It’s truly hard to discuss a season of Mad Men, one of the best dramas on TV right now and most likely ever. The show is so neatly done with extreme precision that it’s difficult to comment on its caliber. Season five of Mad Men was full of characters who were very down. Of course, Mad Men’s main dramatic point is that it’s a study of the human condition, and it continued that. It had everyone in a state of happiness, or at least perceived happiness and them judging what that might even mean.
The season’s main theme, other than identity, was falling behind or the feeling of being behind. Every major character fell behind in Mad Men this year. Peggy was one upped by Ginsberg (also, “Just try it!”), Roger and his LSD trip put him into perspective of how old and out of touch he really is, Joan and her divorce from Greg, Pete and his feelings towards his marriage, and finally, Don and his feelings towards his new marriage. When the season started, viewers were expecting Don and Megan to kick the bucket quickly but it didn’t. Their marriage, more or less, is a rather stable one. They argue, communicate, and compromise. Sometimes things get heated (with right reason) and sometimes Don is trying to meet Megan down in the lobby but instead an empty elevator shaft stares back at him. It was interesting to see scenes where their marriage was going great cutting to Betty and her marriage with Henry Francis. Although we didn’t get much time within the Francis household, their presence was felt greatly just by constantly thinking “Wow, Don is actually capable of doing things without Betty around.”
But there isn’t one character that fell behind more than the late Lane Pryce. The feeling of death this season was prominent since the premiere episode and it was sad and tragic to see such a character go out like he did. Lane got behind on his taxes, and betrayed his trust to the company. Unfortunately it led to his demise, and brought some realization to Don as it was the second suicide that was close to him and arguably his fault.
Other than Lane, Pete came to be more sympathetically pathetic than ever before. The poor bastard couldn’t catch a break this season, beginning with the fantastic (and personal favorite) episode “Signal 30.” Pete has always been a guy who just strives to get more in the workplace, not knowing that he’s actually owed much, much more. This lust has now bled into his family-life and it is now hitting on the young student in the driver’s ed class and eventually an acquaintance’s wife, Beth. When he tells Don at the end of the episode that he “has nothing,” it’s heartbreaking to see a guy who has it all, but believes he doesn’t. By the finale, Pete has lost the one girl who made him remotely happy. Whether it be sexually or not is debatable, but Pete was happy whenever he was around Beth. Now, she doesn’t even know who he is. Just like himself.
Season five of Mad Men could be known as the best season of the series when all is said and done. It’s nearly impossible to write about this season in full without going over 5,000 words. It was in a lot of ways, perfect. We watched our characters get tossed into non-conventional storytelling (“Far Away Places”). And we watched them all fall behind chasing phantoms while the company actually got ahead.
You only live twice or so it seems/One life for yourself and one for your dreams.