NEW YORK - Chat with Matthew Weiner these days and you feel the added depth of his "Mad Men" immersion.
When its bifurcated final season begins Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT on AMC (with seven episodes, to be followed by seven more next year), the second of those final hours will be shooting, while the fifth of seven final scripts will be taking shape on the page.
The looming end has taken root in the "Mad Men" conversation among fans, even as they mark time waiting for the 14 new installments. Meanwhile, Weiner, as the auteur of this landmark drama series, voices both resolve and wonderment at his task of bringing "Mad Men" in for a landing.
His goal, he says, is not to wallop the audience with a grand parting shot, but something more gently profound: "to leave the characters in a place where they're going to be in viewers' imaginations forever."
Weiner has said many times he hit upon some semblance of that "fitting end" several years ago.
And yet: Pulling the plug on a TV series goes against every instinct of the person in charge, he says - the person whose primary duty is to keep the show alive and well, week after week.
Even for a series veteran like Weiner (who was a writer-producer of "The Sopranos" as well as the sitcom "Becker"), his mission to end "Mad Men" is "a totally antithetical thing, an exercise that is outside my realm of experience."
Viewers will remember that at the close of last season, which spanned the stormy year of 1968, Don Draper (series star Jon Hamm) was left in disarray.
He had been sidelined by his ad agency after suffering a meltdown at a client meeting.