Mad Men has always been one of those shows that isn’t afraid to make its audience think for themselves, and the opening episode of season 6, The Doorway, was no exception.
The Doorway see’s us in Hawaii, with our favourite man ‘in advertising’, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) reading Dante’s Inferno next to the lovely Megan (Jessica Pare). We soon find out it’s more of a working holiday, though that’s obvious almost immediately with Don being just as rigid as ever. It’s a shame more time wasn’t spend in Hawaii as it turns out to be the most significant part of the episode in terms of where Don is at mentally.
As becomes evident later in his pitch to the hoteliers, Hawaii strikes a deep, almost morbid chord with Don and this becomes evident in how he plans to market the hotel. The spectre of death is looming not so subtly over this entire episode and it makes me wonder just how much Lane Price’s death last season really affected Don.
We’re now in the very late 60’s and much has changed since season 5. Megan is now an established soap actor, and Sterling Cooper Draper Price now has a staircase and is full of people smoking pot. It’s a very laid back atmosphere and it’s a very different agency than we saw way back in season 1.
Of note is the absence, bar from one scene, of Joan (Christina Hendricks). This was likely done intentionally, as none of the other usual suspects got much of a look in in this episode either. This was very much Don’s episode, even when the focus wasn’t on him.
John Slattery gave his usual brilliant performance in this episode as the enigmatic Roger Sterling. After finding out his mother has died, he is left to console his secretary, and this is where the biggest laughs of the episode come in. Mad Men has never had a problem with comedy and Slattery is usually the one to deliver. The way he hugs his secretary to try and calm her down, whilst holding two glasses of Vodka is priceless.
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) spends most of this episode doing her best Don impression, and pulls it off rather well. It shows she made the right decision by quitting SCDP, and it’s great that we as an audience now get to see how she does without Draper’s constant presence.
There’s also a pointless sub-plot involving Fat Betty (January Jones) and her hunt for Sally’s friend in a dilapidated part of New York. These scenes of which only seem to provide an excuse to give January Jones black hair instead of blonde, though a scene between Betty and Henry will probably give you an uncomfortable smile, even if the scene did seem very off tone and out of place for this show.
One of the big questions looming from last season was, has Don changed? The answer by the end of the episode is a No. We learn Don is having an affair with his Doctor friend’s wife, though unusually for Don he really does seem guilty over it, and both parties agree they should stop. It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the season.
This was a good episode of Mad Men, but not a great one. It sometimes feels like this show sags under its own weight, and this week was no exception. The fact that this was two episodes in the guise of a single one didn’t help, it felt unfocused and only towards the end did everything start to fall into place.