I was one of the people that was tepid toward season 6 of Mad Men. I thought it still had its honest writing, complex characters, and impeccable style, but it was missing the forward momentum that is needed to sustain a series week to week. When I binge watched the season later on I found it to be more satisfying, but it made me eager for the upcoming season because I knew Matthew Weiner couldn’t keep the show stagnant for too long.
The season premiere, titled “Time Zones”, may have been the boost I was looking for. The episode, in my opinion, was one of the strongest premiere they have had in their entire history. The entire episode was so well-balanced, stylish, and strongly acted, but what captivated me is that Matthew Weiner is able to create the plot development that I was straining for, while also so intently showing us where each character is in their own growth and decay.
The episode didn’t start off with Don, or Peggy, or Roger, or Joan, but with Freddie Rumsen who is pitching an idea to Peggy for a watch, which becomes the center of Peggy’s storyline. Let’s just say Peggy doesn’t have the easiest time in this episode.
It revealed later, in a slightly more off kilter reveal, that Freddie is getting his ideas from Don, who is striving to continue working. The reason I found it so off putting is it just felt too easy. The point of the show is to chronicle the decomposition of Don Draper, so I suppose this is him striving to stay afloat, but I wish that Weiner portrayed it in a more subtle way.
Don, who has become bicoastal during his leave, visits Megan who is introduced in an extended slow motion sequence at the airport set to Spencer David Group’s “I’m a Man.” If that wasn’t a 70s entrance, then I don’t know what it.
However, not all is good with the Drapers. Their marriage is getting stale. Unlike when they were first introduced, the couple isn’t constantly grabbing at each other at the first moment of privacy. They have become an old couple. Tired, even. After Don buys a television, much to Megan’s dismay, she says “you’re not here long enough for me to fight with you.”
However, while on the plane back Don is able to resist the advances from a woman (Neve Campbell, who I’m hoping continues to appear) and avoid an affair. His excuse? He had to work. Don may not have been able to maintain his marriage with Betty and it looks like his marriage to Megan is going down the toilet, but he will always have that mistress called work.
Roger, who is at the tail end of a “party”, receives a call from his daughter asking to have lunch. His new hippie lifestyle is obviously becoming more serious. Complete with orgies, drugs, and freedom. His daughter is persistent that the two reconcile. Where Roger ends up I don’t know, but it will certainly be an interesting ride getting there.
Joan spends the episode trying to retain Butler Footwear as a client. It was nice to see Joan making strides to reaching her full potential, including seeing a professor to help her on her marketing knowledge. The result is her schooling Wayne (played by Dan Byrd) and solidifying her place as a partner at the firm and reaffirming her strength. However, there is still room for growth. The people around her still treat he like a glorified secretary. To see her finally reach her full status is going to be so gratifying.
Going from the episode’s biggest success to the episode’s biggest failure. Peggy has to deal with two separate, but draining issues. First is of course her falling out with Ted. She is reeling and lonely, as displayed by that wonderful scene about the coffee. Her other problem is her new boss, Lou Avery. Unlike Don, he doesn’t care about quality, only formality. It is something Peggy can’t wrap her head around. Even he brings up that her charm is ineffective.
In the end, Peggy is alone in her apartment, crying and broken set to the song “You Keep Me Hanging On”, which is pretty much the theme of the episode. Broken people hanging on.