One year ago, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof were plotting the beginning of Lost's last season. Today, the creative partners formerly known as ''Darlton'' have reunited in a Los Angeles restaurant to discuss how it all ended. It's been two months since the soulful sci-fi drama left fans either rapturously happy or hellaciously infuriated with a series finale thick with emotion, yet thin on definitive answers. Lindelof and Cuse are in good spirits: Just a few days earlier, Lost was the recipient of 12 Emmy nominations, including nods for Outstanding Drama Series and for the pair's script for ''The End.'' While Cuse is mulling his next career move, Lindelof is writing screenplays for Star Trek 2 and a prequel to Alien, and like many of their fans, both are still coming to terms with the exhilarating and confounding phenomenon that was Lost.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY The final season earned 12 Emmy nominations tying the most Lost has ever received for a single season and many of them were for the finale, including a writing nod for the two of you. That has to feel really affirming.
CARLTON CUSE It totally is. When Lost was over, we expected that there'd be some people who'd really like it and other people who wouldn't. The Emmy nominations are an indication to us that there were a fair number of people who did like the way we concluded our story.
DAMON LINDELOF Clearly the discussion about the quality of the season, if not the entire series, was dominated by this question of whether or not the finale was going to prove satisfying and one week after it aired, Emmy ballots went out. So we were really curious to see what was going to happen.
EW Lost has been a wild ride for you guys. Looking back, when were you the happiest?
LINDELOF There were two periods when I was happiest. The first was the second half of season 3 negotiating the end of the series, being able to do the flash-forward finale. Everything was just clicking creatively. The second period was the final two months working on the show. Which is very surprising to me. If you had asked me a year out, I would have predicted, ''I'm going to be miserable.''
CUSE We had a vision of what the end would look like. We knew that the final image would be Matthew's eye closing. We were both full of giddy amazement that this was actually happening.
EW Was Vincent snuggling up next to Jack always part of the vision of what the last scene of Lost would be too?
LINDELOF He'd been part of the picture as long as we talked about it. The whole idea was this: Jack was going to become mortally wounded, he was going to go somewhere to die, and we believed that place should be the place where the series started. Vincent was Jack's first contact in the pilot, so we believed he should be his last contact in the series. Having Jack also see the plane taking off and his friends escaping the Island was part of that too.
EW Kate, Claire, Sawyer, Richard, Miles, and Frank Lapidus were on the plane. Did you always know who was going to make it off the Island alive?
CUSE The lineup came naturally over time. The fun part of writing the show was the process of discovery, putting characters in situations and then learning along with the characters how they would react. So we had to wait and see how certain story lines played out; that helped determine who was going to get on that plane.
EW Which character was the most meaningful for you to write?
CUSE Certainly in the last season John Locke was incredibly engaging to write. To take this character who was so open and accessible in the flash-sideways [world], contrasted with the dark malevolence of the Smokey/Man in Black version of John Locke, was really fun. It was great to have an antagonist who was so driven and goal-oriented.
LINDELOF Sawyer was the best guy to write. Hands down. But clearly the series began with Jack, and it ended with Jack, so on a personal level, Jack is the guy who is most like me. I lost my dad very shortly before the writing of Lost started. I can have a bit of a problem in accepting responsibility in leadership and having faith in myself. But for that reason, he was probably the least fun to write, too.
CUSE The theme of father issues was really central and meaningful to the show. It's not easy to write it, but it was important to write it. I had very little contact with my father throughout my life. That was a hard thing. Damon and I, as we got to know each other better over the course of our partnership, we realized there were some eerie parallels in our formative development. Having difficult relationships with our fathers was something that played a huge role in our existences and as writers. The show allowed us to work some of that out.
EW From that perspective, the scene in the finale where Jack reconciles with his father at the church must have had a lot of significance for you.
LINDELOF It was the last scene we wrote in the series. We always knew what it was. But we published the finale script almost three weeks before we wrote that scene. We knew that when we finished writing that scene we would have to write the words THE END, not just in terms of ''We've finished six years of the series'' but also to try to do personally what Christian Shephard was telling Jack to do, which was to let go. [Tearing up] Obviously that's probably as close to talking about this as we can get.
EW Season 6 gave us the Sideways world, which was ultimately revealed to be a kind of purgatory where the castaways went after they died. Why did you decide to pursue this story line?
CUSE In the first season of the show, the thing that was the most fun was doing the flashbacks and learning who these characters were. We got to do that all over again.
LINDELOF The hardest part was sitting on the secret. We didn't even tell the actors, because we felt it was the best way to get the performances we needed. What really surprised us was that no one in the audience was really figuring us out.