Mad Men Finale Post Mortem: Creator Matthew Weiner Talks Don's Ouster, the Peggy-Ted Fallout and How the Show 'Struck Gold' With Bob Benson
Now that Mad Men‘s Don is done, Megan is alive and Bob is… yeah, we’re still not entirely sure what Bob is, we figured it was time to hear what creator Matthew Weiner has to say about the AMC drama’s sixth season.
“I always say, it’s not a history lesson. How much does history really impact us every day? It has to take a really big event,” he tells TVLine. “Well, 1968 itself was a really big event.”
Read on for more of Weiner’s take on the just-wrapped season, including Sally’s moment of truth, the meaning of Don’s hashish dream, Megan’s killer t-shirt and Bob’s short-shorts.
TVLINE | Let’s start with the biggest development: Don is out of the firm?!
Yeah. We felt that, considering the fact that he fired their biggest clients, impulsively drove them into a partnership, ruined their public offering and then waged war on his partner, that Hershey pitch or no Hershey pitch, the business had to take action.
TVLINE | Well, when you put it that way…
Seriously. I think creatively, he’s been on top of his game, but I don’t think he’s an ideal partner.
TVLINE | Don seems like he’s been in a very bad place all season, and that’s saying a lot for that man.
Yeah, he has been… I never want to repeat stories, but people do repeat their habits in life. And what’s different about [this season] is he said, at the end of the premiere, “I want to stop doing this.” And the anxiety created by his activities and his lack of control and us learning more about his past and why he is the way he is… I wanted him to see through his double — and through what was going on in the world, and obviously what happened with Sally and Betty – it’s been a bad year. And he might be the problem.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about that look between Sally and Don at the end of the episode. Does it herald more understanding between the two of next season?
I’m not gonna talk about the coming season, because I don’t really know. But I can tell you that I hope the audience can take that for what it is: a mammoth moment in both of their lives. Sally seeing Don with Sylvia is the worst thing that ever happened to him, as far as I’m concerned. The shame — for both of them, for Sally and Don — has been devastating… I’m not being coy, but I hope the audience gives that moment its due.
TVLINE | Let’s talk Megan’s storyline this season, especially her relationship with Don.
She’s a very modern person, she’s the most [modern] of the people in the show — especially as a woman, to be pursuing a career and have that level of independence. I think she’s on the outside of this thing… She doesn’t know what happened with Sally, but Don obviously is in bad shape. He is drinking more than ever… But we felt she’s not a doormat… [Megan is] an independent person. And we saw what his fantasy is for her when he was on hashish. He wants her to be a hippie who is not working, who is pregnant and who doesn’t mind him fooling around.
TVLINE | What was going through your mind when you saw people making Sharon Tate comparisons?
First of all, I don’t see them posted. I heard about it from my brother. I don’t see anything on the Internet at this point. The only thing that’s predictable about [the speculation] is there’s gonna be a conversation, and that is a gift to someone in my position…
I think it’s been revealed now that the reason why she’s wearing that T-shirt is because we were trying to find evidence of a woman in a T-shirt from that period… Sharon Tate was in Playboy, she was an international sex symbol. The fact that she died the way she did – I didn’t even think about it. I love that people know that we infuse things with meaning, but in this case, I just really wanted people to think that Megan was wearing a period-correct T-shirt and that she looked really sexy when Don came back from being with Betty.
TVLINE | Did you have any idea that Bob Benson would intrigue the fans so much?
I knew when we cast James Wolk that we had struck gold, in terms of getting a great actor. The only inkling that I had is that the crew, and James himself and the cast, were really, really intrigued with [Bob]. In [writer] Erin Levy’s episode ["The Better Half"], when Joan and Bob are getting ready for the beach, James called me and he said, “What am I doing here?” [Laughs] And I was like, “You’re friends! You were just at the hospital, and you’re friends.” “Uh, OK. Why are these shorts so tight?” [Laughs]
TVLINE | Pete’s reaction to learning about Bob’s deception was surprising. I expected him to blow up. Vincent Kartheiser has said he thinks Pete is someone who learns from his mistakes. Do you agree?
I don’t know if he has in the past, but that’s part of why Bob Benson was in the show. That’s part of why that character was created, to show that Pete had learned something. Vincent played it beautifully… To see Pete not pursue [taking down Bob], to me, was a great moment of growth.
On the other hand, in the finale, when Trudy says, “You’re free,” and Pete says, “This is not the way I wanted it,” she says, “Well, now you know that.” Will he learn from that? It’s one of the most stinging things that’s ever been in the show. And the way Alison [Brie] did it was amazing. I directed that episode, I got to watch her do it. To see the two of them and to know that the whole season, this guy was realizing that he had ruined his life… And what do you do? You wait till you can get up and go on? Maybe.
It’s very exciting to work with the writers, deliver these scripts and then see the dailies, or if I’m lucky enough, be on the set and see what Vincent does with it, what all of them do with it… I mean, Jon Hamm… That Hershey pitch? That’s one take. The whole thing. We’re cutting in between other people, but that is one take of it. He was so amazing in that speech and that breakdown, with two cameras there, that when we were facing him when he was doing it – Roger and Jim Cutler, they’re supposed to talk at the end of it. And they forgot to say anything!
TVLINE | I would be remiss if we didn’t touch on Peggy and Ted. In your mind, is Ted actually the good guy she thinks he is?
He’s in advertising, no offense. I don’t know how good he really is. [Laughs] He is the same guy who called Don up and pretended to be Bobby Kennedy, remember? He’s not a saint… Peggy’s real story from the beginning of the season was the idea that she doesn’t have any choices… She was forced to work where she didn’t want to work, she was forced to buy an apartment she didn’t want to buy, she was forced on some level to be in this relationship that she had no control over. She ends up sitting in Don’s chair, so I think something’s OK.
What did you think about the finale and the season on the whole? Hit the comments to share your thoughts, as well as your predictions for Season 7.Follow @kimroots