It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

With all the TV I need to catch up on from seasons past, it seemed silly to pay a monthly cable bill. Between Netflix and Hulu, there's always plenty to watch, and I can't remember the last non-network show I felt I must watch as it aired. Until stupid Mad Men came along. Last season completely blew me away, and I resolved to find a way to watch Season 6 week-to-week. I thankfully found a method of watching, and started prefacing all my Sunday social plans with "As long as I'm home by 9PM...." So was it worth all this planning? Read on, but be warned - spoilers ahead.

Really, there was never much chance that Season 6 could live up to Season 5, and it didn't. Even when Mad Men isn't at its best, it's still better than most of what's on TV, so that's not a huge complaint. Still, it must be pointed out that while there plenty of fantastic individual moments in Season 6, it didn't feel like it added up to as much as previous seasons; it was more about the parts than the sum. It seems that more and more characters are added every year, and with so many people competing for screen-time, too many arcs and plot threads were left half-realized or dangling. To give one example, a highly intriguing story about Joan trying to snag Avon as a client was kicked off. She deliberately cuts Pete out of the meeting, hoping to prove her worth as a partner by landing the client herself. She's assisted by Peggy and scolded by the senior staff, but pledges to handle the situation on her own. Does she succeed? Does she fail? Who knows? It's never mentioned again, and while it's completely plausible that it will come up in Season 7, it still feels like a loose thread. There are bits like this strewn across the season. Is Ginsberg about to snap? One of the season's strongest episodes, "To Have and To Hold", puts focus on Dawn for the first time, and it's fascinating. And that's it for her for the rest of the season.

And then there's Bob Benson. I don't even know what to say about Bob Benson. He's incited all sorts of fervent internet discussion, because he just doesn't seem to fit in anywhere. Is he a ghost? A government agent infiltrating the agency? Lucifer? Naturally, these are silly theories, but it's understandable that everyone continually scratches their head about him, because he appeared out of nowhere, and seemed to have absolutely no connection with any of Mad Men's ongoing story-lines (at least at first). It'd be like a '70s-era disco champion suddenly being a character on Downton Abbey. His motivations became a bit clearer towards the end, but he's still a very murky character, and one I don't know what to make of. It's not that I dislike him, per se; he just seems so superfluous.

All that said, the show did do a lot right. Don Draper has spent five seasons being able to get away with whatever he wants, because his creative genius and forceful personality always brought him through. In Season 6, though, Don is in steep decline. He embarrasses himself in public. He loses accounts left and right. Peggy openly despises him. His mistress dumps him. Sally is fed up with him. Even Megan is tired of his bullshit. Matthew Weiner has always been unafraid to take risks, and one of the biggest is changing Don from an often-lovable rogue into a straight-up hot mess that even the viewing audience could get sick of. Secondary characters got a chance to shine, too. This has been a great season for Stan, and the aforementioned Dawn episode helped show what this era must have been like from a different perspective. The assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were interwoven perfectly.

There's one final season on the horizon, and I'm giddy with excitement. Although this show is often more about the journey than the destination, I'm anxious to see how they'll wrap everything up. I had plenty of issues with this past season, but Mad Men remains one of the most intricate, beautiful, intelligent shows I've ever seen, and there's no way I'd ever miss its conclusion.

Mad Men - Season 6: B


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