Mad Men Season 5 Review: Still Quite Easily the Best Show on TV

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Season five of this wonderful show had a very different tone. Everything seemed a bit more jolly and happy. The humor was more relaxed and so were many of the characters. But that is not to say this season was lacking everything that makes Mad Men great, because this was yet another fantastic season in the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

The first three episodes, A Little Kiss, Tea Leaves, and Mystery Date did an amazing job of showing us what the fifth season had in store for us. Strains began to show in Don and Megan’s relationship. Roger and Pete battle for power. Joan leaves her disgusting excuse for a husband. Lane begins to feel more and more useless. Betty can’t stop eating. Sally is growing up.

Growing up was a big theme of the season, whether it was young ones maturing or old ones getting older. Characters like Sally and newcomer Ginsberg have to fight for their voices to be heard. Peggy and Pete don’t feel they are getting the recognition they deserve. Megan is still questioning what she wants to do with her life.

While on the other side, Don and Roger struggle to keep up with the times. Betty has lost complete control of herself. And poor Lane Pryce doesn’t know a thing that will put him at ease. All of this is set up in the riveting first half of the season as the character development is still top notch.

However, once this is accomplished the show did meander for a few episodes. Dark Shadows stands out as the worst episode of the season (which I gave the low score of 7.5) as it simply did not feel as brilliant as the rest of the season. The episodes surrounding it weren’t too special either.

But with The Other Woman, the end of the season kicked into high gear as another major theme came into the spotlight: success. In the finale, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce seemed to be doing really well, even possibly expanding to another floor.

The end of the season had three huge events that each deserve special attention. The first I am going to address is Joan prostituting herself for the good of the company. Christina Hendrick’s deserves an Emmy for her work this season. In a nice twist, this led to her becoming a partner. While the means of getting it were, uh, dirty, it was great to see her with the big guys staring out onto 5th Avenue at the end.

The second big event, Peggy’s departure from the company (if Hendricks doesn’t get the Emmy, and Elisabeth Moss does that will be fine). Peggy’s leave was a dark day for Don, but I was so happy to see them talk like old friends in the finale, which was hands down one of the best scenes of the season. Hopefully Peggy will still grace our screens in season six as much as possible.

Okay, now the big one. The best episode of the season, Commissions and Fees, brought the show’s first major death, Lane Pryce. Mad Men has killed some minor characters before, Don’s brother, Betty’s father, Don’s elderly secretary, and Don’s ex-wife from after the war. But, as you can see, the way I said it is largely how those characters are known. This time they killed Lane freaking Pryce! The genius of it all was if you look back on this season, and even seasons before it, his suicide isn’t all that surprising. The moments leading to it were so real that it was beyond disturbing…then they showed his body. RIP Lane, you will most certainly be missed.

Now, I have just noticed that Don barely got a mention in this review. Once again, Jon Hamm did a wonderful job. We got a far more mature version of Don in season five, but do the final moments of the season tease a retread back to his old ways? If it will get rid of Megan then let’s hope so.

All in all, this was a spectacular season of television. While it may not be the best we have seen from Mad Men (I firmly believe that season three is the single best season of television ever) it was a great return for the series. We just better not have to wait another year and a half for the next one. It’s funny, as I finish writing this review I find myself sad that this is the last I will be writing about Mad Men probably until Spring 2013. That is the sign of a truly great show. Goodbye Don, Roger, Peggy, Joan, Pete, Betty, Sally, and, most of all, Lane. You will be missed. (9.5/10)

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