Mad Men – Episode 5-12 Review – “The End of a Man, The Beginning of a Woman”

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get this review done today, because I was away for the weekend and watched Mad Men rather late. But when I thought about it, I realized I don’t have a lot to say about the episode despite so much happening. In fact, there were really just two main storylines. Continue on, with the obvious major spoiler alert.

 

Goodbye, Lane

The big news from the episode, of course, is that Lane Pryce hanged himself. It’s both tragic and tragically expected. We’ve seen poor Lane fall deeper and deeper into a hole of debt and shame as the season progressed. Every time he thought he was climbing his way out, he slipped and fell in further.

It began when Burt Cooper found the cheque Don had signed and confronted him about it. After all, they’d agreed on no bonuses this year. Don, being a classy guy, handled the whole situation the best way he knew how. He didn’t disgrace Lane in front of everyone else; in fact, he was downright generous. He demanded Lane’s resignation, but told him to take the weekend and come up with an elegant exit. After embezzling money from the company, Lane really couldn’t have asked for more.

But for Lane, the embarrassment was all too much. I think Lane’s actions this week really illustrate just how desperate he was previously, when he manipulated Joan’s situation to cover up his crime and thus convince her to prostitute herself for the sake of the company.

When Lane returned home, drunk and fired, he discovered that his wife had purchased him a new Jaguar car. Because he works so hard and does so little for himself. It was heartbreaking, and more than Lane could take.

The difference between Don and Lane is that Don rarely cares about what others think, and all Lane cares about are the opinions of others. Don has restarted his life again and again, always successfully, because he believes he can. He doesn’t take no for an answer. But Lane doesn’t have that same stubbornness or drive or self-involvement, or whatever cocktail of personality traits it is that has made Don that way. Don didn’t understand that when he told Lane he was feeling relief. What Lane was really feeling, that was the opposite of relief.

There were a few truly great moments in this episode. The fact that Lane couldn’t kill himself in his new car because it was a Jaguar, and Jaguars are temperamental. The terrible truth that watching Don, Roger and Pete cut down Lane’s body from where he hanged himself in his office is horrific, but also a tiny bit funny. Joan’s heartbroken reaction. But there was also a moment that really didn’t work.

Surfing the Crimson Wave

The above title is a Clueless reference which, yes, is an odd choice for a Mad Men review but I’m going for it. In the other major storyline in this episode, Sally got her first period while on a date with Glenn.

After refusing to go on a ski trip with Betty, Henry and the kids, Sally was dropped off at Megan and Don’s for the weekend. And taking advantage of an unsupervised morning, she convinced her “boyfriend” Glenn to come visit her in the city.

There were a lot of truly great scenes in the earlier half of this storyline. I loved seeing Sally out with Megan and her actress friend, feeling grown up because she got away with ordering coffee and got to listen in on adult conversations. I also liked that Betty got a chance to be stiffly sympathetic, something that we rarely see but always adds an interesting element to her character.

Glenn and Sally went to the museum, and things were kind of awkward and sweet until Sally wasn’t feeling well. She went to the bathroom and realized she’d gotten her period and just bolted. She took a cab back to her mother’s house (a $25 ride, which I hope the Interwebs will convert into today’s dollars for me) and poor Glenn made his way back to Megan’s to retrieve his belongings. That would have been a decent end to the storyline, instead of his bizarre interactions with Don, who’d just come home from discovering a colleague had committed suicide.

Really, it was the speech. It was Glenn’s speech about how everything always turns out so crappy. Who is this kid? And why is Don listening to him? Why am I listening to him? It was too on the nose, and in a schmaltzy, plodding way. Then Don let Glenn drive the car, because when you’re Glenn’s age that’s all it takes to cure you of the profound sadness of the human condition, but when you’re Lane’s age it’s obviously not.

But overall, I don’t think this was a bad episode. I think it was a solid one. I’ve had a feeling Lane would go this way for a few episodes now, only because I didn’t see any other way out for a man like Lane. He was bound to get caught, and given what we know of Lane, he wouldn’t be able to bear the humiliation.

Hungry

There was a third storyline, one that I enjoyed although it didn’t seem to take up as much time as the other two. Don and Roger met with Dow Chemical, the company owned by Ken’s father and the man who told Don that no one would work with him following the Lucky Strikes letter. And Don dazzled them in the way the old Don Draper used to do. This is what I want to see more of, and I think that we will.

Ken gave Roger his blessing to go after Dow because he knew he’d lose his job if he didn’t. But he was slick about it, and completely boxed Pete out of the contract in laying down his negotiations. It was a fantastic move, especially considering how much emphasis has been put on all the business Pete has been bringing in.

Stray Thoughts

  • Sally wore the boots she wasn’t allowed to wear to the codfish ball – a nice touch. I also liked how she did her hair.
  • Part of me wondered if Lane had a difficult time getting to the office after he broke his glasses in half in the car.
  • Next week is the season finale, and I truly have no idea what will happen. (Obviously, the trailer reveals nothing.) I hope we see Peggy.

What did you guys think of the episode?

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