'Mad Men' Season 5 Premiere: What the Critics Are Saying

Mad Men Christina Hendricks H 2012
Frank Ockenfels/AMC

The hit AMC drama returns on Sunday after 17 months off the air.

AMC’s smart hit drama Mad Men returns on Sunday after an extended hiatus.

It’s been 17 months since the boozing, womanizing ad men have been on the screen, and critics had plenty to say about their long-awaited return.

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Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and the cast have been tight-lipped about the changes that season five will bring, and critics followed suite by not giving away any major (and even minor) plot points from the special two-hour premiere. They did, however, comment on the tone, attitude and slight changes of the new season.

“The premiere is visually thrilling as viewers get to witness what the passing of time has brought to the characters,” writes The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman. “Perhaps most impressively, there’s a palpable difference to the series, something effervescent about it that conveys movement without hitting viewers over the head.”

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“Without giving away the year, there are noticeable changes in season five — broader indications that change is constant and the times are perhaps moving too swiftly for some of the characters, Don included,” adds Goodman.

“As usual, a double-length opener notwithstanding, it is impossible yet to say where the season is going to take us,” writes The Los Angeles Times’ Robert Lloyd. “But if we're to judge by the opening notes, we should expect variations on the parallel theme of passing time and onrushing age.”

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“As it returns on Sunday, it is still specific, and peculiar, and the same Mad Men it ever was,” writes HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall. “It is smart and funny in some moments, sad and ugly in others. It is meticulously, beautifully observed. It understands its characters intimately, and recognizes that its viewers understand them as well and don't need to be spoon-fed.”

“This new season starts off strong,” says The Washington Post’s Hank Stuever. “The contrast is sharper now — the psychological gloom within Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce clashes with the verging sense of psychedelia just beyond Madison Avenue.”

“Change is definitely in the air for all of the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce - and the world around them - but the past won’t let go of any of them so easily,” writes Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe. “Whether it comes in the form of lovers, clients, identities, or ideals, the shadows linger and the characters alternately cling to them and shoo them away.”

“No show is perfect; small errors will always slip by,” writes Robert Bianco of USA Today. “But no series sets a higher, more consistent level of excellence, a level sustained, fans will be pleased to hear, as Mad Men returns after a 17-month absence.”