Can it be that the season just concluded of television’s most exquisite drama was the one that made the most missteps — and yet ended up the most rewarding? Yes, there were sequences and story arcs that didn’t seem up to what is admittedly a stratospheric bar. Roger Sterling’s acid trip, Don and Harry’s backstage encounters at the Rolling Stone concert, and Pete Campbell’s affair with the doomed depressive didn’t quite work. In the case of the first two, the effort to show how the 60’s were chipping away at the Old Guard certainties seemed strained, trying too hard. And the shock therapy melodrama, while well played, came off as soap opera more than slice of organic life. But a season that also saw Peggy’s resignation (with the strong hint we haven’t seen the last of her), Lane’s suicide, and what promises to be explosive fallout from Megan’s determination to pursue an acting career proved the show vital as ever. When Peggy extends her hand to Don in farewell and he hesitates, then takes it and puts it to his lips in sad acceptance; when Lane tries to kill himself inside a Jaguar that, ever unreliable, won’t start; and in the very last line, when Don is asked by two beautiful women if he’s alone (did we really think his marriage would last?) — these are the moments that make MAD MEN so marvelous and memorable. On to Season Six! — Jeff Schultz

Season five of MAD MEN left me wanting more. Now, that cuts two ways. I love the show and want more of the wonderful episodes. But it was also very uneven episode to episode and I crave more consistency from what is the best drama on TV. The best episode of the season was the “The Other Woman” where Joan prostitutes herself for the price of a partnership and the guarantee of adding Jaguar to their client list. The worst was the strange “Far Away Places” that was told in a bizarre time shift fashion that resembled Roger’s LSD trip (really.. an LSD trip for a 50-something man?). The best moments were Lane’s inept attempt at suicide before finally getting it right. Roger delivering flowers to Joan and asking why he always seems to be delivering them for other men. Don’s speech at the Christmas party committing everything to winning Jaguar. And the weekly moment where Megan challenges Don’s love and commitment that made us wonder if he would every be a normal husband. Peggy giving her notice and Don trying to hold onto her and kissing her hand in a last act of desperation. Oh, how could I forget Pete getting punched, by Lane, by his train friend and by the conductor. Haven’t we all wanted to punch Pete? That brings me to the season finale. It definitely swings toward the more disappointing side of the ledger. It’s saving grace are the final scenes where Don watches Megan’s reel then gets her the TV gig for the shoe company, and Don’s lonely drinking in the bar ending with the ominous question from the beautiful young girl, “are you alone?”. Chilling. It was a perfect final episode for Season 5. It was uneven and had some wonderful moments and left me wanting more and disappointing moments that left me wanting more. The good news is, we will get more in Season 6. — Alan Yudman

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