Mad Men: New Business Review
"A Really Strange Episode For This Point in the Series"
Well, that was sure a lot of Megan. And not a lot of anyone else. I opted to write this episode review this morning rather than last night because I really needed a night to ruminate on "New Business," and honestly, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it. Part of me thinks the episode might work better when watched after we've reached the end of the series. But mostly, I think the episode was just a misstep. I don't think it's the worst episode of Mad Men
's run, but it's certainly out of place in this final run of episodes.
The main reason it just doesn't quite fit? Too much Megan. Now, I know there is a vocal contingent of Mad Men
fans who are vehemently opposed to Megan as a character. Personally, I'm not a fan but I don't normally mind when she pops up from time to time. But in the grand scheme of things, Megan is a one-dimensional character surrounded by nuanced and complex characters. We know so little about who she is and what matters to her that it's hard to actually care about her. And, considering there are only five episode left of the series, it strikes me as odd to have Megan taking up so much of this episode at the expense of other characters (we didn't get any Joan this week, which is a travesty). Even Peggy was pushed to the episode's C-storyline as a result.
Instead we get to spend far too much time with Megan and Marie (and the horrid Marie-France). The unnecessary scenes of the family in the hotel, of Marie lamenting her own failure of a marriage by lashing out about Don, and Megan having a meeting with Harry (a scene that only serves to make it clear that Harry's attempt at seducing Megan reads as beyond creepy, while the same thing from Don would read as suave) drag down the episode. If the writers wanted to put Marie back in Roger's orbit, they could have done so without having so much of her in the episode. Marie-France was unnecessary as a whole, adding nothing to the story or Megan's character. Yes, the show needed to wrap up the Don-Megan storyline for good, but this bloated episode was not the way to handle it.
Spending the bulk of the episode focused on Megan and Don's divorce would have been fine if it wasn't such an exercise in showing how Don repeats the same patterns over and over. At this point in the series, it is clear that Don is a creature of habit - bad habit. Last week, we were reminded of his past with Rachel, and his naive belief that they could have truly been happy together. This week, while he's romancing Diana (and subsequently ignoring her lingering pain and doubts), we get a brief glimpse of Sylvia. While I'm happy to bump into old characters (and old Don flames), I'm really hoping these trips down memory lane are leading us somewhere.
The character of Diana gave us a look into Don from a different angle, and it gave us a great performance from Elizabeth Reaser, but I'm not entirely sure it was necessary. We know that Don takes what he wants. That Don isn't fully honest with anyone, even himself. That Don doesn't listen to what he doesn't want to hear. So often, Don has been able to use these failings to secure things he wants. But here, he comes face-to-face with someone carrying as much baggage as him. Someone who isn't honest with herself and who is carrying a dark secret. But this time, unlike in all the rest, he fails. Diana, in a moment of clarity Don has never experienced, realizes that she is numbing herself. That she needs to feel her own pain and live in it to accept it. It's a strong moment, and one that I had hoped would resonate a bit with Don. But, it certainly doesn't land with him.
My suspicion is that the series is setting us up for a moment of revelation from Don Draper. That he will realize, at the close of the series, that he is unable to form meaningful connections because of his inability to accept himself - to really look at himself. And he will make a final, informed choice in his life - for good or for ill. But, unless that's the route we're on, I'm not sure we need Don to continue in his cycle of assuming the next woman will be the answer to his life. Much like how I'm not sure we need another round of Marie and Roger (as lovely as it is to see Julia Ormond, we don't need an ending for Marie).
"New Business" spent an awful lot of time rehashing old flames, old mistakes, and old patterns. And, at this point in its run, Mad Men
should be looking toward the future, rather than rehashing the past.
-- Excellent turn from Mimi Rogers as Pima. The character was a strange choice for this point in the series, but Rogers really sold it. And, was it my imagination, or was Peggy a bit too interested in Pima's attempt at seduction?
-- The Pima story really should have been given more time to breathe. The concept of a female photographer using her sexuality to secure work is far more interesting than Megan coming to terms with what her marriage to Don really meant. And, sadly, that says a lot about Megan's character.
-- We were given a (thankfully) brief moment with Betty. But still no Sally yet.
-- Considering we're getting one old Don flame a week, I assume Dr. Faye will be popping by next week? Come to think of it, I really wouldn't mind that at all.