'Mad Men' creator Matthew Weiner previews final season
The final season of "Mad Men" begins on Sunday, April 13 at 10 p.m. Of course, calling it "the final season" is more of a letter of the law than a spirit of the law thing, since AMC will show seven episodes this spring, then take the show off the air until 2015, when the final seven episodes will air. Contractually for the cast and crew, it is all one season, and unlike the "final" season of "Breaking Bad" — which was split into two batches of 8 episodes apiece that aired over two summers — all of them are being produced in a row.
In talking to "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner about the show's (relatively) impending conclusion, he acknowledged that he essentially had to write two premieres and two finales within these 14 episodes, but he also said that the finished product will still feel structurally similar to a season of "Mad Men," since he always treats the second half of a season as a response to the first.
As usual, there was no point in asking for many details from the most spoiler-phobic showrunner of them all (the closest we got was discussing whether the show's usual chronology will push the characters into a new decade before the finale), but we spoke about what his intentions are with these last 14 episodes and how much he's been thinking about the show's origins as he's worked on its conclusion.
(And if you want some more teases of the season, AMC released a bunch of new gallery photos today, including three exclusive pictures below. UPDATE: And there are six more added to that bunch.)
What did you want to accomplish, or say, with these final 14 episodes?
Matthew Weiner: It's the ending of the show, so the idea is to think about where you're going to leave everybody forever. And that's a big thing to say. So in terms of the story, it's really another season of the show. It's told across 14 episodes and broken up with 10 months in between them. It's the last chapter in the show. It's the part that leads to where they will be forever when the show's over. So for me, it's investigating the journey that they've been on, and most importantly feeling that because the show is cumulative — that the story that happens early in the show is related to what happens later. We don't ignore the details that happen in the story; we kind of commit to those things. So where we left Don off is where we start.
It's a good question: what did I want to accomplish? There will be 92 episodes of the show by the time it's done. We have known these characters already, not counting flashbacks, for eight or nine years of their life. You kind of want to take stock of that and say what was the purpose of the show on some level, and what was the purpose of knowing them for this amount of time, and also the reality of having that much time pass in their lives and where they are when it's over.
You and I have talked often in the past about how long the show might run, how you might want to end it whenever it concludes. Now all of those things are concrete. You know how many episodes are left, and you know what will happen in them. How much has changed about the ending from what you might have been thinking five or six years ago?
Matthew Weiner: I had the ending of the show, of how I knew it was going to end about four years ago, in between seasons 4 and 5. That has not changed. It's interesting, because I think you might have asked me at the first TCA how long it was going to run. I've never tried to predict the future. I know the commercial realities of trying to do a television show, and the greatest luxury is that after seasons 5, 6 and 7 were ordered, all the actors were secured, everything was secured, and I knew I was going to be able to follow through towards the end of the show. That said, every season's a new story. And I have to say that other than the fact that this is the last chapter, I've just approached it as a story . I'm trying to deal with what I think about the period, but also the period in the different characters' lives.
But my thinking hasn't changed really at all. Not everything. I didn't know how certain things would change. I didn't know Megan that well. Megan had just entered the scene when I thought of the end of the show. I didn't know a lot of the characters that well. And I don't know, so much has changed over the course of the story over the last few seasons, how some of those people's endings will be different. But what I had in mind for the end of the show, for Don, that's been there. That, I knew.
You keep saying, "It's like another season." Given the split of 7-and-7, is it going to be structured any differently from a typical 13 episode season?
Matthew Weiner: I could say no, but the fact is, once I sat down to work on it, I was like, "Wow, they're going to be gone." So it really involves two premieres and two finales. It is slightly different.
How challenging is that?
Matthew Weiner: It's super challenging, because we're still doing it in the period of one year. I have a great writing staff, and they've been coming up with amazing stuff to keep the stories fresh. The biggest challenge for the show will be not to repeat ourselves. And I don't mean making reference to the past, but not doing a story we've already done. And now there's so much behind us that we throw things out sometimes deeper into the process, when I'm like, 'I've written this script before. I'm not doing it again.'