Mad Men 07:09

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Well, that was depressing. Or to quote one of my favorite films, “Regrettable, but necessary.”

While not the best episode I’ve seen in the show’s history, this was a necessary setting up for the end of the series, and the whole episode was basically an homage to the wreckage of Don’s love life; which was odd as it was the one episode that he was this close to connecting with someone in a real, humane way until that person revealed the reasons why they got along so well.

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Poor Diana. What at first was another in a long line of brunette-haired women that we know nothing about (see: Calvert, Megan and Rosen, Sylvia), as the night went on, we got to know an awful lot about this waitress from Racine Wisconsin. We finally – finally – get a woman who has the same modus operandi of Dick Whitman (running away from your problems) but she goes and tops it by confessing not only the death of her daughter, but abandoning another child, which is something that Don can’t really cotton (though he has done it himself in various ways). It was actually sad and slightly depressing to see Don open up to someone who knew exactly what he went through and then watch it torpedo.

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While the episode was titled “New Business,” it was filled with old business, in particular with the former women of Don’s life, and oddly enough each scene was tied to their totemic place. From Betty in her kitchen, to *yawn* the endlessly fascinating Sylvia Rosen *yawn* in the elevator, every woman was where Don left her. The problem was that each woman has left him standing there. In Sylvia’s case, she’s on the elevator with her poor husband Arnold, easily dismissing Diane in her waitress outfit. In Betty’s case, she’s moving on in a happy relationship with Henry and starting graduate studies in psychology. What was interesting about that scene in the Francis’ kitchen (aside from Betty’s startlingly hilarious reveal) is that it was shot in a way to exclude Don from the frame, especially once Henry entered the scene.

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And then there’s Megan. Since day one, we all knew that the marriage was doomed to fail due to her youth and his neurosis. If anything, this episode has taken a less than charitable view of her strife. On the one hand, she was young and inexperienced, but on the other hand she would not have the career or the lifestyle that she has without Don bankrolling it. While I was shocked that he would just give her a one million dollar check (which would be about six million in today’s money), I honestly think he was trying to do the right thing. The irony for Megan is that now that she’s free from Don, she has to take responsibility for all of her actions – good or ill. This is what was so important about the Harry scene. Yes, Harry’s sliminess has only increased over the years and yes he was inappropriate to the nth, but he had a point. Megan really hasn’t had to hustle for her acting career, and while sleeping with someone is not the kind of hustling I’m referring to, she has not been pro-active in her career choices.Look back on the entire arc of Megan’s acting career, nothing has been shown that suggests that she is even remotely doing anything to push her career forward. In other words, she hasn’t been taking it seriously, so no one takes her seriously (you will recall that Marie was the one who basically called her a dilettante).  For her sake, I hope that she’s smart with Don’s gift or else she will end up like bitter and rueful like her mother.

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Speaking of career hustle, no one knows how to hustle in her career than Miss Peggy Olson, and is no better at spotting out a fellow hustler, in this case the slightly androgynous pansexual photographer Pima. Like Don, she too has ghosts of the life not lived (her baby that she gave up, Pete Campbell, Ted Chaough, Duck Phillips, Abe, etc.) but she has a clearer sense of what she wants in life. That’s why her best relationship has been with her “work husband” Stan; of all the men in her life, he’s the only one that consistently treats her well. So it was slightly sad to see Pima come between the two of them, especially when Peggy is in the right.

Random Thoughts

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– Wow, the Calvert women are all a mess this episode. in addition to Megan finally cutting all ties with Don, Marie was an utter bitch this episode. From taking all of Don’s things to sleeping with Roger (and then getting caught with him by Megan) to divorcing her husband all in one day she was on a crusade. And poor Marie-France is obviously the unloved member of the family.

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– Mimi Rogers now joins the list of fantastic cameos on the show as the cagey Pima. And it has to be said she’s extremely fashion forward, basically serving Annie Hall realness a few year’s early.

– Every time I think of Cinzano, I think of these famous commercials from the 1970s featuring Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins:

– In this examination of all the women in Don’s life I was surprised that Sally wasn’t there! That said, this episode sort of gave credence to the theory that each of these seven episodes is the show saying goodbye to certain characters. Last week it was Ken. This week it was Megan.

– I wasn’t as enamored of the final music cue. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the idea of using Yves Montand’s version of “C’est Si Bon,” but for the way Megan and Marie were acting, I would have liked this version by Eartha Kitt. Then again, they could have played this and it would have worked just as well.

– And to end on a positive note, Vanity Fair put together a hilarious video of Don Draper’s life… on social media:

Photo Credits: Michael Yarish & Justina Mintz / AMC Television

Originally published on 13 April 2015 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile

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