Thursday, June 21, 2012

Driving Me Mad

WARNING: If you’ve been catching up on past episodes of Mad Men on your DVR like me, then this column many contain spoilers.

Pryce is wrong
At times, it seems to me like AMC’s Mad Men is moving much too slowly. I grow impatient waiting for something significant to happen. Then my patience is rewarded with a seminal moment that makes it all worthwhile. Finally, when I see the puzzle instead of the pieces, I appreciate the mastery of it all. The facts I viewed as insignificant were actually momentous.

Such is the case with the recent episode featuring the shocking death of Lane Pryce.

We’ve witnessed Lane’s demise picking up speed for weeks. It began innocently enough when we learned he owed back taxes back in Britain. To stave off the taxman, the normally conscientious Lane makes an out-of-character and ill-advised decision. He forges a check from the firm to cover his debt, figuring he’ll pay it back in week or two when he gets his Christmas bonus. Unfortunately, the partners unexpectedly cancel their bonus.

Still, you figure Lane will somehow get out of the jam. After all, the firm has landed a big new account in Jaguar. With everyone celebrating, Lane lobbies for reinstating the bonuses. However, his plea falls on deaf ears and everything unravels with a flourish.

First, partner Bert Cooper discovers the check, but not its significance. He passes it along to fellow partner Don Draper who confronts Lane. After briefly protesting, Lane confesses his sin. Don fires him on the spot, saying he can’t trust him anymore. Oh, the irony! Don Draper, the man with the double secret identity, declares he can’t trust someone.

Lane returns home from a long afternoon of drinking (this is Mad Men after all) to find that his unsuspecting wife has just bought him a new car … a Jaguar, of course. Fast forward to the next day and Lane sits in his new car with the windows up contemplating suicide. But the guy just can’t catch a break. The Jag won’t start, recalling an earlier theme about how the agency has landed a third-rate car. (The PR guy in me can’t help but wonder how modern-day Jaguar executives are receiving this storyline, given the company’s reputation for quality.)

Lane later returns to the office afterhours where he is eventually found hanging from his office door. Although I would’ve appreciated the irony of the Jaguar death, this was easily the most realistic suicide I’ve ever seen on television. I don’t know how they did it, but Lane actually looked rigid and lifeless. My theory is that the actor who plays him was so distraught by losing a lead role on a hit show that it was easy for him to appear moribund.

That’s the beauty of Mad Men though. Lead characters come, go and come again. (But not Lane, unless it’s on AMC’s The Walking Dead). The show was once almost exclusively about Don Draper’s misdeeds, but now he’s the well-coiffed poster boy of goodness. Mad Men is constantly reinventing itself that way. And the show’s creators know where they’re going, even when we don’t. So take it easy, don’t rush them and enjoy the ride.

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