This season of Mad Men is the first that I am actually watching live.
I started watching the show last year on Netflix and only saw the last 2 episodes on the air. I feel like the buildup to Season 6 wasn’t as grand as that of Season 5, possibly because there was less of a break between seasons, possibly because Season 5 had such mixed reviews. Like it or hate it, though, the last season included quite a few surprises and wildcards. The finale, though, left me a little flat. The unspoken question was, of course, will Don regress back to his old ways, or will he actually have a moment of clarity and turn down the steak?
During the two-hour season premiere last Sunday, we finally take a peek “Beyond the Veil” and learn the answer to this question — after nearly 120 minutes of, dare I say it, a rather banal storyline. Let me just go on the record and say that I’m not going to recap every episode of the season, especially if they are slow like this one was. But since this was the premiere, I feel I just need to say a few things about it.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Some honest soul posted a Facebook comment basically calling those viewers complaining about Betty’s weight superficial. Well, count me in because I can’t understand why she’s still fat. Her weight gain, as far as I know, was done as a way to cover up January Jones’s pregnancy. That’s why I was shocked when I saw that, on Sunday, much like the premiere of Oprah’s last season, that it was big Fat Betty. I don’t get it. Is it “happy fat” because she’s now with a loyal and loving man? Or is she still not fully satisfied with life and eating to try and fill a personal void?
How many actors can they get to portray the same little boy – who, by the way, doesn’t seem to have aged a bit since last season, along with Gene? I hate when they do that! Sally seems to have matured into a young woman, but her brothers seem in cryogenic stasis….
Lack of Joan
Or, should I say, Joan’s tiny cameo. She’s an integral part of SCDP, so where the hell was she in the premiere episode? Interesting that her only scene was one in which they chose to display her like a piece of artwork while they used their newest toy. Not unlike their using her to seal the Jaguar deal. Hmm.
Megan, Megan, Megan. I feel like shaking Matthew Weiner and saying, “Stop trying to make
fetch Megan happen!” I’m sorry, but Jessica Pare is an insufferable actress, and the fact that she’s an actress playing an actress just adds insult to injury – like Weiner is blowing pipe smoke in our faces. And those teeth! Get off my screen, butta-face!
It seems they insert a hapless child – or, in this case, teenager – for Betty to latch on to in order to help advance her character arc. First it was Glen, now it’s Sandy – Sally’s motherless frenemy who happens to be a violin prodigy. Sandy confesses that she didn’t get into Juilliard and starts waxing nostalgic about how Betty must have had so much fun in New York when she was younger. I almost couldn’t help feeling bad for Betty, all Kirstie Alley like, as she sat and almost lied to the younger girl, saying that it wasn’t as romantic as she was making it out to be. Still, you could see that there was a part of Betty who was almost jealous of this girl, born a decade after her with just that much more freedom than Betty had to make her dreams come true. Perhaps this is the void that Betty’s trying to fill with too much steak and potatoes.
Betty’s Squatter Fieldtrip/ The Counter-Culture
I continue to be disappointed by how the counter-culture is portrayed on this show. The hippies are just too over the top, and this episode was no exception. Now I understand that squatters in New York City were awfully disgusting at that time – don’t get me wrong. But it just seems that any time the show focuses on a group other than the Mad Men and their families, they are overly exaggerated. And why on Earth would Betty, a woman who has lived in New York, go into a filthy apartment by herself to look for Sandy? She was like a walking advertisement (ha) for “what not to do if you’re a woman.”
What bothers me about her character is that you can never tell if she’s processing anything. Clearly she was studying this group of hippies like she was back in her anthropology studies, but January Jones is such a poor actress that you can’t see anything being absorbed. Now I understand that she’s playing the “hard to read” and suppressed housewife, but there’s a fine line between being understated and being dead. When she offered to help them make goulash, I kind of shook my head and went, “huh?” It was the same feeling I had when she gave Glen a piece of her hair. Betty’s not even fun to try and figure out, she’s downright annoying!
What I did like:
Hairy Faces Abound
I had to crack up at the state of everyone’s faces – there’s hardly a clean-shaven one in the secondary ensemble. It’s such a crackup and a sign of the times. You can tell that the 70s are close approaching, as there seems to be a stoner veil covering almost everything in the episode. Even Don’s office seems a mess – young employees laying on couches, material all over the place. It’s a far cry from the early days of SCDP and interestingly enough, Roger’s office remains as pristine as ever.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry at Roger for not stepping up to the plate for Joan last season before she slept with Jabba the Hut to land the Jaguar account. But man, can he deliver a line. In this episode, he dealt with the death of his mother. When a few women console him at her wake, saying “she was like a sister,” he replies, “An older sister.” Later, at the same funeral, he retorts to a sassy older wheelchair-bound lady, “why don’t you roll on over here!” I can’t help it, the man makes me laugh. He was really the saving grace of this episode for me.
Don Cheating with Nurse Taggart from ER
I can’t help it, but as a lifelong ER junkie, I couldn’t help when I saw Linda Cardellini. I found it hard to buy that she was this “older” doctor’s wife when she’s actually younger than Jon Hamm. I’m not crazy about Don cheating – I’m more excited that he’s not going to continue to be the blah, married Don that we had to endure all of last season. I doubted that he was going to have a renaissance and suddenly become Ward Cleaver, so if I had to choose between boring Don or cheating Don, I’ll choose the latter. Plus, I find that karmically, this cheating is different than his past affairs. I feel like this affair is really going to cause Don to have blood on his hands for the season, and I can’t help but feel that he might bite the bullet soon. Don’t ask me why – I just get that feeling.