A Rat King Situation

little brother

Adventure Time – “Little Brother”

Everything is connected. That’s a lesson Adventure Time has taught multiple times throughout its run, but it’s becoming a major theme in the sixth season. Every action has consequences, like beating up a Sky Witch, becoming Ooo’s newest playboy, or defeating a rat king. The citizens of Ooo are all learning, in their own ways, how they can affect the world at large.

Adventure Time‘s sixth season is also fascinated with the minute. With some exceptions, where big events are the direct result of previous events, season six is focusing in on the infinitesimal phenomena that make up the land of Ooo. “Little Brother” continues this trend, but instead of the drier minutiae of the food chain or the politics of romance, it finds a traditional adventure in the tiny, creating an episode that both feels like classic Adventure Time, but it also distinctly of this late season.

Shelby is a fantastic character who has grown in prominence as Adventure Time has gone on. Most prominently featured in “Mystery Dungeon,” Shelby first made his debut all the way back in season one, and has been popping up for one-liners and viola jams ever since. When a piece of his tail is sliced off during a wild party, it becomes its own entity. (It’s worth noting the visual similarities, as well as the near-identical title, to “Little Dude.”) Naming his former butt Kent, Shelby goes to Jake for advice on how to be a big brother, which consists of giving him a pointy weapon and telling him to fight bad guys. Of course, in Ooo this isn’t wildly off-base in terms of sibling interaction, but Shelby is apprehensive nonetheless. He acquiesces eventually, and sends Kent off with a cocktail sword to fight evil.

Its here that the scope of the episode really shifts. We’ve seen inside the walls of the Treehouse Fort before, but this is the most expansive look we’ve ever gotten, and its vast as any dungeon Finn and Jake have ever taken on. Kent quickly finds the final boss, a nefarious being known as the Rat King. (And yes, he’s actually a rat king.) Beaten and bruised, Kent is healed by leaf people who beseech him to destroy the Rat King once and for all. Kent goes through a classic quest, searching out three mystical items (each with a test of temptation, of course) in order to forge a mighty blade to take down the Rat King. Once the sword is finished, Kent confronts the Rat King head on, and a battle rages that is truly a dichotomy of the epic and the minuscule. Naturally the Rat King asks Kent to join him, but Kent resists, as any good hero should, and takes him down once and for all. Kent returns to Shelby just as Shelby realizes how much he’s missed his little brother, and how sending him off so soon may have been a mistake, but their reunion is short-lived. Every action has a consequence, and when Kent drank from the healing dew of the leaf people, he was forever bound to live within the roots of the Treehouse Fort. Though Shelby is saddened to have his little brother taken away from his again, because of Kent’s heroics, the Treehouse Fort blooms for the first time in years.

“Little Brother” feels like a vitally important episode of Adventure Time, one that shows more than any other episode how adventures and bravery can flex to fit any relative size. Over the years, as the adventures themselves have grown in scope, bringing in the multiverse and ancient evils, Adventure Time has typically used its “smaller” stories to discuss emotional realities, interpersonal conflicts, and day-to-day life in Ooo. “Little Brother” goes small, but the action is big. Compared to last week’s “Something Big,” the two stories feel almost identical in terms of scope, and both have consequences on the larger world, even if its just a tree blooming. (I’m not convinced this won’t be significant down the line, but for now we’ll observe only in the context of the current narrative.) Likewise, the animation is no slouch, making “Little Brother” another visual treat in a season that’s been full of them so far. Adventure Time continues to find new ways to live up to its title, and even when it’s observing life on a microscopic level, the big picture is never far from mind.

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.

I Guess We’ll Just Have to Adjust

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.

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.

Hope Sings Eternal

lemonhope

Adventure Time, “Lemonhope”

What do autonomy, freedom, and destiny mean in the Land of Ooo? The politics of Ooo have always been vague at best, but questions of personal freedom and the roles our characters play in the grand tapestry of history have pervaded all of Adventure Time‘s fifth season. So much of the show’s first four seasons dealt with simply finding a place to belong, but the march of time means existential questions must enter the fray as well.

It’s not surprising that we return to the Lemon Saga to examine these ideas again, and possibly for the final time, this season. Since the last time we checked in on Castle Lemongrab, it has become a fruitalitarian state, with Fat Lemongrab bearing more than a passing resemblance to Kim Jong-un in the propaganda video Princess Bubblegum plays for Lemonhope and Finn. Bubblegum is trying to teach Lemonhope about his destiny, to return to Castle Lemongrab and free his people from Fat Lemongrab’s reign of terror, but he is wholly uninterested. Lemonhope’s refusal to care about others, even his own family and friends, is unsettling, but not surprising given his DNA. He will always be a Lemon, and with that comes certain traits that are unshakable. For Lemonhope, his harp, his flute, and his freedom are all that matter.

When Bubblegum takes Lemonhope to the outskirts of Castle Lemongrab to see the tyranny first-hand, she finally snaps, calling his behavior unacceptable, the magic word that sends Lemonhope fleeing into the woods and away from his destiny. At first, the freedom is magical. Lemonhope wanders among the plants and animals, singing and playing and knocking over an owl’s cup of water. When he stumbles upon a town that has been razed by a band of pirates, he isn’t concerned that the entire town is on fire. Instead, he sees the pirate ship as a new, better source of freedom and stows away, finding a stockpile of limes and a bunch of rats that will blanket him with a bit of harp playing. And when the pirate ship is attacked and ultimately stranded in the desert, Lemonhope is ecstatic at what appears to be ultimate freedom. Alone in a home all to himself, Lemonhope is in heaven. But good things never last long for a Lemon.

Lemonhope may be free, but other than playing the harp and flute, he has no skills, and his reserve of limes has to dry up eventually. The trip into the desert to find water nearly kills Lemonhope, but at the last minute he is saved by Phlannel Boxingday, a monster slayer who revels in his own personal freedom, despite being desperately lonely. He offers Lemonhope an apprenticeship, and once again the outlook is sunny for little Lemonhope.

Throughout “Lemonhope,” the title character is plagued by horrific dreams, reminders of the destiny he ran away from and the terrors that still exist because of his own inaction. Even Phlannel understands that you can’t just abandon your past, especially when there is an outstanding debt to be paid. He agrees to take Lemonhope to Castle Lemongrab, but cannot help in the liberation. (It seems that even the free people of Ooo are bound by the complicated pacts and treaties of the varying kingdoms.) Lemonhope finally gathers the courage to storm the castle, and with the help of Partially-Digested Lemongrab and the prisoners of the castle, he takes down the Earl once and for all. But while Bubblegum restores the power balance of Castle Lemongrab (a single Earl, made of equal parts of both Lemongrabs), Lemonhope doesn’t care to stick around. He doesn’t want to be Castle Lemongrab’s champion, and instead wishes to live a free life, one where he can travel and adventure on his own with no responsibilities holding him back. Of course, he’s free to do so, despite Bubblegum’s disappointment, but even this declaration of freedom is only temporary. As he leaves, Lemonhope flippantly says he’ll see them again “in a thousand years or so,” and while Bubblegum sings her hauntingly beautiful Lemonhope song, we jump forward a thousand years or so, to an Ooo that has both risen and fallen. A wrinkled Lemonhope, surrounded by a forcefield and sporting some massive dreadlocks, passes through a decimated city that is not dissimilar to the many glimpses we’ve seen of the world pre-Mushroom War. On the other side of that city lies Castle Lemongrab, still standing but lifeless. The hallways are empty, and it seems all the Lemons have either died or left long ago. But Lemonhope holds up his casual promise. He returns home, lying in his own bed once again, and drifts to sleep.

“Lemonhope” makes the most of its two-parter status, making enough room for the heady ideals that are culminating in the episode. As a champion, Lemonhope stands in stark contrast to Finn and Cinnamon Bun. Finn has always had the heart of a champion, and he’s never wanted to do anything else. Cinnamon Bun found a purpose and love while serving Flame Princess, leading him to take on the mantle of champion. But Lemonhope rejects his champion status until such time when he feels ready. His desires for freedom and exploration are more important to him than defending a home that, despite housing those he cares about, is still drenched in the horrors he was forced to experience there. When a wrinkled, old Lemonhope finally returns home, the wounds have had time to heal and be replaced by many lifetimes worth of new experiences. The traumas and the selfish ambivalence baked into a Lemon’s DNA needed to be sanded away by time before Lemonhope could finally embrace his destiny.

Heading into the season five finale, “Lemonhope” acts as the release of all the non-Finn/Jake themes that have been littered throughout the season. It’s a temporary resolution for the Lemon Saga, and deals heavily in the questions of destiny and champions. It also suggests that the future might finally become an integral part of Adventure Time‘s explorations of the malleability and importance of time and space, much like the show has done for the past and other dimensions during this season. In Ooo, all times and dimensions are constantly working to create each individual moment. “Time is a flat circle,” to borrow a line from HBO’s True Detective, and few shows on television are biting into that idea quite like Adventure Time. I may be reading too much into the final seconds of “Lemonhope,” but Adventure Time‘s obsession with the metaphysical, as well as the tiny hints of the future that have been scattered throughout, are enough to leave me craving more.

The Future Freaks Me Out

betty

Adventure Time, “Betty”

At this point, the tragedy underpinning the Ice King isn’t news. As we’ve seen several times, his past is riddled with loved ones he’s disappointed and hurt, and the unwitting ignorance caused by the magic of his crown has essentially isolated him from these tragedies. But, at last, the past has broken through to the present, in more ways than one, and the events of “Betty” could have far-reaching implications in the future of Adventure Time.

When the Cool Wizards’ Club revives Bella Noche, they have no idea they’re unleashing a being made of pure anti-magic onto Wizard City. The initial revival blast robs the CWC—and Ice King, who, as usual, was hiding in the background, just wanting to be one of the guys—of their magical powers. For the Ice King, that means his crown no longer contains the magic that was not only keeping him alive, but also making him crazy. Waking up from his frigid haze, Simon Petrikov hijacks a magic carpet from eternal d-bag Ash and flies back to the Ice Kingdom to try and rectify his biggest regret: driving his love Betty away without ever getting to say goodbye. Using Finn and Jake to generate power and Hambo (an item from the past filled with Marceline’s love) as a catalyst, Simon opens up a portal to the past, to a time after he’s found the crown, but before he’s found Marceline. As he roams the streets, searching for his “princess” and firing ice magic into the air with reckless abandon, Betty (voiced by Lena Dunham) cowers behind a building, unsure of what to do next. When present-day Simon expresses his love and regret, Betty makes the shocking decision to jump through the portal, transporting herself to the present day.

When she learns that Simon is dying without the magic of the crown, Betty loads Simon onto the magic carpet and rushes to Wizard City to take on Bella Noche herself. With Death hot on their heels, Betty and Simon arrive in Wizard City just as Bella Noche has taken out the last of the holdout wizards. (It doesn’t help that Ron James the spell maker powered Bella Noche up with a bunk potion made from an old bidet and a vaporizer.) Laying Simon on the ground, where Death hovers over his sickly body, Betty flies toward the craggy tower protecting Bella Noche, finding a crack and crawling inside. Once Betty finds Bella Noche in the heart of the structure, she delivers a swift and merciless hook. Betty’s punch takes down Bella Noche, returning the stolen magic to the wizards, but it also brings the tower crumbling down around them both. Simon, now revived as the Ice King, has no memory of what happened, and returns back to the Ice Kingdom, where he kidnaps Muscle Princess and regales her with his second-hand story of what happened in Wizard City. Outside his castle, a hooded Betty looks on forlornly from the magic carpet before flying away into the distance, with only Gunter as a witness.

For an episode without a real tearjerker moment like in “Holly Jolly Secrets” or “Simon & Marcy,” “Betty” might be the saddest Ice King story yet. Not only does Ice King return to his former self and glory, but only for a few hours, he’s also reunited with his one true love, who almost immediately goes to sacrifice her own life for his. And when it comes down to it, Betty succeeded in her initial mission, to save Simon from death by returning his magic. But the Ice King’s immediate amnesia of his time as Simon, as well as Betty’s identity and her full plan, to continue working toward a true cure for Simon’s curse, ostensibly renders her sacrifice, and the fact that she survived the battle, moot, at least in regards to the Ice King. Betty, sadly, sees as much as she watches from outside the castle window. But she remains in present-day Ooo, and while she’s there, she’ll certainly be exploring every possible spell, science experiment, and mystic ritual she can to truly be reunited with Simon for good. Betty’s continued existence in Ooo adds a new arm to the still-growing cast and stories of Adventure Time, and her eponymous episode is a bold, exciting, and of course, heartbreaking entry in the final stretch of season five.

Don’t You Want Me, Baby?

red throne

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.