*Full spoilers for each episode herein!
Mad Men episode 12 and this week we find out who the falling man is.
“So who do you think the Falling Man is? Who do you think’s gonna jump?”
I admit, it wasn’t something I had seriously considered up until that point. There was, of course, a bit of controversy when the promotional posters for season five were first released. The image of a man plummeting headfirst bore a resemblance to the iconic “Falling Man” photo from the 9/11 attacks. It was presumably, however, a reference to the show’s opening credits, where a silhouetted businessman sinks slowly through the air, past Madison Avenue and flashes of ads. In other words, I didn’t think the poster was implying that there’d actually be a suicide this season. The “Falling Man” of the Mad Men universe wasn’t anyone specific—just a repeated image to represent the plight of many of its characters.
I was wrong—sort of. Don finds out Pryce’s been embezzling funds from the company and fires him; he doesn’t tell the other partners and offers Pryce the opportunity to resign. Pryce’s distraught, and Don offers him a nugget of parting advice: “You’ll tell them that it didn’t work out because it didn’t,” he says. “And you’ll tell them the next thing will be better because it always is.”
Pryce’s journey was a tragic downfall that’s been playing out for weeks. We knew that his check-forging scheme would come to a head at some point, but it didn’t seem likely that Don would stand on such principle and insist that Pryce resign (this is, of course, the man whose entire life is built with lie upon lie, but that’s besides the point). This being Don Draper‘s show, and as the tragic news punched him in the gut, I couldn’t help but think of a prior situation Don found himself in very much like this one. This isn’t the first time that Don has learned that a man he knew well had hung himself as a result of Don telling him to leave. Before Lane Pryce, there was Adam Whitman. The circumstances, and Don’s motivation, were different, but the end result is the same: rather than run away, Don tells someone else to do the same, and that man instead ties a length of rope around his neck and violently exits this life of ours.
Don thought he was doing Pryce a kindness, and he was. He couldn’t keep working with Pryce under those circumstances, and letting him resign without scandal was better than outing his behavior to the other partners, or, worse, calling in the authorities. He even gives Pryce a variation on the speech he gave Peggy when she was locked up in the mental ward after giving birth. But where Peggy had enough in common with Don that she could make the hobo code a part of her life, Pryce wasn’t equipped to do the same. He was a middle manager, treated as a lapdog by SJP, and as a necessary evil by the other partners at SCDP. Whenever he aspired to more in life than the path others had chosen for him, he got smacked down (quite literally by his old man). Don Draper could start over; Lane Pryce can’t. Don’s speech to Peggy gave her life a new beginning; his speech to Lane brought his life to an ending.
On the (?)upside, the long-running joke about Jaguar cars being lemons finally got its payoff, albeit in a very dark way- Pryce’s first attempt at suicide doesn’t even get off the ground when the car won’t start. Even in death he can’t get things to go in his direction!
Elsewhere, Glen and Sally sneak out for a museum date- all the while denying they are anything more than friends. Time and hormones will no doubt get the better of them if the classic trope continues to play out. Betty gets one up on Megan when Sally runs miles home to her mother. The look of satisfaction on Betty’s face is more than a little vindictive.
Rated: 4 Lucky Strikes out of 5