I sat in line a few weeks ago in the movie theatre’s lobby at The Grove, a large shopping mall in Los Angeles. I took off work and took a Lyft the 15 minute drive to where Cartoon Network would be screening its finale of Adventure Time, approximately one week before the wide release on September 3. I got there early, unsure of the crowds at something so final, something so beloved; I arrived at 3:30PM, and the line had about 15 people in it (the event started at 7PM). There was a man towards the front of the line with a hand-made Ice King costume, and one behind him in a Finn costume, complete with a Jake-the-dog beard and a Finn sword. Closer to me there was a mother and her son; she was draped in purple, toting Doc Martens printed with Marceline the Vampire Queen holding her bass. Her son, an 18-year-old, wore a Finn cap, blue shirt, and Finn Doc Martens, the two of them making an adorable pair. I admit, at first I didn’t see myself in this group of people. I was alone, and I wasn’t one of the close-to-twenty year olds or one of the parents coming along with their kids. I was a lone 26 year old, 15th in line to watch Adventure Time end. How had I gotten here?
Adventure Time aired on Cartoon Network in 2007, and has been running since. In 2007, I was 14 years old. I was about to enter high school in Ohio. I didn’t know Adventure Time existed; unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the kids who grew up watching Finn and Jake as their primary cartoons. Instead, I belong to the Rocket Power generation, the Ed Edd and Eddy or Powerpuff Girls, depending on my mood. I took to Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, those two offering me a bit more intellectual stimulation than anything else at the time. I found myself drawn to the scale of these shows, their unabashed attempt at defining the cosmos and granting their characters the ability to encounter existential threats. I dressed as Usagi in her Sailor Moon costume for three Halloweens straight, my mother re-stitching the handmade blue skirt/white torso combo onto that obnoxious red bow more than once to fit my growing frame. I loved Sailor Moon, and I didn’t know why at the time- when my parents asked me, I could only say: it’s so important. I think what I meant was that I wanted more than just laughs from my TV shows. I knew, even as a kid, that investing my time in something involved commitment, and in order to give that commitment, I needed connection. I adored the lore behind the show, the ability the animators and writers had to introduce and slowly define a plot line- ‘The Past Returns’ episode of Sailor Moon will forever hold a place in my soul as the first piece of television/film to utterly change me. I watched it so many times that our VHS tape of it burnt out. It’s the first episode that reveals to watchers and to the Sailor Scouts the truth of who they are- it takes us, along with our beloved heroes, back to the Moon Kingdom, during the Silver Millennium, a prosperous time for the peaceful and beautiful Moon Kingdom, governed by a majestic Queen Serenity. Queen Serenity reveals to us, in her elegant and euphonious voice, that Usagi is her daughter, the mysterious Princess of the Moon, and her four assembled friends and scouts are her protectors, each selected from their own home planets. We learn that the Moon Kingdom was reduced to rubble by the evil Queen Beryl, a villain we are familiar with in the current timeline of the show. We learn more about Tuxedo Mask, too, also known as Prince Endymion, a representative from Earth madly in love with the Princess of the Moon. It’s a heartbreaking episode, which ends in Queen Serenity sacrificing herself and sending her daughter, the scouts, and all of the inhabitants of the Moon Kingdom to Earth in order to give them another shot a life. The catch? None of them remember their real identities. It’s a birth story, albeit a destructively depressing one.
I also adored Legend of Zelda. My father purchased ‘Ocarina of Time’ for our N64 when I was young, maybe five years old; it was an odd move for him, since he’d never particularly enjoyed video games or knew anything about the series. But for years (yes, it took him years- he’s still very proud to have made it out of the Water Temple without ever cheating) the game was such a strong bonding agent for my family; as my father fought through temples, I hid behind the couch, watching with fear and astonishment. I’d never fallen so deeply in love with something’s lore. I trusted the genesis story of Nayru, Farore, and Din more than I’d trusted anything before, especially the Christian tenants I’d overheard at school. Born into an agnostic family, I became enthralled and excited at this possible religion, at it providing some kind of identity I’d yet missed out on. And in a way, Zelda has filled that void for me; as I aged, I took the controller, and my father watched. I followed the series but always found my way back to that original experience with ‘Ocarina of Time’ and ‘Majora’s Mask’- I’ve probably played through OoT 12 times by now, and nearly all of it is muscle memory. My anxious mind feels extreme gratitude that a timeline has been released- I love that there are through lines in the series, mementos of games past and future, the story of Link, Zelda, and Ganon one that changes and yet stays the same, forever.
Throughout my adolescence, I continued, quietly, adoring Sailor Moon. I hid my VHS tapes in the recesses of our movie cabinet, hoping no one would find them during slumber parties. While I played Zelda ritually, it felt less cool to like animated TV shows; it felt childish, something I should have grown past. We, as a society, have Adventure Time to thank for blowing that idea up.
I moved to Florida when I was 24. It was a cross-country move, done solo, to a city I’d never stepped foot in. I was fresh out of graduate school, which I entered fresh out of undergrad. I’d never been on my own before, and I was doing it somewhere far away from home, somewhere I knew a total of one person (and that person just barely). I wanted newness, and I was extremely hopeful: I was starting my career, living in a new city, new apartment… and I was positive I’d also find a new partner. It’d been years since anything serious (with mild relationships between), but I was confident that I was old enough, cognizant enough of myself and my needs, that the next one would stick. I did meet someone, someone whom I tried forcing into this idea of completeness and newness ; it backfired, and I was left heartbroken. And this heartbreak was especially painful, what with the new city that I’d come to know through him and the apartment that had once been new but now felt tainted by his potential. Months later, I met someone new, someone I was unsure of at first, someone I got to know without the force and aggression I typically bring to these romantic potentials. Things happened slowly and without much effort on my part, and before I knew it, I was in love with him. He felt not so much like the answer to the question I’d been asking but rather a new question, one I hadn’t even thought to ask. We spent days huddled in the shade of his apartment, protecting ourselves from the Florida heat, from his weird neighbor, and, mostly, from his upcoming move to Los Angeles, an ever-tighter 6 months away.
When he left, my anxiety and depression peaked in ways I’d expected but had no idea how to prepare for. We weren’t sure what was going to happen to our relationship- it was an infant that needed a lot of nourishment, a lot of attention, neither of which were things he wanted to give, both of which were things I was over-giving. I lost fifteen pounds in two months. I cried a lot, especially in the mornings. I went to therapy. I practiced meditation, got back into yoga. It was the most self-aware care I’ve ever given to myself. And it was topped with maybe the best self-care soothe: Adventure Time.
Each day after work, I’d come home, cook myself dinner that I wouldn’t really eat, and turn on Adventure Time. The show had a lengthy 9 seasons available, and I took comfort in something with longevity, especially given my tumultuous and unpredictable relationship. I wanted something far enough away from my reality that it felt like a reprieve but not something so off-the-wall that it felt like escapism. I pined for that same feeling that Sailor Moon used to give me when my parents were fighting or when my dad came home drunk or when I just had a bad day: things would be okay, it was all a learning experience, good or bad, heroism wasn’t always beautiful, courage wasn’t always ineffable.
The first season of Adventure Time introduced some of my now most beloved characters to me- Ice King, Finn, BMO, Jake, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, Lumpy Space Princess… I laughed at these wacky adventurers, at the people made of candy, at the penguins quaking at the Ice King. When I heard Jake tell Finn ““Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something,” I felt like I’d gotten ahold of something great. The show hadn’t even gone into its lore yet, and I was hooked. Season two expanded upon many characters, especially Marceline, whose tough exterior and pained interior was something I desperately wanted to console. I noticed the bitter past hinted at between Princess Bubblegum and Marcy. I felt the pain of Finn’s shortcomings when Princess Bubblegum was temporarily infected with The Lich’s evil urges. I saw Finn fail and saw Jake accept him not in spite of but because of his failures, his shortcomings: “I’ll still be here yesterday to high five you tomorrow my friend.” I cried at young Finn, at his desire to be the perfect hero to Princess Bubblegum, the perfect brother to Jake, the perfect savior to everyone in Ooo- because that was me. The desperation to prove himself, the repression of his own demons… it hit home. And I had found, in a way, my Jake, my person to give me that high five yesterday or today or tomorrow. He wasn’t with me physically, but wasn’t he still there mentally? Wasn’t he giving me love? Yes, my anxiety would tell me, but will he be here still tomorrow? Will he be here when you’re not good?
“When bad things happen I know you want to believe they are a joke. But sometimes life is scary and dark. That is why we must find the light.” BMO says this toward the end of Season three to Jake. This quote has become even more important to me now, on the other side of watching the AT finale, when BMO holds a shrunken Jake at the end of the world, and asks Jake to let him be the ‘papa.’ BMO then breaks into song, positioning himself as the light against the darkness. These scenes are nice mirror images of each other, a circle of learning and loving from one another that defines much of BMO and Jake’s relationship. Season three also invests more in the Adventure Time lore, giving Marceline a back-story, explaining more of Ooo’s history, introducing the Cosmic Owl (a prophet who lives in a reality unaltered by time, who serves as a prophet via dreams), introducing Flame Princess and her kingdom, and revealing part of Ice King’s heartbreaking backstory- Simon, the Ice King’s real name, was once a human, before his crown possessed him, causing him to lose his real self (“And so it was decided that once a year, the people of Ooo would get together while wearing really big sweaters and watch videos on the floor next to the fire to celebrate the day when Finn and Jake had a fleeting moment of empathy for the biggest weirdo in Ooo.”). The third season begins the descent into the true lore of AT, and sets us up nicely for what is to come. It helped me breathe, helped me regain faith that the present moment wouldn’t be the forever moment. It told me that loss and failure were parts of life; even death, as Jake tells us: “When I die, my individual earth consciousness is gonna go all over everywhere while Glob tallies my deeds. I’m gonna be all around you! In your nose, in your dreams and your socks. I’ll be a part of you in your Earth mind.”
Finn starts dating Flame Princess in the fourth season; “I think I like you like you. Listen, when I look at you, my brain goes all stupid. I just wanna hug you, and sit on the couch and play BMO with you.” While at first it seems impossible for the two to share any kind of relationship because of FP’s fiery personality as well as her literal physical flame body, the two come to respect one another greatly; I especially love that FP mistakes Finn for a ‘water elemental’ because he cries. FP encourages Finn to cry, labeling his emotions a superpower- what a tremendous gift this is on behalf of Adventure Time, a message to young boys that it’s not only okay to cry but powerful to. The two try throughout the season to find a way to be together, and succeed, Finn eventually breaking down FP’s deep-rooted trust wall. “‘You would defy nature for me?’ ‘Uh yeah, whatevs.’” Another crucial plot-line of AT takes place in Season Four- that of Magic Man and his four-headed brother(s) Grob, Gob, Glob, Grod. While at first Magic Man shows himself to be a nuisance to both the show and Finn and Jake, this episode reveals (as always) that there is more to the character. The four-headed deity from Mars returns to Earth to capture their brother Magic Man, who was sent away to Earth as punishment for being terrible on Mars. With his powers, Magic Man transfers his consciousness into Jake’s body and Jake’s consciousness into Magic Man’s body- it is Jake, then, who stands trial on Mars at the feet of Abe Lincoln, Mars’ King. Finn, absolute in his dedication to save Jake, finds a way to Mars (via a device that will only let the user use it if his intentions/love is pure) and witnesses Abe killing Jake. Abe, regretful of his mistake, volunteers himself to Death (a character throughout the show) in return for allowing Jake to come back. The four-headed brothers, then, take the throne of Mars, and tell Finn and Jake to watch over their brother, indicating that his personality has a lot to do with the loss of his wife, Margles, who has vanished in their efforts to protect Mars. Magic Man became, for me, one of the characters I wanted to know the most about. I felt he had a ton to offer to the series, and would be a main player later on (I was right). Season Four also delivers the wonderful “I Remember You” episode, an episode dearly beloved by all AT fans. In a seemingly unlikely pairing, Ice King and Marceline play music together; I remember feeling shocked at Marcy’s patience with IK during the beginning of this episode, and broken by the end of it. Marceline tries getting Simon to remember his old identity, which, we learn, was her protector; as a young girl, Marceline followed Simon in the desecrated remains of the world after the Great Mushroom War, staying together until the power of his crown and its possession made him abandon her. Together the two sing, Marceline remembering, Ice King not, the moment still so touching and heartbreaking: “Marceline, is it just you and me in the wreckage of the world? That must be so confusing for a little girl. And I know you’re going to need me here with you. But I’m losing myself, and I’m afraid you’re gonna lose me too. This magic keeps me alive, but it’s making me crazy, and I need to save you, but who’s going to save me? Please forgive me for whatever I do, When I don’t remember you…” Marceline weeps as she sings along, the Ice King oblivious. And instead of becoming frustrated with his inability to remember, Marceline takes the moment of sweetness for what it is, and chooses to love and accept Simon in this form as well as his previous one. It’s Marceline that cements the Ice King/Simon as someone to love, especially to Finn and Jake, even to the impatient Princess Bubblegum. Her soft spot for Simon brings me to weep every time I watch them interact. It’s so pure, and teaches us acceptance- as Cheryl Strayed wrote, “acceptance is a small, quiet room.” Acceptance isn’t Simon remembering; it’s Marceline acknowledging he won’t remember, and loving him despite. What comes at the end of Season Four/beginning of Season Five is perhaps my favorite trio of episodes- The Lich, the manifestation of all evil, tricks Jake and Finn to collecting the Enchiridion’s crystals by pretending to be Billy, their old hero. By accessing the crystals, The Lich, Jake, and Finn are transported to Prismo’s Time Room, a cosmic dimension inhabited by the Cosmic Owl and Prismo alone, outside the confines of time and alternate realities. Prismo, one of my favorite characters of the show, grants one wish to those who get access to his time room, no questions asked; since all three made it there, they all get a wish. The Lich wishes for destruction, and Finn, hasty and scared, wishes that The Lich never existed, leaving Jake alone in Prismo’s time room at the end.
Season Five starts with a gut-punch; it hits us with a very real alternate reality, showing a dog-like Jake and a normal boy Finn, complete with his own human parents. Finn, vowing to protect his family, seeks the Destiny Gang, a group of bullies in town who keep stealing from his poor parents. Eventually, Finn finds Marceline, a grotesquely old witch-like woman alone in a cave with Simon’s remains, atop which still sits the Ice King’s crown. We learn that in this alternate world, The Lich, a comet, was contained by Simon taking the Lich’s entire hit, thereby reducing him to staying pinned under a rock for eternity. Although Marceline tries warning Finn against taking Simon’s crown, he does so anyway, thereby becoming the Ice King himself. As Finn loses sanity and attempts to protect his family with his powers, The Lich arrives yet again, since the comet is now free to hit. The Lich, in a missile-like way, destroys the world, leaving Finn and those he froze (his family) to be the only survivors. Back in Prismo’s time room, a terrified Jake watches this alternate reality Finn, and becomes paralyzed by his responsibility of making the best-most-carefully-worded wish possible to right the world. With Prismo’s help, Jake wishes that The Lich had wished for Jake and Finn to be happy on Ooo, thereby sending Finn and Jake back to Ooo and leaving The Lich trapped in Prismo’s time room. Season five welcomes Jake’s fatherhood, as he and Lady Rainicorn give birth to five quick-maturing pups: TV, Viola, Jake JR, Charlie, and Kim Khil Wan. The season also strengthens Prismo and the Cosmic Owl’s space in the series, making them fun recurring characters that Jake seems to adore: “Prismo: Dude, I get out of relationships because I don’t want to have a discussion about what we’re gonna have for dinner every night! Cause when I’m alone I can just sit on the couch and when I’m hungry I can eat whatever I want. It’s not like: [High pitched voice] “What should we eat for breakfast? Wait! We should coordinate!” [Normal voice] That’s a pain. Jake: [Eating sandwich, talking with full mouth.] Mm-mm, man your view of relationships is very bleak, don’t you get lonely? Jake: I gotta get that guy a girlfriend.” We see Magic Man up to more antics, this time in an especially well-crafted episode in which Finn becomes a god-like orchestrator of mini Ooo characters. We learn about BMO’s creation and his human creator, Mo, a touching story that gives us MORE reason to love the already loveable BMO. We see Marceline and Princess Bubblegum together, despite their vast differences and estranged backstory, defeat Maja the Sky Witch together in order to win back Hambo, Marceline’s beloved stuffed animal from Simon. PB has to sacrifice the shirt she sleeps in every night (which is Marceline’s) to Maja, as Maja insists that it’s full of sentimental value. Although I suspected Marceline and PB’s affair from ‘What Was Missing,’ it was this episode that made me feel certain that these two characters had been in love before and were still in the stages of reconciliation after a break-up. The otherwise factual and practical PB wears Marceline’s grungy and dirty t-shirt to bed? It’s got to be love! Next in the season comes the heartbreaking end to Finn and Flame Princess’ relationship, something that started pure and ended… not so pure. Finn, attracted to Flame Princess’ rage and power, continuously pits Ice King and Flame Princess against one another, hoping to satisfy his own odd attraction. His selfishness eventually leads to FP finding out that it was Finn who voiced nasty complaints about her, not Ice King, and her incredible hurt leads her to break things off. Finn remains hopeful for a reconciliation, but FP remains adamant that the two can only be friends. Adventure Time forces Finn to feel the pain of a broken heart, and presents his shame and regret in a very honest way. In one of the best episodes of the series, ‘Puhoy,’ a sad Finn struggles to process the weight of relationships.
“‘Hey, Jake, do you think you should date someone just like you, or someone who’s like… you’re opposite?’ ‘I don’t know. I’m the first come first serve kinda guy.’ ‘So it’s not good to weigh someone’s qualities against your own?’ ‘Well, no. I mean, if you feel something, you feel something. It’s not about personality matrixels and charts, it’s all about the bu-bumos in your heart.’”
Finn then descends into a different universe, that of the pillow fort. He quickly becomes a hero there and, unable to return to Ooo, lives a full life for himself in pillow world, complete with a family and aging. At the end, we watch this Finn die, and young Finn return to Ooo, changed. It’s an episode about family, obligation, love, and heartache, and is so incredibly paced that it makes us heal right alongside Finn; not totally, but a bit. We also meet Finn’s past lives, that of the comet, the butterfly, and Shoko, a one-armed scavenger living long ago, hired to infiltrate PB’s kingdom for pay. PB gave Shoko a mechanical arm, one that Finn will receive later, and the two develop a friendship along with a new guard to defend the kingdom; Shoko, bound by monetary obligations, does betray PB, and as she tries escaping, she dies, resting at the place that will become Finn and Jake’s treehouse. This is a season intent on giving us more, trusting that viewers are emotionally aware enough to understand the significance of Finn’s past and future lives, and how none of them are completely good or completely bad. Finn made a severe mistake with FP, and his heroic persona struggles to accept his fault for the entirety of the season. But his lesson isn’t learned after hurting FP; another long-term problem arises when Finn gets the Grass Sword, a cursed grass extension of Finn’s arm that seems to have a mind of its own. Adventure Time pushes Finn to grapple with changes that are at once at his own making and objectively thrown onto him, much like life makes us do in the transition from child to adult. Simon’s storyline is also furthered by introducing Betty, Simon’s old fiancé; when Wizard City resets all magic, Ice King remembers Betty and Marceline, who assists Simon in opening a portal before he dies (without his magic, he ages rapidly). By sacrificing Hambo, they open a portal to the past, and Simon begins to tell Betty goodbye when she unexpectedly jumps through the portal to Ooo, asserting that she will save Simon and his crown. We also meet Lemonhope, a creature detained by the two Lemongarbs PB created who are no longer at peace with one another. PB, struggling to admit her fault in the matter, bestows hope onto a young Lemonhope, who she frees from prison in the hopes that he will fix the Lemon land. Instead, though, Lemonhope flees, and PB starts to reconcile with her infallible scientific curiosities. Season five also addresses the repressed memory vault of Finn, something he throws his hurts into rather than addressing: “Oh, yeah. The vault. That’s where the stuff I can’t handle goes.” This vault becomes a reoccurring symbol, and has a major place in the finale of the show. At the end of the season, Jake and Finn struggle to accept Billy the Hero’s death, and, in an attempt to send Billy off in a nice light, Finn takes to completing Billy’s bucket list, which includes taking Canyon, his ex-girlfriend, on one last motorcycle ride, telling Finn something, and floating in the ocean, Finn’s number one fear. Finn’s adoration and respect for Billy leads him to conquering his fear, and as Finn floats on his back in the sea, Billy’s voice comes through the clouds, directing Finn: “Tell Canyon I watch her sleep. Man, love is weird, Finn.” And, in the last few seconds of the fifth season, Billy reveals the thing he had to tell Finn: Finn’s father is alive!
Season six, inevitably, belongs to Finn’s search for his human father, Martin. As in Season five, Season six begins in Prismo’s time room, where Finn and Jake ask Prismo in help finding Martin. Prismo reveals that Martin is a criminal, and in order to get to The Citadel, where Martin is imprisoned, the two must commit a cosmic-level crime. Prismo, in a way, sacrifices himself; he reveals that ‘Prismo’ is really just the subconscious dream of a sleeping old man, and that if Finn and Jake wake him, Prismo as they know him will cease to exist, and they will be sent to the citadel. “What if the whole world was just some goof’s dream? That’d be stupid.” At the last minute, though, The Lich, still in Prismo’s room, wakes the old man, and gets sent to the Citadel himself, where Finn and Jake follow. The Lich’s evil melts the Citadel prison, and Martin, recognizing Finn, chooses to run away nonetheless, something that disappoints Finn to the point of refusing to let go of Martin’s ship as he flys off, eventually breaking off Finn’s arm. The Lich, meanwhile, dissolves into a sweeter version of himself thanks to the Citadel’s power, and becomes Sweet Pea, the large baby-voiced character that eventually becomes the adopted son of Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig. Poor Prismo- “Prismo we love you forever in our dreams!” Finn is plagued with disappointment and hurt throughout the sixth season as well, his heartache over Flame Princess compounded with his disappointing reunion with his father. “I’m lost in the darkness,” Finn admits. Prismo comes back, a re-start ignited by he and Jake’s bro-bond that creates multiple options for each being, one of which is Finn existing in his sword. This split creates further division and issues for the show. Princess Bubblegum, like Finn, confronts her own demons and guilt, admitting, finally, that she is too authoritarian in her ruling; ultimately, she destroys her spy equipment, resolving to trust her candy people rather than obsessively watching over them. This season defines the origin of the Ice King’s powers through the Evergreen episode, which takes places centuries before our timeline in Ooo. We meet Evergreen, the ice elemental who resembles Ice King, and his dinosaur assistant Gunter, who idolizes and wants to be his master. We also meet the other three elementals (fire, slime, candy), who disagree with Evergreen’s assertion that they must stop the catalyst comet hurtling toward Earth. The other elementals know the power and danger of wish-magic, and tell him they won’t help; at the end, Evergreen tells his assistant Gunter to make the wish to stop the green comet (which will be The Lich). What results is Ice King. Gunter’s idolization of his master leads him to wishing to be just like him, thus producing a curse for the crown in which everyone will resemble the immortal Evergreen. The twenty-fifth episode of Season six is another one of my all-time favorite AT episodes. ‘Astral Plane’ shows Finn floating, existential and dream-like, over Ooo, other countries, other worlds, and finally, space, contemplating existence, art, friendship, and purpose. Finn asks: “I wonder if being a sad loner gives you more raw materials to form song ideas. Is that where creativity comes from? From sad-bizz?” And then later, in the same astral trip, says “Well, that was creative. And it wasn’t sad either. So maybe birth is the greatest creative statement in the universe.” He furthers this line of questioning as he enters Mars’ orbit, asking “If just being born is the greatest act of creation, then what are you supposed to do after that? Isn’t everything that comes next sort of a disappointment? Slowly entroping until we deflate into a pile of mush?” Finn is answered by Magic Man’s four-headed brother(s), Grob, Gob, Glob, Grod, the new King of Mars after Abe’s death: “Well, it’s not enough to have created something amazing, right? What if I just let my Martian super society go to butt?” And Finn, seeing a comet hurtling toward Mars, says “But what’s it worth if we all gettin blown up right now?” It’s Finn who seems to inspire Grob, Gob, Glob, and Grod to sacrifice themselves, facing the comet head-on, in order for Mars to go on. Finn’s astral body is sent back to his real body, and he tells Jake: “Glob is dead.” This is such an incredible episode, one that is trippy and funny, emotional, and ultimately an exercise in philosophy. It’s an artist’s eternal question- what’s the point of creation? What responsibility do I have toward my creation? It’s a layered episode, and Finn’s inquisition of existence really makes me cry, every time I watch. I’ve looked at the world with that childlike wonder/cynicism/existentialism as long as I can remember, and to watch a hero do so makes me feel less alone. Betty, who time-traveled to Ooo last season, has been MIA the entire sixth season, until Finn and Jake witness Betty scavenging for Grob Gob Glob Grod’s helmet, which she takes to Magic Man’s house, where she has apparently been living. Betty and the viewer learn of a machine called Margles, named after Magic Man’s tragically lost wife. The machine, we learn, was used against a cosmic demon to protect Mars, and resulted in the real Margles being lost forever. Again, my empathy and interest in the character of Magic Man grows; he tells Margles: “I looked everywhere you know. Every dimension, every dead world. I even wished you back in Prismo’s time room. But you were gone. Erased. Only existing here (points to head and heart). For hundreds of years I held that sadness until my magic and science were strong enough to create you from my nightmares.” With this sadness, Magic Man’s full power potential is locked, and he manipulates Betty into helping him free it; instead, the experiment backfires, and Magic Man is deemed Normal Man, absent of powers and his terribleness, and Betty becomes the new Magic Man, haunted by madness. Betty says, before descending into her own madness: “MMS runs through all Magic Users! I hung out with scores of them all displaying various degrees of magic, madness, and sadness. Studying these symptoms could lead me to their underlying cause, and then I’ll control the forces that hold sway over Simon.” She sacrifices herself to save Simon, again, and we are left with a sincerely lost Normal Man. The final two episodes of the season again show the magic of Adventure Time; it’s a hodge-podge of time travel, existential dread, paranoia, art, and hope. King of Ooo, an imposter-like usurper to Princess Bubblegum’s throne, gains popularity, and PB is exposed as a tyrant of the Candy Kingdom, and is expelled from her castle. Alone in a cabin with Peppermint Butler, PB watches as a pink cataclysmic comet (which ends up being Martin) hurtles toward Ooo, and mourns her people, who have elected a sham leader who cannot help them when they need assistance the most. Eventually, we learn that the mysterious purple-cladded wizard who urged the King of Ooo to usurp PB is Gunter, his brain extending out of his body and ultimately transforming him into his true form, the evil alien Orgalorg. Orgalorg grows powerful, consuming the comet and becoming a sentient and divine being who offers Finn freedom from earth and all of his human pain along with complete power over all beings:
Catalyst Comet: Finn, do you remember?
Finn: Yeah- I think so. A long time ago, I was you, sorta. And I crashed on Earth. And became a butterfly or some biz. And I guess- it was just some random, absurd thing. Just a joke I’ve been playing out for centuries.
Catalyst Comet: Who’s creating the joke? Are you? And if so then are you my creator?
Finn: Maybe? I dunno. Probably not.
Catalyst Comet: Probably not, but who knows? I’ve been around forever, and experienced so much impossible junk. I’ve embodied all that is and good- and evil. And now we’re here. It’s unprecedented. And now, I give you a choice. Come with me to the end- and the beginning? Or struggle here a while like a beautiful autumn leaf.
Catalyst Comet: This is your crisis. As you stand on the edge of freedom from: Love. Hate. Friendship. Isolation. Jealousy. Secrets. Violence. Video Games. Ice Cream Waffles. Sadness. Madness. Power. Honor. Loyalty. Saucy. Mothers. Fathers. Scoundrels.
Finn: You keep tellin me to abandon all this stuff- but you’re not really making it sound bad.
Catalyst Comet: It’s not bad. I’m just giving you the choice of a new mode of existence.
Our hero rejects the comet’s offer, choosing a flawed human life with his loved ones over a perfect life alone. Martin, however, takes the comet up on its offer, and abandons Finn again. Finn confronts feelings of abandonment and disenchantment again, Adventure Time forcing him to grow up while still maintaining his beautifully adventurous charisma. The show does this so well as Finn ages- it respects its viewers who have grown up alongside Finn, who may have become less naïve about the world, more wary of its magic; and yet it still gives them hope, still promises us that it’s all worth it.
Season seven of Adventure Time sees the King of Ooo still in charge, and Finn and Jake attempting to be loyal knights of the kingdom. When the King of Ooo demands the two to enter into PB’s hidden secret cave, our heroes discover Neddy, a harmless and frightened piece of gum, PB’s brother. We learn that Neddy’s life-force is what powers the Candy Kingdom, and that his body sprouted the castle. Princess Bubblegum is forced, then, to confront her secrets and her flaws: while the King of Ooo is obviously far less superior of a ruler than PB, he is correct in labeling her as a semi-tyrant who is paranoid and obsessive about her authoritarian hold on her subjects. PB understands her role in subjugating her own brother as well, and flees to her cabin to cry. Her love for Neddy, though, is undeniable. Although he can’t speak and seems mega-afraid of the world, Princess Bubblegum adores him and respects him, telling Finn and Jake: “People get build different. We don’t need to figure it out, we just need to respect it.” ‘Varmints,’ one of the best episodes of the series, occurs in this season, and shows Marceline returning to Ooo to find PB alone in her cabin, distraught and depressed. This strained relationship, full of tension, blossoms a bit more in this episode, as we watch the two of them hunt strange creatures who destroy PB’s garden. Marceline represents adventure and rebellion, something Princess Bubblegum sees as childish and unavailable to her as a responsible ruler; meanwhile, PB represents rigidity and exhaustion, something Marceline sees as uptight and false. The two need one another to exist in a sane and balanced life, something both of them are stubborn to admit. At the end of the episode, PB admits to being exhausted and sad, finally admitting weakness, which Marceline not only accepts but encourages, assuaging Princess Bubblegum that she will protect her as she rests. This season shows compassion and friendship in a more adult format- Adventure Time is courageous enough to show its characters as sometimes weak, thus encouraging its viewers to reach out for help without being ashamed. PB and Marceline are such incredible characters independent of one another, and the care the creators took to establishing their own personalities before bringing them together makes their union feels so earned. Another of my favorite characters, BMO, gets a special episode this season as well: ‘Football,’ episode five. Here, BMO speaks with his reflection, whom he has named Football. The two tell one another how much they love each other, and Football eventually admits that he’s lonely and wishes he could spend one day outside of the mirror-world. BMO kindly trades places with Football for the day, and Football introduces herself to Jake and Finn, who obligingly call Football Football, using pronouns Football indicates. We see Finn and Jake forgetting Football’s preference and slipping up, starting to say BMO or he, but correcting themselves: “Listen BMO- I mean, Football- you seem like you might be feeling a little donked up in your head or in your heart, or both. And that’s okay! Everybody feels that sometimes.” It’s a beautiful nod toward queerness, a kind show that in order to be an ally, one doesn’t need to be perfect but trying. The episode takes a scary turn when Football refuses to switch places with BMO again, and when Football starts seeing BMO in every glass surface, including the pond behind the treehouse. Eventually, Football falls into the pond, and she and BMO switch places again; Football marvels at the beauty of the pond, thanking BMO and apologizing. Is this an episode about a personality disorder? Maybe- more than that, though, I think it’s an episode that encourages exploration of the self, a theme that becomes heavily prevalent the rest of the season. We get our first mini-series in season seven, called ‘Stakes,’ a series that defines Marceline’s history after she makes the decision to not be a vampire anymore with the help of PB’s anti-vamp serum. As Marceline undergoes her transformation, a mob mentality overtakes a farm; the farmspeople are convinced that Marceline has attacked their livestock since their bites are obviously vampire-abled. They take Marceline and plan on killing her via sunlight; as we wait for the sun to rise, we see young Marcy with her human mother, singing ‘Everything Stays,’ a beautiful song that Marceline cherishes the rest of her life. We see her find Simon, lose Simon, and become alone again, taking to hunting vampires (she is not a vampire yet- she is half demon, half human) in order to protect the humans who have survived the Great Mushroom War. We see Marceline make a heartbreaking decision to send her human friends away (to the islands, which we’ll see in future episodes) from Ooo without her; she fights off a vampire horde, ultimately defeating the Vampire King and becoming the Vampire Queen, a curse she’s lived with for thousands of years. In the present timeline, as the sun rises, Marceline does not die- the cure worked! We quickly learn, though, that a new threat is apparent: The Vampire King has been resurrected, and demands the cure from PB. His vampire essence, when he takes the cure, gets released as an evil cloud unto Ooo, which Marceline consumes to save Ooo, thus turning back into the Vampire Queen, an identity she has a newfound pride in. PB is reinstituted as leader of the Candy Kingdom, an old role she takes on, like Marceline, with pride. Another of my personal favorite episodes of season seven is episode fourteen, in which BMO invites Mo, his human creator, to his birthday party. Mo shows up as a computer instructing BMO to return to the MO factory in order to grow up; while BMO sets out on this lonely and existential journey, Mo the computer stays with Finn and Jake, attempting to entertain them but mostly boring them and worrying them. BMO travels, worrying: “Air? Are you there, Air? It’s me, BMO. I know it’s been a long time since we talked. Sorry about that. But, well, maybe if you don’t wanna talk, you could just listen? Moe told me if I do this thing, I’ll be a grown up. And that sounds cool, I guess. Like, if I was grown, I could drive to the playground by myself. And I could buy my own pacifiers at the store, if I was grown. But then… if I change, will Finn and Jake still love me? Will I still love them? Moe changed into a new body and he’s still the same, I guess… sorta. But does growing up just change your body? Or also your soul? Maybe I could just stay the same forever…” He then makes the astute observation, which I have adopted as my own personal mantra: “Maybe the lesson is that when you’re grown you won’t ever be able to tell if everything is going totally haywire or maybe actually everything is perfectly fine.” When BMO arrives at the MO factory, he realizes something is amiss: all of the MOs have been compacted into one giant MO, and Moe himself has passed away- the computer at the treehouse is AMO, BMO’s nemesis. AMO demands Finn and Jake’s love, growing angry and hateful when the two can’t reciprocate. BMO escapes the factory with the help of the compacted MO computers and saves Finn and Jake from AMO, an aggressive character whose composition prompts him to demand received love rather than giving it, which BMO does. BMO is forced to push AMO off of a cliff, and he mourns the death of AMO and Moe: “I do feel a bit more grown. Except that the mission was just a made up lie. So who knows if I will ever grow up at all. And Moe is gone now, so if there is anything he wanted to teach me, it is in me already. I guess all I can do is listen to the heart Moe gave me. Except, that’s what AMO did. And he turned out bad. So what if I turn out bad too? But I’m different! It’s not just Moe up here, it’s me, too! And if I cannot trust in Moe, I can trust in me! Oh boy. It sure is confusing being grown. I miss you, Moe.” At the end of the season, Mad Betty captures Gunter, luring Ice King to her and capturing his crown, which she replaces with a replica that lets him live. Prismo beckons Finn and Jake back to his time room because of the alternate dimension’s Ice Finn, who has grown terrifying with power and has resurrected The Lich via the Enchiridion- the two are nearly able to enter Ooo. Together, Finn and Jake stop Ice Finn, and Finn holds empathy for the life he didn’t live.
At the start of season eight, Ice King’s replacement crown begins malfunctioning. Marcy and PB enter into the crown (thanks to PB’s science), and learn all about the crown’s history, including Evergreen and his dino assistant Gunter. The two also discover Betty, crazed, working to reprogram the crown- although she doesn’t understand her motivations for reprogramming it, her ambition is admirable. The season expands on the identities of Jake’s children- TV, the sibling who can’t seem to move out, enters into the Crystal Dimension, and discovers her mother’s ex-boyfriend, a dangerous rainicorn set on killing all dogs. In Charlie, another of Jake’s pups, we see Jake reconcile with his past and fleeing youth. Jake notes: “I at least need to unpack the last decade so I can move on with the next. Your 20s are for regretting. 30s are for being dignified. And 40s are older than I ever wanna be.” Charlie agrees to compete in Card Wars with her father, who is hell-bent on revenge toward his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend; Jake is willing to even cheat to win. Charlie, uninterested in the game, abandons her father to work voodoo- she uses one of Jake’s bones to see herself as she ages. “Is this my 20s? I’ve gotta fix these ‘faults of youth.’ My 30s? I look lost. My 40s. I’m afraid. My 50’s; mid-life crisis. 60’s. I’m unfamiliar with my changing body. My 70’s- I begin to lose people around me. My 80’s- I’m afraid again. My 90’s- I’m content and wise!” Charlie continues on with her life, returning to help her father with the wisdom of a 90-year-old. It’s an admittance that aging happens, that youth is fleeting, but that all of it has something to offer. Finally, Kim Khil Wan’s daughter (Jake’s granddaughter!) Bronwyn, is introduced, a super-cool skater chick who suffers from emotional disconnect with her father. It’s an episode that forces Jake to admit disconnect with his own son, and enables us to see Jake as an imperfect father. We also see the resurgence of Normal Man, formerly known as Magic Man- truly remorseful for his past, Normal Man sends his Tiny Manticore to space to attempt to apologize to his four-headed brother (who erupted and become 4 different planets); instead, though, the Manticore enacts revenge on Normal Man, stealing his brothers and hiding them away on a dangerous mountaintop. Normal Man enlists Finn and Jake to help him, and the unlikely trio set off on a D&D-like adventure to the mountaintop. Normal Man offers to die instead of his brothers, and Tiny Manticore understands that Normal Man has truly changed; while Manticore struggles to make sense of this, Normal Man’s brothers apologize to Normal Man, admitting their fault in their falling out. Normal Man escorts his brothers back to space, hoping he can reinstate them as King of Mars- on the way, the brothers bite Normal Man, sending him alone to rule over Mars- “it’s your turn, brother.” They note that Magic Man is cool now, and Normal Man sets off on a new adventure of forgiveness. The season then introduces Patience St. Pim, the Ice Elemental (also known as sorcerer/power holder), who froze herself in ice when the Great Mushroom War happened. Patience manipulates Ice King into letting him live with her and doing her bidding while she gets to know the other elementals: Slime Princess, Flame Princess, and Princess Bubblegum. When Patience is rejected by the other elementals after Patience asks them to become super-power entities with them, she becomes enraged, and sets out on hatching a plan to ruin them. We meet Music Hole, a sweet singing hole that Finn adores (and that I adore). Jake, Finn, and Susan Strong find an abandoned arcade, remnants of a past human life, and discover Dr. Gross, a human-robot hybrid/doctor who wishes to advance the human species by combining their DNA with others. Her menagerie of creatures scares Susan, and while Dr. Gross convinces Finn and Jake to go along with her, Susan refuses, and saves them. Oddly enough, Susan’s head implant starts blaring an alarm, and she becomes hell-bent on capturing Finn. She loses control and hurts Jake, which prompts an unconscious reaction from Finn’s grass sword, who retaliates against Susan. Finn eventually disconnects his grass arm and Fern is born, a conscious human enveloped in grass who knows himself as Finn. Fern becomes an incredibly important character for the rest of Adventure Time, and he and Finn’s relationship is one of my favorite elements of the last few seasons. Now aware of their elemental statuses, the three princesses interact regarding their magical powers; while Slime Princess shows off her robust powers, Princess Bubblegum grows envious and anxious that her own powers haven’t manifested as powerfully (the most she can do is squirt out one or two jellybeans from her hands). She struggles to reconcile her magical powers with her scientific brain, and rages at having to mitigate the two. A mysterious presence starts attacking the Candy Kingdom, which PB is able to defeat; we learn that the presence is Patience, gathering intel on each princess for her diabolical plan. Then comes another mini-series: ‘Islands.’ When Susan recovers from her odd fight with Finn and Jake, she remembers her mission: to find Finn and return him to the islands, where Susan (and Finn) are from. The opportunity to meet humans, and possibly his mother, attracts Finn, and he sets sail with Susan, Jake, and a hidden BMO to the previously unknown human-habited islands. We meet different islands with varying degrees of population- BMO becomes fixated on the second island, where emaciated humans are asleep in pods as they play a Virtual Reality game their entire lives. In this Virtual Reality world, BMO rules, and he struggles to leave. Finn attempts to convince BMO to leave VR; Finn: “But it’s all fake.” BMO: “What’s real? Your eyeballs think the sky is blue, but that’s just sun rays farting apart through the barf of our atmosphere. The sky is black.” Eventually BMO does come, and they travel to the third and final island, where the majority of the humans are. In a much-anticipated moment, Finn meets his mother, Minerva, a nurse. Sadly, though, it becomes apparent that there are multiple Minervas- they are robots, and Minerva’s consciousness has been spread to them all. Finn meets his real mother via a screen- she tells him that when disease broke out on the islands, she sacrificed her conscious self to be a robot that was immune to disease for the survival of the island. She, like Finn, is a true hero, an empath set on helping. But, Minerva has become paranoid- she refuses to let Finn (or any of the humans) leave the island, pushing a false narrative that the outside world is unnavigable. Susan (whose real name is Kara) also reconciles with her past- as a human educated on the island by Dr. Gross, she grew up believing the philosophy Minerva pushes forward: outside world bad, island safe. Susan is trained to catch humans who are attempting to leave the island; she sees them, because of the brain-washing techniques of Dr. Gross, as confused individuals lured unconsciously off the island. Her own friend, Frida, tried to escape the island, and was caught by Dr. Gross; this, we realize, is Susan’s biggest regret. She finds Frida back on the island and apologizes; she is distraught, though, to discover that Frida has adopted the island’s xenophobic attitude. We get a touching episode detailing Martin and Minerva’s meeting. Martin, a con-artist, made money by helping humans escape from the islands and then ratting to the government on who was leaving. Eventually, he’s thrown into the hospital, where Minerva nurses him back to the health (which he continuously tries to escape). The two fall in an innocent and sweet way; Adventure Time grants Martin some credit, showing him as a family man who willingly abandoned his former life in lieu of love for his family. Sadly, though, this doesn’t last; one of Martin’s former enemies chases Martin and Finn, and he is forced to set sail on a raft, meaning to wait until his enemies leave to return home. Instead, though, Finn and Martin are attacked by the island’s guardian, and Finn is set off on his own to Ooo. This long-awaited reveal shows that although Martin has been mostly a disappointment to Finn, he has lived amongst immense pain and loss; might we understand, now, why Martin would take up the comet’s offer? Minerva, too, grieves in one of the saddest scenes of the show, as she waits for her husband and son to return to her. Distraught, she enlists Dr. Gross, who enlists Susan Strong, to help in finding Finn (hence why Susan was in Ooo in the first place). We know, now, Finn’s true birth story; we know more about Martin, all about Susan; it’s a tremendous unfolding of long-held secrets, and makes Ooo feel closer to home than ever before. At the end of the ‘Islands’ mini-series, Finn convinces Minerva to allow him (and the other humans, if they decide) to return to Ooo. He tells them: Finn: “Don’t you want to be able to choose what you do and where you go?” Citizens: “Sounds hard!” Finn: “Yeah. But it’s also fun. And boring, and good and bad. Life’s never just on thing. We got freedom smushed up inside our guts. We want to explore and have experiences and learn new things. Kingdoms made of candy, beautiful dragons, fire-breathing princess, incredibly sad wizards- it’s all waiting for you.” And while the humans ultimately decide they’re not ready to come, Finn leaves the option open for them, returning home with a deeper awareness of what home really means.
The penultimate season of Adventure Time, opens with another mini-series: ‘Elements.’ Upon Finn and Jake’s return to Ooo, they discover a vastly different land; the land has been split into four dimensions (candy, ice, slime, fire), and has descended into chaos. Each section’s element has taken over; in the treehouse, for example, Neptyr, Fern, and Lemongrab have become candied versions of themselves, overly joyous and simple-minded. Princess Bubblegum herself has become an engorged presence taking over the Candy Kingdom with a marshmellow Marceline standing guard. PB attempts to turn Finn into candy, and he is saved by Ice King, who uses his beloved invention of skyhooks to save himself, his penguins, and his friends by transporting them to the Cloud Kingdom. Ice King tells Finn and Jake what happened to Ooo: Betty took Simon on a date, an attempt by Betty to jog Simon’s memories; when he could not remember, Betty became more frustrated than normal, and Patience, still living in Ice King’s castle, kidnapped Betty and froze her, wanting to use her magical powers in the future. Patience also had the three other elementals frozen and in her possession, attempting to harness their powers into a super-entity; instead, her plan backfired, and each princess became an exaggerated version of herself, creating a disharmonious mess of a world. When Finn, Jake, and Simon visit Patience, it’s evident that she has given up, and become depressed at her second failed attempt at happiness; she barely flinches when they rescue frozen Betty, and re-freezes herself again. Betty, still mad but able to understand the situation, instructs Finn and Jake to find the jewels of each elemental, and to place them in the Enchiridion in order to reset Ooo to its normal state. They set off to each kingdom, meeting troubled rulers at each turn; Patience is isolated and depressed, Slime Princess is fixated on being adored and proud, Flame Princess is full of rage which pours out to her entire kingdom, and PB is gluttonous and dumb. The only resident of Ooo who seems un-phased by the elements is Lumpy Space Princess, who remains herself in all four of the quadrants. She says: “Is this… the end? Will I be the last witness to the glory of this world that I chose above all others?” LSP stays sane when Finn turns angry in the Fire Kingdom, and brings Finn back to sanity; because of LSP’s heroism, Finn retrieves the final jewel, which Betty flies away with, cackling. Later, we learn that with the help of elemental magic, Betty is attempting to reset time to before Simon found the Ice Crown, a selfish act that would harm all of Ooo. Finn, meanwhile, realizes that LSP herself holds a power: she is the anti-elemental, the balance of the four elements. Lumps – the anti-element! By being herself- catty, annoying, sensitive- LSP restores Ooo to the way it was. Again, Adventure Time encourages authenticity, telling us that what we have to offer is not only of value but heroic in ways we never could have imagined. This theme surfaces too in Ice King and Betty’s relationship; while she constantly struggles to get Simon back to his former self, Adventure Time seems to hint that acceptance of the now may be Betty’s best option: “Maybe you’re going after someone who doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe take him as he is. After all, you’ve been through a lot of changes yourself.” Ice King even exerts himself in a rare moment of strength: “Lady, this Simon sounds cool, but I’m Ice King. I guess I’m a special person. And I am worthy of respect.” In the aftermath of Ooo’s resetting, Jake takes on his true form- that of a blue alien with multiple eyes. This serves as the main plot line of the rest of the season, fantastically complementing the already-established themes cultivated via Simon and BMO’s arks: coming to terms with your own identity, an identity equally flawed and perfect. Finn urges a surprisingly chill Jake to come to terms with his new identity, and this push leads to another favorite Adventure Time episode of mine: ‘Abstract.’ In this episode, Jake visits his brother Jermaine in his dream while Jermaine paints. Typically a landscape painter, Jermaine has indulged in abstract paintings, something Jake rails against: Jake: “Jermaine, what’s wrong with you? Who’s taken away your identity as a landscape painter?” Jermaine: “There’s nothing wrong with me, Jake. I just changed a little. You seem like you changed a little, too.” Jake: “No, I just look different.” Jermaine: “That sounds like denial.” This is another trippy Adventure Time dive into the abnormal, a deep exploration of the self what it looks like to flimsily define the self. Jake comes to a special epiphany: “The shapes are always changing. Changing is their normal state, like us. Even if we’re not changing on the outside, we’re changing on the inside constantly. There’s some stuff about me that I’ve been ignoring for a long time. I’m afraid of that stuff. But it’s a part of who I am. As long as I know the shape of my soul, I’ll be alright.” I love this passage, and this, in my opinion, is Jake’s shining moment of the entire series. As the stretching dog, Jake’s known as flexible, not only in appearance but in spirit; he’s a best friend, a father, a father figure, a brother figure, a confidante, an adult, a child, an ex, a partner… and he’s good at them all, but doesn’t admit how he manages to juggle them all. The reset of Ooo gave him a physical manifestation of his chameleon-like abilities to adjust, and forces him to examine his self, independent of all the roles he plays. And the self is pretty abstract, yet it’s worth taking time to inspect and nurture. The season holds two more especially great episodes; ‘Ketchup’ which shows two favorite characters- Marceline and BMO- hanging out alone together, and’ Three Buckets,’ in which Finn and Fern have their inevitable confrontation. Fern, who has been brutally confused and scared throughout his short life, grows jealous of Finn throughout the season, and realizes he will never be adored as Finn is. Succumbing to his negative thoughts, Fern takes Finn to a dungeon where he traps Finn and attempts to steal Finn’s identity. Luckily, Finn’s robotic arm becomes a drill, which saves him from the dungeon. Finn attempts to talk Fern down and out of his anger, but Fern refuses to listen, resulting in Finn’s robotic arm slicing Fern in two. Traumatized, Finn returns home to Jake and BMO, and a mysterious purple-clad wizard collects Fern’s remains in a bucket, hinting at Fern’s eventual return for the final season.
I watched the majority of Adventure Time’s tenth season in my living room with my boyfriend. We’d dragged our mattress out to the floor of the main area so our window unit AC could actually do its work in cooling us, and we binged, half-clothed and snacking constantly. It felt like something was coming to a close- not only this show that I’d grown to love in an incredibly specific way, but something within me. I’d started season one the day my person left for Los Angeles, and I was going to finish it sitting beside him in Los Angeles. During the first few seasons I felt lost, both in the lore of Adventure Time and in my heartache. I was sad, stoic, unhappy. Mostly, though, I was insecure. Lost. If I’d ever been confident before, it was gone, and I was ashamed that it was. Was I really the woman who lost her confidence because of romantic love? Didn’t I vouch for women to be stronger than that? Yes, and also yes. I spent so much time feeling shame alongside sadness that it only exasperated my sadness, made my anxiety spiral into recklessness. There is never, I know, any guarantee; but in those first few months, I needed something concrete. I needed a flawless, unwavering yes. And even when I got those yesses from my partner, they weren’t enough (anxiety isn’t truthful). I still felt abandoned and alone, and there didn’t exist, in my mind, a grace with which to handle whatever was to come. There was, though, Finn, and his growing ability to handle the unknown- or, rather, his inability transformed into a patiently learned ability to exist in the space of the unknown. I wasn’t great at patience, but these Adventure Time characters weren’t necessarily great at existing either: Princess Bubblegum was obviously paranoid and anxiety-riddled, and she had to learn tough lessons throughout multiple seasons (and lifetimes) to cultivate the skill of patience for herself; Lumpy Space Princess, ever the moody, bratty teen, turned herself into an empathetic hero; BMO was first introduced as an emotionally-neutral robot, and then proved himself to be the wisest of all, learning incredibly painful lessons on aging and growing; Jake experiences multiple identities throughout the series, culminating in having to accept his alien identity as a part of him, a part as good or as bad as any other; Marceline the Vampire Queen suppresses difficult emotions with the façade of rebellion but slowly understands that love, while it makes us vulnerable, also makes us whole; Ice King forgoes living in bliss-like ignorance in order to re-teach himself compassion; and, ultimately, Finn is forced to reconcile his child-era romanticization of the human experience with his reality, which has been deeply flawed and confusing. Nothing was automatically given to these characters. They are flawed- they make mistakes. But they possess grace, and humility; they reconcile their past selves with the self they want, and make adjustments, however small or slow, to get there. And at the start of Season 10, I felt thoroughly connected to that journey, which truly has been the ultimate adventure for me.
Finn struggles with PTSD throughout the remaining episodes of Adventure Time; Fern’s death haunts him in ways nothing else has. It’s traumatic, and almost inhibits his ability to keep the Candy Kingdom safe. Gumbald, the man who took Fern’s remains, works on setting different monsters onto the Candy Kingdom, all of which Finn feels incapacitated to defeat. Huntress Wizard tells Finn: “This is just me talking, but it sounds like Fern was already heading down a dark road. Sounds like he was a bad version of yourself that you had to destroy, in order to become an even tighter version of yourself.” There’s something extremely meta and existential about the Fern/Finn plotline; Fern seems to be the physical manifestation of Finn’s insecurities but I think he’s more than that. Fern becomes more than just a replica of Finn, especially in the finale of the show. The season has a great episode with Ice King and BMO acting as a door-to-door salesman and one that features Flame Princess in a heated rap battle where she exposes her father for the hack he is and takes confident ownership of her kingdom. And PB comes into her own space, too, when she tells us her long-awaited backstory, and how she created Candy people in her image to keep her company: Uncle Gumbald (the same Gumbald who is causing trouble in present day Ooo), Cousin Chicle, and Aunt Lolly. Gumbald, though, aimed to usurp PB, and planned on using ‘dumb-dumb juice’ on PB to turn her into a docile candy person. Gumbald practices this juice on Chicle and Lolly, turning them into Crunchy the cookie and Manfried the piñata, and accidentally spills the drink on himself, turning into the dancing punch bowl. At Finn’s seventeenth birthday party, the Green Knight attacks, a strong nemesis for the Candy Kingdom that has come out of Fern’s remains. And PB discovers that her family has returned, too; when LSP reset Ooo during the elementals mini-series, she also reset them. While Season 10 does move quickly, AT still makes room for its one-off episodes, the best of this season belonging to Tree Trunks’ ‘Ring of Fire,’ which starts with this gut-punch of a scene between mother and son: Sweet Pea: “I think I must have the most perfect life in the whole world. What about you, mama? Is your life perfect?” Tree Trunks: “Me? Yes, Sweet Pea. I’m the happiest Mama in the whole world.” Sweet Pea: “Oh no, Mama! You’re sad!” Tree Trunks (crying): “No no, sweetie, that’s just something that happens when grown-ups think about their lives for too long.” Tree Trunks then reminisces on her former marriages and lost loves, meeting one of them for lunch and turning him down prematurely before Mr. Pig, Tree Trunks’ current husband, falls through the ceiling, having spied on his wife: Mr Pig: “I’m sorry I didn’t trust you. I just know you’ve had a lot of adventures in the past, and things are kinda boring now.” Tree Trunks: “It’s true, I sometimes miss those wild times, but back then, I couldn’t even tell the difference between a good adventure and a bad one. I was just a leaf in the wind, blown about by my wimbs. But now, I’m on solid ground. You and Sweet Pea are my…” Mr Pig: “You’re greatest adventure?” Tree Trunks: “Yeah!” It’s a beautifully smart and hopeful episode, exposing the monotony of day-to-day motherhood and wifedom while also encouraging the sensational adventure that both of those two identities are. We also get one more Hunson Abadeer episode, this one involving him blessing Finn’s new Night Sword and attending Marceline’s concert, where he embarrasses her via his proud dad antics. We see the two of them reconcile in the most Marceline and Hunson way, ending with Demon papa saying “I’m bad, but I’m not so bad. So, when are ya gonna have some kids?” In ‘The First Investigation,’ Finn and Jake explore their parents old investigation office and encounter a strange time lag/loop which transports them back to the past (and, in a way, to the present). Jake witnesses his own birth, and learns that he came out of his father’s head due to an alien bite. This same alien, Jake’s real dad (Warren), invites him to come back to his home planet and Jake goes, leaving Finn a note that says ‘BRB.’ Jermaine and Finn work on finding Jake with the help of Normal Man and Betty on Mars; while Jermaine, Finn, and Betty go through trials of Normal Man’s creations, Betty is forced to feel empathy for her past self, and is told by Normal Man to accept what is for her own chance at happiness. Normal Man: “And you, Betty. Finally, you’ve learned that most pressing of lessons: that sometimes, for our own good, we must accept the loss of that which we hold most dear.” Betty: “Wrong. I’ve learned that I just gotta work even harder to get it back.” Betty, though, remains adamant in her determination to get Simon back, which we see play out in catastrophic ways in the finale. On another planet, Jake grows close to his dying father Warren, who parades Jake around town, where he is thought of as a hero. Warren asks Jake to use his stretching power to re-energize his father, and Jake eventually realizes that his father is simply draining his lifeblood in order to keep living, as Warren has done with other Ooo inhabitants throughout the ages. Warren even threatens to do so with Jake’s kids, which leads Jake to kicking his father into a blackhole. As tensions rise in Ooo, Finn advocates for diplomacy, and begs both PB and Gumbald to talk rationally to one another instead of insisting on war. Finn: “Hey, this is kind of backwards, right? I used to be all about violence. And now it’s like- I’m different.” Jake: “You’re a beautiful flower, and I love to watch you grow.” When it seems like Finn has succeeded on both sides, we realize Gumbald deceptively doused their hands in dumb-dumb juice, reducing the first candy person to touch them to a silly self. This unfortunate person ends up being Peppermint Butler, who is transformed into a baby, serving as a catalyst for PB to rein in her forces, and Gumbald to do the same (with many fan-favorite baddies in tow). All is set up for the Great Gum War.
I stood in line for hours waiting for the finale. I helped color in a coloring-book-like poster of Adventure Time characters. I won some merchandise. I talked with the Marceline-clad Mom and her Finn-clad son. She told me the two of them had watched Adventure Time for eight years, starting from the time her son was ten until now, on the cusp of his eighteenth birthday. How great is that? To age alongside Finn, to prepare yourself for the pitfalls of humanity via this tremendously accurate and delicate and smart show? I think it’s a great privilege. And, as this woman told me, Adventure Time helped her otherwise shy and socially-anxious son emote with an amount of confidence she’d never seen in him before. He was even confident enough to ask Adam Muto a question after the episode’s screening. I sat in the third row of the theatre, one of the first 30 people inside, and this mother and son sat behind me. My partner sat to my right and I could feel him watching me throughout the episode, could feel his smile at the hot tears on my forever-smiling face. The finale begins with a slightly familiar tune, although a bit different… and as the opening credits finish, we realize it’s completely different- Shermy and Beth? Where are Finn and Jake…? The theatre audibly gasped- we all felt anxious, scared at what had become of our heroes. But Shermy and Beth sure are loveable in themselves.
We realize these new characters are in the land of Ooo when we see one of the Gumball Guardians walking around- as he passes, he leaves behind what we all know to be Finn’s mechanical arm. The next scene shifts to what we know to be Marceline’s house, where Shermy and Beth now live. These new characters appear not to know Finn or Marceline- they reference the King of Ooo, but didn’t he … melt in a past season? The King of Ooo is none other than… BMO! One of the greatest rewards of the finale is BMO, sporting a long white beard, living on top of a mountain with so many easter eggs of AT lore- LSP’s SXYLMP license plate, Marceline’s gross t-shirt that Bonnie slept in, Simon’s glasses, AMO’s carcass, another of PB’s crown, and more. After trashing BMO’s place, BMO tries kicking his visitors out- he is shocked, though, when Beth shows BMO the mechanical arm, which BMO emotionally and nostalgically admits “belonged to my best friend… Fred… No… not Fred… his name was… Phil! He was an amazing hero. And he was there at the end. Do you know about the Great Gum War? Get ready to have your hair blown back!” Shermy and Beth settle in as BMO narrates the story, which appears to have happened decades (maybe centuries) ago. Finn and Jake’s sequence of the episode opens with Finn and Jake seeing Maja the Sky Witch, Normal Man, and Betty chanting some kind of spell over Ooo as PB and Gumbald prepare for war. It’s wonderful seeing PB’s great war outfit (and Marcy’s!) along with Lemongarb and LSP in uniform. Finn again tries convincing PB to be diplomatic, citing Normal Man’s chanting as a bad omen and asking her to call off the battle. PB becomes enraged, however, when she realizes a scout has been spying on her plans. Marceline, too, tries convincing PB not to be headstrong; I love Marcy’s strength here, and the way she gently asks a stressed PB to reconsider. She reminds PB that a war of this magnitude has happened before, and makes a strong case for Bonnie to reconsider. It’s such a tender moment between the two, even though they’re disagreeing. Finn grows even more anxious, telling Jake “She’s wrong. This is all wrong. Even if she wins now, this is never gonna end. I can feel it. It’s like the whole world’s gone crazy. Like we’re living in… one… big… nightmare.” Finn then remembers the strange tool gifted to him by the orb on his way back from the islands, a sort of nightmare juice. AT shows PB and her battalion of warriors lined up, the banana guards and gumball guardians against Gumbald’s mushroom-like soldiers and giant robot. There’s a hilarious moment when the robot blows up a lemon (which Gumbald mistakes for a banana); seeking to intimidate PB’s banana guards, Gumbald instead scares Lemongarb, who passes a note to PB which says simply: “Unmake me.” PB sounds her war horn and Finn again begs her to reconsider; Finn’s arm reminds PB of her old friend Shoko, and gives in to Finn’s friendship, agreeing once more to diplomatically resolve the battle. When Gumbald calls PB a toddler, PB retaliates, growing more angry and violent, and Jake throws the nightmare potion to the ground, leaving Finn, Jake, Gumbald, PB, and Fern unconscious on the ground- another great moment comes when LSP screams “they’re dead!”
The group wakes up in a dream state, something Finn describes as a last resort. Gumbald and Fern attempt to attack PB, and PB attempts retaliation; a strange black poodle with a blonde wig begins singing, distracting all of them. Gumbald runs, seeking to wake himself up to win, Jake imagines Jermaine into the dream, Fern realizes Gumbald left him like everyone else, and PB chases after Gumbald. Finn cries: “You’re supposed to be having some kind of epiphany!” He then realizes Fern’s roots are growing into the dreamspace, forming a strange cocoon; Jake is suspended in his dream state and unable to help Finn. Fern, refusing Finn’s help, turns into a bat-monster, vowing to wreck things, and Finn, attempting peace, turns into a butterfly to follow him (remember Finn’s first incarnation as a butterfly), PB chases Gumbald into some kind of beast’s mouth, where the two joust with toothbrushes and hit one another, causing their bodies to vibrate and glitch. Finn, meanwhile, attempts convincing Fern that having two Finns is a great thing, which Fern rejects, asking him to fight him, telling Finn “you’ll never understand what it’s like to be me! I’m tormented!” to which Finn replies: “I’m also that sometimes!” Fern asks Finn to prove it, and Jake overhears, knowing what has to be done in order to have this proof. While glitching, PB follows Gumbald in a menacing way, threatening to drop dumb-dumb juice onto him; the juice spills onto dream PB, who turns into a piece of dumb bubble gum. Gumbald takes her crown, and the candy PB cries. Jake and Jermaine ascend into a strange dream underground realm where Lady Rainicorn shows Jake his puppies as dream-monsters with blank eyes; some of them are getting baked into a stew, and one of them says “your farts aren’t funny, Dad!” I laughed so hard at this part, acknowledging that this would indeed be one of Jake’s worst nightmares. As he cries, he discovers Finn’s vault, the abstract memory vault mentioned sporadically throughout the series when Finn can’t handle trauma. PB, as a candy person, watches the Candy Kingdom unfold, and possesses her own intellectual thoughts, which, we realize, she cannot articulate. When she tries articulating, wanting to help Gumbald and the kingdom, the only thing she can do is a stupid taffy dance. It’s a heart-wrenching scene, watching candy PB cry because of her inability to discuss. This, we realize, must have been the prison Gumbald, Lolly, and Chicle were locked in for all those years: they weren’t dumb, they were simply in prisons of their own intelligence. The nightmare potion seems to be swapping their roles in an attempt to get both of them to be empathetic to the other; Gumbald can’t build a candy kingdom without failing, which forces Gumbald to empathize with the difficulties PB has had throughout her life. Next, Fern turns himself into a rabid bear, and Finn transforms into a cuddly one, when Jake comes back from his fart-full plane of nightmares. “What stinks?” “Repressed memories!” Jake yells as he slams Finn’s vault down. Proof comes, then, in the four figures that appear in the vault: Princess Bubblegum, The Lich, Susan Strong, and what appears to be a mutantly-shaped Martin, Finn’s father. Finn tells Fern this is their “shared torment,” and they both realize they must confront their traumas in order to heal. In a trippy sequence, Finn and Fern see the green grass demon that possessed Fern in the sword; Fern’s body (which looks to be Finn’s) has the grass octopus covering it, and tells Finn that without the help of the grass demon, Fern wouldn’t have a body. Fern kills the demon and the two end up on an island where a fish barfs up PB and Gumbald. Jake swims up as well, and when PB tries touching Fern, his body starts deforming. All five characters awake on the battleground to a screaming LSP, where Fern’s body is indeed disintegrating. PB apologizes in a very honest way, and Gumbald goes to hug her, but is tripped by Lolly, who knew he had ulterior motives, holding a vat of dumb dumb juice in his pocket. Gumbald turns into the punch bowl again, and the two sides appear to combine in a happy ending with Aunt Lolly at the head. As the warriors flee from battle, an on-fire Normal Man falls to the ground saying “we donked up for real” before a hole appears in the sky revealing Golb, the evil deity referenced throughout the show. It appears Betty, Normal Man, and Maja conjured him into Ooo in their attempts to rescue Simon. LSP takes a hilarious selfie with the demon, and the rest of the characters are shocked and scared. A confused Ice King, in the ranks of Gumbald, remembers talking with Betty as Simon, and we learn more about Golb, who the two studied extensively. Golb’s dinosaur-looking beings consume the candy people as they start to flee, and PB urges her people to run. Finn, Jake, Lady, Marcy, and Fern all stay, promising to defend Ooo. One of the Gumbald Guardians bursts while defending Ooo, and Normal Man races to Ice King, telling him Betty is trying to harness the power of Golb. LSP offers Lemongarb “the parting gift” of her lips, which he announces as ACCEPTABLE! LSP’s face puckers (what a great ending for these two!). Ice King attempts talking to ‘Weird Lady,’ and Normal Man urges him to find the words to stop Betty, the ultimate struggle for Ice King- can he save himself, bring his memories and identity back? Ice King and Betty are swallowed into Golb and Finn jumps in afterward, his mechanical arm falling in the process, which is later picked up by Shermy and Beth. One of Golb’s monsters attacks PB, and she appears to be squished, unleashing Marceline’s vampire essence and super-power. Marcy turns into the demon-form of herself at the thought of losing PB, and she demolishes the monster. In her outrage, she realizes PB is alive, and rushes to hug her, saying “you scared me! Even back when we weren’t talking, I was so afraid something bad would happen to you and I wouldn’t be there to protect you and… I don’t wanna lose you again.” CRYING, FOREVER. PB tells Marcy, “Nothing never happening to me. Never.” And the two kiss, the best, most long-awaited and forever-hinted-at kiss in history. The entire theatre screamed and clapped and cried. I bawled. Inside Golb, Finn, Simon, and Betty are turned into their essential forms. Simon and Betty finally get a reunion while the walls of Golb close in; Betty realizes that Simon’s crown reset, making the Ice crown virtually useless. Golb’s two monsters prowl through Ooo, and Jake follows, turning into his blue alien form again. The monsters destroy Finn and Jake’s treehouse and Jake wallows, screaming heartbreak that we could all feel. The beloved treehouse! This symbol of friendship and adventure and truth and hurt and pain and love… gone?
Jake tries recovering from the trauma of losing his house and a cracked-face BMO saves him. He tells Jake: “It’s OK Jake, you always try to protect me and Finn, but sometimes, we are going to get hurt. How about today you let me be the papa?” Then starts the most sincerely Adventure Time song possibly in the entire show. The lyrics reminisce and rift about time, calling it an allusion: “time is an illusion that helps things make sense so we are always living in the present tense. It seems unforgiving when a good thing ends, but you and I will always be back then.” Simon and Betty cling to one another inside Golb, candy people watch in horror, and BMO cradles Jake. It’s such a purely honest admittance by the show- it respects the maturity and wisdom of its viewers, and remembers that the kids who started with Finn and Jake in season one are now adults, ebbing and flowing in time, nostalgic and heartbroken, happy and triumphant. Things change, rapidly, and it’s nearly impossible to be mindful without remembering what came before, what can come after. The finale’s protagonists, per the theme song, are no longer Finn and Jake, but they remain- we know them, and we will forever know them. BMO knows them, and will, forever. “You and I will always be back then.” We live on, not only after we die, but after we depart one stage of our life. Who we are changes, sometimes irrevocably, sometimes unpredictably; sometimes by circumstance, sometimes by sheer personal choice. Sweet Pea holds his adoptive mother and father at the end of the world; the whole land of Ooo realizes the importance of the moment in the face of the apocalypse, and they take what comfor they can from BMO’s notion that we, the bonds we create, the love we share, will always exist, because it once existed. It once thrived. PB and Marceline hold BMO and fly towards Golb’s creatures, singing the song together in harmony: PB realizes: “Golb is discord. It’s the harmony- harmony hurts them!” to which the amazing BMO replies: “my art is a weapon!” We see one final glimpse of our beloved side characters singing together, marching toward Golb, toward the unknown chaos, together, standing in the face of time passing. Inside Golb, Betty noticed the crown’s magic reset, and Finn finds a tunnel out of Golb because of Ooo’s songs. Betty stays, sending Simon and Finn away, telling Simon she has to make a wish in order to save Ooo, and apologizes to Simon one last time before putting the crown on herself. In a shrinking box, Betty wishes to kill Golb, but the wishes don’t work; she realizes the sacrifice she has to make and says: “I wish for the power to make Simon safe,” fulling realizing what must happen as she says “whatever it takes.” Simon stays himself on Ooo as Golb transforms into… Betty Golb. Betty, determined to save her beloved Simon, sacrificed herself into chaos to make him whole again. Simon recognizes what Betty has done and cries, remembering everything. Marceline holds a broken Simon and tells him “you’re back! It’s what she wanted more than anything in the world.” Betty Golb goes back into space leaving behind the Ice Crown, which falls to Gunter- instead of becoming his alien form, he wishes to become Ice King, just like the old Gunter. Fern grabs ahold of Finn’s leg and tells him “I wish I could see the tree house one last time. Just promise to plant me there.” With that, he goes, grass flowing in the wind. Jake and Finn bury Fern’s seed at the sight of their treehouse, and immediately a new tree sprouts, with the Finn sword in the trunk. Back in present day, BMO announces the end of his story, and a confused Shermy and Beth ask “but what happened to Finn and Jake and Princess Bubblegum?” To which BMO replies: “Eh, you know, they kept living their lives.” Shermy and Beth leave BMO and we see a giant Sweet Pea roaming Ooo with a long beard and the Night Sword- he looks a lot like Billy the hero! I have hope that this is precisely what Sweet Pea became. Shermy and Beth head off to finding the old tree and we get one last moment between our two heroes, Finn and Jake (and the great music hole). They discuss the importance of music and how a song can describe feelings sometimes better than actual words. Music Hole says: “Actually, I’ve been working on a new song myself. It’s about a really specific feeling that’s hard to describe.” Then starts our beloved ‘Come Along With Me’ song we’re used to hearing at the end of each episode, this time sang amongst backdrops of Alien Jake and Lady Rainicorn flying together, LSP getting crowned, Gunter the Ice King proposing to Turtle Princess and getting married amongst penguins, TV starting her own investigation bureau like Finn and Jake’s parents, Sweet Pea graduating, PB hanging out with Neddy and Aunt Lolly, Simon visiting Prismo asking for what appears to bring Betty back (sadly, Prismo shrugs his shoulders in a helpless way, similar to what he did when Magic Man attempted to find Margles), BMO blasting Mo’s memory into space, Flame Princess rapping, Normal Man sitting in his office on Mars with a framed photo of Margles, Simon popping popcorn with Turtle Princess and Ice Gunter, and the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen, Marceline and PB cuddling under a blanket with hot chocolate with a dumb Peppermint Butler baby at their feet. Equally beautiful, we see the humans, led by Minerva Bot, finally coming to Ooo! The final shot is of Shermy lifting the Finn Sword out of the Fern tree, making the same position Finn once did. The adventure lives on.
In my extensive and obsessive research about Adventure Time, I’ve seen a lot of theories about mental illness in regards to AT. I’ve read about BMO representing multiple personality disorder, Flame Princess showing signs of bipolarism, PB being paranoid and anxious, Marceline being depressed… and while I think these comparisons can be helpful, I think defining a character by their alleged metaphor can leave something out of the equation. Adventure Time effortlessly and fearlessly addresses mental illness. It never shies away from showing its characters hurting, especially Finn, and never allows its story to mock or belittle that suffering. Characters help one another heal and encourage each other to look at whatever may be hidden in that secret vault, whenever he or she is ready. The characters of Ooo know each other so intimately- Marceline hates PB’s paranoia, but the long ark of the two’s relationship proves that not only does Marceline accept this quality of Bonnie, she loves it. It’s what makes Bonnibel Bonnibel. Jake gently encourages Finn to confront his hurt about Martin but never pushes him; instead, Jake assures Finn that when he’s ready, Jake will be there to help. Adventure Time advocates for a gentle human empathy, one that is honest about the ugliness of existence but hopeful in the healing. In the finale, Finn and Fern learn to empathize with one another’s shared and individual hurt, as do PB and Gumbald.
The height of my own journey with mental health seized as I started this show. My anxiety twisted into depression, and the two made days feel like months. In the mornings, on the east coast of the US, I waited for my partner to wake up on the west coast. I stared at my phone and willed it to ring, hoped that it would deliver some proof that I was still loved. I slept fitfully, sure that the next morning was the one in which he’d have gone, inexplicably. I wanted a sign, signs, really, that this was unequivocally going to work out. I wanted a guarantee, something my rational mind knew did not and could not exist- anything less than a 150% guarantee felt like a failure.
But what about Finn? He wanted the 150%, too, and he got maybe 25%. He got the reality of his father, disappointing and distant in his own hurt, and his mother, half of what she once was. Finn was forced, throughout the show, to reconcile his childhood imaginings of what a family could be with what the reality was. And he was made to do this in regards to romantic love, too- PB consistently rejected Finn, and while at first he thought he just had to work harder for her to realize her affection for him, Finn came to understand that simply wanting something and willing it into existence did not make the universe owe you anything. He made a dire mistake with Flame Princess which he at first thought he could remedy; Finn grows so incredibly much throughout the show. He transforms from expecting the universe to give him the best to working to make the universe the best. And that’s what I had to do, too. That’s what I have tried to do, quietly, in my own life.
Now, my partner and I are in the same time zone. We’re in the same bed. It’s as much of a guarantee as I could have ever wanted, and yet still sometimes it’s not enough. It’s not 150% because 150% isn’t real. I have to remind myself of that sometimes, and when I really need to, I’ll watch something like AT’s ‘Astral Plane.’ The reality of our togetherness isn’t as romantic or as anxiety-defeating as I once expected it to be; in fact, sometimes togetherness is ugly. There’s fighting and there’s minor cruelties. There’s arguments about the dishwasher and the cat. The gravity of another human consciousness is larger than I ever expected. I often think of the way Marceline and PB used to fight in earlier seasons of AT and smile to myself, seeing so much of those characters in my partner and me (I’m PB, he’s Marceline). It is so unbelievably challenging to recognize one another’s mental health pitfalls, and to respect them at every turn. When my anxiety tells me I need support in the form of reassurance, his depression tells him he needs support in the form of space. We can both feel self-absorbed to the other. We can get into bitter arguments that leave us tired. Why is it so hard to remember gentleness in the midst of this? Adulthood isn’t anything like I thought it would be. It’s exhausting and lonely. My best friends are across the country from me, and my job is often boring. There’s never enough money or time. Disappointment in the self reigns supreme. But there are moments, pure, unaffected by anything negative, that come in a flash, so unexpectedly and so quickly that the second you recognize the goodness, it’s gone. I don’t think we can curate these moments into happening more, but I do think we can remind one another of them more. And we can tell ourselves, tell those we love that they will come around again. Like BMO says, “When bad things happen I know you want to believe they are a joke. But sometimes life is scary and dark. That is why we must find the light.” We can sing together in the face of chaos, big or small. We can let that be enough.