“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.
– “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