It’s finally happened. After teasing us with several Lars Von Trier films’ worth of sexual angst, existential ennui, and ominous open windows, Mad Men has finally delivered on its unspoken promise to off one of its primary players. Here ends the rocky road of life for Lane Pryce, failed embezzler, chocolate bunny lover, and punisher of sniveling prigs. But as sad and infuriating as Lane’s death is, it’s just another especially large drop in the great big bucket of darkness this show is turning into.
I know we covered this last week, but I’m still reeling from the indecent proposal Joan accepted to guarantee her child a stable future. It’s especially painful to watch Joan go about business as usual (which is now partner business, but still!) knowing what she had to do to get there. And knowing that she knows all the other partners know and aren’t particularly bothered by it, with the exception of Don. (And knowing that they know she knows they know, etc.) It will be interesting to see what kind of dynamic this creates as the series moves forward. She’s already plastered on a sultry smile in the aftermath of heartbreak, abandonment and rape, but even the mythically powerful Joan has a limit to what she can bear. It seems she’s been cursed to become the series punching bag for her triple crime of having been born too pretty, too smart, and too soon.
As for Joan’s only real friend Don, the second Draper marriage continues to wobble, with each fight taking them, as Megan predicted, a little further away from one another. Don seems to have realized his dependence on Megan has taken him away from work, but not that it’s turned him into a controlling asshole, as he takes steps to fix the former issue but not the latter. These issues even manage to hurt his parenting skills, which normally constitute a redeeming quality. What’s making a seventh grader face her terrifying impending womanhood alone if it helps you win a fight? Don should have learned by now that each time he expects Megan to cave, she’s going to call his bluff. Megan might like helping out with the kids (his kids), but she likes her own hopes and dreams just a little bit more.
And then there’s Lane. Poor, sad, pathetic, cowardly Lane. It was clear from the beginning of the short-lived embezzlement plot that it wasn’t going to end well for him, but I didn’t think it was going to end like this. At least, not until he appeared in a cinematic wide shot depicting blank, cold, snowy oblivion all around him. As it turns out, it’s not as easy for everyone as it has been for Don to just “start over.”
Which brings me to my main takeaway from this episode: like the animal after which the Jaguar was named, Mad Men‘s characters are undergoing a kind of natural selection. Those who have what it takes to survive their specific circumstances are going to continue on or even thrive (we’ll miss you, Peggy!) while others…won’t. [Insert some Madison Avenue shark tank metaphors here.] But considering what it costs most of the Mad Men cats to keep going, I won’t be surprised if we lose a few more troubled souls before this series limps bloodily over the finish line. As Glen
Quagmire so adorably points out, “everything you think’s gonna make you happy just turns to crap.” From the mouths of babes.