BY: Frazier Moore
NEW YORK – Don’t expect a laser show. Don’t bet on the island to lift off into space.
While intel is scarce about the much-awaited, under-wraps finale to ‘Lost,’ those hints come straight from the guys who not only know the truth but also created it: executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.
But other than such tongue-in-cheek tips, Lindelof and Cuse remain supremely tightlipped about the ‘Lost’ conclusion, airing Sunday on ABC at 9 p.m. EDT. Exactly how they’ll polish off this epic mystical thriller after six trippy seasons — well, that literally remains to be seen.
Fans of ‘Lost’ can hardly wait, and the two-and-one-half-hour finale, even sight unseen, has already been decreed a major television milestone.
“We’re satisfied with the finale,” said Cuse in an interview alongside Lindelof on Wednesday.
He called the ending “kind of spiritual,” and said it “feels like a fair way to honor the fans, the characters and everyone’s commitment to the show.”
He also said he expected a wide range of viewer reactions: “That’s bound to happen.”
But Lindelof predicted ‘Lost’ will spur its own distinctive brand of morning-after debate — one much different from viewers’ raging response to the blackout that concluded “The Sopranos” three years ago.
That series ending centered on one thing, said Lindelof: Would Tony Soprano live or die? So whatever a viewer thought should happen to Tony (when last glimpsed, he was alive and well and enjoying onion rings) played a major role in whether the outcome pleased that viewer.
“But for the `Lost’ finale, people don’t really know going into it WHAT would satisfy them,” Lindelof declared. “If you say to somebody, `What thing would need to happen in the story for you to feel satisfied?’, they’d say something like, `Well, I want all my questions to be answered.’ But they can’t tell you what they want to happen to the characters.”
“They don’t even know what the questions are they would want to have answered,” added Cuse.
Where to begin? Since its premiere in fall 2004, ‘Lost’ has gloried in its multiplying mysteries, in the paradox of a series that’s set on an island but is anything but insular.
While the show was being filmed in Hawaii (with an evolving cast including Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Terry O’Quinn and dozens more), Lindelof and Cuse toiled with fellow writers in Los Angeles crafting the tale.
“Only now are we getting a sense of how autobiographical the show has been for the writers,” said Lindelof. “In the third season, we locked characters in cages because we felt like we were locked up and couldn’t progress.
“In the second season, we decided to put this guy down in the hatch, pushing a button every 108 minutes. He doesn’t know why, exactly, but he believes that if he doesn’t, maybe the world will end. That’s exactly how we felt when we were writing that season: Just keep pushing the button.”
At the start of production each year, Cuse and Lindelof would pitch ABC executives on what the coming season might have in store.
“When we went in and told them there’s a guy down in the hatch and he’s pushing this button every 108 minutes, we thought, `They’re gonna fire us,'” Lindelof recalled with a laugh. “But they rolled with it.”
“They really embraced what was most novel and different about the storytelling, and that was an incredible blessing,” Cuse said.
“They actually became fans,” said Lindelof, “so that when we came in to pitch them Season 6, they were like, `We don’t want to know the ending of the show. Don’t spoil it for us.’ Even when we wrote the script for the finale, we withheld a key scene from them. They didn’t want to know.”
“Before we shot it, they read it,” Cuse said. “But not until the very last minute.”
The script for the finale was completed little more than a month ago. It took four weeks to film.
“On Monday night, we locked the final effect shot,” said Lindelof. “And now that it’s actually finished, the word that Carlton and I are using is: emptiness. We’re saying, `Oh, my God, we’re not doing the show anymore!'”
Nor are their 400-plus former colleagues.
“While we are the frontmen for ‘Lost,’ it’s a massively collaborative show,” Cuse said. “It’s the largest, most complex, expensive show produced for television anywhere in the world. It’s kind of the end of an era.”
But the end was set in motion at least three years ago. In May 2007, the network and the producers announced it would end, well, right about now.
“That broke all the rules of network television,” said Cuse, “but it allowed us to then plan out the rest of the story, to take the mythology we had and figure out what the final three seasons were going to look like.”
What do they hope viewers will say Sunday night at the end of the road?
“We would like them to feel like the journey was worth it,” Cuse said.
“We also hope that they acknowledge that it’s an ending,” said Lindelof, “and they don’t feel like it’s a cop-out, with a to-be-continued quality to it.”
But as for the debate about What It All Means — that will just be beginning.
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