Eighteen years after Lost premiered, we’re living in a golden age of fan-theory TV. But where once that dynamic rankled showrunners and writers, Shirley Li writes, it’s now more of a symbiotic détente.

That understanding, he said, seems to have led the relationship between writers and fans to “a more mutually beneficial place,” in which writers can appreciate the effort that goes into fan input rather than fear what they produce. But coming up with theories on the internet isn’t the same as outlining a season’s worth of plot in the writers’ room. No amount of detective work will place a viewer directly inside a writer’s head. No amount of soaking up fan commentary will ensure positive feedback in the future.