“Are you alone?”
Season Five of Mad Men has had its ups and downs, although I think people are a bit too hard on it. Sure, a high standard has been set, and no, this wasn’t the best-ever Mad Men season. That means it was, what, the second-best show currently on TV, after Game of Thrones? True Blood had its season premiere tonight, and it was full of the elements that make it such a popular show. A lot happened, there was violence, there was sex, there were arcane rituals and werewolves and shapeshifters and incest and little Anna Paquin. You definitely know what you’re getting with True Blood, and the premiere did not disappoint. But at this point it is safe to say that True Blood will never be more than an entertaining blend of anything that fits into a supernatural kitchen sink (or, rather, bathtub, since then, everyone could get nekkid).
Meanwhile, Season Five of Mad Men wasn’t as “entertaining” as previous seasons, and there are continuing problems that shouldn’t still be an issue on such a great show (the refusal to deal with race is the biggest one). But Mad Men still has great characters played by great actors featured in some of the best scripts on television. Jessica Paré made the most of her increased role on the show, as did old favorite Christina Hendricks.
The Lane Pryce plotline never went anywhere useful, and I’ll add my voice to those asking why Sal hasn’t yet returned. But in the end, as Tim Goodman regularly reminds us, Mad Men is a series about the existential crises of Don Draper. And Season Five did very well by that character, and that theme. At times, Don seemed almost human. His progress is glacial, but it does exist, and his marriage to Megan is a part of that progress. Still, he feels responsible for the suicides of two people in his past, he still has a piss poor attitude about life, and, yes, he is still alone. He is asked that question at the end of the episode, by a women in a bar hoping to pick him up. Don doesn’t answer before the screen goes dark for another season, because he doesn’t know the answer. What he does know is that the answer has nothing to do with the two hot babes wanting to have sex with him. The answer lies somewhere in those delightful scenes where he and Joan spent the day and night test-driving a Jaguar and talking at a bar. And it was there in the scenes with Sally Draper’s creepy “is he a boyfriend” buddy, when the boy tells Don, “everything you think is going to make you happy just turns to crap.” Don asks him what he would like to do more than anything, and the last thing we see is the youngster driving Don’s car with Don’s help.
So if I gave Season Four an A, and Season Five only an A-, well, there aren’t many shows that ever get that high. I look forward to Seasons Six and Seven.