Mad Men returns for its penultimate sixth season on Sunday night, April 7th (America o’clock, meaning it screens ‘legally’ on Showcase here at roughly 4:40pm Monday AEST) with a two-hour episode written by Scott Hornbacher titled The Doorway, in which Don leads a new campaign, Roger receives some ‘unsettling’ news and Betty takes in a mysterious houseguest. Who could that houseguest be? Hopefully it’s not Glenn, he makes me uncomfortable.
With that in mind, here are six (and a bit) characters who aren’t the squeamish Glenn that we’d like to see more of in season six of Matthew Weiner’s critically adored extended opus on The Human Condition in a plaid blazer.
1. Michael Ginsberg
When we last saw Don Draper he was in a condition favoured by predatory types like that blonde woman, or Brian McFadden; that is, alone, drunk at the bar. But where would Don be at the end of The Phantom if it weren’t for the loveable band of misfits who comprise the Sterling Cooper Draper R.I.Pryce copywriting team whose work more than often picked up the tab in season five (Snowball anyone?), especially the Woody Allen-esque upstart Michael Ginsberg who’s played wonderfully by a frenetic Ben Feldman. The eager protege Ginsberg is the perfect foil to the jaded, weary Draper; he’s a talented, ascendent copywriting wunderkind whose natural aptitude for the job constitutes a direct threat to Draper’s entrenched self-assuredness.
Ginsberg provides the series with much-needed comic relief whenever Roger’s absent and he finds an almost pitch-perfect surrogate paternal figure-come-rival in Don. Like his reluctant mentor, Ginsberg’s mysterious backstory as a child born in a concentration camp ties the two together implicitly – both Ginsberg and Don’s assumed identity were forged in the fires of war. It’s obvious Ginsberg’s role will increase as Mad Men continues on in its death-driven fall toward the finale; but until then who wouldn’t want to see more of this kind of brilliant, dynamic dialogue between the master and his apprentice?
2. Abe Drexler, by which we mean 3. Peggy
Who’s Abe Drexler? Exactly. I had to Google Abe Drexler’s full name because Peggy Olson’s Boyfriend Who Wrote The Thing, Doesn’t Get Along With Peggy’s Mom and Knows Shoshanna just doesn’t cut it. Hence why we need to see and learn more about Abe Drexler – writer, activist, fan of roll-necks, what else? – in the coming season because time’s running out. Plus, more Abe means more Peggy, and since her departure from SCDP for greener pastures (made green by all the dogs humping atop them) at Ted Chaough’s firm, we’re going to need regularly scheduled unsupervised visits with Peggy and her questionable bangs.
Peggy and Abe are living together now but we know Peggy is ready for more (remember the disappointment registered perfectly on her face after the flatlining expected proposal; or the heartbreaking diatribe of Peggy’s mother’s rejection of her daughter ‘living in sin’?) so now only one question remains: are you ready for extra Drexler with a side of wholesome Olson? Yes, yes you are.
4. Sally Draper
She’s not a girl, not yet a woman, but Sally Draper is still one of the show’s most endearing characters. Sally more than makes up for all the damage done to the primetime tween set’s rep since Dana from Homeland hit the scene texting and ugh-ing her way through the turbulence of adolescence. After fleeing the scene at the Natural History Museum upon getting her first period at the end of the last season, Sally was able to escape her creepy friendship with doe-eyed Glenn unscathed and return home to reconcile with her otherwise irreconcilable mother. It was cute. It was progress.
Sally’s coming-of-age in season five, especially in Episode 07’s At the Codfish Ball, was equal parts endearing and unsettling. It’s becoming clearer that she’s going to assume the role of the most important woman in Don’s life, and perhaps the one to whom he could do the most damage – after all, it’s not easy being tween. Or a Draper.
Plus, Kiernan Shipka is a singular talent: charm in spades, cute as a button and better dressed than you and I could ever hope to be.
5. Betty Draper-Francis
Last season was tough on Betty: she got fat and went to Weight Watchers meetings; she had a cancer scare and resorted to reading soggy tea leaves. It was tough on everyone. Megan literally started to steal the show away from her with her chartreuse and chanteuse wiles and as a result Betty only appeared briefly in a few episodes. Also January Jones was pregnant as heck so, you know, maternity leave, hormones, ‘argh my back’ etc.
January’s considerable screen presence, as a result, was greatly missed. We know for sure that even though Megan and Don will spend much of The Doorway in Hawaii reading Dante’s Inferno on paid vacation, Betty gets her own with a storyline in the season premiere about a surprise houseguest, so a visit to the gothic Francis resident is on the cards.
With the title of The Doorway hinting at breaching new thresholds, [vaguely, maybe] shedding new light on old rooms and closing the door on others, it’ll be beyond interesting to see which path the newly-svelte Betty chooses as she nears her final destination – facing forward instead of sliding by, barely registering, in profile.
6. Trudy Campbell (and Alex Mack)
Poor neglected Trudy spent far too long on the upstate suburban sidelines as her play-husband’s IRL fiancée Alexis Bledel assumed the role of the object of Pete Campbell’s affections/affectations in season five. All Trudy wants is a pool and a loving husband who’ll swim in it with her, but the only thing he seems content to swim in is his own misery and, for Pete’s sake, he’s already drowning enough as it is. Pete’s is a hairline receding more rapidly than his will to live.
While you can always rely on Trudy to make an appearance at any of the requisite spousal agency parties (the premiere is supposed to feature a Christmas party, with wives! And hopefully lawnmowers!) you can never have enough Allison Brie in your life, or Alex Mack for that matter.
There’s something so strangely fascinating about watching Larisa Oleynik using her GC-161 powers to secure bigger and better roles.
Sal, Dawn, Joan, Roger, Stan, Ken and Harry; heck even Gene! Not Bobby though.