Thanks to Francesca for the heads up on this nice little article from the Chicago Tribune.
Anyhoo, here are some of the more spoilerly snippets.
Is it hard to write for both the hardcore fans of mythology, of the Dharma Initiative and all that stuff, and to also write for the people who tune in maybe a half dozen times a season? I can’t get enough of the ’70s Dharma stuff, and so of course I want to know, will we be getting more of that in Season 5?
Cuse: It’s always a case of, “The porridge is either too hot or too cold” [for various fan groups]. We have learned over time that it is impossible to strike the perfect balance between satisfying the mythology fans and satisfying the character fans. So our solution in the season premiere is to provide heavy doses of both.
For the mythology fans, they will hopefully engaged by the fact that we are overtly discussing the time thing. And for the character fans, Sawyer’s got his shirt off for the whole first hour.
And God bless you for that.
Lindelof: You know, when I was a latchkey kid and had to fix my own dinner, I would eat these [Hungry Man dinners]. I would buy a baked fish dinner because it had a cherry pie. I never ate the fish, I would just eat the cherry pie.
The point being, as long as there is cherry pie in an episode of “Lost,” for everyone who watches it, they will sit through the entire dinner. They may not touch their entree, but if there’s a little bit of Marvin Candle, they’ll sit through anything. For some people, their cherry pie is the mythology, and for some people, their cherry pie is the romance story, for some people their cherry pie is Hurley. You just make sure that there is always something for everyone.
That speaks to the alchemy of the [writers] room, a few of the writers are really interested in the mythology of the island, and all they want to talk about is when the monster is going to show up again. Some of the writers don’t give a [darn] why Marvin Candle has five different names, all they want to know is, “Is Kate going to choose Sawyer or Jack?” So we have a small polling ground for the audience at large.
Lindelof: The why of it all is always the hardest mystery to deal with on the show. If you were to say, “Locke tells them, ‘Hey, this is all happening for a reason,’” and then you’d say, “Well, what is that reason? Why were all those people on that plane?” Obviously that stuff is coming downstream. Probably much of it will be hinted at in Season 5, but why these people, why this time, why this place, why that plane? It’s Season 6 territory.
In terms of the very specific rules of — in order to get back to the island, why do they need to bring back as many people who left the island as possible? There will be some further explanation of that stuff sooner rather than later from a source outside our characters speculating.
We’re told that bad things happen once the Oceanic 6 left the island. When will you get into that? Is that also Season 6 territory?
Cuse: Part of it unfolds this season, part of it unfolds next season. But obviously the fact that the island was moved by Ben sets in motion a chain of events, and that chain of events has very dramatic consequences. That’s really a very important question for the people who were left behind on the island — what the hell is going on here and what are the consequences of the island being moved. What does it mean for us?
We were talking before about keeping the show on a character level, that’s really what it comes down to. Yeah, [a particular thing is happening this season; see note below], but what are the consequences of that for them in terms of their survival, in terms of their relationships, in terms of whatever their ultimate destiny with the island is? Those are the pertinent questions.
[Note: Part of this paragraph has been taken out; it referred to a plot point in the season premiere. The entire text of the paragraph will be posted after the Season 5 premiere airs.]
Ben says something in the Season 4 finale about not being able to return to the island once he’s moved it. Is there also a catch for the Oceanic 6, in that they won’t be able to go back to the regular world if they go to the island? They’ll have to stay there?
Lindelof: That’s certainly a question that we should be asking. When Ben says that whoever turns the wheel is never allowed to return to the island, is that a rule or is it a law? Those are two entirely different things. One would basically say, it would be impossible for him to get back to the island, no matter how hard he tried. The other would say that he could get back to the island, but if he did, he would be punished for it. So that’s going to unfold over the course of the season, based on whether or not Ben is successful in getting back himself.
The season seems to be structured around the Oceanic 6 getting back to the island. Is that something that doesn’t happen until the end of the season? Or is it mid-way? When do the Oceanic 6 and the island people meet up again?
Cuse: We wouldn’t want to say exactly, but we will say that we feel it would be very frustrating for the audience to have to wait until the end of the season for that to happen. The audience will be, I think, somewhat surprised at the speed of our narrative storytelling. We’re not taking our foot off the pedal this year.
Would it be accurate to say, at this point, that there’s a struggle between a Ben Linus faction and a Charles Widmore faction for control of the island? Or is that too simplistic?
Lindelof: Based on everything you’ve seen up to this point, we know that Ben and Widmore don’t get along with each other and that Widmore wants to control the island and believes that Ben has taken the island away from him. You don’t understand the context of that. You don’t know what their past is or their relationship. So if you’re going to look at it as, there’s a Ben side and Widmore side, I’d say, “Well, then what side are the Oceanic 6 on? Our castaways — are they on their own side?”
Basically, the only two sides that matter in any grand, epic storytelling are good and evil. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? And for so long, Ben Linus has been identifying himself as a good guy, but we’ve been seeing him engage in behaviors that would lead us to believe that that is not entirely the truth. The only question that matters is, what is ultimately a force of good and what is ultimately a force of evil, and what side of it are our characters going to end up on? Will some go one way and some go the other?
The people who Locke is now leading, the Others, they are kind of the wild card in this mix. Are we going to get more into him, into the Others this season? I’m intrigued by the whole Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell) thing, I was glad to read that Carbonell is going to be in nine episodes this season.
Cuse: Yeah, he’s on the show a lot. We have all these characters that are in play — Alpert, Widmore, Ben, Locke. What you don’t really understand is, what is their inter-relationship to each other? You’ll learn a lot more about that stuff this year.
I just wanted to ask you a lightning round of quick questions, if I could, about various characters this season. Pierre Chang/Marvin Candle — is he around this season?
Lindelof: All we’re willing to say is that [he does appear this season; see note below].
[Note: Part of this paragraph has been taken out; the full text of this answer will be posted after the season premiere airs.]
Charles Widmore — Is he more of a force this year?
Cuse: Widmore is very much a part of the show this year. Obviously there was a very intriguing scene in last year’s finale, with him and Sun, and what that means, and what their relationships is, and how Widmore figures is something that we’re exploring. I think the audience isn’t fully invested in exactly who Charles Widmore is, but as they are, I think they will find him increasingly intriguing. He is very important to this season.
Jin? I’ve read that Daniel Dae-Kim will be back this year, but is he an ongoing presence on the island, or will he just be back here and there?
Lindelof: All we can say is, Daniel is still a series regular on the show, but Jin is not on the Season 5 poster. Sort of extrapolate what you will from that. Whether or not Jin is alive or dead does not preclude him from being on the show.
Faraday Can you talk at all about new characters coming on the show, when we might meet them — if they’re major presences or just coming in for a few episodes here and there? And by the way, I think the casting of the people we met last season — Faraday, Miles, Charlotte, Lapidus — I thought they were great additions to the show.
Cuse: We don’t really want to say anything about who’s coming on the show, but we will say that we never really got our chance to finish the freighter storytelling last year. There’s a lot more to be learned about those guys.
And I think that right up front, you’re going to really have a good dose of [information about] the science team that was on the freighter. Particularly Faraday is someone who really steps to the front of the show, he’s really intriguing and we learn a lot more about him. That was the one thing that, based on the strike, we really didn’t get a chance to do. We’ve made up for that this year.
Lindelof: One of the byproducts of moving toward an end point is that we do not need to constantly introduce new characters into the mix of the show to keep it fresh and entertaining. Especially when there are so many questions about Alpert or about Miles or about Charlotte or Faraday or Lapidus. There’s still so much storytelling to do with those guys.
And what happened to Desmond and Penny over the course of the three years between the Oceanic 6’s rescue and where we are now? We’ve got our hands full without needing to go shopping for new toys.
One of my favorite questions I ever heard at Comic-Con was something a fan asked you guys there two years ago, so I’m going to steal it. What question haven’t I asked you that I should have asked you?
Cuse: The question is probably, “Are you going to end the show where [fans will then go have to watch a theatrical movie to see the ending”]? The answer is no. We’re not ending it by going to black or saying it was in a snow globe. We’re ending it in a way we feel is definitive.
Speaking of that, how much of Season 6 is mapped out? I’m assuming it’s not set in stone, but are all the pieces laid out?
Lindelof: I think we have all these puzzle pieces for Season 5 and Season 6, and they’re two separate puzzles because they’re two different seasons. But all the pieces were mixed together. It’s sometimes time-consuming to take a piece and say, “Which season does this fit in better?” And some stuff is definitely in Season 6 because it’s end-of-show stuff.
We have to walk that line between giving the audience enough information so that they don’t get confused, and put off, and giving them too much information, so they’re not like, “Well, you gave me everything I care about in Season 5. So why watch Season 6?”
One thing we all decided was, the biggest mistake we could make in Season 5 would be to hold back or slow down or go back to a stalling modality. We’ve basically been feeding the audience crystal meth for a year, to cut them off cold turkey and give them a pack of chewing gum and say, “We’ll give you more crystal meth in Season 6,” would have been a disaster. When you piss off a junkie, they will do almost anything to get their drug.