TV Review: “Mad Men” Episode 8-The Ripple and the Void

Written by Spencer Sterritt May 07, 2012

Tonight was another episode that fit with the more traditional and still odd “Mad Men” structure, with the cryptic title of “Lady Lazarus” but unlike last week, I enjoyed this episode all the way through, on first watch. It was a perfect thematic continuation of last weeks themes of the new generation, and it shows what happens when the younger, more promising generation strikes out on their own.

It seems like Mrs. Draper wants to strike out and return to acting, or at least trying to act. I can’t honestly remember how successful Megan was as an actress, or if she even had one part, but since she arrived at SCDP as a secretary, I can’t imagine that she was too successful. She’s been acing pitch meetings and conferences, and I totally bought her desire to try again. On the other side of the equation we had Pete doing a Don, sleeping with a married woman and trying damn hard (and failing damn hard) to have a mistress. I feel no remorse for Pete.

I expect to see this face a lot in the coming weeks

Ripples in the Secretarial Pool

The biggest aspect of this episode was the way that generational discontent ripples through society. Last week we saw that Megan and Ginsberg were actually the generation that Peggy and Pete were supposed to represent, and that the younger generation held more promise than the Pete’s and Peggy’s of the world ever did. Now Megan wants to capitalize on this promise, and everyone is furious with her because she can still act on her hopes and dreams. Everyone else is committed to advertising because that’s their one skill (or has been whittled down into their one skill), but Megan has many skills. Watching people become furious at Megan was almost like watching bullies pick on children who are better than them at math, It was very petty and very much like a playground, which resonated nicely within the context of the show.

Not since "The Suitcase" have we seen such an enraged Peggy

I was surprised to see that Peggy was so upset, I had imagined that she would be happier for Megan. Of course, Megan’s workload did just slide onto Peggy, but still. Her outburst at the end, in one of “Mad Men’s” most cringe-worthy scenes, was a perfect example of how conflicted Peggy is about everything. At this point Peggy still has a chance to be equal with Megan, to be a part of that younger generation, but by the same coin she’s damn good at her job, and fits in well as Don’s counterpart. It’s more unclear than ever where these characters will be by the time “Mad Men” wraps for good, but Peggy will most likely be the only one who can still hold her head up high.

A Void in Mimicry of a Void

I don’t think there has been a better example yet of a man who can’t grow up than Pete, he of the petulant smirk and condescending tone. His whole character arc has seen him try to become Don Draper and he was so close this episode! His creepy fixation on the young girl last episode came to fruition as he managed to bed Beth, the housewife of a friend. It was classic Don, as Pete barged into her house, but then BAM! Beth made the first move and Pete was left with no control. For the rest of the episode he gets jerked around in increasingly mean ways by Beth, but never once did I feel sympathy for him. He wanted this life so bad that I don’t think he ever really stopped to think about why. Pete has the job, the house, the wife, but it is never enough, because he thinks Don and everyone else has it better. Pete has never taken stock of what he has, even when times were good between him and Trudy. His plot this week was a nice reaffirmation of this seasons over arching plot, or people unhappy even when the world is handed to them.

He does look like such a sad puppy. Maybe a little bit of sympathy

In the end everything came back to Don. Megan was scared to tell Don about her dreams, and with good reason. He said that it was okay for her to chase her dreams, but by episodes end, when he plays “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles, it is clear that he is just as confused and sad as ever. The void that resides at the core of Don Draper was almost filled by Megan, but now she’s leaving and that void will never be filled. Having men like Pete, who’s void is just a pale imitation of Don’s, certainly doesn’t help, reflecting back to Don just how terrible he is, like looking in a mirror covered in grotesque snapshots of yourself. The old kingdom of advertising is going down with the old guards, and soon there won’t be a Don Draper left.

 

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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