'Mad Men' Final Season: 'Each Episode Feels Like the Finale of the Show'

Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, John Slattery, and Elisabeth Moss (Photo by John Shearer/Invision for AMC/AP Images)
Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, John Slattery, and Elisabeth Moss (Photo by John Shearer/Invision for AMC/AP Images)

Mad Men returns Sunday, April 5, for its final seven episodes, AMC announced Saturday. But is the critically acclaimed drama really ending?

In a nod to AMC's new Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul, star Jon Hamm quipped at the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter press tour panel Saturday that fans can look forward to Better Call Pete.

As for other follow-ups, creator Matt Weiner joked: "I don't see the show participating in a Mad Men cruise, but if they want to do it, we're open to it." When the cast was polled about taking to the high seas, everyone but Vincent Kartheiser raised their hands. (Maybe he's already pondering Better Call Pete?)

"The spinoff right now is these last seven episodes, as far as I'm concerned," said creator Matt Weiner.

When asked about the network's controversial decision to split the final season over two years, Weiner insisted he welcomed the creative challenge.

"I will acknowledge fact that there are two premieres and two finales and take the opportunity to advance the story in a different way," he said. Of the these last seven episodes, "each one feels like the finale of the show."

Weiner, who is notoriously cagey about spoilers, did volunteer some hints about the final season's theme. Drawing similarities between today and the post-1968 era confronting Don Draper & Co., Weiner said, "history was impacting on people's lives every single day." But after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, Americans responded with a sense of defeatism.

"You sort of say, at a certain point, everyone's like, 'Enough already. It's time to turn inward.' I do feel that's going on now. The sense of community feels so futile," Weiner, said, so people instead work on themselves. "And it's in the show," he added, 'turning inward' will be a theme of this last season.

That doesn't mean we'll see any dramatic transformations in the Mad Men characters. "The story in last season is that people do change, but in a lot of the ways they don't, unfortunately," said Elisabeth Moss. "Peggy has retained a lot of qualities she had from the beginning, in good ways and bad ways."

Yet, Weiner said, "I'm super proud of the fact that we did not repeat ourselves. Every season was different."

Related: 'Black Mirror' Review: Jon Hamm Has a Scary 'White Christmas'

As for the finale, he acknowledged, "I don't want [fans] to walk away angry. Any time that has ever happened, it's been unintentional."

Weiner is "extremely solicitous of the fans' [opinions]," but he added, "I don't want to pander to them. Sometimes, people have to be protected from what they want to see happen."

In perhaps an omen for things to come, he also noted that "bad things happening are considered a good thing in entertainment" and can be "cathartic."

Both Moss and co-star Christina Hendricks say they are "pleased" about how the show ends. "I guess I was surprised that I was pleased," added Hendricks, because "I thought there's no way I could be happy because it's ending."

"I'm thrilled the show is ending," Hamm deadpanned. "I'm looking forward to being unemployed. Hashtag sarcasm."

But in one of the panel's most serious and poignant moments, Hamm said, "There is no version of this ending that isn't super painful me."

Hamm might have an exciting prospect on the horizon, however. He joked that he is starting a car detailing business: "We've all been, because of the show, sticklers to detail," he explained. That's actually the name of the business: Sticklers to Detail."

Weiner cherishes the fact that Mad Men has lasted so long, retaining the original cast and crew.

"It is a very special creatively satisfying experience," Weiner said. "The part that you can't leave alone is, 'How greedy am I gonna be? Do I expect this to happen again?'"

Mad Men returns Sunday, April 5 at 10 p.m. on AMC.