And the butterflies and bees
We can wander through the forest
And do so as we please.
It’s over folks. Adventure Time has finally come to a close after nearly a decade of wacky fun and surprisingly deep storytelling.
My girlfriend watched Adventure Time from the moment it first premiered in 2010, and we sat and watched the final episode together tonight. I just recently sat down and started watching it with her, and over the last month, I’ve gone from season one all the way to the end. It didn’t hit me quite as hard as it hit her, but I have to say I am really, really sad it’s gone.
For the longest time, I never gave this show a shot. It came on Cartoon Network around the same time I stopped watching cartoons. I lumped it in with other wacky shows that seemed superficially without any kind of story or cohesion, so I wrote it off. Then, as fate would have it, I met an incredible woman, and she introduced me to the show.
I was really surprised by just how much world building and storytelling the writers packed into the show. Sure, there are plenty of episodes that are just that: episodes. They’re not directly connected to the overarching story. However, the overarching story is amazing, and it seeps into every part of the show. Despite its childlike style and bizarre setting, it’s full of deeply serious subject matter and a haunting backstory. Makes me think of something a child would draw after experiencing years of chaos, trying his best to get back to normal.
For those of you who haven’t seen the show, it follows a 13-year-old boy named Finn and his dog, Jake. Finn is, as far as he knows, the last human in the world, which was ravaged by a devastating nuclear and biological war a thousand years prior known as the Great Mushroom War. His dog Jake not only talks but stretches to ridiculous lengths and virtually whatever shape he wants to. And he’s got a hell of a sense of humor. All this is set in the backdrop of the Land of Ooo, what remains of the old world now populated by talking animals, sapient candy, a deranged wizard named the Ice King, and all manner of strange and crazy creatures.
The show follows Finn and Jake, but it’s full of contemplation on any number of deep themes. Ice King’s backstory is a strikingly compelling look at what dealing with a loved one suffering from mental illness can be like. Marceline, the Vampire Queen, is a study in emotional struggle. Princess Bubblegum illustrates the danger of being obsessed with your work at the expense of all emotional attachment. There are episodes that consider the character’s own mortality and the meaning of family. Meaning-of-life-and-the-universe stuff, man.
Aside from it being a genuinely entertaining show, as a writer I really appreciate the subtlety that’s employed to weave all of these stories together. Things like the Great Mushroom War are mentioned from time to time, but you’d have to watch the entire show to really appreciate the level of detail dedicated to it. Same goes with a character as zany and ridiculous as the Ice King. At first glance, he’s a crazy old wizard who serves as a comically evil foil for our protagonists. Keep watching the show and you discover a truly tragic story that makes you root for him, and it ties it back to the cataclysm that ended our world. There’s a deep, rich world behind the Land of Ooo that you appreciate more with every episode.