As long as fans have breath in their lungs, they’ll be arguing about the ending of Lost. Did it satisfy? Did it not? Last month marked 10 years since the series finale, and bringing it up at a party (remember those?) is still sure to spark debate. In a new interview, Lost co-creator and executive producer Damon Lindelof pulls back the curtain on when he originally wanted Lost to end and why it went on as long as it did.
“I’m not trying to be diplomatic, I’m trying to give you the most accurate answer the way that I remember it, which is the conversations about wanting the show to end began as early as the pilot,” Lindelof said to Collider.
Basically, Lindelof knew that the idea of sustaining all the mysteries the show was creating was finite, and from the very beginning he thought it could only last for maybe three seasons. The executives at ABC disagreed.
“Lost was like, ‘What’s in the hatch? What’s up with the monster? Who’s the original Sawyer? How did Locke get in the wheelchair? What is the nature of the island? Why does it appear to be moving? Who are the Others?’ There were all of these compelling mysteries and so we were saying, ‘We wanna have this stuff answered by the end of season one, this stuff answered by the end of season two, and then the show basically ends after about three years,’” Lindelof said. “That was the initial pitch, and they were not even hearing it. They looked at particularly me — Carlton [Cuse] came on about midway through season one and he joined the chorus of me — but they were just like, ‘Do you understand how hard it is to make a show that people want to watch? And people like the show? So why would we end it? You don’t end shows that people are watching.’”
With two-year contracts coming to an end, Lindelof and Cuse put their feet down at the end of season two hoping to get the end date they wanted. Unfortunately, ABC wouldn’t budge, so the pair signed on for one more season and thought they’d leave the show in the hands of another person at the end of season three. But at the end of season three, ABC finally started to see it their way. Kind of.
“The beginning of season three happens. Those six episodes air because ABC decides that they’re going to split the season into two parts…after those six episodes of season three aired, they finally understood, and we were not phoning it in or trying to spike the show, we always did our best. But it became clear that we were working so hard to keep the characters on the island, and it was starting to be immensely frustrating. The flashbacks weren’t good anymore,” Lindelof said.
ABC executives agreed the show needed to end at a specific point and thought 10 seasons was the right number. Lindelof and Cuse basically laughed that off, and eventually negotiated it down to six.
“The agreement was we landed on six [seasons] with less episodes to give us more time in between seasons to plan things out,” Lindelof said. “And then of course the fourth season was cut short by the writers’ strike, but everything else went relatively according to design. Not to say that everything we did worked, but we had a plan and we executed that plan.”
What’s most fascinating about this story is that ever since Lost, one of Lindelof’s best qualities has been his ability to know when a story is over. The Leftovers? Three seasons. Watchmen? One season. (So far.) And fans of those shows never complain that the flash-forward season was pointless or that the island as purgatory is derivative. It seems very clear that Lindelof and Cuse had a plan but were forced to pad that out because of the success of the show. Which, ultimately, hurt Lost’s legacy.
For more details on this crazy back and forth, head over to Collider.