Obsidian” is a much better follow up to Adventure Time than “BMO.” The episode has its flaws, yes, but it also has clear themes, strong characterization, unambiguous themes about love and acceptance, and some truly bitching’ songs that I have been listening to over and over.
I wasn’t originally planning on reviewing this episode, but once I found myself listening to the soundtrack, over and over and over again, it seemed wrong to ignore it. That and the other thing I wanted to review just didn’t have enough substance for me to justify writing about.
“Obsidian” takes place a good ten years or so after the main series’ finale – though the timeline isn’t important.
Like the previous episode, Finn and Jake don’t factor into the main plot and Finn’s appearance is only to establish when the episode is.
The episode follows Princess Bubblegum and Marceline on a journey to stop a dragon awakened from its slumber from destroying the Glass Kingdom; the site of their break-up hundreds of years ago – something they haven’t discussed in their relationship.
While the glass people provide the set-up and catalyst for the episode, they do take up quite a bit of run-time that could have been devoted to our main pair. Glassboy especially can be a very annoying character. But it’s not enough to ruin the episode.
It’s just kind of frustrating. But there’s a lot else to explore in this 45-minute episode that takes us even deeper into the psyche of Adventure Time’s most beloved couple.
Without a doubt, the most distinctive part of this episode is the music. Much of it is in-universe and sung by Marcy so you know they’re all bops. This episode utilizes lyrical music to show character growth – usually to show a significant change in character mood or development.
This sounds very smart – but it’s what most music in shows do, though I’d have to say the songs in this episode are particularly unique.
“Woke Up,” is an interesting song – as it’s revealed that this is the infamous break-up song Marceline sung to PB all those years ago.
The song itself is an extremely catchy pop-punk tune and isn’t subtle at all in its message. When Marcy sings the song in the show’s present, we see PB looking hurt, but we spend most of it in the past – with a much angrier looking Marceline.
And it’s not only momentous for being a banger, a hardcore break-up song but in-universe, it is thought to be an incantation to ward off the monster. The Glass People don’t care that it wasn’t magic or that they’d been singing the wrong lyrics for ages – once they hear from Marceline herself, they’re like “Oh, it’s about you,” to Bubblegum. And this time, the song doesn’t work.
It’s interesting to see how the music differs during the two different times it’s sung – we don’t get to see much of the present reprise at all. But it’s not as powerful because Marceline doesn’t have that same hurt and anger. She’s happy – so of course, an angry song isn’t going to work.
And that’s what leads us to her singing “Monster”
There’s no reaction to it never being intended to ward off the dragon….while there are a few other songs in the episode, the other important one is “Monster.” This is a much softer, funnier love ballad that only has the strumming of a guitar accompanying and no other effects.
After her repeat of “Woke Up,” Marcy realizes that the song didn’t work because she isn’t the same person she was back then and coincidentally recognizing how she’s been hurt and has hurt other people, and her song also speaks to Molto Larvo – the dragon- whose tragic backstory we get to see.
But mostly, “Monster” is about how happy Marceline is to be with Princess Bubblegum and how she’s “the pink in [her] cheeks.” Which if you know how Marceline only eats shades of red – is really significant and adds another layer to the song.
She makes her feel alive.
The fact that PB and Marcy are a same-sex couple is never, ever commented on within the show’s text. This is a HUGE change from other shows where, somebody might show some kind of bemusement or prejudice, or one of them would comment on their sexuality – but neither happens.
And since the show never focuses on them being a same-sex couple – we get to focus on them as a couple. The show never shies away from showing they’re in a romantic relationship: they nuzzle, they kiss, they live together, and even sleep in the same bed. There’s no denying that their relationship is more than just platonic. It’s just nice to see it being treated like any other relationship.
The issues they face could have been by any couple. Both of them have trouble expressing their emotions for different reasons, and they gotta learn how to communicate.
And I think it’s important that we have episodes that involve LGBTQ+ people in situations where their sexuality isn’t the main point. They have relationship problems too.
And I like that about this episode
History: Remembering and Interpreting
There are other episodes where Marceline’s past is explored, but I think this episode is the most defining one. We finally get to know her mother and how Marceline ended up all alone in the world for goodness knows how long before Simon found her.
Marceline’s mother was some kind of important person, possibly a scientist considering her access to a bunker. Both of them were traveling after the Mushroom War through what would become Ooo to try and find a bunker.
Marceline’s mom, Elise, was ill -though it’s unclear with what (probably radiation poisoning) and doesn’t have a lot of time. She was a pretty good parent – protecting Marceline and distracting her from the horrors. When she realizes she’s dying, she sends Marceline off with a hand-drawn map to find “the party” so she doesn’t have to see her mother die.
Unfortunately, everyone, there is already long dead but Marceline stays there waiting for her mom believing she got sent away because she’s a monster. It’s not until Marceline returns, in the present, thinking she needs to go back to where she was most hurt, so she can write a song that will send Molto Larvo back into a slumber that she finds a message from her mom – and the truth.
It’s a very powerful moment.
Marceline finally realizes she’d been letting her past define her too much, and she wasn’t a monster and she shouldn’t be pushing people away from her to avoid getting hurt because she was only hurting herself more.
I’m sad we didn’t find out more about Elise and Hunson’s relationship and what led to Marcy’s conception – but that’s probably for another mini-series, should they ever feel like exploring it. But I’m glad we got to see more of her and find out that yes, she was a pretty good parent, and she truly cared for her daughter.
Except for the whole never letting her daughter experience any negative emotions thing.
And in her defense, she probably didn’t know everyone in the bunker was dead. She thought there was someone there to take care of Marceline. Nor did she realize trying to hide all the truths from Marceline was hurting her – but again, parenting books don’t exactly have a chapter on raising your half-demon daughter in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse chapter. And if Marceline knew how to use an answering machine she would have realized the truth much sooner. Or if there had been an adult who could show her or provide support.
One of the biggest themes of the show is dealing with scars- both physical like that of Molto Larvo or Glassboy’s crack and emotional like Marcy’s. And because they’re scars they can’t be miraculously cured. Glassboy had always lived with his and was discriminated against for it – but he didn’t let it become bigger or overtake his life.
This is why he was so happy throughout the episode.
When it’s revealed All the glass people have cracks – they learn to support each other as they realize they have all been hurt – and the others understand what they’ve gone through.
And Larvo represents Marcy — he’s hurt too by his past, and he’s let it define him. It’s much more thematically resonant than its predecessor. And it also feels good because we’ve known the character of Marcy for years.
We know she’s been hurting, and we know why – and of course, she’s hurt – her life has not been easy, and we know that she doesn’t trust people which makes it so so so so satisfying when she finally forgives herself and apologizes to Princess Bubblegum sincerely -this isn’t a one-episode character with a tragic backstory….
And I think that’s part of the reason I don’t love the Glass People. Glassboy himself is kind of annoying and the royal advisors took up way too much time, but most importantly we don’t know them as people or as characters. We don’t really see them struggling.
So their issues don’t seem…as important. Besides the blatant disrespect, they had for See-Through Princess was just ridiculous.
While members of the Glass Kingdom important symbolically and thematically – they aren’t as important plot-wise other than providing a catalyst for Marcy to reexamine her past and finally confront her inner demons…so there didn’t need to be so much focus on them, and they didn’t need to waste the first five-plus minutes on setting up their land.
But that’s a minor nitpick. I enjoyed this episode. I’ll watch the other episodes when they come out, but I’m not sure if I’m going to review them yet. There’s a lot of stuff coming out next year. So it all depends.
That’s the scoop.
Year of release: 2020
Length: 45 minutes
Executive Producer: Adam Muto
Supervising Director: Miki Brewster
Writers and storyboarders: Hanna K. Nyström, Anna Syvertsson, Iggy Craig, Mickey Quinn, Maya Petersen, James Cambell, & Ashlyn Anstee
If you liked this review, check out: Adventure Time’s finale shows that the more things change, the more they remain the same.