Matthew Weiner on 'Mad Men' Finale: 'I Don’t Owe Anybody Anything’

"If you do your ending right, it is a great ending," says creator. "It is not a reflection on the entire TV show"

'Mad Men' creator Matthew Weiner talks expectations and the show's final episode in a new interview. Credit: Axel Schmidt/AP/Corbis

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has settled on a sensible, hardline approach to managing both fan expectations and his own ahead of the series finale this weekend: "I hate to say it: I don't really feel like I owe anybody anything," Weiner told The New York Times.

"I’ve been lucky to have them invite us into their home, but we have held up our end of the bargain so far," he continued. "We really have, and we've made such a painstaking effort to surprise and delight and move machinery that tells the story."

Weiner is acutely aware of what kind of purpose a finale needs to serve, but also noted that much of that depends on the type of show. Breaking Bad, for instance, asked a question — does Walter White live or die? — and had to provide an answer. But other shows, like The Sopranos (which Weiner worked on) were necessarily more open-ended. 

"That’s just not the kind of story it was," Weiner said, differentiating The Sopranos from Breaking Bad. "It never promised that. So, in terms of people feeling right now that I am not fulfilling a promise, all I can tell you is that we’re telling a story; this is the natural conclusion of the story."

Despite all the commotion that will likely ensue after the finale airs, Weiner doesn't plan on hiding away — for the most part. He said he'll be watching the last episode with Mad Men's cast and crew at a special event hosted by director Jason Reitman, who regularly recasts episodes of the show and holds live readings. Reitman and Co. will, fittingly, take the audience on a carousel of nostalgia with a performance of "The Wheel," the final episode of Season One.

"If you do your ending right, it is a great ending," Weiner said. "It is not a reflection on the entire TV show, but it is a great ending. Sometimes I want to sit next to you and tell you what it is, but I’m really hoping that it is an experience for people that they don’t need decoded. I hope they want to talk to each other about it. I don’t really need them to talk to me."

The final episode of Mad Men airs Sunday, May 17th, at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.