As soon as Don Draper confronted Lane Pryce with the truth of Lane’s embezzlement from the agency, you had a feeling Lane would not survive.
The question was: How would he do it? And, in one of the darkest comedic moments seen in years on a TV drama series, Lane (Jared Harris) attempted to asphyxiate himself with exhaust fumes from his new Jaguar. But, echoing the common complaint about the quality of Jaguar cars in the 1960s, the darn thing wouldn’t start. And Lane was left to adopt another method.
This time, he was successful, and “Mad Men” and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce heads into its fifth-season finale next week minus one chief financial officer.
Here’s what else happened in a “Mad Men” episode Sunday night on AMC that was possibly the finest of the current season:
Lane Pryce, RIP: With one episode to go in the season, how on earth will the “Mad Men” producers and writers deal with the shock of Lane’s death? It wasn’t so much that he committed suicide; that seemed like a logical step for him after Don (Jon Hamm) confronted him with the check Lane wrote out to himself from the company account — the one on which he’d forged Don’s signature. The scene took place early in the episode, after Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) discovered the check and confronted Don about his signature.
Don demanded that Lane resign, but since it was a Friday, Don permitted Lane to wait until Monday. So, sometime over the weekend, Lane went to his office, typed out a resignation letter, and hanged himself. Joan (Christina Hendricks) found him, and Don, Roger (John Slattery) and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) cut him down. How will they all deal with it next week?
Sally grows up: In the episode’s other big storyline, budding teen Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) — who’s what? 14, 15? — rebelled against her mother (January Jones), who was so angry she dumped her daughter on Don and Megan (Jessica Pare) for the weekend. And because neither Megan nor Don would be around Monday morning to look after her, Sally was alone in her father’s Park Avenue apartment for most of the day. So she invited her friend, Glen (Marten Holden Weiner) — the odd, lonely boy from her old Ossining neighborhood — to come visit her.
We couldn’t help thinking about “The Catcher in the Rye” when Glen made his more-than two-hour journey to Manhattan by train from his boarding school in Connecticut — Hotchkiss — to Grand Central Station. The association with Holden Caulfield is established immediately with the actor who plays Glen, since his middle name is Holden and he was so named by the creator/executive producer of “Mad Men,” Matthew Weiner, who happens to be his father. We can only assume from that christening that Matthew Weiner is a particular fan of “The Catcher in the Rye.”
In the famed novel about adolescent angst, Holden Caulfield makes a lonely sojourn to New York City from his own prep school, where he was as friendless as Glen. Among the locations Holden visited in the book was the Museum of Natural History, which Glen visited with Sally in Sunday’s “Mad Men” episode. In Glen’s demeanor and in the conversations he had with Sally, those familiar with the book couldn’t help but hear the echoes of Holden Caulfield. It was young Weiner’s best episode by far.
As the episode ended, Sally returned to her mother for guidance on the facts of life and adulthood, leaving Don and Megan with Glen. In the episode’s final scene, Don — shaken by Lane’s suicide — agrees to drive Glen all the way back to school. In a priceless conclusion to the episode, Don lets Glen drive.
We loved this episode.
Sunday night’s episode was No. 12 of the fifth season (the 11th week of the season, since the two-hour season premiere counted as two episodes). Next weekend’s season finale of “Mad Men” airs Sunday night at 10/9c on AMC.