Phantom Limb

Adventure Time, “The Tower”

The human brain has many ways of coping with tragedy. For most of Adventure Time, Finn’s tragedies have been small-scale and intimate, personal romantic relationships, and he’s used various coping mechanisms to work out his feelings after these events. But now is different. Finn is so lost in his own frustration and anger that his brain—or maybe just the remnants of a cursed blade—are finding a new way to cope.

From the outset, it’s obvious that the telekinetic arm is solely interested in fueling Finn’s desire for revenge. The problem is that Finn has no concept of the arm’s power, blinded by his mission to punch his father and take his arm as retribution. It fits with what little we know of the Grass Blade that it would indulge such notions, especially if there’s a change for a monkey’s paw-esque twist. To watch the arm pull blocks out of the land of Ooo (and I mean all of it) is visually reminiscent of Minecraft, and while the results are humorous, they’re also intimidating. Without breaking a sweat, Finn has pulled apart chunks of the physical world and built them into a tower to space, and Princess Bubblegum’s best equipment detects a power-level that is off the charts. That the Grass Blade funnels all this power into Finn’s fantasy is troubling. We’ve seen Finn become more capable of aggression recently, and having this kind of power backing up his basest desires is troubling. But Bubblegum is the only one who sees the potential danger, more proof that her unique paradigm is a big part of why the Land of Ooo hasn’t completely collapsed in on itself yet.

Once in the clouds, Finn meets a cloud-person (voiced by awesome comedian Cameron Esposito) who initially tells him off for bursting up through her floor, but returns when she hears Finn’s revenge song. (It’s equal parts adorable and creepy, a perfect companion for the telekinetic arm.) She attempts to talk him down from the revenge ledge, but he persists anyway. Eventually, the tower is so tall that Finn begins to run out of oxygen, making his skin sullen and causing him to hallucinate and, ultimately, pass out, but not before being rescued by a spaceship at the last second. When Finn awakes, he walks out into the ship and sees his father. Brimming with laughter at the thought of finally enacting his revenge, the arm swells in size, growing spikes and delivering a mighty punch. But as he attempts to pull his father’s arm off, the thirst for revenge wears off, and Finn walks away dejected. When Bubblegum reveals that it’s her inside a costume of Finn’s father, it’s not a real shocker, for the audience or Finn, and the telekinetic arm finally disappears (for now). Finn returns home, only neutral, but no longer mad with revenge.

When it comes to Finn’s coping mechanisms, Jake has always preferred the “wait and see” method, believing Finn can essentially work things out on his own, and only intervening if things drag on too long (or until Jake gets bored). In “The Tower,” this method just isn’t an option. Princess Bubblegum is originally set up as just a party-pooper, there to tell Finn that what he’s doing is stupid and to get over it. The construction of her spaceship does little to assuage this idea, but once Finn’s aboard the ship, all is clear. Finn does need to work out his feelings, but falling to his death from the top of an impossibly tall tower isn’t going to fix anything. Bubblegum is smart and knows Finn better than most, and her decision to let Finn live out his fantasy is the first straightforwardly admirable thing we’ve seen out of Peebs in some time. She even takes a black eye for the cause. And with the pent-up aggression released (again, for now), the arm goes with it, taking a hugely powerful wild card off the table. As much as season five of Adventure Time played with the complicated morality and ethics of Princess Bubblegum, the beginning of season six seems more intent on balancing the “good” and the “bad,” and showing a leader who understands her land and subjects very well, and is willing to do what she thinks must be done to resolve conflicts, even if others may misinterpret or misunderstand her actions. And if “The Tower” is any indication, there will be many complicated and delicate situations arising while Finn copes with the realities about his father and his missing favorite arm. But for now, the first crisis is under control, both for Finn and Bubblegum, and the further mysterious of the Grass Blade (and the curse that powers it) can be put on the back-burner. Besides, there’s a whole kingdom (and a bubblegum arm!) that just got smashed by a tower, and someone’s got to clean up that mess.