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Paradise? Lost?

April 8, 2013 - Ray Eckenrode

Episode: “Mad Men” 6x01

Episode title: “The Doorway”

Significance: The episode is full of allusions to doorways (and death) from the Draper’s near-dead doorman to Roger’s therapeutic observation that “all they do is close behind you” to Betty’s stark frame so out of place in those East Village tenement doorways. But considering where Don begins the episode (reading Dante) and where he ends it (doing Dr. Rosen’s wife), the most imposing doorway in this episode, might be the one in “Inferno” that leads to Hell, with the sign above that reads: “Abandon hope, ye who enter here.” Dante walked through Hell with the poet Virgil and came out the other side. We’re not sure there can be such an outcome for Don Draper, who’ll be haunted by phantom brothers and phantom lighters for all his worldly days.

Time passages: Season 6’s first episode takes place in December of 1967 and the very wee hours of Jan. 1, 1968.

Topic #1: When Season 5 ended with the provocative question of Don in that bar – “Are you alone?” – we told you his answer was irrelevant to the mere fact he was there. In case you doubted that, Matthew Weiner drove the point home masterfully in “The Doorway,” echoing the show’s pilot episode in showing us a Don Draper who we thought we had figured out for 119 minutes, only to turn it all around in final minute.

Topic #2: Betty’s disturbing attempt to “spice things up” with her husband with dirty talk that strayed into teenage rape fantasy will no doubt stir a lot of water cooler talk on Monday, but it seemed perfectly in character to us. Betty is perhaps the most damaged character in “Mad Men” universe. People tend to romanticize her sometimes because January Jones is such a gorgeous actress, but Betty’s got a black soul and now the black hair to match it. Truer words were never spoken than the “you’re ugly” she got in “The Doorway.”

Literary notes: It’s at least a little interesting that Dante’s nine circles of Hell – Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, Treachery – sound like an average month at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce.

Historical notes:
+ Alabama defeated Texas A&M in the 1968 Cotton Bowl, referenced briefly in the episode.

+ The version of “A Star Is Born” referenced by the Sheraton people in the pitch meeting (where James Mason’s character drowns himself) was released in 1954, 14 years prior.

+ While the soap opera Megan is appearing on – “To Have and To Hold” – is fictional. Her agent, Jeff Hunter of the William Morris Agency, was (and is) very real.

+ References to Super Bowl II popped up throughout, with Peggy working on an ad for the big game, but a more famous football game – the legendary Ice Bowl – happened on Dec. 31, 1967, a few hours before Dr. Rosen set out through Manhattan on his skis.

Sweet tweets:

From @TaraArianox: “Betty is a monster for a variety of reasons, but that she keeps peanut butter in the fridge is obviously the worst.”

From @jessehawken: Why is Betty hanging out with The Lumineers?”

Lines of the night:

“Are you on dope?” – Dark Betty, after cool-but-not-quite-cool-enough-for-Juliard-kid told here people “are naturally democratic if you give them a chance.”

“I want you to be yourself.” – Unknowingly ironic and prescient photographer guy

“I don’t like vegetarian food. It reminds me of Lent.” – Peggy, who seemed to be having a few too many lapsed-Catholic flashbacks

 
 

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A case of mistaken lighters left Don Draper trading IDs with yet another GI.

 
 
 
 

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