Mad Men Season 5 Premiere Episode 501-502 'A Little Kiss' ReviewMarch 27, 2012
It's been a very long 18 months since the Season Four finale, but finally, Mad Men has returned. Cue the heavy drinking and debaucherous living.
Each season of Mad Men tends to make some sort of jump ahead in time from the season before it, and Season Five proves no different; jumping our characters from October 1965 at the end of Season Four to June of 1966 for this season's two hour opener, 'A Little Kiss.'
Much has happened within these eight months. Sterling Cooper Draper Price (SCDP) has managed to stabilize after the loss of Lucky Strike, but there's a sense that it's still a very tight ship. Pete Campbell and Joan Holloway both have their own respective bundles of joy, yet still carry a weight of emptiness. Most notably, Don went through with his whirlwind engagement of Megan and the two are newlyweds.
If 'A Little Kiss' is any indication as to the overall narrative arc of this season, it's going to be varying situations of old versus new. It's immediately evident visually in the changes in clothing and furniture that the wild and loose late Sixties are right on the doorstep. The Civil Rights movement is picking up steam and the country is on the verge of pursuing real change and, thanks to what was intended as a jab at a competitor, SCDP may be an unlikely leader in helping that change.
The old versus new theme continues through much of this episode's various relationships and interactions. Pete Campbell continues his fervent need to have everything and feels that Roger Sterling is in his way. Campbell has always had a sense of entitlement, yet at this point it seems like that entitlement might be deserved. We also see Joan visit the office for the first time since giving birth and, in seeing all of the younger girls doing her job in her absence, makes her fear a changing of the guard.
Thanks to a surprise birthday party that Megan throws Don, much to his veiled displeasure, we see the first glimpses that their age difference could end up being their undoing. Megan is young and free-spirited, whereas Don has just hit 40 and thinks such things are not only a waste of time but also an invasion of their home life.
Other quotes, scenes and moments that stood out to me:
- Peggy's bean ballet idea gets knocked down, but I have a feeling she's going to come back even stronger.
- Pete tripping and smashing his nose into the column in his office is comedy gold.
- This show has always had a way of really tapping into the heart of loneliness, and they show no signs of letting up on it.
- The episode begins with a much more relaxed and, even happy, Don Draper. It's revealed that Megan is aware of his Dick Whitman past, and not having to hide who he is seems to be working wonders.
- Joan's baby being in the office is cause for two wonderfully played and understated scenes. The first is between Joan and Roger, who share glances that speak volumes without saying anything. The second happens when Pete runs into Peggy watching the baby, and there's that sudden realization that this could have been their life had Peggy kept their office love child.
- Whether you find it sweet, charming, sexy, embarrassing or just plain awkward, you can't deny that Megan's rendition of 'Zou Bisou Bisou' steals the show and further accentuates her and Don's differences in age and interests.
- Harry, complete with feather boa, eagerly applauding Megan's performance.
- It merely takes an embarrassing surprise party for Don to revert back to the curmudgeon he's oft prone to be.
- In a show brimming with great writing, Roger Sterling continues getting all of the best lines:
"I try to get Jane to talk to me in that accent; nothing doing. She doesn't speak French. She doesn't like me. "
"Here's fifty bucks. Why don't you go buy a fancy hat or a mask or something."
"Is it just me or is the lobby full of negroes?"
- There's no Betty Draper, although Don does humorously refer to her and Henry as "Morticia and Lurch." Due to January Jones's pregnancy last year, I hear that her screen time this season will be much shorter than usual. Hopefully that won't affect Sally's screen time, as she was one of the best parts of last season.
I will say that something about the show's mood and tone felt a bit off. It could honestly be the length of time and all the creative folks at hand getting back into the swing of things, but some scenes came off very play-like alongside some oddly timed music cues. These are very small gripes as, issues or not, I'm just ecstatic to have this cast of characters back and I can't wait to see where the world takes them.
- Matt Hardeman