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Monday, May 7, 2012

The Televangelist: 'Mad Men' Season 5, Ep 8

FML

Let's talk about Pete. I'm worried for him. Are you? After being such a slime ball in the first two seasons of the show, he really seemed to grow in the last two. This year, he's completely falling apart (a season later than Don, of course, his idol).

The episode title, "Lady Lazarus" is based on a Sylvia Plath poem about rebirth, but it's also about suicide. Pete cavalierly mentions to his train friend Howard that his insurance policy "even covers suicide!" after two years. Remember Pete holding a gun in a dark room to end Season Two? And then mentions of guns this season by both Pete and Trudy? Pete's ill-considered affair with Rory Gilmore Beth (Alexis Bledel, wooden as ever. She makes January Jones look positively nuanced) was full of problems. He's not Don, he can't carry on an affair properly. He was emotional and reckless and needy, and his depressing comments to Harry about the insignificance of being just a dot on a tiny, unprotected orb floating in the vast darkness of space was the kind of thing that would make you say to your friend "... ok, let's get you out of the house."

I worry for him.

It has been a dark and foreboding season, and no moment was creepier in "Lady Lazarus" than Don nearly stepping off into an empty elevator shaft. Are we meant to take from this that Megan, his support, is gone? That there's nowhere to go but down? If someone is going to be the falling man seen in the opening credits of the show, it certainly isn't literally going to be Don. Not yet at least, we have two more seasons!

No one on the show ever seems particularly happy, but Don has probably been the jolliest of the lot since he married Megan. Her departure from Sterling Cooper seem to wake Don up to the fact that his happiness is very fragile. Moreover, if he's not getting what he wants ... but wait, what does he want? As for Megan, her dream of acting was a bit of a disappointing moment given the build up. I for one was hoping for a more significant reveal for her dream. I'm surprised her father was so pro-acting and anti- her discovering an amazing talent for advertising. The thing is, Megan is acting at Sterling Cooper. It was the role of a lifetime - Don Draper's wife, acting her way into the hearts of clients hither and yon. But Don acts every day, too - as Don Draper, and not Dick Whitman. And Megan "acts" as his wife - not that she doesn't love him, but in the way that they were able to devise a schtick for Cool Whip and play it out in a way that Peggy and Don could not, the same way she prompted him with the Heinz account.

In a scene early in the hour, Pete goes dragging skis out of the office while Peggy sits confidently doing work, which perfectly illustrated how Pete has regressed as Peggy has flourished. Her confidence allowed her to bicker with Don and call him out, wonderfully, "I am not the one you are angry with so shut up!" without retaliation from him. Further, not wanting to get tied up in the Draper Mess, she hilariously shouts "PIZZA HAUUS!" to get Don off of the phone. Peggy may not be getting all that she wants in her personal life, but at SCDP she knows exactly where she is and what she wants. Like Joan, she has carved out a place for herself that makes her indispensable and not, hopefully, entirely miserable.

"Lady Lazarus" has probably been the weakest episode of "Mad Men" so far this season, with such a focus on Megan (I get that she's the protagonist's wife so her decisions affect him but ... meh. She is the least interesting female on the show. Bring back Fat Betty!) as well as a slow day in the SCDP office. Though like any episode, it was still full of delightful small moments, like Harry and Pete's interaction where they realized neither one needed to talk to the other (if Pete thinks he's low on the totem pole, he should look at Harry, who despite giving himself great job security has never been accepted by anyone. To quote a friend, "he's like the AV guy the football team keeps around to hook up the porn").

Maybe "Lady Lazarus" really was about rebirth, and how Don must once again adapt in the face of disappointment. Still though ... I worry for Pete.

Musings and Miscellanea:

— YES that was Mr Belding from "Saved By The Bell" as the head of Cool Whip!

— Pete was reading The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon on the train

— "Jane wanted to have a baby, but I thought, why do that to anybody?" - Roger

— Megan and Don's apartment is SO noisy, I can barely hear them talking. I live off of a 4-lane highway and my place isn't as loud as theirs.

— Why was pressing the elevator to go down after Megan left anyway?

— That little heart thing between Beth and Pete was so cheesy. Grow up, both of you!

— I loved the idea that Megan owes Ginsberg $15. She would be the type of girl to do that.

— Every time someone walks in to Joan's nook I'm expecting her to pull a Lucy van Pelt and say "Psychiatrist, 5 cents please."

— I wish I had a screencap of that LBJ dancing skeleton they had on the door of the art room. Brilliant.

— Why would Megan wake Don up in the night to tell him something important. People always do this on TV and in movies, does anyone do it real life? I don't see the point. It is well known that if anyone woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me anything besides "the house is on fire," there would be some kind of hell to pay!

— Of course, The Beatles.

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