Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner on Fan Criticism and This Week’s Betty and Glen Arc

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Matthew Weiner at the Time 100 Gala. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty

With fans, critics, and self-proclaimed Mad Men analysts dissecting every character, detail, and moment of the show’s final episodes, Matthew Weiner says he’s all for the close reads — but people aren’t necessarily getting it right. “I don’t work in a symbolic universe. It’s a story being told. Every episode’s a story,” explained Weiner when we caught him last night at the Time 100 Gala (he was honored in 2011). Read on as Weiner clarifies his thinking.

So everybody is dissecting every character and moment in the final episodes.
Do you think that it’s different than it’s ever been?

Not necessarily.
I love that they do it. I love that they’re trying to figure it out. To me, I’m just telling the story the way I always do. I don’t work in a symbolic universe. It’s a story being told. Every episode’s a story. I have found the most predictable thing about Mad Men is the way that the analysis works. They always hate the second episode because it’s not the same story as last year. And then they start saying that they’re getting good, hopefully. And then, you know, we had people writing that the last season finale, the moon landing and everything, was the best episode of the show ever. How could it be next to the worst episode of the show? And how could it be episode 85? So all of it is just, I am thinking of the whole thing, and that’s all I’m interested in. The fans, [whom] I really do have some contact with, they seem to be savoring [the episodes], as we did making them.

That’s the kind of feedback you’re getting?
I’m getting very positive feedback. And I’m getting a lot of emotion, to tell you the truth. I was about to launch Mad Men when The Sopranos went off the air, and that’s what I’m feeling. It’s a sort of mixture. People are honestly expressing their emotions to me about how they feel about the show going off the air. And they also seem to want to take care of me because I think people know that I’m pretty emotional. I’m very grateful for it.

We’ve been seeing characters from past seasons come up again, like Sally’s friend Glen.
We do it all the time. I made the show exactly the same way we’ve always made it. He’s been in every other year. It’s just like we told the story we wanted to tell because that’s what’s got us where we were. And hopefully people will take pleasure in what the story is. Each episode, as I said, should feel like the end of the show. That’s all I’m trying to do.

His interaction with Betty in this past episode was pretty satisfying for their story line.
Yeah. The show has a memory, and it always has. We’ve been lucky to have loyal viewership, and we expect them to remember things, also. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I wanted to tell a story about Vietnam. I wanted to tell a story about people growing up. I wanted to show that Betty had changed and grown. And then, also, that [a] kid is a kid. I think that’s the thing that people don’t understand about how young 18 is.

Although people have been writing that there’s a reversal of that in the last episode. Kids acting like adults and adults acting like kids. Like with Sally and Don.
You know what, I went to college, too. Whatever they say, I’m interested. I love that it provokes this kind of conversation. I am expressing it. I’m not writing an English paper. I’m writing a story. What do the dwarfs mean in Snow White? Why are they so small? [Laughs.] Is it because she wants children? I don’t know. I understand the analysis. I do not discourage it. This is a writer’s fantasy that people would be this interested in it.