Adventure Time

Adventure Time was the most real show I have ever seen. My son was four when we started watching it, and today, when he is old enough to drive, we watched the final episode together.

In Ooo, the world doesn't make sense. Candy has become sentient, the elder god is a penguin, horned death is reborn as an innocent child. Over time, what were ridiculous non-sequiturs at their first appearance became incorporated into the story of the world. Finn, though, has grown up in this world, and to him, this is just the way things are. His reaction to the world is to always try to be a hero. He doesn't know how to do it. The hero instruction manual (the Enchiridion) was written by someone else who also didn't know how to do it. He's just a kid with a sword and a shapechanging dog, trying to figure things out. But it doesn't matter: because all that it takes to be a hero is to try to be one.

The show is made up of episodes just 11 minutes long. Yet every week, they would manage to fit more true story into those eleven minutes than some shows manage in an entire season. Some of my favorites:

Finn climbs into a pillow fort, and dreams he is in a pillow kingdom. He grows up, gets married, has pillow children, and dies of old age. He wakes up and is about to tell Jake about his dream when he gets interrupted and forgets the whole thing.

BMO meets a talking bubble and they have adventures through the forest all day. They become close and decide to stay together. When Finn sees the bubble, he immediately playfully pops it. But the voice isn't gone-- the bubble has become the air, and BMO and the air will never be apart.

Shelby the worm gets cut in two and discovers that his smaller half has become his brother. The new worm goes on a quest to obtain a sword and defeat the rat king who is gnawing at the roots of the willow. The rat king, it turns out, is a multitude of rats and is vanquished. The new worm, who partook of the drink in the underworld, must return there. But the willow blooms for the first time.

Finn and Jake unearth some ancient videotapes. They learn how the Ice King, an absurd and somewhat villainous old man from the very first episode, was once a scholar named Simon Petrikov. In order to protect a young girl in the post-apocalyptic world of the time, he repeatedly made use of a magical crown that gradually drove him insane and overwrote his personality, trapping him in an endless winter. The Ice King shows up and doesn't understand what the tapes are showing. But for the first time, he and Finn are able to sit down together without fighting.

And these are just the first four stories that come to mind. The show was hilarious, constantly subverting expectations; and at the same time tragic and oddly horrifying. It talked about love, and death, and time, in a way that other shows can only hint at. The message of the show, it seems to me, is that the world has become a strange place, and will only keep getting stranger. Tragedies will continue to break it apart, and what comes after will be something entirely unexpected. But the things that matter-- hope, kindness, friendship, making bacon pancakes-- stay the same.


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