Last season of Mad Men ended with Don with an expression, looking to return to his old adulterer ways. “The Doorway” showed Don reverting from the small progress he made last season in multiple ways. He’s still all too aware of his mortality and the falsity of his song and dance. Adultery doesn’t come till the end of “The Doorway”, but when it does it’s all Don, using his sexual prowess to counteract his insecurities when compared to a real hero in the doctor. As for the doctor’s wife, what’s striking is how clear a familiar “type” she is for Don, both in dark look and intellectual personality. She also exemplifies how Megan’s optimism and energy is largely not Don’s type. Don and Megan’s relationship oozes boredom and repetition.
Roger has long been as lost a soul as Don, but I found his place in this episode more optimistic. Roger finally is talking about his insecurities and his crying over the shoe shiner’s box shows growth and release. Roger almost feels too innocent to stoop to a low like Don did this episode. Roger can still point his moral compass in the right direction.
Peggy’s transformation from the secretary of Season 1 to the boss of this premiere is striking, with the influence of Don impossible to ignore. Like Don there’s a gap between Peggy and the workers she bosses around. They are lazy because there’s a life after leaving work for them. For Peggy it’s her talent and work ethic that her self-esteem rests on, making the ads more important to her. This is also why Don is as good as he is.
Betty cannot help but compare herself to Sandy, the 15 year old blessed with long lost youth. Awkwardly insinuating Henry is attracted to Sandy when he surely had no thoughts of the kind, shows Betty’s habit of imagining the worst in people, even her family members. Her scene with the squatters is clunky, but her decision to dye her hair shows Betty hasn’t accepted yet she isn’t from Sandy’s generation. Betty left the squatters not deriding them or Sandy for leaving, but insecure she’s not like them. As for Sally, her personality feels as if it’s aged years since she last appeared. By Betty never progressing past a teenager’s personality and with how Sally feels about her, it’ll be unsurprising if Sally skips the teenage girl phase entirely.
The length of this premiere made it feel slightly tedious, with Don and Roger’s existential crisis a wee bit on the nose and ham handed. Nevertheless like riding a bike, Mad Men steps back into its universe with one of a kind dialog and world continuing this great story of complexity.