SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of May 25’s Mad Men Season 7 midseason finale.
If you thought Matthew Weiner was going to let a teaser or spoiler slip for the upcoming final episodes of Mad Men next year, think again. “Can’t tell you that, you got to watch” is all the creator of AMC’s acclaimed series has to say on that front. “You’ll have to see how we bring it all together,” the reticent producer adds. “We don’t want to punch them in the face,“ says Weiner of Mad Men fans’ expectations for the end of the show. “We want them to walk away changed or better or at least entertained by it. That’s all I can say.” Speaking to Deadline the day after the Season 7 midseason finale of Mad Men aired, Weiner will say though that when the show is done in 2015, it’s truly over. “Yeah, that’s it. That’s it,” he admits, briskly putting to rest any idea of Sterling Cooper & Partners sequel or spinoffs. “I love that people are trying to project and guess what the storytelling is. I’m writing the finale today as I was yesterday and it’s set in stone.”
What’s not set in stone is Weiner’s heart about Mad Men reaching the end of the first 7 episodes of its seventh season. “You know what, I’m a little sad as I always am when the show goes off the air,” the multiple Emmy winner admits about reaching the halfway point to the end with the May 25 broadcast and the wait until the show returns next spring for its last 7 episodes. As every Mad Men finale has been, the midseason Season 7 ender of the series that launched the AMC Original Series brand was co-written and directed by Weiner.
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“In terms of what is my next project, I am not planning a sequel and I do not have my foot deep in anything else,” says the writer/director of his post-Mad Men career. Long since in the can, Weiner does have his sophomore feature You Are Here. Shot during breaks between Mad Men seasons, the road trip-themed pic stars Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis. Having debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, You Are Here was picked up in April by Millennium Entertainment for distribution. Beyond the release of the movie, Weiner says he has no immediate plans. “For me, I need to take a break. That’s really what I’m planning to do,” he insists. “It’s scary because I’m stepping off a moving treadmill but I think it’s the best way to not just keep doing more of the same.”
More of the same was certainly not what the Mad Men midseason Season 7 finale was. This was TV built around one of the medium’s greatest moments: the whole world watching Neil Armstrong step foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969. The AMC show not only saw the characters united in viewing the historic event, but threw in the end of Don and Megan’s bi-coastal marriage, the big Burger Chef pitch delivered by Peggy Olson and the sudden death of SC&P patriarch Bert Cooper in the episode that Weiner entitled “Waterloo.” Additionally, the packed show ended with the rebirth of the agency in a buy-out deal orchestrated by Roger Sterling and a brilliant hallucinated song-and-dance rendition of The Best Things In Life Are Free by Robert Morse and a Broadway-style chorus, marking Bert’s smiling, gap-toothed farewell. “That was the plan from the beginning of the season, that Bert would die during the Moon landing and the future of those people being together was at stake,” says Weiner of the series’ arc. “And what would they be willing to do, to do that — and that’s why the song is supposed to have some irony because it’s business and that’s not life.”
What is also business is that AMC is having Mad Men’s seventh season follow the successful pattern of the final season of Breaking Bad, which was split in half and saw a surge in viewership for the last episodes. The cable network hopes to see a repeat performance with Mad Men’s last hurrah. Though Sunday’s ratings are not out yet, the show certainly has a foundation to build on. While Season 7 debuted lower on April 13 than any previous Mad Men cycle since 2008’s Season 2 opener, the series has seen strong double digit rises for its DVR results week after week.
Besides the ratings play, the split season also gives AMC and Mad Men two last chances to garner those elusive Emmy wins for the cast both this year and in 2015. Heading into this year’s Emmy season, Weiner is playing it cool. “I’m truly humbled by the attention we’ve received over the years,” is the extent of what he’ll say of the show’s past and future Emmy prospects, “it really put us on the map.” During its first four seasons, Mad Men won the Outstanding Drama Series category four times consecutively and snagged writing wins but despite multiple nominations actors, including series lead Jon Hamm, have never taken home the prize. Last year, 11-time nominated Hamm even co-hosted an Emmy Party Losers Lounge at Soho House with Amy Poehler that many said was one of the best soirees of the evening.
For Weiner, part of the real non-awards success of Mad Men has been due to the changing landscape of both the movie and TV industries. “We’ve been the beneficiaries of filling in for the gap in the movie business for adult drama, which is just not part of the mass marketing of the international movie business,” he says of the blockbuster oriented big screen. “So we get to do that on TV.”
“We’ve been able to make very specific shows that can get a chunk of the audience and not the entire world,” Weiner points out of Mad Men’s demo rich reach. “You don’t have to reverse engineer it to appeal to the entire world and still have a financially successful model,” he adds. “All of that had been good for people on my end of things who create content because it means bigger budgets to do more risky shows.”
Mad Men returns for the second half of its final season in the spring of 2015.