Spoiler Alert! If you aren’t caught up with the latest season of AMC’s Mad Men, move along. This isn’t the post for you.
Two days after the second to last episode of this season’s Mad Men, my best friend sent me an email that read:
“Man, I’m so bummed about Lane on Mad Men. He died on Fringe last week too.”
I replied with the following:
“AGHHHHHHHH! SPOILER ALERT! I HAVEN’T WATCHED YET!”
We exchanged a few more emails with her apologizing profusely and me demanding restitution in the form of her first born or one million cupcakes, whichever she had less attachment to. I’m still waiting for the final decision. I was disappointed to be spoiled, even though Lane Pryce’s departure wasn’t actually a total shock to me thanks to the artful foreshadowing throughout the season. Still, I worried that the episode wouldn’t pack the punch for me that it seemed to pack for all of my Facebook friends, who were “OMG”-ing all over my news feed.
I was wrong.
I felt like I had been punched right in the gut during the second to last episode of season 5 in which Lane Pryce hanged himself in his office at SCDP. Of course, since his suicide was spoiled for me it wasn’t so much the visual of him hanging that gave me the utterly emotional reaction I had (though that was tough–visuals of hanging people freak.me.out.), but the scene in which Don confronted Lane about his embezzlement of company money and told him he needed to resign his position at the agency that really got me. Lane’s breakdown in front of Don will go down in my personal history as some of the best television writing and acting that I’ve ever seen. In a matter of minutes, we see Lane go through the the first four stages of grief—shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, and depression, reflection, and loneliness. Though he loses his cool head from a moment in front of Don, he gathers himself and in true British fashion, offers Don a parting handshake.
The scene was heart-wrenching for me. Worried about going soft in my old age, I actually thought to myself, “This is silly. I shouldn’t feel this empathetic toward a fictional character.” But the thing is, I absolutely should feel that empathetic toward fictional characters. Television writing should always be so good. Mad Men succeeds because it’s so more than a television drama–it’s art. If I could make it required viewing for my Film and Digital Cinematography students, I would, because it encompasses every element of quality storytelling that I wish to pass on to my students, especially those interested in writing. Mad Men does it right.
A few people I know never got past the first few episodes of Mad Men because it’s “too slow.” The show focuses its energy on character development, which in this age of instant gratification is hard for many people to dedicate time to. The payoff, though, is much more satisfying than anything you’ll experience watching network TV dramas.
The cinematography in Mad Men is beautiful too, and is quite worth checking out if you’re a DC student at Full Sail. One of the great things about AMC shows is they’re shot like movies. In the season finale my breath was taken away by the shot of the remaining five partners standing in their projected new office.
I could go on and on about Mad Men and what they’re doing for television writing, but you should check it out for yourself if you’re truly dedicated to writing, film, TV, or digital cinematography.