Mad Men creator Matt Weiner is not one for oversharing when it comes to talking about upcoming seasons of his show. No shocker, then, that — beyond the premiere date — absolutely zero details about the series’ final half-season were revealed Saturday morning during a TV Critics Association press tour panel with Weiner and the original cast. That doesn’t mean we didn’t learn a few things from their session with reporters:
—While Weiner didn’t talk about what happens during the homestretch of the show, he did tease their tone. “The last seven episodes, each of them feels like the finale of the show,” he said.
—In an age where the sign-offs of shows such as The Sopranos and How I Met Your Mother have left some segments of their fandom disappointed and even angry, Weiner made it clear he does care about how Mad Men fans react to the series finale. “I am extremely interested in what the audience thinks,” he said. “I’m trying to delight them … not frustrate them. I don’t want them to walk away angry.” This doesn’t mean there won’t be the equivalent of a fade-to-black ending, or a key character or characters meeting a grim fate. “I don’t want to pander to [fans], either,” Weiner explained. “I know this sounds patronizing … but as the person telling the story, [sometimes] people need to be protected from they want to see. You just can’t give them everything they want. And sometimes audiences have to expect what they don’t want to see … Bad things happening can be good entertainment.”
—Asked how they reacted to their characters’ fates when they read the finale script, Elisabeth Moss and January Jones both indicated some level of surprise, while Christina Hendricks said she was “very, very pleased.” Moss also noted that, as the show ends, “Peggy has retained a lot of the qualities she had at the start, both in good ways and, unfortunately, bad.” And Vincent Kartheiser? “I wasn’t surprised at all,” he said, before immediately changing his mind. “I really don’t remember if I was surprised. What was the question again?”
—Jon Hamm has already come up with the name of the Mad Men spinoff. “Better Call Pete,” the actor deadpanned. There are no plans for any spinoffs, of course, though Hendricks noted that she and her cast mates “have all concocted our own” ideas for what they might be. Fans who are holding out hope for the possibility of a continuation might take comfort in the fact that Weiner didn’t explicitly rule one out. It’s likely cold comfort, though: Weiner wasn’t pressed all that hard on the question and might not have felt the need to dispute such a hypothetical.
—Weiner doesn’t plan on spending much time obsessing over what happens to the Mad Men brand after the show signs off, or managing history’s judgment on the series. “I have no control over the future of its perception,” he said. That said, “I don’t see the show participating in a Mad Men cruise.”
—Filming on Mad Men halted months ago, but the cast is still having separation anxiety. “There’s no version of this ending that is not super painful of me,” Hamm said. Weiner and the cast have “been the single constant in my creative life for the last decade. And that’s kind of tough. I will never be able to have this again. And that’s a drag.”