Mad Men: The Doorway Season 6 Episode 1 and 2 Review

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Mad Men started its sixth season with a premiere that ultimately needed some fat trimmed, but set up some intrigue stories for the episodes to come.

The Doorway did a lot of things really well, but with so much space between those things, the two hour episode also felt sluggish.

That’s not to say it was bad, but I do hope that for the final season we go back to having a traditional hour long premiere, as the same thing happened last year where storylines get too much detail and get drawn out beyond their limits.

We started the season on vacation with Don and Megan in Hawaii. Don narrates the opening lines of Dante’s Inferno. Is this really Don Draper’s personal hell? From there Don doesn’t say a word, going through the motions with his wife (I thought The Walking Dead ended last weekend). We learn that Megan has found some success in her acting career and is on a soap opera called To Have and to Hold. Don only says something when someone at the bar asks him if he was in the service, a connection to his past. It’s a fascinating opening seeing Don in this state. In paradise he is still so melancholy. Something isn’t right. Is it his sham of a marriage? Is it the guilt of a co-worker’s suicide? Don Draper seems to be in a darker place than ever.

Things get worse when he gets home. He and Megan witness their doorman almost die in the lobby. Death seems to be everywhere. After a drunken embarrassment at a funeral (more on that later), Don asks the doorman “What did you see when you died?”. Don has faced death a number of times in his life, and now he seems to fear it will catch up to him.

So how will he fix this? Cheating on Megan. Back to the old ways for Mr. Draper.

Another character preoccupied with death is Roger Sterling. His mother passes away, but in a traditional Roger way, he looks to the ceiling, raises his glass and says “Cheers”, which was oddly touching.

Things worsen at the funeral when his ex-wife brings her new husband to the funeral. He kicks everyone out and runs up the stairs like a child, burying himself in a pillow. The man has to grow up, and that includes spending more time with his daughter. Roger is the only character we saw go from point A to point B this premiere. Still though, death is on Roger’s mind just as much as Don’s.

One character I was really happy to see was Peggy. After leaving SCDP at the end of last season, she’s found her footing and then some at the new agency. She essentially is in the same position Don was in the pilot, just for another company. Peggy has come full circle it seems. I just hope not all her time is spent away from her former co-workers this season.

The last major character in the premiere was Betty, who seems a little closer to getting her figure back from season’s past. Her relationship with Sally is in turmoil (when Sally announces that her mother got a ticket for reckless driving she refers to her as “Betty” not as “Mom”). But Sally has a friend, a prodigal violinist who’s mother passed away recently (seriously, how morbid was this premiere?!). When she leaves to move to New York, Betty chases after her, like a mother would to a daughter. But she fails, just as she thinks she has failed Sally. So she dies her hair that morbid color.

Betty’s story seemed the most meandering tonight, but Don doesn’t seem to be in the best place either. These two are still trying to find their footing after years of marriage and that is absolutely compelling, but not for two hours at a time. Roger and Peggy, on the other hand got off to great starts this season.

So yeah, this was kind of a ho-hum premiere meditating on death and when it may come. Had it just been an hour perhaps the stories would have been more streamlined, but I can’t help but be ecstatic that Mad Men is in fact back. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty


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