Image: Cartoon Network

There is no end. Adventure Time is built on the idea of a world that springs from the ruins of an apocalyptic global war, and there’s always something that grows after devastation. After eight years, 10 seasons, and 283 episodes, Adventure Time concludes with the four-part “Come Along With Me,” but it establishes from the very beginning that this finale is the start of something new. The opening sequence is updated to give viewers a quick tour of Ooo in the far future before introducing Shermy (Sean Giambrone) and Beth (Willow Smith), two best friends who fill the roles of Finn and Jake in this altered setting. Scenes of Shermy and Beth frame this episode, and when they discover Finn’s cyborg arm, they seek out the King of Ooo to tell them about the history of the artifact.

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As the King of Ooo, BMO lives a solitary life at the top of a mountain in a home filled with Adventure Time Easter eggs. So much time has passed that BMO can’t recall Finn’s name (Fred? Phil?), but he remembers enough to tell Shermy and Beth about the Great Gum War when they show him Finn’s detached arm. The first half of “Come Along With Me” focuses on Finn’s attempts to prevent the war between the Candy Kingdom and Gumbaldia. When good old fashioned diplomacy doesn’t work, he resorts to a desperate negotiation tactic and sends the leaders of both sides into the unconscious world, where they can sort out their issues in a constantly morphing landscape shaped by their minds.

Most of Finn’s time as a hero has been defined by violence, but he’s grown to realize that fighting tends to create more problems rather than solving them. He wants the warring parties to connect on an emotional level, so he sends them into a dreamscape that frees the creative team to do whatever the hell they want with the storytelling. The second part of this finale uses abstract imagery to delve into trauma and how people lash out when they don’t empathize with the other’s suffering, which is in many cases similar to their own. “Come Along With Me” gets really weird during this section, and it highlights how much freedom this creative team has to think outside the box and find unconventional ways of exploring its core themes. Finn’s plot does stop the war from happening, but there’s an even greater threat approaching that will require everyone to work together to stop it.

One of the most powerful moments in this episode is a quick flashback to Marceline’s experience living through the Great Mushroom War, a smash cut when she’s trying to convince PB not to attack her uncle. Marceline and PB’s conversation in the present is framed tightly on their faces and has a very cool palette of blues, purples, and pinks. The shot of young Marceline watching a city burn, Hambo in hand, is zoomed out to show the magnitude of the cataclysm, colored with searing red, orange, and yellow. That flashback image is overwhelming in its explosive depiction of extreme loss, reminding viewers of the real stakes of war. It’s not gumballs and cupcakes; it’s burning buildings and children roaming the streets, trying to survive on their own.

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Like The Legend Of Korra, Adventure Time’s finale features the on-screen confirmation of a same-sex romance when PB and Marceline express their affection for each other and decide to rekindle the romantic relationship they abandoned years ago. Fans have had confirmation from creators on the series that PB and Marceline dated and there’s been plenty of queer subtext in the characters’ interactions on screen, but that becomes full-on text when Marceline and PB kiss in this episode. It’s a pleasant surprise that spotlights how much the cartoon landscape has changed during Adventure Time’s run, and series like Steven Universe and The Legend Of Korra have broken new ground for queer representation in children’s entertainment. Even when it’s just a quick scene in the final episode, having that on-screen confirmation makes a significant difference in how people will look at that relationship from now on, inviting viewers to reexamine past PB and Marceline scenes through a queer lens.

Betty has always been a deeply tragic character, committed to a mission that has required constant sacrifice from her without delivering any reward. Her last-ditch effort to heal Simon of the crown’s curse is to harness the greatest force in the universe, putting all of Ooo at risk as she siphons energy from Golb, the celestial embodiment of chaos. Betty will do whatever it takes to save the man she loves, and in the world of Adventure Time, there’s no limit to this dedication. She’ll give up her sanity for magical powers. She’ll rain destruction on the planet to tap into the power of a chaos god. Her plan might have worked if Ice King didn’t interrupt the energy transfusion, but when your plan is built around chaos, chaotic elements are going to donk it up.

Music is integral to how Adventure Time says goodbye, and the final part features two songs that tug at the heartstrings in different ways. After the destruction of the treehouse, BMO sings a song to soothe the mourning Jake, a melancholy tune about holding on to the memories of the past as the world changes around you. Appreciate what you’ve been given when life takes it away from you, and keep moving forward. The song combines reverence and perseverance, and it has the power to repel Golb’s monsters when the citizens of Ooo raise their voices in harmony. BMO proclaims that art is a weapon, and the song creates a bond within the community that strengthens it against corrupting forces. Music may not be the thing that stops the final enemy, but it can bring people together with a shared rallying cry.

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Betty ultimately achieves her greatest wish of saving Simon from the curse of his crown, but she does it by becoming chaos incarnate. Finn, Ice King, and Betty end up inside of Golb, whose digestive system breaks them down to their essential forms and resets Ice King’s crown to its original wish-granting state. The singing weakens Golb enough that a pathway out of his stomach emerges, but Betty refuses to leave with Finn and Simon, who has fully reverted to his former self. Golb will annihilate everything if he’s not banished, and she chooses to stay behind and wish Golb away so Simon can live the life that was taken from him by the crown.

Simply wishing Golb away doesn’t work, though, and when Betty instead wishes for the power to keep Simon safe, her consciousness merges with Golb. This seismic shift in cosmic forces results in a major visual change as the animation shifts from clean inks to black-and-white charcoal pencils, adding a dusty texture to the action. The second half of “Come Along With Me” features some spectacular action as Golb fuses the people of Ooo into giant monsters, and given how the stakes have steadily increased throughout this series, this showdown is an appropriate final escalation. It also sets a point of contrast for the intimate storytelling that surrounds the fighting, and once the threat of Golb is gone, the series wraps up with a touching glimpse at how these characters live on after the TV show ends.

As Finn and Jake relax next to The Music Hole, they talk about the power of music and how it speaks to a primal force in our brains. The Music Hole says a good song can wrap people in a mood better than any words could on their own, revealing that she’s been working on a new song about “a really specific feeling that’s hard to describe.” My eyes started to well up immediately upon hearing the opening chord of The Music Hole’s song. It’s a tune I’ve heard hundreds of time over the ending credits of Adventure Time episodes, and the finale takes advantage of that familiarity to deliver an emotional knock-out in its last minutes. I should have known this song would play an important part given that it’s responsible for the finale’s title, but I didn’t expect it to play such an explicit and essential part in how this series wraps up.

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While The Music Hole sings, flashes of the future appear on screen: Fern’s tree grows. Lumpy Space Princess becomes Lumpy Space Queen. Ice King and Turtle Princess get married. TV becomes a detective, renovating his grandparents’ space with the help of his siblings. The humans come back. This final sequence is a brilliant combination of the past and future, compelling viewers to remember the adventures of the past while seeing those that are still to come.

My relationship with Adventure Time is both personal and professional, and this closing musical number had me weeping as I thought about how much pleasure this show has brought me over the years and how much of a role it has played in my development as a writer. It made me think about the friends I’ve made from covering this series, and how those relationships have changed over the course of the show. That feeling that is so hard to describe is a mix of companionship, wonder, and excitement, a feeling of finding someone who is eager to go on the next adventure with you and share that experience. Even in the face of the apocalypse, that feeling endures, giving people a reason to keep living because they have a friend by their side.

Stray observations

  • To all the readers who have supported T.V. Club’s Adventure Time coverage: Thank you for your engagement over the years and enriching the show with your passion and insight. The community around Adventure Time made covering it all the more satisfying.
  • Fans of Adventure Time don’t have to wait long for the official continuation of this franchise. Boom! Studios is debuting an Adventure Time Season 11 comic book series next month, and the creative team of writer Sonny Liew and artist Marina Julia has me very excited for the new book. I’ve fallen off the Adventure Time comics in the past couple years, but this one has my interest piqued with a strong creative team.
  • It’s safe to assume that Beth is a direct descendent of Jake given her physical resemblance to his pups and her magical abilities.
  • I love the shot of the princesses strolling in their stylish street clothes. It was great seeing the show play around with the fashion of characters like PB and Marceline over time.
  • Very fun twist on the Sailor Moon transformation sequence when Marceline glows bright pink before turning into a giant smoke monster.
  • Lumpy Space Princess taking a selfie with Golb descending in the background is the biggest laugh of this episode. She’s such a mess. How appropriate that she hooks up with fellow mess Lemongrab.
  • “Boy! My knots suck!”
  • “Have fun on the other side of this door.” This is what I am going to tell people that overstay their welcome from now on.
  • “And so they were dead.”
  • Finn: “We need love, not war.” PB: “Good idea. Love bazooka!”
  • Jake: “Everybody gets an evil doppelganger but me.” Jermaine: “I’ll be your evil doppelganger!”
  • “Your farts aren’t funny, dad.”
  • Finn: “Fern! You really are disintegrating.” Jake: “My bad.”

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