Monday, April 13, 2015

Mad Men S7E9 - New Business

"You people think money solves every problem."
"No, just this particular problem."

Gene Hofstadt and Don Draper, My Old Kentucky Home (Season 3, Episode 3)

Don Draper has never been bashful about using money to solve problems (or remind his underlings that it is their reward for hard work, as opposed to say, praise) but going from slipping his father-in-law a few bucks when his five-dollar bill goes missing to cutting his ex-wife a one million dollar check is a different story altogether.

New Business is an ironic title for the ninth episode of Mad Men's seventh season, because it had a much stronger feel of tying up loose ends. It turns out Arnold and Sylvia Rosen do still live in Don's building and have observed the rotating cast of characters Don has been bringing up to his penthouse apartment. Megan and Don's marriage, which appeared to sputter to an end during the first "half" of this season was made official with that aforementioned seven figure send-off. The petty backbiting at the attorney's office and Marie's own decision to extract a pound of flesh (if not a lot of Don's swanky furniture) notwithstanding, that type of behavior is standard fair in an acrimonious divorce. Of course, when you can blithely write such a large check, perhaps it is unnecessary to do any navel gazing or score any cheap points on the way out the door.

None of this reflected Megan in a particularly good light. We all know Harry is an odious troll who preys on young actresses, so his clumsy attempt to bed the now available Ms. Calvet was unsurprising, but here, Roger had it right when he recalled the acrimony of his divorce from a much younger woman who claimed he had stolen her best years even as she milked him for a new apartment. [1] The smug attitude Megan took with her sister after receiving her payout told you everything you needed to know. In a moral universe, is this justice? Who knows, but in love and war, things are rarely clean cut.

Having disposed of that particular problem, Don was free to focus on his new lady friend, Diana. Introduced as a possible Rachel Menken doppelgänger, it turns out she's a runaway from another life of suburban domesticity interrupted by the tragedy of the loss of a child. Don has been filling his mommy void with a steady stream of brunettes for the entire time we've "known" him, but there's a pathos to Diana that is particularly acute. Perhaps it is Don's own backstory of reinvention that piques his interest, or his knowledge that you cannot allow your past to define you, but there is something almost paternal in his attitude toward the younger woman. He gifts her a guidebook to New York City, but she can only look as far as the doorway to her one room apartment and the bottle of vodka she is using to drown her past. 

In this otherwise Don-centric episode, there was a quirky little B story between Peggy and Stan. These two, whose work relationship began so unpleasantly, are now what we today consider "work spouses" - good friends who know each other well and share intimacy, just not of the physical variety. [2] Here, they are more competitors than collaborators when a hip commercial director named Pima Ryan hits the scene, she stirs Stan's dormant interest in his own art outside of work (photography) and creates tension with Peggy over what images best catch the camera's eye. While Peggy rebuffs her advances [3] Stan give in to them, lording his prowess over the copy chief until she mentions that she too was the target of Pima's interest. 

But as the clock ticks down to the end of the show's run, through two episodes the dominant theme, other than each character's emotional struggle, is a sort of box checking - what happened to Rachel Menken? (died of leukemia). Kenny Cosgrove? (in house at Dow Chemical). Are the Rosen's still around? (yes). Megan? (filthy rich and never to be heard from again). Don's sudden interest in a diner waitress may be because he views her as a kindred spirit or just simply someone who will be nice enough to show up at his apartment at 3 a.m. to satisfy his emotional and physical needs, but much of his interaction with Diana is backward looking - explaining the number of coats in the closet or the length of time he has been separated. There is nothing "new" in this, or in his "type," the question, one supposes is whether this is just history repeating itself well past tragedy or farce.

PS - Betty as a psychologist is just exactly perfect.


1. Unlike Roger, who then defiled that apartment by having sex with Jane in it, one assumes Don won't be flying out to California any time soon. Dark Shadows, Season 5, Episode 9. 
2. This did not stop Stan from trying to make a play for Peggy while he was under the effects of the "Dr. Feelgood" B12 shot provided by Jim Cutler's doctor. The Crash, Season 6, Episode 8. 

3. A skill she initially cultivated with another photographer, Joyce, some years ago. The Rejected, Season 4, Episode 4. 

1 comment:

  1. Very frustrating episode. Diana seems to have served to show us that Don STILL hasn't changed and continues to make the same mistakes regarding women. Although at least, knowing her story, it makes a lot more sense why she had sex in an alley with him last week. But as you point out, "whether this is just history repeating itself well past tragedy or farce." Yes! I think you nailed the frustration with this comment.

    And so much time on Megan. And nobody cares. The thing is she's completely right to feel the anger she does towards Don. We should sympathize with her, but instead she comes off as whiny and unlikable. And as the show is winding down and we are aware of how little screen time is left, why should she and her family get so much of it? Grrr. As much as I think this show has done a wonderful job with women characters and gender relations overall, somehow Don's wives don't get the same respect and treatment. Although I love that Betty wants to be a psychologist. On the one level it was funny because nobody likes talking to her, but it also was a callback to S1 when Betty suffered hysteria (numb arm) and saw a psychiatrist who proceeded to discuss Betty's issues with Don as if she were a child (see earlier point about excellent job exploring gender relations of the time period).

    And somehow I keep forgetting how horrible Harry Crane is until I actually see him on screen. Blech. Would be nice if we finally caught up with Sal before the show ended. Maybe he's made some new friends at Stonewall.