Adventure Time, “Wake Up/Escape from the Citadel”
Finn may have never known his biological father, but he’s never been short on father figures. First there was Joshua, who (along with his wife) discovered Finn and adopted him as a son, raising him in Ooo. Then came Billy, who served as a mentor and helped Finn come into his own as an adventurer. Since the beginning of Adventure Time, both Joshua and Billy have died, and their deaths have taught Finn valuable lessons about his place in the world and who he is. But, again, they’ve both died, so when Constellation Billy tells Finn his human father is still alive, there’s no way Finn will see it as anything other than a chance to fill that void once again. But Finn’s naivete is on its last legs, and the traumatic experiences of these episodes are sure to expedite that maturation even further.
See, despite the knowledge that the Crystal Citadel is home to the multiverse’s worst criminals, Finn’s relentless optimism won’t allow him to accept that his father is anything other than a peacekeeper in the Citadel. Not even the proposed murder of Prismo, which would serve as Finn and Jake’s ticket to the Citadel, is enough to really raise questions. Naturally, the Lich interferes, murdering both Prismo’s pink, two-dimensional form and his corporeal form before being crystallized and grabbed by a Crystal Guardian. Finn and Jake piggyback and immediately find Finn’s father, oblivious to the infection the Lich is spreading throughout the Citadel. The infection frees Finn’s father—Martin, as we learn—as well as the rest of the prisoners in the Citadel. It’s all part of the Lich’s plan, to raise an army of ruthless criminals and warriors and ravage the multiverse. Martin is injured in the chaos, and saved by an application of Guardian blood, but he is only interested in escape. Finn, however, knows he must fight, and takes down the Lich by covering him in Guardian blood, hiding his skeletal body under blood, muscle, and skin. While Jake deals with the Lich, Finn desperately goes after his father, currently escaping on a crystal shard with the Lich’s former army, and even after the vein tethering the shard is cut, Finn hangs on for dear life. As he’s stretched to his limits, the Grass Blade finally comes to his rescue, engulfing Finn’s arm entirely and growing to a giant vine clinging to the severed vein. But even the cursed blade is not enough, and as the crystal shard flies away, Finn, now completely without his right arm, falls in the rolling waters around the Citadel. As he floats, a small amount of Guardian blood finds the stub, growing a single small flower where his arm once was. Jake fishes Finn out of the water, but the damage is done. Even when Jake reveals the new Lich, a giant baby, Finn can only smile on weakly.
Was there any choice but for Martin to be a massive disappointment? As I already discussed, Finn has had consistent father figures throughout his formative years, so why would he really need another one now? Indeed, it makes more sense to introduce Martin as an antagonistic force, someone at least partially responsible for Finn finally losing his right arm and who couldn’t even give his own son a good reason for why he was abandoned on the side of Boom Boom Mountain as an infant. Martin certainly has aspects of Finn’s personality, but it seems he never grew out of his selfishness, instead using that personality and his presumed warrior skills for evil—remember, he was in the Crystal Citadel for a reason, and we still don’t know what it is. There was no real chance for reconciliation, and the moment when Finn finally realizes his father wants nothing to do with him is heartbreaking. So many of the people in Finn’s life have been supportive or, in the case of “villains” like the Ice King and Hunson Abadeer, taught positive lessons about how to treat the people in your life. The true depths of Martin’s awfulness are unknown, but his first appearance bodes ill. (It also raises the question of Finn’s mother, her alignment, and what part she played in Martin’s life and incarceration, but that’s just wild speculation at this point.)
Aside from a new antagonistic presence flying through the multiverse on a chunk of crystal, the events of “Escape from the Citadel” have serious implications for Finn’s psychology. Finn has always believed in the best in people, but this betrayal is beyond anything he’s encountered before. A lifetime of subconscious build-up was uncorked when Constellation Billy revealed that Martin was still alive, and by the end of “Escape from the Citadel,” Finn’s pained smile betrays the emptiness left behind from all that anticipation being drained away. Not only was Martin a jerk, but he abandoned his son once again, this time leaving Finn with one less arm and no more magic sword. The only possible upside is the Lich’s transformation into a giant baby, but he is quickly deposited with Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig. (In a small point of brightness, Baby Lich seems to be just what was needed to save their marriage.) Finn is rarely confronted with this kind of disappointment, this severity of outright failure. For Finn, this has to be rock bottom, and I’m not sure how he’ll come back from it.
Never has the future of Adventure Time seemed so bleak. There’s no telling how long it’ll take for the show to deal with the ramifications of these events, but the premiere is a clear indication that the show is indeed interested in moving forward into the future. Ooo, and the larger multiverse, is a dangerously volatile place, even with the Lich incapacitated. What part Martin plays in the larger picture remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: his initial appearance has changed Adventure Time, and Finn, forever.