Leaked document reveals that “Lost” was not planned to be the show it actually became

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September 21, 2013 by Hope W.

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Lost may be one of the most polarising shows in television history, but it is personally one of my favourite shows of all time, and the one that got me into following serialised American dramas on a regular basis. That said, this leaked document from yesterday about the initial ideas that J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof pitched to ABC is going to renew all the debate between supporters and haters about whether the creators were making it up as they went along.

It’s laughable that they wrote that it would be self-contained, like a procedural drama with a “case of the week” that is resolved at the end of each episode, when we all know how it turned out. They did keep some of it — the first two seasons especially did roughly follow the “island drama of the week” format (re: the water crisis when all the water bottles went missing, which they later found out that Boone stole, and Jack telling the survivors for the first time “Live together, die alone”; the cave-in which Jack and Charlie got trapped in, and the survivors had to dig them out; Shannon’s lost inhalers and Sayid torturing Sawyer to get him to talk etc.) But it all eventually became a much larger thing, starting from when they had Ethan kidnap Claire and she was missing for a few episodes.

This makes me wonder: were J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof duping the network so that they would pick up the show, or did they genuinely have no idea where they were going beyond the mysteries of the pilot episode? According to Damon Lindelof, the answer is the former; but this means that even back then, the idea for Jacob and the Man in Black was already in existence, since the Man in Black was revealed to be the smoke monster seen in the pilot. Except that Jacob wasn’t even mentioned until season three, and the Man in Black in the last episode of season five. Even the “Adam and Eve” skeletons that they found in the cave in episode six of season one — a mystery they didn’t solve until the third last episode of the final season — did they always plan for it to be the Man in Black and his “mother”, or was it a throwaway mystery that they forgot about and decided to resolve hastily when they realised that in the last season?

But then again, it is impossible to know how the next six years would go within three months of making a pilot (see e.g. Ben Linus whose guest character arc was changed to a permanent spot on the show). So we can’t fault them for throwing out some of their ideas (though what they did is more like ignoring that this document ever existed and writing a completely new show). And the direction they went made it a much better show than this document promised. If there is one thing that this outline teaches, it’s how to successfully pitch a show to a network. Some of the ideas they proposed were rather interesting, though they never came to fruition, like Boone being a schizophrenic, Shannon falling in love with Sawyer, mysterious hatching cocoons after a 48-hour eclipse…

On the same topic: one thing that has bugged me as a Lost fan since the finale is why people — not those who hated it from the start, or gave up watching it in the middle, but those who watched and followed the show all the way to the end — hated the Lost finale. The writers basically tied everything up neatly (sort of) and gave our characters a reunion and sent them all off into the afterlife together! What else do people want?

Yes, some mysteries (like who built the giant statue) were left unsolved, and the show’s mythology was weak at times; but what would you expect of a show whose story threads are so convoluted that I’m amazed they figured out a way to tell it at all?

And if they threw in one too many literary and cultural references which ultimately didn’t really mean anything… well, there is this TV critic at Entertainment Weekly called Jeff Jansen who recapped every episode in minute detail, picking out things that no one else would have noticed unless they freeze-framed the entire thing to analyse every shot, and then extrapolated and theorised wildly about what he found. Most of his theories came to naught. But he and his readers derived much intellectual fun from it.

For people who complained that the island turned out to be purgatory after all (and strangely, there were many of them), despite the creators saying that it wasn’t, all I can say is: did they actually watch the final episode? At most, AFTER the characters died on the island or died back in the real world long after they left the island, they entered some sort of “in-between life” so that they could find each other again and go into the afterlife together. This is what Jack’s father explained at the very end to Jack, but I suppose that the detractors were just caught up in the fact that… actually, I still have no idea why they were so unsatisfied, so I don’t know why they misheard him/weren’t paying attention in the first place.

(Yeah, so Jacob’s explanation about the island being a “cork” of some sort bottling up all the evil in the world is rather iffy, but there are some things that you just have to go “Whatever”, and focus instead on the characters you love, going off into the afterlife together.)

And Jack setting off the nuke at the end of season five did not spawn the “alternate” timeline — it just brought them back to the present day (remember they were stuck in 1977 in season five?) The producers used the term “flash-sideways” to describe the storytelling method they used in season six, but it was just a “flash-so-far-forward-into-the-afterlife”, except they couldn’t possibly give that away.

The only reason why people would hate the Lost finale with such fervour is if they never cared about the characters at all, and were only intrigued in the show because of the mysteries. In which… well, I can’t help you to care about people, so maybe you can search for websites that give you the answers you desperately seek instead.

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