Mad Men fans hoping to find closure from the show’s final episodes may get more than they bargained for.
“The last seven episodes, I would say each one of them feels like a finale in the show,” executive producer Matthew Weiner told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s winter TV previews, noting that there was no room for tangential story lines. “The shows became so much more concentrated on these characters. We’re really going to have to focus on our main people.”
Following an era filled with very polarizing finales, from Lost to How I Met Your Mother, Weiner says he is very cognizant of finding a balance between giving the audience what they want and best serving the overall story. “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. “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.”
Catharsis really was the theme of the morning as the original six stars—Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss and Vincent Kartheiser—waxed poetic on the end of Mad Men. Hamm even offered up a spin-off idea to keep the show alive: “Better Call Pete,” he yelled out, a nod to the network’s Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul.
“So looking forward to being unemployed,” Hamm said sarcastically. “So happy not to see any of these people ever again. All of that is really great. Hashtag sarcasm. There’s no version of this ending that’s not super painful for me. Mostly, it’s because of these people, because they’ve been this single constant in my creative life for the last decade, so that’s kind of tough. Yeah, I will be happy when the shows air and I don’t have to act like I don’t know how it ends or make up some ridiculous story about robots or zombies, but I’ll never be able to have this again and that’s a drag.”
For his part, Weiner said he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to let the show go. “There’s an emotional thing that goes along with finishing,” he said. “Now that it’s over, it’s such a relief that it’s not over. I’m very excited to unspool this and for people to see it. It’s a complete thing. It’s going to be weird to actually get to the point where there’s no more new ones. The spinoff right now are these last seven episodes as far as I’m concerned.”
Of course, Weiner & Co. were shy to actually offer up details on the final episodes, other than to say the actual series finale was pleasantly surprising. “It was very emotional,” Jones said. “I kind of knew a little bit of what was going to happen in the last script. The whole last few weeks I was a mess. Anything made me cry. It was hard. It was a beautiful story. It was perfect, in a way. I read it over and over. I didn’t want it to be the last time. Sometimes I’ll still read it.”
“I was pleased,” Hendricks added. “I thought there was no way I could be happy because it’s ending, but… I guess I was surprised I was pleased.”
Mad Men returns Sunday, April 5 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.