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!

The Doorway (Part 1 & 2) 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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