Season 6, Episode 1: The Doorway brought back all of our favorite characters, up to their usual tricks, during the holiday season of 1967. Honestly, I was always a bit scared for the show to move out of the pseudo "perfection" of the late 50s and into the cultural turmoil of the mid-to-late 60s. But mostly what truly worried me was the fashion turmoil. Of course, taking one look at the style evolution of either Harry Crane or Joan proved my suspicions to be correct. Though one character has calmed my nerves about the fashions of the time period, and her name is Megan Calvet Draper.
In this episode alone, Megan rocked an amazing bikini, 3 punchy printed beach coverups, an ahhmazing sunhat, round sunglasses, and that was just in Hawaii! Being back in NYC brought her into a fabulous leopard fur coat with an epic hat to match, effortlessly glam New Years Eve sportswear, and her very own fondue pot from Bloomingdale's...She is a soap opera star now, so aside from being a rich advertising executive's wife, she could further up the ante with her wardrobe in a way that would make Destiny's Child "throw their hands up at her." If you can forget the fact that Don hiring her for that national commercial is what enabled her star to rise. And let's not forget that while Don keeps pretty classic when it comes to the east coast, whenever he's on vacation, he loosens up...just a bit.
In the world of Henry and Betty Francis, they seemed to have taken an orphaned teenager, and her violin, under their wing. This new character, Sandy, seems to have made an impact on nearly every member of the Francis clan... from Bobby's obsession over how her instrument case looks like a coffin, to the suspicion that she may be a future love interest of Sally, or possibly the distant fantasies of Henry or maybe even Betty (in probably one of the most disturbing scenes of the episode, we get a dark glimpse into Betty's ability to talk dirty). Though, I think Betty's opinions about this child show a level of maturity and nurturing in her character that make me think she's reached the age where she truly should have become a mother, versus the neglectful, selfish, wine guzzling, dry-cleaner bag days of her past.
Peggy is back and better than ever...ish. She has truly been able to thrive after escaping from the offices of SCDP, and from under Don's shadow, and she seems to be able to manage crises with confidence and New York chutzpah. Her new boss, the ubiquitous Ted Chaough, seems to trust and respect her in a way that Don never really would or could. It has to be said that I don't get the feeling things are very hot and heavy with her live-in boyfriend, but her listless late-night calls to Rizzo back in the old creative studio make me hold out a certain hope that she is still on the path toward professional and romantic happiness.
Now, catching up and fashion assessments aside, this episode set a tone for season six that leads us all to believe it's the beginning of the end for many of our characters. The opening sequence puts us in the point of view of someone who is being resuscitated after a heart attack. We then immediately transition to Don on the beach reading Dante's Inferno. Roger also must confront the idea of his own mortality when his 91-year-old mother passes away, though his constant need to use his humor as a defense mechanism remains undisturbed for the most part. Until his ex-wife brings her new boyfriend (husband?) causing Roger to lose it and cry out "This is MY FUNERAL!" Interesting... It should also be noted that Don, struggling with his own fears and uncertainty about death, vomited into an umbrella stand during the wake and all hell truly broke loose. Inferno, indeed. When Roger's shoeshine man mysteriously passes away a few days later, it all proves to be too much and we, the audience, see him in the middle of an emotional breakdown that only the likes of Joan has witnessed.
When Sandy, Betty's teenage friend, ran away to New York City, presumably to a shanty town in The Village with no running water where dirty hippies make goulash in a dirty pot using a dirty hunk of snow, Betty had no choice but to follow her there and intervene to make sure no one would end up contracting dysentery. But when one of them confronts her, and calls her hair "bottled", she heads home without Sandy in toe, as a brunette! Jaw, please meet the floor as Bobby tells her she's ugly and he hates her in the sensitive way that only an eleven-year-old boy could muster. Poor Betty. It always seemed like the less she knew about life, the happier she could allow herself to be. But all that's gone now that she's more self-aware than ever.
I'm sure I'm missing a few important elements of the episode, like the fact that the young whipper-snappers we met in the early parts of the series, like Ken Cosgrove or Peggy, now have a sort of high-and-mighty opinion about the new crop of young bloods in their respective offices. Ken gives the new account man with his uncomfortable amount of caffeinated enthusiasm and inappropriate bestowal of a deli spread at Roger's mother's funeral, a spectacular tell-off. And Peggy rips a few new "you-know-what's" on some young and lazy creatives regurgitating 3 versions of the same tired idea.
In the final pitch of the episode, Don reflects on his vacation to Hawaii in a proposed campaign with visuals that seem a bit more akin to a suicide at sea than a tropical vacation. He relates the Royal Hawaiian hotel to paradise, and to heaven, by saying "to get to heaven, something terrible has to happen to you first." All in all, the episode featured 2 deaths, a heart attack, a disappearing teenage runaway and more than a few unanswered questions, as creator Matthew Weiner sets the stage for season 6.