Lane Pryce’s suicide by hanging in last night’s Mad Men wasn’t hard to see coming, but it was shocking all the same. Even before Don busted Lane for embezzlement, even before Lane received the news that he needs to come up with that money or else, it was clear that he wasn’t a part of the dark world he found himself operating in. The relationships mattered too much to him, and the failures were just too personal. If Roger “We Drink Because It’s Good” Sterling had an opposite, it would be the long-suffering Lane, who never got what he deserved in life or love, because he asked for it instead of simply taking it like his colleagues would. Mad Men’s not a show to take many lessons from (except maybe fashion tips), but one of my biggest takeaways from “Commissions and Fees” is this: Hollywood sure can make dead bodies look convincing these days.
Thankfully, I’ve never happened upon the scene of a suicide, but I have been to my share of funerals, and have spent some time studying the waxy, lifeless faces lying in repose. They’re the same people I knew in life, but somehow different, lacking the muscular tension present in even the most relaxed individuals. The limp body of Lane Pryce, swinging from a rope by his office door, was the most convincing and realistic corpse I’ve ever seen on a TV or film drama. His gaunt, lifeless flesh, sagging cheeks, and considerable weight could just about convince someone that producer Matthew Weiner himself poisoned actor Jared Harris just to get the perfect shot.
I don’t know how they did it. Perhaps they used their big budget to create a lifelike (deathlike) mannequin, or perhaps Harris was simply made up to look dead, and held himself very, very still. In any case, the show tapped into an idea I haven’t seen explored this well since Pulp Fiction. What happens in the minutes and hours after somebody dies in an office building, or gets their head blown off in the backseat of a car? It’s a difficult, messy, and awkward situation, it’s up to the living to clean it up, and there’s no glamorous way to do it.