Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC
As Mad Men's two-hour season premiere slowly unraveled Sunday night, we got a smoldering re-entry into the lives and mindsets of some of the AMC show's major characters. (Stop reading here if you haven't seen it yet!)
Eight months since the Season 5 finale, Don (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Pare) are still a gorgeous couple, vacationing in paradise -- but Don appears to be wandering through an ominous haze of mental unease. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) is rocking at her new job. And Betty (January Jones) finally appears to be realizing that "frumpy housewife" is not the identity for her. As for Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser), their lives have no doubt taken their own twisted, complicated turns, but we'll have to wait for future episodes to find out. Apart from some of his usual, snarky remarks at Don's expense, we saw little of Pete -- and even less of Joan.
More than ever, watching this show Sunday night felt like reading a novel for a favorite professor's modern lit class. There are psychological clues, foreshadowing and metaphors to be gleaned in every scene -- not to mention the requisite theme of death that pervades so many great works of fiction. Here are the important "CliffsNotes" on the premiere.
Don's perfect life is a sham. "I want you to be yourself," a photographer told him midway through the episode, during a photo shoot with the agency partners. What a loaded request! Beyond Don's actual, fraudulent identity, he's painfully aware that he's not the brave, confident, strapping knight most people think he is, and the chinks are beginning to show in his armor. When Megan, now a soap actress, abandoned him on the morning of Roger's (John Slattery) mother's funeral, he drank too much. Deflecting a question about his own mother (a prostitute who died in childbirth), he literally threw up while listening to a speech about Roger's motherly devotion. Then he flubbed an advertising pitch (usually one of his fortes) when he failed to realize that his blueprint inadvertently alluded to suicide.
Peggy is the new Don. Hooray for Peggy, who has gone to another agency and begun to mirror the success of her former boss! "You're good in a crisis," her new boss commended her. Granted, she's also mimicking Don's knack for abusing his staff, and it will be interesting to see how the "tough female boss" identity plays out. Perceptions of strong women in the workplace remain a hot issue today (see Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In), and they were really beginning to heat up in the late '60s. Peggy no doubt has an interesting storyline ahead of her this season! And what's with the sexual innuendo with her boss?
Betty's done being a dumb blonde. Early on in the premiere, Betty got a ticket for reckless driving. Soon enough, we realize that "reckless" might be a good description of her overall state. A few scenes later, she teasingly accuses new hubbie Francis of wanting to rape Sally's school friend, and she even offers to hold the girl down for him. (Uh…okay.) What's going on? Well, last season was disastrous for "Fat Betty," and no doubt she's still licking her wounds. But the Season 6 premiere showed signs that Don's ex plans to change things up -- starting with her dark, Elizabeth Taylor-esque hair, which she revealed at episode's end.
Don's cheating again…but why? In the final reveal (which shouldn't have been surprising but for some reason still managed to shock), we watched Don fall into bed with his neighbor's wife (Linda Cardinelli). "Whatever this relationship is about is a lot of what the season is about," executive producer Matthew Weiner said in this review of the premiere. For more insights from the guy who created this enigmatic character, watch here: