'Mad Men' Finale: Jon Hamm Gives His Interpretation of Final Scene, Addresses Critics of Happier Endings

"Matt [Weiner] had said at one point, 'I just want my characters to be a little more happy than they were in the beginning,' and I think that's pretty much true."
'Mad Men'

Jon Hamm has his interpretation of Matthew Weiner's Mad Men season finale, which closes with him hugging a stranger at a retreat and meditating with hippies, before the episode cuts to the 1971 Coca-Cola "Hilltop" commercial.

"When we find Don in that place, and this stranger relates this story of not being heard or seen or understood or appreciated, the resonance for Don was total in that moment. There was a void staring at him. We see him in an incredibly vulnerable place, surrounded by strangers, and he reaches out to the only person he can at that moment, and it's this stranger," he told The New York Times.

"My take is that, the next day, he wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realizes who he is. And who he is, is an advertising man. And so, this thing comes to him. There's a way to see it in a completely cynical way, and say, 'Wow, that's awful.' But I think that for Don, it represents some kind of understanding and comfort in this incredibly unquiet, uncomfortable life that he has led."

So is there a definitive answer for what the cut to the ad means? "I think there probably is. But I think, like most stories that we go back to, that it's a little bit ambiguous. We had talked about this ending for a long time and that was Matt's image. I was struck by the poetry of it. I didn't know what his plans were, to get Don to this meditative, contemplative place. I just knew that he had this final image in mind."

Hamm also noted that his westward journey was difficult for him to shoot. "To be set adrift for the last few weeks, really experiencing that aloneness, that self-exile that Don was experiencing, it was very disorienting, which hopefully played. It was thematically kind of perfect. The world carries on, and that's a big question about Don. Did the place fall apart without me? Well, no. That's not how it works. Everybody picks up and thinks, oh, that's too bad — that guy had a nervous breakdown."

The last onscreen chat between Don and Peggy was a phone conversation, shot with Elisabeth Moss on the other end of the line. He favors the endings of Joan and Peggy best, saying of the latter, "Selfishly, I think if she took anything away from being mentored by my character, it was that — her confidence in her ability to say, 'There's something better out there for me, and I'm going to stick it out here and try to find it.'"

Though parts of the final episode drew somewhat of a mixed reaction online, Hamm is content with the showrunner's decisions. "There's people saying, oh, it's so pat, and it's rom-com-y, or whatever it is. But it's not the end of anything. The world doesn't blow up right after the Coke commercial ends. No one is suggesting that Stan and Peggy live happily ever after, or that Joan's business is a rousing success, or that Roger and Marie come back from Paris together. None of it is done. Matt had said at one point, 'I just want my characters to be a little more happy than they were in the beginning,' and I think that's pretty much true. But these aren't the last moments of any of these characters' lives, including Betty. She doesn't have much time left, but damn if she's not going to spend it the way she wants to spend it."

Twitter: @cashleelee