Season Six, Episode One & Two
All I have to say is that it is great to have Mad Men back in my life once again. There are plenty of terrific shows currently on the air, but few (if any) do what Mad Men does so well. I couldn’t wait to be thrown back into 1960s New York City and see what everyone’s favorite ad agency was up to.
But we start out in Hawaii as Don and Megan are enjoying a vacation, well somewhat. He’s to experience Hawaii and deliver an ad for a resort there, but come on, it’s Hawaii! One restless night, Don makes his way to the lobby bar and has a conversation with a soon-to-be married man. He’s in the army and the two briefly share their views of life and marriage over a drink. In usual fashion, Don doesn’t want to be bothered but engages with the stranger anyway. This results with him giving away the bride as they got married on the beach in the morning (seeing Don here was the first big laugh of the premiere. It has always been fantastic how Mad Men has been so funny through all these years).
Although the opening scenes dealt with Hawaii and paradise, eventually the honeymoon had to come to an end and it’s Christmas time back in New York, which means it’s miserably cold. The strongest theme throughout the season six premiere was death. Death was in the air for everyone, most directly with Roger Sterling. His mom passes away and the wake is a memorable scene from the two hours that included Don puking in the corner and Roger scolding his ex-wife’s husband. But it wasn’t until towards the end of the episode when Roger really grieves his mother’s death after the dead shoe-shine man’s family left Roger his kit. The delay is spectacular displaying that even the emotionless Roger has a heart.
Much of Mad Men deals with the transformation of the characters, and is there a character that has changed as much as Peggy has since the pilot? She’s now Don Draper-ing her way through crucial moments to save the Super Bowl ad. The way she was able to take the footage that she first hated and turn it into the selling point for the headphones wowed Teddy, as it should. But the best part was how hard Peggy really is on her creative team to the point when she assumed that they knew they could leave since it was New Years Eve, but Teddy assures her that they most certainly didn’t know they could leave. Oh how Don has influenced Peggy more than she’d like to admit.
Which brings us back to Don. The big reveal of the episode was when we see how Don has been having an affair with his neighbor’s, Dr. Rosen, wife Sylvia (played by the always pleasant Linda Cardellini). We got a hint of something like this happening in the season finale when Don’s asked if he’s alone at the bar, but now it’s there right in the open. He admits to Sylvia that he wants their affair to stop, but that doesn’t seem likely. Megan was Don’s peak but it looks like he’s going to begin another downfall. What is this going to bring for the upcoming season? Can Don ever find true happiness, or are his inner demons too much to overcome?
Finally, we see Betty who is still struggling with losing the weight she gained. She has a disturbing bedroom conversation with Henry that is her way of “spicing things up.” I’m sorry, but her idea of spicing things up won’t go over well with anyone. Try again, Betty. Her story-line follows the relationship between her and Sally’s friend Sandy, a fifteen-year-old who wants to escape from the life she thinks she’s destined for if she doesn’t make a drastic change. Betty attempts to hunt her down in the city, but discovers that Sandy sold her violin and is probably on her way to California (I guess the cold got to her rather quickly).
As Betty leaves the worn down structure a bunch of young hippies live in, she leaves Sandy’s violin there. Instead of taking it, maybe even learning to play it herself, she leaves it behind just like how Sandy left it behind. Betty changes from a blonde to a brunette, surprising her family and causing another laugh-out-loud moment when her children hate it. Can this be the start of a new Betty? She’s got a lot of work to do, but from this episode it seems like the Francis family is a lot happier than before.
This is the world of Mad Men and it’s a fascinating one. I can’t help but think that PFC Dinkins isn’t going to survive the war, unless that was just the whole theme of death overcame my senses. During the pitch that Don gives, I love how he truly didn’t see the ad as someone committing suicide. Stan’s comment afterwards was the funniest moment of the episode. But this brings us to Dinkins’ lighter that Don mistakenly grabbed. That lighter haunted him for most of the episode and even when he tries to throw it away, it comes back to him. It’s symbolic to many things that Don tries to rid himself of but for reasons he cannot understand, they always return.