MAD MEN: Scene of the Week

While I truly enjoyed last night’s “Lady Lazarus,” I would wager that it’s going to stand up even better when the season as a whole is complete. Things are now in play that will dramatically impact our characters over the next few weeks, and as such, this episode feels like the beginning of an end.

Let’s start with Pete. Since the season premiere, I have been and remain convinced that someone is going to meet his or her maker. And right now my money’s on Pete. His commuter pal’s efforts to sell him a new life insurance policy heavily hints that Campbell is doomed, but Pete’s utterly reckless decision to bed the man’s wife, Rory Gilmore, seals the deal (did anyone else have trouble recognizing Alexis Bledel until she called Pete the day after their tryst?). Pete’s both too arrogant and too foolish to find a girl in the city and set up a proper love nest, which makes his efforts to do just that after a painful scene with Beth and Howard in their home all the more pathetic. Pardon my French, but you don’t shit where you eat, and Pete really knows nothing about this couple and what either of them will do (or what Pete might be driven to do to himself) when the truth comes out.

On to Megan. We know from the dinner party a few weeks back that she once dreamed of being an actress. Well it seems that her parents’ visit has stirred those old feelings. So despite her inherent advertising acumen, Megan doesn’t want to share in this part of Don’s life. And while part of me cheered Peggy on as she reminds Megan that many others would kill for a chance at her job, I ultimately bear Megan no ill will for her choice. She’s young and she’s finding herself. And let’s be honest, the picture of Don walking Megan to her office door each morning was really an illusion, another example of Don trying to choreograph all aspects of his life. What’s going to be truly tragic as this act of the season unfolds is that Megan might be able to find a way to make it work with Don, but inevitably he’s going to drive her way with insecurities and jealousies and demands (I picture him watching Megan act in some Off-Off-Broadway show, and it’s not a pretty scene).

The awesome Beatles-scored montage aside (bet that cost a pretty penny!), the awkward, hilarious, heartbreaking highlight of the evening was Don and Peggy and Ken (growing more uncomfortable by the second) tasting and trying to sell Cool Whip. When Don and Megan do the dance earlier, it’s effortless (because Megan’s one of those girls who’s good at anything she tries). In contrast, Peggy and Don convey exactly what the client does not want, a nagging wife bullying her husband to “just taste” the multifaceted dessert topping. It’s partly Peggy’s fault because for all her awesomeness, she is not one of those girls (flirty charm is not in her bag of tricks). It’s partly Don’s fault because he is unprepared. And why is that? Because Megan was telling him what he needed to know and when he needed to know it. It was Don Draper relaxed and his version of happy with all the business prowess of a marshmallow. Peggy saw as much, and she reminds Don who he’s really angry at. It’s fascinating to see Don and Peggy at this place in their relationship when you recall how they started. It’s refreshing to see Don get some of his mojo back while going at it with Peggy. And it’s unbelievably sad to realize that after Don compartmentalized so much of his life for so long, the opposite approach is also bound to blow up in his face. There’s some comfort in the knowledge that Peggy, the heir apparent to Anna Draper, will be there to catch him as he falls. Because Betty leaving Don was nothing. This is going to be worse. Much worse.

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