Mad Men’s brilliant writer/creator/EP Matthew Weiner is not fucking about at all in what has been a banner 5th season for Mad Men, as Sunday’s season finale approaches. Weiner was able to basically wrap up the Lane Price check fraud plot line in a scant few episodes, which we must applaud, as Weiner apparently has no taste for meandering plot riddles never solved, one of the only black marks on his former show, the epic Sopranos. And we applaud this bit of denouement, juxtaposed with perhaps the plot line we most enjoy, that of Sally (isn’t young Kiernan Shipka excellent in this role?) and Betty, and of course Glen, played by Weiner’s son Marten, who has been a show stealer throughout the years on what has to be the best show on television right now.
After Bert Cooper brings the cancelled check to Don’s attention, which he knows is forged, we felt Don had no choice but to fire Lane. That was completely justifiable. Yet Don has not been privy to Lane’s financial woes, which have been a recurring theme. When Lane returns to his office and surveys the falling snow, we were immediately stirred by the thought of Lane’s impending suicide in that very way foreshadowed each week by the opening credits. By taking the plunge.
When Lane’s new Jaguar failed to cooperate with his carbon monoxide poisoning method, we were convinced that Lane was to be the mad man from the credits. How cruelly ironic for Lane that the car he was so proud of, but that the others had been grossly slamming and slandering, was indeed a lemon, as Bert Cooper had suggested at the first mention of the car.
But Lane in the end preferred to swing from the gallows. When Don got back from his meeting with Dow and they informed him, he looked like he had seen a ghost. When told he was still hanging, Don insisted they cut him down. He’s a doer, that Don Draper. It had to register with him, as it does with faithful viewers, that this is the 2nd suicide to happen on Don’s watch. Recall that Don had spurned his brother and tried to buy himself out of a future relationship with him by using a bag full of cash. Mission kind of accomplished.
Don had told his long lost brother that he only lived his life in one direction: forward. Yet, the drawer full of mementos he kept in his desk in Ossining, when discovered by Betty, finally prompted a long coming divorce. Speaking of Ossining, how about old neighbor Glen’s biggest role on the show since Betty unwisely granted him a lock of her hair?
Sally and Betty, again at each other’s throats early on, and a jealous Betty, obvious in her disdain for Megan, tells Sally that she only likes her because Megan let’s her “do whatever she wants.” To which Sally replies, “she lets me eat whatever I want.” Then Betty calls Don and insists she pushes Sally off on him and his “child bride.”
Bad form indeed, but isn’t that the ugly Betty we’ve come to hate/love/hate? Sally’s convo with Megan (Jessica Pare) and her acting buddy leave her “longing” for Glen, whom she calls and invites to visit her at Don’s. At the front door and then in the museum they have their amusing kid conversations, as Glen tells her he’s seen better penthouses, that Teddy Roosevelt killed all the caribou, and then about how the seniors on the lacrosse team are bullying him.
Sally: “Henry got bullied when he was younger and now he runs the city.”
Fantastic, really. And almost as good was when she tells Glen she isn’t big on his mustache. But this would be a watershed episode for Sally for a more serious reason, as she gets her period for the 1st time, we feel foreshadowed by the waitress bringing her coffee when out with Megan. Sally runs out of the museum after the event and takes a cab back home to Betty, who, ever the ice queen, hardly knows how to comfort the girl at first, apprehensively patting her head with her cold, waxy hand.
Then Betty, after calling Megan to explain Sally’s disappearance, says that she “became a woman today” and “I think she just needed her mother.” A triumphant Betty returns to comfort Sally, actually a nice moment, and perhaps the nicest between the two that’s aired in the show’s full run (top).
Glen returns to Don’s for his bag and ends up being taken in by Megan. After the phone rings, Glen asks “was that Betty?”
Priceless considering the history there. Then Megan asks Glen if he would like something to eat.
Glen: “If you don’t mind.”
Who wasn’t having flashbacks to the Betty/Glen dynamic of the early Mad Men days? And the complexity of all the Betty/Glen and now Megan/Glen possible Oedipal issues to be considered.
When Don returns home from learning of Lane’s suicide, he and Glen have a poignant conversation on the elevator.
Glen: “Why does everything always turn to crap?”
Asked by Don to elaborate, he says that all hopes and dreams never seem to pan out. Don asks him what he wants to do.
Don: “If you could do anything at all, what would you do?”
Cut to the final scene in which Don is allowing Glen to drive the car back up to his boarding school. Apparently Don is now into preventive suicide measures, giving Glen something to smile about.
The other best show on TV and another AMC production, Breaking Bad, returns on Sunday, July 15th at 10 PM. We have learned that the final 16 episodes of the epic have been broken into two 8 episode mini-seasons. So far, the final 8 episodes, or the last 8 episodes of season 5 are slated to air in July, 2013. Between now and then, AMC will run Sunday late night BrBa marathons, starting with the pilot and episode 2 back to back, beginning at 3:12 AM Monday morning. A good time for gib heads, it would seem.