Don was wrong. About a third of the way into “Commissions and Fees,” Don tells Lane that he’ll get over getting quietly sacked from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce over the “13-day loan” he finagled for himself.
“The next thing will be better because it always is,” Don tells Lane, distraught after realizing that Don isn’t going to change his mind about forcing his resignation. “I’ve started over a lot, Lane. This is the worst part.”
For Lane, the worst was just around the corner. Even suicide didn’t come easy to him, in a devilishly comic twist on the Jaguar storyline (unreliable to the end!) that I’m sure will cause some gnashing of teeth at Jag parent company Tata Motors on Monday. Don was right when it came to speaking about his own experience, but he was wrong for Lane. The contrast only reinforced what a survivor Don is, as was underscored later in the episode by his “think big” challenge to Roger.
It was no accident that there were two references to Easter in this episode — the resurrection. We’re seeing it in progress with Joan, who’s exerting herself as a partner even in the face of unavoidably awkward moments. And we’re seeing it big-time in Don as his drive to win revs up (undoubtedly spurred on by the blow of losing Peggy to a competitor). The Jaguar win only whets his appetite. It’s just as he tells the major domo of Dow Chemical (oh how I love Ray Wise in anything), “Happiness is just a moment before you want more happiness.” Don’s convincing in his three-minute pitch because he means what he says.
Although it became easy to see Lane’s suicide coming in this episode, they way it was handled, plus the slam-bang action of the other storylines, made this one hell of a penultimate episode. There was a lot that could have gone wrong, or hokey, or ooey gooey in this episode but it worked because it was the “Mad Men” troupe at its best, from the cast to writers Andre and Maria Jacquemetton to helmer Christopher Manley.
This episode was so well-paced, it felt like the camera never stopped moving — a nice achievement for Manley, a longtime “Mad Men” d.p. who made his TV directorial debut (I’m pretty sure) with this seg. (His other credits as a d.p. are impressive too, including the pilots for “Homeland” and “Revenge.”) There were painterly touches to this episode — like the Statue of Liberty figurine behind Lane as he gazes out at his uncertain future, and the transition from Sally dumping sugar into her coffee to Lane setting up his elaborate (but unsuccessful) set-up to snuff himself in his shiny new Jag. And once again it looks like AMC may be getting some extra mileage out of “The Walking Dead” makeup team. Lane had quite the convincing deathly pallor as Don and Roger lay him to rest on his office divan. What a way to go…
I feel a little bit bad about not feeling worse about Lane’s passing. But it’s as if they killed him off as soon as they started the embezzlement storyline a few episodes back. I’m just glad they didn’t drag out the discovery of his check-forging too long, though the partners have yet to learn that the extra $50,000 that Lane “discovered” just before Christmas came from the extension of the firm’s line of credit. But I do think we’ll be seeing Don and Joan work out their guilt over Lane’s fall. I got the impression that Joan was wondering if her momentous decision had anything to do with pushing him over the edge.
However, in all candor, Lane’s death to me is overshadowed by what I believe is a historic moment for the small screen. I really don’t think we’ve ever seen a girl coming-of-age image quite like the one we saw tonight with Sally Draper in the museum bathroom.
We’ve had 50 years of feminine hygiene ads — with happy, smiley, emaciated women skipping around in snow-white sun dresses, trailed by butterflies, etc. — but never (far as I know) has the menstrual moment of truth for a pre-teen female character on a series been depicted with such honesty. “Mad Men” might’ve just sewn up its fifth consecutive drama series Emmy, at least with distaff voters.
Sally’s experience adds to our understanding of the state of her relationship with her mother. She talks a good game about hating Betty and wishing that her marriage to Henry would fall apart. But when push comes to shove, she makes a beeline, in a $25 cab ride, back to mom. She could have easily run back across the street to Megan but she wasn’t looking for a big sister, she was looking for WTF? guidance from Mom. (Who knows how much Sally’s been taught about basic biology, after all.)
It takes a minute to warm up the Ice Queen, but even Betty responds to Sally’s needs at the end. And as a bonus, she gets to remind Megan (the “child bride,” as she dubs her to Don) that Sally “just needed her mother.” It’s a win-win as far as Betty is concerned. Although I enjoy hating the mean Betty who showed up in the early part of this episode, I’m glad to see the show letting her grow up a little bit in her dealings with Sally. It’s only right. But just imagine how she’ll flip out when she learns that Sally has been having a long-distance relationship with Glen. Megan plays her big sister role very well in not totally busting Sally with Don or with Betty, and rolling with the appearance of Glen. And once again she’s a good wife to Don, making him eat rather than stewing in her own frustration over his failure to let him know that Sally was on her way over.
The Lane and Sally dramas were so involving as to make me stop pining for Joan’s lost dignity. Interesting seeing her not hesitating to exert herself as a full partner. She’s delegating the mundane administrative functions of conducting the partner meeting and she’s even getting ready to spend some of her partner profits by taking an expensive vacation. But she won’t escape reminders of how she got there. The coldness in Don’s eyes to her is enough to make viewers shiver. Especially when he got frustrated in the discussion on fees vs. commissions and cracked: “Or should I just leave and you can all do whatever you want.” Ouch.
Don and Roger continue to rebuild a bond that you get the sense will be important down the road even if Pete Campbell is the hot-shot salesman of the moment. Roger knows how to get Don to be the firm’s best, most ambitious salesman. “I like that guy I saw today. I’ve missed him,” Roger tells Don after the rant about thinking big.
His LSD-channeled enlightenment may have “wore off,” as Roger jokes to Don, but he is the master of the psych-out, as he proves in working over Ken Cosgrove in regards to his Dow CEO father-in-law. And we learn that Ken really hates Pete these days, for the Joan business and maybe for the Peggy situation too.
How to explain the wonderfulness of the last scene with Don and Glen? One word: Guilt. I’m surprised he didn’t buy the kid a Jaguar.