Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: Mad Men "Lady Lazarus

Non Spoiler Review:
Lady Lazarus revisits Pete's marital infidelities, but illuminates his misogynist motivations as he's presented with an opportunity with a lonely housewife. As the creative team works on a Cool Whip campaign, a secret Megan is harboring begins to infect the office (and Peggy), leading to a surprising outcome for SCDP.

Lady Lazarus refers to the suicide-themed Sylvia Plath poem. The Megan situation brought plenty of tension, and it's not what one initially thinks it could be, but there continues to be this ongoing string of death imagery that casts an unsettled tone over everything. Don and Roger again debate the generation gap, which has become the primary theme for this season. There was plenty of good drama, and a great fight between Don and Peggy, ending on yet another catchy and memorable musical montage.

Spoilers Now!
Pete shares the train with Howard, who tries to sell him life insurance but ends up talking of his affair in Manhattan. Pete's only comment is if he's worried he'll get caught.

With Don present Michael sells a pitch to Chevalier Blanc that hinges on using a song similar to the Beatles. Don asks Megan what song will fit the campaign rather than the others in creative, and he can't understand why people now want songs rather than jingles.

The next night Pete gets off the train and Howard's wife Beth meets him, explaining she locked her keys in the car and Howard wasn't on the train. He drives her home, and she says he's staying in the city given they got an apartment, though she knows what that means. She mentions Pete's awful driving, too.

He gets her home, but she laments Howard likely doesn't care if she's alive or dead. He boldly goes in with her but she protests she wants to be left alone. So Pete kisses her and they end up having sex. As much as she liked it, she says it can't happen again.

Megan gets a mysterious phone call, then later sees Don off on a client dinner. Peggy thought they were working late but Megan tells her Don has asked her to attend the dinner. Unfortunately Don calls Peggy looking for Megan so she explains she went to meet him at the restaurant. Don says he never called and is, in fact, at home. He phones Peggy again, but she doesn't answer and leaves given she doesn't want to be put in the middle of them.

Megan returns home explaining she went out for a drink with friends. The next day Peggy asks her what it was all about and doesn't want to be put in that position again. It turned out she had a callback for an audition for a Broadway show but didn't get it. Megan didn't tell Don because she doesn't want him to know she still wants to be an actress. She's finally realized she wants to quit. That makes Peggy furious given people are killing to take that job and she doesn't even want to do it.

Peggy goes on to her creative meeting for Cool Whip with Don, Ken and Stan. She's only further irritated when Megan joins them. She and Don have come up with a charming husband/wife bit for the campaign that everyone (but Peggy) thinks is adorable, and they're to present it to the Cool Whip chef at their kitchen.

However, Megan wakes Don up in the middle of the night to explain where she was and that she misses acting. Don isn't very alarmed that she lied, but tells her sometimes they don't get to choose where their talents lie. She claims she felt better failing the audition than succeeding with Heinz. She's never tried as hard at acting as she did at advertising and she no longer wants to do it. Don's upset that she wants out of the business, but says he understands and doesn't want to keep her from her dream.

In the morning, an uneasy Don speaks with Joan about Megan quitting. Joan suggests the girls take her to lunch, but she'll take care of everything. Megan announces in creative that she's leaving but has difficulty saying good-bye. She hands over her work to Peggy, who asks if she's sure about it. Joan tells Peggy she didn't see it coming, and thinks Megan will ultimately be a failing actress with a rich husband. Peggy thinks she's good at everything and feels guilty for being too hard on her. Joan reminds her Don met Betty doing a print ad and that's the kind of girl he marries.

All Harry can think is how nice it will be not having to watch what he says around Megan. Pete doesn't care and is bitter about women in general and why they get to control everything. Pete had contacted Beth and wanted her to meet him in the city but she asked him not to call again.

Don sees Megan off for lunch, then thinks about following, however the other elevator door opens and he stares down an empty shaft, which proves unnerving. He goes to have a drink in his office (rather than report it to maintenance!?). Ken marches in to tell them they found a song for Chevalier Blanc, which sounds nothing like the Beatles, and Michael is aghast that it's thirty years old.

Pete finds Howard on the train home again, so he lets him know he decided to get a new policy and already contacted his broker. Howard wants the chance to sell to him, so invites him over to discuss it at dinner. They arrive to a shocked Beth who feigns an introduction. As Howard goes upstairs Pete grabs another kiss and wants to meet her again. Pete ends up staying for dinner, though Beth claims she has a headache.

Without Megan, it falls to Peggy to fill in for her at the Cool Whip meeting, but Peggy isn't on her game as much as Megan was. The two lack the same chemistry—Peggy comes across as an angry wife while Don is just passive aggressive. Ken and the others watch the awkward pitch, and the chef is disappointed and excuses himself. Don chides her for not knowing her lines, and when she balks abruptly exclaims she felt threatened by Megan. Peggy protests that she defended her all the time and accuses him of taking out his anger at Megan on her.

Pete waits in the hotel room for Beth who never shows, and angrily leaves after smashing a glass.

Roger and Don discuss Megan's departure. Roger thinks she just wants a baby, but Megan has said Don's kids are enough. Don doesn't want her to end up like Betty, so she should do what she wants.

Don goes home, and Megan has recommended a song for the campaign before heading off to acting class—the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows. He puts it on and it's far superior than Ken's choice. The episode ends with the song playing out over Peggy and Stan working late. Megan is enjoying her acting class. Pete sees Beth picking up Howard at the train station. She draws a heart in the condensation on her window. That just enrages him. Don doesn't like or understand the music at all and turns it off.

The Verdict:
Megan's departure wasn't entirely unexpected, though I'm pleased to see it was in this form, and not something related to the marriage. Don has certainly grown enough to realize his role in making Betty unhappy by robbing her of her own life, so he's wisely not going to make that mistake with Megan again. 

The plot was capped quite nicely with Megan providing the perfect music for Don at the end, despite Ken's horrible attempts to chose himself. Don's bickering with Peggy was a great (and funny) contrast to the initial amazing pitch. It seems Don can only be honest with Peggy, and not his wife. He certainly revealed his emotions to her, and she's come a long way that she can tell Don to shut up in front of Ken.

Pete's little fling really illuminated his character and his need to dominate women. He continues to attempt to emulate Don and fails miserably, frustrating him to no end. Beth was a bit of a kook, and it looks like she used Pete to get back at Howard as much as he was using her, but she remained in control of the situation despite all of Pete's best efforts. I get a sense that if Pete were to suffer a serious humiliation he could opt to off himself.

Don and Roger continue to struggle to understand the new generation they're selling to. After seeing Don grapple with the Beatles song (and even younger Ken not getting it), I'm wondering if SCDP can manage itself in this new era. But we got another great musical send off for Lady Lazarus, complete with archetypal brooding Don in chair with drink image.

Finally, the sense of impending doom continues to hover over the series, this time with Pete's (lack of) driving skills leading me to think he was heading for a nasty accident, as well as his discussion of life insurance. But then we get the elevator shaft scene with Don that was pretty chilling itself. Obviously it  brings a lot of stuff to mind (including the opening sequence), but very symbolic of being cut off from Megan. I'm pretty certain this means someone is going to die, and if not Pete, I now wonder if it could be Megan. It would definitely take Don's character in new directions if he were to lose her like that.

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