Entertainment Magazine

Review #3495: Mad Men 5.8: “Lady Lazarus”

Posted on the 09 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Matthew Weiner
Directed by Phil Abraham

The show chooses to highlight the struggles between men and women in the face of change among other things. A tug-o-war is occurring everywhere you look, from inside SCDP to the New York suburbs and even in the presence of crucial clients needed for business to continue. All of the characters on this show can’t handle change the way they should.

Review #3495: Mad Men 5.8: “Lady Lazarus”

I’ve been writing all this season that this is necessary to adapt and live in the world they’re occupying. Pete wants to be Don Draper so badly that he engages in a misguided affair with the wife of his friend on the train. It fails miserably because he can’t wrest away control of the affair from the woman. Megan has a change of heart about her career, and this throws Don into chaos. Which in turn throws Peggy into turmoil at work as well. Change comes suddenly, without anyone expecting it, and it throws everyone at first. The way they deal with it here was painful and cringe-worthy, and it’s not going to stop so they need to get tougher and work all of it out. Otherwise, there’s no hope for any of them.

Maybe it would be better to take on the mindset that Beth has for the entirety of this episode. How easily it was to wholly reject Pete’s advances (which are understandable given how eager Pete seems to want to engage in the affair) and how she messes with his mind and emotions. The last image of her drawing that small heart on the fogged-up window was indicative that she truly liked Peter, but that was all there was to it. The heart is gone with the flick of a switch, and Pete may never see her again.

The dalliance for her was always going to be fleeting. For Pete, it was his best chance to be Don Draper. To live out what he really wanted in the high-class whorehouse in “Signal 30.” Like everything that happened to him in that episode, this just doesn’t work for him. For one thing, he’s so callous about it. He calls her and weasels his way into coming back to her house. He really wants it to happen. When she rebuffs him, each time she rebuffs him, it causes him confusion. It goes so far as to put him into an existential crisis that he can only discuss with Harry of all people. He has never understood the amount of control women have over every aspect of human relationships. What to do in the relationship, how far the relationship goes, and where the relationship goes.

In this way, he’s much like what Don faces with Megan here. While there are indications that Beth is either emotionally damaged or even emotionally immature and that she has no idea what she wants, she knows that she doesn’t want Pete. He’s left in the lurch and unable to know where to go. Pete has Trudy, a woman who has only known that being the dutiful housewife is the endpoint purpose to her life. So Pete has never had to deal with a woman who doesn’t fit his ideal. He never had control of Beth, and that perplexes him. He is unable to adapt, and what he can’t seem to identify what is lacking about him that everyone else seems to have or accepted as part of their own identity.

We know, of course, that Megan has functioned for all this time as Don’s wife. She has seemingly carved out a decent career as a successful copywriter. Only, apparently there is something missing. She gets one phone call and decides to proceed full-time with her dreams of becoming an actress. This doesn’t really come out of nowhere (Don remarked in the past that no one dreams of growing up being someone working in advertising; Megan’s own father pointed out her failure to pursue her dreams last episode), but it’s still quite sudden. It throws everyone, from Don to Peggy and other co-workers at SCDP.

It looks like Megan can deal with people making fun of her for trying to be an actress (and it doesn’t help that she initially didn’t have a role to fall back on once she quits the firm), but this hurts Don and Peggy the most. All of Megan’s work will be heaped onto Peggy, and it’s hard to tell whether she’s upset about that or if it’s the fact that she is going to lose her most promising protegee. Megan’s absence affects the firm’s work almost immediately. The rehearsal of the Cool Whip ad between Megan and Don demonstrates their natural chemistry together. Not only are they husband and wife in real life, but they can convincingly play-act as a couple. When Peggy is asked to substitute for Megan during the actual pitch to the Cool Whip company, that chemistry is missing. Peggy flubs the tagline and there’s this stilted way about their conversation. The fact that Megan left has potentially cost the firm new business. It will take time, but Peggy and the group will recover from Megan’s departure. For now, it’s really costing them in ways they hadn’t expected.

Don seems lost and hurt the most by Megan leaving SCDP. Outwardly, he can’t do anything to stop this. Megan’s independent streak is one of the things he loves about her, and forcing her to stay in advertising would crush that. Unlike Betty, he can’t seem to control the course of this new relationship, one where they seem to operate on two completely different wavelengths. Judging by what happens at the firm (the Cool Whip pitch is a fiasco), and Don’s change in demeanor, he may have needed Megan more than anyone else.

While his motivation to work has lessened with her there, he was happier and more confident than before. That was augmented by their collective teamwork in landing the Heinz account. Don was sure he and Megan could be a fully functional couple who worked together in the same office. Now that is gone, and he’s unsure of where to go from here. More than that, Megan kept Don current and up to speed with the changing times. Notice that the guys find a very old song as background music for the Cool Whip ad. Megan presents him with the latest Beatles album to listen to (the Beatles song at the end had to have cost the show or the network a ton of money), and it’s given at a time when the Beatles were at the height of their fame. Her generation goes with the times and the social change that is going to come up soon.

If Don doesn’t have that in the office, the firm may be permanently stuck in the past. A harbinger of doom immediately comes when Megan physically leaves the office. Don almost walks into an empty elevator shaft, an image that drips with symbolism and subtext. What will save Don Draper from the fall now? It’s hard to know and to predict the future, but everyone here should prepare for the worst. It’s coming, and there’s little they can do to stop it.

Grade: 9/10

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog