The current issue of Wired happens to double as the latest mystery-crammed project by J.J. Abrams, who’s best known to me as the man who has managed to tie up my Wednesdays with the hour it take to watch Lost and the subsequent several hours it takes me to think myself through a given episode. Don’t bother with the issue if you hate interesting things, such as the ultra-creepy Georgia Guidestones or Kryptos, the as-yet-undecoded art installation at CIA headquarters that continues to torment the office’s resident codebreakers.
Abrams himself wrote an essay on the magic of mystery and the how much we cheat ourselves when skip ahead. The piece even begins with this: “This essay ends with cheating. Specifically, my friend Greg and I, after playing a particular video game for eleven hours straight, are stuck. We call a fellow gamer to learn what moves we need to make to get to the next level. With the new information in hand, we complete the level.” And that is indeed how the piece ends. Reading it through, however, gives you a bit more. The Greg in question is the actor Greg Grunberg. The fellow gamer is a seven-year-old. The story takes place in 1989. And the video game is Super Mario Bros. 2. To me, these bits make the ending all the more meaningful. Do you hear that, J.J. Abrams? You’re right. I should have known to trust you. I can only hope the conclusion to Lost next year makes me arrive at the same conclusion.
On the subject of getting advice to help him conquer Super Mario Bros. 2, Abrams offers this: “[The] tip finally worked, and Greg and I finished the game that day. But I’d traded any true satisfaction for a cheat. I can’t even remember seeing the end screen.” Considering Abrams’s proclivity for jerking his audiences around, it’s odd that he would not remember the big surprise at the end of Super Mario Bros. 2. Twenty-one-year-old spoiler alert: As I noted in this post, it’s all a dream. Yes, I’m aware that’s the most overdone twist since the The Butler Did it. But to the six-year-old me playing the game — being wholly unaware of Dallas’s season-erasing It Was All a Dream plot twist — this ending was the craziest shit ever. And given how often delusion and memory and the subconscious-intruding-upon-reality figure into Lost, I would have imagined that the non-gameplay elements of Super Mario Bros. 2 would have stood out for Abrams.
At least one of two possible things can be learned.
One: Cheating his way through Super Mario Bros. 2 so spoiled the experience of playing the game that it completely eclipsed an ending that seems like it would have resonated with Abrams.
Two: Abrams isn’t bullshitting when he claims that the importance of the journey so greatly outweighs the arrival at the destination, in which case he may not care as much about how Lost ends as do the legion of Losers who so religiously track the show.