‘Mad Men’ review: Starting over … and never starting at all

Nothing could prepare Draper for this.

Warning: If you have not seen Sunday night’s new episode of “Mad Men” yet, it’s really best you turn away now. Otherwise, read on for analysis of an episode that many are going to be talking about for some time.

“Commissions and Fares” may go down as a landmark episode not just for this series, but for all dramatic television in 2012. It was so well-done in every facet — in particular the Emmy-worthy performance from Jared Harris — that it made the tears flow even harder.

In some ways, it is rather surprising that we were so tearful after seeing Lane hang himself within his office, mostly because everyone could see the writing on the wall. As brilliant a businessman as he was at times, Lane was also a coward — unlike Don Draper, he could not handle the prospect of starting his life over, even with being spared the public humiliation of having it revealed to everyone at SCDP that he embezzled $5,000 of company funds to pay for back taxes in England. The only thing that made Lane’s exit even more a testament to his own fragile condition was the way in which it played out. He couldn’t bear to tell his wife what happened to his job — especially after she bought him the most ironic gift of all time in a Jaguar, which was made somehow even more ironic when he couldn’t get it to start later on in the episode when he tried to take his own life via carbon monoxide. Instead, he decided to sneak into his office and hang himself, leaving his co-workers to discover him without an explanation why. Don was the only one who knew that he had forced him out, but he didn’t bother to share this information.

While Draper is not always an enviable person, his contrast to Lane was made all the more apparent this week by his meeting with the folks over at Dow — where he told them that they should never settle for their market share and they should strive for more. Don has always strived for more; meanwhile, Lane simply could not even strive for square one.

Yes, there were some other events that transpired — including Sally Draper “becoming a woman” and Betty continuing to act as awful as humanly possible towards Megan — but talking about them in the midst of what happened to Lane is almost like your mouth opening and no words coming out.

From a critical perspective, we’re admittedly torn on what happened this week. There is a part of us that would have liked to see Lane not live up to his own character in his death; but at the same time, shouldn’t some TV be recognized for keeping characters so consistently within themselves?

All we know for sure is that we are going to miss Lane, and following Peggy leaving SCDP last week the company is now definitely never going to be the same.

Photo: AMC

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