Mad Men's Matthew Weiner Discusses the Season 6 Finale
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 6 finale of Mad Men. Read at your own risk.]
As the 1968 holiday season approaches, there's as much turmoil in the lives of the characters on AMC's Mad Men as there is in the real world around them. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is forced to take a sabbatical from Sterling Cooper & Partners. His daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka), is still reeling from catching him in a compromising position with a neighbor. Don's wife, Megan (Jessica Paré), is finally fed up with her husband's drinking, and after he reneges on his promise to move to California, she's ready to bolt. And inside the agency, Peggy's (Elisabeth Moss) dreams of a new life with boss Ted (Kevin Rahm) are dashed when he decides to move to L.A., while Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) is also heading west after blowing up his life in New York. We talked to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner about where things stand at the end of Season 6.
TV Guide Magazine: Is this the beginning of Don's true self-discovery? What's the symbolism of Don taking his kids to see the whorehouse where he grew up?
Matthew Weiner: We were working toward a moment of honesty. I hope it has the impact more than anything, that he has taken a tremendous step, and that this is an event that is big in his life and his children's lives. He had to look at himself in the mirror and come clean a little bit. Especially after what happened with Sally.
TV Guide Magazine: The moment where Sally looks at Don, as if now she finally understands her father, is subtle yet emotional.
Weiner: You're supposed to get choked up. Much of the season was devoted toward explaining that she doesn't know anything about her father. Was he ever going to share a piece of himself with his kids? The shame of having Sally catch him, that's the worst thing that ever happened to him. I don't know if it's the beginning of anything, but you can see that this is something she'll remember the rest of her life.
TV Guide Magazine: And it comes a week after Sally delivered that devastating line: "My father's never given me anything."
Weiner: She has grown up a lot. And there's almost a moment that you see her be a little girl again. And that's definitely gone away after she saw what she saw.
TV Guide Magazine: Where does Don stand now at SC&P? Is he gone for good?
Weiner: This is the most serious censure you can get when you're a partner. After a season of him impulsively firing their most important client, then destroying their chances at a public offering and going to war against a partner, they couldn't tolerate it anymore. It's very serious. There's no return date and anyone who understands corporate language knows that this is humiliating and serious.
TV Guide Magazine: Peggy sitting in Don's chair is rife with symbolism.
Weiner: A picture is worth a thousand words. Peggy's story this season was about her not having any choices. But professionally, she has always made the best of it. It's not an accident that that's where she is.
TV Guide Magazine: She says to Ted as he escapes for Los Angeles, "It must be nice to have choices." Where does that leave her?
Weiner: She didn't get to choose her apartment, she was in a relationship without a wedding ring, she got forced into being in the new agency, and then after she fell in love with Ted, she didn't get to choose whether that relationship happened or not. It's hopefully made her stronger, but it's been a very tough year for her. She has her work, that's all I can say.
TV Guide Magazine: It's been a tough year for her, but it seems like she's now at least free of all the men that were preventing her from having choices.
Weiner: We saw her at the beginning of the season trying to develop a management style. And it was really like Don. I think you could see from that last scene, not just the pants suit and everything else, that she has a bit of confidence about what's she's doing, which is maybe more earned than it has ever been.
TV Guide Magazine: It does seem like Don and Megan are split for good, and that she'll be moving to Los Angeles. Is this it for them?
Weiner: Megan is a very modern person and her career is very important to her, but she's been a loyal and loving wife to a man going through a crisis that she doesn't even know the depth of. At a certain point she has just had it. This woman's not dumb, she's just been doing what she can for someone she loves. We know what Don's fantasy is, we saw it when he was on hashish: He wants her to be pregnant and quit her job and be OK with him philandering. But that's not who she is. The justified anger that we've been waiting for her to have you could finally feel.
TV Guide Magazine: In the first half of the episode, it looked like you were setting the stage for a big shift to California. Obviously that's not where things ended up.
Weiner: No, he sacrificed that. And that scene where he re-proposes to Megan is really touching to me. What's really important is that Don says, "It got out of control. I got out of control." He really is looking for a way to solve this problem and feel better. Which is what the whole season was about, him being in this hell and this anxiety because of who he is. What I really wanted was some sort of recognition. I think we got it. That was always the plan, he would confess who he was. He would give this pitch to the Hershey people and it would be beautiful and perfect and we would know that it was a lie, and Don would say, "You know what, I can't do this anymore."
TV Guide Magazine: California looked like a lifeline for Don, but it wasn't a real lifeline.
Weiner: There is something to the fact that people who have Don's problem think they have what's called a "geographic solution." They think that will change things.
TV Guide Magazine: Pete also seems to be taking that "geographic solution." He was a bust in Detroit, but now it looks like he's moving to California as well.
Weiner: Yes, he is. That was Pete's story, he threw his life away and he didn't even realize it until Trudy told him in that last scene with them together. She says, "You're free," and he says, "That was not the way I wanted it." And she says, "Now you know that." And it's pretty stern the way she says that. Pete did learn something this season. That's hopeful in itself.
TV Guide Magazine: We even saw growth with Betty, she seemed much more mature this season.
Weiner: Absolutely. From the premiere on she is wondering who she is. Roger, he's searching, and trying to reconnect with his daughter and grandson and realizing, fighting to be a part of the life of his child with Joan. I wanted us to realize that in the chaos that is 1968, where it's just one horrible thing after another, and it's really affecting people's lives. The world is in revolution. In the end, the revolution is thwarted and the idealism is destroyed. But there's this movement toward the family that there is hope somewhere, in your own backyard.
TV Guide Magazine: This was a grittier New York this season.
Weiner: New York City is in a state of decay. Whether it's Peggy's neighborhood or right on Park Avenue, the city is falling apart. It's all about the anxiety that there's a crisis in the civilization. Where do you turn, how do you deal with that anxiety?
TV Guide Magazine: Poor Ken Cosgrove. You put him through the ringer this year.
Weiner: I have heard that that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to servicing a Detroit car manufacturer.
TV Guide Magazine: Were you surprised by the amount of attention given to Bob Benson (James Wolk), the enigma of the entire season?
Weiner: I am surprised. We got lucky with the casting. I was getting a lot of the same speculation and questions from the cast and crew when we were shooting. And even from James himself. In Episode 9, when Bob and Joan were preparing to go to the beach, James called me and asked, "What am I doing there?" And I said, "You and Joan are friends. You took her to the hospital and it might have been self-serving, but that's all you need to know." He was there originally as part of Pete's story, and I want characters to be as fleshed out as possible. Everyone has their own story but he is ascending without credentials and that is part of the American business story. More importantly, talk about growth, Pete realizing that he has encountered Don again and instead of fighting it deciding to be prudent and submit. Unfortunately it didn't last very long and Bob turned out to be as treacherous as he feared.
TV Guide Magazine: Will Wolk return next year?
Weiner: I don't know that his story is done, but he is on another show [CBS' The Crazy Ones]. I really haven't thought about next season yet.
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