10:32am PT by Michael O'Connell
'Mad Men' Cast Reunites to Talk Final Season, Satisfying Fans and Fake Spinoffs
Matthew Weiner and the cast of Mad Men kicked off its second string of lasts on Saturday morning. The team behind the AMC drama, announced to return for its final seven episodes on April 5, made its last appearance at the Television Critics Association to talk about closing the book on their critical darling.
"The shows became so much more concentrated on these characters," said Weiner, referring to the six original castmembers (Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss and Vincent Kartheiser) who joined him on stage. "There's no room for digression. We really have to, in a first-season way, focus on these people. The last seven episodes, I would say each one of them feel like the finale of the show."
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Famously protective of his series, Weiner was quick to dismiss the suggestion that he wasn't considering longtime fans' desires when penning the end of the show. "I'm extremely interested in what the audience thinks," he said. "I don't want them to walk away angry. Every time that has happened, it's been unintentional. I don't want to pander to them. This sounds patronizing — but, as the person who is telling the story, sometimes people have to be protected from what they want to see happen. To delight them with a surprise, you can't always give them what they want."
Mad Men's penchant for foreshadowing has not just prompted viewer expectations. Elaborate theories have popped up over the years, most recently the ultimately baseless one that Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) would die alongside Sharon Tate in the Manson murders. (Weiner dubbed that "flimsy." "Our show strives for historical accuracy," he added. "I would not add some person who was not really a victim in those murders.")
Discussing the actual last episode, everyone remained tight-lipped — though Jones joked about her frustration with the final script. "I kind of knew a little bit of what was going to happen in the last script, but the whole last few weeks I was just a mess," she said. "It's perfect in a way. By the way, the script was delivered incomplete. The last 10 pages weren't there, which was really effed up."
All but Kartheiser, deadpan as ever, said they were surprised by how it all ends.
"I think I'm most surprised by the fact that she hasn't changed in a lot of ways," Moss said of alter ego Peggy Olson. "That's part of our story in this last season. People do change, but there's a lot of ways they don't … unfortunately."
Hamm was a crowd-pleaser throughout the panel, peppering the conversation with jokes and references to his unemployment. He got a little sentimental when one reporter asked him if he'd be relieved when he no longer had to listen to viewers speculating about how the show will end.
"I'm so looking forward to being unemployed," he said. "I'm so happy to not see any of these people ever again. All of that is really great, hashtag sarcasm. … There is no version of this ending that is not super painful for me — mostly that's because of these people. They've been the single constant in my creative life for the last decade. That's tough. I'll be happy when the shows air and I don't have to fake that I don't know how the show ends. But I will never be able to have this again, and that's a drag."
Questions about a potential Mad Men spinoff will no doubt linger long after the show goes off the air, but Weiner and company were as adamant as ever that it's not in the cards — though Hamm got laughs when he suggested "Better Call Pete," piggybacking onto another AMC spinoff on stage that day.
"I don't see the cast participating in a Mad Men cruise," added Weiner.