In an interview with Variety, Damon Lindelof looks back on the challenge of plotting out LOST‘s endgame, and how the ABC serial’s overarching mystery structure differs from the ‘season by season’ approach to The Leftovers:
You know, “Lost,” by the very nature of what the premise was, you always had to be thinking about the future. Until we got the end date, we were in a very nebulous space in terms of how the show should be paced and how mysteries should be answered and how new characters should and should not be introduced. You had to be kind of talking about the long game, the entire game plan. For “The Leftovers” you can talk about it on a season by season basis the way Vince Gilligan talked about “Breaking Bad.” He would say, “Then we would have the scene where Walt opened up the trunk of his car and there’d be a gun in there and we had no idea what the payoff was going to be.” The audience would say, “Okay, we’re cool with that.”
I would read those interviews and I would be like, “Why aren’t they killing Vince Gilligan? How is he allowed to say that they’re making it up as they go along?” The answer to the question is, because Vince Gilligan’s not writing a mystery show. When you’re writing a mystery show, you have to know the answers to the mysteries that you are presenting to the audience. And if you don’t know the answers, they can smell it. That is the lesson that was learned. If you don’t know the answer to your mystery, the audience can smell it. They’re just way too smart.