In the pantheon of series finales, The Sopranos—with “Don’t Stop Believin’,” the cut to black, and 10 seconds of silence that had some confused fans cursing their cable companies—might live as the most polarizing. As a writer on David Chase’s show, Matthew Weiner is all too aware of that tension and pressure, as he steers Mad Men towards its final seven episodes after seven seasons.
“I’m extremely interested in what the audience thinks, so much so that I’m trying not to confound them, not frustrate and irritate them,” Weiner said in January. “I don’t want them to walk away angry. But I don’t want to pander to them. This sounds patronizing, but as the person telling the story, sometimes people have to be protected from what they want to see happen and the story has to have its own organic thing. You can’t just give them everything that they want. That said, part of entertainment can be catharsis. Bad things happening are considered a good thing in entertainment.”
So, how will it end?
January Jones doesn’t think fans should expect Weiner to give them a neat and tidy conclusion. After eight years of playing the stunning but icy Betty Draper Francis, the actress hints that Mad Men‘s architect isn’t about to cave and gift each character a fond farewell. (This ain’t Pawnee, after all.)
“As much as Matt likes to hear what the audience has to say and their opinions, I don’t think he’s going to tie everything up,” she says. “I know some people don’t like the end of Sopranos, and I don’t think it’ll leave people that frustrated. I definitely think all these characters deserve some sort of happy ending or closure, and for the most part, we’ll get that. But I just don’t think it is realistic to say that there’s a happy ending [for everyone] because you’re only seeing a part of their lives.”
Mad Men returns on April 5; the series wrapped months ago. Jones has moved on to other projects, including a starring role in The Last Man on Earth with Will Forte—but saying goodbye to Betty was not easy. “It was like a death,” she says. “Just knowing it was the last time I was ever going to speak for her in her voice was heartbreaking. As much as people have good or bad strong feelings about Betty, I was always super attached and defensive of her. It was super sad. I was in tears the entire time—the entire last week, really.”
Whatever Weiner has in store for Betty, Don, Peggy, and the gang, it’s going to stay true to the characters and the tone of the show. Some characters get to sing, “The moon belongs to everyone…“; others get carted off minus a nipple. This is Mad Men.
[Reporting by Natalie Abrams]