Get ready to return to the island one last time: The final season of ABC's "Lost" is going to be an emotionally intense journey that harks back to previous highlights of the series, with the ideological battle between Jack Shephard and John Locke taking center stage.
By the time most major network shows cross the finish line, they're limping in the ratings and creatively exhausted, wrung out by networks and producers trying to mine just a few more hours. With "Lost" producers having persuaded ABC to set 2010 as a series end date years ago, the hit drama is going into its final lap with level of fan anticipation rarely seen for the ending cycle of a broadcast show.
Below, executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, give The Hollywood Reporter their first full-length interview focusing on the sixth season. What secrets will be revealed? How will fans react to the ending? And what are Lindelof and Cuse's plans for life after "Lost"?
Cuse and Lindelof assure that there's a satisfying cliffhanger-free conclusion planned. And even after the May finale, there's almost surely going to be more "Lost" to come.
THR: You obviously can't talk about the content of the ending. But how do you think fans will feel about it?
Lindelof: That's a very cagey way of asking it. It's tough to prognosticate. But the one area we're in agreement is there will be a short-term reaction to the ending and then a legacy reaction that comes six months, a year down the road, looking at the show as a whole. Carlton and I were trying yesterday to remember what the final season of "The Sopranos" even was about -- we couldn't remember much about the finale itself except Anthony Jr. was going to go into the Army and crashed his car and changed his mind. But we remember every frame of the diner scene. What people take away from our finale is going to be based purely on that two-hour episode, but our hope is they'll be able to connect that experience to the six years that preceded it.
THR: How would you describe this season in terms of its, say, tone? What is it like compared to past seasons?
Cuse: We feel tonally it's most similar to the first season of the show. We're employing a different narrative device, which we feel is creating some emotional and heartfelt stories, and we want the audience to have a chance in the final season to remember the entire history of the show. So we have actors coming back like Dominic [Monaghan] and Ian [Sommerhalder]. We're hoping to achieve a circularity of the entire journey so the ending is reminiscent of the beginning.
THR: Is there any one character's story line that you think particularly emotionally resonates this season?
Cuse: Jack and Locke have always been at the center of the show, that dilemma of faith vs. reason, and the conflict between those two characters has been there since the beginning. It's very exciting to bring that relationship to its conclusion, and we can't really be any less vague about that.
THR: In the past few years we've had "Sopranos," "The Shield," "The Wire" and "Battlestar Galactica" air final episodes. Any of them that you felt concluded really well?
Cuse: I personally don't feel any of those were messed up, they were all kind of appropriate for those stories. Shawn Ryan did a great job ending "The Shield."
Lindelof: It really boils down to: Is it satisfying? Have you given the audience an emotional ride that makes them feel that they're satisfied, that it's a good meal? Every one of those shows had a different criteria. The ending for "The Shield" was, asking whether Vic Mackey would get some form of comeuppance for all the things he's done over the series. That's a similar question that went into the "Sopranos" ending, which is why people who didn't like the cut to black were unsatisfied, because they felt, "I feel the resolution of this show has to be what happens to Tony Soprano, and you didn't answer that question." The "Battlestar" ending had 10 different things on its agenda other than character resolution ... you have to admire it for the sheer audacity for what it was trying to accomplish. That being said, the "Shield" ending was phenomenal, and almost every fan of the show agrees with that. Whereas the other shows -- and probably with the ending of "Lost" -- there's some debate about the ending. "Did I like it? Did I love it?"
THR: Have you boiled "Lost" down to a central question that the finale needs to resolve?
Lindelof: The only question that's ever mattered to us is what is going to happen to these people. What is the character resolution? That the audience feels like the characters had an arc -- a beginning, middle and end. And I'm satisfied with that. All the crazy island mythology stuff, we love it, but it's like terrorists attacking Jack Bauer -- it's stuff that happens in order to tell cool character stories.
THR: You mentioned a narrative device