Was Mad Men worth the 525-day wait? Much as I love AMC’s hit drama, no, it definitely was not.
In terms of sheer character exposition, Sunday’s Season-5 premiere, “A Little Kiss,” performed its due diligence. We quickly learn that adman Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has indeed married his secretary, Megan (Jessica Pare), and that Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) has given birth, though paternity is still pending.
In terms of plot, however, the bloated, two-hour episode served up precious few “Holy shit!” moments. Considering that its gestation period was almost as long as the 22 months endured by elephants, I expected more sizzle from Sopranos alum Matthew Weiner.
To the contrary, it’s pretty much business as usual at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) and Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) continue to be, in order, a lazy prick, an impolitic whiner and an impolitic whiner.
Nobody is happy, least of all Don Draper. Business is good. His new wife is a no-nonsense sex kitten who speaks perfect French. They live in a spectacular apartment in the city. Why should he be happy? Oh, yes, he’s turning 40. Poor Don.
Despite the episode’s gorgeous production values–especially the pulsating colors of the ‘60s-era clothing – the plodding storyline was putting my feet to sleep. It got so bad that I did something I had never done before while watching one of my favorite shows–checked my watch.
The absence of January Jones, who plays Don’s “Mommy Dearest” ex, Betty Draper Francis, was keenly felt. (Jones’ real-life pregnancy created scheduling problems, but she will be featured throughout the season, Weiner says.) In fact, she was barely mentioned. Please. Betty is, bar none, the best critical, withholding bitch on scripted TV. The least Weiner could have done was throw us a crumb.
Scenes of the burgeoning civil-rights movement, circa 1966, book-end the episode, which gives it a kind of cultural-historical gravitas. (At one point, Roger refers to blacks as Negroes.) While the scenes feel forced, they will become more organic to the plot in future episodes, I suspect.
The obligatory sexist and homophobic remarks came as no surprise, either; they were practically telegraphed. One can only hope those issues, too, will be more deftly explored as the season progresses.
Weiner, a freak for verisimilitude, ditched Dusty Springfield’s 1967 single, “The Look of Love,” as the end-title music after critics pointed out that it was released six months after the episode takes place. He replaced it with Dusty’s 1966 signature hit, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.”
OK, I won’t. Not for this episode, anyway.