Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner is famously tight-lipped when it comes to spilling the beans about his Emmy-winning AMC drama. And as he heads into the show's final season, he's making no exceptions: If you want to know this season's timeframe and what his characters are up to, you'll have to watch.
But here's what we do know: All of the major characters from last season are back, which includes Megan (Jessica Paré), whose relationship with husband Don Draper (Jon Hamm) appeared to be over at the end of Season 6. Also, although Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) fled to Sterling Cooper & Partners' new Los Angeles office, he'll be back too.
When Season 6 ended last June, the 1968 holiday season was approaching and turmoil filled the lives of Don Draper and company. But the show ended with some hope: Don's daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) learned a bit more about her distant dad, while Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) seemed more determined to stop allowing others to dictate her life.
AMC earlier announced that Season 7 would be split into two parts, with the second half airing in 2015. Weiner spoke with TV Guide Magazine about what we should expect for the first half of Season 7, which premieres Sunday, April 13 at 10/9c.
TV Guide Magazine: What are some of the themes of this season?
Weiner: A lot of what we're dealing with this season, and I won't be too specific about it, is we're acknowledging what happened to Don at the end of last season. That really did happen. He lost his job but also had a silent moment of reconciliation with his daughter. And he had that breakdown at the Hershey meeting where his anxiety was expressed as a confession. The consequences of that activity were kind of what we're writing about on some level. What part is irrevocable? Just because you feel different doesn't mean the world thinks you're different. And it's hard to prove that you changed or to know if you've really changed. ... Specifically as the show comes to a close I was interested in the material versus the immaterial world. The world of money, ambition, possession and the concrete and not-so-concrete expressions of love. For Don it definitely seems like an acquisition on some level. And then the immaterial, which is that, on some level inside these characters there is a world beyond that that is not what we see. If those other needs are met, or not met, how will that affect them? That sounds super vague but it will be explained when you watch the show. For a show that's about loss, writing the end of it has been a good intersection.
TV Guide Magazine: How far along are you? Have you written the finale yet?
Weiner: I'm writing episode 9 right now. There are five episodes left, and if that's three stories an episode or so, that's 15 stories left to tell. And it's been an interesting experience to imagine where we're going to leave all these people permanently in the 92-episode life of the show.
TV Guide Magazine: How are you breaking the season in half? Are you operating as if they are two different seasons? How different will Season 7B be from Season 7A?
Weiner: We always break the season in half; the difference is there's not usually 10 months in between. We have a fulcrum in the middle of the season if you look at all of them. That's sort of a midpoint. Last year the seventh episode of the season was the merger. We definitely intended on doing something like that again because it's organic to the way we tell stories here. But as we started working I realized, "Oh, I need two finales and two premieres." That's been a lot more work. But hopefully it satisfies the audience. I wanted to make sure episode 7 covers much ground and that episode 8, which will be 10 months later, stands on its own without too much recap.
TV Guide Magazine: You've said you've known since Season 4 how to end the show. Was that still the case as you wrote it?
Weiner: I'm sticking to it. It seems like the right thing to do. I've got a very talented writing staff that's helping me get there. As we do every season, we kind of know what the ending is, and we try to get there in the most interesting way. There were a lot of things I didn't know and am discovering right now and there is that thing of saying, OK, this is the last time we're going to see Roger. Where are we leaving him... forever? That's pretty overwhelming.
TV Guide Magazine: Your promotional photos show Don and Roger Sterling together, and Don and Megan together. Should we take that as a good sign?
Weiner: I'll be honest, the gallery shoot that goes before the show, we've done it every season and it really is a bit abstract and intended to whet your appetite for the world of the show and remind you how incredibly glamorous these people are. And to set the tone for the environment we create on the show. I don't know if they're telling much of a story. All of those actors are still on the show. To me, part of this is saying, there's an aspect of the world that has not changed. Which is, here's our cast and this is a very glamorous environment that is no longer so. Last season we had this bicoastal aspect of the show. Peggy Olsen hadn't been on an airplane until Season 5. So the idea that this was a novelty still and you'd put a suit and tie to go to the airport was something we wanted to play on.
TV Guide Magazine: Any Bob Benson (James Wolk) this season?
Weiner: You'll have to watch.
TV Guide Magazine: Breaking Bad is doing a spinoff, The Walking Dead has a spinoff. What about Mad Men?
Weiner: For Mad Men, there is no sequel. I completely rule it out. There will be 92 episodes. I exhausted this world. I don't know what's going to be on my mind when the show is over but there is no plan to revisit this world. I have no intention of doing more of this.
TV Guide Magazine: President Obama referenced the Mad Men-era workplace policies in his State of the Union address. What was your reaction?
Weiner: It was surreal. I was writing and started getting texts, and got calls from newspapers asking what I thought about it. It was incredible that it happened. I'm a big fan of the president and I was pleased that not only did he take that from the show as an example, but that he thought that enough people would know what it was.
TV Guide Magazine: As you move closer to the finale, where are you emotionally?
Weiner: I'm completely nostalgic. I'm at a surprising place for me, I've been very appreciative of this entire process. I'm the cheerleader reminding people we should savor this. That's been my attitude so far. The actual emotional feelings of loss and finality, I'm trying to stave those off, and it's easy when you have this much work to do. But pretty soon the wheels of show business will turn and all of the actors will be looking for new work even as we're finishing, and all of the writers will be getting new jobs even as we're finishing. That dissolution of this world, I don't know what that's going to feel like, but I know it's going to be tough.