Unless you’re one of the proud and stubborn few who are willing to defend it (we should probably form a club and have hats made, or something), the ending of Lost bummed you out. As it turns out, having every character enter a magical happy church and disappear in a feel-good gauze of light is a great way to royally piss off a large portion of your viewing audience, who apparently hadn’t been watching the last season all that closely, if they were genuinely shocked by the choice. Regardless, discussions over the finale rarely spend much time on the other key element of it: Namely, the knock-down drag-out fight between Jack and the Man in Black, as embodied by John Locke (Terry O’Quinn). Turns out, if the showrunners had their way, that final showdown would have been a much more ambitious undertaking, and not just because it involved flying magma.
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen, executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof explain the original intent was for the Jack/Man In Black confrontation to happen on an erupting volcano. The idea had been developed for years, and groundwork for the possibility had already been laid on the show years before. You’d be forgiven for not remembering, though, because it was in season three, a.k.a. “The season that mostly sucks because the writers didn’t yet know if they’d be allowed to end the series on their own timetable.” As a result, a scene that takes places in a Dharma classroom, outlining the potential for volcanic activity, is largely forgotten, not least because the show never returned to it, especially as it became clear producers from the network weren’t going to spring for the cost of doing it right.
Cuse came up with the idea of using the actual volcano on Hawaii (where the series was filmed) in some way while traveling there with his family. And by season six, after the writers figured out the main conceit (the island was a cork of sorts, keeping all the bad energy and evil dark matter from entering the world), they realized it would be the perfect representation for such an allegory. “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?” Lindelof says. “And the answer was the volcano.”
Hence staging the fight on Hawaii’s volcano. “We were going to have lots of seismic activity,” Cuse explains, “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!” Unfortunately, ABC soon decided against paying for the sequence, saying it couldn’t afford transportation for all the cast and crew, not to mention re-situating the production. (Apparently, the cost of building the temple set in season six also played a factor, which is unfortunate, given the temple resembled a high school theater’s production of The Mummy Returns.) So viewers lost the chance to potentially watch Jack get burned alive by magma, something probably a few viewers would have cheered.
Still, Lindelof says, it may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “The other thing that happened 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.” At least Lindelof and Cuse have the comfort of knowing their dialogue was way, way better.