After three years and countless viewer questions, the executive producers of "Lost" have promised fans what they want most from the May 23 season finale: answers.
"We sort of see each season as a book, and we're going to be concluding this book of 'Lost,'" co-executive producer Carlton Cuse said during a break from editing the third season's final episode. "The finale promises a showdown between our guys and the Others, and we really deliver on that."
Not only does the May 23 episode wrap up the third season of "Lost," it also marks a turning point in the show's history. Earlier this month, ABC announced the Emmy and Golden Globe award winning drama would conclude in 2010.
Knowing exactly how much time they have left -- 48 episodes, to be exact -- Cuse and co-executive producer/co-creator Damon Lindelof said they can plot out twists and turns even the most seasoned viewers won't expect. That means more suspense for those at home -- and more fun for Cuse and Lindelof in the studio.
"It's utterly liberating for us. It allows us to sort of take our remaining mythology and plan it out with great specificity over the remaining 48 episodes," Cuse said.
Though fans may be more than halfway through the tale of a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a tropical island, some of the story's most basic elements are still in the shadows.
For starters, no one knows where they are: heaven, hell, a black hole or somewhere else altogether. Well, no one except perhaps for Cuse and Lindelof, who refuse to divulge any details. Fans shouldn't expect the producers to one day reveal the island's coordinates (imagine the tour groups that would flood the place by the boat load) but they can anticipate a conclusion to the epic.
"I think the audience can expect that we can finish our story," Cuse said.
"One of the big ongoing questions on 'Lost' is whether magic is really an element there, or is there a reasonable explanation for all these things. I think when you get to the end of the journey, that will be answered," Lindelof added.
How do Cuse and Lindelof balance providing answers with preserving mystery? In their time working together on "Lost," they have yet to find a formula. There's no ratio; there's no abacus.
"It's like a pendulum swinging back and forth. We sit down every morning and we really hash over that question. There is no perfect temperature to the porridge," Cuse said. "I think that basically the rule is that if Damon and I think something is cool, then it kind of works its way into the show and we just try to use our own gut as the litmus test."
"We are the arbiters of what stays and what goes and what course the show takes," Lindelof added. "But then the show itself sort of has a life of its own. A lot of what Carlton and I try to do is listen to what the show is telling us. The exciting part is when suddenly you realize, 'Hey, wait a second, we had this plan but now the show is rejecting it like an organ that doesn't fit.'"
Sometimes, shifts in the über "Lost" story come from fans themselves. So, all those fans blogging or posting any number of questions on the Web: The producers are listening.