So, I won’t tell you what year it is, who is sleeping with, or not sleeping with, whom, surprise guest appearances, or anything like that. AMC has released images that clearly show Don and Megan on some kind of vacation (he in a summer suit, she in beachwear), and the above picture, also an official release, makes no bones about the episode’s Christmas timeframe. Pete’s sideburns also pinpoint an era, if not a specific year, and that we don’t have a new actress for Sally is a clear indicator that we haven’t leapt too far ahead.
The Doorway is well-constructed to get us up to speed. It makes sure we at least see every major and minor regular character, however briefly. By the end of the episode, you’ll know the state of the Draper marriage, of Peggy’s work life, Roger’s love life, how well the business is or is not doing at SCDP, and so on. My estimation is that the episode focuses (in order of time on-screen) on Don, Roger, Peggy, and Betty (with a major supporting turn by Sally).
Thematically, it’s extremely dense. The pacing is slow but the two hours fly by, and there was far too much to take in during a single sitting. It’s moody, complex, laden with symbolism, and visually rich. We definitely see how the world is changing, and how that change integrates and interacts with our characters’ internal journeys.
These characters have been pretty dark for five seasons, and that hasn’t changed. In the poster, we see Don looking back at himself, and that inward look begins here. “Are you alone?” was the thought on his mind at the end of S5: Is he?
As of last season, Roger was cut loose from his moorings; no Mona, no Jane. In Commissions and Fees he allowed that his enlightenment “wore off.” Where does that leave him?
We know that in many ways, Peggy Olsen is Matt Weiner’s muse, the character he sees as himself. He’s said this in many interviews, and as we look at Peggy’s journey, learning the ropes as a writer, feeling foolish, struggling with her own ambition and others’ perceptions of her, we are looking at Matt’s journey as well. So, at the end of Season 5, when Peggy split off and joined another agency, leaving her mentor, it felt a little like the moment in Matt’s personal journey when The Sopranos was over and he became the showrunner of his own baby. (I very much doubt Matt put that in there on purpose.) So, watching her parallel development at another agency is thrilling, and perhaps the most optimistic point of view that Mad Men offers.
Tune in April 8 for a spoiler-filled series of posts about The Doorway! Our Open Thread will be up a few hours before the show airs, to give you all plenty of time to speculate.