Adventure Time, “The Red Throne”
Since Finn and Flame Princess broke up, Finn’s life has been… kind of a mess. But he’s been learning about life after love, a valuable education for any young person. Unfortunately, as he’ll find in “The Red Throne,” that education neither prepares you for all possible outcomes, nor is the same for every young person.
“The Red Throne” brings us back to Flame Princess, who has been sidelined since she overthrew her father for control of the Fire Kingdom back in “Earth & Water.” With the ever-loyal Cinnamon Bun by her side, FP has become the benevolent ruler the Fire Kingdom needs, helping the citizens with their problems while her father hangs in the very lantern he used to hold her captive. But the Flame King has teamed up with Don John the Flame Lord (voiced by Canadian Pro Wrestler Roddy Piper) to stage a coup, weakening FP with poison tea and controlling the minds of Fire Kingdom citizens. Flame King has also promised Don John a position as Flame Lord’s vizier, and as we all remember from Aladdin, that also means the princess’ hand in marriage.
Escaping with Cinnamon Bun, FP goes to Finn for help, a move she is emotionally mature enough (and preoccupied, what with the coup and all) to handle. Finn plays it cool, telling FP that he’s been hanging with his boys, not going on dates, but doing alright, but Cinnamon Bun can see the truth: Finn may not be hung up on FP like he was Bubblegum, but he’s not yet mature enough to understand their platonic relationship. Realizing that Flame Princess’ skin has cooled enough for him to touch, Finn takes several opportunities to try and make unwanted physical contact with Flame Princess, and Cinnamon Bun stops him every time. It’s not an aggressive move by either party; while non-consensual touching is not okay, Finn never attempts to take it past that level, and Cinnamon Bun seems to realize that Finn may not understand what is and isn’t appropriate, never chewing him out (or even explicitly stating the problems), even if it would be well-deserved. Finn does finally understand, but that still doesn’t stop his attention-starved bullheadedness.
Back at the castle, Finn ignores Cinnamon Bun’s plans, leading a charge that ends with Finn and FP being captured while Cinnamon Bun must try and rescue them by out-duking some guards and taking a key. While in the dungeon, FP pointedly informs Don John that they will not be married, because she doesn’t even know him, and certainly doesn’t like him. It’s not uncommon for the female characters of Adventure Time to have their own agency, set in this world where sexuality (and by extension, gender) is less rigid and stigmatized, and Flame Princess proves once again that she is very much her own woman, and has become even more so in her position of power. Finn, on the other hand, thinks Flame Princess only won’t marry Don John because she still has feelings for him. Let’s not forget which of them just agreed to wear a cursed sword for all eternity—or at least until that arm inevitably comes off.
Don John, hurt by FP’s rejection, goes to Flame King to complain, immediately jumping to betrayal. They both crave power, but are unwilling to compromise any aspect of their masculinity for it. Their fight is pointless in that regard, as it isn’t about losing or winning—or solving any problems, really. It’s about pleasure, the kind of pleasure two power-obsessed men can only obtain from that purest form of masculinity: beating the shit out of each other. But in all the masculine release, neither notices Cinnamon Bun releasing Finn and FP from their cell.
The undercooked pastry attempts to fight a way out of the castle for Finn and Flame Princess, but in the process is hit with a fireball square in the face. This finally finishes the last little bit of baking CB needed, smoothing his eyes and mouth, and he comes out of the flames a stronger, smarter being. Not only does he break the spell Don John put on the flame people, but he also takes his place at Flame Princess’ side as her knight and professes his love for her, a love that may be more than a little reciprocated. “Did I just get shown up by Cinnamon Bun?” Finn asks at the end of the episode, and the truth is that Finn wasn’t just shown up, he was flat-out schooled.
The other important lesson Finn learns in “The Red Throne” is that life goes on, even when you’re not there. Jake already knows this well enough, having missed the majority of his pup’s childhoods due to his unwillingness to grow up, but Finn is still in a nebulous place, and the idea that this person with whom he had such a strong connection could have moved on so completely and done so much without him has seemingly never crossed his mind before. It makes sense: Finn has never had a consistent older person to teach him these lessons, and as we’ve seen before, Finn is prone to obsessive behavior when it comes to relationships, both platonic and romantic. Fortunately, Cinnamon Bun cuts these particular behaviors off at the knee, but there’s still a queasiness to watching Finn’s unwanted touching, and a sadness to watching Finn realize he’s not the most important person in Flame Princess’ life. Finn is maturing slowly, but even these small steps are stepping-stones on the path toward adulthood, and if history is any indication, Adult Finn’s going to have plenty on his plate without worrying about relationships.