(WARNING: Significant spoilers follow!)
I am at a loss for words, something which is kind of a problem when I have to write 600 – 800 of them on this episode. This is possibly the perfect episode of Mad Men. I honestly cannot think of a single negative thing to say about it. It has everything we expect from the show; period costuming and themes, a bit of humor (gallows humor, especially), and so very, very much emotion. For the second time in two weeks we’ve said goodbye to a character, and while I hope that Peggy Olson returns in time, I think it very unlikely that the one who left this week will come back. Well, unless the firm gets the Ouija Boards account.
We start off the episode with Don (John Hamm), and it really is very much his episode. It’s full of his triumphs and tragedies, as he gets his mojo back when pitching to a potential new client and then loses something very important.
You see, it seems that Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) has discovered the check that Lane Price (Jared Harris, doing his finest work on the series) forged to cover his taxes. Don allows Bert to think that it was a bonus that only Lane received, and then calls Lane in to talk with him; a talk that includes a request for Lane’s resignation.
Harris and Hamm are really both at the top of their game during this conversation. Lane is clearly devastated, and who can blame him? Don is doing what he knows is the right thing to do, but he clearly doesn’t want to have to do it. He gives Lane a good out by allowing him to resign and not involve the police, but Lane, who recently was offered a position within a large professional organization, doesn’t see any possible future for himself, especially not in the USA. He also feels very badly done-over by the firm, and may well have a point when he complains about how much he’s put into it versus how little he’s gotten back.
Things get even worse for him when he gets drunk, goes home and finds that his wife has bought him a Jaguar. He doesn’t take this well (though he does give his wife the chance to prove that true love is when you move toward someone when they vomit as opposed to away), and eventually tries to kill himself by running a hose from the Jag’s exhaust into the car. This fails, because the Jag won’t start. Once again, quality British engineering saves a life. The last we see of him is that night when he’s at the office, typing his resignation. Then some days later, Joan (Christine Hendricks), discovers he’s killed himself in his office.
I really was impressed with this string of events from start to finish. I was pleased that Don asked why Lane didn’t just ask for a loan. I was entirely enamored with the acting. I was blown away that the writers would off a fairly major character in such a fashion, especially given how much it’s going to (further) mess up Don. I also really liked the final scenes where he’s driving Glen (Marten Weiner) back to school. Why is this happening, you ask? That brings us to the second real story of the week, and some more incredibly good acting.
See, it seems that Sally (Keirnan Shipka) is supposed to join her family on a skiing trip. She has no interest in this, and instead goes to stay with Don, something that Don, understandably in his current mental state, forgets to tell Megan (Jessica Pare).
Sally is going to end up alone on that Monday morning, with both Megan and Don unable to drive her to school. So she makes a call to Glen and invites him to escape school. He does and the two spend what we could describe as Sally Draper’s Day Off, with the two of them visiting a museum where, incidentally, Sally gets her first period. In a panic she runs off and right back home to Betty (January Jones), who, for a change, gets to actually act like a mother.
But during the times when she’s with Glen, two have some very good dialogue, and a great chemistry. Glen is coming off less and less like a creepy weirdo, as he did in the first few seasons, and more and more like a brother/friend to Sally, who desperately needs someone like that in her life. The two both admit (at least for now), that they have no romantic or sexual interest in each other, though Sally agrees to let Glen tell his friends that they were “doing it” that day.
I know that Marten Weiner is the son of Matthew Weiner, creator of the series, and I assume that is no small part of the reason why he landed the role of Glen. But he proves in this episode that he’s actually pretty good at what he does. And Shipka really continues to prove that she’s one of the great discoveries of the series.
Well, it turns out that I managed to find my muse on this episode. Just now I’m writing the 870th word for this article, so clearly I overcame my speechless reaction that I had at the start. I guess I can end with this: if this episode is any indication of what’s coming in the season finale, we’ve really got something special to look forward to.