three more weeks, she said, and we can't wait.

-- Speaking of Joan’s son, Roger doesn't seem to be fazed that it's actually his bio-child. Roger appears to be almost completely marginalized in this episode, becoming the court jester of the office who even as a senior partner is reduced to peering at Pete's schedule and trying to undermine him while beefing up his popularity with clients by plying them with even more drinks. His marriage doesn't seem to be going all that well either. At least on her side. When, after Megan's party performance, he asked, "Why can't you sing like that?" she replies, "Why don't you look like that," referring of course to the ever-handsome Don.

-- Don is having a midlife crisis at the age of 40, even though his actual birthday as Dick Whitman was six months before then. In the 1960s, 40 was kind of old. Now, 40 is the new 25, maybe 30 -- and as we've noted, the newly married, season five Don Draper is looking exceedingly well. We hope this age storyline is dropped quickly as it didn't really grab us as anything that substantial. What's much more interesting are the two divergent takes of Don that are expressed in the show. One, by Megan, who says, "You're a dirty old man." The other, expressed by Peggy, is that Don is now patient and kind -- and she's very concerned about that.

We patiently await next Sunday's episode.