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Don Draper (Jon Hamm) - Mad Men - Season 6, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

the recap recap

The Best of This Week’s Mad Men Recaps: ‘The Doorway’

Mad Men season six premiered last Sunday, and it was two hours' worth of death, doorways, and Don. Across the web, critics and reviewers attempted to unravel, unpack, and untangle the symbol-laden episode. Here are the most interesting lines and observations from recaps of this week's Mad Men.

* "There’s perhaps no better show on television than Mad Men at using the tiny items and objects people accrue in life to signify the places they’ve been, the people they’ve known, and the memories they have ... But the longer the show goes on, the more death-haunted it becomes, the more it seems as if these objects become stand-ins of another sort — for lives that these people could have led but didn’t, for all of the happiness they lack. Betty Francis finds a musical instrument that belonged to someone she knows and is told she should learn to play it, but she rejects that idea. The Betty who might have done that long ago disappeared, washed away in the unhappiness of her marriage to Don Draper." —A.V. Club

* "For all intents and purposes, the entrance is the same as the exit and, in Hawaiian terms, you can say 'aloha' regardless of whether you’re coming or going. There's a lot of symmetry to Mad Men: This episode’s grand reveal of Don sleeping with Arnold Rosen’s wife felt like a mirror to the series premiere’s sly surprise of Don returning to the heretofore unseen Betty after beginning the day with an affair." —Entertainment Weekly

* "As off-putting as Betty can still be — and man, that rape comment was twisted and weird — she still believes there's time in life for her to evolve. Meanwhile, back on the Upper East Side, her former husband lays with a new other woman, betrays another wife, still wonders who the hell he is, and worries that he may not have much time left to figure that out." —Esquire

"As we ponder change, and death, throughout "The Doorway," we see also that Don has come to really admire Dr. Rosen — or, at least, to feel tremendous guilt that he's cuckolding a good man whose work is so much more important than what Don does for a living. As a man who experienced death without dying, Don wonders what it's like for Rosen to hold actual lives in his hands, and stares at him (while standing in yet another doorway) with quiet awe as Rosen goes skiing through a blizzard to perform emergency surgery on New Year's Eve. The image of a man going cross-country skiing through the streets of Manhattan is a gorgeous, retro one, and a nice bookend to Don's journey through "The Doorway." He begins in the sizzling heat of paradise, reading "The Inferno," and ends it on a snowy New York night, frustrated to be frozen in the same old behavior, again and again." — HitFix

* "I could not love Peggy's phone chat with Stan any more. 'For the love of God, Pegs, marry that bearded bastard!' I wanted to shout at the screen. I mean, these two just get each other, and there's just the right amount of camaraderie and sparkiness between them." —Huffington Post

* "Don always eventually gets bored of looking at women. What they look like is nearly besides the point, except they're always beautiful. He is obsessed with impressing intelligent women, but he never throws it in anyone unless they're in some way expendable. He seems to know that he'll never be satisfied by any particular member of the opposite sex, and he sabotaged his chances with more viable options like Rachel Menken and Dr. Faye. His most satisfying intellectual relationship to date has been with Peggy, and that's because they have never consummated it. His relationship with Joan might be his most fulfilling sexual relationship for the same reason." — Grantland

* "There’s a sense that Don has in a way been possessed by the spirit of the soldier in Hawaii, who says he’s a believer in 'what goes around comes around.' The repeated references to the first heart transplant, which took place in December 1967, heighten the sense that some kind of identity switch has taken place – or at least that Don feels like it has." —Los Angeles Times

* "The season premiere is also a hell of an exercise in spotting esoteric history, as only a few brief clues provide the answer to what year we're actually in after bidding farewell to the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce contingent in spring 1967." —Rolling Stone

* "Betty may be the toughest character to parse on this show, partially because she doesn’t know herself and is never sure what she wants. Does her dark dye job, in the wake of the kid’s nastiness about her fake blond hair, signal a return to authenticity? More important, is January Jones really going to have to wear that chubby chin prosthetic for another season?" —Salon

* "For the whole of the show we have been fed one idea of what a creative genius looks like, dark, brooding, given to sudden fits of inspiration. But now we have Peggy, who embodies a woman’s way of working. 'I know what you’re thinking,' she tells her underlings, that they can just stand around and let her, the genius, come up with the winner idea. But she lets them know right away that that won’t fly." —Slate

* "But [Betty’s] archenemy, food, still haunts her … People are forever passing her candy and treats, though she can turn her nose up just a little higher than the drool on her chin. Even the St. Mark’s hippies are boosting cans of paprika down their jeans and forcing her to teach them to make goulash. Her only retaliation against all these trials and temptations? Change her hair color, into a funereal shade her loving but increasingly ineffectual husband mistakes for an Elizabeth Taylor brunette." —Time

* "This premiere we get at least two from Freshman Lit: That Dante quote and then 'Lend me your ears' from Peggy, who may succeed Don. I’m afraid Don is Caesar, Peggy’s new boss is Brutus, and she’s Mark Antony in the show creator Matt Weiner’s mind. Or that I’m as high as Stan." —New York Times

* "As interested as Weiner is in issues of gender, he doesn't seem to have any interest in issues of race, and the premiere showed no signs of that changing. Other than Don's secretary, people of color (and everything they might be doing outside the walls of the building) continue to be mostly invisible, which seems more than anything like a missed opportunity for a show that's now at the end of 1967." —NPR

* "We didn’t get a clear sense what Sally was up to these days, other than sparring with her mother, but she had clearly grown up and deserves all the air time Weiner can find for her." —New York Daily News

* "Whether he admits it or not, the truth is that Don always knew that the ad was about death. Much earlier in the series, we saw Don himself strip off his suit and wander into the ocean, in season two's 'The Mountain King' — and if that moment was supposed to symbolize his rebirth, his "experience" in Hawaii gave him no such similar illusions about second chances." —The Week

* "To what extent I’m pulling for anyone in this particular Purgatory, I’m pulling for the ladies: Peggy, because the fact that she’s obviously written to be The Character You’re Supposed to Root For doesn’t mean she’s not also worth rooting for … Betty, because she’s both evil and genuinely complex, and that’s a combination rare enough to be worth savoring." Wired

Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC