To talk about television, you need to be an expert in television. That may sound like an obvious point, but it goes beyond knowing what blocking is, or how to read Live-plus-7 ratings, or even seeing all the shows you’re “supposed” to have seen, like The Wire (OMG YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE WIRE? YOU HAVE TO SEE THE WIRE) — it’s increasingly important to know every single detail about every single character in every single episode.
Take it from me, Someone Who Occasionally Gets a Minor Detail About Game of Thrones Wrong: if you’re not familiar with every Targaryen who’s been mentioned on the show AND in the books, you’re going to hear about it. This is not a complaint, exactly. Facts are important, and it’s much easier to remember Daryl and Carol’s relationship on The Walking Dead than, say, how to not kill someone while performing open-heart surgery, but for certain (most often genre) shows, there’s no such thing as an average fan. You’re either all in, or you get left behind and feel lost.
That should have been the case with Adventure Time, but it wasn’t. This was a series ostensibly for children, but it also had the most complex mythology of any show on television, with an in-universe history that stretched back thousands of years (also, the characters routinely went into space — take that, Game of Thrones); literally hundreds of characters; and an airdate schedule with months between new episodes. It’s easy to forget things when you get four episodes in September 2017, four episodes in December 2017, four episodes in March 2018, and four episodes in September 2018. That’s how Adventure Time’s tenth and final season was stretched out, with Monday night’s four-part “Come Along with Me” bringing an end to Jake and Finn’s adventures in the Land of Ooo.
The series finale was billed by Cartoon Network as a war between our heroes, including Finn the Human, Jake the Dog, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, Lumpy Space Princess, Lemongrab, and Flame Princess, among others, against the evil Gumbald. But that’s not really what the episodes were about. They never were with this show. The important battles were the ones fought on the inside; as James Poniewozik noted in the New York Times, Adventure Time was an empathetic “story of transition,” with “orphans and foundlings trying out independence, building surrogate families, growing up.” (Finn, who’s introduced in the opening credits wielding a sword, notably searches for a peaceful resolution. Violence is the easy answer, but it’s not always the right one.)
Family, or the lack thereof, was a recurring theme on Adventure Time — even the aforementioned “evil” Gumbald was created by “good” Princess Bubblegum to give her an uncle; she later imprisoned him as a Candy Person after he’s splashed with “Dum Dum Juice” (like I said, a complex mythology). It’s why an out-there animated show with a stretchy dog, sentient bananas, and a gender-swapped vampire voiced by Donald Glover was so emotionally effective. If you don’t cry watching “Simon & Marcy,” your heart is as frozen as the Ice King.