'Mad Men' Premiere Recap: Existential Crises Persist For Don Draper
Mad Men’s season six premiere promises a continuation of the pervasive theme of death that took hold of last season. Where season 5 ended with the suicide of founding firm member Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), this one picks up with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) reading Dante’s Inferno – the first book in the morbid trilogy by Dante Alighieri.
Don is still seemingly adored by his wife Megan (Jessica Paré), but the episode makes clear early on that he’s already bored by her. As he sits by the pool in Hawaii, Megan gets up and dances, leading him to do little more than wince uncomfortably. Not until the final minutes though, is it confirmed that Don has already given up on the concept of fidelity. He’s cheating on Megan with the wife (Linda Cardellini) of their neighbor, Dr. Rosen, who Don seems to feel threatened by.
"Life is supposed to be a path and you go along and these things happen to you and they're supposed to change you, change your direction, but it turns out that's not true,” Roger (John Slattery) tells his therapist, in a monologue that seems fit for Don as well. "It turns out experiences are nothing. They're pennies you pick up off the floor, stick into your pocket. And you're just going in a straight line to 'you know where.'"
Roger’s mother dies in the episode, and the news elicits a disconcertingly calm reaction from the man who is known to have been incredibly close to his mother. It’s only when Roger holds the shoe shining box of the shoe shiner who passes away that he breaks down in tears. At his mother’s funeral, he declares that it’s his funeral – highlighting his heightened sense of nearing his own mortality and potential irrelevance.
Betty (January Jones), meanwhile, is still struggling with who she is and what she wants. This struggle manifests itself in a jealous confrontation with her husband over one of 15-year-old Sally’s friends. In an odd twist, Betty eventually befriends the young girl. She also opts to dye her hair brown, after her kids tease her for her fake blonde locks. Betty seems to be once again in the process of "becoming," although it's uncertain as to what.
Seperate from the crises of the show's older generation, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) has the reins of her new firm, and is not afraid of cracking the whip while she’s at it. After having worked under Don’s supervision, she not only got an insight into the skills needed to be creatively successful; she picked up some pointers on how to order around her employees. After work on a Super Bowl ad turns up poor results, she ably embodies her arrogant ex-boss.
"The Doorway" centered mostly on Don and Roger, and their respective turns grappling with death seem likely to continue on in future episodes. “When you died, what did you see?” Don asks a doorman in Hawaii who nearly died of a heart attack. “Did you hear the ocean?”
Pete Campbell and Joan Harris were mostly absent from the season premiere.
Mad Men airs on AMC on Sundays at 9/8c.
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