Monday, June 4, 2012

Television Suicides

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

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.


  1. Robin,it must have been incredibly difficult for you to watch those TV shows. May God grant you some peace in the midst of your pain.

  2. Oh my. I don't watch either of these programs....and I have an aversion to all the violence on television....but I do appreciate shows and writings that are well done and provoke us to a new place and understanding.

  3. Watching it and living it....two very different things. Hugs for you, my friend, and your beloved son.

  4. One of the things I love about MM is how vivid it is and its ability to visit the "dark side"; this particular episode, though, was perhaps a bit too much in this regard.I am sorry for how difficult this episode was for you (and for many others).

    Do you ever read the blog about Mad Men called "Basket of Kisses"? They provide great summaries and analyses of each week's episodes. The reason I bring this up to you is that there is a recent guest post called "Suicide ain't Painless." It is a very thoughtful and poignaant first person account. The link is:

    1. Thanks, Cassandra; I did go and read that entry. I wonder how many of us at one time of another have titled a blog post by the name of the M*A*S*H theme song?

      Robin (I seem to be posting anonymously on my own blog.)