Mad Men, as you probably already know, comes back this Sunday with a two-hour premiere. We've seen it, but according to the wishes of creator and show runner Matthew Weiner, well, we can't say much about it. We can, however, gently point you to Netflix for ten previous episodes of the show that you might find very helpful when you set in to watch the "The Doorway," a hypnotic episode revolving around Don Draper's notions of death.
Naturally, Mad Men is such a carefully crafted show; nearly every episode has had its bits and pieces that have brought us to this, the penultimate season premiere of one of the ultimate thematic shows of modern television. But some of the episodes below have what we think are direct connections to the new season. Others simply are important episodes in the history of the show.
We aren't giving away any of the new season herein—we promise!—but we will spoil what's already happened. Enjoy a long weekend on the couch.
Nixon vs. Kennedy Any number of season one episodes have reverberations in the season six opener, but the second-to-last episode—the one in which we find out just how Don Draper became Don Draper, after life as Dick Whitman—remains one of the most crucial to Mad Men's history. The identity crisis, and Don's relation to war, will once again become relevant. Watch here.
The Wheel Don works his Madison Avenue magic while pitching a campaign to Kodak about their slide projector. It is one of the few truly revelatory, deeply personal moments on the show, and one of the great monologues in the last few years of scripted drama. On Sunday look for allusions to this episode in references to photography. Watch here.
The Inheritance Betty Draper's perverse, weirdly nurturing relationship with Glen Bishop was established in the first season, but it comes to a head in this season two episode in which she finds him camping out in the Draper's backyard. Betty—often thought of as a cold, uncaring mother—has a strange, not-quite-soft side when it comes to misfits. Watch here.
Love Among the Ruins Peggy's plaintive rendition of "Bye Bye Birdie," coupled with her workplace and romantic ambition, heralds the confident heroine who finally left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. "Love Among the Ruins" couples that with Roger dealing his ex-wife Mona, and how his relationship with the young and beautiful Jane creates conflict on the occasion of his daughter's wedding. Watch here.
The Fog This existential episode exists in something of a dream state as Betty gives birth to little Eugene, named after her dead father. It's Mad Men at its weirdest and best. It's also a pivotal moment for Betty, who we know from Weiner himself will have a bigger storyline this season. Watch here.
The Gypsy and the Hobo Another pivotal episode dealing with Don's past, as Betty confronts him with it directly. Never has Don's old life been more present in his current one than in this hour. Watch here.
The Suitcase Another vulnerable moment for the often internalizing Don. At the end of this episode, we find our (anti-)hero reeling at the death of Anna, the wife of the real Don Draper, who accepted him even in his ultimate deception. Death is ever-present as season six begins, and this was, perhaps, the moment in which its presence crushed Don most fully. Watch here.
(For more on Don's relationship with Anna—and the ocean—season four's "The Good News" is also a good primer.)
Tomorrowland It's already widely known that Don and Megan take a trip to Hawaii in the new season's opener, so its worth revisiting one of the other trips Don and Megan took. No, not that horrendous, orange-sherbet laced jaunt to a Howard Johnson's upstate, but their family trek to California and Disneyland as the fourth season closed, which finds Don admiring her and, in a shock, proposing. Watch here.
Mystery Date Much like "The Fog," "Mystery Date" is another fever dream episode, and we mean that quite literally. In a haze of sickness Don thinks he sleeps with and then strangles a former coworker. Watch here.
The Phantom Though the season five finale might be an obvious choice for weekend recommendations, it's worth reminding yourself where we left off. Megan's budding acting career. Don's wayward glance. Watch here.
See you on Sunday.