'Mad Men': Matthew Weiner dishes on the season 6 finale

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On Betty’s story this season
“Our plan was that Betty (January Jones) is trying, and she is happy in her marriage and she is growing a little bit. And as soon as Henry expressed his desire to run for office — she’s been in Weight Watchers at this point for a year —  there was a kind of ‘uh-oh’ where she realized she had to do something about herself because she was going to be in the public eye. Did she learn something? I don’t know. Has she grown? I don’t know. The first line I came in with was where she says, ‘I have three children,’ when the guy says, ‘I want to be with you.’ And he says, ‘I don’t care,’ and she says ‘No, look at me. Can you believe I’ve had three children?’ What we were heading toward is that this is a woman who has maybe not learned as much as she should have. Children teach us more than we teach them, and I think you can feel that Betty is always trying, and part of what the premiere was about was her having her own crisis as she’s getting older — and of course her looks were not a factor in those scenes in the Village — with how she’s seen. I guess any moment of consciousness for her is interesting to the audience, but she’s a fascinating character to me…. She’s got her own issues — she wants Sally to go to that boarding school and you can tell she’s living vicariously though her. Anyone who has a 13-year-old girl recognizes what’s up with Sally, and that is an equalizing force that Betty cannot do anything about. And maybe she has learned something.”

On Peggy winding up without Ted — but in Don’s chair
“Peggy’s story this season was that she does not have any choices. She was forced to buy an apartment where she didn’t want to buy it. She’s in a relationship [with Abe, played by Charlie Hofheimer) without a wedding ring but it looks like it’s going to have kids in it so she’s interested in that. Then she’s in this relationship with Ted she has no control over, she’s forced to work in an agency — it’s like The Godfather, they keep pulling her back in. And what I wanted to say is it’s definitely to feel gradual change. All of a sudden, you start one place and you end another. She’s finding her way at the beginning of this season, her management style, and then it ends with her in a pants suit. Thank you, [costume designer] Janie Bryant, I was waiting for the right moment to do that, in a pantsuit. And she says to Stan (Jay R. Ferguson), ‘This is where everything is.’ And I think that is in a nutshell what’s going on in Peggy’s life. It’s not like there is no joy at all, but her work has become everything.”

On Pete’s decision not to expose Bob Benson
“Duck (Mark Moses) says ‘I’ve never seen this before,’ and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) says, ‘I have.’ We’re expecting him to go in there with guns blazing and the fact is he learned something. And when he says ‘I’m off-limits,’ he means ‘Keep your hands to yourself. I don’t care if you love me, I don’t know what you’re up to, but I have learned something in these eight years, which is that I tried to go up against Don Draper and it was a mistake and ‘Im just going to submit.’ Unfortunately it doesn’t last very long (laughs), and we see that Bob is as formidable as Pete feared. But Bob Benson’s presence in this show — every character has their own story and God knows I’m so grateful that we found James Wolk and he just killed the part — but he was there to sort of show what was happening to Pete. Don’t forget, this season Pete had the affair with the woman on his street, and he lived very recklessly and even on the verge of the public offering and getting back together with Trudy (Alison Brie), the entire thing fell apart. And what an interesting thing for us to see if we could pull off this story where it seemed like Pete actually grew.”

On the twist that Pete was going to California (…with Ted?)
“Yes, that’s what it’s supposed to be. That’s one of those things where the writers were like, ‘We could waste screen time which we don’t have that much of, by seeing that decision get made, or just reveal that he’s going.’ Because the story is really about what Trudy says to him. He has nothing, he is free now, and Pete has this moment where he says ‘That’s not the way I wanted it,’ and she says ‘Well, now you know that.’ And you feel the sting of a guy who has irrevocably changed his life. But we saw with Pete in the past, he’s not scared of California, maybe it will be good for him. We know what New York means to him.”

On Megan finally standing up for herself
“She’s really the most modern character in the show. She’s an independent woman, she’s busy and she is with this very somewhat traditional man. We saw Don’s fantasy in California when he was on hashish, that he wants her to be pregnant and not working and excited about him being with other women. (laughs) She, like a modern woman, is really independent and interested in her career, and feels that he is distant. She knows something is wrong. And what we wanted to show was her evolving to the point where she can’t take any more of it, where she realizes that she is either, in the modern terms, enabling him or she loves him. And I think we can say at the end that he loves her and he knows how lucky he is to have her, but she is the sacrifice at that moment. And once her career is being affected, she is like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And I think Jessica just killed that scene. Just being there watching her do that scene where she talks about the kids and how she identifies with the kids, you’re just like, ‘Of course.’ How great to have the blinders pulled off to some degree? I think she’s been tolerant of him, she knew he was drinking too much, she knew he was screwed up, she was trying to help him through it, but she really doesn’t know what is going on.”

On whether there will be any part of Ken (Aaron Staton) left at the end of the series
“He received the full Dick Cheney treatment. The story that we heard about working on a car account in Detroit, I mean, this is the mild version, that’s all I can say. I don’t know what their reaction has been to their treatment in the show, but there’s no one who has come up to me who was there and not said ‘You think that’s bad, let me tell ya…’ Ken is okay. He did not lose his eye. His foot heals and he’s got an eyepatch. If anybody could be helped by an eyepatch, he’s even more handsome than he was.

On his favorite weirdest theory he heard this season
“Bob Benson was Peggy’s baby come back from the future in a Terminator thing to illuminate and set things right. That was the most ingenious one. I hope what really happened in the show didn’t disappoint people — that’s not a vernacular we usually work in.

On approaching season 7
“It’s going to be a new experience for me and I’m as usual terrified and excited by it but I’m trying not to think about it for a couple weeks. I can tell you we will continue to make the show the way we always have but there’s extra stakes and extra pressure and an emotional process for myself and the writers who have been here.”

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