“Mad Men,” like the advertising world it revolves around, is a busy show. Lots of comings, lots of goings, lots of inside baseball, lots of Jon Hamm getting drunk. Making matters even more complicated is the fact that the 1960s-set AMC drama has been off the air for dangerously close to two years, thanks in large part to contract disputes between the network and “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner.
Now, “Mad Men” is finally set to return for its fifth season on Sunday night. But, as is often the case with the show, don’t expect Weiner and company to welcome you back into the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce with an instruction manual. If you don’t remember what went down in the last few seasons of the Emmy Award-winning show, that burden rests entirely on you.
So if you’re behind on your “Mad Men” know-how, or simply need a refresher before Sunday night, don’t sweat it: Keep reading for 10 things you need to remember about season four going into the weekend’s big season-five premiere.
» Transformation was the name of the game throughout season four, particularly for Don “Don’t Call Me Dick” Draper. The eternally elastic ad man spent much of last season contemplating his new identity as a divorcé, a Manhattanite and a newly minted partner at his struggling new agency. In the end, he found himself back where he started, but in slightly different surroundings: once again on the cusp of marriage, this time to his French-Canadian secretary, Megan Calvet.
» Don’t remember Megan? She’s the one with the teeth. Hard to forget. Trust me, she’ll be even harder to forget after Sunday’s season premiere.
» Peggy Olson was always a badass, but she was even more of a badass in season four. Her weird love affair with crazy drunk Duck Phillips came to an end, exchanged for a new budding romance with off-beat underground journalist Abe Drexler. At work, Peggy was one of few SCDP employees pulling their weight, but it wasn’t just her professional work that brought her notice; she also engaged in one crazy long night with Don, resulting in newfound respect and appreciation between the two “Mad Men” leads.
» Meanwhile, Pete Campbell, the father of Peggy’s little-seen baby, stepped into fatherhood himself once again, this time within his own marriage. He and wife Trudy welcomed a baby girl by the end of season four, a bright spot in what was otherwise a fairly dull year for the envious Pete. Though he’s technically a partner at SCDP, Pete is only a junior partner, a comparatively lesser status he’s constantly reminded of by main rival Roger Sterling.
» Speaking of Roger, the silver-haired glad-hander spent season four in an identity crisis that never really resolved itself. Feeling his importance in the ad world slipping away, particularly with the loss of his one-and-only major client Lucky Strike, Roger began lying to his coworkers and devoting more and more time to his personal memoirs, “Sterling’s Gold.” The memoirs are certainly gold all right, though not for the reasons Roger hoped.
» Roger’s other main event in season four: reconnecting with longtime on-again, off-again lover Joan Holloway, who found herself pregnant as a result of their one-night stand. With both Roger and Joan having spouses to consider, the two agreed it was best for Joan to have an abortion. In the end, she didn’t go through with the procedure — and by the end of season four, her military-serving husband Greg was led to believe that he’s about to become a proud new dad. Developing, as they say.
» In other parent-child woes, the Draper household was a mess in season four, even looking beyond the Betty/Don breakup. Betty once again dealt with depression as her daughter Sally began acting out in shocking and increasingly sexualized ways. Her marriage with new husband Henry Francis was not all it was cracked up to be, which she owned up to in a season-closing scene opposite Don … a confession that came right before Don broke the news to Betty that he had proposed to his secretary Megan. Poor Betty, she never wins.
» Speaking of Don and Betty’s kids, remember that young actor who played their son Bobby? He’ll look a little different in season five.
» “Mad Men” season four saw several other disappearing acts: There was no sign of Paul Kinsey, not a trace of Sal Romano and only a few quick (but hilarious) glimpses of Duck. But hey, at least Freddy Rumsen made a comeback in season four after wetting himself in season two’s “Six Month Leave.” This show can be grim, sure, but there are a few happy endings.
» In short, lots and lots happened in season four, more than we can summarize here. The short version, though, is that “Mad Men” is a complicated, intricate show with lots of moving pieces and parts, all of them extraordinarily fascinating. Grab a scotch (if you’re of age), pay close attention and I promise you will find out what the money is for.
Are you looking forward to the “Mad Men” premiere? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @roundhoward.