I can’t be the only fan who finds himself nostalgic for the nostalgia of those early seasons when everything old felt impossibly new.1 I think both those behind the camera and those in front of it must feel it too. Why else would they have spent this jumbled, stumbling sixth season circling back to previous plots and recycled behavior, picking over the unsatisfying bones of the past like a flock of cirrhotic vultures?
Andy isn’t alone, at least in my eyes. Season six of Mad Men was disappointing. It’s extremely difficult for a show to maintain it’s peak for the entire run, that is why it’s called a peak. Breaking Bad has done an excellent job of somehow getting better along the way, but this is a result of the arc of the character of Walter White. Mad Men has some overall arc, although viewers won’t find out what the is until the end of next season, and it’s likely that this season will fit into it, but it felt like the show was stuck in the mud this year.
It wasn’t just that Don’s story was weird and unenjoyable, it’s that so many side characters seemed to be compromised. Joan and Roger hardly factored in at all, and even though Pete had an arc, he was not as well utilized as you would like. Don closed out the season by basically confessing he isn’t who he says he is, not in a literal sense, but he basically admitted he grew up in a whorehouse, and from a very poor family. Maybe this is the beginning of where the ending is going. Maybe Don is going to ultimately own up to what he did and who he is and try to embrace his true past. Maybe he won’t tell anyone, sell his stake in the firm and move to Tahiti.
When I catch the re-runs of the early seasons on TV I am reminded of how spectacular this show was at one point. Seasons five and six have come up a bit short though (even though they have still kept Mad Men as one of the top 3 or so shows on TV), and with just one season to go it will be interesting if this show goes out the way it came in or not.