COOL: Mad Men S5 E8 “Lady Lazarus”

Posted on May 9, 2012 by


words: TA

Here’s what I love about Mad Men when it’s at its best: there are at least two ways of seeing every plot development, and they all have equal validity in the moment. We know as little in the present as the characters do—there’s no foreshadowing, or obvious set-ups for an inevitable plot twist. I can really see Megan’s future going either way right now, and Joan and Peggy each take a side. Joan thinks Megan is Betty redux, and Peggy honestly thinks Megan is reaching for the stars. And the title, “Lady Lazarus,” cuts two ways as well: is Megan heading for rebirth, or a new kind of death? Does “Lady Lazarus” rather apply to Pete, whose suicide spiral is temporarily stalled by the completely unrealistic hope for happiness after sex with unhappily married Rory Gilmore?

All of these issues left me pondering, but I couldn’t really get fired up about a topic for discussion until SH pointed me to a very interesting recap / review ( Here are two quotations which I put to you for analysis:1. “From his first season, spent canoodling with assorted beatniks and Jews, through his California dreaming, Don was always at his most comfortable when surrounded by youth and difference. But something changed in last season’s “The Good News.” Don’s awkward attempt to bed Stephanie, Anna Draper’s lissome niece, marked a sudden transition from hedonist to creep, from participant to observer. Losing Anna cost him his past, but it also changed his future. This vanishing mojo has been remarkably painful to observe, like watching James Bond turn into your dad.”

Wow—I couldn’t agree with this more. Except that I’m not sure that marked his transition; Don was full of possibility for growth last season—his life was on the precipice of change. The way I see it is that Don essentially chose notto change when he proposed to Megan. As Joan said, she’s the type of girl Don goes for. He fell back into old patterns, rather than changing and moving forward. Don may be happy (is he happy? it’s hard to tell), but he’s no longer challenged. He no longer craves the new; he’s coasting on the high of indoor plumbing.

2. “Initially dismissed as a cheap fling, Don’s foolish French surrender, Megan, it turns out, is the most powerful person ever to step through the glass doors of SCDP. Sure, Lee Garner Jr. could make Roger put on a Santa suit, but could he get Don to fall desperately to his knees? Pete still keeps a rifle in his office, but Megan’s bulletproof, immune to the charms of devoting one’s life to pleasing other people. Yeah, she’s good at it, but she’s good at other things, too. Like a true hobo, her greatest strength lies in her ability to walk away. After she spat out his sherbet, Don drove off in a huff, but Megan was the one who vanished. He allowed her to quit, but she was already long gone, his reward an empty apartment and the stoned, noisy caterwauling of a bunch of British freaks….  Where Peggy had to fight and claw just to get a taste, Megan was handed everything on the menu, shrugged, and ordered ice cream instead. Generation gaps are only threatening to those on the wrong side of them. While Don and Peggy were stuck squabbling over artificial dessert topping, Megan zooby-zoomed her way into the stratosphere.”

Wow—I couldn’t disagree with this more. I guess, objectively, Megan does wield power—but her “greatest strength” does not “lie in her ability to walk away.” On the contrary, the vast majority of her power comes from her sexual and marital connection to a senior partner at SCDP. Since when did the boss’s wife not wield power? Since never. If Megan is able to “walk away,” it is only because she has the luxury of deciding to become a kept woman. Peggy, Joan, Ginsberg, Ken, Frank (is that his name? why am I forgetting his name?): none of them have that advantage. Score one for rich people! Seriously, I think this assessment is so tone-deaf it’s astonishing. Deciding to leave Don takes guts; deciding to leave your mediocre job for evening drama classes does not. Megan’s father may have inspired her to pursue her dreams of acting, but I highly doubt his idea of “struggle” is finding your center while doing breathing exercises on the floor.

What do you all think of Megan? Is she a clueless, privileged, bored white girl with #richpeopleproblems? Or is she a powerful woman who knows what she wants and stops at nothing to get it?

Or we can talk about Pete. Or Don (and his elevator shaft, heh heh). Or Rory Gilmore.

Posted in: COOL