'Mad Men' season premiere recap: Where is Don Draper now?
On 'Mad Men,' Don Draper and his family and friends move forward with their lives, for better and for worse. 'Mad Men' returned for its sixth season April 7.
The shroud of secrecy that series creator Matthew Weiner places over every new installment – and especially the new seasons – of Mad Men has actually become an integral part of the show’s appeal. Audiences head toward the now-standard two-hour season premiere with little more to go on than a perplexing arrangement of clips and sound bites from the previous season, leaving viewers to assume that even though the characters of TV’s best program continue their inexorable march through time, perhaps nothing has really changed.Skip to next paragraph
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And that’s what really set this series apart from all the others: Seeing what the future has in store for Don, Megan, Sally, Betty and the entirety of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is kind of difficult. There’s a curiosity, sure, but it isn’t easy to watch as the magnificent Don Draper loses the magic that once made him the toast of Madison Avenue, or as Roger Sterling dabbles in LSD to combat the ennui that’s absorbed him even more than he’s absorbed in himself. And although it’s funny, no one wants to be reminded of getting older by watching as Pete Campbell relinquishes his hairline with less fuss than Harry Crane surrendered his office in season 5.
As we pull back and look upon it all, it seems that Mad Men is leading the audience down a path of death and despair. But after watching the spectacular season 6 premiere, ‘The Doorway, Part I & II,’ it seems that the series which left its audience with the (thankfully) unfulfilled expectation that Pete Campbell was a suicide waiting to happen, isn’t just pointing toward the end; it’s pointing toward the way out.
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Last season saw Don on the precipice of becoming the Don Draper of old, after the idyllic fantasy of his marriage to Megan shifted into something that was no longer entirely under his control and therefore, not entirely fulfilling. The audience was left with Don poised to acknowledge a part of himself he’d figuratively kicked under the bed through the permissive lucidity of a fever-dream, while Jon Hamm’s brilliant and subtle performance illustrated how easily the actor playing the character – and then the actual character – could shift between identities. With an understated raise of his brow, Hamm illustrated how easily Dick Whitman became Don Draper, and how Don Draper can leave behind the man who spent much of season 5 on “love leave“ to become the man who, as we see in the season premiere, is sleeping with his neighbor’s wife.