“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.”
Don starts this season by reading Dante’s Inferno, which will more than likely set the mood for the rest of the season. Dante’s Inferno is about a man’s (Dante’s) journey through the many circles of hell in search of redemption and a way into heaven/paradise. Ironically, we find Don on a vacation with his wife, Megan, on a place that everyone refers to as paradise: Hawaii. Wait, could there be parallels between Don’s and Dante’s journey? Of course! Now we all know a journey through hell has to begin with a death…
As you all remember last season, to everyone’s surprise, Lane Pryce committed suicide. I think it affected everyone differently, but especially Don Draper. In this 2-episode premier we see Don feeling his mortality is nearer than ever. We commonly refer to this as a mid-life crisis. We see Don smoking some marijuana, doing a bit of adultery, messing with a marriage, drinks to excess*, and at one point vomits at a funeral.
* – Let’s be honest, Don has always drank to excess, but when have we ever seen him get so drunk that he vomits into a potted plant at a funeral? Never, so you know the end is near.
While in Hawaii, Don comes across a young soldier in the army getting some R&R, but also to marry his Mexican fiancé. Don sees a bit of himself in the soldier, but not just that, he sees how his youth has passed him by when he is asked to give the bride away at the ceremony, usually a task for the father.
When the Drapers get home, we see a flashback of Don and Megan coming home only to witness their doorman having a heart attack. Enter a doctor and his wife to the rescue. While the Dr. Rosen, his wife Sylvia, and Megan try to help Jonesy, the doorman, but Don is frozen in shock. When Don comes back from vacation, he is greeted by the same doorman who apparently survived. Don, feeling the grim reaper right behind him, is curious about the afterlife, but Jonesy refuses to answer any questions.
It becomes obvious that Don has death on the brain (if even subconsciously) when he pitches an idea for an ad to the hotel company he took his Hawaiian vacation in. It basically leaves you to assume a guy got to the beach, completely undressed, and then went for a swim he had no intentions of coming back from. Just think of it. Hawaii: A place to die for/at. Yeah, they owners weren’t buying it either.
All this talk of gruesome death aside, we see Betty is adjusting better to life at home. She has lost a bit of weight, has a darker sense of humor, braves going to the bad neighborhoods in the city, and becomes a brunette all in this episode. The weight loss is self-explanatory, but she hasn’t lost enough weight to where all the memes of her weight gain will suddenly become less funny.
Betty had a visit from one of Sally’s friends, Sandy, who plays the violin, lies about going to attend Julliard, and whose mom just died. Henry and Betty are in bed joking about Sandy’s talent and beauty, when Betty offers to help hold her down while Henry rapes yeah. Yeah, I felt as awkward as I made it sound. Betty and Sandy have a heart to heart where Sandy criticizes Betty’s conformist views and basically calls her a life a lie. Sandy wants to be free and live in New York with other like-minded youth from the hippie generation. Sandy moves into an overcrowded, broken down building with other wanderers, but Betty goes to bring her back, unsuccessfully. At least she ends up making dinner for the kids in that building before she heads home, but not before becoming a brunette. I guess blondes really don’t have more fun.
Another brunette having fun would be our old friend Peggy, who is showing us how she is thriving in her new ad agency. After having to construct a new ad pitch on New Year’s Eve for a client after their last idea was ruined by a bad joke about the Vietnam War, she shows us just how much like Don Draper she is becoming. Like Don, Peggy sure isn’t making any friends that way. It also doesn’t help that she is a woman in a male dominated profession.
Anyway, back to the topic of death. Roger sees a psychiatrist basically talks about how he is getting close to death (not that his hair was a dead giveaway). Sufficed to say, this is not a good episode for Roger. First, his mom dies. Then, he can’t seem to feel anything for her death at her own funeral. And then there’s Don, who shows up drunk to the funeral and vomits during a eulogy. Actually that was the comic relief. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Roger found out that his long time shoe shiner had passed away. He broke down cried, and rightly. A good shoe shine is hard to find these days.