Mad Men 5×12: “Commissions and Fees”

I watched “Commission and Fees” twice last Sunday just to make sure what happened really happened.  After “The Other Woman,” it seemed almost impossible that such another catastrophic plot point could come crashing down on viewers’ heads.  But I was wrong to underestimate Mad Men.

This week, Lane Pryce committed suicide in his office after the discovery that he had embezzled fro the company.  In yet another case of raging inferiority complex, I refer any reader to The AV Club’s review, which helped me process Lane’s death a bit.  Because it was shocking.  We’ve lost supporting characters before, but last week we lost a main character and this week we’ve lost another—and barring any flashback (or another distasteful ghost appearance), there is no chance Lane will come back.

I haven’t been a huge fan of Lane since his appearance on the show: at the beginning of his tenure the show set him up as a foil to the excesses of Roger and Don (and maybe Bert).  In particular, working as Putnam, Powell, and Lowe’s he drove Sterling Cooper .  However, Lane did grow on me once he came up with the idea to jump off the sinking ship and start SCDP—apparently at great personal cost.  I can’t recall whether or not the show has addressed this before this season or not.  But he’s been a great asset to the firm, and, as he says in his plea to Don, probably saved the company after Lee Garner, Jr. and Roger Sterling acted like babies.

This season, though, has not shown Lane in the best light.  There was his weird foray into borderline phone sex, and, of course, the embezzlement.  I did enjoy him punching out Pete Campbell.  On the whole, I’m sad to lose Lane and I’m sadder to lose him in this manner.  I had hoped he could pick himself up when the Jaguar’s crappy starter foiled his poetically just suicide plan.  I think Don treated him fairly for his indiscretion and I doubt that Cooper will ever find out about Lane’s embezzlement (although I could be wrong).

After telling Lane to resign, Don does a 180 on the Don of this whole season, the Don who gets tired and the Don who is happy spending the evening drinking beer in front of the TV.  “I’m tired of this piddly shit,” he says to Roger.  They arrange a meeting with Ed Baxter (henceforth known as “Leland Palmer” because I said so), Ken’s father-in-law who told.  It appears his love-leave is over and his writer’s block has dissolved.  This was my favorite part of the show—perhaps because it terrified me.  Don’s speech to Leland Palmer was like the Kodak Carousel on steroids.  Hearing Jon Hamm talk was mystifying.

Other major players at SCDP get a similar fire lit under their bellies.  We’ve dealt with Aging Don, Pushover Cosgrove, and LSD Zen Roger this season and i think they’re finally as sick of themselves as we are of them.  Pete has been the BMOC all season despite his crushing existential dreads.  Behind his back, Roger schedules a meeting with Cosgrove to talk about working with his father-in-law.  Cosgrove, always the firm’s nice guy, shows himself to be as shrewd a business strategist as Roger—he makes Roger pretend to force him on the account so he can save face with his family.  “And two other things: Pete doesn’t go to the meeting.  And Pete doesn’t go to any meetings.”  In the past, their rivalry seemed to be all in Pete’s imagination while it rolled off the good-natured Cosgrove.  I suppose this means the sci-fi stories by Ben Hargrove may be taking a break as Cosgrove kicks it up a notch.

In other plot lines, there are new beginnings for other characters.  Sally, grown excessively sassy since The Most Demoralizing Soirée Ever.  She calls her mother a “phony” to Megan (plot prediction: Sally going to use Catcher in the Rye as an excuse to kill all the phonies).  Sally puts on her sexy boots and makes a sneaky plan to meet up with Creepy Glen.  After rambling around the museum, she gets her first period and promptly flips her shit and runs home to Betty.  I could smell this plot point a mile away after hearing another round of talk about how grown up Sally is.  I agree with the review I linked to above in that this tory seems thrown together as “life and death” contrast.  The only things I liked about this storyline are that Sally actually knew what was happening to her body (having ousted “the man pees inside the woman” belief, I hope) and that Betty exuded more than a single iota of compassion.  I was relieved Creepy Glen didn’t ask for a lock of Megan’s hair or make a pass at her.

I feel like this is one of those episodes where I feel the power of it in my gut but my head can’t straighten it out.

And now onto the finale, in a mere few hours.

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