"What is happiness? It's a moment before you need more happiness."
And what is sadness? This episode of "Mad Men," for starters.
NOTE: Since this review is now on the main News site and I acknowledge some people may not have seen this week's episode yet, I will discuss the spoilery stuff under the cut.
First, there was Sally and Glen Take Manhattan. Their excursion felt very grownup, as did their conversations at the museum. Amidst the visually stunning dioramas, Glen cracked jokes and Sally calmly told him to tell his friends what he wanted about them having sex, but she wasn't ready to do it. These are mature things for a 12/13 year old to say, but Sally reverted to childhood when she bolted home to Betty after her period started. And Betty, miracle of miracles, actually acted like a decent mother. Sally is already learning to play Megan and Betty off of one another, though her comment to Glen about wanting Henry to leave Betty felt sincere. Still, as smug as Betty was saying it to Megan, there was (and is an eternal) truth to the comment "she needed her mother." It was a sweet way to end Betty's arc this season (January Jones is not listed as appearing in the finale), and shows some actual growth from a character who has been marginalized and much maligned.
The brightest spot of "Commissions and Fees" was mostly certainly Ken Cosgrove (Accounts!) and all that happened with Dow Chemical. I was disappointed in Kenny last week for going along with Pete in entertaining the notion of prostituting Joan, but really it seems he was just acknowledging his place in the company, and knew that once Pete started with it there would be no stopping it. Further, Ken is not a voting partner, so frankly, his opinion doesn't matter. It all became very clear this week when Ken spoke both of his disdain for being a partner ("now that I've seen what's involved") as well as his distain for Pete. Cutting Pete off from Dow was a slick move, and one that Pete utterly deserved.
Speaking of Dow, the Creative Department was mostly missing this week, but they weren't particularly missed - Don is revving back up into his magical spiels and spellbinding pitches that, to quote a commenter from another forum, "probably made every man in that room hard." Don is tired of languishing and feeling the responsibility of The Letter. It's time for SCDP to take another turn, this time, with the upswing.
And now ...
We've been primed all season for a man to fall from a window or down an elevator shaft, but neither happened. Instead there was an almost comically failed attempt in a Jaguar (of course - that joke had been set up for weeks with how unreliable they are), that had Lane fiddling with the engine, holding one half of his glasses, determined to die. There was a hope even then that he might not go through with it - he'd been given a sign, a second chance. But later he sat alone in the dark, typing in the office. Then we knew.
The actual discovery of Lane's body was one of the more harrowing moments of any TV show I've encountered. There was something deeply visceral, slow and measured about Joan not being able to open the door, already smelling the decomp, and Pete, Kenny and Harry's horrified faces in turn as they peeped through the office window. Joan's breakdown as soon as she realized her fears were confirmed was Emmy-worthy. Don's reaction when he and Roger returned triumphant to the office was also heartbreaking. For those who had forgotten, Don's brother killed himself in the same way. Except this time, Don could cut him down. That, too, was a terribly difficult scene. It seemed like they wouldn't show the body, at least not fully (and not in close up!) but they did, Lord help us they did, and in Lane's bloated blue face was the true weight of his desperation.
Was Don too harsh on Lane? After all, when Bert Cooper learned of Don's fake identity he said pointedly to Pete at the time, "who cares?" Understandably, this financial issue was different and directly affected the company. But didn't Lane make some valid points about his investment and not ever getting his due? Lane was often the forgotten man - he was also living a life of quiet desperation, and had been for quite some time. It reminds me of a quote that started an article by the New Yorker's Anthony Lane, and I've never forgotten it: "There is no more volatile compound known to man than that of decorum of despair." Lane was awkward, a little creepy, and a bit inappropriate, but he was all in all a decent man. As for the resignation letter, it was perhaps a message to Don to not let anyone know of his financial betrayal. That was his "elegant exit," it would seem. In his time at SCDP he punched Pete and kissed Joan, living out the fantasies of most of the fandom. Rest in peace and bon voyage, Mr. Pryce.
Next Week: The season finale!
- In reading comments on other sites, it seems that people weren't shocked by Lane's suicide so much as they just wished it had been Pete.
- When Lane went to the office, I felt sure he would somehow end up with Pete's riffle. It's been such a Chekhovian plot point, I wait with baited breath each week for its unfortunate return!
- At first Lane's wife really annoyed me with pressuring him about travel and work and then surprise!buying him that car, but how could she have known? Lane constantly lied to her about their financial situation - as far as she knew, everything was fine.
- That shot of Sally's underwear stained with period blood was really surprising. I think most females probably just shrugged at it but I'm interested how the menfolk reacted ... It was pretty gross.
- "'No' used to make you hard!" - Roger
- Sally: "Do you think they were a family?" Glen: "I hope so, or they were just wandering around saying 'we need a baby to complete this diorama!'"
- Don letting Glen drive the car reminded me of Sally and Grandpa Gene.
- "I'll buy you a drink if you wipe the blood from your mouth" - Roger after Don's pitch to Dow
- This episode left me feeling both shaken and ill. Next week looks like a doozy as well. Prayer circle for SCDP.
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