For the first time, I will be watching Mad Men as a live viewer. I caught up last year through a series of binge views then decided to watch all of Season 5 on Saturday in order to watch it live with the rest of the world. I must say, I prefer the binge watching. Mad Men is so subtle, a look between characters is more telling than any of the dialogue, I find the cues easier to pick-up when completely immersed and watching episodes back-to-back. I’m curious to see if anyone else has had this problem, what are your thoughts?
As we watch this season, I’ll be providing plot summaries and my thoughts on each development. Let’s get started.
Things sure have changed at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (that’s right Pryce, no name change necessary). They have added a second floor to the office, there are new employees with every turn of a corner, and things are a bit, well, hairier. Stan’s grown a beard, Ginsberg’s grown an odd-looking mustache to match his shaggy long hair, and then there are Pete’s sideburns (see above). Welcome to 1968 folks.
We also met the new account man Bob Benson (Political Animal’s adorable James Polk), who seems to ruffle a few feathers by his presence at SCDP (looking at you Ken Cosgrove).
Megan‘s acting career is in full swing. She’s a regular on a soap opera and even gets recognized during a Hawaiian vacation with her husband. As Megan grows and develops into her own person, the less and less Don feels needed. During last season’s opener, we saw a unified couple enter into SCDP. Now, they feel more like two buoys that just happen to be linked together as they float along. Don needs more control than that.
The episodes theme was mortality. After watching his doorman collapse from a heart attack and then be saved by his doctor neighbor, Don began to idolize what it must be like to hold someone’s life in your hands, to have that sort of control.
During their Hawaiian vacation he met a young PFC fighting in Vietnam. There for his wedding, Don recognized what the young soldier didn’t, he would probably never survive the war. The rest of the episode, Don is haunted by the young soldier’s lighter, which he accidentally picked up instead of his own. A hint to the viewer that all is not right in the world of Don Draper. I believe the lighter was there to remind us of how Dick Whitman became Don Draper, and who Don Draper was when we first met him. As we learned at the end of the episode when we found him in bed with the doctor’s wife (Linda Cardellini), a tiger doesn’t change his stripes. Don Draper is still the unsatisfied, controlling scoundrel he always was and we love him for it.
Several of the other characters are also floating along, a little lost, in need of a new sense of self:
Roger – Is anyone else having a hard time believing that Roger Sterling is in therapy? What happened to the “get on with it” WWII vet we’ve followed for five seasons? Roger is restless. He’s the kind of man that defines himself by the women that surround him and right now, he’s alone. His mother has died, his daughter just wants his financial support, Mona isn’t going to soothe his pain, and Jane isn’t interested. Can we see Roger and Joan back together yet?
Betty – Betty is still Fat Betty, but she’s trying to “reduce.” Sally brings home a friend, a violinist named Sandy, who is supposed to attend Julliard in the fall. However, Sandy fills Betty in on a little secret. Sandy didn’t get into Julliard but she’s so desperate to move to New York, she’s just going to go. Betty’s maternal instincts flare at the news, she suddenly feels the need to protect Sandy. There’s also a little bit of jealousy and longing for her own youth here. When Sandy takes-off, Betty follows the clues to Bohemian NYC, where she teaches the squatters to make goulash. With no sign of Sandy, she gives up. In a desperate attempt to make a life-change, Betty returns home with Elizabeth Taylor styled brown hair. What do you think of the dye job?
Peggy – I want to be Peggy Olson when I grow up. She’s thriving in her new job and is finally appreciated for her craft. I can’t wait to see her grow even more during the season.
What did you take away from the season 6 opener?