By Brian Moylan, Hollywood.com Staff
So rarely is Mad Men so direct. Often, at the end of the episode, we're all scratching our heads saying, ""Why the hell did Joan sleep with that guy/is Pete obsessed with Rory Gilmore/did Roger survive that nine martini lunch?"" After thinking about it for awhile, you can usually tease out an answer, something deep and profound that is even more enjoyable because of the effort it took to discover it. After last night's episode most of the motivations made perfect sense. As for the ones that didn't, well, I'm still scratching my head.
But we know exactly why Lane killed himself (spoiler alert). In fact, as soon as he closed his door and there was a long, silent shot of him taking stock of his office (and probably his life entirely) and staring out at the falling snow, I knew Lane was a goner. I thought he was going to be the falling man in the show's opening credits (which everyone seems to think, for some obscure reason, is going to be Pete Campbell). Lane has always been a weak character. He was disregarded by his British colleagues and sent to America, he's been looked over by the partner of his own firm, and even beaten into submission by his own abusive father. Every time he takes a stand or meets with some success (landing Jaguar as a client or being named chairman of the AAAA, which Google tells me is the American Association of Advertising Agencies) he's cut back down by some indignity like a hooker's gum in some pubes or his petty embezzlement.
I think Lane's problem is that he has always blamed everyone else for his own problems. It's either his wife who doesn't like New York, his father who doesn't like his black girlfriend, or his partners who don't appreciate what he does for the agency. Even when he's sniveling and trying to convince Don to keep him at the firm, he's trying to show that everything he's worth, trying to play the martyr, who has been losing money when all of them have been making money. But it's a problem of Lane's own creation. When he finally fesses up and tells Don that he needed the money for taxes Don asks, ""Why didn't you ask?"" Lane wanted to spare himself the humiliation, but wouldn't that have been better than the ultimate humiliation of being caught?
Don tells him that the strange feeling he feels is relief, but I don't think it's the relief Don meant. It seems to be the clarity that the only way to solve his money problems, his visa problems, his career problems, and his life problems is to kill himself. Always the weak way out. His wife makes a similar mistake when she shows him his new Jaguar in the garage and he throws up behind a pole. She thinks that he is sick from the booze (which, probably didn't help) but he was really sick with the anxiety that he couldn't disappoint his wife by telling her the truth about stealing the money.
Even Lane's suicide attempt is sad. Sure, the car doesn't start, but the saddest to me was that he breaks his own glasses. He takes them off, a symbol for his weakness but also his identity a large accessory on his face that defined the way he looked to many people. He destroys that weakness, he destroys himself, but then he can't get the car to start. The weakness is still there, all around him. Instead he goes into the office and leaves a nasty mess for everyone else to find. The strangest thing is that Joan is the one sobbing at the table and not taking care of things. Is this the same Joan who calmly took care of the British guy who had his foot mowed off? Why wouldn't Joan be the one orchestrating everything, waiting for the coroner and cutting Lane down? Maybe it was because Don needed a way to show is ""decency"" to Lane one last time.
But the final stab is that Lane's suicide note is a boiler plate resignation letter. He would rather hang himself in the office, taking a passive aggressive revenge on his coworkers, than try to deal with the humiliation of restarting his life or facing his embezzlement in the first place. I used to really like Lane, but after last night, I just pity him.
Next: Sally's Mystery Date[PAGEBREAK] While Lane was dealing with death, Sally was dealing with life, well at least being able to create a human life now that she has gotten her period. While I don't discount Sally's journey, it all seemed really cut and dried. She hates her parents (as most of us do at that age) and would rather spend time with her father's young wife who she has always seen more as a friend, a really cool older sister, than a mother figure. Megan treats her like an adult and lets her drink coffee, go to racy movies, and hang out with her friends. Sally loves it and wants so desperately to be grown up (notice the boots and makeup Don banned are back for her ""date"" with Glen). But, when she has a crisis and gets her period, she runs home to Betty. Betty's Munsters McMansion is still ""home"" to Sally and when she's in a pinch she goes to her mother. She says she hates her mother, but deep down inside she can't fight the instinct to run to her.
The way Betty embraces her at the end of the hour is also classic Betty. She is such a monster. If you didn't hate her at the opening, when she was speaking loudly about wanting to strangle Sally and dumping her off at Don's house, you have to hate her in the end. The reason she's so happy and loving to Sally has nothing to do with her ""becoming a woman"" or sharing the bond between a mother and daughter, it is because Sally chose her over Megan. That's what Betty's call to Megan is: A victory lap. ""She might like spending time with you, but when she really needs something important, she comes home to her mother."" When she cuddles with Sally and hugs her in the bed, it is meant to be a tender moment, something that is comforting her daughter who is in pain, but to Betty it's a self-congratulation. What a monster. At least she's getting thin.
The whole thing with Glen is, well, just creepy. Glen's even starting to grow a pervy little mustache. I don't like it when he's around, but he's good to Sally. Like Lane, he seems to be someone who is always wallowing in his sadness. When we first met him as Betty's paramour, he was lonely because his mother was divorced and he was all alone. Now, instead of using his manliness and popularity to woo Sally, he's using his miserable life: How the jocks pee in his locker and how everyone is trying to beat him up all the time. This isn't want girls want, Glen. Well, there are girls that want that, but they aren't the kind of girls you really should be catering too (unless you run a Hot Topic).
That's what I never understood about Sally, is she dating him because he's around or is she dating him because there is really something special about Glen? I do have an ongoing theory that Sally Draper is a Future Lesbian (that would be a great band name, BTdubs) so I guess it would make sense that she's not really attracted to this boy at all.
And what, exactly are Glen's intentions? He tells everyone he is going to have sex with Sally, but doesn't even try, he doesn't even try to hold her hand at the museum and tells her he sees her more like a sister. But why would he go all that way to visit her just to hang out? He must feel something. Maybe they're just both too young to be frank about their own feelings. (Also, what two kids would cut school and go to a museum? It makes sense they were there among the families of animals and in a place that is about biology on some fundamental level, since Sally is about to undergo a biological event, but still, there aren't any movie houses in New York?) Is this still all about Betty? When Glen is with the second Mrs. Draper, who he remarkably doesn't try to put the moves on, he asks if it was ""Betty"" on the phone, like it's his ex-girlfriend and he wishes that she knew Sally was cutting school to be with him. It's like he's still trying to get revenge through her daughter.
Next: What's Wrong with Don?[PAGEBREAK] Okay, here are the things I don't understand. Let's start with Ken Cosgrove, who doesn't want to be involved with the firm going after his father-in-law's business at Dow chemical. But then he makes a deal to manage the client if they handle it, if only to cut Pete out. Of course Ken doesn't want to be a partner because he has never been especially ambitious, but why would he want on the account? Does it have something to do with his relationship with his wife, or is it only to keep the biggest client away from Pete? The funny thing is that as hard as Pete works, Ken always finds a way of outsmarting him and beating him (just wait for this to become an issue). But instead of trying to solidify the position in the firm as the caretaker of their potential largest client, why isn't Ken trying to find an exit strategy so he can write books instead? It's all very murky to me.
The same thing is true about Don, who I usually understand pretty well. Of course the quote everyone will remember is ""Happiness is the moment before you need more happiness."" That's so true, it's like a drug, but when did we start to see Don's happiness wear off? Why has he decided to go off of ""love leave"" and start chasing after the big clients? Is it because of his encounter with that guy in the barber shop and the notion that Don feels like Pete (and his sale of Joan) got the client and instead of Don's creative merits? Is it because Pete keeps bringing in tiny clients? And why did this come after his confrontation with Lane? Did Lane's betrayal clue Don off in some meaningful way?
None of it is really explained, we just see the old Don roaring back to life like a lion that you woke up by blaring Kathie Lee's voice in his ear. He was good and angry and voracious in his meeting with Leland Palmer at Dow. He was the man calling all the shots, telling Dow they should want more, they should want everything, and he was the man to get it. I've been saying all season that it's been boring watching Don this year. We always loved him as a man who was vital and effective and this year we've seen him be lazy and bumbling. Snooze. I'm not going to be upset that old Don is back, but just where did he come from?
One of the key characteristics of the old Don Draper was that he was a man full of secrets (just like Gretchen Wieners' hair). He has another one now that Lane is dead and he's the only one who really knows why. Don's response is all about his ""decency."" He's not going to say anything about Lane as a way to honor him, and he cuts him down because that seems like the right thing to do. This probably had something to do with Don's brother, Adam, who he found hanged in Season 1 and some sort of residual guilt he feels from that.
The other scene I didn't understand is Don and Glen in the elevator. (So many moments this season have happened in and around elevators: Pete and Don's fight, Don and Ginsberg's fight, Don looking down the elevator shaft, Peggy leaving, Megan leaving.) Why would Glen talk to Don about how ""everything you think will make you happy turns to crap."" If I was a teenager stuck in the elevator with my girlfriend's father and my one true love's ex-husband, I wouldn't be saying anything at all. I get why Don wants to take the kid back so he can get out of the house and think for awhile and do another decent thing for someone, but why is Glen talking?
The final scene was interesting as well. Most of the season has been about Don Draper being overtaken by a sort of generational divide and now here we see him very literally letting someone from the next generation take the wheel. He's even helping correct the course. Is this Don's next stage? Is he just going to be a mentor to a bunch of young whippersnappers trying to bring them some sort of joy and success? It doesn't seem like it based on his performance at Dow. Is he still vital or is he slowly going extinct, another stuffed relic on display for kids at the museum to gawk over? Which is it?
I keep going back to his speech about happiness. Where is he going to find it now? Is it with Megan, or is that wearing off? Is it with work, or is that even possible? Has he resigned himself to the fact that, as Glen said, everything that has made him happy has fallen to shit and there's nothing he can do about it? That seems to be the case now that the stench of Lane's death is still hanging around Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. We only have one more episode to get some answers (and Peggy better !&%*@$& be in it).
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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