Mad Men finale: What just happened – and why?

What was 'Mad Men' creator Matthew Weiner thinking when he created the finale of the critically acclaimed show? Here's a look at what he's said about his conclusion to the AMC TV series.

Justina Mintz/AMC/AP
'Mad Men' stars Jon Hamm.

The critically acclaimed AMC series “Mad Men” has drawn to a close.

“Mad,” which aired on AMC along with such well-reviewed shows as “Breaking Bad,” centered on ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his family, and the people with whom he worked. The final season of the show was its seventh. 

Over its run, the show won the Best TV Drama Golden Globe multiple times as well as the Best Drama prize at the Emmy Awards and the Emmy Award for Best Writing for a drama series. Actors like Hamm; January Jones, who portrayed his wife, Betty; and Elisabeth Moss, who played Don’s co-worker, Peggy, were nominated for awards as well. 

The show concluded on May 17 with an episode that found Don in California and going to a retreat with Stephanie Horton, who is the niece of Anna Draper, the widow of the man whose identity was taken by Don. (More about the retreat in a moment.) He also found out that Betty received a diagnosis of lung cancer and that she’s not expected to live much longer.

Don and Betty’s daughter Sally is taking care of Betty, while Peggy seemed to find love with Stan, her former co-worker. Meanwhile, Joan decided to create her own business and break things off with her paramour, and Roger is together with Marie, the mother of Don’s ex-wife, Megan. And Pete and his wife Trudy are back together and headed to Kansas.

As for the end of the episode, we see Don at the retreat in California and then hear the music for Coke’s “I’d Like to Buy the World A Coke” ad campaign. Is the show saying Don came up with it? 

So what were the people behind the scenes thinking with this finale? According to the New York Times, “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner won’t be discussing the show much now that it’s over. But he did speak about the show and the choices he made with it before the finale aired. 

In terms of Betty’s fate, Weiner told the Los Angeles Times, “I always thought that Betty would get lung cancer. Her mother died of cancer right before the show started, and I felt like since she was predisposed for it, and she smokes too much.” When asked why that happened to Betty, since her character was going in a different direction, Weiner said, “That's called storytelling… in this case, it was too late for Betty. The only thing I will say in a defensive posture – although everything I say sounds like that – is I love this character. And the suggestion that you give somebody conflict … because you don't like them or you don't like the actors, something like that, that's crazy.”

As for Pete and Trudy reuniting, he said, "I hope that the audience can see that Pete... really has grown in terms of his interest in his children, his closeness to Trudy... How could she ever recover from this? She cut him so much slack, and he totally embarrassed her, and the thing with her father, all of it. And I think he redeemed himself. He came back from California, and he behaved better and started to realize what he wanted."

In terms of early reactions to the show's finale, he said in an interview with NPR that “the writers liked it. The actors liked it, or at least they acted like they like it. My wife liked it. And my wife hates everything.”

As for the finale as a whole, Weiner told NPR, “I knew what was going to happen when I pitched the show to AMC, but I didn't know how it was going to happen until a few years ago. I knew the what, but not the how.” He added in an interview with the NYT, “We’re telling a story. This is the natural conclusion of the story… if we’re talking about the 'Mad Men' finale 10 years from now, I did a great job. I consider that a success.”

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