draperAfter an interminable 17-month absence, our TV screens are about to see the welcome (make that very, very, very welcome) return of Mad Men, on Sunday night from 9 to 11 p.m. eastern time.

If you’re a fan of the show as I am, the wait has been too damn long, caused largely by creator Matthew Weiner and AMC unable to reach a deal for many months and then AMC’s decision to wait until 2012 to give the show an air date.  Me thinks this dispute involved a lot of hot air, but the result is that Weiner has an end date for the show (after season seven and we’re about to begin season five) and, with any luck, we’re done with all the crap so the wait won’t be so long next time.

I was pretty disgusted with Weiner and AMC for a while there during negotiations, but  never lost my passion for the show – which is surely one of the best on television.  Ever.  Every character is so layered and complex that they are never boring and the show continues to take risks.  Like Don and Betty.

Betty is the poster child for Bad Mothers, to be sure, but her character certainly reminds me of how parenting was in the 1960s with its Narcissistic mothers and emotionally and physically absent dads.  Still, though it’s getting harder, I have some sympathy for Betty. Clearly, she had a hellacious mother herself, one obsessed with grooming her daughter to marry the best man possible.  Don seemed like  a pretty good choice until Betty found a new man, one who doesn’t know her faults and is bowled over by her beauty.  Still, breaking up the core marriage at the center of the show certainly took the show in a new direction.

And then there’s Peggy.  I’m a copywriter who spent far too many years in ad agencies and her struggle is one that I’ve always identified with.  By the time I came along, sexism had gone undercover, but rest assured there most certainly was an Old Boys’ Club and there were Boy Accounts and Girl Accounts. Don, however, values Peggy and her talent and that is something she should never take for granted.

As for Don, he’s still living a lie and the truth is getting ever closer.  The agency doesn’t care who he is (a memorable moment with Bert Cooper), but Betty does.  And Don does, as well.  Megan is good with his children and may have the potential to be more of a mother to Sally and Bobby than they’ve ever had.  By marrying Megan will Don effectively slay his demons and settle down into a life of connubial bliss?  I highly doubt it.

Much as been written about Weiner’s obsessive attention to detail, but it’s the little things that stand out to me.  Betty’s high fashion beehive hairdo that she wore in Rome.  Peggy’s pantyhose. Sally appearing with a dry cleaning bag over her head and Betty’s admonition that she better make sure the dress that was in the bag wasn’t on the floor. And Betty shooting the neighbor’s pigeons.  And so much more.

And then there’s the way the show looks.  My favorite shot was Don standing at the pool at his hotel in L.A. as the camera sweeps around, perfectly contrasting Don’s grey New York suit and the hedonistic L.A. lifestyle exemplified by the neon brightness of the people in the pool. Gorgeous.

So, where do we stand now as season five begins?  In the final episodes of season four, Don asked his new secretary to marry him, Peggy and Don had reached an understanding, Pete declared his love for Peggy, Joan discovered she is pregnant by Roger Sterling, and Peggy brought in a major new account to the struggling Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Amongst other big questions, we’re left with these: Will Don marry Megan?  Now that Peggy has Pete on his knees what will she do about it? Will Joan continue to try to convince her absent husband that he’s the father of her baby? Will Peggy finally get the recognition she deserves from more than just Don? Will the new agency survive without the Lucky Strike account?

I’ve missed you, Don Draper and I can’t wait for season five to begin.  How about you?  What storyline are you most looking forward to?

– Sandy AAR

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