Slate’s Mad Men TV Club writers Hanna Rosin and Seth Stevenson were on Facebook on Monday to chat with readers about the season six premiere. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Seth Stevenson: What did everyone think of the premiere last night?
Patrick McGough: I just found the whole thing underwhelming and hard to connect to. I liked Seth's take on it in his Slate review, but it all left me cold.
Donna Lyman Semar: Thought it was quite boring. Very disappointed.
Michael Leone: I thought it was strained. Don is becoming dull. Enough with his brooding! The Betty sequence I thought completely unbelievable, and moreover, I don't give a crap about her. Even the office scenes felt tired and played out. Roger's sequence was the most interesting and amusing. I was missing Joan.
Hanna Rosin: Wow, am surprised at the negativity. Was it Don's mute moping that turned everyone off? Roger on the couch?
Jill Elswick: Roger on the couch was the best part! That speech about doors. Death was at every turn in this episode, and the male leads seemed to have lost their way (Don wrote a dud ad that turned out to really be about death!). On the other hand, Peggy and Megan—and even Betty—seemed purposeful. Roger's tears at being confronted with the death of the shoeshine man was a key development, and it contrasted well with his lack of feeling about his mother's passing.
Hanna Rosin: Jill—you just pre-empted my Slate entry. I totally agree, the women were doing something, while the men were spinning in circles. Roger can talk—I can luxuriate in Roger talk all day. Woe to the psychiatrist who falls asleep with Roger on the couch. But it's just talk. Whereas Betty at least ventures out, talks dirty, walks down the path with a modicum of curiosity.
John Swansburg: I gotta say, I found last night's episode pretty slack. I read that AMC pressured Weiner to open the season with a two-hour episode, and this felt padded out to me. I did love when Ken Cosgrove dressed down that sycophant, though it portended bad things to come for someone.
Seth Stevenson: Ever-amiable Cosgrove took on a much harsher edge last night. Ken's always been a bit of a fringe character, if beloved by the literary-minded New Englanders among us. Maybe bigger things are in store for him this season?
Hanna Rosin: Yes, why were they all so harsh to that poor fan boy on the couch? And personally, I like having Ken's clueless amiability as a counterpoint to all the scheming.
Steve Robertson: Pete is a full partner. Ken is a senior accounts exec. There's a new generation of juniors coming in. Juniors with the same mix of ambition and incompetence that Pete once had. Only now they look at Pete with the same type of awe and jealousy that Pete held for Don.
Seth Stevenson: Perhaps Ken is attempting to nip Pete's burgeoning fan club in the bud.
Seth Stevenson: Maybe it's me but I found the premiere riveting. This isn't a show like Breaking Bad or the Sopranos, where it's a breeze to chuck in some violence to goose the action whenever things are flagging. I thought there was plenty of emotional drama. Roger dealt with his mother's death, we learn that Don is cheating on Megan, Peggy is becoming a creative rock star. ... Stuff happened!
Byron Boneparth: I think the parts you mention were riveting or at least very interesting. But the whole Betty/Sandy plotline was sort of dull and seemed a bit pointless, and that was a good chunk of the episode. I would have liked more Pete and/or Joan and less of the comparatively less compelling Francises.
Seth Stevenson: I am always in favor of more Joan. And yes, in general, my energy level seems to drop a bit whenever we cut to the Francis abode.
Daniel Noa: Mad Men is about a man falling. It's a continuous fall. Not two steps forward one step back. And Don's addiction (womanizing—seduction more than sex) is not Betty's fault or Megan's fault, which is the whole point. It's his fault and he cannot exorcise his demons without drastic action (we'll see if the show can even go there). More likely, he will be emblematic of a culture and generation that destroyed itself in pursuit of, as Don calls it, "the moment before you need more happiness."
Hanna Rosin: Matt Zoller Seitz’s recap in Vulture ends on a great question: Are these fundamental human flaws or flaws of the age. Is this something the late ‘60s did to us, or is this the nature of humanity? That seems to be a question overhanging this season, because Don is unchanging and seems unaffected by the times. He would be cheating on his wife if it were 1932. And in some ways, the "age" is setting them up to be better men, to open up and understand themselves better, even if it will take a few decades to get there.