Mad Men, Season 5

A Day at the Museum With Sally and Glen
Talking television.
June 4 2012 10:41 PM

Mad Men, Season 5

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I loved Sally and Glen's awkward rapport.

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Jordin Althaus/AMC

André and Maria, thanks for sharing how hard it was to write this week’s episode. So many of the details were thoughtful, heartbreaking, and perfect. The cheery, orderly schedule on Joan’s wall, marking a day about to descend into chaos and disorder. The extra beat Harry Crane spends looking over the partition at Lane’s body. The awful moment when Lane snaps his glasses in two. It was grueling to see a man—especially one as decent as Lane—driven to such desperation.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

It was also a little puzzling. As Patrick pointed out, Don was firm with Lane; perhaps too firm, given the leniency shown him when he misled his bosses years ago. But Don also offers Lane a pretty good deal. He’ll cover Lane’s debt, and keep his secret. Given that Lane is the toast of his professional association, it seems likely he could find another gig if he tried. And now we have the Jacquemettons’ hint that Lane’s “tortured soul” will figure into the series finale. I’m left wondering whether Lane was in deeper trouble than we knew. When Don asks repeatedly if the check Bert Cooper discovered was the only one, Lane never gives a straight answer. And the loose thread from the season premiere—of Lane’s lust object Dolores and her mobster boyfriend—remains, as yet, untied.

However it all comes out, I must confess: I’m not all that sad to see Lane go. I’ll miss Jared Harris’ wonderful acting. But for sheer heartbreak, I found both Peggy’s departure and Joan’s ascent much more wrenching, even though both characters are alive and kicking. When Lane entered the Mad Men universe, he represented the untrammeled promise of American life, and its appeal to men and women of all stripes. He has also at times shown us the queasy relationship between uprightness and misbehavior. But his arcs have felt less fundamental, to me, than those of some of the other characters we follow. I just wish he’d lived at least a few more years, long enough to see his beloved Mets win the World Series in 1969.

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As for Sally and Glen’s trip to the Museum of Natural History, I loved their awkward rapport and the speed with which their banter about the exhibits soured. Glen’s confession that he’d bragged about Sally as a conquest prompts her to say, defensively, “I’m not sure that’s the way I like you,” which prompts him to feign relief, saying she’s like a kid sister, “but smart.” It’s not where either of them wants that conversation to go, I suspect—short-circuiting the possibility of a romance—but it goes there anyway. And then right on time, Sally gets her period and is inducted into the misery of grown-up life, with its responsibilities and hardships. (When Betty told Sally about the special obligations of womanhood, I couldn’t help but think of Megan, who takes on Sally-care responsibilities all weekend as Don works.)

The episode was studded throughout with small moments of revelation. There was Joan, gaily laughing at a joke of Pete’s in the partners meeting, showing that—for now anyway—she is satisfied with the bargain she’s made. There was Ken, cutting Pete out of any future Dow deals as he offers to help the firm, showing that he is eager for some recognition and success. There was Pete, squeamish in the presence of Lane’s corpse as the two veterans, Roger and Don, took charge. There was Megan, sensibly putting her pique with Don aside and proposing family dinner. And there was Don, issuing his fervent pitch about staying hungry to the boys from Dow.

Think they want caribou?

Julia