Last time Mad Men came back from a break, I was still very upset. "Thanks for being away from me for 20 or 30 months, you dumb show," I thought. This time, barely a year has passed since the season 5 premiere. "Thanks for coming back so soon," I beam, forgetting all past wrongdoings. Don Draper may not be a faithful husband, but I think he's really learning when it comes to tv! I think he's really changing! For me!
At the top of "Doorways," it's Christmastime in Hawaii, and Don and Megan are vacationing the way only 60s people can. They're soaking up sun, drinking blue cocktails, buying doobies from closed surf shops, and learning to hula. Everything seems like paradise until Don can't sleep one night and goes down to the bar. He meets a private with an identical military-issue lighter and agrees to walk his bride-to-be down the aisle. Little does he know, their lighters will have swapped once he's back in New York.
Time is crazy in this episode, which starts in the middle
of someone's heart attack, then jumps forward to Hawaii, then returns to
the medical emergency that actually happened months before. Jonesy the
lobby guy was saved by a doctor named Rosen, and now the Rosens are
friends with the Drapers. Welcome back to my life, Linda Cardellini!
Don gives Dr. Rosen a Leica and then gets absolutely blotto. He's wasted at Roger's mother's funeral (Roger's mother died, see below), and he throws up in an umbrella bucket. Pete helps him home and basically asks Don for a "thank you" at the office the next day. Good old Pete, always dependable.
After trying to throw away the private's lighter, Don gives it to Dawn to send back through the service. He doesn't want that lighter on his hands, most likely because the one in the private's hands belongs to a soldier who is now supposed to be dead, and Don hates thinking about it. Something tells me this is coming back, and it might be accompanied by a military investigation.
When Don finally gives his Hawaii pitch, it turns out he's painting a vivid picture of a man's apparent suicide. Clothes strewn along the beach, footprints disappearing into the surf - Don doesn't seem to understand how his fantasy of oblivion translates to everyone else as a death wish.
Later on, during his New Years Eve fondue party, he languishes in discomfort as Megan shows everyone slides of Hawaii on that famous Kodak Carousel. When Dr. Rosen is called out for a medical emergency, Don helps him find his skis (that's right, this man is so dedicated, he skis to work) and proceeds to fuck his wife. That's right, Don's back.
Weightloss Betty has taken Bluto, Sally, and a new girl named Sandy to the ballet, and she gets a ticket on the way home. Who is Sandy? Henry's daughter from another marriage? One of Sally's new friends? I never catch the relation, but it doesn't seem to matter. She's a too-old violinist, and she's full of herself because she uses tampons. Sandy runs away to New York when she finds out she didn't make Julliard.
Betty remembers Sandy describing a wonderful flophouse on St. Marks, so she follows her there. She meets beatniks and hippies and helps them make goulash. Eventually, when no one will tell her where Sandy is, she steals back the girl's violin and almost leaves with it. Instead, she leaves it there and dyes her hair black. It looks like she's trying to look a little more like Megan. Bobby hates it.
Over at Cheouuaagh's agency, Peggy is facing disaster: her "lend me your ears" Koss headphone pitch is now tasteless in light of what soldiers have been doing to people's ears in Vietnam. She handles the client like Don at his best, convincing them to give her a few days to fix it. How about "The sound is colossal?" I wrote that and I think it's great. Eventually she finds an outtake of this annoying toga-guy making faces, and she declares it "Sound you can see." What do you know, our first Game of Thrones tie-in: hearing with something other than your ears.
As mentioned, Roger's mother has died, and he has to deal with the funeral. He's sick of doorways, he tells his psychiatrist, since they never really lead anywhere but to another doorway. Change is the only thing you can depend on, Roger. Change and your amazing secretary. I can't find her name anywhere but when I do, I'll be shouting it from the mountaintops because she is amazing.
Joan is mysteriously absent from Roger's grieving process, so much so that he propositions his first wife because it could be "soothing." Jane comes back to return his mother's ring so he can give it to Margaret or someone else, but Roger wants her to keep it. I actually miss Jane a lot. I miss any woman who understands Roger Sterling because that's what it takes to shake him out of his eternal glibness. And that's why I'm mad at Margaret, who left her grandmother's jar full of River Jordan water on the couch after asking Roger for money to start a refrigerated truck fleet. Margaret doesn't get it at all.
Eventually, when Roger is told that his shoe shiner Giorgio has also passed away, the silver fox finally gets to cry. He's surrounded by death, and all of his "doorways" seem to lead him to loneliness and despair. Where is Joan in all of this? WHERE IS JOAN IN ALL OF THIS???
Through it all, this new guy Bob Benson tries to brown-nose his way into the heart of SCDP. He rides the elevator with Don the way Don once rode it with Roger. He has food delivered to Roger's mother's funeral. He hangs out in the upstairs lobby to casually "run into" people. Ken Cosgrove notices, and he doesn't like it. He dresses that sucker down as harshly as possible. With Peggy's new power and Ken's strict BE REAL policy, it looks like everyone's turning into Don Draper. Everyone but Bob Benson, who smells incredibly fishy to me.
"Doorways" showed our characters in new stages of their lives: Peggy's doing well at the new firm, Betty's steadily losing weight, Pete's slowly but surely gaining traction in the office, Joan's a portrait-taking partner, and Roger's getting closer to death. And as everyone else progresses forward, Don falls back a step to have sex with someone else's wife. While new soap-opera star Megan waits for him in bed.
photos courtesy amctv.com and justjared.com and skift.com and buzzfeed