After what feels like an eternity, "Mad Men" is finally coming back to cable. To celebrate, we used Sunday's season six premiere as an excuse to rewatch last season, over-analyze it for potential upcoming spoilers and listen to the soundtrack several times. Clearly, due to awesomeness, this led to us losing our minds.
But before that happened, we managed to juxtapose Matthew Weiner's closing song choices with last season's overarching theme. Did they factor into the big picture? Or were songs like "16 Going on 17" throwaway picks that meant something only in a very specific context?
We listened intently, watched even more so, and treated ourselves to all behind-the-scenes featurettes the Internet provided us. Here's how we felt each song factored in, and what we think you can expect from season six.
Dusty Springfield "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me"
Episode 5.01 and 5.02, "A Little Kiss" Synopsis: From civil rights protestors outside Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to Don and Megan's happy marriage, the season 5 premiere promised big changes -- both for the characters and their surroundings. Though in addition to the obvious, creator Matt Weiner posed an important question: what happens when Don's happy? Can you be discontent with contentment? (Spoiler alert: yes.) Relevance: Lyrics like "I'm left here all alone / I'll have to follow you and beg you to come home" literally play out in episode six ("Far Away Places") after Don abandons Megan at Howard Johnson's, while the chorus completely reflects their dynamic: Don actually loves Megan -- so much that he helps her follow her acting dreams in the season finale.
Sound Of Music soundtrack "16 Going on 17"
<strong>Episode 5.03, "Tea Leaves"</strong> Synopsis: It's not the mid-'60s without a shout-out to youth culture, which is exactly what "Tea Leaves" revolves around. We watch Don and Harry's awkwardness backstage at a Rolling Stones concert, the arrival of the super-talented (and young) copywriter Michael Ginsberg, and Don's inability to connect with his younger wife over Betty's health scare. It's official: Don seems fortysomething. Relevance: While Sally's evolution from little girl to young woman is a huge theme of the season, there are other songs to embody that -- especially since she's barely in episode three at all. (Likely because she's watching Sound of Music somewhere.)
The Crystals "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)"
Episode 5.04, "Mystery Date" Synopsis: And here's when season 5 gets dark. With the Richard Speck case looming, Don literally and subconsciously is confronted with his philandering past after crossing paths with an old flame at work (who he later strangles to death in a dream). Meanwhile, Joan finally breaks up with her abusive husband, while Peggy worries that her success at work makes her seem less like a woman. Makes sense, since Weiner has said this episode revolves around both sexual violence and what it means to be a man. Relevance: While the song's directness is obviously in line with the episode's theme, it beautifully embodies the changing gender roles we see over the course of the season (Megan's more egalitarian relationship with Don, Joan's exchange of sex for a bigger role in the company, Peggy's new career). That, and violence -- though it's hard to feel bad for Pete Campbell.
Ludwig van Beethoven "Symphony No. 9 in D Minor"
Episode 5.05, "Signal 30" Synopsis: And speaking of punching Pete Campbell, behold Lane Pryce, who delivers a few hits that take Campbell down a few pegs. However, those punches are earned: when Pete, who finally admits his unhappiness to Don, takes Lane's Jaguar client to a brothel, his request that he be treated like "a king" paints him in a sad light Don foreshadowed in the series pilot. At the same time, Lane begins to question his own relevance in the company, which is only echoed by Pete. Relevance: Sad, heartbreaking, passionate -- these are words that both describe Mad Men and Ludwig van Beethoven. Don't mind us as we begin crying now about what's to come.
Connie Conway "I Should Not Be Seeing You"
<strong>Episode 5.06, "Far Away Places"</strong> Synopsis: Three, three, three storylines for the price of one! While Don and Megan jet off to Howard Johnson's (where she does not want to go) and eat sherbet (which she does not want to eat), Peggy loses her cool during a pitch to Heinz, and gets drunk and hooks up with a gentleman at the movies. In the meantime, Roger and Jane try acid and break up -- which is what you think will happen with Don and Megan after he abandons her at the hotel restaurant because damn it, Don, she didn't want to try the damn sherbet. Relevance: Lyrics like "We know that it can never be / you and I together" pay tribute to both endings (Roger and Jane) and impossibilities (Megan and Don), and the "shouldn't" in the title/chorus factors in, too: Jane and Roger shouldn’t be together, Peggy shouldn’t cheat on her boyfriend, and Don and Megan -- well should they be together?
Antonio Carlos Jobim "Meditation (Meditacao)"
<strong>Episode 5.07, "At the Codfish Ball"</strong> Synopsis: Adulthood is the worst, you guys. And Sally, so excited to grow up, had to literally see that when she went with her Dad to a black tie event and caught Roger Sterling hooking up with Megan's mom in another room. (Worse still, because Roger and Sally were acting like pals that night.) Furthering the episode’s "disappointment" theme was Peggy's realization that her boyfriend wants to move in with -- not marry -- her, and Megan's unhappiness at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. In an interview, Weiner used the term "joy deficiency" to describe it, which is arguably a great description for many adults we know. Relevance: The anti-climactic (though lovely) stylings of this Antonia Carlos Jobim song is an on-target backdrop for the note the episode leaves on. Life is "meh." Adulthood is "blah." Sally's night was a buzzkill.
The Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows"
<strong>Episode 5.08, "Lady Lazarus" </strong> Synopsis: It's true: Megan wants to be an actress. And when she tells Don she plans to leave advertising, he struggles with her plans to conquer another career, not stay at home and play house. Eventually, he recognizes and respects her need to be an artist, but not before we watch him struggle with his place in an increasingly youthful and freethinking world. (And a shout-out to Pete Campbell, who wrestles with his own midlife crisis and short-term affair, which is eclipsed only by Betty Francis' food addiction.) Relevance: Don can only stand a few notes of the song before literally throwing the record away (this from a man who took Sally to see The Beatles in season 4), further showcasing his inability to connect with youth culture. As for the title? It rings true to the show entirely -- though especially in this season, which goes on to deal with divorce, suicide, promotion, and womanhood in only four episodes.
Maurice Chevalier "Sweepin' the Clouds Away"
<strong>Episode 5.09, "Dark Shadows" </strong> Synopsis: Jealousy looms in "Dark Shadows" when Betty tells Sally about Anna to get back at Don, then when Don fails to pitch Ginsberg's work to a client thanks to his own insecurities. However, said jealousy led to the perfect exchange between two rivals when Don responded to Ginsberg's "I feel sorry for you" with "I don't think about you at all." Drops mic (preferably the one used when Megan sang "Zou Bisou Bisou"). Relevance: "Don't go around hoping, moping happiness will come," sings Maurice Chevalier, further adding to themes of disappointment, self-pity, and general discontent of season 5. This, of course, we see as Pete tries to treat his crisis by having an ill-advised affair, and Betty's plan to make Megan and Sally hate each other never quite manages to take.
Nellie McKay "The Christmas Waltz"
<strong>Episode 5.10, "Christmas Waltz" </strong> Synopsis: Joan and Don give us a bonding scene for the ages after Joan's served with divorce papers at work and is taken out by Don to cool down. There, we're treated to a heart-to-heart about marriage and relationships (Don explains why Megan's so important to him), and the sweetest goodbye exchange any of us could ever hope for. Unfortunately, this loveliness is marred by Lane's quickening descent: his ego and esteem have been taking a hit over the years, and he's desperate for a Christmas bonus to help his own financial shortcomings. Don also delivers a speech about greatness, maintaining that next year will be the one Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is truly on the map. Relevance: A Christmas song can only go so far, and while each character is undoubtedly doing a waltz of his or her own, it's a carol truly reserved for the holidays. Though regardless, may all your New Year's dreams come true.
The Kinks "You Really Got Me"
<strong>Episode 5.11, "The Other Woman" </strong> Synopsis: And so it begins. After Jaguar makes it clear that they'll give SCDP the account if an executive can sleep with Joan, she does what she needs to do, and exchanges one night with the (terrible) man for a partnership at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Peggy also makes a choice: after Don disrespects her -- yet again -- in a meeting, she has one of her own, and walks away with a new position at a different firm. Goodbyes are made. Tears are shed. Lane thinks that because Joan helped land Jaguar, his own financial problems are over -- he is wrong. Relevance: Nothing -- nothing –- felt more kick-ass than Peggy's exit from SCDP to the starting notes of "You Really Got Me," but it's the song's title and lyrics that go with Don's pitch to Jaguar (which was wonderfully juxtaposed atop Joan's scene): "Something beautiful you can truly own." The singer wants to be with her, and all of the night -- well what does she want, sir?
Lovin' Spoonful "Butchie's Tune"
<strong>Episode 5.12, "Commissions and Fees" </strong> Synopsis: And the heartbreak continues. Lane's storyline comes to a climax when he's caught with a forged cheque used to cover his own financial mess. Don fires him, and he responds the only way he knows how: a broken, defeated, and desperate man, he hangs himself in his office after a suicide attempt in the garage fails. Meanwhile, Sally abandons Glen at a museum when she gets her period, so Don drives him home -- or more specifically, lets Glen drive himself home, since it's something he's always wanted to do. Relevance: Despite its happy nature, this is a farewell song that, given the episode's tragic circumstances, goes hand-in-hand with the theme of loss. Lane lost his life, his coworkers lost him, Sally lost her childhood, and Glen lost a friend in Sally (for now). However, loss isn’t always bad: Sally enters a new chapter, and she and her mother manage to re-bond their relationship. Don also "loses" Megan this season -- several times, but perhaps more permanently when she finally gets her acting break.
Nancy Sinatra "You Only Live Twice"
<strong>Episode 5.13, "The Phantom" </strong> Synopsis: It's been months since Lane's death, and Don is faced with what Weiner describes as "ghosts": the ghost of Lane, the ghost of his own brother, and even the ghost of his relationship with Megan before her acting career began. As they say in the TV business, "shit just got real." And so with the lingering memories -- even the memories of old Don, who seems to cock his head when faced with the question, "Are you alone?" -- we leave the season faced with two Dons: one, the man who helps his wife land a commercial so she can realize her dream, and the other, the man who sits alone at bar. Relevance: Whether through fever dreams or Sally finding out about Anna, Don Draper can't outrun his past, nor can any other character. The past lingers (which explains why so many themes continue in Mad Men from season to season), though if it's going to linger to any song, it may as well be Nancy Sinatra singing the mantra like she really means it.
So what can we expect for season 6?
We know only two things for sure:
1) Elle King's "Playing For Keeps" is being featured in TV spots.
2) Lily Allen's "Everything's Just Wonderful" is also being featured in TV spots.
While King's track deals with a fall from grace, Allen's is an irreverent commentary on society ("We've all gone mental") as well as one's tendency toward denial ("I'm having the time of my life"). Is this is a take on the social climate of the late 1960s, or simply reflective of each character's double life? (Their phantom, if you'd like to get technical.)
Either way, we can be sure of... nothing. Weiner is notoriously tight-lipped on series developments, so let's hope that "You Only Live Twice" at least sets the tone for two versions of Don Draper again living as one — though this time, successfully.