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