Mad Men is back! All is right with the world. Last night’s super-sized episode, “The Doorway,” might not have packed the same punch as last season’s opener, “A Little Kiss,” but it still provided two fantastic hours of television. What stood out for you? Was it Roger treating his therapy session as an opportunity to indulge in a little performance art, or the silver fox finally breaking down over his mother’s passing while clutching Georgio’s shoeshine kit? How about “Slumdog Betty” mixing it up with the hippies in search of violin prodigy Sandy (I think Betty might be on the verge of her most compelling storyline since Season Three). Don losing his lunch at Mama Sterling’s funeral, and Peggy in full Don mode with her new underlings were also highlights.
But you can’t go wrong with a Don Draper pitch. Sheraton is not too keen on Don evoking suicide when suggesting the Sheraton experience is “the jumping off point” for something better. Don doesn’t even try to backpedal in light of the association; rather, he pushes forward and ultimately hits on the notion that the aspiration for anything better is morbid to the core because gain means leaving something behind. It’s sort of the antithesis of Roger’s therapy rant. Mr. Sterling sees all of us going through doors and getting nowhere whereas Mr. Draper knows all too well that you can approach a doorway as Dick Whitman, a man with misery as his only prospect, and emerge on the other side as a dashing advertising executive ready for love and professional glory. So we can, we do move forward, but the realization of goals is bittersweet because something is always sacrificed when jumping off from one point to another. And that, my friends, is where I think we are in the Mad Men universe. Heck, Peggy’s already made the leap away from Don; what she has seems to be working, but it’s come at the cost of the place that was her home for so long (it is nice to see that she and Stan are finally friends given the grief he gave her when he first came on the scene). Everyone is about to jump off, and I think that in some cases people are going to find kinds of happiness. But every triumph will be coupled with a loss. There’s a great quote from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Perestroika: “In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead.”
Welcome to Mad Men, Season Six.