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TV preview: Five memorable moments from Mad Men season five
The TV view from America with Jace Lacob of The Daily Beast - Mad Men
Cast of Mad Men, including Jon Hamm
WARNING: Proceed with caution if you are not completely up-to-date with Mad Men, as specific plots and narrative twists are discussed.
Mad Men's fifth season began with the joy and optimism felt by newlyweds Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré). But it was never going to last. A narrative darkness manifested itself in squandered dreams, hopeless enterprises, larceny, and even the death of a major character.
The scenes below capture some of the most surprising, exciting, thrilling, or heartbreaking moments.
Commissions and Fees: Lane commits suicide
Few viewers expected that mild-mannered finance executive Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) would take his own life. However, in hindsight, all of the warning signs were there that he would do something foolish before the season ended.
Lane illicitly took out an additional line of credit for the firm then tried to pass off the cash as an overage in order to pay out Christmas bonuses and pay off back taxes he owed to the Inland Revenue. When that failed, he forged Don's signature on a cheque and embezzled money from the company.
Caught by Don and forced to resign, Lane hung himself in his office. He was discovered the following day; his suicide note a boilerplate resignation letter. This was telling on so many levels: Lane's resignation wasn't just from work, but from life; his entire identity was caught up in his professional career. Without one, he lost the other.
The Other Woman: Peggy resigns
Over the course of five seasons, Mad Men has navigated the often tumultuous dynamics and relationships of the ad men and women of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce - the most important and central of which is that between Don and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss).
The show, after all, began on her first day of work at the agency, as she was assigned to be Don's secretary. In this episode, Peggy decided to leave the agency and forge her own path; she accepted a job as copy chief at SCDP rival Cutler Gleason and Chaough.
As Don alternately raged against Peggy, pleaded with her, and tried to buy her back - demanding that she name a price - Peggy stood firm, refusing to be owned. It was a transformative moment, positioning her as less Don's protégé and more his equal ("You know this is what you would do."). Their parting is both full of pain and of possibility.
Far Away Places: Roger takes a trip
One of the most surreal subplots this season was the acid trip embarked on by Roger (John Slattery) and his estranged wife Jane (Peyton List) at a party hosted by Jane's psychiatrist.
And what a trip it was.
Roger's lucid vision quest took the viewer into the recesses of his subconscious; he witnessed the 1919 World Series, imagined his partner Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) appearing on a five-dollar bill and bottles of alcohol transforming into orchestras, and saw Don appear out of thin air, taking over as his vision guide.
What was intended to be a shared experience for Roger and Jane became instead their final voyage together as they discussed splitting up, something both had considered, but been too afraid to say aloud, until the liminal state of the acid trip freed them up from their inhibitions.
A Little Kiss: Megan serenades Don
Already an iconic sequence in the mythos of Mad Men, the fifth season opener contained Megan's unexpected performance for Don at his surprise party, a sexually charged rendition of Zou Bisou Bisou (memorably performed by Sophia Loren in 1960 film The Millionairess), that left all of the party guests with their mouths agape in jealousy.
Her serenade, in which she willingly transforms herself into a French coquette, showcases a woman exerting ownership over both the masculine gaze in the room and her own sexual hunger, which plays out in an exhibitionist streak in front of Don and his guests.
The Other Woman: Joan receives an indecent proposal
One of the most deeply polarising and controversial moments of this season was the indecent proposal offered to Joan (Christina Hendricks). The firm wanted the Jaguar Dealership Association's support for their pitch, but the head of the organisation wanted an evening with the curvaceous redhead in exchange.
While Don was against the entire idea - he wanted the creative to stand on its own and get them the account, not because of some dirty arrangement - the other partners vote to offer Joan $50,000 in exchange for her essentially prostituting herself.
Facing a divorce from her husband, the money offered tangible financial security to Joan. Ultimately, she went through with the plan, selling her body for a piece of SCDP.
Overall, it's been a fascinating season. And with an end date in mind for Mad Men (only two more seasons!), creator Matthew Weiner has shifted the drama into its final act before viewers' eyes. What were your memorable season five moments?
- This is an abridged version. Please visit The Daily Beast here to read the article in full.
Jace Lacob is The Daily Beast's TV Columnist. As a freelance writer, he has written for the Los Angeles Times, TVWeek, and others.
Jace is the founder of television criticism and analysis website Televisionary and can be found on Twitter.
He is a member of the Television Critics Association.
The views in this article/blog are those of the author alone and not MSN/Microsoft