Predictably, the "Lost: Season 4" panel on Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego left the thousands of fans that packed the cavernous Ballroom 20 with more questions than answers. As the premiere of season four is still seven months away, writers/executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof gave few hints as to the mysteries of the show, fewer even than in previous years at Comic-Con.
Throughout the panel, the two used bells to keep each other from saying too much and "demystifying" the show. "Carlton and I, we're drunk, first off, and in that state we tend to go on and on and say too much," Lindelof said.
Cuse added, "So, if either of us feels that the other is saying too much he can ring the other person out."
And ring they did. What little information they did give was to confirm that certain mysteries would indeed be solved eventually, but when and how remained for the most part, a mystery.
The panel began with a trailer for the "Lost" video game showing several characters including Locke, Sawyer, and Jack. Developed by Montreal-based Ubisoft for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the game will be released in February of 2008.
"You'll see a lot of cool stuff in the game that you haven't seen in the show," Lindelof said.
Cuse added, "The developers didn't just overlay the 'Lost' world on to some other game, they spent a lot of time coming up with really cool concepts, designs, levels and layers." The game will also feature a flashback element, a feature of the show that Lindelof said will become less prominent as the show progresses.
"One of the things that we wanted to do since the very end of season one... is the flash forward," Lindelof confirmed. The third season finale ended with the revelation that Jack and Kate had somehow gotten off the island and that we had been seeing "flash-forwards" throughout the episode, not flashbacks. The panel also announced that in the new season, the show will feature both flashbacks and flash-forwards. "The operative question is how forward and with whom. But if you continue to watch the show you will be pleasantly surprised," Lindelof said.
The creators felt they had to wait to introduce the flash-forward until they knew they would be allowed to end the series, and when. It was announced in May that ABC would air three more seasons of 16 episodes each, beginning in February 2008.
"Previously, the storytelling of the show had taken place in the present and had gone into the past," Cuse explained. "We always wanted to introduce this notion of the future. Now with an end date we have the certainty to allow ourselves to do that. Once we knew, OK we're down to 48 episodes, we thought, now we can put it out there."
Lindelof also clarified the end of the Season 3 finale. "We want to communicate that what you saw with Kate and Jack was not the end of the show, as has been suggested. The show has never really been about getting off the island. There's this whole chapter of our story that takes place off the island but we couldn't start telling it until we told the audience that the show is going to end. If you had seen the Kate and Jack scene and it was just another episode, as opposed to one less episode, I think you would have thrown up your hands and said, 'They are fucking stalling again!' But because we're really moving towards the end now, we felt we owed it to the audience to do something radical and say to everybody, 'Come with us all the way to the end, it won't be a waste of time.' And ABC let us do it, which is cool."
Another big revelation this season was that Jack and Claire are half-siblings, sharing the same father. When a member of the audience asked if the two would become aware of this connection in Season 4, Cuse immediately rang his bell. Lindelof, however, in a surprising moment of divulgence, vigorously nodded his head "yes."
One audience member believed the last season was more violent than in previous years and wondered why this was. Cuse answered, "We wanted to make this season tell a complete story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story of the season was the story of the Others. We had to resolve the conflict that the Others brought to our guys. We wanted it to be a final summation, and that involves a body count."
"I would actually argue that were you to go back and look at season one, you would find more acts of violence that our guys committed on each other than violence that the Others committed on them," Lindelof added. "But our guys are just a lot prettier. So, when Sawyer is like, punching you in the face, you're like 'More, please. You're just so attractive. Do you want to take your shirt off while the beating continues?' But when Pickett or Friendly is beating you up it's like, 'Oh this is brutal violence!' So, we promise that as the show moves forward if the violence stays intense it will only be perpetrated by catastrophically good-looking people."
Two people asked questions about Harold Perrineau's character Michael, who sailed away from the island with his son, Walt in Season 2. "We will tell you everything you want to know about Michael," Lindelof said. A bell rang from off-stage, and Perrineau walked out.
"Man, I've missed you all!" he shouted to the screaming audience.
The news that Perrineau will be returning to "Lost" was meant to be announced at Comic-Con. The day before, however, an ABC executive had let slip at the Television Critics Association meeting that the actor would be returning. Lindelof explained that Perrineau is the "first and only actor who has left the show and is part of a grander design to come back. It was excruciating for us to keep our mouths shut for a season," he said. "But '28 Weeks Later' kind of kicked ass, so at least we got that."
"Michael's story is one of the most compelling for us because he undertook some very extreme actions to get his son off the island," Cuse continued. "When he sailed off on that boat, everyone was very curious about what happened to him. In a series that deals a lot with the power of the island to be redemptive and what our characters have to do in order to be redeemed, we feel that Michael's story will be a really compelling part of the season."
Lindelof added that Perrineau is rejoining the cast, not just coming back in flashbacks. "We're not going to tell you when, but it is going to be early in the fourth season and I think the way we're doing it will be fairly awesome," he said.
Though the Comic-Con program book indicated that Cuse and Lindelof would spotlight bonus features from the Season 3 DVD, all that was said was that it would be released December 11.
Also in the works are "mobisodes" for Verizon. These will be short clips featuring the stars of the show that fans will first be able to access on their cell phones. "We're hoping to get them done and out this fall. They might be the next you'll see in terms of original content on 'Lost,'" Cuse said.
"We want to do stuff that is exclusive for hardcore fans of the show," Lindelof added. "One of the awesome benefits of doing just sixteen episodes a year is that we will be able to refocus our time and energy into creating separate media like the video game, mobisodes, another 'Lost Experience,' and we have some book ideas to tie in with the show."
"The Lost Experience" was an online game created by the makers of "Lost" and designed to expand on the show's storyline between seasons. There was no "Lost Experience" this year, however Lindelof told the crowd, "That doesn't mean that we won't do another one between other seasons of the show."
In addition to Michael, other characters who viewers will learn more about include Libby, Rousseau, and possibly the Monster. It has been suggested online that Libby, whom Michael murdered in the second season, may have worked for the Dharma Initiative. "It is our intention to get to Libby's story this year," Lindelof said, adding, "and you're not far off with some of your online speculations."
"We would like to do Rousseau's flashback story. We're not sure if it will be this year or next year. There are important things revealed in her story that have to sync up with something else...." Lindelof said, before Cuse interrupted him with his bell.
Finally, Lindelof said that "what the Monster is, who made it, if anyone did, and what motivates it to do the things it does will hopefully be definitively answered," though whether he meant in the upcoming season or in subsequent seasons was unclear.
"Ultimately, some things about the world of 'Lost' will remain mysteries," Cuse said. "That's the nature of life and the nature of the world that we live in and the world that we have created on the show. So I can't imagine that when we come to the conclusion, every question and every mystery will satisfyingly be answered. Some mysteries are OK. But obviously we will be getting satisfying endings. It's not going to be ten seconds of blank tape."
The panel wrapped up with a short clip of a Dharma Initiative orientation video that the producers said was "discovered in a vault in Norwick, Norway." In the clip, a scientist who identified himself as Dr. Edgar Hallowax held up a large white rabbit with the number 15 on it and said that Station 6, or the "Orchid" is not a botanical research station, as previously stated. The footage was choppy and at one point a frame appeared that read, "God loves you as he loved Jacob." Suddenly a second rabbit appeared, panic ensued, and the video started over.
Now discuss this story in CBR's TV/Film forum.