Mad Men S06E01/E02 recap - “The Doorway”After months of speculation and decoding mouth-watering teasers like they may have been in Hawaii or someone may have a mustache, etc. we finally have the season six premiere. Indeed both Ginsberg AND Peggy’s boyfriend Abe have mustaches. Mind blown. We appear to have jumped ahead eight or nine months, in the finale episodes of season five Don tells the group they will be working through Christmas to win the Jaguar account, and season six opens in December - christmas trees are seen in offices, it’s snowing in New York when Megan and Don return from Hawaii and Betty discusses with Sandy how difficult it is without your loved ones, especially “at this time of year”. Wikipedia suggests the opener takes place in December of 1967 and ends on January 1st, 1968. A luxurious double episode allows us time to be reintroduced to all the SCDP gang and while the name on the building hasn’t changed the same can’t be said for their hairstyles.
Any thought that Peggy wouldn’t play much of a role in the new season is squashed fairly early, it’s obvious that we are going to see almost as much of her as when she still working at SCDP. It’s amazing how Don-like she is when talking to her staff; so confident, committed to the work rather than the workers. Stan with his extra weight and beard (almost Galifianakis like?) talks to her on the phone, both still working on New Years Eve. When she solves the headphones issue her boss remarks, “You’re good in a crisis,” which prompted me to wonder exactly what crisis could happen at SCDP that would make them miss her, what problem could hit that company that leaves a Peggy-shaped hole that is worse than anything they’ve already dealt with. Our first glimpse of the office is shows the executives getting portraits taken on their stairwell, indeed every time it’s framed we are reminded of the expansion of the company and the mixed fortunes that befell them in the previous season. In the space between seasons they have landed the Dow Chemical account, and others including Leica cameras are discussed. When Don encounters his neighbor in the elevator he invites him to his office to grab one, on the house as it were, and the two seem to get on swimmingly. Plans for New Years Eve between have been made by their wives, but when the good doctor is called away on business Don take the opportunity to swoop in on his wife. “It’s good to have the old Don back,” is a sentiment I saw quite a bit on Twitter while I was dodging spoilers. It would appear that, like the service-issued lighter that Don can’t seem to get rid of, his mental anguish and the coping mechanism of finding comfort in a woman’s bed (any woman) has certainly not abated.
Roger similarly has a lot on his plate. We are shown a number of psycho-analytical sessions, leading us to presume that LSD didn’t hold all the solutions he might have hoped, and when the news that his mother has passed away is brushed off like an unfavorable dental report, we question whether it’s even doing him any good. He certainly doesn’t seem to take it very seriously, explaining to the analyst how life if like going through a series of doors, that you hope will deliver you somewhere but are all the same and close behind you. In bed with his new fling Don is asked what he wants from the new year, he responds, “I want to stop doing this,” he too is tired of doors hoping for new beginnings and finding the same results. Roger relies on Joan to organize the funeral for his mother, and manages to charm the elderly ladies in good spirits, but the sight of his ex-wife’s husband sends him crazy saying his mother never liked him and tries to kick him out, screaming ferociously, “THIS IS MY FUNERAL!” with the brilliant duality that we’ve come to expect from Matt Weiner and the Mad Men writers. He passes on to his daughter a jar of water supposedly from the River Jordan with which he was baptized, and as he returns to the office more bad news befalls him when he is told the guy who shines his shoes has died. The brushes are delivered to him, Roger being the closest thing to family the man had, and his emotional dam finally overflows, reducing him to a blubbering mess.
The Francis family are visited with Sally continuing to develop and her friend Sandy being admired for her musical abilities, and other things if you would believe Betty. Man, she has a twisted idea of men’s sexual fantasies - her suggestion that she hold the young girl down and gag her while Henry rapes her is the furtherest thing from anyone’s idea of spicing things up in the bedroom. Sandy’s wish to live in the city gets Betty worried, and without her mother to save her she takes it upon herself to track down her flophouse and bring her home, or at least talk some sense into her. Upon discovering her violin she knows she’s on the right track, and after helping the squatters make goulash and seeing how desperate they are she leaves the violin for them, presumably so they could sell it - “groking” in some small way their desperation. Betty told Sandy about how she used to be a model and lived with five girls in a two bedroom apartment, eating soup out of a can. Sandy replies how it sounds great and she wagers that Betty looks back fondly on the time, and the look in her eyes confirms that she probably does. For this reason I found Betty was just as annoying as ever, taking it upon herself to tell a young girl what’s best for her. If her sexual fantasies are anything to go on, I’d take my chances with the vagrants as well. She dyes her hair brown at the end, and she’s still fat. Fat-ish.
Megan, seemingly unaware of Don’s cheating, is having success in her acting career having landed a role on the TV show Berkshire Falls, and is approached in Hawaii by an autograph hunter. Despite her mother’s insistence that she has the artistic temperament without the ability, she certainly has the knack of carrying herself as a low-level celebrity. Don’s lack on control over her and his post-traumatic struggles spell long term problems. With all the drinking he’s done over the years I can’t remember a time when he’s thrown up (a cocktail of booze and stress), and with the amount of times hash/reefer/etc. is mentioned and the doctor’s insistence that giving up cigarettes is a good new year’s resolution, we might wonder if weed is on the cards for him as a potential creative catalyst. His fascination with what the doorman, “Jonesy”, saw when he collapsed in the opening scenes and “died” his reply is a cliche, designed to please. “A white light”, he guesses. Don fills in the blanks himself, “Like a tropical sunshine? Did you hear the ocean?” As Don looks out over Manhattan (“Draper-ing” as fans call it) during his portraiture shoot, he zones out looking at the lighter, snapping back to consciousness when asked to, “be himself” for the picture. Awkward. The sounds of the city are superimposed over his own, internal soundtrack: either the crashing of waves on a polynesian beach or the rumble or fighter jets and flames burning in a war zone. He hopes, the former.
Interesting times in the Mad Men universe. What did you think?