Well, we knew it was coming.
There has been such an overwhelming sense of doom hanging over this season with death symbols popping up at every turn: mass murders, sniper shootings, empty elevator shafts, dream-murders and Don doodling a noose. A noose! Talk about literal foreshadowing.
Death has been everywhere, so much so that I made this video mashup of all the death symbols for the Daily Beast about halfway through the season. (Watch it here!)They basically worked it into every line.
These death threats felt so imminent that the first half of the season was spent worrying who was going to fall out of the window. Most thought it would be Pete as his cold dead eyes stared into the abyss of his cemetery suburbia and he casually mentioned his suicide-proof life insurance policy on the train. But these last few episodes steered away and cushioned the fear, dealing with other issues (you know, like prostitution) and making us feel that perhaps this was all just about a metaphorical death -- the death of a generation, the death of innocence, the death of a Betty we care about. Naturally MW was just faking us out to feel safe for a moment before he pounced (like a Jaguar!). From the moment Don fires Lane, that fear comes flooding back. It's Lane. Lane's going to kill himself . I spent the rest of the episode clutching my blanket, just waiting for it to happen. (With a little bit of... Thank God it's only Lane).
Lane comes home drunk and distraught and Rebecca wants to go out and celebrate his new position with the AAAA (the Four A's). One. She bought him a Jaguar. Two. She wrote a check. Punch. This beating is just as painful to watch as when his father smacked him down with his cane. He sobs silently and tells her its lovely before vomiting all over the garage. But poor Rebecca is the innocent party, left completely in the dark and then widowed without warning. So he gets up in the middle of the night, fully dressed, mind you, in his standard three-piece get-up to carbon monoxide himself in the car. It would have been a poetic suicide -- dying in both the representation of the company that bankrupted him and the lies that suffocated him all at once. We watch him set up the gas, secure the window, take a swig and break his glasses in half but the darkly funny irony is that the unreliable Jaguar won't start and we see him holding up one lens of his broken glasses in a last-ditch attempt to succeed at something. He goes to the office and starts typing. Resignation or suicide note? Turns out it's both and he hangs himself on his door.
Though early signs seemed to point to Pete, it somehow feels obvious and inevitable Lane would be the one to pay the Pryce (I know, I apologize). He dug himself into so deep a hole embezzling money from the company and forging Don's signature, it was clear they would find out and clear he had to be fired (and clear they were writing him off the show). And above that, his character became expendable and boring. Lane was once interesting, an America-loving British import dating a black playboy bunny and crushing on Joan, but his story line had been spiraling out of control since his stupid lost wallet plotline from the premiere and his role all season has felt extraneous. Still, it was horribly sad. At least, Lane's character got an, er, "elegant exit." At least he got to punch Pete in the face.
Throughout the season the death references revolving around Don were specifically murderous and now they make sense. He dream-murdered his ex-fling Andrea, mindlessly doodled a noose in a meeting and as has now been pointed out many times, connected to the mass murderers (Richard Speck + Charles Whitman = Richard Whitman = Dick Whitman). Here, however unwittingly, Don exacted his kill. Lane's hanging can't help but recall Don's brother's hanging in Season 1, when Don tells him to leave, effectively what he tells Lane by firing him since he'll lose his visa. He felt responsible then and he feels responsible now--and he kind of is responsible for both -- but one much more than the other. Back then Don sent his brother away because he was too wrapped up in his own insecurity and shame to think of someone else, but with Lane, he really did not have a choice.
There was no way Don could allow Lane to stay on as CFO after he admitted to embezzlement and forgery. Fact. (Of course there's an irony to Master Forger Draper firing someone else for his own crime but it's not quite the same.) Don tried to be as fair as possible and gave him one of his classic start-over speeches. As Lane cries and asks what he'll tell his family, Don pours him a big drink and says, "you tell them it didn't work out because it didn't, you tell them the next thing will be better because it always is." But Don doesn't understand his own strength, he doesn't realize others are not as resilient as he is. Lane is a follower not a fighter. He was pushed around and taken advantage of by PPL and had Don and Roger not given him this role, he would have become a pencil pusher at McCann. Lane's entire self worth was dependent on this American partnership. We know how much he hated England and he'd rather die on Madison Avenue than go back.
Dealing with life and death, this episode gets very primal as basic instincts kick in; it's fight or flight. Lane flees, Don fights. Yes, they're not really comparable -- but Don and Lane's meeting is a breaking point for both of them. Lane realizes he's lost his job and Don realizes his company is a fucking disaster. Don's already upset they had to literally prostitute themselves to get Jaguar and now he has to fire a trusted partner for embezzlement and forgery. Ironically this goes down as SCDP is shining so brightly in the public eye (seen through the AAAAs and the other ad exec at the hairdresser), but Don sees that they've hit rock bottom and it snaps him back into his alpha fighter form that both we and Roger missed so much.
Don bursts into Roger's office. "I don't like what we're doing," he spews, "I'm tired of living in this delusion that we're going somewhere when we can't even give Christmas bonuses." He blames himself for the company's weakness, for not being successful enough to give Lane the bonus he needed, for sinking so low that two people he respects, two of them, were forced to degrade themselves in this way. This may be a Campbell-level operation but this is not how Don Draper does business -- or not how he means to when he's actually paying attention. He doesn't care they have Jaguar or are getting new business calls, it's all too small. He doesn't want Jaguar, he wants Chevy, he doesn't want Mohawk he wants American he doesn't want Dunlop he wants Firestone. Go big or go home. Finally.
Don admits he told Roger that Firestone was dead because Ed Baxter told him none of those guys would work with him because of the Lucky Strike letter. Roger's like, are you kidding, "why didn't you just ask me," which echoes what Don just asked Lane about the loan. Both Don and Lane let shame get the best of them and ended up losing (or almost losing) things they had too much pride to ask for. As we've discussed, a theme of this season is "every man for himself" and here we see the consequences of not recognizing when it's time to ask for help.
Roger's horrified Don let this stop him and reminds him, "you used to love no, no used to make you hard," so Don gets his mojo back and decides to go after Ed Baxter and Dow Chemical -- it's a huge fish, almost as big as Lucky Strike, one that would return them to their former glory and most importantly the person who told him no.
Roger gets Don a meeting on Monday morning and Don sets fire to the rain.
Baxter tries to tell him they don't need him, they're successful and happy, but Don says, "What is happiness? It's the moment before you need more happiness, I won't settle for 50 percent of anything I want 100...you don't want most of it, you want all of it and I wont stop until you get all of it." Basically Don is saying you're not happy because I'm not happy and I'm getting it all and I'm taking you with me. It was kinda nuts but it just might have worked. As they walk out Roger says "I'll buy you a drink when you wipe that blood off your mouth." Don just ripped off their heads like the sexy manbeast he once was.
Sally's piece of the story is also particularly primal. She gets her period for the first time, the source of life and womanhood -- and you could say it's the estrogen to the testosterone we just saw pumping through Don. Throughout the episode, Sally is trying to be grown up -- she says she's old enough to stay home on her own, orders coffee, invites Glen over for a "date" -- but when she actually turns into one she's not as ready as she thought.
For their date, Sally puts on the white go-go boots and makeup that Don made her take off before the cancer society dinner (so father and daughter are both getting what they wanted from that night) and they go to the Natural History Museum and look at the dioramas of primitive species.
Sally asks, Do you think they were a family? Glen responds, "I hope so, otherwise, what were they doing? Walking around saying we just need a baby to finish this diorama?"
And this primal basic idea of family shines through in this episode. Even though all season it was every man for himself, somehow, when one man decides to just drop out on them they all team back up with protective family instincts.
Sally runs home to Betty, Roger instinctively wants to get Joan out of there after Lane's suicide, Don goes on attack when he realizes Lane has been compromised and then wants to help Glen.
The Sally-Betty scene was very sweet and the first time I didn't hate Betty all season. Deep down under all that bitterness and hate we knew there had to be a mother-daughter bond somewhere. Betty is genuinely surprised but touched when Sally needs her and throws her arms around her, she's telling herself as she proudly (slash smugly) tells Megan, Sally "just needed her mother."
Don also has a sweetly parental scene with Glen when he offers to drive him back to school. Glen, who always has the most lucid lines, says "everything you think's gonna make you happy just turns to crap." Feeling responsible for taking Lane's life, Don wants to give life back to someone else. He slides down in the elevator and levels with Glen, asking if he could do anything, what would he want to do and it cuts to Don letting Glen drive home and he reaches over and helps him guide the wheel. There's something interesting about happiness derived from cars and driving. All Rebecca wanted Lane to do was drive around the block but he couldn't and all Glen wants to do is drive. It's about control and freedom and independence.
Goodbye, Lane. It's been fun. We'll root for the Mets for you.
A Few Other Things:
The title "Commissions and Fees" is about getting paid for your work. Lane pays for what he's done with the money and Sally pays for her grownup date/behavior by becoming one. Also, commissions and fees are Lane's game and it's ultimately his episode.
More primal instincts -- Don really jumps into battle mode insisting on cutting Lane down when everyone else left him hanging. You imagine him fighting in Korea and carrying bodies the way he carried Lane's on to the couch.
Lane's horrifying dead body was slightly less horrifying because of how fake the makeup looked. WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THE MAKEUP STAFF? It's mind-boggling that this perfectionist team continues to let this go on time and time again. Fat Peggy. Fat Betty. Dead Lane. We're living in an HD world, people, you can't serve us cake and eat it too.
Really enjoyed the convo bet Roger and Ken. Roger's so delighted when Ken threatens him back, like 'look who came to play.'
How do we feel about the Joan wannabe/replacement in the partners meetings? I like her because I like Joan best when she's putting people in their place and now we have a guaranteed target.
How do people feel about Glen? My twitter feed was blowing up with all this Glen-hatred about how he's such a horrible actor but I love him. He's obviously a total weirdo, but I crack up every time he speaks.
Megan's visibly pissed off when Don didn't tell her about Sally and can't even feign excitement (act for us, actress!). It's understandable she's busy and wanted warning but she seems considerably less concerned with being a part of the family. What do we think will happen with them?
Re: Lane, is this really what the whole season of death symbols was leading up to? As sad and horrible as it was, was this significant enough? Do we really care?
Predictions for next week? The last two finales have been amazingly shocking, what do you think they can pull out this season? Will they get Dow Chemical? Will Megan get a part and leave Don for rehearsals and ambiguously forever? What would wild enough to really shock us?--Discuss!
Follow Samantha Zalaznick on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@szalaz