Last night’s season 6 premiere of Mad Men (“The Doorway”) gave us over two hours of what we’ve come to expect from the hit AMC series — drama drama drama. And through that drama, our Sympathy Rankings were all over the place. The saga of Don Draper and the Reappearing Lighter fooled us into feeling for him, but in typical Don Draper fashion, he ruined it for himself in the last few minutes. Meanwhile, Roger’s multiple tragedies gave him a boost in the rankings, and I don’t even know what to do with Betty’s behavior (as usual). Let’s see where the characters stand after this week’s episode. They’re ranked from least sympathetic to most sympathetic. See our initial sympathy predictions here.
8. Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) (Prediction: 8)
Pete didn’t have much to do this episode besides debut a new set of side burns and act like a jerk to Don. Because of his lack of screen time, it was hard to know exactly how to feel about him, but since he’s Pete Campbell, it’s safe to say he belongs at the bottom of the rankings.
7. Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) (Prediction: 3)
Speaking of lack of screen time! Joan reappeared to us in a questionable purple number, but we didn’t get any insight into how things are going for her as partner or how she’s handling life as a single mother. She’s pending at the bottom of the rankings for now, but not for lack of sympathetic potential.
6. Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) (Prediction: 1)
Sally was our prediction to be most sympathetic this season. Just because her lack of storyline puts her towards the bottom of the rankings this episode doesn’t mean she won’t end the season on top. She was luckily onscreen enough to call her mother by her first name and roll her eyes at her friend Sandy’s tampon elitism. Come back into our lives, Sally. I want to see more of you next week.
5. Betty Francis (January Jones) (Prediction: 5)
What is going on with Betty? She starts the episode getting a traffic ticket for reckless driving, which is exactly what she’s doing with her life these days. First she jokes that her husband should rape Sandy, their 15-year-old houseguest. Her girlish smile and declaration that he’s “blushing” after she proposes this is beyond creepy. She spends the rest of the episode on a quest to connect with said houseguest. This quest leads her to a run-down building in the city, where she scolds the residents for being rude. Betty’s determination to find Sandy only emphasizes how terrible she is at connecting with her own daughter. Her eventual decision to dye her hair brunette is something I don’t even know what to do with.
4. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) (Prediction: 6)
What a roller-coaster of emotion! Don proved to be even more of an enigma than ever this episode. He starts the season in Hawaii with a series of intense stares and no dialogue. It isn’t until he meets a young soldier at the hotel bar that Don finally speaks up — and ends up taking part in the guy’s wedding. What ensues back in New York is an identity crisis in which we finally get the sense that Don is becoming a real person who’s reconsidering the lie he’s been living for years. Don returns from Hawaii unable to shake the experience, which leads him to pitching a “poetic” ad about the trip that is unfortunately too deep for the client’s taste. When Don realizes he has the young soldier’s lighter, he does everything he can to get rid of it, but it keeps coming back to haunt him. Just like his true identity as Dick Whitman. Buttoned-up, guarded Don shows signs of becoming a sympathetic character… and then he ruins it by cheating on Megan with his friend’s wife Linda Cardellini. That’s right. Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks. Don ends the episode declaring to his mistress that his New Year’s resolution is to “stop doing this,” and then he climbs into bed with his wife. Gross.
3. Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) (Prediction: 4)
Megan is now a soap opera actress who gets to push stunt men in dresses down stairs. She’s made it! Don’s wife didn’t have much to do this episode beside pull joints out of the waistband of her bikini bottoms and remain clueless about Don’s philandering. But you gotta feel at least a little bad for her when Don crawls under the covers with her after his booty call. Especially since she’d been a loving and attentive wife to him for the entire episode.
2. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) (Prediction: 2)
Peggy’s turned into a strong and aggressive ad woman. And I love that about her. Her passion for her work, even in the face of a controversy involving a headphones ad and a late-night joke about Vietnam soldiers cutting off ears, is inspiring. But be careful, Peggy! Like I said last week, she risks letting the power go to her head. There are already signs that she’s becoming the female Don Draper, through her tendency to manage her employees with an iron fist and the implication that she might cheat on her now-hairy boyfriend Abe with her boss. Don’t do it, Peggy! Don’t make me dislike you!
1. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) (Prediction: 7)
Who could have predicted this leap? Roger starts the episode in therapy, musing about figurative doors being opened and closed (episode title, hello!). He then receives news of his mother’s death. While his secretary displays more grief than he does, I still felt sad for him. Add in a difficult funeral experience and the even more emotional death of his shoe-shine man, and it’s clear that Roger had the hardest episode of any of the characters. It’s not certain yet whether he’ll remain as sympathetic for the rest of the season if there are no more deaths for him to deal with, but I think it’s safe to say Roger’s experience inspired the most sad faces this episode.
What will happen next week? Will Don end things with Linda Cardellini? Will Pete receive his first punch of the season? Will Peggy start wearing Don’s suits to work?