Life is full of unshakeable sadness, people will never change and it doesn't matter anyway since death is inevitable–the season six premiere of AMC's "Mad Men" was full of fun themes in an attempt to set a record for the world's most depressing TV episode.
Against all odds, Madison Avenue's ensemble of advertisers have fended off their inevitable lung cancer and alcohol poisoning for another year. Last season ended on a cliffhanger that left viewers wondering if Don Draper (Jon Hamm) would revert to his old self-destructive habits after seemingly finding happiness with his new bride, Megan. How did he respond to the woman at the bar who asks if he is alone?
The show begins with the clear blue skies and soothing waves of a Hawaiian beach, but don't let that lull you into a false sense of tranquility. Show runner Matthew Weiner does not let us stay in paradise much longer before presenting the audience with two hours dealing with death, a subject Don explores during his vacation with a little light reading of Dante's Alighieri's "Inferno" while lounging on the beach.
Meanwhile, Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) has finally escaped Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. After years of taking Don's verbal berating, Peggy is quickly morphing into Don 2.0 as the chief copywriter, ordering around her underlings and holding them hostage in the office. The difference? Her new boss actually offers her words of encouragement and frets his staff working late hours on holidays.
Don's ex-wife Betty Francis (January Jones) is handed more screen time than usual in the season's opening. Just to see if anyone is still paying attention to her, she makes an odd, creepy and super uncomfortable joke involving her teenage daughter's friend and rape. Seriously. It was disturbing and completely out of character for the strict, wet noodle Betty.
But after her wisecracks about child rape, she actually talks to the girl, Sandy, who chastises Betty for living an easy life of luxury and expresses a desire to get away from it all and live without any material goods. Feeling rebellious and defensive after being called a "bottle blonde," Betty decides to dye her hair brown.
Betty is not the only character who tweaked her physical appearance. Copywriters Stan Rizzo and Michael Ginsburg apparently lost their razors after season five, and Pete Campbell decided the only thing that'd make him more insufferable is mutton chops.
Perhaps it's the show's attempt to steal "Game of Thrones" viewers used to their men grizzled and unkempt. Or maybe it's hammering home the point that, no matter how much things may look different on the surface, everyone still stays the same.
In case someone still needed some guidance, a therapy session with Roger Sterling (John Slattery) conveniently summarized the show's themes. His mother-who the audience saw very little of throughout the series-passed away, and he was struggling to express any grief. He lies on his couch and tells his therapist that none of this means anything.
"It turns out the experiences are nothing…You're just going in a straight line to you-know-where."
To make matters worse, Don shows up to the funeral drunk and vomits. Blame that on the photographer for asking Don to be himself while taking office pictures earlier in the episode. There you go.
Towards the show's finish, Don pitches his marketing plan to advertise Hawaii and is oblivious to the suicidal implications of his tagline, "The jumping-off point." We're also further subjected to mortality as the writers beat this theme to death. Based on the precedent set from previous seasons, expect this theme to be explored deeper throughout season six.
For two hours, nothing major happens. Betty dyes her hair brown, Peggy does work things, and Roger contemplates life some more.
But as everyone else desperately seeks change during the New Year, Don falls back into old habits and sleeps with his friend's wife (The real spoiler here is that Don has a friend). When his mistress asks what he wants to change as they bring out the new calendars, he replies, "I want to stop doing this."
No matter how hard he's tried, Don can't stop. No matter how many women he hops into bed with, he's always alone.
Too depressing? Hey, nobody is stopping you from watching "Games of Thrones" instead, but would you really rather put up with Joffrey?