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Mad Men “New Business” Review (7×09)

13 Apr

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“You think you’re gonna begin your life over and do it right, but what if you never get past the beginning again?”

“New Business” is about new beginnings, about the desire to change and move past stagnancy. It’s clear that the 1970s social, cultural, and political influence is snaking its way throughout the show, and we see people adapting to new lifestyles at every turn. Yet, aimlessly floating through our television screens right now is none other than Don Draper, a man who’s both out of touch with the times and with those around him. We see this mismatch visually with him in his suit and Pete in his golf outfit, and him telling Pete to “watch the road” is representative of his inability to change with the times; he’s looking in one direction, and he’s driving down the same path that we’ve seen him go down before.

Of course, he wants out of this destructive cycle. He latches onto Diana because he believes she’s a new beginning for him, but it’s not quite as simple as he would like. On the surface, they’re certainly very similar people with similar life choices, but when the episode delves into Diana’s backstory, we realize that her connection to her daughters is different than Don’s connection to his children. Don wants some type of love and connection, but there’s an emptiness inside of him, an emptiness that eats away at his relationships until they’re nothing more than hollow imitations of stronger relationships. For all of Diana’s flaws, she still feels more than Don does right now, and rather than trying to escape, she acknowledges all the events–however painful–that brought her here, that still define her. They’re like two people who ran along the same path for a bit, then went in opposite directions at the fork in the road.

Don still thinks he can buy emotion with money. Bert Cooper told him that “the best things in life are free”, but that’s certainly not the idea driving his million-dollar check made out to Megan. In what is quite possibly–and hopefully is–Megan’s last scene in the show, it’s easy to see that Don’s money changes nothing for him. He can’t buy Megan’s happiness or his own, and Megan sums it up best when she tells her sister that their mother’s “been very unhappy for a long time. At least she did something about it”. Don’s certainly unhappy, but he’s falling back into the same patterns to try to quench that unhappiness; it won’t work. He’s an “aging, sloppy, selfish liar.”

The elevator scene does a great job of emphasizing Don’s situation at the moment. Sylvia, in a few seconds, already sees what Diana is to Don, and Diana sees what Sylvia was to Don. Essentially, Diana is a distillation of the past, and to our main character, she represents everything that was and nothing that will. She’s new business, but the problem is that she’s the type of new business who holds her old business tightly to her chest. And when Don tries to escape, all that’s left is an empty room.

GRADE: B

OTHER THOUGHTS:

– “Don’t be a bitch.”

-This episode is mainly a Don episode, but there’s a Peggy-Stan plot that’s pretty important as well. With the character of Pima, we have someone who started as a clerk and wanted to be a photographer, and there are obvious parallels here to Peggy’s development and to her rise through the company. Pima seems to serve as a “Here’s what you would be doing if you were like me” presence for Peggy, as the key difference between the two women is the former’s willingness to use her sexuality to climb the ladder. And speaking of sex, the episode explores quite a bit of that elsewhere with Harry’s creepy come-on to Megan, Marie and Roger’s relationship, and Don and Diana. These various power dynamics allow for the show to highlight the rampant sexism of the time and the entangling of sex and money.

-The series finale is going to reveal that Betty became a psychologist and took over the world.

-It’s always nice to see Linda Cardellini on my screen.

-Five more episodes left. Please do not spend any more precious time on Megan’s character. Also, if we must have her, focus more on the character aspects of Diana rather than the symbolic.

Photo credit: AMC, Mad Men

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3 Responses to “Mad Men “New Business” Review (7×09)”

  1. evilwebqueen April 13, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    Betty, a master’s degree in psychology? People seek her out to talk about themselves? Like she’s ever thought one moment about anyone but herself. Other than the rapid-fire cutting in last night’s episode, it was still a great moment in TV history. And maybe all that cutting is emblematic of racing to a finale. And Pima Ryan. Enough already.

  2. Hepburn3 April 14, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    Good episode. Now when I watch Mad Men and knowing that this is the the last few episodes, watching the opening animated credits of Don Draper falling has more meaning for me. I wonder if on the very last episode will they show Don hitting the ground?
    He goes to Betty’s home and leaves seeing that she has everything he could have had, and that she is happily moving way past him (yes I agree with evilwebqueen about Betty getting an MA in psychology, she only really cares about herself and listens to no one’s feelings or point of view, she would make a dire psychologist much like she is a dire mother.)
    Megan coming back and her mom stealing all the furniture was obviously more about Megan’s mom’s emotions than Megan herself. I do not for the life of me understand why Megan thinks that Don ruined her life? She made all of her choices he never really stopped her. He was not he world’s best husband but what man on that show is? But she did nail it on the head when she called him an “aging sloppy, selfish liar”.
    Oh and that gross meeting with Megan and Harry the sexist douchebag predator made me hate Harry even more, especially when he tried to tell Don that Megan is unhinged, but I like that Don sees right through Harry.

    Diana just seems so Sylvia Plath like to me she did not even seem like a real person but rather a literary device, a character metaphor of Don’s situation, she is like you said like Don up to a point but Don is so stuck in his past and trying to recapture it and Diana wants to move away from her past but not forget it. Yes they are taking two different forks in the road but Diana is not moving forward she is just in a different lane/path to Don who cannot move forward despite the fact that he thinks he wants to, this was illustrated in so many ways, Pete’s driving and Don’s lack of golf clothes, meeting his former mistress and her husband in the elevator, Betty’s academic goals, and Henry making himself a new milkshake (rather than drinking Don’s leftovers) the naked apartment, no love and all alone with just himself not even things.
    The end is coming and I feel rather sad for Don.
    Good review PB! 🙂

    • polarbears16 April 14, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

      Yeah, I agree with you about Megan and Don. It’s clear that Megan’s taking out all her anger on Don, and it’s kind of exasperating to watch. Plus, Megan’s never really been my favorite character, that’s for sure.

      And yeah, the worst thing about Harry is that he doesn’t realize just how big of an asshole he is.

      “Yes they are taking two different forks in the road but Diana is not moving forward she is just in a different lane/path to Don who cannot move forward despite the fact that he thinks he wants to”

      Great point! POI tonight…! 🙂

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