Dear John and Julia,
The waitress is a keeper! Julia, you thought they had no real chemistry. I thought she was just a one-off socialist prop. It turns out they were destined for each other. Diana, the itinerant waitress from Racine, Wisconsin, is a female variation of Dick Whitman: on the run, lying, trying to manage her secrets but never really escaping them. I was wondering why Don insisted on seeing her apartment. He had to know it would be a dump, and his presence there would cause her shame. But he was obviously looking for something. His apartment—like something out of Architectural Digest, she said—was like a stage set for her New York fantasies. But he didn’t want an actress. He wanted someone who would feel a “twinge” in her heart, and I think, but I’m not sure yet—he wanted someone he could save.
I have to admit, for the first half I feared this episode would be a drag. It seemed like its title, “New Business,” was just there to fool us. There is nothing “new”: only ex-wives still screaming at you on the phone, Megan’s mother still asking Roger to take advantage of her, and Sylvia, Don’s mistress from Season 6, still riding up and down the same elevator. And Pete, on the way to the golf outing, asking the relevant but somewhat tired question: “Jiminy Crickets. You think you can do life over and do it right. But what if you never get past the beginning again?” (Recalling Roger’s metaphor from Season 6 about the doors of life that lead nowhere). I get the idea—life is not, as the Buddha wishes, a steady march to enlightenment. I am sympathetic to this idea. I’m just not sure I’m excited to watch it unfold. Never get past the beginning? Even in the finale?
But here and there, the episodes left little signposts to a way out. Megan’s mother, after many years of unhappiness, is finally leaving her oppressive husband. More importantly, Don seems ready to make amends. He gives Megan a million-dollar check, enough to prevent her from haunting him. In Diana, he has a woman he can rescue and possibly do it correctly this time. And his apartment: Could we have a clearer metaphor for a fresh start? In case you missed it, there were the lyrics to “C’est si Bon,” eyes full of “un espoir merveilleux”—a marvelous hope. Matt Weiner loves the theme of redemption. He has set Don up all these seven seasons for just this test: Will he fail again? Or this last time, can he prove to us that he’s changed?
I’m not sure I buy the Don/Diana relationship, or if I like the air of Raymond Carver realist unreality that hangs over them. But it did produce some of the best dialogue of the episode. The conversation in bed where they seem to be acting out a commercial for Avon—“You smell incredible. What is that?” That scene felt like a replay of Don’s dream last week about Rachel in the mink commercial. (“You’re not just smooth. You’re Wilkinson smooth.”) And the soap opera vibe brought on by Diana’s story about having left her little girl behind, which was then punctured by a Groucho one-liner: “You should go,” she says. And he answers: “But this is my house.”
I will leave it to one of you to berate Harry for his despicable treatment of Megan. Has he ever been such a jerk before? Harry has been our reliable in-house representative of the future. And here he is behaving like a dinosaur sexist. Or maybe this is a new kind of sexism. As I wrote last week, at least Roger’s old brand of sexism had some chivalry attached. But this was a colder, cruder form of the crime. He sold Megan out at both ends—spilling her secrets to Don, and then calling her “unstable.” Where did this version of Harry come from?
And Pima in pinstripes, the lusty photographer. Who is she supposed to be? Annie Leibovitz, who just came back to the U.S. that year on the staff of Rolling Stone? Germaine Greer, who was not a photographer but knew how to make a suit look sexy? And why on earth did Stan fall for her terrible lines?
I can feel the tension in your need for my opinion,