Tag Archives: Suicide

Mad Med Episode 513: “The Phantom” Finale

Considering that in the past two weeks the notoriously slow-paced Mad Men had one of its oldest and most popular characters leave the firm followed by one of the partners killing themselves I was expecting, as probably was the fan base at large, some sort of momentous season finale cliff hanger. That clearly was not in the cards. While the season finale, by regular episode standards, did have a couple of surprises, as a season-ender it fell a bit short as far as drama goes.

The episode was titled “The Phantom” and we are treated with phantoms both literally and figuratively. Don, feeling the stress and guilt of Lane’s suicide, is habitually visited throughout the episode by his brother, whom was also a suicide victim and receiver of Don’s tough love. We also get a Peggy Olson appearance this week, and hopefully this will quell the rumors that Elisabeth Moss is done with Mad Men, and she is more than a Phantom. Peggy has her own storyline in fact as she is handed a new account for women’s cigarettes that will, as we know, eventually become Virginia Slims and a major marketing success in its own time. We are witness to a nice conciliatory meeting between Don and Peggy at the movie theater, sans handy I would assume, and the puzzling image of dogs humping outside of Peggy’s Virginia hotel room. It looks like Peggy is here to stay and thank goodness for that.

The other major phantom of the episode comes in the form of Pete’s on-again off-again affair partner whom we learn is the frequent victim/consumer of electroshock therapy. After an uncomfortable encounter on the train, Pete gets a booty call from Beth Dawes and skips out on the Partners meeting for the liaison. Here he learns about her treatment and her desire to have one last fling before her memory is erased and all memories of Pete Campbell are gone. I’m sure there are some people out there who would jump at the chance to have all memories of Pete Campbell erased from their mind, but he does such a good job of being a dick you just shouldn’t do that to yourself. As an added bonus we also get to see Pete punched in the face two more times this episode! He really is a despicable character when as soon as you start to feel for the guy after he opens his heart to the post trauma Beth and confronts her scumbag husband, he acts like a total prick to the good-natured train cop and you are once again cheering as Pete takes another shot to the kisser. Whomever came up with this gem will have to update it with the new footage.

The cliff-hanger for the season finale hinges upon Don and Megan’s relationship. Megan’s acting career has continued to flounder and in this episode she gets desperate and stabs her friend in the back by asking Don to consider her for a commercial that SCDP will be producing instead of her considering her friend who had asked the favor. Megan’s mother is in town, rekindling her romance with Roger Sterling, and Megan’s depressive ways lead to a confrontation between her and Don which may have been the key to changing Don and Megan’s relationship as a whole. Megan’s mom describes her as someone with an artist’s sensibility without the artists talent. Don, after watching Megan’s test reel, acquiesces to her desires and gets her the commercial gig. The big question though, the one we are left with as the woman down the bar hits on Don asking “if he is alone”, is whether or not Don has lost respect for Megan. Did he give in and get her the gig because he really thinks she deserves it and just hasn’t gotten her break, or is he secretly disgusted at her lack of gumption and willingness to work hard at her art and gave her the job because it’s proof to her callous need to be spoiled. Fortunately the wait for season 6 will be significantly shorter than the wait for season 5 was, but still is too long if you ask me.

Two other things from the finale. SCDP is apparently making money hand over fist and will be moving into a larger space and Roger Sterling is doing LSD again… see gratuitous man ass.

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AMC’s Mad Men: Episode 512 “Commisions and Fees”

The other shoe finally dropped. That is the inevitable matter of Lane Pryce’s embezzlement came to the attention of one Donald Draper this week, and though the initial confrontation played out as one might expect, the conclusion was shocking. Bert Cooper, thinking Don was trying to assuage Lane’s constant griping about the bonus, brings the canceled check to his attention which leads Don to bring Lane in for proper questioning. The true tragedy of Lane’s transgression is that if pride didn’t get the better of him, and he simply went to Don to borrow the money that he didn’t even wind up stealing everything would have been fine. Through embezzlement and forgery however he has lost the trust of SCDP’s lead man and Don will have nothing other than his resignation and in fact thinks he is doing Lane a favor by giving him a clean new start, and the opportunity to resign without any black marks on his resume. Unfortunately, as is often the case when you get embedded in a nest  of deceit, Lane can’t come clean with his wife who has made matter even worse by purchasing a new Jaguar as a reward to her husband “who never treats himself”. Here is where the brilliance of Mad Men‘s writing comes in. The Jaguar is the perfect symbol for all of Lane’s problems. It is not only a literal symbol of the firm’s success with the client he failed with despite his best efforts, but is also symbolic of the nouveau riche who can afford an impractical luxury car like Jaguar, and the lie he is representing to his wife. If it wasn’t abundantly clear that AMC would never get Jaguar as one of their advertising clients, last night’s episode sealed the deal. In a moment of true black comedy we find Lane trying to kill himself by using the Jaguar to asphyxiate himself, but the car is such a lemon that he can’t even get it to start up and do the job.

It’s too early in the Mad Men era for a Nixon reference, but if Lane Pryce had an exit speech I think it might be somewhat similar to tricky Dick’s exit; “You won’t have {Lane Pryce} to kick around anymore gentlemen, because this is my last {episode}”. Lane’s suicide is the second Mad Men death when characters face off against Don’s tough love and you’ve got to imagine this is going to weigh heavily on Don’s conscience, and it will be interesting to see what happens when word eventually slips out about the true circumstances of Lane’s “resignation”. I’m not sure if this was the case of Jared Harris getting to big for the show or not, but either way it was an expertly crafted character arc, and despite it all you didn’t want to believe that Lane had killed himself until you literally saw the bloated corpse that Don and company cut down from the ceiling.

The other big developments of the week revolved around Don lighting a fire under his own ass and Sally Draper becoming a woman. Don isn’t happy with the direction that SCDP has taken on and wants bigger fish to fry. As he says, “I don’t want Jaguar I want Chevy!” which leads Roger to set up a meeting with Ken Cosgrove’s father-in-law, the Devil incarnate, aka Ray Wise aka the chairman of Dow Chemical. Ken has long been against SCDP getting involved in his family business, but he concedes on two main factors. That he has been “dragged” on board, and that in no way can Pete Campbell be involved in their business, chalking up Cosgrove as yet another of Pete’s inter-office enemies. We won’t find out until next week whether or not his tactics were sound but Don’s approach to winning Dow Chemical was to literally yell at them and berate them for being happy with 50% market success, and it’s as much of a speech for himself and SCDP as it is for the client.

Roger, for his part, is happy to see the feisty old Don Draper as his LSD induced free thinking has begun to fade. We also get to experience another typical Don and Megan squabble when Don forgets to inform her that Betty is dropping Sally off at the apartment:

  • Don: (Demeaning comment)
  • Megan: (Bitchy response)
  • Don: (Some serious shit happened)
  • Megan: (Let’s kiss and make up)

That’s pretty much how Don and Megan interaction go these days as she feels defensive and marginalized, and he feels defensive and overly stressed. It’s always hard to tell what’s going to happen in the Mad Men teasers, but it seems like there might be some new wedge between Don and Megan coming and you wonder if the loss of Lane might push Don back into his self-destructive ways.

Meanwhile we get a fun little aside with Sally and her weirdzo boyfriend Glen this week as when she realizes she will have the apartment to herself Sally convinces Glen to come to the big city for a visit on the sly. These two characters both have been subject to creepy sexual undertones over seasons past so it was a relief that when Glen arrives at Sally’s apartment his greatest desire is to go to the Museum of Natural History.

There we are treated to the awkwardly sweet interactions of Glen’s dry jokes about the exhibits, and the exploration of what their relationship actually is. All of this is interrupted when Sally, feeling ill, makes a startling discovery in the bathroom and then freaks out and takes a cab back to the suburbs and her mom, leaving Glen in the lurch. This whole sequence is yet another fine example of the quality of writing in this show as the awkwardness of youth is naturally captured. Having Glen be as concerned over completing his book report as he is about finding Sally just feels so natural to their ages. Sally freaking out and providing her mother with another bitch chip to play against Megan also feels very natural as despite young Sally’s mistrust of Betty when important things happen it’s still her mother’s arms in which she seeks comfort.

Next week, regrettably is the season finale of Mad Men, and it should be a good one. In the past two weeks of what is normally a pretty even keeled show as far as dramatic changes are concerned they have had Peggy Olson leave SCDP and Lane Pryce kill himself. What kind of bombshell did they leave for the last week?