is back. Season Five of MAD MEN
, four-time Emmy® winner for Outstanding Drama Series and winner of three consecutive Golden Globes®, plunges into the seductive and intriguing world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Jon Hamm and the rest of the award-winning cast continue to mesmerize as they adapt to changing times, social revolution, and a radical world. Lust is back. Adultery is back. Deception is back.
At the end of the eighth episode in this Mad Men
season-five set (with 13 episodes, plus bonus material, on four discs), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) sits listening to "Tomorrow Never Knows," one of the more sacred items in the Beatles' catalogue. Licensing an original Beatles recording isn't just expensive, it's almost impossible, so the mere fact that it's there is a testament to this show's popularity and acclaim. It also speaks to creator Matthew Weiner and his team's uncanny skill at weaving together multiple storylines while also immersing viewers in the time and place they happen; this season it's the seminal years of 1966 and '67, when folks started smoking joints instead of cigarettes, dropping acid instead of sipping scotch, and seeing their casual racism and misogyny begin to give way, albeit stubbornly, to more enlightened views.
Of course, Mad Men is mostly about the characters who work at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce advertising agency, as well as those in their orbit. Don, who remains the most compelling character and is still at the center of this universe, has a hot young wife, Megan (Jessica Paré), who seems to have tamed his wandering eye for now; but although she shows a genuine flair for the ad game, she still wants to be an actress. Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), who's grown from an obnoxious little twerp into a marginally less obnoxious, slightly older twerp, has issues at work, at home… and outside the home. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), a likable sort trying to keep her head above water in a world dominated by arrogant, entitled men, makes some serious life changes. Roger Sterling (John Slattery), still a cad and still cracking wise ("Listen honey," he tells a prostitute, "I'm not going to bore you with compliments"), enters into a most unexpected affair. Joan (Christina Hendricks) deals once and for all with her soldier husband. And Lane Pryce (Jared Harris)… well, suffice to say that it's not a good year for SCDP's money man.
As always, the show's production values--art direction, sets, clothes, music--are brilliant and spot on. So is the writing, especially the dialogue ("You're a grimy little pimp," Lane says to Pete, knocking him silly in a fist fight). The writers also manage to seamlessly interpolate current events like the Richard Speck and Charles Whitman murder sprees, England's victory in the World Cup, and author Truman Capote's Black and White Ball (the subject of a separate bonus feature, as is the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which formalized daylight savings). The best show on TV? That's arguable, but there are very few worthy competitors. --Sam Graham