We’ve come a long way in 13 weeks. “Mad Men” covered an incredible amount of territory in its just-wrapped third season, weaving social, cultural and political issues of the day (mid-to-late 1963) into its tapestry of the lives, loves and ambitions of a wonderfully distinct group of characters. “Mad Men” creator/exec producer
Matthew Weiner was kind enough to spend an hour on the phone sharing his thoughts about the grand design of the season, though he was careful not to say a word about Sunday’s finale, which I hadn’t seen at the time we spoke (Nov. 5).
How did you wrap your arms around something as monumental as the Kennedy assassination?
We have an experience to measure it against. I think 9/11 is a very close experience – it’s very different kind of experience but I was definitely trying to recreate the sensation that we had on that day: The collective shock, the loss of faith in institutions.
That’s why I did the thing about the heating and the air conditioning going off in and Hildy saying ‘The building will take care of it.’ Right there it was a way to say that (Sterling Cooper) is an institution. Marriage is an institution, the wedding is an institution, work is an institution, family is an institution.
Dramatically I wanted to hit the audience by surprise. We were going to do it in (episode) 11 originally and then we had enough story to push it into 12. It was never going to be the last episode because I wanted it to hit the characters and the audience in the way that it did. The episode starts out as a regular episode and then it takes a left turn.
You telegraphed it through the glimpse of the invitation for Margaret’s wedding on Nov. 23.
It’s kind of a ‘Twilight Zone’ move. (Alerting the aud that) this is going to happen this year and these people don’t know it.