If you have yet to watch the Mad Men series finale, you might want to skip this and most of the internet until you do. There will be spoilers past this point. If you have viewed the “end” of Don Draper’s television journey or don’t care if you’re spoiled, prepare for some insight.
Jon Hamm sat down for a very informative interview with the New York Times on Monday, reflecting on the Mad Men series finale and the meaning behind the final sequence involving the famous “Buy the World a Coke” commercial. Hamm essentially gives his view of where Don ends up (though I’m more likely to lean towards Danger Guerrero’s prognostication from back in April), revealing that the right answer may be out there. If that’s even the point of it all:
I think there probably is. But I think, like most stories that we go back to, that it’s a little bit ambiguous. We had talked about this ending for a long time and that was Matt [Weiner, the “Mad Men” creator and show runner]’s image. I was struck by the poetry of it. I didn’t know what his plans were, to get Don to this meditative, contemplative place. I just knew that he had this final image in mind…
When we find Don in that place, and this stranger relates this story of not being heard or seen or understood or appreciated, the resonance for Don was total in that moment. There was a void staring at him. We see him in an incredibly vulnerable place, surrounded by strangers, and he reaches out to the only person he can at that moment, and it’s this stranger.
My take is that, the next day, he wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realizes who he is. And who he is, is an advertising man. And so, this thing comes to him. There’s a way to see it in a completely cynical way, and say, “Wow, that’s awful.” But I think that for Don, it represents some kind of understanding and comfort in this incredibly unquiet, uncomfortable life that he has led.
The beauty of this, much like The Sopranos ending, is that we can all theorize about what has happened and come to our own conclusion. I like to think of my Don Draper as a mythical Manimal, who soon travels the countryside and hunts down an unsuspecting Pete Campbell. I want to make that happen.
As for Hamm’s thoughts on the rest of the finale, he throws a rebuttal at all the people who complained that things got wrapped up a little too nicely for the folks that inhabited the show. The show might be finished, but their lives didn’t just end:
There’s people saying, oh, it’s so pat, and it’s rom-com-y, or whatever it is. But it’s not the end of anything. The world doesn’t blow up right after the Coke commercial ends. No one is suggesting that Stan and Peggy live happily ever after, or that Joan’s business is a rousing success, or that Roger and Marie come back from Paris together. None of it is done. Matt had said at one point, “I just want my characters to be a little more happy than they were in the beginning,” and I think that’s pretty much true. But these aren’t the last moments of any of these characters’ lives, including Betty. She doesn’t have much time left, but damn if she’s not going to spend it the way she wants to spend it.
There’s plenty of other great stuff in the interview, so I suggest giving the entire thing a read. And go watch that finale if you haven’t so all of this makes a little more sense to you in the long run. If none of that is for you, perhaps you can meditate and find an answer for why people are losing their minds over one big ad for a soft drink company.