TV Review: Mad Men

By Columbus Alive
From the March 22, 2012 edition

I’m sure all of you “Mad Men” fans have been anxiously awaiting answers to the litany of cliffhangers we were left with when Season 4 ended more than a year and a half ago.

Did Don Draper (Jon Hamm) follow through with his proposal to Megan (Jessica Pare)? What happened with Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) love child? Did Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce rebound after losing Lucky Strike as a client?

Well, “Mad Men” creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner asked critics not to reveal any of these plot developments in their reviews, so they’ll be no spoilers here (except that Miss Blankenship’s replacement is almost as awesome as she was). Besides, half the fun of “Mad Men,” or any serialized television show for that matter, is watching the story unfold without knowing what’s coming.

So the answers you seek will be revealed to you only when you sit down for the excellent two-hour premiere on Sunday. That length is sometimes a bit of a drag for a single television episode, but Weiner and the cast did such a magnificent job that I’ve already re-watched the episode, and I’ll be watching it again when it airs.

Humor is key in the well-paced and highly entertaining premiere. This could be the funniest “Mad Men” episode ever, thanks largely to Slattery’s Roger. Roger has always been an excellence source of jokes and incredible one-liners, and the premiere is filled with fantastic zingers from the silver-haired ad man.

The second-best aspect of the episode is the tremendous use of the ensemble cast. Yes, Don dominates screen time and Jon Hamm is fantastic, but we get a deeper look at Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). The arc involving Pete is a wise progression for his character, and this is his best episode in quite some time.

The other character who benefits from the longer runtime is Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson). Last season he was mainly just a foil for Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) at the office. His character isn’t exactly transformed, but you get the sense he’s found a role in this world and the SCDP office while offering up some mischief to boot.