Don encapsulates “Commissions and Fees” with his pitch to Dow Chemical. Happiness and success are transitory and leave you unfulfilled. For multiple characters, the sacrifices necessary to attain success are not glossed over by the result. For the second straight week, once subtle plot points explode.
Lane receives what he wanted. The “four A’s” grants him professional recognition with a prestigious post. His wife finally respects him. He now owns a Jaguar XKE, symbolic of manhood, the hollowness of manhood and his own inability to escape his own failure. That car exposed his duplicity at the company. Unable to pay for it, it will now expose his duplicity with his wife.
He attempts suicide fittingly with the car, which characteristically won’t start. He then goes to the office, tidies up his affairs and hangs himself in his office. Potentially, we have seen the outlet for this season’s persistent death imagery (elevator shaft, murders etc.), though there’s still one more episode.
Sally is no longer at the Codfish Ball. She wants adulthood. She wears makeup and gogo boots to meet her “boyfriend,” she orders coffee with a generous helping of sugar. Though, when she finally becomes a woman, in the bathroom of the Natural History Museum, she becomes scared and reverts to childhood. She undermines her mother, but, when most fearful, clings to her.
Joan gets what she wanted, independence and security divorced from her sexuality. Though she can only transcend her sexuality by degrading it in the most base and literal fashion. She has the hard power, but it came at the expense of all the soft power she accrued. It’s her dirty little secret (not really a secret), which becomes pivotal.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce obtains the car account and subsequent stability. It is now growing as a business, though it came not from their gifts or their ingenuity but an unholy act, that could ruin everything.
As always with Mad Men, we circle back to Don. We’ve seen him lie. We’ve seen him cheat on his wife. His whole life is an artifice. His profession is cynically exploiting that artifice. He’s pragmatic, yet, when it’s most essential, Don still has a moral compass. He has lines he won’t cross and beliefs more important than his own self-preservation. It’s what makes him a compelling character. He tries to do the right thing, even if, in this episode (and with Adam Whitman), it went incredibly wrong.
The only person who gets what he wants without conflicts is Glen. His innermost longing is innocent, for a father.
[Screengrabs via Mike the Intern]