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Mad Men Returns

Maddie Daly | Monday, April 8, 2013


After the intensity of the Season Five finale and the anticipation in the months before the Season Six premiere, I have to say I was less than impressed with the content of Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men.” Of course, I enjoyed spending time once again with the array of unique characters and admiring their authentic 60’s wardrobes, but in the two-hour episode, little to nothing really happened. The ads for this much-awaited extra-long premiere exaggerated the hype, and the show failed to live up to its high expectations. However, we do have to remember this was the first episode after a 10-month hiatus, so I suppose we should not be all too surprised to see very little new action as viewers are trying to remember what is happening in the lives of Don Draper, Roger Sterling and company. 

Continuing the theme of confusion and a lost sense of identity, this episode featured Don Draper’s brow-furled, deeply unhappy face more than a few times. His insomnia, late-night drinking and brooding attitude all contributed to the cloud of depression that followed him for all two hours. Also, the fact that he drunkenly threw up at Roger Sterling’s mom’s funeral doesn’t help to convince us he is in good spirits. Don is on the brink of a complete breakdown, and I would bet he only lasts two or three more episodes before falling flat on his face.  

One of the reasons for my negative reaction to the Season Six premiere could be the fact that death encompassed nearly every aspect of the episode. Although none of the deaths were too surprising or major, we still saw three characters die and had to watch the ensuing sadness. (One did come back to life, but not before his heart stopped beating.) Roger suffered the most with loss between his mother and his shoe shiner, and the scene of him breaking down in his office over the shoe shining kit was dramatic and heartbreaking. To see our favorite sarcastic, arrogant and inappropriately hilarious character surrender to sorrow and completely break down was terrifying and very telling. Clearly, there is an overall sense of unrest in the office of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and their future looks bleak. 

After vacationing in Hawaii with his overly-positive wife Megan, Don fails to impress the Hawaiian resort representatives because of the undertones of death in the ad pitch he presents to them. The pitch involves footprints and a man’s clothes, while the company expects bright beaches and luxurious amenities. They interpret his idea to be a man committing suicide, leaving only his clothes and his footprints behind —- a noteworthy connection to Don and his depression. Instead of being full of action and plot, this episode was instead a mixture of cryptic hints and mysterious signs, both aspects of the show I enjoy yet can rarely seem to figure out.  

You might be wondering why I have waited until the last sixth of this recap to mention Betty Francis, Don’s blond and distant ex-wife, but that is because she added absolutely nothing to this episode. Besides the scene of her cooking with the two hippie hobos in the abandoned house, I enjoyed nothing about her performance. First of all, the episode failed to remind us who the mature 15-year-old girl living with them is, so I was disinterested whenever she appeared. Secondly, Betty acted like a complete psychopath in this episode – no exaggeration. Between telling her husband to rape the 15-year-old in a far too serious manner, to dying her hair black, to acting more like a child than her immature preteen daughter, Betty only served to confuse me.  

As much as I had been looking forward to the Season Six premiere, I was disappointed. The episode offered several enigmatic signs but failed to even hint at any explanation. I am hopeful the show’s writer Matthew Weiner will pick up the pace for next week’s episode and bring together some of these loose ends.