ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When and how did you and Damon start fleshing out the finale?
CARLTON CUSE: There was this grand plan that we had — the idea that the show would start with Jack’s eye opening and it would end with Jack’s eyes closing, which meant that Jack [Matthew Fox] had to die. That was a hugely significant choice because we couldn’t think of a finale of a show that we’d seen where the main character had died. I think that idea went all the way back to Damon writing the pilot. That was right in the DNA from the very beginning… And then pretty early on, we started talking about, “Someone has to end up in charge of the island,” and we’d debated back and forth who that might be before deciding that inevitably and perfectly it was Hurley (Jorge Garcia). The finale is like a hedge. You plant it, but then over time it grows bigger and thicker, and as we went down the stream with the show, we kept getting additional ideas. While some of the basic ideas remained from early on, it was made much richer just by going through the creative process of making the 119 episodes that preceded it.
Can you pinpoint when you locked in the story points for the finale?
It’s hard to say because there was a lot of debate and discussion. I don’t think anything was locked in on our show until we wrote it. (laughs) There were three phases of planning. There was the grand plan that we had, with things from the beginning like Jack’s eye going to close, and we’re going to get people off the island before the end of the show. There was larger operative principles. Then there were seasonal discussions that we’d have these writers mini-camps for where we would discuss the architecture of each upcoming season. But then as we wrote each episode, we left ourselves plenty of room for discovery, invention, to change our minds. So when we sat down to write the finale, it wasn’t like, “Oh, we’ve now come to an episode that we know exactly what it is going to be in every scene, in every shape, and in every form.” Damon and I and the other writers approached it like we did other episodes, where we gave ourselves room to make creative discoveries as we were writing it. We obviously had a lot of conversations about where we were going to land or what the ending was going to encapsulate, but it wasn’t written until it was written.