Mad Men recap: Shame and scandal lead Lane Pryce to a final solution
In a season filled with shocking scenes, Sunday's Mad Men offered perhaps the most stunning, capping the run of Jared Harris's Lane Pryce with a suicide in the office.
Pryce had run out of options, embezzling $8,000 from Sterling Cooper to cover his taxes back in England, then twisting slowly over several episodes as his effort to disguise the chunk of change as a Christmas bonus was undone by circumstance.
Once Don Draper discovered his dishonesty, giving him a weekend to devise a graceful exit, Pryce instead chose a different path -- leaving his partners and family in the lurch with a suicide that allowed him, finally, to duck the consequences of his actions and the inevitable shame resulting from such a startling fall.
Producers did a better job of laying the groundwork for Lane's move than some other shocking scenes this season, exposing the character as a man chafing at the rigid role laid out for him as an Englishman in New York, yet desperate at times to live up to that same image.
One moment, he's showing off his black girlfriend to snark off his veddy British father, the next he's laughing with fellow expatriates at a bar while cheering his favorite soccer team and struggling to keep his son in a very expensive school.
It was a toxic mix of pride, insecurity and longing; at times, Lane didn't even know what he wanted, beyond transcending the life he felt stuck in. Remaining in America to fund the upstart Sterling Cooper agency was the one great rebellious move of his life, and as we learned over the last few weeks, it came at a high price -- dinging him financially to the point that he was constantly on the edge of disaster.
We experienced TV watchers knew the moment he forged Don's signature on a bogus bonus check, that it would only be the start of a spectacular unraveling for Lane. But, true to Mad Men's ways, the end came with a simple discovery -- Bert Cooper looking through bank statements and alerting Don, who tried to give Lane a quiet way out. (can't forget the humorous turn at the end; Lane's first suicide attempt, gassing himself inside the Jaguar his wife bought for him, foiled by the notoriously temperamental auto's inability to start.)
And Lane's final attempt to explain himself, vaulting between obsequious pleas to Don ("I supposed I picked you [for the forgery] because you've been the most decent to me.") and bursts of anger over his view of the embezzlement as a 13-day loan, was a fitting, final showcase for Harris. Keeping us guessing about what Lane actually did until his co-workers arrived in the office Monday morning was the last, compelling touch.
More than many episodes, "Commissions and Fees" felt like an array of smaller storylines gathered around one powerful moment, though one of them included Don's daughter Sally having her first -- gulp -- period.
The payoff of the storyline -- which saw a dismissive Sally run back to her mother for comfort after rejecting her earlier in the episode -- was understandable and telling.
But the road which led there, including Sally calling creepy ex-neighbor boy Glen to Don's apartment in Manhattan, where they both went to a museum and she ditched him once her period started, felt convoluted and a bit unnecessary (perhaps an excuse to give Glen, played by creator Matt Weiner's son, a few more decent scenes this season?)
It was also great to see Roger and Don team up to try convincing Dow Corning that Sterling Cooper deserved their business. Besides giving a little screen time to the most excellent Ray Wise (as Dow's head), I had forgotten what a great team Don and Roger made in the series early days.
More than that, the writers hinted that perhaps the characters had forgotten too -- with Don irritated enough by comments from other on the success of his "little firm," that he wanted to end such talk by landing an even bigger fish.
As the big moments pile up -- Joan's sleeping with a client to get business, Peggy leaving the firm, Lane killing himself -- it makes you wonder: How exactly can Weiner end this season, short of setting off an atomic bomb?