Mad Men Season Five – The First Episode Reviewed

If you’re not a fan of SPOILERS, look away now

To call the new series of Mad Men eagerly anticipated would be something of an understatement. It’s been 17 long months since Season Four and there’s really only so much satisfaction you can get from repeated replays of the boxset and by drinking bourbon at your desk in homage to the permanently tipsy Manhattan ad execs.

Even trying to work how Joan gets her hair just so and having increasingly lurid daydreams about telly’s most outrageously handsome philanderer, Don Draper, isn’t quite as satiating as the promise of brand new episodes.

So, as the feature length Season Five opener screened last night in the United States, I sat down in front of it with a dirty martini to find out if it was all worth the wait.
I’ll try not to go overboard with the spoilers, but here’s something I’m sure no-one will mind knowing before the show screens in the UK on Sky Atlantic tomorrow night: Jon Hamm’s first appearance is a touch on the topless side, which goes some of the way to making up for his prolonged absence from our screens.

Gratuitous shirtlessness aside, all seems rather jolly in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices – at first. There are new secretaries to flirt with, fresh wisecracks to be dished out, inappropriate sexual advances to be made, florid pitches involving Heinz beans ballet dancing to be given and, happily, the newly hitched Don no longer seems to be on the verge of a paranoid, alcohol-bathed breakdown.

Don’s 40th birthday provides the crux of the action, but seeing as it’s a two hour long episode, we’re shown snippets of much more and then, slowly but surely, almost everything starts to unravel. There’s Joan getting to grips with being a first time mum whilst also trying to handle her own mother, Pete’s on-going office inferiority complex and Don’s wife Megan’s struggle to settle in as a junior copywriter. The subject of race relations also begins to come to the fore – civil rights movement storylines will no doubt loom large over the rest of series.

The most memorable moment of the season premiere however, comes in the shape of a yé-yé song and dance number from a mini-skirted Megan, which comes up somewhere between camp, catchy and cringe worthy.

So, was it worth the wait? It sure was – and that isn’t just the martini speaking.