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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

June 4, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Mad Men Monday: A sad farewell

I was thinking Lane Pryce, played with such crisp wistfulness by Jared Harris, would be leaving the show this season; there didn’t seem any way that he could escape the consequences of his embezzlement (and forgery) being discovered, and I was picturing him leaving in disgrace, maybe to pop up in an entirely different capacity (maybe running a British pub in his beloved new hometown, Manhattan?) on some later date. But I wasn’t expecting the tragedy, and the finality, of what we saw last night: a corpse, hanging from the door of his tidy office, where a tea set sat just underneath the Mets banner. Anyone else remembering another hanging on this show? Don’s half-brother — or, should I say, Dick Whitman’s half-brother — hanged himself in a fleabag hotel, way back in Season 1, after Don/Dick, fearful of his double life being discovered, offered him money to disappear. Surely Don remembered it, and in his rush to give Lane’s lifeless body some repose and dignity was perhaps thinking that no one did this for his brother. And thinking, surely, that his own actions — though, in this case, hardly unfair — led to this moment, once again.
So let’s pause to remember Lane Pryce, whose machinations brought SCDP to life in the first place (remember “Very good! Happy Christmas!”), who strove to keep SCDP in “shipshape and Bristol fashion,” who never got the respect and recognition he so desperately craved, and who, in the end, couldn’t even commit suicide right. (In the blackest of black humor, Lane’s new Jag wouldn’t start — you can’t always control those beautiful things that you truly own.) Harris’s face, as he mutely pleaded with Don for the second chance that he knew wasn’t coming, was devastating; as was his expression as he gazed at the car his loving but clueless wife bought for him — he was the very picture of a broken man, and you knew that this couldn’t possibly end well. “I’ve started over a lot,” Don told Lane — the man of many stories encouraging another to begin a new chapter — but Lane didn’t have Don’s buoyance. His moving from England was a fresh start; he couldn’t face another one.
First Peggy (of whom we saw not a peep this episode, nor was she even mentioned), now Lane — who’s next to leave SCDP? Will it be Don? Despite the Jaguar success, Don seems restless; the pitch to Dow was strangely reckless, and you wonder exactly what he was hoping for. “I like that guy I saw today. I’ve missed him,” said Roger, and it’s true we saw bits of the old Don in the pitch. But is Don, perhaps, thinking himself of a fresh start; maybe inspired in part by Megan? (Though I remain mystified as to how seriously we’re supposed to take Megan’s acting career; she seems to spend most of her time lounging around the house barefoot. She says that she resents Don’s implication that she has nothing else to do, but we rarely see her doing much.) “If you could do anything, what would you do?” he asks Glen, seemingly musing aloud. I wonder what Don’s answer to that question might be.
And as Lane reached the end of his life, Sally experienced a milestone at the beginning of hers: She “became a woman today” as Betty curtly told Megan (who she’d earlier referred to as Don’s “child bride”) under tricky circumstances: out at the Natural History Museum, on a clandestine “date” with Glen, who’d snuck away from boarding school for the day. They looked like a pair of little adults, with Glen’s blazer and tie and aspirational mustache (he “always shaves on Sundays”) and Sally’s stylish, Meganesque dress and go-go boots. (Note, though, that Sally always wears the necklace with her initials that Don gave her for Christmas a few years ago; a nice bit of costume continuity.) Sally played at being a grownup this entire episode: drinking coffee with Megan and her redhead friend, the sugar falling into the cup like the picturesque snow outside; secretly meeting her “boyfriend” (unconsciously modelling the behavior shown by nearly every adult on this show) ; casually telling him “I’m at Megan’s” (not “I’m at my dad’s) — but when she was unexpectedly confronted with evidence of her own maturity, she raced home to Betty. The end result: a sweet mother/daughter moment (not the first on this show, though they’re few and far between), and a reminder to Megan that sometimes a girl needs her mother.
(Fun fact: According to the first website on this topic that popped up on Google, Sally’s $25 taxi ride home would have been in the neighborhood of $168 today. Considering that, Henry was remarkably calm about it.)
One last episode remains, and I wonder if a big change is afoot for Don. Where do you think things will end this season? I’m already missing this show, and it’s not even gone yet.
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Farewell, Lane. You’ll be missed. (Photo by Jordin Althaus; courtesy of AMC)

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