‘Mad Men’ Premiere: 11 Burning Questions Answered

The wait is finally over! What did we learn from the return of 'Mad Men'?
By Eric Ditzian

Aaron Stanton, Larisa Oleynik, Vincent Kartheiser and Alison Brie in "Mad Men" season five episode one
Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC

"Mad Men," don't ever leave us again, OK?

Or at least not for a few more seasons. After a 500-day-plus hiatus, AMC's hit show returned Sunday night with the epic two-hour season-five premiere, filled with civil-rights strife, relationships of the sure-to-blow-up-in-epically-entertaining-yet-profoundly-troubling-fashion variety, and innumerable tiny moments that make creator Matthew Weiner's "Mad Men" arguably the finest show on TV.

The debut also addressed a slew of lingering questions we'd amassed since the previous season came to a close in October 2010. Check out 11 of the most burning questions we'd been dying to have answered:

When Does Season Five Take Place?
How gangster would it be if Weiner opened season five with a slow push in toward Don Draper, his hair oddly gray, his deep wrinkles coming into view, his dapper postwar mojo caked in decades of booze, fatty foods and what-has-become-of-this-once-proud-country disillusionment? What if the year were 1986 and Don were a gut-bellied 60 years old? However unlikely such a crazy time jump was, an open question headed into the new season was exactly when in time Weiner would restart his story. After all, over a year passed between seasons one and two, while barely a month elapsed from the end of season three to the start of season four. Now we know the answer: Season five begins in the summer of 1966.

Did Don Really Marry Megan?
If you thought Don Draper would be content with an appropriately aged girlfriend, a quick trip to "Tomorrowland" (the title of the season-four finale) disabused viewers of such a notion. He ditched Dr. Faye Miller and took his young, seductive secretary Megan Calvet on a Disneyland trip with the kids. One sun-bleached California vacation later, Don had cruelly dumped Faye and asked Megan to marry him. Would it last? Could it last? Yes and yes. They're now married and living together (though, obviously, not so happily).

Is Faye Totally Out of the Picture?
Poor Faye. She was smart and sexy and Don's intellectual equal. Alas, she was also his age. As far as we can tell, Faye is totally dunzo as far as Don's life is concerned. Could she come creeping back into the picture? There's an argument to be made that she's too self-possessed to slink back into his arms. But when on "Mad Men" has a woman ever been able to resist the charms of Don Draper?

What Will Happen to Don When He Turns 40?
If you guessed "have a birthday party at his Manhattan loft thrown by his secretary-turned-wife during which she saucily sings a French love song to Don and his friends, leading the ad man to verbally bitch-slap his wife and his wife to strip down to her undies, clean their apartment and eventually make love to her hubby on the filthy carpet" — then congrats, you win!

Wither Bert Cooper?
The firm's elder statesman seemingly quit the firm at the end of season four, following Don's public statement that he will no longer produce ads for tobacco companies. "It's been a pleasure," Bert announced on his way out the door. Turns out he didn't quit, and as season five begins, Bert's still puttering around the office with not much at all to do.

Does Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Survive?
Big Tobacco gave Don's ad agency the big kiss of death at the end of season four. They lost the Lucky Strike account, the very big deal keeping their fledging operation afloat. Could Sterling Cooper survive? Would Don have to go back to selling fur coats? Hardly. Thanks to the hard work of account exec Pete Campbell, Sterling Cooper continues to chug forward. They're still struggling, however, so expect the firm's finances to play a significant role this season.

Does Joan Have Her Baby?
A back-alley hump session with a former flame left office manager Joan pregnant last season. She contemplated having an abortion, even traveling to a clinic, before deciding to keep the baby and pretend it's actually her husband's child. Did she go through with the ruse? Does her hubby still have no idea he's been cuckolded? Yep, the guy hasn't a clue. And Joan, the once-and-future sex kitten, is now spending most of her time applying cream to her baby's diaper rash, rather than scheming and pouting in the offices of Sterling Cooper.

What's Up With Lane's Marriage?
The British finance whiz had a helluva rough time in season four. His wife left him, he went for a roll in the hay with a prostitute, then his father beat the piss out of him, sending him scurrying back across the pond to mend things with his wife. As season five begins, they're back together, but all is not well. After he picks up a stranger's wallet and calls up the guy's mistress, we witness Lane awkwardly attempting to engage in the '60s equivalent of phone sex. Nothing comes to pass, but we have a feeling Lane and his marriage are in for a ton of misery in the episodes to come.

Is Sally Draper Still a Terror?
Shockingly, if only temporarily, the answer to this burning question is no. Last season, heartbreakingly, Sally was a nightmare of a little girl as she struggled to adjust to a life lived under the shaky guidance of divorced parents. Who would have thought that as she approached her teenage years, she'd tamp down on the tantrums and start becoming a well-behaved adolescent girl? Two hours into the new season, that's exactly what Sally is. Of course, we still haven't seen her in the company of her mom, Betty. There's plenty of time for the terror to return.

Is Pete Campbell Still So Freaking Pete Campbell?
He fathered a child with his co-worker. He got married and cheated on his wife too many times to count. He's, generally speaking, a sniveling little turd viewers love to hate. But by the end of last season, Pete looked like he was turning things around, confessing his infidelities to his wife and turning into the agency's rainmaker. Maybe, just maybe, Pete was becoming — less annoyingly Pete. It's not going to last, it seems. Two hours into season five, he's already complaining that his wife sits around all day like a frumpy lump, and he has started taking later trains back from the city to the suburbs, because, well, take one guess why he's hanging around Manhattan after work. Pete Campbell, surprise surprise, will keep on being Pete Campbell.

Can Peggy Olsen Sustain a Happy, Healthy Relationship?
Remember beatnik journalist Abe Drexler, the guy copywriter Peggy hated and then loved and then kinda love-hated or hate-loved? Things appear to be going well between the two of them. She's cranky as ever, but he's supportive of her and her work life, even as he surely continues to believe her job is everything that's wrong with '60s America. How long they remain a joyful couple is anybody's guess (ours is: not very long). For now, though, let's just be happy for Peggy. After all, she's the true hero at the heart of "Mad Men."

What did you think of the "Mad Men" season premiere? Share your reviews in the comments!

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