After a tantalising 17-month absence, the wait is finally over. Fans of the Emmy-award winning US drama Mad Men have had to be particularly patient in the lead up to the show's fifth season, debuting in many places around the world this week, not least because of the host of questions posed by season four's finale. What has become of Don's out-of-the-blue plans to marry his secretary Megan? Is financial ruin a near-certainty for the fledgling agency Sterling Cooper Draper Price? And will Joan's army husband discover her child was fathered by a whiskey-swilling adman? Here's a recap of where the show left off.
After the breakdown of his first marriage to Betty, Don Draper moved into a spartan West Village bachelor pad and engaged in a series of relationships with powerful women. But in the season four finale, he found himself falling for leggy brunette Megan, who accompanied him on a trip to California with his kids. "You make me feel like myself," he told her, suggesting the sharp-suited advertising virtuoso may have found someone with whom he can share the not-inconsiderable secrets of his past. His reasons for offering her a ring include the fact that, unlike his hot-tempered ex-wife Betty, Megan didn't go off like a canon when his young daughter spilt a milkshake. Now that's love.
The season also closed with new ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Price in dire financial straights, signing its first small contract in some 10 weeks, after the departure of the cigarette brand Lucky Strike, which had previously bankrolled the firm. As well as the pantyhose brand won by Peggy Olson - the announcement of which was cruelly overshadowed by news of Don's engagement - SCDP was also looking to work with the American Cancer Society, after Draper's strongly worded "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco" letter to The New York Times.
Season four's final episode saw the feisty redhead Joan Harris (née Holloway) talking to her husband over the phone in Vietnam about her pregnancy, happy to let the military doctor believe the baby is his. In fact, the father is the SCDP silver fox Roger Sterling, who also recently married his secretary but engaged in the briefest of flings with Joan (in an alleyway, no less), after the pair were attacked by a mugger. After discovering she was pregnant, the curvaceous office manager told Sterling she would "take care of it", so expect him to be suitably surprised by events when the show returns.
As well as references to The Beatles and Andy Warhol in the 1965-set season four, the changing times are also evident in the ever-increasing confidence and assertiveness of the show's female characters. One of the final scenes showed Joan and Peggy angrily discussing the perceived tawdriness of Don's engagement, and the lack of recognition they each receive for their work, (the former received a "title-only" promotion). Elsewhere, Betty's marriage to the political adviser Henry Francis is faltering as she demands the family relocate, simply to punish her daughter Sally for maintaining a friendship with weird kid Glen Bishop.
After the death of friend Anna Draper from cancer, one of the last remaining ties to Don's secret past is severed. However, details of his humble origins (he was born Dick Whitman, but assumed the identity of a superior officer killed in the Korean War) are still known by Pete Campbell and came dangerously close to being revealed in season four. When Campbell's client North American Aviation demanded background checks on several SCDP employees, Draper told the ambitious account man to drop the company so that he could avoid being exposed (and in all likelihood, end up in jail). As a thank you, Don pays Campbell's share of the US$50,000 needed to keep the agency afloat.