'Mad Men': The times they are a-changin'

jon-hamm-john-slattery-mad-men-s4.jpgThe big question going into a new season of "Mad Men" is always, How much time has passed in between seasons?

Now that fans have gone through trying to figure that out three times, though, the answer is turning out to be the same every time: Enough.

We're going to stick as close as possible to a no-spoiler preview here, but what we'll say about where the show is when it returns Sunday (July 25) is that enough time has passed -- you'll get a sense of the timeframe pretty quickly -- for the big changes at the end of last season -- Don ( Jon Hamm) and Betty's ( January Jones) split, Don, Roger ( John Slattery) and others breaking away to start their own agency -- to sink in and take effect.

Here are a few questions we had going into the premiere, and some of the things we discovered while watching.

Don Draper is now a single man. What could be more perfect for him?

As it turns out, a lot. Don -- who couldn't keep from cheating on Betty during their marriage -- seems a little bit at loose ends as the season begins. The freedom he has in his personal life isn't all it was cracked up to be.

How's Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce doing?

Weeeellll ... SCDP has sleek new offices (the show as a whole is using a little bit brighter palette) -- but also smaller ones. The issues you might think a startup agency would face are all there, and the tension is evident in some of the interactions between Don, Roger, Pete ( Vincent Kartheiser) and Peggy ( Elisabeth Moss). Peggy is also no longer shy about expressing her thoughts, and it adds a nice dynamic to her and Don's work relationship.

What about the kids?

Betty and Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley), last seen flying with her to Reno to put her divorce from Don in motion, have started a life together, but there is, of course, some lingering tension. And as usual, you can gauge the state of Don and Betty's relationship by watching their daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka). As Kiernan told Zap2it, Sally's in for a rough ride this season.

So is it good?

Oh yes. The shakeup at the end of last season has allowed creator Matthew Weiner, the other writers and the actors to play new shades in their characters, and the show feels like it has a new energy. "Mad Men" didn't need to fix much, in our opinion, but Season 4 is set up for us to discover a lot more about Don and Co.

"Mad Men" premieres at 10 p.m. ET Sunday on AMC.

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Photo credit: AMC