Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LOST: Were They Making It Up All Along?

Well, hello there! After a too-long hiatus from this blog (two and a half months! Sheesh...) I just read something so fantastic I had to share it here and urge all of you Lost fans to read it, too. Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who was one of the writers on Lost during the first two seasons of the show, this essay was devised in response to the same question he's been answering for a decade: were you making it up all along, or did you actually know where the show was going?

Anyone associated with the show, even peripherally, has had to answer this question. It's the #1 question I'm asked all the time: Do you think they actually knew where the show was going, or were they making it up as they went? I've answered it in a hundred different ways:

  • Does it matter? Lost was a show about the journey through life, not what happens at the end of it. 
  • They must have known where they were going to a certain extent, since certain things in the beginning of the series were brought full circle in the finale. 
  • Have you ever actually spoken to a novelist? Most of them don't know where they're going when they put pen to paper at the beginning of a book.
  • I believe they had the seeds of the show, but then just let the characters and story lines carry it, while keeping true to a few essential elements. 


I couldn't imagine how annoying it would be to actually work on the show and have those questions asked; after all, where I can just speculate based on my experience watching the series, these people actually know the answers and therefore will have them pulled out of them like a pair of pliers extracts a tooth in a dentist's office. 

And so, Grillo-Marxuach wrote this amazing piece. In it he not only reveals the details of a pitch meeting back in February 2004 — eight months before the show premiered — where they knew there was a secret organization on the island, and polar bears (complete with explanations for them), and a hatch, and that the island was about the war between good and evil, etc., but he talks about the experience of being in that room. Of the difficulties Damon Lindelof underwent as a young show runner suddenly thrown into the position of having to run the biggest show on the network. Of the tensions when one of the writers would get fired and he'd watch his friends leave, one by one. Of what it felt like being the last writer standing from season 1. Of what it was like when they had a story almost put together and then Damon would rush into the room with something that had come to him in the middle of the night and change the episode from good to brilliant. 

Of the fact that the wheelchair was an 11th hour addition to "Walkabout," and that writer David Fury actually argued against Damon's idea and said it wouldn't work. 

He talks about how Damon momentarily left the show partway through the first season, and still wasn't sure until he returned to discover what the writers had come up with for one of his favourite characters:

However, when Damon Lindelof heard the beats to a story in which Hurley was revealed to be an amateur hypnotist who would use his abilities to pry to the location of the kidnapped Claire from the now-amnesiac Charlie, his pride of ownership came roaring back with bull force.
If ever there was a moment when I knew that there was no way Damon Lindelof would ever leave Lost again it was when he told us what he thought of that idea.

This is essential reading for Lost fans. I'll warn you: it'll take a while to get through it. But it's absolutely worth it. And if anyone is still asking whether they knew where they were going by the end of this article, then it's pretty clear that person had already answered the question for himself in the first place. Go here to read the entire article.