“Mad Men,” Episode 8, “Lady Lazarus”

I looked up the Sylvia Plath poem “Lady Lazarus” after watching this episode of “Mad Men” that borrows the title.

It’s an arresting work, blending her pain with Holocaust horrors in sharp-edged way that hurts to read. It was written about four months before she committed suicide in February 1963.

The obvious “Mad Men” parallel is the arresting character introduced in this seg, Beth, wife of Howard Daws, Pete Campbell’s craven train companion. I could hear the squeals of millions of TV geeks exulting in the collision of “Gilmore Girls” and “Mad Men” through the casting of Alexis Bledel as Beth. But there was nothing done with a wink in this role, and Bledel was really good, as “Gilmore” fans always knew she would be in a meaty dramatic part. A young wife, eaten alive by the certainty that her husband is cheating on her — something Plath knew all too well thanks to that rat Ted Hughes.

As much as this was an episode about Pete and his further descent into suburban alienation, it was an episode about Don and Megan too. The key intersection there for me was in the scene toward the end where Don is talking with Roger about Megan’s decision to quit Sterling Cooper to pursue acting again. He mentions to Roger (while lying on the couch in classic psychoanalysis pose) that he doesn’t want Megan to wind up like Betty or Megan’s mother — unhappy and unfulfilled. (He also delivers a great line: “I was raised in the ’30s. I wanted indoor plumbing.”)

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  1. “The Cool-Whip storyline was interesting for the question it raised about why Megan would turn down the chance at a commercial if she’s trying to restart her acting career?”
    Don nixed either of them in the actual commercial. He said it would be bad for business.

  2. Wallace says:

    I think a theme of the episode is: what constitutes fulfillment. As the converesation between Don and Roger shows, for their generation it was material. Roger says he never had a chance to choose his way, his father told him what he would so. Don wanted “indoor plumbing”. At the same time Megan is the next gereration. She’s willing pass on the security and money of the agency abnd a steady jod and try acting. Ginsberg is constantly putting-down what he does. And there is the speech by Harry about how pointless what they do is. Also, the whole Cool Whip storyline I think goes to this. In the scne with Megan and Don in the kitchen, Megan is listening to news about Vietnam, while Don has spent his day trying out slogans for non-dairy whipped topping. I think Don’s agnst with Megan is that she is following her dream and he has made his choices and can’t undo it. His fate is to obsess on baked beans and whipped topping. It’s how the Greatest Generation defined fulfillment ad how the generation of the 60’s did. And Pegg’s caught in the middle between the two definitions.
    I have more confusion about the Pete storyline. I think Roger is setting him up on the ski account, but that pay-off must be in a later episode. Roger is not the giving kind, so there must be an ulterior motive somewhere. As for Pete’s affair, I think it goes to again point out as in other episodes that he is Don-light. This is something Don would do, but we would never expect Don to be stood-up in the hotel room. Where Don was a consumate seriel adulteror, Pete is the bumbling version.

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