It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The fifth season of “Mad Men,” which concludes Sunday night (June 10) at 10 p.m. ET on AMC, has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs: There were tremendous triumphs for certain parties but horrific downward spirals for other Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce employees. Whether or not the year was kind to your favorite “Mad Men” character, everyone can agree that season five of the Emmy-winning drama was an eventful one.
Indeed, it just might be the very best season yet.
In case you’ve been lagging behind on your “Mad Men” viewing and don’t have time to catch up ahead of the big night, here’s a handy-dandy cheat sheet on one of the most turbulent years to date in the lives of Don Draper and friends.
When Donny Met Megan
The season-four finale, “Tomorrowland,” ended with Don’s shocking proposal to French Canadian secretary Megan. Season five did not balk on the promise of their betrothal, picking up well into the unlikely marriage between the former Dick Whitman and the new Mrs. Draper. But their first year of marriage was not without fits and starts. Despite showing extreme creative promise at SCDP, Megan abandoned the agency to pursue her passion as an actress. Don felt burned by Megan’s decision, not to mention his own creative boredom with his job, and often took his frustration out on his wife. But even if their relationship has been rocky, it’s not currently on the rocks, certainly not at Don-Betty levels of doom.
Whoa, Fat Betty, Bam-Ba-Lam Speaking of Mrs. Francis, Don’s ex-wife went through some big changes between seasons four and five as well. Seriously big changes, in fact. Betty returned this season not just with the usual emotional baggage she brings to the table, but physical baggage as well, eating her way through her depression. Though her lithe figure increased by a few sizes this season, Betty’s stubborn heart stayed Grinch-sized as she took out her frustrations on rebellious daughter Sally and on Megan, a woman she viewed as her chief rival for Sally’s affections.
Onwards and Upwards
Big changes were afoot for many of the other supporting “Mad Men” characters as well. Roger Sterling’s ever-growing roster of ex-wives increased by one following a long night filled with LSD-fueled epiphanies. Ken Cosgrove came out of the closet as a secret science fiction novelist, inspiring “Lost” co-writer Damon Lindelof to pen some truly inspired fan-fiction . Pete Campbell, frustrated at his lack of forward momentum at work and his stagnant suburban life with his wife and baby daughter, embarked on two brief affairs (one with a prostitute, one with his train buddy’s wife) that went approximately nowhere. He also made a not-so-valiant attempt at wooing a youth in his driver’s ed class, to no avail. (But hey, at least he can drive now!) Meanwhile, Pete’s baby mama, Peggy Olson, tired of not moving up in the company despite standing head-and-shoulders above her fellow copywriters, finally threw in the towel and left SCDP for greener pastures; she hasn’t been seen since. And lastly, new mother Joan Harris separated from army medic and compulsive jerk Greg, later becoming a full-fledged partner at Sterling Cooper, albeit through sleazy, unorthodox means.
Fast Cars, Big Money
Those aforementioned unorthodox means refer to SCDP’s biggest client to date: Jaguar. The ad agency finally landed a major car company, but not after some major struggles. British gentleman Lane Pryce originally brought the business to the table, but Pete and friends ruined that initial deal through their typical misogynistic hijinks — a blunder that resulted in one of the best fistfights on any television show this year. A second chance at redemption came their way eventually, when Don and his team managed to deliver a winning pitch and secure the account, but only after Joan agreed to sleep with one of the major decisionmakers on the other side of the Jaguar deal. The result: a new partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, not to mention big money.
Well, not big money for everybody. Lane spent most of season five down and out, owing an impossible amount of money in taxes and facing the very serious risk of having to leave America and return to Britain in shame. When an attempt to pay his way through an early Christmas bonus failed, a desperate Lane forged Don’s signature and wrote himself a check with company money. When Don learned of his colleague’s duplicitous actions, he forced Lane to resign, giving him a weekend to dream up a graceful reason for his departure. Lane’s solution was anything but graceful: The broken Brit attempted suicide not once but twice, succeeding on the second try by hanging himself in his office and leaving behind nothing but a form resignation letter to explain his actions. Only Don knew the true reasons behind Lane’s suicide, and his decision to speak out or remain silent is still unresolved. Which brings us to tonight…
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