TV in Review: Mad Men, “Lady Lazarus”
May 7, 2012 4 Comments
For those of you who watched Sherlock last night, please remember that I already reviewed “A Scandal in Belgravia” around the end of February. For those of you who watched Mad Men last night, join me in a discussion which may involve spoilers. For those of you who watched both, will you be my new best friend?
Um, you know how those conspiracy theorists have been predicting that Pete Campbell is going to kill himself this season? I’m hoping not, as Vincent Kartheiser has really won me over with the depth he gives to a character I would normally dislike. But Pete does open up this episode talking about suicide.
PETE: Look, I already have life insurance. It came with my junior partnership. And it’s six times my annual salary and after two years it covers suicide.
Gulp. Two years, eh?
You see that guy on the train with Pete? His name is Howard, and Pete gets to say hello to Howard’s wife, Beth.
Yeah, Pete doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life. But while we’re on the train, is Pete reading a copy of The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon?
Speaking of topical references, Michael Ginsberg lets us know that The Beatles and Alfred Hitchcock are on the scene, with references to A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and The Birds (1963). We also hear about Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam on a radio as Megan cooks dinner. Beef Bourgonion, to be precise.
Megan also gives Don a copy of The Beatles’ Revolver. Don plays “Tomorrow Never Knows” which is, of course, based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, to go along with the other premonitions of death such as Don staring down an elevator shaft. (The show plays a whole lot of “Tomorrow Never Knows” because, if you’re going to pay for those rights, you’re sure as heck going to use them.)
Interspersed with Pete’s melancholia, there are a lot of little comic moments in this episode. The Cool Whip ad-banter between Don and Megan. Harry and Pete confused as to who interrupts who at the phone booth. Michael asking Megan if acting jobs come with shoes. Pete and Roger making nice.
ROGER: See anything you like?
PETE: Are you asking if I ski?
ROGER: No. I wanna know which skis you want. Or, take them both.
PETE: Do they explode or something?
As Pete despairs at fulfilling his questionable and questioning desires, Megan finds out what hers are. She still wants to be an actress, which leads her to act secretive, before fessing up to Don. I like the idea of struggling-actress Megan better than weirdly-successful-copywriter Megan. Don takes the news well. Too well. It could lead to some deliciously uncomfortable moments in the future, though. (Here’s hoping.) Don does turn to Joan to help handle how the firm should say goodbye to his wife.
JOAN: Why don’t we have the girls take her to lunch? I mean, she’s not disappearing — is she?
When the tension surrounding Megan’s choice to quit does come to a boil, it’s cleverly done when she’s not even around. Instead, matters come to a head between Don and Peggy.
PEGGY: She thinks advertising is stupid.
DON: No. She thinks the people she worked with are cynical and petty.
So, all around, an episode that is deep with dark foreboding, with some pieces of funny sprinkled on top. (Think of “funny” as the Cool Whip.) It’s not one of those “oh, wow” episodes, but I also didn’t find myself disappointed — just looking forward to finding out what that foreboding is hinting at…
P.S. Point o’ trivia: did you know that The Beatles covered “September in the Rain” in their audition for Decca?
AMC first broadcast Season 5, Episode 8 of Mad Men on May 6, 2012.
Polentical: TV in Review, “At the Codfish Ball” (Season 5, Episode 7)
Consumer Culture in America: The Beatles on ‘Mad Men’
Deer in the Xenon-Arc Lights: Mad Men – Lady Lazarus
Read at Joe’s: MAD MEN 5.8: “Lady Lazarus”
Couchtime with Jill: Mad Men – Tomorrow Never Knows