The Mad Men Season 6 premier, like my friend I watched it with who halfway through the evening casually dropped the fact that she got married last month, threw out a whole bunch of critical information with such little context as to be severely disorienting.
Oh…so apparently Megan got a job on a soap opera. Don’s back to cheating. Roger’s in therapy. SCDP bought more office space and a whole new supporting cast. Peggy is the new Don. Something about a violin.
It becomes difficult to separate the important from the parenthetical.
I won’t dwell on the episode’s themes of existential angst and preoccupation with death, as everyone else on the internet has already done that. I want to point out something that you may have missed amid all the rest of the mess. Something that made me sad in a small and unexpected way.
Remember little Kenny Cosgove? The fun-loving frat boy who wasn’t smart enough to be as mean spirited and ruthless as his coworkers? Ken is the guy who’s completely oblivious to Sal’s big gay crush on him, going so far as to say that he wishes he could have as happy a marriage someday as Sal and Kitty have. The guy who cheerfully and graciously accepts the awkward news that he’ll be going directly against his best buddy, Pete Campbell’s Bitchface, for the Head of Account Services job. The genius who brings a ride-on lawnmower into an office populated by the short-sighted and chronically drunk.
Ken has never done anything really mean, with the exception of that time he called Peggy fat, but that read more like a twelve-year-old excited to use a dirty word he just learned than an actual insult.
And yet, somewhere between the end of season 5 and the beginning of season 6, he seems to have finally let the cut-throat mentality of SCDP rub off on him just a little bit. Remember that scene in the lobby where he yells at Random New Guy #6 (or whatever his name is) for sending the deli plate to Roger’s mother’s funeral? He publicly berates him for making the misguided but thoughtful gesture, reminds him that he was not invited, and then tells him to get back to work so that it doesn’t look like people are just sitting around the office with nothing to do.
When have we ever seen Ken Cosgrove do anything at the office other drink with the boys and sexually harass secretaries? This outburst from him had Betty’s venom combined with Roger’s hypocrisy and Pete’s tact.
Peggy’s transformation into The Creature from the Black Madison Avenue was a bigger deal for several reasons, but at least we saw that coming. Anyone who’s been paying attention from the beginning knows that Don got some on her when he visited her at the hospital and she’s never been quite the same. But how are we expected to make it through this season if they keep taking away what little likeability and comic relief effect that the minor characters have?