Mad Men Review: "Lady Lazarus" (Episode 5.08)

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<i>Mad Men</i> Review: "Lady Lazarus" (Episode 5.08)

“Listen to the color of your dreams
It is not leaving
It is not leaving”
-The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows”

“When did the music become so important?”

If Don Draper could see what we’ve been seeing all season, he’d know that music, in the Mad Men universe, has always been very important. As we said before this season’s premiere when we counted down some of our favorite musical moments of the series, no song that appears on the show is an accident. The lyrics match perfectly with the message of each episode, often hammering home facts or feelings left unsaid by the characters.

That’s certainly the case when the song in question is a Beatles track. From a purely economic standpoint, those babies aren’t cheap. We’re even reminded of this earlier in the episode when Don and his team meet with a client who wants an ad to be a shot-for-shot remake of the opening to A Hard Day’s Night but can’t afford to buy the rights to a Beatles song. Don can’t understand why clients are so fixated on music these days, but later, during the episode’s brilliant final scene, when he puts on Revolver and it’s, you know, actually The Beatles, any viewers who wouldn’t have otherwise appreciated what a big deal this is probably heard a tiny little Matthew Weiner sitting on their shoulders whispering, “Psst! I paid a lot of money for this! Listen closely because it’s important!”

But part of what made the ending so perfect was everything that led up to it, so let’s backtrack a bit. We open with Pete and his buddy Howard on the train. Howard mentions he’s got a new apartment in the city and a hot new mistress. Later, Pete runs into Howard’s wife (who is Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls!) on his way out of the office. She’s locked her keys in her car, and she knows Howard’s sleeping around, so Pete drives her home. Looks like he’s finally earned that symbol of masculinity and freedom that’s been eluding him for seasons now. Anyway, he follows her inside, and they have sex, but afterwards she tells him that it can never happen again. Pete’s slept around before, so seeing him be unfaithful to Trudy isn’t new territory, but Beth really seems to have gotten under his skin. He calls her at home and even shows up for dinner, where he tells her to meet him at a hotel room later than night. His past transgressions have been isolated moments of passion—that actress at the casting and Gudrun the au pair were both one-time things, and even Peggy only happened twice, as far as we know. But now Pete seems intent on slipping further into whatever Draper-esque abyss he’s headed towards and starting up an ongoing affair.

Meanwhile, as was hinted at last week, Megan decides that advertising isn’t for her and quits Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to pursue acting. It was interesting to see Peggy and Don sort of trade reactions to the news. At the beginning of the episode, Peggy’s angry. “People would kill to be where you are,” she tells Megan. “You’re taking up a spot!” Later, however, she seems to have a change of heart. When Joan makes a comment about second wives and says, “She’ll be a failed actress with a rich husband,” Peggy defends her, deciding that Megan’s brave for chasing her dreams. Seems after weeks of pushing copywriting onto her, Peggy’s finally realized that her dreams aren’t everyone else’s. Don, on the other hand, is surprisingly accepting of Megan’s choice at first (especially when you consider that the first time he and Megan hooked up was when she walked into his office late at night and told him she was interested in becoming a copywriter, or that last week he was so turned on by her ability to sell Heinz baked beans that they got it on in a taxi). When he gets home and sees her there cooking dinner, he’s pleased—she’s playing the housewife, something Don’s always thought he wanted.

What makes Megan interesting is that she’s got some of the qualities of both Don’s past mistresses and his previous wife. She’s an intelligent, working woman (like many of his mistresses), but she knows how to interact with kids and tend to the home (like Betty, sort of). As mentioned earlier, they first got together when she told him about her copywriting aspirations, but the reason he married her is that spilled milkshake at the end of last season. The way she handled the kids in that scenario pretty much directly led to Don’s proposal. So he should be happy that Megan’s now home a lot to cook and clean for him, right? Not so fast. Don’s a different guy than he was when he first married Megan, and he’s perhaps finally coming to terms with what exactly it is he wants. This comes to a head during the Cool Whip presentation, when Peggy (filling in for Megan), flubs a few lines and they get into a heated argument. “It’s not me you’re mad at,” she snaps, and we all know she’s right.

On her way out for an acting class, Megan gives Don a copy of Revolver, telling him she knows he’s trying to keep up with the latest trends and that he should check out “Tomorrow Never Knows.” As John Lennon (yes, the real John Lennon) sings, “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,” we see Don sitting pensively with a drink, followed by Peggy smoking a joint in the office. Then we see Pete run into Howard and Beth in the parking lot. She draws a heart in the condensation on her window, but then she rolls down the window to erase it. What a tease. We also see Megan lying blissfully on the floor in her acting class. Finally, we get back to Don, who has apparently decided that, like Roger, he just wasn’t made for these times. He gets up and turns off the album mid-song before getting up and silently leaving the room. He seems to be the only one refusing to lay down all thoughts and surrender to the void—but maybe that’s because he doesn’t understand that the music has become very, very important.

Stray observations:
-Pete’s skis aren’t just a goofy prop (although it was hilarious to watch him try to carry them). He’s sliding downhill metaphorically—”floating downstream,” if you will.
-”Sometimes we don’t get to choose where our talents lie.”
-That elevator shaft that Don peers down isn’t meant to be ignored, either. He looks down it, and he’s alarmed by it. That’s not to say that it’d be reasonable for him to jump down an elevator shaft for no reason, but perhaps that little scene is meant to highlight Don’s fear of taking a leap.
-”Jane wanted a baby, but I thought, ‘why do that to somebody?’” Oh Roger, you have done that to somebody!
-If you had told me beforehand that this season would feature someone dropping acid and someone listening to “Tomorrow Never Knows” and that these things would occur in separate episodes, I would have laughed in your face.

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