Mad Men-The Doorway-Jessica Pare and Jon Hamm

The wait is over: Mad Men has returned. “The Doorway” was a powerhouse premiere that dealt with the show’s recurring nemesis — death. As the episode blinked into focus and Dante’s Inferno was recited a calm fell over the room. Don Draper is right where we need him to be.

The Players:

  • Director: Scott Hornbacher
  • Writer: Matthew Weiner
  • Cast: Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Morse, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton, Kiernan Shipka, Christopher Stanley, Jessica Parè, Jay R. Ferguson, Ben Feldman, Nancy Linsky

Episode Title: “The Doorway”

Don leads a new campaign, while Roger deal with some bad news. Elsewhere, Betty accommodates a houseguest.

The Good:

  • PFC Dinkins: On Mad Men every word is purposeful, so making us wait nine minutes for Don to speak his first word (“Army”) was torturous. You can thank Private First Class Dinkins for ending his stoic silence on his Hawaiian vacation, and for his choice comments on Don’s solitude. He managed to convince Don to give away his Mexican bride on the beach, which Megan happened upon without a hint from her husband. His first utterance made obvious that his military deserter and identity theft past isn’t done plaguing him. Driving that point home, the discovery that he’s in possession of the serviceman’s lighter haunts him like the truth. His attempt to rid himself of it are unsuccessful, like his constantly reappearing secret life. His wives may know the facts, but there’s still a world of trouble ahead when/if the whole truth comes out.
  • Lend Me Your Ears: We’re much obliged to Matthew Weiner for not making us wait to see  Peggy thriving at Ted Chaugh’s shop. When her Koss headphones campaign and Super Bowl ad is marred by a crass joke about soldiers in the war wearing the ears of the Vietnamese, it’s crisis time. Her strength and calm is all over her as she redrafts the TV spot, deals with a worried client, and an incompetent staff. Watching her find inspiration in those around her reminded us of her mentor resonating style. She seems content in her relationship with Abe, though her boss’ adulation is nothing to ignore. Happily, she’s still in contact with SCDP working/gossiping on the phone through the night with the lovably bearded Stan.  If last night was a clue to Peggy’s trajectory this season, she’s going to do well. 
  • To The Zoo: We knew someone would be headed to therapy. Although it makes sense, we weren’t expecting to see Roger on the couch. His first session provided some poignant words on one of the shows reoccurring devices: doors. But death took over his storyline, first with his mother’s demise, for which he had to console his secretary as a reaction escaped him.  Roger’s frustrations over his first wife’s significant other at her funeral caused him to accidentally yell out, “This is my funeral!” This has us slightly concerned. But the loss provoked the tears and release that Roger needed.  There might be a rough road ahead for Mr. Sterling.
  • The Jumping Off Point: Don’s trip to Hawaii wasn’t just to smoke grass with his wife and give away unknown brides. Their vacation sample of Royal Hawaiian inspired Don to pitch a morbid and suicidal campaign.  The picture of footsteps and discarded clothes paired with the line, “The Jumping Off Point,” made everyone think of the obvious.  Don’s obliviousness to its nature is a surprise considering he’s no stranger to the great beyond. His account of the island itself was jarring; the beach he described sounded more like purgatory than paradise. That’s no surprise either, Don’s been stuck in the same place for a while, trying to feign and find happiness. He wants to know what’s ahead. His drunken questioning of the doorman who collapsed at the start of the episode proved that. 
  • Julliard: As the hippie revolution takes over the country, it would be an egregious oversight if some character didn’t defect to the west. Sally’s motherless friend Sandy is that person, but not before playing her way into Betty and Bobby’s heart with her violin. Being rejected by Julliard and the loss of her mother left Sandy with questions about her life and the misogynistic demands of society. When she disappears Betty is the only one who knows enough to go after her.  Betty’s trip to the commune house  had her looking comfortable teaching the dweller’s cook a hodgepodge of goulash, and prompted her to dye e her hair black. Her struggle to find this girl only made her neglectful parenting all the more obvious.
  • The Time Is Now: The season premiere ushered in a new year and as usual we had to work to figure it out. Thanks to a mention of the Crimson Tide and Texas A&M Cotton bowl, plus the tiniest print in a newspaper, we can confirm it’s now 1968. The new year will bring about a number of societal changes. New Year’s Eve introduced us to the Rosens, friends of the Drapers. The couples live in the same high-rise, the husbands work in the same building, and the gorgeous Sylvia Rosen—played by Linda Cardenelli of Freaks and Geeks fame—is Don’s newest mistress. Though he seems friendly with Dr. Rosen, we can’t imagine screwing this close to home won’t have consequences.  
  • Everyone Else: Sterling Cooper Draper Price is flourishing thanks to Joan’s sacrifice and the new second floor.  Everyone is still in attendance: Burt, Ken, Harry, Michael and the aforementioned Stan all make their presence known.  Pete’s still Don’s smarmy judge, and although all he did was criticize his idol, it looks like we’ll dig deeper into the current state of his life next week. The new account man, Bob Benson, seems like an over eager corporate climber, but it’s too soon to see what’s really taking root there. Megan’s commercial spots have evolved into an expanding role on To Have and To Hold, where she’s still going by her maiden name. In a surprising development, Bobby Draper was a tad interesting, first crushing on Sandy, then brutally rejecting his mother’s new hair. Maybe he’s on his way to becoming a real character.

The Quotable:

  • “One day I’m going to be a veteran in paradise. One day I’ll be the man who can’t sleep and talks to strangers.” —PFC Dinkins
  • “It’s incredible how fast some people come up with lies.” —Sandy
  • “I don’t like vegetarian food, it reminds me of Lent.” —Peggy
  • “People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.” —Dr. Rosen

Overall:

Not much happened in “The Doorway” other than the constant presence of the grim reaper.  It felt like a thermometer, taking stock of where everyone is as the calendar changes. Betty continues to battle the budge, and was almost threatening to become a good mother last night.  We wonder if we’ll ever see Sandy again?

Rating: 10/10

Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.

What did you think of the finale?