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'Mad Men': The creator answered these questions about the finale

'Mad' creator Matthew Weiner recently discussed the series finale of the show in an event at the New York Public Library. He offered thoughts on the final moments of the episode and when he knew that a certain character would meet their end.

Phil McCarten/Reuters
'Mad Men' creator Matthew Weiner (r.) and star Jon Hamm (l.) attend the 'Mad Men: Live Read & Series Finale' held in Los Angeles.

“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner recently cleared up some of viewers’ questions following the airing of the series finale of his AMC drama. 

“Mad” concluded on May 17 with an episode that had some characters embarking on new business ventures, others finding romance, and protagonist Don Draper (Jon Hamm) attending a retreat in California.

As we previously discussed, the end of the episode has Don meditating and then features the famous 1970s Coca-Cola ad which includes the line “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” Some viewers wondered whether the show was implying that Don later created the spot.

Mr. Weiner discussed the finale in an event at the New York Public Library on May 20. So did Don create the ad? According to the Hollywood Reporter, Weiner said, “The idea that someone in an enlightened state might have created something that's very pure… that ad to me is the best ad ever made, and it comes from a very good place.” 

And what was “the most important role in the series”? Weiner cited Leonard (Evan Arnold), a character who pops up in that final episode as a member of the retreat who discusses his feelings and whose disclosures get him a hug from Don. “The word 'depressed' was not part of the vocabulary except for doctors, and men certainly didn't express their feelings other than in bar fights," the creator said of the character. He represented a normal person with these struggles, Weiner said. "Even if they're not veterans, the alienation that was created by success, political racial tension, the technology – which is I think what's happening right now – the isolation, these guys, they're gonna crack.”

Weiner said he had known for some time that the character of Don’s wife Betty (January Jones) would be doomed. “I knew this woman wasn't going to live long, and we love the idea of her realizing her purpose in life right when she ran out of time,” he said. 

And the surprising inspiration for Don? Former U.S. president Richard Nixon. “The idea that that guy, with no breeding, no Ivy League… and no friends [gets out of the Navy, and six years later he’s the vice president of the United States],” Weiner said of Nixon, according to Entertainment Weekly. “He’s psychological[ly] fascinating. … Richard Nixon’s a big important part of [Dick/Don], I hate to say.” 

Creators and people behind the scenes on TV shows have differed on how much they’ve shared after series finales have aired. In the age of Twitter, fans are used to ever-increasing access to the thoughts of those in Hollywood. But “The Sopranos” creator David Chase, for one, famously has refused to discuss much about the HBO show’s series finale. There was a furor last year when Vox reported that one of their writers asked whether the series finale meant that protagonist Tony Soprano was dead and Mr. Chase said, “No, he isn’t,” but Chase later said in a statement through his publicist, “A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview. To simply quote David as saying, 'Tony Soprano is not dead,' is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true. As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, 'Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.' To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of 'The Sopranos' raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”

But other show creators have been more forthcoming. Vince Gilligan, creator of much-acclaimed show “Breaking Bad,” discussed the series finale of his show with outlets including the Guardian following its airing, including his thoughts on how his protagonist was feeling at the end of the show. And following a controversial series finale, those behind the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” put an alternate ending on the DVD of the entire show, with co-creator Craig Thomas tweeting,

Mr. Thomas also thanked fans on Twitter following the airing of the finale, with comments including,

More and more, creators seem to be bowing to fans’ demands and commenting after the last episode has aired. It’s good for fans who want more details on their program but less so for those behind the scenes who want their work to stand on its own.

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