Roger Sterling and Acid: A Trippy Mad Men Chat With Julia Turner

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
April 23 2012 4:28 PM

“ROGER STERLING IS TOTALLY DEAD!”

Julia Turner chats with readers about a trippy episode of Mad Men.

Jane and Roger in Mad Men.
Jane Sterling (Peyton List) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery).

Jordin Althaus/AMC

Julia Turner was on Slate’s Facebook page on Monday to chat with readers about the latest episode of Mad Men. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity. To see the full conversation, click on this link.  Also in Slate, read David Haglund’s interview with John Slattery, who plays Roger Sterling.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

Julia Turner: Hello everyone! What did you think of last night's episode? I loved Roger Sterling's Kool-Aid acid test, but some colleagues here at Slate are grumping about the cheat of using hallucinations to convey character. Did you think it worked?

David Haglund: Yes! Such scenes often fall flat, but that one had just the right blend of jokey and spooky. And it didn't seem overly on the nose. What do you think the future holds in store for Roger Sterling? Will his mornings continue to be beautiful, or was this just a blip? He seemed kind of in a downward spiral before this episode.

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Troy Souther: I found it a lot less heavy-handed than other hallucination-based episodes of great shows—I'm thinking the peyote episode of The Sopranos in particular. Also, the contrast between the three relationships in their various stages of development was a lot of fun to watch.

Julia Turner: That's how I felt. Don's dream sequence was fairly obvious and mundane, but Roger's hallucinations were sprightly and delightful. And I think he'll have a new lease on life. He's so much fun—and the show is so much more fun—when Roger's in a good mood. I hope the writers will have the good sense to let him enjoy this for a while.

Adam Offitzer: I think "using hallucinations to convey character" is only cheating if it's completely unclear until the end of the dream sequence that it was a dream. But in the case of the LSD moment in particular, much of what was happening was real, and was what Roger saw/felt... in that respect, it completely worked.

Anne Pilikia Bagasao: I thought it was some of the best television ever. Julia, tell your colleagues to put that in their pipe and smoke it.

Julia Turner: Ha! I will, Anne.

_______________________

Maggie MacFarland Phillips: Was I the only one who thought for a split second that Ginsberg really thought he was a Martian? Peggy's statement to Abe on the phone later that it seems impossible that he would have been born in a concentration camp leads me to think she's not sure what to make of it, either. Also, why was Ginsberg at the office that late? The Heinz pitch?

Nicole Southern: It was probably because he said two or three times, "I know you don't believe me." I was wondering too, until he said he was born in a concentration camp, and Peggy asked (twice, I think) if that was possible.

Julia Turner: I agree that scene between Peggy and Ginsberg had its own tinge of trippiness. The line that stuck out for me was Ginsberg's comment that he hasn't found anyone else like him yet. But there he and Peggy are, both working late on some project, both products of immigrant families, both driven and out of place at SCDP. It's unclear whether the pair will become allies or rivals, but I think it's possible that Peggy's a "Martian" too, in some sense.

Rebecca Koetting: I was wondering if the adoption part of his story made her reflect on her own child that she gave up for adoption.

Sally Koslow: Loved Ginsberg's reflections on being born in a concentration camp. To be born in a concentration camp or misplaced persons camp is almost like being a Martian, which rings true.

Charles Van Deventer: But seriously, could he have been born in a concentration camp? I'm guessing he was born in the 1941-1945 era of the war? Seems impossible.
_______________________

Jaclyn Mosher: Don showing up in Roger's mirror sequence had me questioning again what that relationship means for him, and vice versa. Don has distanced himself from Roger in the past two seasons, but he was integral in his initial success, so he will always play a crucial role in his life. And this season has seen Roger seethe with jealousy at Don's supposedly happier marriage. What do you make of their relationship in Season 5?

Julia Turner: I've been moved by the sympathy Don has for Roger, even if they are more distant than they've been in the past. I liked how Don excused Roger in his post-brothel conversation with Pete last week: "Roger's miserable. I didn't think you were."
_______________________

Troy Souther: Did anyone else notice the slightly lingering shot of Peggy smoking the cigarette? I can't recall seeing her smoke on the show before, and it seemed like an important signal that she's officially become a “company man,” with the relationship stresses and coping mechanisms it entails.

Julia Turner: Have we not seen Peggy smoke before? I've never noticed that. We've certainly seen her smoke a joint, as she does in the movie theater. But it's interesting to watch how the substances are changing over the seasons. Pete has become abstemious this season; and he might be happier if he were drinking more!

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