Lost original ending

LOST has always been an exercise in “what could have been” — both in the story of the hit ABC show itself, and in the fans’ ultimate reaction to the show’s legacy. What could have been if the show had answered all our questions, if every bit of foreshadowing and world-building had paid off? If the ending was different?

Perhaps, as a show that attempted to tell a metaphysical story through a science-fiction lens, LOST would never have fully satisfied anyone — but it could have at least ended with a bang. At least, that was the original intention from showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who planned for an explosive finale involving a battle for the fate of the world on top of a volcano. But alas, it was not meant to be.

If you think that bringing a volcano in as the backdrop to Jack Shepard and the Man in Black’s showdown would be as out-of-nowhere as the mythology-building “Across the Sea” episode that aired two episodes before the finale, you’d be wrong. LOST‘s proverbial Mount Doom had shown up in the third season in a Dharma Initiative classroom, where drawings, images and even a model of it appeared. Eagle-eyed fans noticed and obsessively theorized about it, but when LOST never returned to it, they dropped it as a red herring.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the idea for the volcano came from Cuse’s visit to Hawaii with his family in the early years of the show, adding it to their mystical island’s landscape to flesh out the concept “of the island as a character on the show.” He didn’t have an idea of how the volcano would be used, however, so it ended up in their back pocket as “something we banked and thought we could use downstream.”

That was until Season 6 when the writers had decided on the concept of the Island as a mystical cork blocking the manifestation of evil from entering the rest of the world. Lindelof said:

“The question was always, how do you basically visualize and dramatize the idea that the island itself is all that separates the world from hellfire and damnation? And the answer was the volcano.”

Cuse and Lindelof envisioned the final brawl between Jack (Matthew Fox) and the Man in Black — now possessing John Locke’s body (Terry O’Quinn) — on top of this volcano, their physical manifestation of the cork to hell. Lindelof excitedly explained:

“The volcano had been dormant for the duration of the series, but based on moving into this endgame, the island had become unstable and the volcano was going to erupt. We were going to have lots of seismic activity, and ultimately, there was going to be this big fight between the forces of good and the forces of evil, which ended up in the series manifesting as Jack and The Man in Black, in the midst of magma. Magma spewing everywhere!”

The two of them planned to re-introduce the volcano in the mythological episode “Across the Sea,” in which the Island’s immortal protector, Jacob (Mark Pellegrino), throws The Man in Black (Titus Welliver) down the volcano after his unnamed brother killed their mother.

Lost Man Behind the Curtain Volcano

The volcano, and its fire and brimstone imagery, would have been the perfect capper to all the religious themes that LOST had so often brought up. It’s easy to see why seeing the Smoke Monster created in the fiery bowels of a hellish volcano would have been so effective, or why Jack’s brawl with Smokey — which ultimately ended up being filmed on the cliffs of Oahu — would have been the perfect depiction of the battle for good and evil. They’re fighting … at the mouth of hell!

But, LOST being a television series broadcast by a primetime network, they just didn’t have the money.

“ABC was like, ‘Guys, we love you, and we’re letting you end the show; we can’t let you bankrupt the network in the process,'” Lindelof said. The volcano became the cave of light, and the rest is history.

In the end, Lindelof and Cuse were happy with their decision to scrap the volcano. Lindelof says the producers came to believe that it would be better if some ideas about the Island remained metaphorical and interpreted, not explained. As one of the few fans of the ending of LOST, I agree, though I wouldn’t have objected to a volcano fist fight. But Lindelof has one last good reason for scrapping the volcano.

“The other thing that happened,” Lindelof added, “was that we remembered Revenge of the Sith, and that big epic battle between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the midst of a volcanic planet. We knew whatever we did was going to look Mickey Mouse next to it.”

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