Sylvia Plath in Mad Men
Julia Turner chats with readers about "Lady Lazarus."
Ben Gross: I took "Lady Lazarus" as referring to Megan's emotional and creative stagnation in advertising (and visually Lazarus during that acting exercise in the closing montage). Leaving SCDP, she has risen from the dead. I was very skeptical of Megan coming into this season, but really enjoy her now as a dynamic presence. She's independent and motivated, honest and willing to call out Don instead of playing the placating housewife, and is a proactive force for both Don and the office.
June Thomas: I just spoke with Alexis Bledel and I asked her about "Lady Lazarus." She linked Sylvia Plath's willingness to explore the darker side of her psyche with Beth's willingness to do so. As Bledel said, "She’ll definitely consider the things in her life that are dark." Bledel thinks that Beth's worries about homeless people and the vulnerable moon were completely sincere.
Julie Kramer: I also thought Alexis Bledel was quite jarring here, though MM has certainly used other iconic TV actors before to good effect. (I'm thinking of Bess Armstrong—Angela's mom!—as Jane's therapist.)
Eliza McCarthy: I thought Alexis Bledel was lovely as the unhappy wife—if we all didn't have memories of her as adorable Rory Gilmore, I wonder whether there would be less criticism of her acting as a grownup, and a depressed one at that! I think January Jones is a good actress, too, but had the benefit of being unknown at first.
Julia Turner: Eliza, it's hard to tell what I would have made of Bledel's performance if I weren't familiar with Gilmore—and the writers didn't do the character any favors by introducing her so abruptly. (At least when Don bedded Sally's teacher we met her a few times first.) But it didn't work for me.
Seth Levi: This is like the third time they've done this plot line with Pete: he wants to have an affair, he takes advantage of a vulnerable woman, he's ultimately rejected. And Don not understanding why music is so important to people? One of his character's central traits is that he has an uncanny understanding of human needs—which is why he's such a good ad man—despite not sharing those needs.
Julia Turner: Seth, you're right that there has been a lot of stop-start with Pete and women over the years—and this season. I think part of why Pete casts about for women in this way is that he doesn't understand why he's not happy.
Gail Anderson: I loved last night's episode. The show is amazing this season. It's bringing back such powerful memories of the ’60s (I was Sally's age) and seeing it through the eyes of the adults has been a revelatory experience for me. It's helping me understand what shaped me into the person I am now.
Julia Turner: I agree that it's been a strong season, although last night's episode felt a little pokey.
Jon Lutz: I have to say, I was not initially down with Megan hating. But lately... she seems to just exist for Don to develop against. All of her decisions are only interesting insofar as they affect Don, or what kind of response they will elicit from him. Looking back, the best defense I had for Megan was "She's good for Don!"
Betty at least got her pigeon-shooting / Sally-slapping moments. When have we ever seen Megan without Don in the room? That's why I was excited at the prospect of her cheating on him (only briefly a possibility this last episode): it showed individuality
Julia Turner: I'm not sure you're being fair to Megan's character. I think the writers have done a remarkable job of bringing her into her own as a plausible human, and we've seen her interact with Peggy and Peggy's team, with her parents, and more. But she is also a symbolic figure within the show: I think she represents the larger change and chaos of the '60s—how alluring it is for the more staid characters, and how unsettling and daunting, too.
Jon Lutz: Maybe we'll see more of Megan solo now that she's starting her own life.
June Thomas: Matthew Weiner is a master of misdirection. He does it every week with the inscrutable promos for next week's episode. He has been doing it all season with the foreshadowing about Pete's uncertain future, and he keeps doing it with the episode titles. I was sure that "Lady Lazarus" was going to have a Holocaust theme and that it would return to Ginsberg's odd origins.