Mad Men – “The Doorway”

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Tyler Clements

Grade: A

I’ve been in San Francisco at a conference since Sunday, and I didn’t even get to see the premiere until last night! However, upon seeing it, this is the most obsessed I’ve ever been with an episode of TV. I have watched the whole thing twice, and some scenes many many times. Last season, Mad Men went out of its way to trick its viewers on more than one occasion. In “Mystery Date” we saw Don strangle his ex-lover and push her under the bed.  I could write pages on how I thought that she represented his old cheating ways, and that by putting her under the bed he wasn’t really quashing his temptation for good, because like Richard Speck, the thing (person) that was hiding under his bed is what eventually did him in. In “Far Away Places” we were presented with three stories set during the same timeline shown out of order. In “The Other Woman” we were tricked into thinking that Joan went through with sleeping with the car dealer even after Don told her that she didn’t need to. And we were kept in the dark about Peggy’s pregnancy for all of season 1! If you haven’t yet watched the episode PLEASE stop reading right now because there are spoilers!

So, that’s why, I believe that Don Draper is dead.  Or at least knock, knock, knocking on the gates of Hell. I know, I’m crazy. But there are too many signs that I cannot overlook and will obsess over until the new episode on Sunday.  The episode begins with a scene of a man we’ve never seen before, later revealed to be a doctor that lives in Don’s building.  We have the point of view of the person receiving CPR and can hear Megan screaming in the background.  Now here’s where it gets interesting, We then cut to Don on a beach with Megan reading Dante’s Inferno on a voiceover.  The line that he says is from the beginning of the book. Dante is “halfway through his life” and being chased through the woods by some beasts and cannot find a way out.  He has lost his way and eventually finds himself entering Hell (abandon all hope, ye who enter here.)

This is where things get really really good, before Dante enters into hell he must pass through a sort of area where the people have not committed any grave sins, but are not morally righteous enough to enter into heaven.  These people technically are not in hell but, according to Wikipedia, pursue a life of self-interest and are, in turn, punished for this by way of their conscience.  This episode plays like Don is in this stage of his journey throughout the episode.  Don has pursued self-interest many times throughout the series, but mentioned  in this episode specifically, he took on another man’s identity to escape the war and save himself.  The remorse Don feels during the episode is palpable.  Meeting Private Dinkins in Hawaii reminds him of his own biggest lie, which was self-serving.  Another big one isn’t revealed until the very end is that Don is sleeping with the doctor’s wife.  He obviously feels remorse, which explains his unease when the doctor popped by his office.  I’m probably just barking up the wrong tree and am just concocting some elaborate Mad Men conspiracy theory, but stranger things have happened……well not too many.

Getting away from the Dante’s Inferno relationship to this episode, I thought Peggy’s storyline was particularly strong. Awesome, of course, to see that she was one of the central characters too!  She was really channeling Don, especially when she realizes her staff is too afraid of her to leave. The introduction of several other characters also got me really excited. Bob Benson, the over-eager account man, Roger’s psychiatrist, who is immune to Roger’s charm, and the two new copy writers at SCDP were all a welcome addition.

I don’t know where this season is going.  But based on an interview with Matt Weiner that I read before the season started, I thought that the first and second episode would be separate from the rest of the season.  I would not be mad if they left this hanging for a few episodes and maybe it will become more clear on whether I’m on the right track, or whether I am completely crazy.  But this episode had a very Sopranos-dream-episode feel to it for me. Also, I have no answer as to whether the Francis family/Peggy story-lines were actually happening or not.  I’ve just sat here for 10 minutes trying to think of something.  If I’m right about this then I am a self-proclaimed genius. But if I’m wrong, it was still a fantastic episode of Mad Men that made me think about things deeper than the show.

Comment and tell me how crazy you think I am!!!

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