Even in today’s spoiler-averse culture, Matthew Weiner takes secrecy to an extreme. The “Mad Men” creator has always been tight-lipped about future plot developments, limiting the “Next on ‘Mad Men'” promos to a kind of allusive haiku; who could have guessed a collection of scenes centered around the line “Stop brushing your hair!” would forecast the death of one of the show’s major characters? On those rare occasions when he’s allowed critics to have advance screeners (in recent years, only the season premieres), they’ve come with notes asking critics not to reveal details as broad as “Don’s love life” and “Ken’s work situation; even the year in which the season begins is considered off-limits.
Weiner’s tight-lipped approach has extended to commenting on the various theories fans have cooked up about the show. Only once, so far as I know, did Weiner step in and put them to rest, after speculation that Don’s second wife, Megan, was going to fall prey to the Manson Family got out of hand.
Up til now, that’s held true even for the surprisingly persistent idea that the show’s end will reveal Don turning into D.B. Cooper, the fugitive skyjacker of the 1970s. Only last week on Conan O’Brien, Weiner dissembled, saying he didn’t want to give anything away. But in an interview with Maclean’s Adrian Lee, he finally spills the nonexistent beans. After Lee presses him on the latest “proof” for the theory, the reference to the Frank Capra movie, “Lost Horizon,” which begins with a plane being hijacked, Weiner responds:
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But it’s not related to D.B. Cooper, I hate to say it. I love — I mean you’ll have to watch the show, maybe I’m lying to you — but I love that people care enough to posit these things. I think it’s fantastic and that’s all I can say. It’s a huge compliment to us. But I’m never— what’s the word — I’m never trolling the audience, I’m never baiting them to create a theory. Sometimes when I do make it clear, like after that T-shirt controversy [fans developed a theory that Megan Draper was doomed to die because she wore the same shirt as the murdered actress Sharon Tate] then I get accused of more trolling. I don’t even know what to say.
So you’re saying no to the D.B. Cooper theory?
Yeah, I’m afraid I am. I love that people care but I also think that there’s a real desire for the audience to anticipate the ongoing story and feel that they have guessed it and gotten it right and anything where they do feel like they’re right, they seem to say that the show is obvious and poorly constructed, and anything where they get it wrong, they think that I’m reacting to them.
We have a writers’ room of 10 people, and we’re trying to tell a story to entertain people, and the episodes toward the end of any season do pay off, but I always want to make it clear that the journey is the point, you know? The story starts on page one — it doesn’t start on page 50. People, from what I can tell, really enjoyed last week’s episode [the third-to-last episode], but I don’t think they understand that Joan coming into a showdown with McCann-Erickson is not possible unless we tell the story of where we’re going. Don walking out of that meeting is not possible without him encountering Diana. There’s information being given that’s not about the continuing story, that’s about the characters. So on the one hand I love that they’re doing it, on the other hand, it’s not on my mind at all, not even slightly. I mean, I’m here to entertain them, I do want it to be twists and turns, but it’s not on my mind at all. Is that disappointing?
Actually no, it’s not disappointing at all.