Ten Sure Bets for Mad Men, Season Five

By the fifth season of a series, no matter the pedigree of the showrunner or writing staff, a certain level of predictability sets in. Whether the series follows the careful formula of most procedurals (like CSI or virtually everything else on CBS), or the predictable unpredictability of more ambitious series (like The Walking Dead or Boardwalk Empire), we can begin to get a sense of where the writers will take us and how the actors will interpret their characters.

With the premiere date for the fifth season of Mad Men rapidly approaching, I want to put some of these predictions out there for your perusal. Some are locks, some are larks. Here goes:

1. The future of Don’s relationship with Megan will be determined in the first episode. Okay, so I’m hedging on the first bet? Sure. The smart money is on the relationship not surviving the premiere episode. However, Matt Weiner loves to subvert expectations; thus, if Megan survives (figuratively – this is not The Walking Dead) the first episode, their relationship will almost certainly last the bulk of the season.

2. Betty and Don will have sex. Mark your calendars. Episode four? Ish.

3. Sal will return in some form. It may be for an episode, it may be for good, but Sal is a popular character whose return would please a lot of people. It’s happening.

4. There will be a Peggy-and-Don-centric episode. “The Suitcase” was one of the series’ most praised episodes, and why would you not try to replicate that magic?

5. Roger will come to Joan’s defense against her husband, in some form. Some are predicting the husband will die in Vietnam… I don’t see it. Roger will be drunk and intervene between Joan and her husband, probably resulting in him being punched and leading to marital discord for Joan. Oh, this will also probably happen in public.

6. Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce will have a successful season. Last season explored the challenges of reinvention; Don’s defining characteristic is his ability to make himself into what people want him to be. He and his company will respond to the changes of the ’60s by embracing them. Also, do we really want to watch them struggle professionally for another season?

7. Someone will die. Probably someone old, probably in a random way or at a random time. Maybe in the office? It will probably be for comic effect. Re: the lawnmower incident in “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency”.

8. The overarching question for the season will be: Will Don embrace or avoid change? Weiner has given hints of this in interviews, so maybe that doesn’t go far enough. Here goes: the premiere will have someone literally pose the season-long question (as in the season two premiere, which began with the words “Who Is Don Draper?”).

9. The premiere will be satisfying. This is actually a risky bet, in the sense that previous season premieres have been measured and relatively uneventful, usually setting the tone and asking the overarching questions for the seasons ahead. However, the usually tight-lipped Weiner has compared the Season Five premiere to a movie, and the long hiatus surely has compelled him to make some things happen. We will move through time, we will be surprised by things, we will be re-immersed in that world. It will be awesome.

10. Fans will be happy. Beyond the premiere, I think this will be a crowd-pleasing season. Weiner is a shrewd writer who has had a great deal of time to work on this collection of episodes. This will not be “the boring season” or the “got-kind-of-junky” season. Things will happen this season, and if they are smart (they are – Weiner has basically confirmed that season seven will be the end), the writers will start moving toward Mad Men’s endgame. Let’s just hope it doesn’t involve a sudden black screen, all the characters being put in jail for being bad people, or a scene where they all reunite in heaven.