Saturday, April 18, 2015
Mad Men Recap - New Business
Since I was out of town this week I'm woefully behind in giving my little Mad Men updates. I should almost rewatch last week's episode to have a better handle on it, it was a very tightly written episode and after some discussion with Kathryn this episode was saying a lot about Don. Let's hop to it.
This episode entitled "New Business" centres around whether or not Don is ready for new business in his personal life or whether he's going to continue to spin on the merry-go-round of misery he's been on for so long. This episode also has great hints and insights towards psychology -- the jumping off point being Betty's declaration that she's pursuing a masters degree in psychology come fall, because people just love talking to her! All of her visits to the psychologists offices from the first couple of seasons have pushed her into that direction it would seem. Unfortunately, her interest in psychology has failed her in her relationships with Don and her children time and time again, but maybe for Betty this is a case of "If you can't do - teach"?
Either way this hinting at psychology has us looking at Don's actions in this episode and especially his actions towards both Diana and Megan. (As Kathryn pointed out to me!) With one woman he's seeing a reflection of his own attitudes and underlying psychology with how he deals with life, with another woman he's come to the conclusion that the only way he can make up for past marital failings is a million dollar cheque.
As the episode continues Don further pursues Diana, she comes to his apartment, they sleep together again and we begin to hear part of her story. Diana is still giving off that Rachel vibe, and this episode cements the idea of Diana as another Rachel in Don's life. She's left her family in Racine, Wisconsin and as we find out, a daughter who died two years previous. Diana is grieving, looking to start again in New York, but cannot rid herself of her past and now the added shame of leaving her other daughter at home as well. This is eerily similar to Don. Don also ran away from his previous life, he sought out a new identity, and has plunged himself into the self-destructive cycle of searching for love and comfort in sex.
What I saw within this interaction with Diana, and especially as she pushes him away saying she doesn't want anything from Don, is a glimmer of Don realizing that the cycle of searching for comfort and love in random sexual encounters has not given him the intimacy and love that he has been continually searching for his whole life.
In Diana we also see that she's lost her family, her children; through death and in leaving her leaving home. Don has lost his home, twice over now, but his children are still here - will this be the revelation to him that this is where he will find the real love he has been seeking? I found the scene with Don making milkshakes with Bobby and Gene so sweet, yet so painful as he longingly looks at Betty and Francis carrying on as a normal family as he goes to leave. Real family is still within his grasp in his relationship with his children.
As Don is trying to begin again as he claims with Diana, he is also wrapping up the divorce to Megan. I found this storyline with Megan to be the final unmasking of Megan as someone completely opposite of Betty as she has been set up through the past seasons. Megan's career has tanked, she's out of money and dependent on Don financially (I think most of her money must be going to her fake hair!), yet she views their marriage breakdown as something completely Don's fault. Megan's own selfish choices were present at every step of their marriage, which makes their marriage breakdown worse in a way than Betty and Don's marriage. Betty didn't have as many choices and opportunities to pursue her own interests and passions, Betty didn't know the truth about Don from the beginning. Megan has always been very similar to Betty; dependent on Don, yet completely self-serving in their marriage. In her interactions with her mother Megan reveals that she's completely altered her view of her own marriage to conform with outside presumptions of what must surely have happened, which is very similar to Betty's past stubborn ideas regarding Don.
I thought Megan's mom Marie and her clearing out the apartment after Megan left to be hilarious. Although her own attitudes about marriage are obviously very toxic and she's now run out on her children and husband as well by the end of the episode.
What was also interesting about the divorce was the ways in which Roger and Pete talk to Don about it. Roger of course is still dismissive of his past experiences with divorce, claiming that Jane gave up nothing to be married to him and only reaped financial rewards. Pete however is showing a little more insight into his experience with divorce, alluding to the false idea that divorce promises a whole new life when really he's only found "new beginnings" and not a new life since his divorce. Pete's few scenes in these two episodes have been so great, the writing has been impeccable and Pete still figures large within the Mad Men world with only a few important lines.
Meanwhile Peggy and Stan are creating a photo shoot with Pima, a photographer who is known as an "artist" instead of the usual photographers who work in advertising. This storyline is interesting in what becomes a sexual power play as Pima seduces Stan in the dark room, then makes a pass at Peggy. Pima obviously isn't just an "artist" but is someone who is willing to use sex for power and gain in business. It's especially jarring as Peggy instantly recognizes this, but Stan falls hook, line, and sinker. It's a switch up from the usual seduction of women in the workplace that's been with Mad Men since the beginning, and speaks to how far Peggy has come to instantly realize it as such instead of part of normal business practice. I also like how it speaks to the myth that art is simply art or somehow different than the art that is necessary for advertising. It's an interesting comment on how there is no black and white in the business or art world but that they mess much more fluidly than both sides would admit.
I better stop here, but I'd love to hear what you all thought of the Megan fall-out and Diana's rise in importance. I also could have gone into the amazing elevator scene with Don and Diana and Arnold and Sylvia -- it was again a meticulously written scene full of tension and parallels between Don's past encounters and what's currently happening. I really loved it!
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