Last night on Mad Men, fans of early ’00s TV were treated to a startling guest appearance by Alexis Bledel, best known as Rory from Gilmore Girls. But rather than talk a million miles a minute to her mother about Harvard, she helped Pete Campbell continue to hurl a million miles a minute on his downward trajectory.
As with most story lines involving Pete, the Rory Gilmore one makes him come off both vile and pathetic. And, to her credit, Bledel played her so un-Rory-like that it took me a few minutes to even realize who she was. Seeing her through Pete’s eyes, we don’t get to know her very well, except that she seems really sensitive and miserable, a prisoner to the feminine mystique. But that doesn’t matter to Pete, who’s still fruitlessly searching for an escape from his own choices. A few lines comparing his eyes to sad, vulnerable photos of the Earth from space and he is hooked: she’s his manic pixie dream housewife. Poor Rory Gilmore has no clue what she’s in for with this one.
Of course, like anything having to do with Pete, there are several layers of wrong-ness to the proceedings. First and most obviously, he’s cheating on Trudy, whose greatest crime is failing to see what a shitty person he is. Second, when she wisely says it was just a one time thing, Pete refuses to take no for an answer, exploiting her husband’s need to sell insurance to gain entry into her home, try to kiss her when her husband isn’t looking, and eat her chicken like it belongs to him. That would give anyone a migraine. Lastly, for whatever it’s worth, she’s his friend’s wife, although train buddy is cheating on her so much that I don’t really care. Pete’s lucky the internet hasn’t been invented yet, because he’d be a pretty good candidate for Sorry-Mom.com.
As with most things involving emotional intelligence, Pete can’t even get cheating right; rather than a simple, Draper 1.0-esque roll in the hay and release of tension/boredom, Pete fools himself into thinking he’s embarking on a tragic love affair even though he barely knows this woman. I guess it’s good that he’s chosen someone over the age of 18 this time, but he seems primarily attracted to her childlike fragility and tiny, round face. I mean, could you imagine Pete having an affair with a self-possessed Joan Harris type? Never in a million years. All this pathetic creepery, plus frequent references to suicide and death heavily foreshadow a Pete Campbell suicide. Then again, Matthew Weiner likes to keep us guessing, so they could be a sure sign it’s not going to be Pete who jumps out that window; remember, he’s a coward above all.
The rest of the plot didn’t really grip me, with Megan‘s inevitable quitting of the agency to be an actress prefigured by the look on her face after her conversation with her father. Her constructive realization and Don‘s understanding reaction might make for a healthy psyche, but it’s unexciting television. We want our Mad Men characters to suffer! But as the show goes on, I think more and more that Megan’s supposed to be an example of someone who gets everything right (and has the privilege to do so). As Peggy says, she’s one of those girls who’s “good at everything,” or at least good at convincing people she is, and who doesn’t let herself get trapped by the choices she’s made. Rather than boxing her in, her marriage to Don has set her free to follow her dreams, giving at least a little bit of weight to Pete’s otherwise absurd question about women, “why do they get to decide what’s going to happen?” Maybe because “they” have a better attitude than you? Here, maybe this Beatles record will help.