Wednesday, June 19, 2024

“Mad Men”: Suicide, Adulthood, and Why Jaguars Always Had a Bad Rep


The second to last episode of “Mad Men” season 5: all the talk of suicide led to the unfortunate demise of Lane Pryce, played so beautifully by Jared Harris for almost three seasons. Harris and Embeth Davidtz made for a handsome couple, Brits trapped in America by circumstances. But the writing was on the wall last week when Lane forged Don’s signature and embezzled money from the company.  Of course, Matt Weiner gave the suicide a twist. For as many times as suicide has been mentioned recently, so too have Jaguar’s mechanical problems. When Lane tries to gas himself in a Jaguar, he can’t: the car won’t start. The indignity of it all. Harris will be missed.

But “Mad Men” has too many characters and not enough time to give then. So Matt Weiner had to make a choice. In the meantime, something unusual happened, I thought. January Jones, who hasn’t been on much this season and comes across coldly, had two scenes that could actually win her some awards. Her response to Sally’s hug was classic Betty, but it was also a superior bit of acting. The same when Sally was in bed with her. Betty the ice queen almost looked as if she’d been shocked into being human. January Jones is full of surprises, after all. It could be she’s studying Mary Tyler Moore in “Ordinary People.”

It should be noted, this was the first episode without Peggy in a long, long time. Maybe ever.

And with the suicide, came life: Sally, as Betty put it, “became a woman.” And she turned to the woman she claims to despise the most, her mother.

“Mad Men” seemed soft and maybe drifting from episodes four through eight. But the show found its footing again in Episode 9, “Dark Shadows.” Now as we come to the season finale, it’s back on track. The last episode of the season is called “The Phantom.” Who knows why? And even though Don and Meghan have fought, it seems like their marriage will make it to next season. So it’s been a slightly confusing season, a little meandering, and unclear what the purpose of all this is. But we’re now in February 1967. There are two more 13 episode seasons left. The show will end at the conclusion of the 1960s. Historically there are two very tumultuous years ahead for the survivors of Sterling Cooper.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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