Life gets harder for ''Lost'' souls in Fall '05. Romantic triangles, creepy ''others,'' and that maddening hatch -- will viewers finally get some answers

By Jennifer Armstrong
September 02, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

SPOILER ALERT! This story contains plot details about Lost‘s upcoming season.

You head to the Hawaii set of ABC’s Lost rather smug that you will get the answers to all those questions that have been plaguing you (and millions of others) since last season’s hatch-opening, raft-exploding, Walt-stealing finale. You will make a vow of secrecy, if you must, to be able to see and hear things that allow you to assemble certain pieces of the puzzle. You will interrogate the island gods — a.k.a. producers Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Jack Bender, and Bryan Burk — for hints to fill the vast emptiness that has lingered since last May.

In reality, however, you will come away feeling more mystified than ever. Desperate for signs, you will start reading meaning into everything. You will watch the cast shoot seemingly innocuous scenes in the cave (actually a set in a Honolulu warehouse), and you will fixate on anything that might offer a hint: Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) looks out into the distance and says, ”They’re back.” (Who‘s back?) Jack (Matthew Fox) mentions the mysterious hatch he and Locke (Terry O’Quinn) blew open and says, ”We’re not all gonna fit in there.” (Why? What’s in that thing already?) Bender, who’s directing this episode, delivers instructions to extras that sound like a fortune-cookie truism: ”You guys only know what you know. And what you don’t know is a surprise.” (So they do know something! What in God’s name could it be???)

Yes, any request for information — be it from the cast, the producers, even one of the producers’ parents — will be met, most times, with shrugs, silence, mocking laughter, maddening hints…and precious few direct answers. And then you’ll realize that it doesn’t matter — no matter how little you know, you will still yearn to see the second-season premiere as much as a washed-up rock star/heroin addict yearns to get back to that drug stash he found in an abandoned plane on the crazy island where he’s stranded. Which is to say, a lot.

Perhaps the biggest Lost question of all is whether its phenomenal hot streak can last. Last season, the freshman drama seemed to have all the markings of a small cult hit (a sprawling cast, mind-boggling mythology, copious love from critics), yet it managed to hook a big cult of viewers, 16 million per week. It earned 12 Emmy nominations — including Outstanding Drama Series and Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for O’Quinn and Naveen Andrews — and prompted other networks to launch a host of new sci-fi series this fall. ”We were aiming for that Alias-type audience,” says Lindelof, who created Lost with J.J. Abrams, the mastermind behind the Jennifer Garner series. ”We knew it was a little bit weird. It has a huge cast, it’s serialized, and it requires the audience’s attention. It’s everything procedural crime dramas aren’t.”

But with success come thousands (nay, millions!) of skeptical fans with questions that have dogged Lost since its inception, most importantly: Do the writers even have a master plan, or are they just making this stuff up as they go along? Even devoted viewers were frustrated with the season 1 finale, which didn’t provide as many answers as they had expected — in large part because of the final shot of the hatch, not into it. As Monaghan puts it, ”People were like, ‘Aw, that’s it? That’s all we get to see? A f—ing ladder?”

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