âStyle is back. Confidence is back. Debauchery is back. Lust is back. Action is back. Don is back.â? â¦so declares AMCâs new promo for Series 5 of Mad Men.
Alas, we have a problem. It has been so long since the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce were last on our screens that weâve completely forgotten the delicate plot twists which were supposed to whet our collective appetites ahead of a new series.
Itâs a dangerous state of affairs, so treacherous in fact that our minds have delved into some pretty dark places while speculating on character development. Indeed, things could be very different for Don and associates if any of the following storylines pan outâ¦
Don goes Gay
The womanising, the smoking, the heavy drinking, the confidence and of course the inimitable charm make Don Draper the envy of his peers, an object of fascination for women and a figure of authority in the office. He is, in no uncertain terms, the essence of sixties man.
While bachelor life appears to fit well with his âworkâ commitments, it was curious to see our hero emotionally propose to former receptionist Megan at the end of the last series. But perhaps things arenât what they seem? A man with more layers than an onion, what if Donâs latest dabbling with marriage is just a ruse to cover for his obvious homosexuality.
Letâs be honest. Don is too manlyâ¦itâs like heâs over compensating. While he resisted a work fling with Salvatore Romano, despite sharing a hotel room at the start of the third series, you sense heâs just a brush of the hand away from taking one of his team in a steamy stationary cupboard clinch.
Donât be surprised to see him cruising the back streets of New York on the lookout for Puerto Rican rent boys or abandoning his slick look in favour of something a little more floral as the episodes roll on.
Peggy gives up the feminist battle
You canât help but admire Peggy Olson. Eager to unshackle herself from her oppressive religious background, to move on from the pregnancy caused by her fling with Pete Campbell and to climb the career ladder despite the disadvantage of being a woman, she is a fine example of the changes taking place in Western society during the sixties.
Nevertheless, all that belligerent battling takes a lot of energy and when you let down your guard itâs easy to lose momentum. Thatâs pretty much what happens to young Peggy in series 5. Giving up all hopes and dreams of making partner in the advertising world she quits working for Don, settles down to a humdrum life in suburbia, pops out a couple of kids and transforms into a Stepford Wife.
Roger becomes a househusband
A US Navy veteran who continues to behave like heâs on âshore leaveâ despite being in his mid-fifties, Roger Sterling has, for four series, been Mad Menâs go to guy for snappy one liners and humorous observations.
Take for example his quip at Don as early as the second episode: âI can never get used to the fact that most of the time it looks like you’re doing nothing.â? Or his lament at the younger generationâs inability to grasp a real reason to hit the bottle, âYou don’t know how to drink. Your whole generation, you drink for the wrong reasons. My generation, we drink because it’s good, because it feels better than unbuttoning your collar, because we deserve it. We drink because it’s what men do.â?
Divorced once before, currently married to Jane Siegel, but still pining for Joan, season 5 sees Roger finally commit to a relationship. Having impregnated his former secretary he moves quickly to seal her affections by quitting work, marrying her and promising to look after his new child while she works.
As Don continues his womanising ways, Roger settles for a life of baking, errand-running, home-schooling and quiet reflection. His efforts are commended by his former colleagues who secretly wish they could follow in his footsteps.
Pete Campbell Gets Drafted
Spiteful, cold and willing to live off his family name, Pete Campbell has been cast as a character of questionable repute from the outset. Desperate to climb the career ladder as quickly as possible, his entire life is turned upside down when a letter from the US army arrives on his desk in the opening scene of Series 5.
Despite attempting to avoid the draft, citing his status as a graduate and his importance to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Pete joins millions of other young conscripts at marine corp training as he prepares for time on the frontline in Vietnam. Against the odds, Campbell is seen thriving in the cutthroat environment, bulks up, leads from the front and is scouted by US Special Forces.
Sent deep behind enemy lines to assassinate a leading member of the Vietcong, he channels his inner Captain Benjamin L. Willard on a journey of self-discovery. Despite a worrying penchant for Class A drugs and raging syphilis (picked up in a Laos whore house) the former-ad man completes his mission before finally succumbing to fatigue on the return journey and dying alone in the jungle. On hearing of his passing, Trudy and Peggy move in together and raise his children as pacifists.
Don is uncovered as a Cold War Soviet Spy
You donât get more red, white and blue than Don Draper. His rise from a childhood in Pennsylvaniaâs âcoal countryâ to the pinnacle of the advertising world epitomises the American dream. And yet we know Don (or should that be Dick Whitman) is a man capable of keeping secrets, indeed having stolen the identity of the real Draper, lies have defined his path in life.
As Harry Crane remarked as early as the third episode: “Draper? Who knows anything about that guy? No oneâs ever lifted that rock. He could be Batman for all we know.” He may not be a superhero, but what if he were a Soviet spy sent to infiltrate Madison Avenue with a view to examining the way capitalists control the minds of consumers?
At the height of the Cold War itâs not so hard to believe. Left exposed in the aftermath of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchevâs toppling from power in 1964, series 5 could easily see comrade Donski on the run from the FBI as he battles to return to the safe velvety folds of the Iron Curtain.
Mad Men Series Five starts on Sky Atlantic this evening (27th March) at 9pm