This article addresses how television narratives create psychologically
rich situations, those moments where viewers are able to make many
distinctive and sophisticated inferences about the mental states of characters.
Focusing on season five of Mad Men, it examines the extent to which
individual episodes create rich situations through the information established
within an individual episode, versus the degree to which rich situations
are created by relying on information accrued over the course of previous
episodes, as well as the extent to which these two kinds of information are
blended together in a given situation. While it is easy to assume that serial
narratives routinely call upon accumulated character knowledge in order to
enrich viewer inferences, somewhat surprisingly, most episodes in Mad Men
season five are actually largely enriched through episodic rather than serial information.
The article also analyzes interesting patterns that emerge in these
qualities across the entire season.