Holding Out for a Hero

billy's list

Adventure Time, “Billy’s Bucket List”

Billy wasn’t just any old hero. He was the greatest hero Ooo has ever known. He was Finn’s personal hero. And he was Finn’s friend and mentor. Adventure Time has put off dealing with Billy’s death for a long time, but it had to happen eventually, and the finale of a season dealing with the complications of growing up, if destinies exist and how we are bound to them, the cyclical nature of time, and blooming sexuality is as good a time as any.

A freestyle rap battle is what originally sets Finn’s mind on the fallen hero, and it’s seemingly a coincidence that immediately after the rap battle Billy’s ex-girlfriend, Canyon, shows up. She saw Finn’s name on the roster and wanted to give him Billy’s old loincloth. She and Billy broke up four years ago, but she just can’t keep it anymore. Finn accepts with gusto, and convinces Canyon to go with him to Billy’s Crag one last time. After clearing out some pesky fairies—with extreme prejudice, thanks to the grass blade—Canyon finds Billy’s old motorcycle. See, the two used to adventure together, until Billy became complacent to sit around and watch movies and play videogames all day. Upon further inspection, the duo find Billy’s bucket list hidden in the bike. Only two items remain: “tell Finn that thing” and “take Canyon for one last ride.” Finn and Canyon hop on the bike for a wild ride before she departs with a fist bump and an assurance that they’ll cross paths again. As Finn crosses the ride off the list, he discovers one last item: to float on his back in the ocean.

A distraught Finn heads to the ocean, but before he can even touch the water the Fear Feaster emerges from within. The Fear Feaster taunts Finn mercilessly, so Finn comes up with his own solution. Breaking off a plank and walking to the edge of the pier, Finn bonks himself in the head, falling into the ocean and losing consciousness. While out, he has a pink-tinged vision where his hat is stolen by a blue whale. As he swims out of a rock formation to catch it, Finn realizes that the rock formation was the same shape as his hat, and it rises out of the ocean, with the blue whale sticking out of the face hole, bringing Finn ever closer to its mouth, before Finn is awoken by the Fear Feaster. Tired of its taunts, the grass blade extends and slices the Fear Feaster in two, causing it to disappear. And just like that, Finn is no longer afraid. As the clouds open up, the constellation Billy acknowledges Finn’s tribute and thanks him for completing the list. But Finn must know what the thing was Billy meant to tell him. In typical Billy fashion, he shirks the answer at first, but eventually acquiesces, telling Finn that he must go to the Crystal Citadel because his father—not Joshua, his human father—is still alive and can be found there. Constellation Billy disappears, but his voice echos around Finn as he floats in the darkness.

Much of the Finn-centric stories of season five have dealt with the emotional, physical, and psychological aspects of growing older. Finn has had to learn how to deal with the greyness of morality, the trials and tribulations of romance, and the frustrations of sexuality. But other narratives have been threading themselves through the ancillary characters this season, and many of them have centered on destinies and heroism. As I discussed with “Lemonhope,” the past has had immense bearings on everything that happens in Ooo, because when reality-altering powers, whether magical or scientific, are present at any point in a reality’s timeline, they have ramifications on the entire reality in which they occur. The questions and unanswered mysteries surrounding Finn’s origins have been explored, but only in relation to alternate realities and his past lives. The revelation that Finn’s human father is alive is certainly world-rocking, but he has been an important part of the story the entire time, and now we may have the chance to understand just what impact Finn’s pedigree has had on the formation of Ooo’s present.

The other major event in this episode is the apparent death of the Fear Feaster. The Fear Feaster has haunted Finn since Adventure Time‘s first season, but until now, Finn has never owned a magical cursed blade that has completely bonded with him and may also be semi-sentient. When the grass blade first reveals itself, the Fear Feaster laughs it off, saying that no normal weapon could ever harm it, but grass blade is far from normal, and a single swipe is enough to make the Fear Feaster disappear, possibly forever. If Finn’s fear is gone, the possibilities are both exciting and dangerous. With no fear, Finn could kickstart his ascent to truly becoming Billy’s heir, and the next greatest hero in all of Ooo. But the grass blade is still a cursed weapon, and curses almost never work out in anyone’s favor. In all alternate realities, Finn’s left arm is missing, so of course that’s where the grass blade attached. No fear could mean Finn might ignore the darkness of the grass blade. No fear could mean Finn rushes headfirst into an unknown situation with no forethought. And now that Finn knows his father resides somewhere in the Crystal Citadel, home of the multiverse’s most dangerous villains, the chances of his heading into some such situation are heightened immensely. Without fear, or a mentor like Billy, Finn might be in way over his head.

Which brings us back to the question of destiny: is Finn simply living his, or is the grass blade carving a new one for him? Billy’s bucketlist includes “fix up an old car” and “learn how to play flute,” both things we’ve see Finn do with competence in this fifth season. Are these clues that Finn is following Billy’s path to ultimate heroism? Or was there some spatial-temporal knowledge Billy was aware of before he died? In “Lemonhope,” we a saw Ooo a thousand years in the future, a deserted, worn-down land that seemingly just died out. Where have all the heroes gone? What happens in Ooo’s future? Maybe, once Finn travels to the Crystal Citadel, we’ll be one step closer to finding out.

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