I love Mad Men. I actually have a slight man crush on Don Draper. The first few seasons were a rollercoaster of depth and awesome as the characters slowly peeled, onion-like, to reveal different levels of both repugnancy and beauty. ie, humanity. The danger with the fifth season is that the characters are all largely revealed. I still like them, but it’s sorta like watching actors after a play. There’s a certain level of humanity which is just dull.
The first episode of S5 opens, somewhat heavy-handedly I think, with the burgeoning racial issues of the time (the 60s I guess). I mean, why would those (competing) Ad Men walk into the lobby with the water bags they were throwing on picketers, right in front of the picketers? And how do you keep water in a paper bag?
Besides that, business is stable. Don Draper’s troubles are comparatively mundane and easily resolved with make-up sex. No one is pregnant, cheating, dying, or actually someone else. I think this stability has been introduced strategically, in order to break it into conflict. And I think that conflict may be opening up the hermetic, misogynistic, structurally racist world of this office to the broader society at large. I mean, I think they’re getting a black character soon.
Which is cool, but the hook still needs to be there. In the first few seasons the characters grew and changed dramatically. You hated them, loved them, and sides pitched and changed, like any good drama. For me, good drama is where you can feel your perception changes. You side with one guy against a woman, until you get to know the woman and understand why she acts so crazy. And then the sides switch again. I think Game Of Thrones has it. This sounds stupid, but for me so did One Tree Hill (I used to watch it with my sister, I know I know). I find that a great watching experience.
In Mad Men so far, however, the characters seem more static, and I’m not sure how much they can change. But I guess we shall see. I hope this doesn’t turn out like the latest series of Archer. That was just depressing.
I’ve included a streaming link to the first episode, and here are more. AMC blocks access to Sri Lanka and other countries, so I don’t know what choice I have. I would quite happily pay for services like Hulu or whatever, but these publishers don’t seem to want brown money.