“Why don’t you go in there and rape her?” – Betty Francis
The quote above, in which Betty coaxes her husband to make a move on their fifteen-year-old house guest, accurately describes the season premiere of Mad Men: wildly confusing.
Between a rebellious Sally, a famous Megan, and a bellhop having a heart attack, AMC starts off the sixth season of the Emmy-award winning drama with a lot of grey area.
In the opening scene, an unknown person receives CPR as the camera fades to black, and then opens on the breath-taking shores of Hawaii where Don read Dante’s Inferno and Megan sunbathes. After some seemingly unnecessary shots of the island paradise, the couple returns to the freezing Big Apple air.
The bellhop, who has been non-existent for the past three seasons, goes to take their bags and drops “dead,” only to be resuscitated – hence the opening scene. But why did they choose to start the season off that way?
I argue that Mad Men is pulling its season six premiere out of the Lost handbook, in which they create an alternate universe, or purgatory, for their characters. In this case, Don is really the one who had the heart attack and he escapes to the tropical paradise of Hawaii, where he was actually in hell (note, he is reading Inferno, which we discover later that he receives it from one of his mistresses).
The whole two-hour special seems – off. They go a half hour without mentioning Peter, Roger, Cooper, Joan, or Peggy – the core of the show. And the emphasis on the Francis household – especially Sally’s musical friend, Sandy – do not mirror the show that we have come to love.
When we finally see the office, both it and its inhabitants are seemingly unrecognizable. Peter Campbell finally gets a hair cut after six seasons and Joan’s staircase becomes a reality.
Another highlight of this episode is Roger Sterling’s psychological breakdown. After last season ended with him trying LSD by himself, he has since been seeing a therapist to talk through his feelings. Upon hearing of his mother’s death, he is seemingly unmoved, but he soon comes to realize that it means more to him, and he declares, “This is my funeral!”
Betty goes on a New York City adventure to find Sandy, who runs away from the family to try and make it on her own. After doing absolutely nothing, she returns home, still fat.
Meanwhile, Peggy is trying to be an authority figure at her new firm, but she is still relying on Don’s methodology for creating her ads. At the episode’s close, she realizes that she is a smart creative talent, just not quite boss material. Yet.
In the episode’s conclusion, Don helps his doctor friend find skis to brave the snowstorm and perform an emergency surgery at the hospital. He asks the doctor what it is like to have someone else’s life in his hands, and he responds, “People do anything to alleviate their anxiety.” In my opinion, this means that Don has created this false world outside of Hawaii to cope with his own death.
Only time will tell how crazy this theory truly is.