Definitely not the strongest outing of this fourth season, but last night’s Mad Men had its share of moments. I could have done with a little less of the real Mrs. Draper, but when Don hugged Anna goodbye for probably the last time, Jon Hamm summed up the entire tortured history of his character with one look. Then there’s Joan, weeping as Greg stitches up her hand. But it wasn’t the cut, it wasn’t the blood, it was Joan’s despair over settling for an inept brute who thinks he can calm/charm her with “donkey dick” jokes. Both moments had merit, but every instant of Lane Pryce was golden, and while Jared Harris didn’t really dominate until the last 20 minutes or so, it was his episode all the way.
It’s clear from Lane’s first interaction with Joan that he’s not a sucker for her smoky voice (even if she is offering him fried chicken), but the fact that he tries to apologize for his harsh words with flowers makes him, arguably, the only gentleman on the show (at least now that Sal is out of the picture). This leads to a mixup of the I Love Lucy variety (ever see the one where Fred sends Lucy flowers from Ricky, signs his own name by mistake, and Ethel gets so jealous that she belts him?), but here the fallout is much more bleak: it’s essentially the last straw for the Pryce marriage. So Lane is on his own, alone in the office on New Year’s, and who should wander in but the shell of the man who was once Dick Whitman, who is barely Don Draper. With no work to do, they drink, take in a film (how great was it that they went to a Godzilla movie?), have some dinner (and Lane found a unique use for his beef), get heckled by a comedian, and end up at Casa Draper with two girls of the night. On the one hand, these scenes were pathetic. Think back a few years to Roger and Don’s office romp with the twins. Despite Roger’s subsequent heart attack, that seemed like a fun time. This was just two divorced, irrelevant losers who don’t get the jokes and have to pay for female company. And yet, Harris sold me on the idea that this was Lane being reborn. From his childish antics at the movie theater and the restaurant to the moment he removed his glasses and kissed his escort (who looked a lot like Peggy; not sure if that’s important, just thought I’d mention it), Lane Pryce became an American. Whether that’s good or bad is up for debate, but I for one cannot wait to see where this season takes him.