This post contains spoilers for the entire series of Adventure Time, including the Season 9 finale
Adventure Time redefined what it meant to go on a journey.
The finale of this 10-year long adventure, which aired at 6 p.m. ET on Sept. 3, could not have made this more clear: We have moved so far beyond where we started. We could never have imagined the path would end like this. And somewhere along the way, we learned to be okay with that.
The finale reiterated that good things might come to an end. But what we learn from them doesn’t have to.
In it’s more simple (yet always revolutionary) original form, creator Pendleton Ward imagined Adventure Time as an animated TV series in the spirit of a Dungeons & Dragons game. The sense of random, unpredictable questing is built into the name itself.
But what was perhaps less predictable was what it came to mean to us all, as an endless source of heartfelt emotional journeys.
Like our unexpected moral compass, Adventure Time feels like the closest internet era equivalent to what Mr. Rogers was for so many previous generations. Through its oddities, rituals, sincerity, and never-too-soap-boxy lessons, it taught us the invaluable lessons of growing up — both for the show’s younger audiences and the older online fanbase that took to it like moths to a meme.
The Land of Ooo is not the same as Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. But it was still our own place of unadulterated childhood imagination and community, where the scary and beautiful lived side by side, the achingly sad and unendingly hopeful sang in harmony together.
We watched so much about this world change. And Adventure Time dared to go places that few other children’s shows were even allowed to.
Our own place of unadulterated childhood imagination and community, where the scary and beautiful lived side by side.
In a universe set in aftermath of total annihilation (aka the nuclear fallout of the Mushrooms Wars), the show has always in some ways been about living with the end. But the ephemeral nature of life is also embedded into its most notable storylines.
Like the Ice King, for example. The character we thought was a prototypical villain turns out to have been a scientist, loving husband, and caretaker to a little girl in need — but then tragically corrupted by the magic he needed to protect them in the post-apocalypse. The princess who needed rescuing now more often does the rescuing herself. She’s also revealed, however indirectly, to be in an on-and-off again romance with Marceline the Vampire Queen.
A seemingly simplistic protagonist goes through the awkward and excruciating pain of losing love and wrestling with the discovery that the dad he’d put on a pedestal was actually just a huge jerk.
While Finn began as a falsetto-ed boy with reductive ideals of violent heroism, by the end of the series in Season 9’s “Gumbaldia” and “Come Along With Me,” he has transformed into a peace treaty-seeking mediator. In the finale, his immutable shadow self Fern the Human disintegrates and is reborn as the new treehouse. Betty doesn’t just die, but becomes one with the chaos god Golb.
I mean, for Glob’s sake, we thought Tree Trunks literally died for much of the earlier seasons.
From the opening minutes, the ambitious, hour-long finale of Adventure Time only further forced the audience to understand that you don’t need to be afraid of change or the end.
The episode begins not with Finn and Jake, as we’ve come to expect. Instead, the end begins with a whole new tag team, Sherman and Beth the Pup Princess, who look like some sort of mutated futuristic forms of Finn and Jake. The plot of the finale is framed as a story being told by the king of Ooo (BMO), a thousand years after everything as we knew it is gone forever.
Adventure Time knows that life is not always fair or just. Everything stays, yet still changes. Bad things happen to good people. Good things don’t last forever. And that’s exactly as it should be.
Or, to put it in the words of the finale song, written by one of the formative creative minds behind the show (who went on to spread its revolutionary spirit with Steven Universe), Rebecca Sugar:
It seems unforgiving when a good thing ends.
But you and I will always be back then.
You and I will always be best friends
Saying goodbye to Aventure Time is hard, especially now when it feels we need the help of a show that can always find peace amid the chaos.
But it’s a testament to what it gave us that we’ve learned how to let it go. We came along with you. We’ll be here for you always. And always be for you.
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