‘Mad Men’ made it’s boozy return on Sunday night and while I wasn’t as excited for it’s premiere as I have been with previous seasons, I was still a bit anxious to see what Don and Co. would offer up for the start of the sixth season. It was more of the same, too much drinking, too much lying, a new Bobby (I think), some sad revelations and heavy handed themes.
I thought two hours would be a bit much, but it was worth it to see Pete’s sideburns and everyone smoking weed. EVERYONE! If you were a bit confused about what year the first hour happened in, apparently it’s December of 1967. As you know the show likes to jump through time like Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap, but didn’t some of the cast look very 70s in their, as Christina Hendricks called it, “Scooby Doo outfits?” You can’t tell me Roger wasn’t channeling Ted Baxter in the suit we see him in at SCDP’s little photoshoot, even though ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ was still two years away from being on television. Ok, I’m referencing too many other shows, let’s talk about this one!
Don: It was almost 10 minutes into the first hour before we heard Don say anything. He’s in Hawaii with Megan, a business trip that he’s treating as such. They smoke a little grass, have lots of sex and attend a luau with some representatives of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Down at the bar he meets an obnoxiously drunk PFC named Dinkins who asks him to give his bride away at his beach wedding, because that’s what drunk guys do.
When the couple arrive home they are greeted by their doorman Jonesy who was the man suffering from a heart attack at the beginning of the episode. While taking his portrait at the office, he realizes that he is using Dinkins’ lighter and throws it away in the trash. At Roger’s mother’s funeral, Don gets sick and is escorted out by Pete and Ken who take him home where he asks Jonesy about what he saw when he almost died. The theme of death was strong in this episode. At work the next day he asks Dawn to try to send the lighter that keeps popping up back to Dinkins.
In a pitch meeting with Sheraton, their ad, which they think will remind people too much of the suicide scene from the movie ‘A Star Is Born’ doesn’t go over so well. Don tries to sell the hell out of it though, maybe he’s lost his touch. At their New Year’s Eve party, Don goes over slides from their Hawaii vacation, almost evoking his famous Polaroid pitch.
When Dr. Rosen, who saved Jonesy’s life, is called out for an emergency and Don takes the opportunity to have sex with his wife while he’s out and Megan is upstairs sleeping. Sigh, so this was no surprises but how long has this affair been going on? Don is getting pretty sloppy too. A woman that lives in your building? I’m sure that’ll end well.
Megan: The third Mrs. Draper has had a steady acting job on a soap opera called ‘To Have and To Hold.’ She is recognized while in Hawaii as her character Connie and asked to sign an autograph. She seemed a bit embarrassed, but I think she secretly loved it. Still the dotting wife, Megan is somehow oblivious to her husband’s cheating. Perhaps it’s because of the demands of her role on the show, which is apparently trying to turn her character into a villain. I do hope we get to see some of Megan’s acting, and less of her always having to play nurse to Don.
Betty: Well Betty is still struggling with her weight, and has picked up the sickest sense of humor. On her way back home from ‘The Nutcracker,’ she’s pulled over for speeding, but is charged with “reckless driving.” Her mother-in-law, Pauline tries to get her out of the ticket by mentioning that she’s Henry Francis’ wife, but the cop ignores this fact. At home Bobby 6.0 asks Sandy, a friend of Sally who by the way is even more of a brat this season than before, to play the violin for the family. Sally is something of a prodigy, but unfortunately isn’t good enough to get into Julliard. Betty learns this when they have a conversation late at night where Sandy also tells her that she dreams of basically being a bum and living in The Village in New York. A couple of days later, Sally casually mentions that Sandy left early for school. Knowing that to be a lie, Betty heads to Manhattan to search for the girl, finding a decrepit building where some squatters tell her that Sandy pawned it to get a train ticket to California. We, and Betty, don’t know if that was true or not, but she felt and urge to help this girl, even staying all night to cook goulash for these kids to get more information. Even if she was being terribly naive, it was nice to see Betty stand up for herself, and I was glad nothing happened to her while she was there. Betty also turned herself into a Veronica by dying her hair black. This actually suits her a lot, and made January Jones look less well, January Jones-ish. I still feel weird about Betty joking with Henry about raping Sandy though, because WHAT THE F***?!!
Roger: Mr. Sterling has been on a seemingly never ending downward spiral but has taken the opportunity to seek out some professional help. Of course he doesn’t take therapy all that seriously, but at least he knows he needs it. His secretary Caroline tells him his mother has passed and he takes the news surprisingly well, raising a toast in her honor. He invites his family, which includes both ex-wives Jane and Mona, and his SCDP partners and employees. Things go smoothly until Don throws up while one of his mother’s friends is speaking and he argues with Mona about bringing her current husband. He yells out “THIS IS MY FUNERAL!” and I’m still not sure how he meant that. On top of all of that, his daughter Margaret hits him up for money so her husband can start a refrigerated truck business or something.
At work, Roger receives more bad news, a man named Giorgio who shined his shoes has also passed away. Roger was the only one at SCDP that called his family, so they left Giorgio’s shoeshine kit with him. Roger was totally emotionless over his mother’s death, but broke down thinking about Giorgio. Looks like more couch time for Sterling.
Peggy: Peggy is still with Abe, who looks like he could be the fifth Beatle during their Sgt. Pepper‘s period. She gets a call in the middle of the night from Bert Peterson, one of her co-workers from CGC, who is worried about how their add for Koss headphones will go over after a comedian jokes about ears being severed during the Vietnam war on ‘The Tonight Show.’ Their ad features Marc Antony wearing a pair of headphones with the tagline “Lend Me Your Ears.” It’s kind of clever, but Peggy Olson has done better. Though she doesn’t think it’ll be an issue, she rushes to come up with some better to show the Koss reps. Her boss Ted Chaough can’t be reached, and the creatives haven’t come up with anything good. She channels Don to get her creative juices flowing, writing a letter to a person to tell them how great the product their working on is.
I love how supportive Abe is with Peggy, helping her try to come up with a better campaign and in the end he does help her out a lot. I also love that she still keeps in touch with Stan. While on the phone with him, he overhears Ted tell her that her new campaign is even better than the last one. Peggy might be on the up and up, but she still hasn’t grasped what being a boss is all about. Maybe she’s too much like Don, shutting down ideas and not telling people when they can leave, but at least she has taken on some of his better traits as well.
We didn’t get much from some of the other characters but we know that Joan is still hot and efficient, Harry is still a creep, Stan is even more of a mess physically, and Dawn is still adorable, but lacking in character development. Pete is even more impertinent with Don and Roger, but he kisses butt when he feels the need. Last season Ginsberg was the new kid, now it’s the almost too cheerful Bob Benson who works in the Accounts department with Ken. He seems to be going for some Brown-noser of the Year award, chatting up Don in the elevator and sending a deli tray from his catering company to Roger’s mother’s funeral. Ken calls him out on it, and he’s right, it was tacky as hell, but something else is up with this guy. No one can be that happy working at SCDP.
My hope for the season is that it isn’t too much of a chore to get through and that certain characters get better, or more, story-lines. That might be too much to ask, but it doesn’t hurt to make the request.