MAD MEN! Season 6, episodes 1-2, and 3.

Last week I was off my game, so this week you get double summary/analysis/repeated instructions for Pete to Shut. Up. My Big Picture interpretation of the series so far is that season 1-3 were Don Draper’s Ascension, and Seasons 4-6 would be his descent to god knows where….so I kind of hope seven will turn out to be a post apocalyptic Thunderdome. But let’s burn that bridge when we come to it! 

Episode 1-2! The Doorway

This did not need to be a two-hour premiere. I think Matt Weiner resented the amount of commercials and so pushed for 1:25 of content instead of the usual 54 minutes. There were a lot of commercials and most of them would never have made it off Peggy Olsen’s desk. I only got to watch it one and a half time so my observations are in the form of a list. 

Don Draper’s Silence: Anybody else notice he didn’t say a word to Megan in Hawaii? The first time we saw them get intimate, it was like he was mad at her; and clearly Megan still hardly knows Don at all if she thinks she’s introducing him to sex things he hasn’t tried before. 

The Drunk Soldier: ….I have no idea. This was practically the first guy who Don actually spoke to, there was supposed to be some profound war symbolism intrusion something? Maybe it was all to set us up for Megan’s slideshow to be projected on The Carousel. Maybe the drunk soldier guy has Don’s lighter so he’ll steal Don Draper’s identity all over again to get out of Vietnam. Sidenote: Is Joan’s RapistExHusband dead somewhere, please? 

Dante’s Inferno: The season with Grandpa Gene was The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, so for this one we should all keep an eye out for Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. . .just like every other season of Mad Men. Here’s hoping Violence is the one where Pete finally falls out a window.

Somebody is definitely falling out a window: ALL THE FORESHADOWING! From the first moments of the opening credits lo these many years ago, to all the season promos with people standing looking out windows, to all the references to how high the building is and how flimsy the glass is…. Somebody is definitely falling out a window. I really hope it’s Pete. It might also be Roger. 

Don’s New Advertising Strategy: You know, how you go to the beach and take off all your clothes and drown in the ocean? You know? Totally well-adjusted and normal and everything? 

Sally Draper. Sally Draper, you are my everything. Mostly because Kiernan Shipka is amazing. I think the whole plot with Sally’s new BFF, Sandy the Violin Prodigy, was a stand-in for the rebellion Weiner really wanted to give Sally, but couldn’t because it would boil over into Don’s life too much if his daughter went missing. I also think he just wanted us to get a good look at These Kids Today and the contrast between Timeless Suburb Life and Big Time Corporate life, which is these grimy gross kids squatting on the Bowery.

Oh, and HOLY EFFING GOD, the Betty-in-bed-with-Henry-being-ghoulish moment! I have always liked Betty, liked her twistedness and her childishness and her sadness, but I think Weiner wanted to push her somewhere else and I don’t think it’s a successful or wisely chosen place. But maybe the whole “do you want to rape my daughter’s 15-year-old friend” gesture to “spice things up” followed by a real encounter with people rejecting the status quo helped Betty see that a level of subversion she’s more comfortable with is being a brunette instead of a blonde. Now she’s truly a Jackie and not a Marilyn as befits a political trophy, instead of a corporate one. 

Stan and Peggy are conference-call-pen-pals: This might have been my favorite moment – it was absolutely precious and satisfying to see that not only did Peggy win Stan’s respect by being a badass lo these many episodes ago, but they’re still keeping in touch. I also like how hard she is on her staff, and it’s both pleasing and sad to see how much of Don’s MO she internalized. I have no use for Abe or his beard. 

Don’s Neighbor Bromance: Maybe somehow this guy will wind up falling out a window. The moment of him skiing off on a crosstown voyage was so…. *shakes head* you know, man? 

Linda Cardellini: I know I should be analyzing her role as Don’s in-building mistress and not just fixating on her hair and how she looks like the human version of Betty Rubble.  Don’t you think I know that? I know that. Confidential to Matt Weiner: pleasepleaseplease do not have James Franco on your show. Please. If you want to catch up to Freaks and Geeks and have a crossover where Lindsey Weir is the illegitimate daughter of Don Draper and Silvia DoctorNeighbor, fine. 

The Director of Photography: One of the things I love about Weiner and his entire creative team is how much they’re in love with the visuals of their world. The lush shot that followed Megan walking onto the balcony in Hawaii, the stark shot that pulled back through the door as Don walked into the snow….all gorgeous. 

Circle of Hell: Limbo

 

Episode 3! The Collaborators

This episode is all about chickens coming home to roost.  I’ll try and avoid spoilers in case you’re still getting caught up, but I have to firmly reject my Gentleman Associate’s assertion that this was not a good episode. I think Weiner is deliberately evoking the soap opera tropes that Megan’s channeling into their lives, so we’re seeing adultery get more brazen, we’re seeing career/client drama, we’re seeing seeds planted episodes and seasons ago finally in bloom, and I think we’re about to see some implausible ridiculousness bust into life (Pete is becoming exactly who Don said he would become in the pilot, plus there’s NewPete dogging at his heels, Joan was right about Megan, and now we know why Don’s so into prostitutes). 

Whorechild: I know people have mixed feelings, but I love the Dick Whitman flashbacks; without this week’s scene, Don’s nausea at Roger’s mother’s funeral makes much less sense. 

TRUDY. Trudy has always known what’s up, and this episode proves it. Pete has never been so callous and oily and crude as he is now–he used to at least be excited by the way his power got women to respond to him. Now I think he’s bored. I want to think he still has some deep existential pain left, or that Rory Gilmore’s electroshock therapy had a real effect on him, but I’m just not convinced. Every time he speaks I tell him to shut up. 

Insider Baseball: I loved Don’s deliberate sabotage of the Jaguar scumbag’s misguided marketing idea, and the chaos of the Heinz client visit, but not the way Peggy told Ted Chaoueough the straight scoop. C’mon Peggy. You hid a baby from people. You can deflect an inquiry into a private phone call. I believe in you. 

Criticism: Not enough Joan, though what we did get was so angry and sharp I was happy about it. Not enough Peggy when she’s not at her desk. Not enough clarity during  the Sylvia-Megan discussion; everything was so oblique it barely felt like women having a discussion. Here at the MKP & E House of TV Judging we always have heated discussions where he doesn’t think anything happened and I’m awash in the beautiful sea of slow-paced nuance and don’t mind the shape it takes, but I will agree with E that the character-juggling is less deft than it used to be. I will also, however, argue that the “units” of Weiner’s storytelling are not always an episode. Sometimes it’s an episode and a half, or less than an episode, or several episodes to accomplish a story goal. 

Circle of Hell: Lust

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4 Responses to MAD MEN! Season 6, episodes 1-2, and 3.

  1. Haven’t seen Ep 3 yet so I scurried past that part. The lighter is Draper’s because the drunk kid calls him LT, which was Draper’s rank. But I do think the lighter might not be over, maybe as a way to show that with Anna’s passing Don is slowly losing pieces of Draper and perhaps that will be what drives him out a window in S7, that he he can never not be who he was born to be, he can only wear temporary Draper clothes.

    • mkpheartsnyc says:

      Wait wha? At the end, he find himself with Dinker’s lighter in his pocket – how did the kid get his? He switched them at the bar? I think the kid’s going to die over there and that’s how the lighter’s going to make its way back and shatter some remnant of something Don still has left.

      And TCHYEAH Peggystan. I’m so happy we’ve been getting more of her. I missed her like whoa, and I like that she’s mentoring her secretary and vice versa. Olsen Holloway(Sigh, maybe Harris?) Rizzo has a fun ring to it.

      • meoskop says:

        OK I caught up. The lighters got mixed up while they were drunk, but the lighter has to be engraved LT Draper because the kid calls him LT, therefore it can’t be Dick’s lighter, because he was not an LT. But you were saying maybe Draper’s lighter will create a second Draper escaping a war so we were talking past each other.

        JUST LIKE MADMEN.

        I liked the obliqueness of the conversation between Megan and Sylvia because a woman of that status and time would have an abortion and call it a miscarriage. I think Sylvia is genuinely surprised when she realizes the miscarriage Megan is upset over is a miscarriage. I also find it interesting that Draper can only have women who are facades of themselves, as he is a facade, while really being drawn to women who are more complex, although he doesn’t respect them either.

        But mostly this episode was about betrayal and making things work. Peggy told Ted about Heinz because she wanted to go after the account and knew the info was important but she hasn’t yet crossed into the person that could take that info from Stan and run with it. She had to be forced to betray her old agency, when she’s smart enough to have been mentally mapping out a strategy the moment she heard they were shopping.

        I liked the parallel between Trudy and Don – Trudy gave Pete everything he wanted hoping he would respect her boundaries and not humiliate her. She sees him clearly. Don gives Megan everything she wants knowing she doesn’t see him. When he tells Sylvia they’re drifting apart he means it, but not the way Sylvia takes it.

        Really liked this episode and I think it will play out over the season. Did not like the odd tonal disconnects between the 80′s and the whorehouse, I don’t think the shifts of time / place worked at all. Set design was wrong & so was young Dick’s casting.

  2. Also, because I forgot, OMGPEGGYSTAN. My long theory that this show is REALLY about Peggy continues. I see a future where Peggy and Stan and Joan own the agency and talk about when they started, before Pete, Don and Roger died, when the Founders were setting the way and they were young…..

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