Friday, 17 April 2015

MAD MEN, 7.9 – 'New Business'

Friday, 17 April 2015


An episode where lots of women moved on to with their lives, either by making new connections or severing ties with their past. Betty's (January Jones) off to study for a master's degree in psychology (rationalising she's suitable because "people love to talk to me"); Megan (Jessica Paré) moved her clothes out of Don's (Jon Hamm) apartment as their defunct marriage finally reached an amicable end, sweetened by Don giving her a cheque for $1,000,0000; Don slept with quiet waitress Diana (Elizabeth Reaser), only for her to later decide she can't start a relationship because it makes her forget her two daughters (one who died, the other living with her father); and Megan's mother, Marie (Julia Ormond), had an unexpected sexual liaison with Roger (John Slattery), which inspired her to end her own unhappy marriage—to the chagrin of Megan's righteous sister Marie-France (Kim Bubbs)...

And that's not even mentioning the introduction of renowned arts photographer Samantha "Pima" Ryan (Mimi Rogers), who's being courted by Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) to work on SC&P's Cinzano account, and takes a shine to Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) that leads to them having sex in the office's dark room—a reveal that confused Peggy, as the apparently bisexual Pima had also made a pass at her earlier that day.

It was quite interesting to have an episode with such an emphasis on women, and the material was certainly well-written and entertaining as things started to build. My concerns this week are mainly down to a feeling the season's wasting a lot of time, considering there are only a handful of episodes left before Mad Men ends. Did we need another hour just confirming the divorce of the Draper's, with so many scenes revolving around Megan's family in California? Maybe the relationship between Marie and Roger is going to become more serious, and provide worthwhile closure for the latter? It just feels a little odd to be focusing on storylines and characters that, quite beside the point aren't hugely popular with fans, just don't seem to be leading anywhere new.

In particular, are we seriously witnessing the end of Don/Diana before that relationship even got started? If so, that's the shortest romance the character's ever had, so it seems very odd to have spent two precious episodes on it. And what did we learn exactly? Don's a fascinating character, but he's also someone whose behaviour goes in circles—which is the point, sort of, but doesn't stop audience reaction becoming a little divided. A lot of people have been wondering why there isn't more excitement about Mad Men reaching its end, and there are many factors—concerning the increase in quality competition since it began, but also how some of the main characters always seem to swim in circles too often. There's also no ultimate goal for a show like Mad Men, really. Nothing for the lead character to achieve that's tangible; we just hope Don will learn from his past (which he sort of has now), accept himself for who he is, and live happily ever after. Or, perhaps, die having finally understood his place on this earth.

Overall, "New Business" contained quality writing and lovely performances—always great to see Mimi Rogers in something good, so hope she sticks around—but it felt like a superfluous hour in broad terms. I really hope the remaining episode develop a better sense of direction, so I can get excited about where things are headed—but with Mad Men having exhausted its variations on 'corporate takeovers', 'Don Draper romantic disasters', 'failed marriages', 'shock deaths', and 'advertising victories' over seven years, I'm beginning to wonder if Mad Men can pull something special out of the bag for its final hours. It's just so hard to know what Matthew Weiner's working towards now, as the series could very easily have ended after season 6... and there's a feeling this last season, despite some highlights, is perhaps asking too much. Or the awkward year-long hiatus halfway through has just killed too much of the energy?

written by Tom Smuts & Matthew Weiner • directed by Michael Uppendahl • 16 April 2015 • Sky Atlantic