Lane Pryce is dead. I had no idea that his check fraud storyline would end like this—I assumed it was a one-time story, though in retrospect I should have realized his financial trouble has been one of this season’s few arcs—but as soon as Don dropped the hammer on him I knew he was dead. You could see it all unfolding in that initial conversation. There was no way Lane would recover from this disgrace. The only unknown was how he would end it. When he looked out his office window across New York City, I thought he might be the falling man in the title sequence. When his new Jaguar wouldn’t start—a brilliantly cynical twist on the part of the writers, given the fact that Don hasn’t stopped bashing the car’s poor construction over the last few episodes—I’m sure we all smiled. And when he returned to the office at night, we knew how it would end.
Lane’s act was incredibly selfish, as most suicides are. But where the majority of people who commit suicide don’t see it as a selfish act, Lane knew very well what he was doing, and when his original plan went awry he orchestrated a tremendous production that may end up seriously damaging the firm. What will the firm’s clients think when they hear that a partner killed himself? What will the lower-level workers do? Not to mention the impact this will have on Don. Lane was incredibly bitter towards Don—you’ll forgive me for employing this cliché, but Lane truly did make his own bed, and Don did the right thing by privately firing him and giving him the chance to step down publicly—and having that letter of resignation be his de facto suicide note was a malicious act directed right at Don.
It’s not like Mr. Draper is lacking for psychological burdens to bear. Add this to the list of things that will haunt Don, and it might very well evoke memories of his half-brother’s suicide. Both deaths were virtually identical: Don dismissed both men, and both men then went on to hang themselves. (It’s strange how Don’s relationship with his half-brother keeps recurring this year; a few episodes back I compared the Harry-Kinsey scene in the diner to the very similar scene with Don and his half-brother.) We can probably use Don’s brother’s death as a guide to how Don will deal with Lane’s demise: he’ll bury it, and on the surface he’ll forget it ever happened, but he’ll never lose the memory, and it will come around again. Incidentally, do you think Don would tell Megan about Lane’s suicide if he had the choice? The news will get out, and everybody will know, but suppose Don could conceal Lane’s death, at least from Megan: would he do so? I think he would. He doesn’t want to deal with those things.
In case getting fired from a job doesn’t seem like grounds for suicide, we should remember that Lane has been depressed for some time. It’s just that he has a chipper personality and, unlike Pete, Lane actually tries to hide his woes. But he had financial troubles, he felt nothing for his wife, he hated his country of origin, and he had long been questioning his worth to the agency. I don’t know that I will miss Lane. His act absolutely changed the way I feel about him. As morose as it is to say this, it would be different had he taken his own life in a way that wasn’t directly related to the agency, but I can’t forgive him for the way he went. He tried to take everybody down with him.
You could pull many different themes out of this episode, but there was one that really stuck out to me: Don’s issue with control and having to control the people around him. Ultimately, that’s what this episode was about for me, regardless of the other goings on. Don was trying to assert himself, and he started off well, but by the end of the show he’d seemingly given up.
We started out with him getting a haircut, though there’s no need to read into that—just that he’s making a move to freshen up. Bert Cooper then thrust the Lane issue onto his lap. Don was very quick to reach a verdict regarding Lane—part of that is because firing him was the right thing to do, but I also think Don was trying to regain some control over the agency, an agency he sees as his own. We saw in the partner’s meeting that he was still smarting over the other men going behind his back and rendering a decision on Joan. Now he took decisive action, and he did it away from the other partners. He also engineered his own meeting with a major company and practically tried to force his way into their pockets. But control began to slip away, with Betty dumping Sally onto him and Megan then putting up a fight about babysitting Sally. Lane took his own life, contrary to Don’s intentions, and the episode closed with Don finally giving up all control, literally handing the wheel over to Glen.
Don’s been going through this struggle for the entire season. He’s been trying to control Megan; he’s been trying to be faithful to his wife and suppress his desire to be adulterous. But is it really worth the battle? In an attempt to smother the undesirable parts of his character and to try and get his life on track, Don lost the edge that made him so successful. For months he didn’t contribute work to the agency and he watched while accounts like Heinz almost slipped away. I think that Don’s finally done trying to control it all. I think that he’s going to cut loose again, and success will certainly come with that, but there’ll be other challenges he’ll have to face. Sterling said as much—he more or less welcomed the return of the old Don Draper. The return of the old Don Draper means good things for the firm. It won’t mean good things for everyone else.
I found that Sally’s storyline was shadowed by the events surrounding Lane but, in any case, I don’t have much to say about her that we haven’t mentioned before in prior episode recaps. She showed some maturity by informing Glen that she wasn’t about to sleep with him, but she also had more moments of great immaturity. I love how she burst into the apartment unannounced, handed her coat to Megan, and said “I thought you would be excited [to see me]!” Yeah, stepmom is going to be super thrilled when her husband’s kids trounce in without warning.
Also: no Peggy. Perhaps there wouldn’t have been room for her in the episode anyway, but it’s still a little telling that she didn’t show. I suspect we’ll see her next episode, even if it’s only for her to comment on Lane’s death. What do you think will happen in the season’s finale? I expect Don to have some kind of success with the agency he pitched to, but I think much of that will be put to the wayside as the company tries to recover after the suicide. And I wonder if we’ll see Don make a pass at another woman. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s possible if his ‘old self’ has in fact returned. It would be something of an obvious move on the part of the writers, however, so it might be that he won’t dip his toe back into that old pool yet. What do you guys think?