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Four hours and three episodes into Season 6 of Mad Men and here are five things to wrinkle your brow over:
1. That, superficially, the party is over. Maybe you’re into those 1968 fashions but, um, no. The fabric looks cheap. The styles are ludicrous. The men’s suits are awful. The women don’t look much better. Everybody will fall on harder times in the 1970s, of course, but part of the allure of Mad Men has always been the style (at least for many people). The hair is another issue entirely. Wow. Don’s hair is flatter, making his head look blockier. Pete’s eroding hairline continues to be a disaster. Harry’s sideburns – gah. And then there’s Stan’s beard. All that smoking and drinking everybody loved? It looks like they’re all going to die of cancer. And the drinking doesn’t look like a party so much as a crutch these days.
2. That, in-depth, the party is over. Mad Men is a character study of one man’s existential crises as he searches for identity, meaning and happiness in a life he tries to remake. But at some point, Don falling into bed with another woman seems less like a search for happiness and meaning than a guy who’s just an unrepentant asshole. Unless your series is called Breaking Bad, I’m not sure that’s the direction you should bet taking your main character in for Season 6. People who didn’t even get the existential thing to begin with were already tired of Don, now everybody else can be alienated as well.
3. If Peggy becomes Don and Pete becomes Don and we now don’t like Don, where does that leave us? Rooting for Stan? For Don’s secretary, Dawn? Wait, where are the likable people again? True, you don’t need likable people to make a show, and maybe those whose flaws we can now overlook (Roger, Bert, Joan) can be the folks we root for. But they were never meant to be the keys.
4. The Megan Issue. Perhaps Sunday’s episode is the real beginning of the end for Megan. And if it is, series creator Matt Weiner may be forced to look back at this as both a story error and casting error. Marrying Megan further crushed the Betty storyline, which for many people was not a bad thing but there was still plenty of inner demons/motives that Weiner and his writers initially seemed interested in exploring, then gave up on, mostly. More Megan also meant less Peggy last year, and that left people upset. Jessica Pare never seemed to click with the viewing audience as Megan and for someone so dominant in the storyline last season went pretty much unrewarded critically.
5. 1968. Now we have to listen to people complain that Weiner is not giving the temper of the times enough attention and thus shorting history and, in turn, Weiner defending the show as not a documentary about the Sixties. All of this just takes away from the bigger issue, which is whether Don Draper will be unredeemable, dramatically, by trying to investigate his inner demons when everything he does on the outside alienates people. Forget 1968 – let’s get back into Don’s head before it’s too late.
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