Languishing with the often troubled, occasionally hilarious, but always devastatingly human characters of creator Matthew Weiner’s world becomes an indispensable ritual for devoted viewers while the show is on, making its unceremoniously extended leaves between seasons (and now half-seasons) all the more difficult to bear.
While we wait for the second batch of episodes to air in 2015, Weiner spoke to EW about things to think about in preparation for the end of Mad Men.
“The show is very dense and I know that people watch it in different ways. There was a lot of change from the opening episode to the mid-season,” Weiner says when asked whether anything from these first seven episodes might warrant a re-watch in preparation for next year. “With shows that I like, I always think it’s worth revisiting them anyway. If a show is as dense as this, there’s the first viewing where you’re dealing with the anxiety of what’s going to happen, and then if you watch it again, things start to bubble up and you really start to see what the relationships are.”
Perhaps revisiting the show is the best way to deal with the Mad Men-shaped hole in your Sundays. “I always dreamed that if we got to go any length of time in the show that you would look back at the pilot, which was in itself a statement that things are not as innocent as you thought they were – these people are not as innocent and it’s not Leave It to Beaver – but that you would still look back with some kind of nostalgia and think, ‘Oh, it was a simpler time,’” he says.
As for what’s to come in the final seven episodes, Weiner would not reveal anything, but he did tease that the sale of SC&P to McCann would prove significant. “Especially with the money,” he says.
But we’ve all learned not to push for clues and spoilers. For one, Weiner and co. won’t give away anything. And yet, as the show comes to a slow close, it seems to matter less now, especially when there is so much to unpack from the previous seven. “I resent any description of the show that uses the word ‘obviously.’ There’s nothing obvious about the show unless you’re someone who totally understands everything in life,” he says.
For that reason, theorizing about the meaning of Mad Men has become somewhat of a sport – whether it’s predicting that Megan Draper is a Sharon Tate stand-in or boiling down Betty Draper’s political sparring to a typical petulant outburst. Weiner doesn’t shy away from stating his intentions. In the Betty and Henry Francis showdown at the party in “The Runaways,” for example, he says, “I don’t know if people even understand politically that it was a tradition, if not an enforced law, that a wife could not disagree with her husband in public. That’s not Betty having a temper tantrum. That’s Betty saying, ‘We agreed on what we thought and you changed your mind without telling me.’”
And yet, as things come to a close, Weiner seems to have reached peace with how fans and critics alike interpret the show. “The thing that should be underlined in all this – and this is not lip service – I have learned one thing above all else in this beautiful experience of making this show,” he says. “What I mean and what it means to people are not related to each other and none of my business. All I have to do is get my house in order when expressing it, but when people get it and own it, that’s your dream.”
“Sometimes,” he adds, “you put down a steak and they think it’s pudding, and that’s all you can do.”