Mad Men “New Business” Review (Season 7 Episode 9)

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This week’s Mad Men emphasizes what a failure Don Draper is in his personal life. This is not exactly a revelation. He’s a terrible father, has two failed marriages under his belt, and thinks he can create a meaningful relationship with a woman he banged in an alley. This dismal view of relationships is something that has touched every character of the show, but none more than Don.

In the beginning, we see Don on parent duty with his two sons. This is something we hardly ever see. Betty and Henry return home, so it’s time for Don to leave. Before he goes, Betty mentions that she’s planning on getting a masters degree. Her sexist jerk of an ex-husband laughs at her—even before finding out what she wants to study. Don can’t get out of there fast enough. Yet when he reaches the door he wistfully glances back at the familial tableau. I can’t feel sorry for him. He had a family and did everything in his power to destroy it. What Betty has is clearly not perfect and she’s an awful mother, but at least she tries. That’s a lot more than Don does.

We find out that the divorce between Don and Megan isn’t final. She wants money, which Don initially complains about giving to her. Megan returns to New York to collect her belongings with the help of her sister and mother. Both women are overdramatic shrews and complain that Don has ruined Megan’s life. Really? Megan knew what she was getting when she married Don. She knew for years that he wasn’t going to change, so she pursued her own acting dreams. Because Megan’s career has stalled, she’s now looking back at her marriage as the source of all her problems. If she were a successful actress, you know she’d be more than happy about leaving Don in the dust.

Don goes on the hunt for the diner waitress, Diana. It’s completely unclear why he does this. Except that it’s Don and he is perpetually obsessed with the chase. She eventually calls him at 3am and he tells her to come over. For some odd reason, she agrees and Don gets out of bed and puts on a suit. It’s almost as if he’s getting into costume. He’s putting on his Don Draper best in order to establish his supremacy in the situation. Diana arrives in her waitress uniform, which is a stark contrast to his professional attire.

Don lays on the charm…and yes, that’s sarcasm. With such lines like, “It’s 3 in the morning, you know why you’re here,” how could a woman not be enamored with him? He’s even more of a charmer when he offers Diana his ex-wife’s discarded clothing. But Diana is messed up and nothing seems to register with her. She’s kind of an irritating character. Her long silences and robotic demeanor got on my nerves.

Don is Don and he falls right back into his typical behavior. He blows off work the next morning to stay in bed with Diana. He says he wants to see her again that night. He later buys her a gift and goes to her place, even though it’s a dump. Don is putting on the charm offensive to obscure his true, miserable self. Once he identifies a fellow tortured soul, he zooms in on her with false pretenses of being a savior and protector. Once his fantasy is fulfilled and he gets the girl, his own misery resurfaces and he drops her. What he didn’t count on with Diana is that she doesn’t want to be saved.

Megan seems to understand that the only thing Don can offer her now is money. She wants to be fair and tells her mother that she only wants certain things from the apartment. When Megan leaves, her mother has the movers pack up every piece of furniture. Here’s where the episode takes a ridiculous turn. Her mother calls Roger to come over and pay the movers. He rushes over (because none of these guys actually work) and they end up having sex in the empty living room. I feel like the writers use sex as a crutch in this episode. This encounters with Roger and Stan felt gratuitous and out of place.

Megan and Peggy demonstrate that sex is not simply a tool for getting what you want. Megan goes to Harry for help with her acting career. They get together over lunch and she opens up about some of the challenges she faces in getting cast. Harry then pulls a true dirtbag maneuver that makes him hated forever more. He tells Megan that she’s a failure because she’s not spending time on the casting couch and tries to get her up to his room. What a troll. Megan is having no part of it, fortunately, and is not going to compromise herself.

Peggy finds herself in a similar situation when she employs Pima Ryan, a famous photographer/artist. Pima uses sex to try and get assignments from the agency. She starts by buttering up Stan and having sex with him the company dark room. Stan’s in a relationship, but whatever. It’s Mad Men…people will have sex with whoever, whenever. Pima later puts the moves on Peggy, after Peggy overrules some of her artistic decisions. Peggy is smarter than Stan, though, and recognizes what Pima is trying to do. It was good that at least two people rejected sex this episode. It’s a rare occurrence.

Megan eventually ends up across the table from Don to discuss their divorce. All of her anger towards him (and her frustration with her own life) explodes. Instead of taking responsibility or even appreciating what he’s done, Don writer her a check. A million dollars is what Don is willing to pay to purge any feelings of guilt. Considering the time period, that’s a whole lot of money. Megan may never need to act again. This is how Don solves his problems – write a check and all is forgiven.

This episode was deeply cynical of the ability of people to have happy relationships. No one can accuse Mad Men of subtlety, as is shown by the final image of Don standing in the empty apartment. He’s been rejected by Diana. His last ties to Megan are severed. He’s all alone. Again.