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Lifestyle

April 7, 2013

'Mad Men' Returns, Heavier than Ever

Matthew Weiner's "Mad Men," about which there is always too much and not enough to say, returns for its sixth (and penultimate) season Sunday night on AMC with a two-hour episode. Right away, you can tell we're in for a divinely morose and contemplative season — a real wallow. You can feel the show getting heavier, heavy even for "Mad Men."

Whatever brightness and momentum the show caught last season during those pastel-hued rays of 1966 and early '67 have been banished by a familiar gloom. We're a long way now from "Zou Bisou Bisou" (even with Lane's suicide, we'll one day look back on Season 5 like it was an afternoon in the park), and it's clear that when we watch the show, we're meant to be thinking only of death from here on out. Death is more important than the tiny cracks in the old social order. Death is more important than the American cultural shift. Death is more important than furniture.

Where are we in the story? When?

The preview disc arrived with Weiner's usual entreaty to critics to not tell anything. But early on, a character mentions that Alabama is going to play Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, so I'll let you look it up while I reach over and press my oft-used SPOILER ALERT button. I've never understood why talking about the precise date and general outlines of "Mad Men" has to be such an issue when the real beauty of the show resides in faint subtext and customized interpretation. Part of understanding "Mad Men" is to realize that it is made by a control freak and consumed by a sophisticated audience that watches television like control freaks.

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