“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner guards his show’s plotlines like the crown jewels.
But in a recent conference call with reporters, he talked about some of the themes that will run through the seventh and final season of the critically acclaimed drama, the first seven episodes of which begin Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC. (The remaining seven episodes will air in 2015.)
In the first episode, part of the action shifts to the West Coast, which Weiner said dovetails with the overall arc of the show. “What was interesting for me was to tell a story that started in 1960, where New York was the focus of not just the United States but the world, and to show the rise of California,” he said. “It definitely became, by the end of the ’60s, the cultural center of the United States.”
Weiner noted that he has five scripts left to finish, but “we have a pretty clear road map.” Here is more of what he had to say:
On some of the characters being at low points at the end of last season:
We definitely had a finale last year that was hard, certainly on Don. But some things are good in his life at the end of that finale. So the plan is to continue to tell the story. I didn’t make this up, but drama is made out of conflict. And people’s lives being good is never good drama. So we’re always looking for more problems for these people.
On the theme of the season:
[It’s] about the consequences of life and if change is possible. There’s a real growth over the course of this last season from what are the material concerns of your life to the immaterial concerns of your life. That’s really what the ending of the show is about.
On whether people can really change:
Honestly, that is the question. The great thing about this show is I have these incredibly talented writers with me where we get to investigate that question: Is making an effort enough? Announcing to the world that you changed, that changes you. Does it do anything else?
On Peggy’s journey this season:
Peggy’s story is a constant mix between what is good for Peggy as a person and what is good for Peggy’s career. And they have not gone together at all. And I think she only knows how to pay attention to her job, and that that may become a story for the season.
On splitting the final season into two parts:
First of all, it was not my idea, but there seems to be a problem with saying that without sounding critical of it. Honestly, 92 episodes into the show, anything that sort of breaks up the pattern and gives me a new challenge is very exciting, not that it’s not challenging enough to end the show. I’ve never done that before.
And the other thing is that they had success doing this with “Breaking Bad.” I don’t even know if they did it willingly with “Breaking Bad.” But it was so good for the growth of the show and for way that the ending was received. So I wasn’t going to argue with that.
On ending a series and whether that affects its legacy:
You can’t really think about it. There’s such an immediate reaction to it, and there’s a long-term reaction to it. If people behaved about the end of “The Sopranos” [Weiner was a writer for the show] the way they do now, with the sort of reverence and understanding of what it was, it would have been a lot more pleasant probably for everybody involved. But there was such an uproar. I mean, now we know that was the perfect ending for the show.
So does the ending affect that? Yes, it was the perfect ending. But I don’t know. There are good ones and bad ones. I want to end the story as a writer the way that I think the story was told. And that’s what I’m interested in. It is weird that in the future, if anybody is watching the show, they will know the whole story.
On which character he will miss writing for the most:
I’m going to miss all of them. The greatest gift about this show is that there are so many different voices that when you are in the mood, whatever mood you’re in when you’re writing, you get to have every flavor there is. It’s hard for me to imagine not writing these characters anymore. I can’t even imagine it, actually. I don’t want to think about it.