Musing Review: Mad Men – Lady Lazarus (S5, Ep8)
It’s taken me some time to pen my review of this episode of Mad Men. I just spent some time trying to understand this great episode. Yes, it was a great episode tying together many aspects of this season and it had some stellar authentic music. Its title is shared with a poem by Sylvia Plath (which I just read). The poem is about a woman who just wants to die and each time she does is reborn. Though at the end of the poem she is reborn as a Phoenix (mythical bird reborn from fire) and has hopes of vanquishing her oppressors in the time to come. So the imagery of the episode is not quite so dire though a couple of characters are experiencing this type of story throughout the episode. Before we go on we have to remember how much and how fast the world of Mad Men is changing.
Over the past few episodes we’ve seen Megan “stifled.” She had expressed displeasure at not knowing whether she was Mrs. Draper or an employee at SCDP. Her father had given her a hard time about not working hard before she got all of Don’s riches. A couple times it even turned violent. Turns out she felt very oppressed by the life she was living. Although she was good at her copywriting job she just didn’t have the heart for it. She had been secretly going to acting auditions trying to fulfill her real dream of becoming an actress. She ended up getting caught in her lie and had to come clean to Don. (Does it seem that everyone on this show has big life secrets?) She was scared to tell Don and rightfully so. Don has a temper and things might not go so well.
He strangely took the news very well. He was very supportive of her wanting to go back to acting and taking class. She was relieved and wanted to transition out of her current job. Don wasn’t ready to let that happen and told her that she’d have one more day in the office and then she’d be done. We then saw a bittersweet Megan stroll into the office and tell everyone she’s leaving. Her departure was met with mixed reaction as we’d expect. The male copywriters took it in stride, Joan made a snarky remark about her mooching off Don’s riches though Peggy took the cake for her reaction.
Peggy was needless to say pissed. She felt that she’d taught Megan everything she knows and felt betrayed. On top of that she really respected Megan and thought she was chasing her life away. I also sensed a bit of feeling abandoned. Peggy of course didn’t take it out on Megan but took it out on everyone else. How typical, how very “Don” of her.
Don’s reaction was interesting. I expected him to freak out and get violent. He must truly love her and want her to be happy (so not his relationship with Betty). He was bewildered though. He didn’t know what was to come next. This existential moment was illustrated in such a great way. As Don was seeing her off to her lunch and a crying Megan left in an elevator he decided he wanted to go down with her so he called the next elevator. As the doors opened in the second shaft there was no elevator. Don just looked down into the abyss not being able to see what the future held. I also took away a bit about him almost walking into the shaft and not dying, therefore not entering the abyss. It could have been been another turning point for Don, or maybe I’m over exaggerating.
With respect to Lady Lazarus I feel that Megan rose from the ashes like a phoenix. She’ll shed the “oppressors” at SCDP and be all the better for it.
Pete’s story was the other Lady Lazarus story in this episode. He’s had quite the dichotomy of a life. Things couldn’t be better professionally. People are lining up to work with him, Roger stopped treating him like crap and he’s recovered from Lane’s beating. On the other hand he’s very unhappy in his personal life. He hates the suburbs, things aren’t going well with Trudy, he’s a terrible handyman and we’ve seen him cheat in the whorehouse. He’s oppressed in his own way.
He found his way to the wife of a train mate (remember the insurance salesman). A chance encounter at the train station led him to her house. They were both ready to make mistakes and made love on the floor. Pete was way more into it though and started to develop infatuated feelings with her. She wanted to make it a one time thing but Pete did not. He started getting desperate and calling her, he even made an audacious move and went back to her house with her husband. (Bold Pete, bold …) He invites her to the Pennsylvania Hotel and he waits for her there. When she doesn’t show up he gets angry and throws a champagne glass against the wall. Great imagery.
The way I see it Pete isn’t rising from the ashes to beat his oppressors this time. In fact I think the disappointment over his affair not working out is just another death for him. He needs to get his act together. He’s devolving more and more every week.
So this was a very good episode. Very deep and existential. Possibly one of the best this season. Not a lot happened per say though a lot happened to further character development. Can Don be married to an actress? Will Peggy deal? Will Pete cheat again? Only the next episodes will tell.
Watch Mad Men on AMC at 10:00PM on Sundays. Catch up On Demand if available.
Tags: AMC, Mad Men, review, season 5