We head into Mad Men’s” fifth season knowing nothing about it. The on-air promos recycle moments from past seasons, and the teaser art has been cryptic even by this show’s standards: an opening-credits-styled image of a falling man that could be hawking any season, and a photo of hero Don Draper staring at two mannequins — a clothed male and a naked female* — through a dress-shop window. Matthew Weiner, who banned advance screeners after a New York Times review revealed innocuous details from the season-four premiere, has dropped a cone of silence over the production. We have no idea if Don went through with plans to wed his young secretary, Megan; if Joan had Roger’s baby; or if the new agency is still in business. We don’t even know the year in which this season takes place, which at least would prepare us for the wingspan of Roger’s lapels.
On first glance, the black-ops secrecy seems insane. This isn’t a plot-twisty series like Breaking Bad or Homeland; it’s a low-key drama consisting largely of men and women in vintage clothes bantering on the same eight or nine sets. And yet the cloak-and-dagger shtick is of a piece with what’s onscreen. It’s a rare show that can vanish for seventeen months, make a tight-lipped and rather self-satisfied return, and presume we’ll give it a prodigal son’s welcome and be right. Mad Men has earned that level of blind trust because it’s serenely sure of what it’s doing.
You can read the rest of Matt’s piece here at New York Magazine.
Matt Zoller Seitz is founder and publisher of Press Play and TV critic for New York Magazine.