Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 09: New Business

The last episodes of Mad Men are hit or miss so far – this past week’s “Time and Life” was a return to form, but I digress. One of the characters introduced in these last days may be the reason for this narrative malaise, and her name is Diana. A waitress at a diner, Diana is markedly different from Don Draper’s previous lovers in the series. She does not stand out like Betty, she’s not stylish and kind like Megan, nor is she anything like the myriad other women we’ve seen Don with in the series. She’s cold, indifferent to him, and immediately haunted. What attracts Don to this kind of woman? Who knows really.

Some might think she’s a symbol from his past, a reminder of his mother who was a prostitute. But that line of thinking has made its way into describing nearly all of his relationships with dark haired women. There has to be a line somewhere, right? Not everything can be utterly Freudian, or can it? The one thing Diana does share with Don’s mother – spoilers here if you haven’t watched – is the inverse relationship she has with her child who is dead. Don’s mother died in child birth, Diana’s child died after birth. Whether this has any implication will remain to be revealed. I’m sure Diana fulfills some sort of narrative function, I’m just not genius enough to see it yet. As a long time viewer of the show I can, however, give my immediate feelings and reactions to this character.

Who the hell is this woman?

It’s rare in this show that I’m physically repulsed by Don Draper and his exploits. I mean, how horrific can a bunch of beautiful people having affairs in a 1960s office setting be? Diana is an outward manifestation of the filth and grime that lays underneath all the beauty and glamour.

I love the subtlety of Mad Men’s portrayal of this in New York City, especially at a time when the city was embarking on an era of turmoil. Diana does not feel subtle. She feels very dark, moody, mysterious but, ultimately, boring. She sucks the life out of every scene she’s in and I can’t think it’s the actress’ fault because she’s a damn talented actress. It’s as if Matthew Weiner summoned forth a zombie from The Walking Dead- this character has that much depth. When it was speculated that she may be a killer, and may have killed her child and -gasp- might even kill Don, I was so turned off that I didn’t care. I actually was cool with the idea. Let this crazy lady kill Don Draper and let’s devote the rest of the episodes to Joan, Peggy and Stan, Pete and Trudy, and all the myriad other relationships that I’d rather get closure on in this show.

Don screwing in the alley, followed by saccharine garbage with yet another one – it gets old. He has the emotional development of a 13 year old boy and it’s just not interesting anymore. I don’t know whether it’s always been this way with him as a character or if Diana just draws a highlighter over all the things that make Don just a boring, lame guy. Sad to think, eh? Again, it all comes down to subtlety and it all goes out the window when Diana’s in the episode.

[Vanity Fair]