It's almost time, kids. Mad Men's sixth and penultimate season takes us back to the future this Sunday on AMC, with a two-hour premiere called "The Doorway." According to the official Matthew Wiener-sanctioned blurb, "Don spearheads a new campaign, Roger gets some unsettling news, and Betty takes in a houseguest." And while that's pretty vague as far as episodic descriptions generally go, considering the usual tight-lipped policy of Wiener and Co., it's practically a spolier-fest. Plus, it wouldn't be Mad Men Eve on the internet if we didn't honor the fandom's tradition of speculating/salivating over what might lie ahead! And thus, based on everything we have or know so far—from interviews to set photos to promotional images and trailers—here are my Season 6 predictions and wishes; let's hear yours in the comments!
Before we begin, here are the things that Wiener has declared verboten to the general public heading into Sunday's premiere:
1. The year in which Season 6 begins
2. The status of Don and Megan's relationship
3. Whether Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has expanded to an additional floor in the Time Life Building
4. The identities of any new characters
5. Any new relationships between old characters.
Full disclosure: I haven't (yet) watched the screener that AMC sent out to critics, so I couldn't "spoil" those points even if I wanted to bring down the fiery wrath of an angry TV god. I can indulge in a little good old-fashioned speculation, though. So here we go.
First there's the official Season 6 poster—let's pick it apart, shall we?
Mad Men has the distinct pleasure of being created and maintained by a team that delights in telling fans everything and nothing at the same time. Note that the airplane in the background of the action appears to be rocking late '60s Mohawk Airlines livery. Mohawk returned to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in last season's "Tea Leaves" despite being burned when the firm set their sights on the more prestigious American Airlines.
The dual Don dichotomy is front and center, and plays off of the issues that complicated Don and Megan's marital bliss as soon as the honeymoon was over. Even though she had no problem spending his cash and avoiding the "struggling actress" part of being a "struggling actress," Megan took advantage of every possible opportunity to belittle Don's work and point out the cheapness, shallowness, and corruptness of advertising. As much as Don didn't appreciate the criticism, he still spent most of Season 5 trying hard to make his marriage to Megan work and for a while, he did an nice job of not giving into his Don Draper tendencies. The One Way signs plastered over the two Dons' shoulders emphasize the idea that the struggle to maintain successful work and home lives has plagued Don Draper since the very first season.
OR the double Dons could harken back to the Dick Whitman vs. Don Draper days, where we agonized over which identity was the true identity, legal issues and all that fun stuff aside. To be Don Draper, Don had to commit fully to the name and the man. We've seen nearly every throwback to his original identity end in tragedy. We worried that Betty would blab to the cops when she learned the truth—and honestly, she still could. Don's secret isn't nearly as well-kept as it used to be, and even though Dick Whitman no longer seems to linger in the shadows of every episode, he's certainly still there on some level.
OR they could represent the '60s as a whole. Season 5 left off in spring 1967, so we're approaching the most turbulent parts of the decade: race riots across the country, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the escalation of Vietnam and subsequent unrest among scores of Americans that ultimately led to one of the most idealistic periods in American history devolving into one of the most cynical and divisive periods in American history, and whose impact still resonates almost half-a-century later. The late '60s became a point of no return for America. Decisions were made, actions were taken, reactions were launched, and once we headed down certain paths, there was no turning back.
It's a great promo poster, basically.
Then there are some only-vaguely-helpful trailers and promo photos!
2. Leisure suits have made their way into his closet:
3. Pete Campbell grew sideburns because we needed another reason to mock him. C'mon, mutton chops!
Outside of conservative '60s fashion giving way to the more exuberant and (sometimes) garish tastes that dominated the latter half of the decade, there really isn't much to see here.
The Year of Our Draper: Based on what we know, we're guessing the fun resumes in 1968
As I mentioned above, Season 5 ended in the spring of 1967. Matt Wiener has been silent about where Season 6 will pick up, but he did admit that there will be a time-jump. Somewhere. Based on the photos we've seen so far, the bright colors and big hair on men and women alike are definitely edging into 1970s territory, but let's be real—we're not going to skip three whole years. We just aren't. For Mohawk—SCDP's sole airline account—1967 was a rough year. In June, the airline's deadliest crash was the first of a series of unfortunate incidents and circumstances that eventually led to the company folding in the early '70s. Bad news for Mohawk could easily translate to bad news for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. At the very least, it'll likely make everyone's jobs a little harder than usual. Even if we skip the rest of '67, I doubt we'll go far. 1968 is just too important of a year to skim through, and given Wiener's statement that the sixth season of Mad Men is meant to unquestionably reflect the time, the far-reaching influence of that single year makes 1968 seem like an obvious choice.
Don and Megan's Marital Status: We're betting on "intact"
Yeah, I'm going to go with still married, at least in the season premiere. We've known since last fall that a portion of "The Doorway" would take place while Don and Megan vacation in Hawaii. We even have photographic evidence:
SCDP Expansion/New Characters: We're stumped. But we'd rather learn more about existing folks than meet a bunch of new ones
This one's a toughie since everyone involved with the show typically does such a good job of keeping quiet. Surprise Alexis Bledel as Pete's mistress was one of my favorite aspects of last season. I haven't heard anything through the grapevine, but honestly, I haven't been listening that closely. Personally, I hope Season 6 concentrates more on developing some of the new faces from last season, like Ginsberg, or exploring the new roles of some of our old characters—like Peggy at Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough or Joan in her new executive role. Which brings us to...
New Relationships: We want to know what's going on with Peggy, dammit! And it seems like Betty's going to make a big (yet skinny!) return
Despite Peggy's exit from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at the end of last season, Elisabeth Moss has been confirmed to return to the show as Don Draper's padawan-turned-master. How she's getting on in her new digs and the state of her relationship with Don—if it even still exists—are my own main concerns heading into Season 6. Pictures of January Jones sporting a brunette dye job and during filming and promo photos of her sans-fat suit have given rise to theories about the state of the Draper-Francis household and a possible rivalry between Betty and Megan for Don. Though, given Betty's history of being a Batshit Crazy Person, I'm sure any rivalry will end up being entirely one-sided. Wiener himself has said that Season 6 is an important one for Betty. While many of the women on Mad Men have benefited from the massive social changes of the '60s, Betty has clung to the old ways, laying her entire sense of self-worth and any chance for happiness at her husband's feet... and she's still miserable.
The Straight Wishlist: What we wanna see
Everything up there? Them's the educated guesses. Here's the stuff I'm just hoping to see, even though there is little to no evidence floating around out there to support it.
More Civil Rights Issues
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce took a big step and hired a black secretary named Dawn to replace the dearly departed Mrs. Blankenship and her parade of sucky replacements. We witnessed some interesting moments as a result, like when Peggy let Dawn sleep over at her apartment (because she was all enlightened and totally not even remotely racist or prone to giving into stereotypical thinking), only to fret over leaving her purse full of cash on the coffee table next to the sofa Dawn was bunking on. And don't forget the other reason Dawn was hired to helm Mrs. Blankenship's desk: the rival agency dropping water bombs on civil rights protesters, which prompted SCDP to seek a black employee largely as a joke. What Mad Men has done with its more race-oriented storylines has been very good, but for such a defining aspect of the decade, I don't think we've actually seen enough.
Teenage Dirtbag Sally
I know she's not quite old enough to start hiding pot in her underwear drawer while plotting her escape from Suburbia to follow the Grateful Dead around and drop acid in the Haight, but she's getting there, and Sally's rebellious antics always bring me joy—mostly because they piss Betty off so much.
I know, I know, Matthew Wiener has said that Sal and the gang are never, ever, ever getting back together, but I can dream.
Season 5 was a divisive one for a variety of reasons. Overall, I thought it was great, but I did think that the lack of Peggy action was disappointing. I understand why she was more absent than we were used to, but still, it's been a pleasure watching Peggy gain confidence, develop competency, and achieve success beyond what anyone envisioned for her when she first started working at Sterling Cooper. Even though Peggy is confirmed to have a role in the new season, I'm concerned that her exit from SCDP could lead to the same sort of barely there existence she experienced in Season 5, and I hope that isn't the case. I'm curious to see how Peggy functions once she's completely free of Don's influence. Does she sink or swim? Is she happy? Is she SCDP's greatest threat now that she's playing for a different team?
– What do you hope to see in Season 6?
– What year do you think we'll be starting in?
– Do you have any theories about anyone or anything?
– Do you think Joan will be treated like a respected partner, or will her presence and input be merely tolerated because it was part of the deal to bang that guy from Jaguar?
– Who do you think Betty's houseguest is?
– Who would win if Peggy and Don ended up trying to court the same potential client?