I don’t know about you, but I’ve still got that Coke jingle stuck in my head. The Mad Men series finale aired three days ago now, but I haven’t really stopped thinking about that absolutely perfect ending. We’ve covered it ad nauseam here at Collider, with Allison’s recap and our roundtable postmortem, but I’m not ready to let go of Mad Men just yet—and neither is Jon Hamm.
While there’s been some debate over whether Don actually did return to McCann Erickson and create that iconic Coke ad, I think it’s pretty clear that he did. The question then becomes, is this a happy ending, or a cynical one? Did Don go back to advertising because that’s what he found out he loved all along, or did he return because that’s the only thing he’s good at? Did he look deep inside himself and find that, at his core, there’s only something to sell?
Hamm recently broke his silence to the New York Times and has offered his take on that ending, and he sees it as fairly optimistic:
“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.”
However, the actor went on to say that the ending does lend itself to ambiguity, and he noted that he’s known the final shot of the series for a while:
“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.”
Hamm added that while Don’s isolation was a key component of the show’s final two episodes, he was able to shoot his phone conversations with January Jones and Kiernan Shipka with the actresses on set, and for the Peggy phone call Elisabeth Moss actually got on the phone with Hamm while they were shooting up the coast.
Regarding the reaction to the finale, the actor was quick to point out that the characters don’t stop existing when the Coke commercial goes on the air:
“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.”
As long as Stan and Peggy are forever a couple, I’m totally fine. Don’t break my heart, Hamm.