Warning, SPOILERS ahead. If you haven’t seen the season premiere of Lost yet, you might not want to continue past the jump yet. Lost fans who have now seen the premiere can read ahead for some explanation from Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. (Comments are likely to be full of spoilers also, you’ve been warned again.)
Once upon a time in Germany, a very smart and spiritual man tried to answer a very tricky and troubling question. In a world created by an allegedly benevolent and omnipotent God, why the heck is there suffering and evil? In the world of philosophy, this field of inquiry is called Theodicy, generally defined as an attempt to understand and justify the behavior of God. The genius German dude thought long and hard about this “problem of evil” question and came up with an answer that was unusually heady for the time. He said that despite the existence of evil, this world is actually “the best of all possible worlds,” as if our universe is the least offensive of countless alternatives, or even a pastiche comprised of pieces from the best parts of all. Wild.
Over the next 300 years, physicists, philosophers, and science fiction writers have blown out Gottfried Leibniz’s “possible worlds” concept in many different radical, challenging directions to serve all sorts of scientific and intellectual purposes, their various nuanced permutations producing a slough of different, seemingly synonymous yet not necessarily equal terms. Parallel worlds. Many worlds. Alternate realities. Mirror realities. Modal realities. Pocket universes. Bubble universes. And my favorite, “Island universes,” because it reminds me of a TV show I’m supposedly writing about, one that has referenced perhaps the foremost philosopher in this field, David Lewis.
Today, there are eggheads who believe that these “island universes” or whatnot are real — that they exist somewhere, as real and concrete as “our world,” inhabited by variations of ourselves. Naturally, this assertion has invited intense debate. Where are these worlds? Can we find them? If so, can we access them? Communicate with them? Visit them? Is there one “official world” and all the others of deviations? Did all these worlds pop into being at the same time, or do we continually create new worlds with every choice and non-choice? If so, do the other versions of you that exist across the multiverse of worlds create new worlds with their choices and non-choices, too? And who are these other “yous,” anyway? Are you separate, unique individuals? Do you share consciousness and/or a soul? Are you and your other yous destined to reach similar fates, played out through different events or circumstances? Are you and your other yous unique entities with unique destinies? Yes? No? Who knows? What does any of this Fringe-sounding s— have anything to do with Lost?!?!
Maybe everything. Maybe… nothing! Maybe something somewhere in the middle. What’s definitely for certain is this: If you’ve seen the season premiere of Lost (final SPOILER ALERT now!), you now know the hush-hush new storytelling device for the final season is this whole notion of parallel worlds. We were presented with two of them: one in which Oceanic 815 never crashed; and another that keeps continuity with the past five years of Lost having all the characters trapped in the Dharma Initiative past magically uploaded to the Island present of 2007 where the Jacob-Fake Locke-Ben drama is all going down. I’ll have a lot more to say on this tomorrow AM in my recap. But before then, I bring you news from two guys who you probably MOST want to hear from right now: Lost exec producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. My “Totally Lost” partner Dan Snierson and I sat down with them to talk about the year’s”flash-sideways” storytelling device. Jokes Damon Lindelof: “You [had] all these fundamental mysteries going into season 6. What’s the Monster? What’s the Island? Why is Richard Alpert not able to age? But here’s this new mystery. How dare they! How dare they present us with a new mystery at this late stage in the game!”
Fortunately, here are the producers to offer some assurance of answers and provide some helpful context for season 6.
EW: The whole idea of flash-sideways and the plan to use season 6 to show us a world where Oceanic 815 never crashed — how long has that been in the works? Why did you want to do it?
DAMON LINDELOF: It’s been in play for at least a couple of years. We knew that the ending of the time travel season was going to be an attempt to reboot. And as a result, we [knew] the audience was going to come out of the “do-over moment” thinking we were either going start over or just say it didn’t work and continue on. [We thought] wouldn’t it be great if we did both? That was the origin of the story.
CARLTON CUSE: We thought just doing one [of those options] would inherently not be satisfying. Since the very beginning of the show, characters started crossing through each other’s stories. Part of our desire [in season 6] is to show that there’s still this kind of weave, that these characters still would have impacted each other’s lives even without the event of crashing on the Island. Obviously, the big question of the season is going to be: How do these [two timelines] reconcile? However, for the fans who have not watched the show closely, that’s an intact narrative. You can just watch the flash sideways — they stand alone all by themselves. For the fans who are more deeply embedded in the show, you can watch those flash sideways, compare them to what transpired in the flashbacks and go, “Oh, that’s an interesting difference.”
LINDELOF: Right out of the gate, in the first five minutes of the premiere, you get hit over the head with two things that you’re not expecting. The first is that Desmond is on the plane. The second thing that we do is we drop out of the plane and we go below the water and we see that the Island is submerged. What we’re trying to do there is basically say to you, “God bless the survivors of Oceanic 815, because they’re so self-centered, they thought the only effect [of detonating the bomb] was going to be that their plane never crashes.” But they don’t stop to think, “If we do this in 1977, what else is going to affected by this?” So that their entire lives can be changed radically. In fact, it would appear that they’ve sunken the Island. That’s our way of saying, “Keep your eyes peeled for the differences that you’re not expecting.” Some of these characters were still in Australia, but some weren’t. Shannon’s not there. Boone actually says that he tried to get her back. There are all sorts of other people that we don’t see. Where’s Libby? Where’s Ana Lucia? Where’s Eko? These are all the things that you’re supposed to be thinking about. When our characters posited the “What if?” scenario, they neglected to think about what the other effects of potentially changing time might be and we’re embracing those things.
That said, are you saying definitively that detonating Jughead was the event that created this new timeline? Or is that a mystery which the season 6 story will reveal?
LINDELOF: It’s a mystery. A big one.
CUSE: We did have some concern that it might be confusing kind of going into the season. To clear that up a little bit: The archetypes of the characters are the same and that’s the most significant thing. Kate is still a fugitive. If you were to look at the Comic-Con video, for instance, that now comes into play. There was a different scenario in that story. She basically blew up an apprentice plumber as opposed to killing her biological father/stepfather. Those kind of differences exist, but who the characters fundamentally are is the same. If it becomes too confusing for you, you can just follow the flash sideways for what they are. It’s not as though there’s narrative that hangs on the fact that you need to know that this event was different in that world, in the flashback world versus the sideways world. That’s not critical for being able to process the narrative this season.
Is there a relationship between Island reality and sideways reality? Will they run parallel for the remainder of the season? Will they fuse together? Might one fade away?
LINDELOF: For us, the big risk that we’re taking in the final season of the show is basically this very question. [Lindelof then explains the show has replaced the trademark “whoosh!” sound effect marking the segue between Island present story and flashbacks or flash-forwards, thus calling conspicuous attention to the relationship between the Island world and the Sideways world.] This is the critical mystery of the season, which is, “What is the relationship between these two shows?” And we don’t use the phrase “alternate reality,” because to call one of them an “alternate reality” is to infer that one of them isn’t real, or one of them is real and the other is the alternate to being real.
CUSE: But the questions you’re asking are exactly the right questions. What are we to make of the fact that they’re showing us two different timelines? Are they going to resolve? Are they going to connect? Are they going to co-exist in parallel fashion? Are they going to cross? Do they intersect? Does one prove to be viable and the other one not? I think those are all the kind of speculations that are the right speculations to be having at this point in the season.
LINDELOF: But it is going to require patience. We’ve taught the audience how to be patient thus far, so while they’re getting a lot of mythological answers on the island early in the season, this idea of what is the relationship between the two [worlds] is a little bit more of a slow burn.
Did Jughead really sink the Island? And is it possible that the Sideways characters are now caught in a time loop in which they might have to go back in time and fulfill the obligation to continuity by detonating the bomb?
LINDELOF: These questions will be dealt with on the show. Should you infer that the detonation of Jughead is what sunk the island? Who knows? But there’s the Foot. What do you get when you see that shot? It looks like New Otherton got built. These little clues [might help you] extrapolate when the Island may have sunk. Start to think about it. A couple of episodes down the road, some of the characters might even discuss it. We will say this: season 6 is not about time travel. It’s about the implications, the aftermath, and the causality of trying to change the past. But the idea of continuing to do paradoxical storytelling is not what we’re interested in this year.
There you go. Some food for thought. Dan and I will have more Messrs. Cuse and Lindelof later this week at EW.com and in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on sale Friday. If you’ve made it this far into this post, stay tuned: There’s a monstrously epic recap coming your way tomorrow. Until then, please: Get talking! What did you love? What did you hate? What left you totally baffled? What theories do you have to explain it all? The floor is yours!
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Photo Credit: Mario Perez/ABC