On ‘Mad Men’ and major character events

I’m very late in weighing in on “Commissions and Fees”, this season’s second to last Mad Men episode from a week ago. It was well executed but something felt distinctly off. Todd VanDerWerff really expresses this well (warning major spoilers ahead):

I’m not sure Mad Men is the kind of show that desperately needs character deaths. I’m not saying I didn’t think the show built unbelievably to Lane’s end, nor am I saying that I wish it had just trundled him off to England to hang over the final two seasons of the show. Once Lane reached the point of hopelessness he reached around the midpoint of “Commissions And Fees,” having him kill himself was one of only two or three options that would have made any story sense, and the show accomplished this task with its usual mordant sense of humor…

Yet at the same time, the show seemed to constantly be fighting against the whole cheap, desperate feel of any TV death that comes up at the end of the hour and is meant to both shock and move us all at once. Please understand: It mostly was able to overcome this. But the whole thing felt just a little sordid, as though the show were stooping beneath itself.

I can’t wait to find out how this season wraps up when it drops into my Apple TV queue sometime tomorrow. I’m not suspecting a surprise on the level of Tomorrowland, last year’s closer, but I think we’re in for something fairly big.