By Jordan Magrath
This week in “Mad Men’s” masterful juggling contest, they worked more with Pete (who already has one great episode under his belt), while staying true to Megan and Don – the real power couple – in the meantime. “Lady Lazarus,” gave us a little shake-up, but more importantly, it’ll probably be an episode we watch on the second go-around where we say “this is where it began.” In other words, it could be the catalyst episode for a number of story lines.
From the get-go, Pete fills up the screen time. His train buddy, Howard, admits he has a mistress. This isn’t some unchartered territory for Pete (obviously). However, he’s had his bouts this season, even with a baby in the mix. Personally, I’d never cheat on Alison Brie, but hey, this is the 1950’s.
When Pete befriends Howard’s lonely wife, Beth, he offers to drive her back to her place. The sparks fly after the arrive home. Later, Pete finds himself longing for Beth, even if she wants nothing to do with him. More on this later.
This week’s “pop-culture” reference goes to the Beatles. Earlier this season we got The Rolling Stones, which seemed to baffle Don a bit. As the younger girls pointed out, he was getting too old to understand the in-crowd. Much like The Rolling Stones, Don can’t seem to understand the craze behind the Beatles. I loved the end song – especially the way Don just simply turned it off.
As for his personal life, Megan lies to Don about trying out her acting career some more. I found it very interesting that, after she admitted to lying, Don’s first question was about how often she lies – not whether or not she got the part. It was a more subtle thing, but I think it shows a lot about Don. Yes, he cares for Megan. However, he’s probably the least trusting person in “Mad Men,” making it seem obvious he’d have his own insecurities.
In the end, Megan decides to quit the job -which irks Peggy (who was in Bitch Mode this week) – and re-pursue her acting career. There were parallels to be made between Megan and Betty (who has been absent for awhile now) before they explicitly mentioned it this week. It’s not a stretch to think their (Don and Megan’s) relationship could come to a similar end.
Don and Megan’s little acting pitch (before she quit) was a fun thing to watch, especially since it came more full-circle when Peggy botched it later. It reminded me of a scene in “Super 8,” where actors are supposed to play actors. It’s definitely not easy to play someone playing someone else.
By the end, we got a depressing wrap-up to Pete’s story (depressing if you care for Pete, that is). When Beth won’t come out with him again, Pete acts like he’s interested in Howard’s insurance help. The two of them return home to an awkward encounter with Beth. When Howard is away, Pete slips her an invite to a hotel room. Of course, she stands Pete up, infuriating him. With the famous Lane Pryce boxing scene and this broken champagne sequence here, things are starting to really snowball in his life. Is he heading for rock bottom? If so, how far is Matthew Weiner willing to go to achieve rock bottom? There isn’t room for all the major players in the office, so who is going to be the one to go?
One last thing worth mentioning (which I glossed over), at one point, Don looked down an empty elevator shaft. I certainly didn’t consider this a moment of suicide, but it was a bit unsettling seeing Don’s reaction. It’s tough to think it had any immediate effect on Don’s character (considering the order of the series), but given his past, the existential nature of his actions (especially when mixed with his Dick Whitman persona) still have plenty of time to breathe.
Like I mentioned earlier, “Lady Lazarus” could end up being a pivotal episode for many reasons. Whether we’re talking about Megan’s acting career, Pete’s rage, or Don’s existentialism, there is a lot going on behind-the-scenes. Like always, the episode juggled plenty of stories. I am feeling a little shortchanged on some characters (Betty, Lane, Joan), but I know there is a plan of action. I’ll let “Mad Men” wow me again next week.