I have to say reviewing Mad Men is pretty difficult because I assume even the lackluster parts of each episode weave into the larger tapestry Weiner wants to weave for us. Still, the absurd amount of sex and propositioning this episode contains outdoes even its own high standards, and at points certain hookups like Pima with both Stan and an attempt at Peggy in addition to Don’s sexin’, Megan’s Mom with Roger and Harry’s come on to Megan — it just feel like drama being orchestrated to suit certain themes or ensure certain arcs take shape.
That said, Weiner will never be in the same boat as Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk who frequently jam in so many plot points into their shows they feel more like a series of high octane events rather than a story. But for Weiner, this week’s “New Business” came across as a tad disjointed among the many different story arcs.
Each story arc jived for me individually, however, and specifically for Don, his brief tryst with the formerly mysterious waitress Diana did him no favors. Don has been more or less stalking Diana since the last episode, finally coercing her into giving him a ring for a late night booty call. Don and Diana have a lot more in common than a penchant for late night drunk sex with strangers, it turns out. Peggy has oft been presented as Don’s protégé and mirror with shared closeted, working class backgrounds and stellar instincts for creative. Now with Diane we see Don’s romantic protégé, i.e. someone just as emotionally damaged who applies many of the same tactics Don has so deftly employed in seasons past.
After their first hook up, Diane mentions that she is running from the death of her daughter and then just a bit later she adds she that she was lying before and that she left another alive daughter with her father to flee the pain. Not only does Diane lie about her past, but she also continually deflects personal questions and uses both sex and alcohol as a refuge. Sound familiar? Don finds his female counterpart yet as implied by Megan later on who accuses Don of being a liar who ruined her life, at least Diane comes clean about her true nature within about a week of their meeting. Don took three children to only partially admit his past to Betty, only because she had already discovered it on her own.
Interestingly, Pima, a photographer this week, plays as a potential future Peggy, albeit far more comfortable in her sexuality. Pima solicits both Stan and Peggy, but offhandedly mentions she has never married or had children and instead has achieved great professional success as a photographer. The parallels are not quite as clear with Pima and Peggy as with Don and Diana, but that’s all for the best otherwise the episode would have felt even more outlandish with two sets of doppelgangers.
Season seven on the whole has time and again highlighted Peggy’s anxieties about relationships and starting a family with the touching Julio arc as well as the more on-the-nose Burger Chef pitch about families-by-any-other-name. Furthermore, the last episode where Scottie momentarily swept Peggy off her feet only for her to turn back to work in the morning suggests Peggy will make some sort of decision about the juncture of her personal life and her work life by the end of the show — and that could be anywhere from work-focused, personally lacking Pima/ Don to the other end of the spectrum. Also P(r)ima Don(na).
After not appearing in the premiere, Megan returns in spades to the second episode to finalize her divorce from Don and get her furniture out of their apartment. In a very un-Mad Men fashion her tone and outlook changes over the course of just this episode. She begins upbeat and hopeful about starting fresh post-Don with all the acting prospects she had when she acted in New York, but her unsupportive family make Harry’s shameless propositioning feel like a much bigger to blow to the future of her career than it might otherwise have been. She mentioned how excited she was to be free of Don, but in a bittersweet fashion Harry reminds her that with that freedom comes a lack of financial support and no more access to Don’s wealthy bank of connections.
At the same time her pious sister and bitter mother illustrate what can happen to women once they stay in toxic lives for too long – their anger damages them and those around them. Megan has always appeared to be the most emotionally stable and well-adjusted of the cast so I believe her sadness by the end of the episode to be a momentary setback instead of the beginning of a long decline.
In other news, Betty wants to be a psychologist. I guess as long as she isn’t sharing her opinion on the Vietnam War, Francis will indulge her crazy, crazy whims. I certainly hope that this was not Megan’s last episode, but leaving with all of Don’s furniture and $1 million would be fitting given her enterprising character arc. Chaotic episodes such as these will likely be par for the course for the remaining episodes in order to tie up loose ends but hopefully each arc will intersect in a more fluid manner in upcoming episodes.