Mad Men Season 5 was a year of fits and starts, shocks and sputters, symbols and sacrifices. In all, 13 hours of interesting - at times excellent - television marred by occasional missteps into its own thickening narrative weeds. We saw Pete Campbell plumb new levels of despicableness - we always knew he had it in him - while the glass ceiling proved to be no match for the unique talents of curvaceous Joan Harris. Many critics and fans of the series have reacted to Season 5 much the same way Sci-Fi lovers have reacted to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus; grudging respect laced with disappointment. But Mad Men was able to right its foundering ship - at least seal off the leaky compartments - with a strong, if confounding, finale. And there’s the sense that Season 6, presumably set in the tumultuous years of 1968 - ’69, could very well see the Mad Men finally return to warp drive after a year of poking along on impulse.
The most often heard criticism of Season 5’s early episodes can be distilled to “Too Much Megan”, and it's a valid ding. Never has series creator Matt Weiner attempted so hard to sell a character. The show absolutely insisted that viewers like her. But the more Megan was pushed, the less interesting she became and the more resistance grew. By the final episode everyone, including Don apparently, were wondering just what he saw in her. Megan’s saving grace was she motivated Julia Ormond’s recurrent character of Don’s mother-in-law Marie. Ormond’s worldly, refined sensualness was a refreshing contrast to the existential confusion and pettiness that plagued the regulars.