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Mad Men Season 5, Episode 9: Suicide Sweepstakes

May 14, 2012

Many viewers suspect that a main character will commit suicide at the end of this season, perhaps in the fashion of the show’s title sequence, which shows a silhouette falling down the side of skyscraper. Fans have looked for clues, trying to predict the upcoming train wreck. Whose life is the biggest mess? Who is emotionally vulnerable? I will take a look at the candidates, starting with the least likely.

Don
Why he might off himself: He tries everything short of voodoo, but still can’t produce better work than the insufferable Ginsberg. While he’s at SCDP, titans of industry won’t give the firm their business. Sally keeps being a brat, and he somehow finds out that Gene might not be his. Megan’s first big role involves a lot of sloppy make-out sessions with hairy foreigners. He feels bad once he realizes this xenophobia in himself.

Why he won’t: This Ginsberg rivalry is just a speed bump. Don is a creative genius and he was just rusty in yesterday’s episode. Besides, he’s got rank and reputation on his side. His marriage with Megan seems genuinely happy, and she is aware that it can only be poisoned from the outside (i.e. Betty, and the smog). Also, he’s the main character.

Harry
Why he might off himself: Earlier, when baked, he expressed his unhappiness with his marriage. He lies and namedrops to make himself seem more important than he really is—signs of low self-esteem. His new office has a support beam in it. His character is relatively minor and expendable.

Why he won’t: His minor status means his death probably wouldn’t produce enough of an emotional reaction in the viewers.

Peggy
Why she might off herself: She sees Ginsberg surpassing her in the eyes of their colleagues. For a woman who derives so much pride from her work, that must be hard to stomach. Her mother planted a seed of doubt about Abe; if Abe really does leave her to get married to someone else, the emotional scars might be too great.

Why she won’t: Her response to competition is simply to work harder (and later) than anybody else; I don’t think she would give up so easily.

Megan
Why she will off herself: Maybe acting doesn’t pan out, and Don convinces her to return to SCDP, and that turns out to be incredibly humiliating. Lingering shot of her at the ledge in the first episode was definitely eerie, and possibly foreboding.

Why she won’t: She seems to recognize how good her life is and how lucky she is to have it.

Lane
Why he might off himself: Seems stuck in a loveless marriage, and never (as far as we know) got with the buxom girl from that photograph. According to the always-indecipherable preview, he will be in some sort of vexing situation next week, from which he will need to be extricated. Hasn’t been seen since he beat Pete Campbell’s ass and failed to seduce Joan in his post-fight adrenalin rush. Perhaps this invisibility is misdirection on show creator Matthew Weiner’s part, in order to better shock the viewer come the end of the season. It could also be a commentary on how crucial signs and calls for help are always ignored by other people, who are too self-involved to see someone who needs aid.

Why he won’t: Unless there is some serious Lane exposition in the next few episodes, his suicide would be too out-of-left-field.

Note: The next three are pretty much too close to differentiate.

Roger
Why he might off himself: Don, his only friend, won’t go out on debauched expeditions with him anymore. He realized his selfishness and destructive ability at the end of last episode and felt truly terrible about it, but he doesn’t know how to act any other way. Pete has surpassed him and rubs his face in it at every turn.

Why he won’t: He seems to appreciate his role at work (do nothing, make money) so far. The show would lose half its humor without him.

Ginsberg
Why he might off himself: He has not been crowned king of copywriting, and it seems like he expects to. His boastfulness might just be an expression of a pathological need to be recognized for his talent; he doesn’t have much of a social life. Something about the star that shines the brightest burns out the quickest.

Why he won’t: His death would make things too easy for Don and Peggy and return the creative department back to the status quo at the beginning of the season.

Pete
Why he might off himself: He is bored with a dead-end suburban life, got his ass beat by Lane, feels so powerless that he wants prostitutes to call him “king.” He tried to get a high school girl but lost out to a muscular kid who fingered her in front of him. He thought he had a connection with the lonely wife of a train-riding boor, but now she ignores him and he daydreams of ways to get her back; one way, the Times interview, failed miserably.

Why he won’t: I don’t know; I hope it doesn’t happen because people have been predicting it for so long and I don’t want this show to be that obvious.

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