Monday, February 26, 2024

Damon Lindelof: the man behind the scenes who is too often forgotten

Damon Lindelof: the man behind the scenes who is too often forgotten

The constant. International assassin. This extraordinary being. If these titles tell you absolutely nothing, a review at the serial level is urgently needed. Or you have simply seen them but you don’t remember the naming of the episodes, as often happens when it comes to writing and behind-the-scenes jobs, which go unnoticed yet in seriality they are the first thing. Before directing and staging, without writing (good, solid, valid) you go nowhere.

Damon Lindelof with Josh Holloway and Carlton Cuse during the 2014 Paleyfest

Damon Lindelof with Josh Holloway and Carlton Cuse during the 2014 Paleyfest

He knows it well Damon Lindelofwho turns 50 today, who became famous for being one of the co-creators (there are many responsible and also the culprits of the series that changed TV forever) of Lost, to then continue his career with extremely interesting, varied, genre, surprising projects. Let’s try to retrace them by recommending some of his series (and episodes) that you absolutely cannot miss if you want to watch a superfine and lucid script like few others, and above all someone who knows how to take an original text, adapt it and completely overturn it, with intelligence, grace and wit.

Science and faith: between TV, cinema and comics

L'autore Damon Lindelof

L’autore Damon Lindelof

Born in 1973, born in Teaneck, New Jersey (the suburb of New York often made fun of in the series by those of the City), Damon Laurence Lindelof was born into a family of Jewish origins (complete with a Bar Mitzvah) to then have the honor and burden of being the showrunner of Lost in all its six seasons since its debut together with Carlton Cuse, after co-creating it with JJ Abrams and Jeffrey Lieber, who soon departed from the project. He was part of a band in his college years at NY University – the Petting Zoo – and is now also a cartoonist. He initially reviewed scripts at Los Angeles Studios, and worked in various writers rooms – let’s mention Crossing Jordan, Nash Bridges, Wasteland e la serie unscripted Undressed – before leading one of them. Married since 2005 to Heidi Fugeman, the streets with J.J. Abrams and with the Lostian authors Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci they met again in the cinema, first in Star Trek and then into Into Darknessdirected by Abrams himself. For the big screen he wrote (and then co-created) the imaginative worlds of Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Prometheus (2012), World War Z (2013) e Tomorrowland (2015). His career has so far allowed him 12 nominations (and 3 wins) at the Emmys and in 2010 Time included him in its annual list of the most influential people in the world.

Lost: the constant and the variable of TV series

The constant

If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant

Lost: Desmond's phone call in The Constant

Lost: Desmond’s phone call in The Constant

For Damon Lindelof the success he still carries with him today, as we said, comes from Lost, which from 2004 to 2010 changed TV forever and the narrative structure and characterization of the characters (use of flashbacks and flashforwards to continuously break up the narration , monographic episodes, underlying mysteries in an extremely horizontal plot). The author, together with the good Carlton Cuse, has written many episodes of Lost including not only one of the best installments of the entire series, but of tv history. The constant right from the title it takes up a scientific concept – science and faith, together with philosophy, have always been the combination at the center of the ABC serial – to apply it to something totally sentimental, emotional, uncontrollable and incalculable, such as the relationship between Desmond and Penny.

Lost 4X05 The Constant

Lost: an image from the episode The constant

Maybe this is the power of the script of the episode, or maybe the magic also lies in the artfully constructed narrative tension in which throughout the episode the couple chase each other to get to his fateful phone call to which we don’t know if she will answer, because they are several years have passed in the meantime. Furthermore, Desmond, to whom the episode is dedicated, thanks to the interpretation of Henry Ian Cusick, is one of the most loved characters of the whole series and of TV, despite having arrived only in the second season, and is also part of one of the couples most loved of the show and of the whole series, together with the sweetness and determination of Penny (Sonya Walger). Desmond’s meeting in the episode with Daniel Faraday (another scientific name, look at it) is among the most exciting and fun, second only to the one with Penny at the end of the episode, only through the wire of a telephone. The episode will have a sequel and consideration in the fifth season, which could only be called The Variable written by the future creators of Once upon a time Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz starring, of course, Faraday.

Lost: the unsolved mysteries of the series 15 years after its debut

International assassin

Know yourself first. Then dress accordingly

The Leftovers 2X08 Justin Theroux 2

The Leftovers 2: Justin Theroux in una scena

With The Leftovers, the HBO series based on the novel by Tom Perrotta Vanished into thin air and created by Lindelof together with the writer, which lasted three seasons from 2014 to 2017, the attentive and studied showrunner has shown that he definitely knows his stuff. The best things he has come up with from and for the show have been from the second season onwards, so since the original book material was exhausted and Lindelof, even with the supervision of the writer, had to make everything up from scratch. Again a story of science and faith, which focuses not as the title suggests on the half of the population that one day mysteriously disappears into thin air never to return, but on those who remained. These people have to deal with a sort of mourning process, relying on religion or something greater to believe in to keep them going, as well as a complete lack of trust in others and in humanity.

The Leftovers 2X08 Justin Theroux

An all too underrated serial that gave us one of the bravest seasons ever, the second one, daughter of that lost memory that had the courage to present the new protagonist family, led by Regina King, in media res, only eventually telling us how this related to the pre-existing nucleus. The eighth episode of this second cycle, International assassinthanks to the four-handed writing of Lindelof and Nick Cuse, has once again entered the history of seriality by right for the mixture of drama and comedy, of science and faith (here they are back) and for the absolutely unforgettable interpretation of Justin Theroux who really gave all of himself to the show and to this episode in particular, touching the ancestral origins of humanity and the universe, between biblical creed and scientific big bang.

The Leftovers 3, speak the authors Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

This extraordinary being

You won’t get justice with a badge, Will Reeves, but with that hood. To remain a hero, the citizens must believe that one of their own is down there

Watchmen Jovan Adepo

Watchmen: Jovan Adepo in a scene from the series

For the third and (for now) last series born from the brilliant mind of Lindelof we have chosen another courageous adaptation, and an episode that has once again entered the pages of TV history. All in black and white and set in a long flashback (does this remind you of anything?), the episode is written by the showrunner together with Jeff Jensen in 2019, when the Watchmen miniseries aired. Again in partnership with HBO and with Regina King, the series was (slyly) billed as “a project that shared the same universe of Alan Moore’s comic cult but at the same time detached from it” then surprising all his viewers when it turned out to be a sequel to that paper masterpiece.

Watchmen 3

Watchmen: Doctor Manhattan mask

Incredible but true (and herein lies the real writing skill of a showrunner) Damon Lindelof has succeeded once again: inventing from scratch, and in part betraying (but in an intelligent, crafty and current-themed way) the material starting point to write a story that is absolutely ours, and even before Black Lives Matter. The sixth episode This extraordinary being tells the origin story of Angela’s (King) grandfather, Will Reeves, subverting what we thought we knew about the Minutemen. That’s not all: we quote the eighth episode with the original title because A God Walks into Abar is certainly the beginning of many joke stories and possible religious parables, “A God Walked into a Bar”but it’s also a pun with “Etc“, the surname of the protagonist played by Regina King, whose superheroine has a nun’s cape, Sister Night. This is because a God has also entered her, and in fact that episode tells through a long flashback (again) how in Vietman he met her future husband. The dialogues, which continuously travel between present-past-future and perfectly replicate the style of Dr. Manhattan, are the icing on the cake of the episode. It is no surprise that Lindelof had the courage to measure himself against such a literary precedent, since in 2006 he had already created a comic miniseries for Marvel Comics, Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulkwithin the Ultimate Marvel series.

Watchmen, beyond the masterpiece: from HBO a lesson in Hollywood

To the future

Mrs Davis First Look

Damon Lindelof does not stand still even if he chooses his projects with care. The next one, created together with Tara Hernandez, who has just landed on Peacock in the USA and is coming soon to us too, is Mrs. Davis. The dramedy stars Betty Gilpin as a nun who finds herself confronting her faith with an AI (a nun is the pairing of science and faith, but she looks a little, who would have thought). We can’t wait to see her and be enraptured by her writing about her: who knows if she won’t enter the history of seriality once again.