Get out your cocktail shakers. Mad Men is back. Yep, after a year and a half hiatus, the folks at AMC have blessed us with news out of Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce starting this Sunday. It's OK if you've forgotten about Mad Men. A lot has happened in seventeen months, namely, other period dramas (read: Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey) have entered the limelight -- and your Netflix queue.
But Mad Men was the first series to bring us that irresistible mix of nostalgia, drama, shock and sex. Yes, AMC has made us wait a long time, but the first four seasons of Don, Peggy and crew were so so utterly watchable and occasionally brilliant, the network deserves our forgiveness.
To help bridge the unavoidable memory gap the wait has caused, here's a refresher course on where the show left off with all the major characters:
The team at Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce is back for another season after a long hiatus. Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
When we last saw Don, he had shocked everyone by proposing to his secretary, Megan, after she helped watch his kids on a trip to Disneyland. This rash decision capped off a tough year for Don in which the biggest blow was losing his good -- and arguably only -- friend Anna to cancer. The year also included lots of poor relationship decisions: he slept with one secretary then pretended like it never happened, and he started a relationship with another coworker, Dr. Faye Miller, to whom he had disclosed his past, only to end it by telling her about the engagement to Megan. That poor judgment was coupled with even poorer choices in business when he let his principles get in the way of helping the still-fledgling Sterling Copper Draper and Pryce. Needless to say, this behavior was all combined with a lot of drinking.
The two redeeming acts of the season for Don were ponying up Peter Campbell's partner fee of $50,000 and taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times explaining why he "quit big tobacco" when in actually it was Lucky Strike who quit him.
Here's a sample of the hot-mess Don's life was for most of Season Four:
And here, Don gets his Jerry McGuire on, telling big tobacco to take their accounts and shove 'em:
Quintessential quote: "I would have my secretary do it, but she's dead."
Burning questions: Does he really love Megan? Will he actually marry her? Will he put his life back together or simply accelerate the downward spiral? Can he leverage his anti-tobacco rant into new business for the agency?
Peggy Olson continues to prove her mettle despite the boys' club that is Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce. Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Season Four was all about growth for Peggy. She was able to stretch her business legs in the new agency, taking on more of a leadership role in creative and even pulling in a big account, Topaz Pantyhose, which likely saved the agency. But part of the reason Peggy is so compelling is that we see her struggle outside of the office too: she doesn't quite fit in with other women, especially those in her family, and many men are intimidated by her drive.
But in Season Four, Peggy got introduced to a new group of liberal friends, including Abe Drexler, who appreciates her intelligence and quirkiness, even if he's full of disdain for Madison Avenue.
Here’s a moment of rare (and delicious) camaraderie between Peggy and Joan dishing about Don's engagement and their plight for recognition at work:
And here's a scene that captures Peggy's frustration with Don that is sure to be be quoted by bosses for decades to come:
Quintessential quote: "A pretty face comes along and everything goes out the window."
Burning questions: Will Peggy ever get her due? How will she react to seeing Pete Campbell being a Dad to his daughter? What if Don makes Megan a copywriter?
As if having her not-quite-a-surgeon husband Gene volunteer for Vietnam isn't enough, Joanie's world really turns upside down when she becomes pregnant with Roger Sterling's baby. She also received a promotion at work, at least in title -- to Director of Agency Operations -- a nod to how much the agency increasingly relies on her. But really, what good is a title when you've got a bun in the oven and the baker's not the father?
Roger Sterling (and maybe the emotions of a mugging) finally broke down Joan's resistance:
Quintessential quote: "All you've done is prove to them that I'm a meaningless secretary and you're another humorless bitch."
Burning questions: How will she manage to maintain the unconvincing charade that she's pregnant with Gene's baby? How will Roger react when he tells her she's keeping the baby? How will the boys handle their office sex-pot becoming a mom? How fabulous will her maternity wardrobe be?
Pete and Trudy Campbell welcomed a baby girl in the final episode of Season Four. Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Pete Campbell has become harder to hate with each season. The boy who seemed to have a silver spoon in his mouth for the first couple of seasons worked hard for his money in Season Four, smoothing over clients that Don pissed off, playing his father-in-law for the Vicks account, and, sadly, attending meetings while his wife was in labor.
He also developed a new loyalty throughout Season Four, covering for Don when his manufactured past wouldn't pass the muster of a government background check. Pete also refused an offer of full partnership from a competing agency amid pressure from his father-in-law. The relationship between Pete and Don became even more complex when Don anted up $50,000 for Campbell, unasked.
Quintessential quote: "I can use my expense account if I say they're hookers."
Burning questions: How will fatherhood change him? Can Pete's family life survive Stanley Cooper Draper and Pryce? Will he ever make full partner? Will he ever act again on his torch for Peggy?
Betty Francis (the former Mrs. Don Draper):
Season Four was mostly about Betty showing what a bad mother she can be. Let's just say it made the dry-cleaning moment from Season One seem like a parenting tip from Better Homes and Gardens. Sally acted out time and time again: she cut her hair short, got caught masturbating at a slumber party and stowed away on the train, yet it never occurred to Betty that Sally was having a hard time adjusting to her parents' divorce, her grandfather's death or growing up. Betty better have a shoot-the-pigeon moment in Season Five, because Season Four put her clearly in unlikable territory.
This teaser almost made me care about Betty again:
Quintessential quote: "Jesus Henry, just once could you take my side?"
Burning questions: Why should we still care about Betty? Does the fact that she's in only one Season Five press photo suggest that we shouldn't? How bad will her second marriage get?
How much drinking, smoking and philandering can Roger's body (and coworkers) tolerate? Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Despite humiliating himself for Lee Garner Jr. at the company Christmas party, Roger couldn't save the Lucky Strike account. Nor could be bring himself to tell his fellow partners, letting them hear it through the grapevine. After relentless advances, Roger finally broke down Joanie's resistance, making love to her in a dark stairwell after the two were mugged. He told Joan that her pregnancy is a sign that they are meant to be together, but Joan disagreed. Oh, and Roger wrote a memoir that no one cares about except for his second wife Jane.
Quintessential quote: "I'm sorry I keep pestering you. I just can't help myself."
Burning question: How will he react when he finds out that Joan is keeping his baby? Can he handle watching Joan raise his baby as someone else's? Will he ever be of use to the company?
For Lane, Season Four was about sowing his wild oats. He spent an evening with a call girl and eventually went on to develop a relationship with Toni, a black waitress at the Playboy Club. Lane's father came to visit, and after meeting the waitress (bunny ears and all), Mr. Pryce literally beat Lane upside the head and told him to get his family in order. Lane took a leave of absence from the agency to do just that, but it wasn't revealed exactly what he did.
Quintessential quote: "Yes, sir."
Burning question: Other than how did he ever survive such an evil father -- what did he decide with regards to his wife and kids? Will he ever be happy in New York?
If all of that wasn't enough to whet your appetite, try watching the Season Five trailer:
And if you really want to get in the mood, do the twist:
Whatever you do, don't follow the Draping meme. It reeks of a publicity stunt and we know how Don feels about those.