To everything there is a season. The summer of love has passed. America is knee-deep in Vietnam, hippies, reefer, and new beginnings. The same goes for the Mad Men, after a (counter-culture) fashion. Although some new beginnings seem awfully familiar for a few characters.
The two-hour Season Six premiere of the best written show on television played a bit like a series of vignettes, reintroducing and catching us up on their lives, as they are ready to usher in 1968 and finding their purpose under heaven. It is always fun to glean the exact time of the new season as creator Matthew Weiner likes to let months and sometimes more than a year pass between seasons. What clued me in this time was the Super Bowl match-up. Betty was right about the Packers, can’t beat that power sweep.
The show opens on a POV shot of some poor guy receiving CPR, and we hear Don Draper reading the beginning of Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ then we see him and his TV star wife on a beach in Hawaii. Business as pleasure as usual. Don is still as complicated as ever, he is roped into the beach wedding of a GI so that he may give the bride away then remains cryptically quiet about the incident, even attempting to throw away a lighter he accidentally acquired from the groom. Remember the pilot episode when we meet Don as he goes about his day working, refraining from embracing, visiting his girlfriend and suddenly the twist at the end is that he has a wife and family? This episode serves as an interesting bookend to that.
Speaking of Don, Peggy’s transmutation to the Drapster is only lacking a sex change. She is fearless, intelligent, cool under fire and very abrasive at times, especially with the work. Not sure about her mistress situation however. Roger Sterling continues his existential pilgrimage with psychotherapy, though it seems more of a chance for him to re-work his ‘Sterling’s Gold’ bio as he cracks jokes and waxes superficial philosophical notions to his therapist. None of this helps him cast away stones when he gets some bad news regarding his family as he seems at first to be equipped to deal with it, but Freud eventually disarms him and he finds his time to mourn by crying over a shoeshine kit.
Aside from the reefer and the music, apparently the summer of love was a time of war against the grooming standard we saw for the first five seasons. Some people I did not even recognize until I heard them speak through a mop of head and facial hair. I am still not sure if Peggy is dating the same guy, I simply can’t tell. This would be annoying if the scenes and dialogue weren’t so damn interesting on their own so you don’t really care if you are like ‘Was that Stan Rizzo or did Kinsey leave the Krishnas?’
That is one of the beautiful things about this show. Last year my parents came into town and we watched an episode from the 5th season. They had not seen a single episode and were riveted, picking up easily on the story and enamored with the trip down memory lane with the costumes, production design and the dialogue. The writers do a brilliant job refreshing the storylines and keeping it accessible to whoever may be just joining in. If you think you will like it, you will, I swear it’s not too late.