From the Archives: ‘Mad Men’ Season 6 finale: Matthew Weiner explains the Hershey bar
Despite being set amid national turning points for race relations, the major political parties, and the Vietnam War, the season finale of “Mad Men” was always moving toward a pivotal moment with a chocolate bar.
Let this serve as an official spoiler alert for those that have not yet seen Sunday night’s season finale of the Emmy Award-winning drama, which placed much of its action in the turbulent year of 1968. In an interview last week from his offices at Los Angeles Center Studios, the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, spoke about his choices in the closing episode “In Care Of.”
“I’ve never wanted the history to take over the show,” said Weiner, who directed Sunday’s episode. “But it seemed clear that all of the bubbling issues that we’d talked about, even those tangentially in the news since the show started, were completely in people’s lives in 1968.”
“The Hershey pitch is where we were working toward the entire season,” he continued. “And then the one-two punch of Don coming clean and this image of him standing in front of the house with his children.”
While the show’s central character, Don Draper, has certainly had his problems with clients this season, the resident creative genius at Sterling Cooper & Partners suffered a genuine crisis at the most unlikely time -- during a business meeting.
At first, Don dazzles visiting Hershey executives with a heartwarming pitch that linked his own loving childhood to a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Of course, it’s a lie -- and the home audience immediately knows it. Then, Don makes sure the Hershey executives know it.
“I loved that Don would give this phony baloney story and he would tell it really well,” said Weiner. “Then we see him confess to inappropriate people where it really mattered because it was Hershey, because of Ted, because he was so ashamed, and because he knew he couldn’t take it anymore.”
“And there was that crucial line ‘Weren’t you a lucky little boy,’ ” he added.
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Weiner chose to build the scene around the product because Don is from Pennsylvania, where the chocolate empire is based. Also, Weiner has had a longtime interest in business titans such as Milton Hershey, Conrad Hilton and H.J. Heinz, among others.
“There are certain American businessmen that are completely eccentric but have this kind of strange moral quality,” said Weiner. “As moral as you can be and be a ruthless business person.”
In one of the season’s most poignant moments, Don brings his children -- most notably his estranged oldest daughter Sally -- before the decaying carcass of the home of his youth. (In a recent episode, Sally caught her father sleeping with a neighbor’s wife.)
“You’d like it to be the beginning of something,” said Weiner. “I’m not sure whether it is or not, because I don’t even know.”
“But the gesture itself is huge,” he added. “It’s a tough thing for him to do it. He does it in a Dad-like way and as someone I work with commented a lot of us never have that moment with our Dad or Mom.”
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