My very first post for this site posited that Mad Men‘s twists were often too difficult to predict in advance. As the season advanced, however, it became clear to me and to most critics that the show was opting for a more straightforward (or to be less kind, heavy-handed) style of storytelling. Now that the season is over, it’s time to reevaluate my position.
When I wrote the post, I was not necessarily wrong, based on what I’d seen of 4.5 seasons of Mad Men. I had just not fully taken in the fact that the show’s method of storytelling had changed. From early in the season, there was a general air of doom hanging over everything, with Don having a dream about strangling a woman and there being news reports about murderers on the loose. There was also a new tendency to hammer home an episode’s themes rather than to allow them to subtly resonate with the audience.
The foreshadowing of some kind of violent death proved to be accurate: Lane Pryce killed himself in the season’s penultimate episode. The depiction of his death and its aftermath shook to me to the core; I really grieved for the next two days after I saw the episode. So on some level, the episode succeeded artistically. I didn’t even mind that the show had foreshadowed so heavily and then followed through. Sure, it was perhaps too much when young Glen wondered aloud why everything “just turns to crap,” but I am willing to let the show have its artistic license. It’s not my story to tell. Perhaps the show is trying to depict a generation in which people are increasingly in touch with — and increasingly voicing — their dissatisfaction with their lives. A jarring change for people used to the old school version of the show, but I am all in favor of the show evolving by experimenting with its storytelling, even if those experiments don’t always work for me.