Though Jon Hamm steered clear of any definitive answers, the Mad Men star offered up his interpretation of the show’s final moments in an interview with The New York Times following Sunday’s series finale. (Spoilers, of course, ahead).
The conclusion offered fans a surreal, serene and quintessentially Mad Men juxtaposition: Don Draper/Dick Whitman seemingly at peace on the California coast and the famous 1971 “Hilltop” Coke ad. For many, the commercial served to illustrate that even profound enlightenment could be commodified; others suggested it meant Draper returned to Madison Avenue and created the famous commercial himself (the show, despite its devotion to historical accuracy, has previously positioned its fictional characters as the creators of famous ad campaigns).
Hamm seemed to lean towards the latter theory. Recalling the breakdown and breakthrough Draper has in a previous scene where, completely alone, he connects with a stranger at a group therapy session, Hamm said: “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.”
Hamm acknowledges the cynical view some might take from such a conflation of personal discovery and crass commercialism, but he adds, “I think that for Don, it represents some kind of understanding and comfort in this incredibly unquiet, uncomfortable life that he has led.”
Hamm also spoke about the difficulty of filming Don’s final arc, during which he leaves New York and travels across the country, effectively removing the actor from his longtime cast mates as well.
“To be set adrift for the last few weeks, really experiencing that aloneness, that self-exile that Don was experiencing, it was very disorienting, which hopefully played,” Hamm said. “It was thematically kind of perfect. The world carries on, and that’s a big question about Don. Did the place fall apart without me? Well, no. That’s not how it works. Everybody picks up and thinks, oh, that’s too bad — that guy had a nervous breakdown.”
As for the episode’s final montage, which seemed to tie a nice bow on the series, Hamm noted that just because Mad Men has ended doesn’t mean the characters’ fates are set.
“None of it is done,” Hamm said. “[Creator] Matt [Weiner] 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.”