Monday, June 4, 2012

"Mad Men" recap: Bloodshed

Spoilers for this week's episode of "Mad Men" below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.

For years, there's been an air of doom hanging over the characters on "Mad Men." So much about the show -- the emotional anguish of Don and co.; the falling man in the iconic opening credits; the by now widely known rumor that Harry Crane was supposed to kill himself the first season -- has pointed to one or more characters exiting this mortal coil by his or her own hand.

Some theories about this were a little far-fetched (Roger drinking himself to death after losing Lucky Strike) and some were wishful thinking (Pete Campbell, anyone?). But, in the past few episodes, it seemed like, if anyone was going to kill themselves, it would be Lane. His increasingly desperate attempts to fix his money troubles and his unhappy home life made it seem like he was practically wearing a sign reading "Put me on suicide watch, immediately!" It seemed so obvious that Lane would commit suicide, I was sure that, if anyone did it, it wouldn't be him.

But it was. In this week's episode, Lane, distraught over Don firing him upon discovering his embezzlement, hung himself in his office. It was an end befitting the character, for whom things never totally went right. After the firing (which followed a brief period of happiness in which Lane learned he was getting a prestigious position with the American Association of Advertising Agencies), Lane tries to asphyxiate himself in the new Jaguar his wife bought him. But, of course, the car won't start. After that, I thought "Maybe Lane won't die. Maybe he'll just skulk into the sunset like Sal. Or maybe he'll start some sort of vengeful scandal, going public with the firm's pimping of Joan in last week's episode." Of course, the minute he entered his own office, it was clear what would happen.

I'm not sure how I feel about this development. Again, it seemed obvious and predictable. But, then, maybe that just means it was realistic. I certainly didn't have any trouble believing Lane Pryce would kill himself -- or that he'd vengefully do it at the job that no one but Don is aware that he doesn't have any more. And the aftermath was tremendously gut-wrenching and moving -- from Pete, Harry and Ken wordlessly confirming Joan's worst suspicions to Don's guilt-ridden insistence that the coroners not seen Lane hanging dead from his office door. Also, the sight of Lane's corpse was effectively shocking (yes, I screamed like a teenaged girl at horror film. And I'd be more worried about myself if I didn't respond to such an awful sight in exactly that way).

Ultimately, Lane's death was fitting for this season, which has been colored with so much death and violence. I also loved that heartbreaking ending, with Don letting creepy Glen Bishop drive his car in an attempt to give this kid who already feels let down by life a brief moment of joy. But there's still one more episode to go. After Lane's death tonight and last week's Joan and Peggy stories, I'm not sure my heart can take much more. Maybe it's time for Don to take another trip to Disneyland.

Anyway, I should probably talk about the rest of the episode a little bit. Before he learns about Lane's death, Don actually has a moment of pure Don-ness, in which he decides to go after Dow Chemical (and Ken's father-in-law). It isn't certain that the gambit will work, but Don's impassioned speech about how the company shouldn't be happy with their current ad agency does turn their heads (and, yes, I'm hoping this works out -- if only because it means that we'll be seeing more of the Devil himself, Ray Wise, as Ken's pop-in-law).

Oh, and poor Sally. Every time she visits her dad lately, she's unexpectedly thrust into womanhood. First, she accidentally spots Roger getting a blowjob from Megan's mom and, this week, a clandestine trip to the museum with Creepy Glen ends with her having her first period and high-tailing it back home. Well, that's probably the least disturbing thing that could happen during a day date with Glen and his porn 'stache in training. Particularly since Glen told his buddies that he was going to have sex with Sally. Also, Betty has a rare moment of actual maternal behavior this episode, warmly comforting and reassuring Sally about her period. Bonus: she gets to not so subtly gloat to Megan that Betty ran back home because she "needed her mother."

Here are some more of my thoughts on "Commissions and Fees":

  • I forgot to mention the devastating scene where Don has to fire Lane. I've thought about it, and I do think Don is right -- it was the kindest thing to. He wasn't going to expose Lane or call the police -- and yes, that had as much to do with not hurting the firm's reputation as it did with not hurting Lane, but it was still decent. Don even tries to give him some advice, culled from his own experience, about how the early stages of starting over are the worst part. Unlike Peggy, who embraced that advice after her pregnancy, Lane, um, does NOT embrace it.
  • What makes this all the sadder is that this is the rare episode in which Lane's wife doesn't act like a humorless scold, and tries to do something nice for her husband, unaware of how much trouble he's in. Oof.  
  • One more cringe-y sad Lane moment, when he makes the inappropriate joke about Joan in her bikini. She likely would have laughed at that joke before the Jaguar incident. Now, though, it just serves as a reminder of how she feels the other partners regard her. So she throws Lane out of her office.
  • Also, kudos to Jared Harris for his work in this episode. Though Lane didn't always work as a character, Harris was always warm and convincing in the role.
  • Ken Cosgrove continues to surprise, doesn't he? Not only he is ultimately OK with the firm going after his father-in-law's business, he wants to be "forced" on the account should they get it. And, though it's not stated outright, he seems pretty aware of what happened with the Jaguar guy. That's why he wants nothing to do with Pete moving forward. Hmm. Could Ken really be the most admirable person on this show? 'Cuz his character really seems to be moving in that direction.
  • Love how thrown Betty is by Sally's spontaneous hug: "Wait, why is the small person touching me? Is she trying to assault me? Oh! I think this is a hug! My manufacturers in the cyborg lab once told me that this is how human children seek comfort. Perhaps I should engage."
  • Megan. Audition. Blah, blah, blah.
  • What did you think?


Bill Scurry said...

The Lane-quake was so jarring that it barely left enough oxygen in the room for us to consider how this jacks up Don's brain. The final up-yours of the resignation-as-suicide note was intended to be read by DD, squarely blaming him for forcing Lane's hand to get a rope. The scene with Hamm and Harris working through the discovery was disarming, and I don't think there was a single viewer who wanted Lane to get kiboshed.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Marten Weiner is the worst actor in history since Pia Zadora. Or maybe since Robert Iler. Just awful...

Iscreen said...

Aw, poor Marten. Maybe were he teamed with a young actress less stellar than Kiernan Shipka, he wouldn't seem so stiff. I actually think he's much better than Autumn Chiklis.