Here be spoilers for the newest episode of Mad Men. You’ve been warned.
This season of Mad Men is all about greed. Everyone wants more and no one is willing to sacrifice to give another person an inch. They’ll hurt themselves, sure, but not for someone else. It’s the poorly planned intersection of a dozen one way streets and only Peggy has made it out unscathed.
This week, Don decides to pursue new clients because he hates how the company picked up Jaguar. He’s a man possessed with upward ascension. He knows the reveal of the truth behind the Jaguar victory would ruin him, so he must reach higher and higher to make Jaguar seem as insignificant as Mohawk Airlines.Megan is grabbing for her own career even if it puts other people in harm’s way. If Don doesn’t come home on time, it’s all his fault that she has to entertain his daughter. But if Don asks Megan to watch Sally, it’s a quick no. Megan will martyr herself to maintain control than refuse to relinquish one inch to help another person.
Sally might have gotten off worse of all this episode of the survivors. Sure, she escapes from Betty after some tense words, but she’s stuck in Manhattan with no one to watch out for her. She uses Megan’s friends to boost herself up into adulthood and uses Betty, Megan, and Don’s absence to test out the track with an actual boy.
And how does that end? An emergency trip to the bathroom to discover she’s become a woman and a $25 cab fare that her stepfather is furious about. We haven’t seen a comeuppance come that quickly all season long. Even Pete had to push it for a few episodes before Lane knocked him out.
Speaking of Lane, his greed is the greatest of all. It wasn’t enough to embezzle funds to maintain the lifestyle so clearly beyond his means. He had to go further. He lied, he cheated, and he even took advantage of Joan, his biggest ally in the office, to hide his crime. Joan would not have settled for $50,000 last week. Lane is the only reason she compromised herself. He only suggested the partnership because he didn’t want the stolen money to be noticed before Christmas bonuses were issued.
When confronted by Don about his thieving ways, he becomes belligerant out of fear. Lane refuses to admit that his greed led him to do anything wrong. It’s his money. It’s his contract. It’s his accounting. It’s his company. He is the only one who does anything. Don is forced to demand a resignation.
Matthew Weiner says that is the incident that pushes Lane over the edge. I don’t think that’s how Jared Harris plays the arc. I don’t think his interpretation reaches the point of no return until after his wife shows him the brand new Jaguar. When he realizes there is no safety net to cover the check, he knows he needs to end it all.
That is the greediest thing he does. There is no punishment for his greed because his greed is what causes him to end everything on his own terms. He’s determined not to take responsibility for his failings so he refuses to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing him fall.
Everyone else suffers for him. Look at the pain he caused the other people in the office. Now imagine how his family and friends will react. Go further. What about his son? He can’t stay in school if he can’t stay in the country. His mother is taking him home with a body bag. Her husband is so low in company standing that his corpse is left to hang all night and all day before anyone comes to his aid.
Only Don and Megan have been left unscathed so far this season. Sure, there have been setbacks and fights. Neither one has been humiliated yet. Their shame has been hidden and their greed amplified in the echo chamber of their open loft. Will they actually face the Ancient Greek machine of justice next week? Or will Don once again skate by to start anew?
What do you think? This feels like front half material slipped in before the finale. I’m not underwhelmed–I haven’t been all season–but it feels slighter than the one-two punch of losing Peggy and Joan’s partnership of last week. Sound off below.