Monday, April 8, 2013

Mad Men Season 6: "The Doorway"

BEWARE, this entry is spoiler-full, it is meant for people who have already watched the episode or don't mind being spoiled. Although I don't know what kind of crazy person would do such a thing (or what kind of crazy person wouldn't watch Mad Men for that matter.)

So, Mad Men Season 6. 

It's Christmas 1967 and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce seems to be doing better than ever financially. The summer of love has gone by, a lot beards, sideburns and mustaches have been grown and our heroes are about to enter the ever most tumultuous year of 1968. But what did I think of the premiere? Needless to say, I thought this was a pretty good episode. Let's talk a little bit about the story-lines. 

Draper in Paradise
Death and Lies have always been the big themes of Mad Men (at least in my opinion), and they were both present in this episode. We finished season five with the uncertainty of whether Don was about to cheat on Megan, by the end of 'The Doorway' it's clear where the newest Draper marriage is at. Not only is Don cheating on his wife, but he is also feeling very miserable about it. He tells his lover Sylvia (Linda Cardellini) new year's resolution is to stop the affair, but he knows that is not going to happen.
There are other many signs that Don is feeling lost: The way he reacts to Jonesy the doorman's near-death experience, his questions to Dr. Rosen (Sylvia's husband) about having patient's lives in his hands, his pitch to Sheraton, filled with suicide overtones and the way he behaves at Roger's mother funeral. Don is completely unhappy to be realizing he is repeating his history. He seems to be at the same place he was when we met him. I think the final reveal of this episode mirrors and contrasts with the ending of the pilot. Back then we realized Don was married, now we realize Don is cheating, but it's all the same thing. Speaking of which... 

Sterling's Grief
...the big theme of the episode is said by Roger to his analyst. He says life is made up of a bunch of doorways. First, you want to know what's behind each door, eager to find something new and then, the more doors you go through the clearer it seems like you're in the same place you were before. This obviously comments on Don's story, but also on Roger's. His mother dies and it's not until he receives the box of his diseased shoe-shiner as a gift that his grief manifests itself. Like the water from the river Jordan that his daughter won't take with her, I guess Roger is afraid no one will be there to remember him when he's gone. He is questioning the meaning of life and the meaning of his existence. He thinks about what he gained and what he lost, how he seems to be in the same place he was before and how he couldn't hold on to the things he appreciated. 

Betty's Adventures in the Village
It was nice to see Betty have a pretty solid story after how she was consistently the weak link of seasons four and five. This story works well because Betty is not entirely unsympathetic in it. She identified with Sally's friend and goes looking for her in New York. She encounters some hippies and makes goulash for them and as a result of the whole experience she becomes a brunette. I'm not really sure what to make of the meaning of this story line just yet, but I'm hoping it will gain more thematic resonance as the season goes on. 

Peggy's New Job
Finally, we see Peggy at her new job and it's pretty clear she's become Don Draper. She saves a campaign with the kind of genius imagination Don has used many times in the past and makes her workers stay up working on New Year's Eve the way Don would have done with her (The Suitcase, anyone?). This place of work environment isn't nearly as tough with Peggy as Don made  Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce be, but she has learned in the Draper ways (I guess both good and bad). Peggy has come a long way and she clearly seems to be the one character who is not in the same place she was before, so something different is going here as far as themes are concerned. I guess I'll have to watch more to see where this is going. I am just so glad Mad Men is back and that this season's just beginning.

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