Here’s something Matt Weiner said (when we met! him! la la!) that has stuck with me: Each episode should be its own movie.
It was striking, there in the Jacob Burns Film Center, that Smoke Gets In Your Eyes worked perfectly as a film, albeit a short one. It through introduction of characters smoothly, it was sexy, it had a pay-off and a reveal and a bit of mystery, it was gorgeous to look at, and it filled the big screen.
Weiner’s goal is for each episode to be a movie. Yes, each should build on the last and our understanding of these people should grow. But each should be self-contained, hold its own personal and symbolic value, have some emotional conclusion (however subtle) and have visual strength.
I’m putting zillions of words in Weiner’s mouth. He never said any of this. But he did say that each episode should be its own movie (and some other stuff…damn, Roberta, where’s that transcript?) and this is how I understood him. And given what we know of this show, it makes total sense.