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Mad-men

Mad Men Review: Depth and Death

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Mad Men has more depth than any show on television, likely more than any series ever really. 

"The Doorway," a two-hour sixth season premiere of the award winning drama, is a perfect example of how so many little details and tiny character turns have created the rich and interesting world that we've watched over the past five years.

It is for that same reason that many are turned off by Mad Men. There are so many things that the common viewer might miss. There are sometimes seemingly miniscule call backs to something from three seasons ago that the casual watcher would never in a million years pick up on.

Mad Men Season 6 Premiere Photo

However, it's connecting all of those small dots that adds up to the brilliance of this series. I believe that's why even, though I thoroughly enjoy Mad Men, my inability to put everything together in every episode detracts from my viewing pleasure.

Don: It's not just a different place. You are different.

Similarly to Don describing his vacation, though, Mad Men isn't just a different television show filled with historical details and methodical characterization; you are different when watching it.

When you really get into it, Mad Men is an experience. From the sets to the acting, from the quick wit to the emotion, it's easy to get lost in what someone who doesn't watch the show might drop in on and call a snooze fest.

Sylvia: What do you want for this year?
Don: I want to stop doing this.

After getting lost in Mad Men for two hours, watching the death theme play out, seeing Peggy dominate at her job, witnessing Fat Betty struggle with the loss of young Sandy, recognizing the changes around SCDP, and so much more, the season premiere ended with something I'm assuming creator Matthew Weiner was pulling his hair out about in hopes that viewers didn't find out about ahead of time.

Don is cheating on Megan.

I understand that the theme of Mad Men can be that some people don't change, specifically Don. It makes sense that this tiger might not change his stripes. It still hurts. When Don and Megan got together so quickly, I had such high hopes that it was because she was his perfect fit.

That dream has been squashed. Even though his new hot young wife seemed like nothing but a joy during their time in Hawaii, Don's mind was somewhere else, as portrayed by the fact that he failed to speak for the first eight minutes of screen time.

His new friends in the apartment weren't just friends. Of course, Don was sleeping with Sylvia. Things couldn't be so simple. So even though he told his new lover that all he wanted for 1968 was to stop doing "this," it doesn't seem likely that he ever will.

Don: That make you think of suicide?
Stan: Of course! That's what's so great about it.

There were countless mentions of and allusions to death over the course of the two hour episode. Stan's comment about Don's pitch to Sheraton might have been the funniest, but they all added up to a seriously morbid season premiere.

Whether it was Don's book of choice on the white sand beach, everything that happened with the doorman, Roger's mother's death and subsequent memorial, Don's suicidal ad campaign, or even Bobby saying the violin case looked like a coffin, death was all around.

Maybe it is a foreshadowing of another death to come for one of our favorite characters. Or maybe it is just another reminder that people don't change. They live, they do the things that they do... and then they die. It's like Roger was talking about with his head shrinker, life may just be about going in a straight line to "you know where."

With all due respect to the complexities of Roger and his relationships, Betty's goulash and hair dye escapade and the rest of the fantastic stories that were told in "The Doorway," I'm going to conclude by writing about how awesome Peggy Olsen is.

Peggy: It needs more than a solution. It needs to be a great ad.

Unlike her former mentor, Peggy has changed quite a bit. It isn't just that her surroundings have changed. She is drastically different than she was when we first met her. Not only was she Don Draper-esque in her ideas during the premiere, but she also gave it to her subordinates like a boss...both literally and figuratively.

She is confident, she knows what she wants, and she is demanding. She also fails to recognize when she's making her employees sit around in the office on New Year's doing nothing when the job was already done. But again, that was awesome too.

So while Don fell back into his cycle of cheating, and hating himself for it, Peggy continued to grow.

With a number of new faces in the crowd, my favorites of which being Linda Cardellini as the aforementioned Sylvia, and James Wolk as the ever excited accounts man Bob Benson, Mad Men has brought some new excitement to the fold for Season 6.

I thought the premiere was a wonderful start to what many are saying will be the penultimate season of this critically acclaimed drama.  What did you all think of "The Doorway?"  Was it everything you hoped it would be?  Or did you hope it wouldn't fall back into Don's same old cycle?

What were your favorite moments from the two hours?  What didn't you like about the episode?  Sound off in the comments!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.3 / 5.0 (136 Votes)

Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Gigy

(THIS IS THE SECOND HALF OF MY COMMENT) get an epiphany already and come to terms with being in the late stages of middle age?! Enough with his questions of existentialism! I like Roger a lot, I find him entertaining and has a great wit. Get him and Joan together already to raise their child. I would like to see sally's character evolve; what was it like to be a rebellious teenager in the 60's stuck in the suburb; what kind of experience awaits her in the big city when she comes to visit Dad, let's see the dynamic of conservative dad and wild child (maybe he can put her to work at SCDP. I am rooting for Peggy. She is my second favorite female and I hope the writers have big plans for her...up, up, up the corporate ladder. Finally, two questions, 1) was Sylvia the brunette that was at the end of the bar in last seasons finale that the blonde was referring to and 2, why didn't they change the firm name from SCD Price, after Mr. Price's suicide, you would think they would have removed his name and added Pete's Campbell to become SCDC, but that's just me I guess.

Gigy

Overall rating of 2 hour opener: C+ Enough with FAT Betty. She deserves better. I don't believe a woman of her stature in life would allow herself to become fat. Women of that era sought "diet pills" that were prescribed to patients like the Phen-Fen craze of 90s were. Yes, she is a depressed woman; what woman wouldn't be that was married to DD, gave up her modeling career (resentment), the mother of 3 kids, one of which is growing up to be a snarky little brat (to put it nicely!)and an ex who married a younger, sexier woman? Joan is my favorite female character on the show...I sincerely hope she gets a lot more screen time this season especially now that she is a partner; on a side note, I find her ample bosom very distracting...the clothes she is wearing are not complimentary, her implants do not look natural squashed in those costumes. I don't like Megan...she is like a spoiled child to me (like Sally)...get rid of her-- apparently she is a muse for MW). And, can Roger please get an epiphany already and come to terms with being in the late stages of middle age?! Enough with his questions of existentialism! I like Roger a lot, I find him entertaining and has a great wit. Get him and Joan together already to raise their child. I would like to see sally's character evolve; what was it like to be a rebellious teenager in the 60's stuck in the suburb; what kind of experience awaits her in the big city when she comes to visit Dad, let's see the dynamic of conservative dad and wild child (maybe he can put her to work at SCDP. I am rooting for Peggy. She is my second favorite female and I hope the writers have big plans for her...up, up, up the corporate ladder. Finally, two questions, 1) was Sylvia the brunette that was at the end of the bar in last seasons finale that the blonde was referring to and 2, why didn't they change the firm name from SCD Price, after Mr. Price's suicide, you would think they would have removed his name and added Pete's Campbell to become SCDC, but that's just me I guess.

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I hadn't quite decided how I felt about the opener until I read your review. You're right, there are really subtle nuances abound in this show; it is also a slice of life from a time when our country was doing some of its greatest changes and a look at what those changes were doing to the "Old Guard" of the early 60's. I do need to go back and watch some of the previous seasons to get some of the goings on that I'd forgotten. I do have to say that after Don's cheating in this episode I was finally starting to like his character a little less. It's a tribute to John Hamm that I liked his character for as long as I have. I also have much admiration for Peggy. Looking forward to the next episode!

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think again

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I loved, loved the season opener "The Doorway" got my old Don back!! This is who he is, don't try & change him. The last season he was boring. Oh, I can't wait until next week. To all of the cast Welcome Back, & Matthew Weiner and writers are brilliant!!

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Why didn't my comment ever post?

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And the writers had HOW LONG of a hiatus before coming up with this garbage? Too many sub-plots we don't care about (Betty in a flop house? Seriously?) and not enough going on in the agency. The only highlight was Don throwing up at the funeral. They must have cut the footage of Don waterskiing in Hawaii, because you know what he jumped.

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[" Fat Betty"] You either have a fetish or some insecurity about weight.

Tvgarth

I have to agree that last night's debut was disappointing and in the end, a little boring, too. Geesh...did I really say that about Mad Men? As happy as I was "to see" everyone again, it just seemed more of the same ole same ole if you know what I mean? And I was shaking my head a lot, too. Was Don even capable of having a good time in Hawaii..and yeah, it must have been hard for Megan to get away (just imagine the thought of having him all to yourself and having him pay attention to you). Well, that's not really happening as we know now. Hmmm...shouldn't an ad man know what a vacation in Hawaii at a top hotel should feel like, especially after being given the 5 Star treatment by hotel execs? I will say that his tan looked good, and perhaps Mr. Ham has never looked better, but alas, he's still a mess. And what DOES Roger do at that agency? The "ad campaign" was fun to look at and imagine the many psychotic possibilities behind it,as were the photographs revealing of each character's pluses and minuses. Betty was also high on crack..or something wandering around NYC's lower east side waaaay before it became trendy. Surprised she wasn't murdered at best and does she not have anything better to do...like take care of her own daughter? Or maybe she had more of a connection with that girl than her own flesh and blood. Who and why was that violin playing girl there? Huh? Perplexed at the cross country skis as well. Do you really think some doctor was cross skiing to surgery back in the 60's? Maybe they were but I had a hard time with that....and then Don just leaves Megan upstairs alone (on New Year's Eve) and goes to his mistresses bedroom while the doc skis away? Really? I'm hoping next week won't be so..I don't know...odd? No..I know-let's hope it gets better, to coin a phrase!

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