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Adventure Time’s finale shows that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

(Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS)

Nobody can argue against the influence that Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time has had on animation. The show has helped launched the careers of many of Cartoon Network’s newest animators, writers, creators including creator of Steven Universe Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Over the Garden Wall Patrick McHale, writer and voice actress Niki Yang and many others. But beyond the people who worked on it, the show’s plot, setting, aesthetic and tone helped to set a new trend in the cultural landscape of animation.

When the show began, many wrote it off. It seemed to be a simple, episodic show about the adventures of a boy and his magically stretching dog/older brother who lived in a crazy world with sentient candy, a crazy old man with ice powers, magic, a vampire queen and other random nonsense.

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From Left to right: Flame Princess, Marceline, Lumpy Space Princess, Peppermint Butler, Princess Bubblegum, TreeTrunks, Jake, Finn, BMO, Ice King, Cinnamon Bun, Lemongrab

But as the show progressed, we saw that things weren’t as simple or saccharine as they appeared. Ooo was the result of a nuclear holocaust that killed off most of the life on Earth and Finn was the only human inhabitant. The Ice King was revealed to be a tragic figure trapped inside his own insane mind…And so, so, so much more.

It would take an entire article to describe the true horror and tragedy of Ooo.

In later episodes, the lore seemed to get in the way of plot progression and character development. Some people lost interest. And it was hard to imagine what would happen in the finale because so little time had been spent setting up the final battle.

Come Along With Me, the show’s 45 minute long finale, named after its ending theme struggles with this. The characters emotional and personal arcs are given far more weight than any final battle. Which is fine, but makes for an unsatisfying battle but wholly satisfying ending.

Finn, The Ice King and Fern all have conclusions to their stories. Princess Bubblegum and Marceline are confirmed to be in a relationship through a passionate on-the-lips kiss (though neither of them face the camera) and Jake gains a sort of emotional maturity. And we know that they end up living somewhat happily-ever-after. At least in the immediate future.

But the events of the finale, in how they are set up, could have been better.

The Great Gum War, though, that had been teased in the trailers never came to fruition; which isn’t the best conclusion. Although Gumbald had never been a particularly compelling antagonist due his lack of screen time, it’s still frustrating to see him pushed aside to have the focus on GOLB in the end. He’s never given any real resolution to his issues with Princess Bubblegum. He was pretty superfluous; he never really affected anything in the finale. The ending would have transpired more or less the same way it did, had he never been involved.

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Golb

GOLB, himself, also doesn’t get a lot of attention; he had been been built up as an ultimate enemy for seasons and he’s barely on screen during the finale. Knowing so little about him, should make him this ultimate frightening enemy but his appearance just seems to come out of nowhere and he’s defeated rather anti-climatically.

He’s defeated through music, or more appropriately, harmony. Given the show’s creative use and history of music, it’s thematically appropriate. But Adventure Time isn’t My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, making the weapon choice an odd one for such an important and melancholy episodes, especially in how the events impact the characters.

Compared to other recent cartoon finales, like Gravity Falls or Regular Show, the method of victory was definitely underwhelming. But the satisfaction doesn’t come from the victory of good or evil, it comes from knowing that the adventure continues.

Previous episodes have shown the rather dismal future of Ooo, particularly a destroyed and abandoned Candy Kingdom and the finale episode does showcase a rather depressing world. There’s not as much color or life. There feels like there’s something missing but “Come Along With Me” also shows that life has continued in its own way. A new dominant species has taken over, seemingly descended from Jake and Lady Rainicorn, they’ve even managed to travel to space.

And of course, we’re introduced to Finn’s latest reincarnation a white bunny-cat humanoid creature with big ears and Totoro-like smile named Shermy and his friend, the reincarnation (and possible direct descendant) of Jake, Beth the Pup Princess who has the ability to transport objects using her belly-button. They set off on an adventure to meet the King of Ooo who they believe can tell them about the old robotic arm they found.

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Their meeting of the King of Ooo is the framing device for the episode. It’s almost more of their episode than Finn and Jake’s; the intro used is even focused on them. So there’s plenty of Easter eggs for hardcore fans to find that give hints about the future. But the show leaves how this future came to be a total mystery.

We don’t find out who Finn ended up with, if he ended up with anyone at all. We don’t know what happens to Finn and Jake in the far future and the kinds of adventures that await them there. We don’t know how the Candy Kingdom was destroyed or if something happens to Princess Bubblegum.

And that’s okay.

A show shouldn’t have the answers to all the questions, and that’s something the show struggled with in the past few seasons. There wasn’t a need to describe so much of the lore of the series and how certain aspects of Ooo worked. Harry Potter is a franchise that’s fallen victim to the this trap: now every question has to be answered by Rowling herself, no imagination allowed. And she can change canon at a whim, whether or not it makes sense.

But allowing us to get a glimpse of “far off future lands” is great. While the show ends with a rendition of “Come Along With Me,” which is fitting in mood, a more appropriate song to describe the situation would certainly be Marceline’s “Everything Stays.”

The final verse reads: “Everything stays/Right where you left it/Everything stays/But it still changes/Ever so slightly/Daily and nightly/In little ways/Everything stays.”

And I think understanding this idea is very important. Ooo has changed. The characters will change in personality and looks, but it shows that there will always be more princesses to save, other ice beings to be defeated, and that there will always be time for more adventures. In a show about adventures, big and small, what else can you ask for?

And that that’s the scoop!

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Score: 8/10

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Rating: N/A

Length: 45 minutes

Available: iTunes, Cartoon Network App,

Directors: Diana Lafyatis, Cole Sanchez, Sandra Lee

Writers: Sam Alden, Graham Falk, Tom Herpich, Seo Kim, Hanna K. Nyström, Aleks Sennwald, Steve Wolfhard, Somvilay Xayaphone

Story By: Ashly Burch, Tom Herpich, Adam Muto, Kent Osborne, Jack Pendarvis, Julia Pott, Pendleton Ward Steve Wolfhard

Voice Actors: Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Tom Kenny, Hynden Walch, Niki Yang, Pendleton Ward

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