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‘Mad Men’ Season Premiere Review: “The Doorway”

Mad Men Season 6 Premiere The Doorway Review
AMC

Mad Men’ season 6 pitches its premiere and first episode of the season “The Doorway,” as Don has a unique experience in Hawaii on business, Roger deals with a death in the family, Betty searches for a lost family friend, and Peggy finds an ad campaign at her new job in jeopardy..

Last year’s ‘Mad Men’ finale “The Phantom” saw Don coming to terms with Lane Pryce’s death, while Peggy adjusted to her new job, Megan sought a new role and Pete confronted his relationship with Beth, so what will the new season bring?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Mad Men’ season 6 premiere, “The Doorway!”

We see a man lying on the floor being resuscitated, before cutting to Don and Megan on a Hawaiian beach, Don reading a copy of ‘The Inferno.’ Some time later, the pair return to their room, where Megan produces two joints. Later still, the pair share an “authentic” Hawaiian feast with the hotel’s manager and wife, where a soap opera fan comes up to Megan and asks for an autograph.

Later after Megan falls asleep, Don ventures down to the hotel bar, and befriends a young Private with the same Army lighter. The young man Dinkins is due to be married in the morning, hoping it will help him live through an upcoming tour in Vietnam, and asks Don to give the bride away, for lack of anyone related. Don expresses his reservation, but ultimately agrees to help the young man. The next morning, Megan wakes alone and spies Don from the balcony, snapping a photo as Don gives the bride away on the beach.

After a performance of ‘The Nutcracker,’ Betty gets pulled over and ticketed for reckless driving, while Pauline attempts to use the Francis name to get out of it, and Sally and her friend Sandy only snicker. When they return home, Bobby eagerly fetches Sandy’s violin, and the family watches the young girl play, marveling at her prowess before she heads off to Juilliard in the near future. Afterward in bed, Betty chides Henry for admiring the young girl too much.

Don and Megan return home and greet their doorman, but the man promptly passes out. A passing doctor from the building, Dr. Rosen immediately springs into action to resuscitate the man (which we saw earlier), as we jump forward in time to see the doorman already back at work. Upstairs, Megan reads her latest script and laments her bit part, worrying that she shouldn’t have gone on vacation.

Late one night, Betty finds Sandy awake downstairs, as the young girl compliments Betty about her figure. Betty attempts to console the girl on the recent loss of her mother, but she reveals the true source of her stress is her actual failure to get into Juilliard. Betty assures her she can try again next year, but the young girl seems too enamored of New York life in the Village to wait that long.

Peggy and a much shaggier looking Abe return home, only to be interrupted by a call from Peggy’s boss about a Koss ad campaign wanting to pull their Superbowl spot. The next morning, one of Peggy’s young underlings explains in a meeting that a racy comedian told a story on the Tonight Show about soldiers wearing Vietnamese ear necklaces, which Koss worries people will associate with their new slogan “Lend Me Your Ears.” Meanwhile, Peggy continues to have difficulty getting a hold of Teddy Chow.

One morning Don greets Dr. Rosen in the elevator, making smalltalk about cameras as Don offers him one of the spare ones from his office’s campaign. Meanwhile, Roger talks in a therapy session, unhappy that life seems to be a series of doors and milestones that don’t have any real meaning to him.

In the elevator to work, an eager young employee named Bob Benson greets Don and offers him a coffee, trying to get as much face-time as possible by inviting him out. Don brushes the young man off and greets his staff of writers (and their shaggy haircuts) having little to say about his trip to Hawaii. Outside his office on the stairway to SDCP’s second floor, Don sees photographers taking staff portraits, and brushes off Pete’s snide comments. Don enters his office to find the layout moved at the photographer’s request, before taking a moment alone, and hearing the sounds of Hawaii in his memory.

Peggy meets with her Koss client, assuring them no one has made the connection between the ear jokes and their ad, though the man insists they re-arrange the upcoming commercial. Peggy presses that it’s her job to make a great ad for the Superbowl, not simply correct their first ad, and manages to negotiate a few extra days for herself to come up with a new idea. Still nowhere to be found however, is Teddy Chow.

Don looks over an ad for Dow Chemical Cleaner, unhappy with its dated portrayal of romantic love, before he’s interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Rosen. Don warmly greets his neighbor, as they trade jokes about which one of them is better at their jobs, and Don fetches the camera from the closet. Dr. Rosen thanks Don, pointing out that their wives are likely planning a party for New Years, and heads out. Across the office, Roger’s secretary enters in tears and informs him that his 91 year-old mother has died. Roger has a muted reaction to the news, but consoles his secretary, and makes a light toast to his mother after.

While Peggy continually has difficulty getting a message to Teddy Chow, photographers in Don’s office attempt to pose him for his portrait. Advised to appear in his element, Don goes to light a cigarette, but realizes he accidentally swapped lighters with PFC Dinkins back in Hawaii. Lost in thought, Don asks the photographer to repeat his direction, to which the man urges Don to be himself. Because, you know, metaphors.

On the morning of Roger’s mother’s funeral, Megan wakes Don to explain that ‘To Have and to Hold’ called her into work all week. After she leaves, Don rises from bed and throws Private Dinkins’ lighter in the trash. Meanwhile in Rye, Betty returns home to find Sally eating lunch, asking why Sandy didn’t come over as planned. Sally rudely explains that Sandy left early to go to Juilliard, alarming Betty, who goes upstairs and retrieves a photo of the girl.

While Don drinks in his apartment, Roger makes conversation with his extended family at the wake. Jane Sterling arrives to pay her respects, offering to return Roger’s mother’s wedding ring, but he insists she should keep it. A large compliment of hors d’oeuvre arrive, courtesy of Bob Benson, but Roger angrily ushers them out as Don shows up to the gathering drunk. Roger begins to give a speech, before an old friend of his mother’s demands to speak first, and goes on at length how Roger filled in for the man in his mother’s life after Roger Sr. died. Don pukes into an umbrella can, as the SDCP staff usher him out, while Roger yells at his ex-wife for bringing her new husband to the ceremony. Roger orders everyone out, but when no one moves, Roger himself leaves.

Mona enters the bedroom to console Roger, assuring him his mother knew she was loved, but that he should spend more time with his own daughter. Elsewhere, Harry, Pete and Kenneth bring a disorderly Don back to his apartment, while Don begs his doorman to tell him what he saw when he died. Meanwhile, Betty walks around the Village with a picture of Sandy, but most of the youths rudely brush her off. Betty follows some of the boys into a tenement, observing the horrible conditions as they attempt to make a goulash, and finding Sandy’s violin case in an empty hallway. The youths deny having seen Sandy, but offer Betty a chance to wait for others who might have seen the girl.

Taking Mona’s advice, Roger sits down to talk with his daughter, handing down a jar of water from the River Jordan that belonged to his mother. Instead, Margaret mostly ignores the gesture, and offers her father a chance to invest in her husband’s new refrigeration business. Roger agrees to hear the man’s proposal, seeing that Margaret left the jar on her way out. Elsewhere, Megan returns home to find Don waking up, and hands back the lighter that the maid found in the trash.

Betty sits in the youths’ dingy apartment when several others return, and the lead boy explains that Sandy sold him the violin to fund a trip to California. The youths express their disgust with Betty, her affluence and hair color, pointing out that they live off what people like her throw away. Betty points out their bad manners and picks up the violin to leave, but decides to leave the instrument behind on her way out, tearing her coat on a rusty nail.

Abe arrives to Peggy’s office with food, watching as she chews out two young employees for their weak Koss replacement pitches, and forbids them from going home. Meanwhile, Betty returns to Rye and says hello to Sally, only to have the door promptly shut in her face.

Don returns to work, tasking his secretary with getting the lighter back to Dinkins’ division, while Roger talks to his therapist about his mother’s funeral being the last new experience he’ll ever have. Back at SDCP, Kenneth heads up to the second floor and chews out Bob Benson for his inappropriate gift at the funeral, and general brown-nosing of all the partners.

Downstairs, Don and the others meet with the Hawaiian hotel ad men to do their pitch, where Don explains that he saw Hawaii as a state of mind more than a destination. Revealing his pitch as “the jumping off point,” Don shows the artwork of a man’s clothing strewn on the beach, giving the impression the man disappeared into the Hawaiian lifestyle, but the clients interpret the artwork as the man committing suicide in the ocean. Don does his best to salvage the pitch, but the clients pass it off as too morbid. After they’ve gone, Roger remarks that they sold death for years with Lucky Strike, but got by ignoring it.

Betty returns home, having newly dyed her hair black, though only Henry shows his support of the new look. Meanwhile at SDCP, Roger returns to his office to find a shoeshine box waiting for him, apparently the last property of Roger’s now-dead shoe-shiner, bequeathed to him. Roger contemplates the box in his office, before breaking down into tears.

On New Year’s Eve, Don and Megan host Dr. Rosen and his wife (Linda Cardellini), along with another couple from the building, as Don reluctantly shows the group slides from their trip to Hawaii. When the photo surfaces of Don giving away Dinkins’ bride, his neighbor asks for the story, but Don doesn’t reply. Meanwhile at Peggy’s office, she and Stan catch up over the phone before Teddy Chow appears in her office wearing a tuxedo. Apologizing for his absence, Teddy listens to Peggy’s salvage pitch, wherein she uses an outtake of the actor goofing off in front of the camera. Enamored of her new approach to the ad, Teddy assures her she saved the campaign, while Stan jokes over the phone that he heard their entire meeting.

Back at the New Year’s party, Don, Megan, Dr. Rosen and his wife realize they missed midnight, before Dr. Rosen is called in for an emergency surgery. Don goes with him downstairs, fetching skis and poles for the doctor to make his way to the hospital in the blizzard, before asking him about holding life in his hands. Dr. Rosen remarks that Don is paid to think about the ugly side of life, while he’s paid to ignore it, before heading off in the storm.

On his way back up, Don visits Dr. Rosen’s apartment to find the man’s wife waiting for him, as the pair have apparently been having an affair for some time. Don laments that he wishes he could stop falling into this habit, before heading back upstairs to his own apartment and wishing Megan a happy new year.

Well, that was long, wasn’t it? In all seriousness, we’re glad to have ‘Mad Men’ and its increasingly “dense” narrative back even while “The Doorway” throws a wave of change at us. Only 6 months or so since the previous season, and already the new floor of Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce is standing, and most of the cast seem to have new hairstyles. We still have our questions about Peggy’s role in her new office, and Betty’s continued place in the series, though it’s good to see a more familiar, pensive and adulterous Don Draper back. Plenty of death pervades the premiere, but as always, it’s hard to get a sense of where it’s all going just yet. A fine, and eventful premiere over all.

Did you get your fill of moving ‘Mad Men’ drama?  What did you think about premiere episode “The Doorway?” Check out all our other ‘Mad Men’ season 6 coverage, and join us next week for an all-new episode recap of ‘Mad Men’ season 6′s latest episode “The Collaborators” on HBO!

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