Well, that was some kind of evening on AMC.
On The Killing last night, the (apparently) idealistic young councilman running against the (probably) evil ensconced mayor on (theoretically) a platform of reform, announced to his supporters the night before the election that he had lied about his whereabouts on the evening of the murder of the sixteen-year-old girl on which the series is based. He lied because where he had really been was jumping off a bridge in a suicide attempt.
We, the audience, already knew that, but this was the first time that he had talked in detail about the sadness that led to his impulsive jump. He then deftly twisted the story into one of near-heroism, stating that while he had been no icon of courage on that night, he had found the will to live on the way down, and had become possessed of a will to fight, for himself and for the people of Seattle.
We always wonder. After someone has taken an irreversible step, are there seconds of regret? We cannot know. But we wonder. Every day.
About an hour later, one of Mad Men's partners in the advertising firm was found hanging from his office door. That one was easy to foresee; he had been caught embezzling from the company and fired, and was unable to confide in the wife whom for three years he had misled about their financial situation and who had just purchased a Jaguar for him in a misplaced desire to celebrate what she believes to be his most recent success. There was no outlet for his humiliation and despair.
Don Draper, the partner who had recognized and acted upon the fraudulent financial transaction, stands in stark contrast to the beaten and destroyed Lane. In demanding Lane's resignation, Don had told him that he would be able to reinvent himself; Don has done so many times. But now, Don has been instrumental in the suicides of two men, as well as the demise of his own first marriage; the repercussions of his reinventions have left bodies, literal and figurative, strewn all over the.place.
We always wonder. What might have been said or done to alter those final steps in an individual's journey? Who else might have intervened, might have influenced a change in a course of action? We cannot know. But we wonder. Every day.
Both of these series explore the vast, opaque gap between appearance and reality, The Killing through the genre of murder mystery and Mad Men through the artifice of the advertising world. That they are highly regarded shows tells me that we are all drawn to an exploration of that edge, that brink of horror at the darkness of the human condition.
Watching it is one thing. The living of it is another.
Image: Mireille Enos as Detective Sarah Linden, now my all-time favorite television character.