Hey guys, did you know that Matthew Weiner, the creator and writer of Mad Men used to work on The Sopranos? Did you know that The Sopranos ended with a bell jingling and the screen going black and we have no idea what happens? Did you know that is exactly how Mad Men‘s fifth season ended last night?Sure, we were left with enough clues to figure out what happens (possibly) after the closing credits started to roll, but it just seems like this finale was like Weiner checking out and creating episodes on autopilot. Just like Don this season, it seems like the writing staff was taking the easy way out and happier to be spending their time with an attractive woman with a gap in her teeth than doing their job.
I mean, Don starts the episode with a toothache he’s ignoring. Which freshman year creative writing workshop did they take this symbol from? (However, it was interesting that, in this season about Don and the rest of the gang being encroached by modernity, Don has a very old fashioned solution to the problem, soaking his tooth in alcohol). Then, the over-arching theme of the episode was infidelity. Yup, an episode of Mad Men was about cheating. Does this horse have any life left in it or is it just lying on the ground in a bloody pile?
Still, it was a satisfying conclusion to a season that was marked by a profound inertia, in that it really didn’t go anywhere special. Alright, since it’s about cheating, let’s look at all the infidelities we saw last night, and we’ll end with Don, just like the episode did.
Joan and Lane: Joan feels some sort of strange fidelity to Lane after he hung himself at the end of the last episode. The two always had a bond, even though she was always spurning his advances, and it’s thanks to him that Joan is now a partner in the ever-more-profitable firm in the first place. With Lane gone, Joan feels the need to vote on the side of financial discretion, putting their growing profits away for a rainy day rather than splurging on a new office to fit all the new employees that have been filtering in. We can also assume that Joan has taken over many of Lane’s old responsibilities, making her even more powerful and central to the success of the agency than ever before (and still a stickler for Robert’s Rules of Order). Joan is also looking rather matronly in her glasses with a chain (a favored accessory of the dearly departed Ida Blankenship, the old crone who used to live a wild sexual existence). She’s gone from the office vamp to the head bitch in charge, and now that she’s slept with her last fat Jaguar executive, she’s not trying to be sexy for anyone anymore.
Later we see Joan agonizing over the $175,000 check SCDP gets for Lane’s “death benefit.” She goes against the ghost of Lane and decides that maybe taking over the empty office space above there is a good idea. (Roger even says to get more space than they need, betting that the firm will continue to be more successful.) After lying about getting more room for associates to Harry Crane (who is worried about the pole in the middle of his office), she takes the partners up there and marks where the staircase is going to be. All five principals — Joan, Don, Pete, Bert, and Roger — stare out of the windows into the bright daylight. This is the same position we saw Lane in before he decided (or maybe while he was deciding to kill himself). Does this mean it’s doom for Sterling Cooper Draper (Pryce) is doomed? I don’t know. But this office is their future and right now, the future is empty.
Lane and His Wife: While Don is dealing with some serious Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from Lane’s suicide and sees the ghost of his hanged brother everywhere, he feels a way to make himself feel better is to cut a $50,000 to Lane’s widow for the money he put into the firm to keep it afloat after Lucky Strike left. She takes the money (who wouldn’t) but she doesn’t let Don feel that much better about himself. She tells him that this their money anyway and this gesture isn’t nearly enough after “filling a man like that with ambition.” She blames the firm for his death, because it’s probably easier than blaming her husband. Don stays faithful to Lane’s memory and doesn’t tell his wife that he killed himself because he got caught embezzling.
The Widow Pryce also believes that Lane was cheating on her because she found the picture of a girl that he stole out of another man’s wallet. What’s ironic is that he got that picture when he found a man’s wallet in a cab and decided to “do the right thing” and return it to him, while having some sort of imaginary affair with the woman whose picture he found tucked away inside. He eventually did give the wallet back and never actually tried to sleep with the girl, but kept her picture as a sort of memento. Now that his wife has found it, his good deed has gone punished and the karma for stealing the photo has come back to him. What’s also ironic is that she thinks that Lane was actually sleeping with this woman when he’s far too cowardly to sleep with her in the first place.