Sean T. Collins has written about comics and popular culture professionally since 2001 and on this very blog since 2003. He has written for Maxim, The Comics Journal, Stuff, Wizard, A&F Quarterly, Comic Book Resources, Giant, ToyFare, The Onion, The Comics Reporter and more. His comics have been published by Top Shelf, Partyka, and Family Style. He blogs here and at Robot 6.
[Editor's note: This is one of a series of interviews I'll be posting that were rescued from WizardUniverse.com's now-defunct archives. Originally posted on December 30, 2006, I think.]
TV Q&A: DAMON LINDELOF
Co-creator Damon Lindelof reveals the secrets of Season Three's second half--from the truth behind the Others to the return of Walt and Michael to that damn four-toed statue
By Sean T. Collins
After an intense six-episode "mini-season" that barely tided the show's fanatical fans over, "Lost" heads back to a TV (and water cooler) near you on February 7, 2007 for 16 back-to-back, rerun-free episodes. But the show's countless mysteries have kept us talking all season long. What's the real story behind the sinister Others and their plans for prisoners Jack, Kate and Sawyer? Why was kick-ass character Mr. Eko killed? What really happened when the Hatch exploded? And what's up with that four-toed statue, anyway?
Wizard had one choice--either give up working on the magazine and debate these questions full-time, or turn to the man with all the answers, "Lost" Co-Creator and Executive Producer Damon Lindelof, for guidance. So find a comfortable spot in your polar bear cage and sit back as Lindelof dishes the dirt on the best show on television.
WIZARD: The first six-episode mini-season is over. Did you guys accomplish what you set out to accomplish with it?
LINDELOF: I think that in many ways, yes, and in many ways we wish that we could've done more. Our über-goal in the first six episodes was to really begin to set up the mega-story of the season, which is who the Others are and what they want and why they took Kate [Evangeline Lilly], Jack [Matthew Fox] and Sawyer [Josh Holloway]. I think that we at least answered the third question. We feel that we told that story fairly compellingly and well.
The Others were such shadowy villains for so long before these first six episodes. Did you consciously shift gears on that by fleshing out Ben and Juliet?
Well, yeah, that's always been what the show has done, which is that you sort of look at a character in one way and then suddenly you completely shift their perception.
By the end of the first season, one half of the audience was convinced that Locke [Terry O'Quinn] was a bad guy and the other half that he was a good guy. Now I think that everyone has come around to thinking that he's a good guy, but they don't really know him yet. So we've done the same thing with the Others, which is whether they're villains or not--and I think that they've done a lot of villainous things--it's our jobs as writers to explain why they're doing those things in a real and emotional way.
[These Others] dress up in these hillbilly clothes in order to purposely deceive the passengers of 815 and they've abducted people and taken children. What does all that mean?
Those are the acts of a villain. So that is the secret recipe of "Lost," which is, "Why do people do the things that they do, and can we give the audience an understandable explanation as to why they do the things they do?" That is the über-goal of Season Three as a whole.
Will we get explanations on the supernatural stuff like the smoke monster and Desmond's new psychic abilities?
Right out of the gate in one of the early episodes, we are going to explain what is happening with Desmond [Henry Ian Cusick] and what the story function of that is. The monster is something that we use very sparingly on the show. We know what it is. We know how it functions.
It killed Eko! Why eliminate such a fan-favorite character?
We feel like the death story of Mr. Eko [Adewale Akinnouye Agbaje] accomplished really two things as storytellers. The first is that it told the audience that, "Yes, we are willing to kill characters that you love as opposed to characters that you just want us to kill, like Shannon and Boone or Ana-Lucia." That was an important thing to do, because I can't think of a character that was more beloved than Mr. Eko, at least in terms of Season Two. Secondly, we furthered the audience's expectations for what the capabilities of the monster are. That is to say, is it just black smoke, or can it take the form of other things? What does it know about our people? What is its function--is it supernatural or is it technological? All of these things are still very much in play. I think we tend to use the monster when it relates directly to informing character, as opposed to just an arbitrary plot device that can move the trees around and make scary noises.
Two of your most prominent characters right now are Nikki and Paulo, the castaways who were introduced during the mini-season. Did you guys think that it was risky to introduce them that way?
Well, that is a case where the separation of the season actually hurts you, because Nikki [Kiele Sanchez] and Paulo [Rodrigo Santoro] are actually part of a larger story that has not yet quite activated itself, and what you have seen so far is really setup for the big payoff that happens in the middle of the season, around episodes 13 and 14. It's just a scenario where all I can say is that we think the payoff of the idea is very cool, and you just have to trust us a little while longer.
Nikki and Paulo have talked to each other about one of the complaints that some critics of the show have, which is that in this big group of 40-odd survivors, there are really only a handful who do stuff that matter. Are Nikki and Paulo going to be used to further that element at all?
I remember there was an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" called "Below Deck." Basically, the entire episode was told from the point of view of the guys who were bouncing off of your primary characters. So it was like, "Oh, yeah. There is a whole other crew to the Enterprise that's around, but never f--king does anything." The idea of hearing what they had to say is inherently interesting to me. We initially talked about doing that with Nikki and Paulo, but it was like, "Do we want to do that out of the gate, or do we want to see them in a couple of stories first, and then have the audience go, 'Who the f--k are these guys? I would've noticed them--they're spectacular looking. So what are they trying to pull on me here?'"
Every idea on "Lost" that excites us is one that starts out as a terrible idea that should be impossible to execute. Then we go, "All right, that's worth doing because the degree of difficulty is so high." I think great episodes of "Lost" are separated by very little from the terrible episodes of "Lost." But the thing that they all have in common is that we were trying to execute a very difficult dive. Anyone can jump off of a diving board and land in the water, but not everyone can do a triple back flip and go in without a splash. For me, the only reason to do the show is to attempt difficult dives. Otherwise it's not going to be interesting anymore.
What's up with the four-toed statue? Are we going to start seeing four-toed people running around anytime soon?
Well, I can't tell you that we're going to see four-toed people running around, but I can tell you that the statue does become a big part of the storytelling in much the same way that you have to wait for things on "Lost."
At the time that we showed the statue, it was a reminder to the audience that this island has been around a lot longer than the Dharma Initiative. At the end of Season One, we showed you the Black Rock, which is a 19th-century slaving vessel. At the very least, it's a very old ship. It basically says, "Oh, yes, this island has been here and people have been coming to this island much longer than the Dharma Initiative."
There is this incorrect way of thinking about the Others in that they are the remnants of the Dharma Initiative--the foot was sort of a not-so-subtle reminder that this island and its mystical aspects have been in play for many, many hundreds of years, as opposed to just 1980 when the Dharma Initiative started making their little orientation movies. The origins of the foot and the rest of the statue and all of those things will be revealed in time--probably not soon enough for a great majority of the fans, but at least it has activated their imaginations.
With the return of survivalist Locke--as opposed to button-pushing Locke--will his tormented side continue to come out from time to time the way it did when he was pushing the button?
Yeah. I think Locke is constantly tested. I mean, the reality is that his character archetype is that of a seeker. So he is seeking meaning for his place on the island and understanding as to why he's been given this gift from the island and what he's supposed to do. I think that what was interesting about that story the first time we did it was that he wanted purpose, and the island said, "Okay. Your purpose is to push this button every 108 minutes." And he became very angry at that being his purpose. It felt mundane to him. And he basically got punished for doubting the fact that that was his purpose. Not having pushed the button has basically…The characters don't really have any understanding quite yet of how momentous it was to not push the button. Other than the fact of the not-pushing of the button is what crashed Oceanic 815 in the first place and brought them all there, the idea that the sky turned purple and the island shook… Events in the finale last year catastrophically screwed them all in a way that they don't really appreciate yet.
Another loose end from the season finale of Season Two is what became of Michael and Walt.
It would be a massive and depressing cop-out to not see them again and to not fundamentally understand what happened to those characters. I would be loathe to say that we will never see Michael [Harold Perrineau] and Walt [Malcolm David Kelley] again, but in what context--whether they actually made it off of the island or any of those things--is all up for grabs. I would say that you'll not be seeing them again any time soon.
Which characters will we be seeing flashbacks from soon?
I will say that we will be getting a Desmond flashback in the near future, coming back from the break. And I will not be specific as to who, but we might be getting some flashbacks from the Others sooner rather than later. And there is definitely a Hurley [Jorge Garcia] flashback in the first batch of episodes.
You've said that there is a sort of five-season plan in place for "Lost." Are you guys still on track for that plan?
Did I say that?
I think you said it…
I think that's one of those things that has been attributed to me that no one has actually said. There have been sort of vague questions as to how much story we have or what the plan is, and I think that the only thing that I've ever said on the record is that if we were in a position to actually end the show on our own terms, that it would probably be at the end of four years. That would be the ultimate nexus point for the show. But unfortunately, it's completely moot whether it's four years or five years or seven years, because I don't own the show and [co-creator and executive producer] J.J. [Abrams] doesn't own the show and [executive producer] Carlton [Cuse] doesn't own the show - Touchstone and ABC own the show. And as long as it's a show that is popular and that people are watching, they'll never let us end it, which is sad and depressing.
I guess as far as problems go, that's not a bad one to have, that people love your show so much.
I know. That's right. But I feel for the fans that are desperately waiting for the big answers. The reality is that there is an inherent catch-22 there, which is "Who killed Laura Palmer?" Once you give up who killed Laura Palmer, why watch "Twin Peaks"? Once Dave and Maddy kiss, why watch "Moonlighting"? So I feel like once we give up those big answers, the really compelling reason to watch "Lost" will be over and done with. I would really like to answer those questions because I think that the answers are very cool.