When we last saw Don Draper at the end of season 5, it was spring 1967, and the BIG question hanging in the air was whether or not he would cheat on Megan. Tonight, on the two-hour premiere entitled "The Doorway," we got our answer -- and then some ... (Obviously, please do not read on if you don't want to read SPOILERS!)
Welcome back to 1967, except now, it's Christmastime -- specifically, the somewhat eerily quiet time between Christmas and New Year's 1968. The Drapers are vacationing in at the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach, courtesy of SDCP client Sheraton, and everything's so bright, you can almost smell the gardenias, suntan lotion, pot, and scotch. But of course, we soon learn there's plenty of darkness lurking under the surface of the seemingly happy couple's vivid technicolor dream vacation.
Of course Don isn't actually happy. He doesn't even SPEAK for the first seven minutes of the episode! He can't sleep. He meets a young G.I. on leave from Vietnam at the hotel lobby bar and ends up giving his bride away on the beach the next morning (so that's what those wedding photos were all about!). 'Course we know thoughts of Dick Whitman are dancing in his head, right?
And while Don seems to at least be trying to run away from the darkness, his ex, Betty, is flirting with it. Figuratively when she makes a seriously off-color remark to hubby Henry, asking if he'd like to rape Sally's friend, Sandy. Then, when Sandy runs away, she goes snooping around for her in a dirty, abandoned tenement in the city where counter culture teens are camping out. Literally when she goes and dyes her hair "Elizabeth Taylor" brunette. (So that explains at least one of January Jones' dye jobs! A-ha!)
And then Weiner goes well beyond darkness and all the way to death. At one point, it felt like every five minutes of this double episode, there was a reference to death, dying, mortality. Like Roger's 91-year-old mother dying, Sheraton passing on Don's ad pitch -- "Hawaii. The jumping off point." -- because it understandably makes them think of suicide, and the heart attack and near-death experience of Don and Megan's doorman that seems to have left Don morbidly curious.
To be fair, on the surface, plenty's going along swimmingly. Peggy's at the top of her game at her (not so) new gig, proving she's excellent in a crisis when a Super Bowl ad goes awry. She's also proving she's been able to bring what Don taught her to this next, successful phase of her career. Megan, too, is enjoying professional success on a soap opera called To Have and to Hold. Yeah, she plays a maid, but she's getting written into more scripts with every passing week! As a "lying, cheating whore," sure, but so what? Don will still love her no matter what ...
Though that doesn't mean he won't CHEAT! Yup, toward the end, we learned that Don's having an affair with his neighbor, heart surgeon Dr. Rosen's wife, Sylvia (played by Freaks & Geeks' Linda Cardellini). Ahhh, and, ladies and gentlemen -- he's baaaaack! Though he wishes he wasn't. He tells Sylvia that he wants to stop doing what they're doing, but it's clear that's easier said than done.
Many lines tonight likely served as clues of what's to come in season 6, especially Roger's rant to his therapist about life being one "doorway" after the next and not being changed by experiences, despite feeling you should have been. But there's one that stood out to me, which seems to illustrate the direction Don may be headed in ... (and seemed like a full-circle reference to the ep opening on him laying in paradise, reading Dante's Inferno): "How do you get to Heaven? Something terrible needs to happen."
What did you think of the season premiere? Where do you think Don and everyone else is headed in season 6?
Image via Michael Yarish/AMC