I just couldn't help myself.
Seventeen excruciating months passed between the conclusion of season four and the beginning of season five of my favorite show, "Mad Men." Due to heated network negotiations between AMC and executive producer/creator Matthew Weiner, "Mad Men's" fifth was the season that almost wasn't.
I have a habit of doing too much reading on the television series I adore most, inevitably stumbling into spoilers. However, this typically happens when I'm a few seasons behind on a show discovered during the off season on DVD. I tragically found out about a very important plot point at the end of season four of "Dexter" that way, ruining the surprise conclusion before I had even begun to watch it.
If only I would have had a little more self control with "Mad Men." It all started with an Entertainment Weekly cover story in March that I devoured to pass the time in a doctor's waiting room. How could I stop there? The premiere date was marked in red pen on my calendar, and I was already contemplating what old-fashioned cocktail would best suit the occasion.
Weiner is notoriously tight-lipped about his show. The cast is prohibited from revealing virtually any details about "Mad Men" episodes to come, and often aren't told about the fate of their character until shortly before filming.
Rumors, however, can't be stopped - and my online reading habit would result in the spoiling of the season I had waited more than a year for.
I read that a character would die before the end of the season.
"I'm really happy you didn't tell me that," my sister said on Monday as we discussed the second-to-last episode that aired Sunday, June 3. "Lane's death would have had a lot less of an impact had I known it was coming."
Tell me about it.
I spent the entire season searching for clues. Would it be Pete Campbell? Many fans began to speculate after he began to unravel in episode five, "Signal 30," and displayed increasingly reckless, strange behavior. Perhaps it was supposed to be a distraction from Lane Pryce, whose behavior was also becoming erratic. (He gloriously punched Pete then planted one on Joan in that same episode).
Viewers knew something grim was about to happen, with much heavy-handed foreshadowing. But what, to whom, and how?
We learned last Sunday, of course, that Lane was, quite literally, at the end of his rope. In a heartbreaking scene, Joan discovers his lifeless body hanging in his office.
Ultimately, I liked the way they handled the episode about Lane's death. However, I was nervous to tune in last Sunday after all fans have been through in these past couple of months.
This season has been a veritable roller coaster. The highs left me jubilant: episode seven "At the Codfish Ball" in its entirety - pitch-perfect; the deliciously flirtatious scenes shared by Don and Joan in "Christmas Waltz," the "Zou Bisou Bisou" phenomenon. The lows have been devastating: "Fat Betty," and the majority of episode three, "Tea Leaves," was a misstep; episode 10, "The Other Woman," resulted in a sleepless night.
Is it crazy to lose sleep over the fate of fictional characters? Probably. I'd like to consider it a testament to how good of a job Weiner has done creating these characters. We know them. We're invested in them. (Also, I am a total drama queen when it comes to my shows, and especially regarding "Mad Men." These are REAL PEOPLE).
It took me a solid week before I could come to terms with what transpired - which is why I've decided to hold off on forming my final opinion on season five until it's over. How I will walk away feeling about it hinges on the finale episode, which airs tonight at 10 o'clock.
As we've learned, you never know what tricks Weiner has up his sleeve. It turns out that we didn't know our friends at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as well as we thought - and this season, all bets are off.
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org