Stephen King has some burning questions for the masterminds behind ”Lost” — The master of horror wonders about what Locke saw in season 1, the polar bear, and more

kingcolumnI recently had the pleasure of a most excellent roundtable discussion with the exec producers of Lost (J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse) and EW’s redoubtable Lost guru, Doc Jensen. You’ll read all about it in an upcoming issue, but a highlight for me occurred when I happened to run into Abrams in the hall on the way to the bathroom, where sooner or later all men must go. ”Listen,” he said with a smile that was only slightly anxious, ”we’re not being indiscreet, are we?” I told him I thought we were being perfectly discreet (and regarding most season 3 plot twists, the Lost boys’ lips were all but time-locked), but even if we weren’t…what the hell, we were having a pretty good time, weren’t we?

Actually, I was having a hell of a good time. Writers rarely get a chance to sit around and shoot the bull about what they do, outside of creative-writing seminars and the occasional convention, where you have 2,000 fans staring at you (and waving things for you to sign). This was a rare opportunity to relax and do just that. What was particularly gratifying — to me and, I’d venture, to viewers who want Lost to continue to excel — was to find that Abrams, Lindelof, and Cuse are your basic intuition fliers, mostly disdaining instruments; they favor the old seat-of-the-pants method when it comes to getting home.

This doesn’t mean that they don’t know where they’re going. I sort of think they do. They’re letting it come to them a little at a time, though, and that’s what keeps Lost fresh. If you didn’t see Libby’s death coming, join the club. Neither did I. Because, I’d argue, neither did they.

My fondest wish — stated in an earlier column — is that Lost would come to an honorable conclusion rather than jump the shark and be allowed to drown in full view of millions. The Lost producers reminded me — gently — that sometimes TV networks don’t play fair, and that success can lead to a Hobson’s choice: Walk away and let others, who may be creative hacks, take over your baby, or do the best you can to see it through yourself. Without giving anything away, I’ll just tell you that there are contingency plans for keeping Lost creatively viable, and I can only hope they work out, because…well, gentle reader, television in these days of shrinking viewership isn’t the loveliest business. It may look like a showroom in the fall, when the new series make their bows, but the successful ones eventually get cooked mercilessly all the way down to the bare bones. Current (and unfortunate) case in point: The Sopranos.

Showrooms out front; glue factories in back, where the last sad remnants get spat out. We’ll hope that won’t happen to this show, because it deserves so much better. In the meantime, the journey continues, and the joy is in the journey. I, for one, can’t wait to get going again, and get some answers to questions like these:

What exactly did Locke see early in season 1? He told Jack it was ”the eye of this island, and what I saw was beautiful.” But we don’t know what that something was.

What’s up with that polar bear? I want to know where it came from, what it was doing there, and if there are more of them. I’d also like to know what, if anything, it had to do with the Spanish-language comic book Walt was reading.

What was the smoke ghost that Charlie and Mr. Eko saw? That, it seems to me, is the key question concerning the island’s ”deep mystery.” (The Others are what I’d call a ”surface mystery,” also known to those of us in the writing trade as ”a distraction.”) Mr. Eko is religious — and a visionary — so it might be that the boiling black thing doesn’t exist at all. If it does, it’s either a supernatural manifestation — in which case, these people are in very deep guano — or it’s a technological fiddle. If it’s a fiddle, then I’d have to guess that the crash survivors aren’t really survivors at all, but human rats being tested in some sort of cruel experiment. I must say I like this idea, and would like it even more if it turned out that those doing the testing were extraterrestrials. It wouldn’t be the Universal Solution so many Lost-aholics are looking for, but it would answer many questions, and in a satisfyingly Spielbergian way.

Your Uncle Stevie likes that smoke thing. It appeals to his darker nature.

Will the survivors descend into savagery? I doubt if the network Grand High Pooh-bahs would enjoy this sort of twist — it ain’t very uplifting — but I think all-out war against the Others would be elementally satisfying (think the ultimate Survivor) and would also reflect the world as it is in these uneasy and intermittently savage times.

And last…but hardly least…

Can you please get rid of the great big statue with the great big foot? My heart sank when I saw that thing at the end of season 2; I thought, ”Oh God, now someone’s gonna say ‘The drums have stopped, it’s too quiet.”’

Please, guys — we’ve got the creepy research project (the Dharma Initiative), the creepy Other with the bulging eyes (Henry Gale), the creepy ship beached in the jungle, the black smoke, the numbers, the computer…do we need a great big statue with a great big foot on top of all that? I guess I have one more question after all:

Can’t Charlie find ”Made in India” stamped on one of the toes?

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