'Lost' Thursdays: They're gonna put Darlton in the movies
You think you're going to miss "Lost"? Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse think you've got nothing on them.
When speaking about the show's impending finale, Lindelof said that he and Cuse were not acknowledging the show was about to end, that they were "Elizabeth Kubler-Rossing it."
"Once we're out of denial, we'll move on to anger, and you don't wanna be around for that," Lindelof said with a laugh.
The two spoke at an event hosted at the Times Center in New York City and broadcast at hundreds of movie theaters in the United States and Canada. The two responded to questions about the show's evolution and its history directed at them by New York Times entertainment editor Lorne Manley, as well as questions asked by fans attending at theaters around the country and in the audience at the event itself. The mood was largely festive, and the two producers (who have been the primary show runners on "Lost" since early in its first season, when co-creator J.J. Abrams left to direct "Mission: Impossible III") were largely forthcoming about the show and their creative process. Yet they still had to sidestep potential spoilers for the finale, perhaps owing to just how many heated fan queries still exist around the famously mysterious series.
The two have been planning the events of the final episode of the show for so long during the series' run that pulling all of the pieces together has been less a work of television construction for the two and more putting in place things they've been wanting to do for a long time.
"It's a lot like someone who's alive planning their own funeral," Lindelof said. He added that the two approached writing the finale by asking themselves "If we were fans of the show ... what are the scenes we'd want to see?"
Lindelof said that the question he gets asked most often now by fans is whether or not the finale is going to disappoint them. While he understands the frustrations and concerns felt by the show's vocal fan base, he also likens the process of watching the show to going on a series of dates with someone and wondering if they're going to disappoint you the whole time, rather than just letting go and falling in love.
"All we could do was make the version that we were happy with, that satisfied us," Cuse said.
The producers, who spend much of their time in other interviews dealing with questions of why this or that story choice was made during the course of the series, seemed to appreciate getting to pull back to take a longer view of the show that's so dominated their lives. Lindelof said that what has made some of the show's weirder mysteries work over the years is the fact that the series is usually able to flip a question that begins with "what" into a question that begins with "who." He gave as an example the fact that the show turned the question of "What's the Smoke Monster?" on its head and revealed that fans should have been asking, all along, "Who's the Smoke Monster?" in the early portions of this season.
It's this idea that the most absurd notions can be put across with good character byplay that has kept the show in good stead with its fans, for the most part, the two said. For example, Season Four's beloved episode "The Constant" can be boiled down to a story of a guy trying to get in touch with the woman he left on the mainland and hasn't spoken to for three years. The notion of someone's consciousness becoming loose in time and floating throughout the course of his own life is absurd on its face, but by rooting it in the characters, the show is able to get away with it. Lindelof said a similar thing happened with the button that had to be pushed every 108 minutes in Season Two, lest the world end.
"The only way we could get the audience to buy into it was if Locke could convince Jack to push it," he said, after the scene where Locke does just that (from episode "Orientation") was screened.
The question the two have been asked more than any other just might be whether they knew the answers to all of the questions on the show from the beginning. They insist that they knew roughly what the end of the show was from the very beginning, but Cuse allowed that major portions of the show's mythology were laid into place between seasons one and two, when they finally had time to deal with the fact that the series was a major hit and would likely run for several years. There would be an even stricter design for where things were going at the start of each season, laid in place by the writers at a retreat before each season began, but there was still room to improvise, particularly when writing toward evolving character relationships.
"The show is its own organic entity, and it tells you what it wants to be," Cuse said.
The two also allowed that occasional fan questions would work their way into the show -- for instance, rampant fan speculation on why Hurley wasn't losing weight led to a Season Two scene where he revealed a secret stash of DHARMA food -- but they, for the most part, are following their own course, even if it occasionally leads down disastrous trails, as with the much-maligned Nikki and Paolo episodes from Season Three. The characters were introduced because the show had no end date and needed to keep coming up with new characters to tell stories about, Cuse said, but it became quickly obvious that the introduction was a mistake.
"We are fallible. We make mistakes. The question is, when we make mistakes, how obvious are they?" Lindelof said, saying that most mistakes were caught so early the audience didn't really notice them even beginning to develop.
The flash-sideways scenes of the final season grew out of a desire to return to the sense the show had in Season One that all of its characters could have mysterious pasts and be revealed to be just about anything, Cuse said. It was both a way to examine how far the characters have come since the show began and a way to place them in new contexts and see what happened.
"Isn't Sawyer the same guy?" Lindelof said of the sideways universe. "He's a cop here; he's a con man there. But isn't he the same guy?"
Late in the program, the two were joined by actors Michael Emerson, who plays the enigmatic Ben Linus, and Jorge Garcia, who plays the gregarious Hurley. Emerson and Garcia arrived too late to offer up any real answers, though Garcia allowed his favorite non-Hurley character was Ben (who "gets to say some of the darnedest things," prompting Emerson, Cuse and Lindelof to reimagine a "Ben Says the Darnedest Things" spinoff) and Emerson said he always liked Mr. Eko to the same question. Cuse and Lindelof also asked Garcia if he, as a big fan of the show in addition to an actor on it, thought the finale answered the questions he had about the series. "As a fan," Garcia said, "I think I got it," with only a little hesitation.
Cuse and Lindelof allowed that they can't answer everything to everyone's satisfaction, but they also thought some things have been made too much of. As an example, they responded to a fan's query about the psychic who insisted both that Claire's unborn child would be special and that she had to get on a plane to Los Angeles with the fact that an episode in Season Two had revealed that character -- the only one who ever said Aaron was special -- as a hoax. But that seems to rarely satisfy those who watch the show.
"We'll give these explanations, and people will be, like, 'Nope. Why is he special?'" Lindelof said.
But it would be all but impossible to get out of a "Lost" event without a few spoilers. While Lindelof, Cuse, Emerson and Garcia only let a few slip, they also showed a scene from the finale, which hinted at some fairly interesting ideas. Suffice it to say, if you want to go into Sunday's finale completely unspoiled, don't read the next paragraph.
Initially, the only things Cuse and Lindelof would say about the finale were relatively minor, but Cuse finally allowed that Walt would be appearing before all was said and done, even though actor Malcolm David Kelley is now taller than the producers. ("I can't say there's a 'Star Wars' reference, but you drop the Walt bomb?" Lindelof grumbled.) The two also gave some indication that we'll get a better sense of both Widmore's and Eloise Hawking's plans in the finale, as well as hinting that we'll finally learn just what Desmond meant when he said "You've got to lift it up" way back in Season Two. Emerson also hinted that Ben and Hurley would have some scenes together to accomplish some important task in the finale, though this may have been a joke to bring Garcia out on stage.
And the clip screened from the finale saw Sawyer spying on the Monster (still in Locke guise) and Ben as they tried to figure out why Desmond had disappeared from the well. Ben brought Sawyer before the Monster, where all three spoke about destroying the Island before Sawyer made his escape. Ben, wondering why the Monster had told him he could have the Island all to himself once the Monster effected his escape, was told that he could have the Island all to himself. It would just be at the bottom of the ocean. And then the Monster noticed some dog tracks around the well, suggesting, perhaps, that Rose and Bernard, with the faithful Vincent in tow, were the ones to rescue Desmond.
--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)
Photo: Damon Lindelof (left) and Carlton Cuse, pictured here at last week's "Lost" Live event, have been the show runners for "Lost" since early in its first season. (Credit: ABC)
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