Image: Cartoon Network

Tonight’s Adventure Time review will be a lot like tonight’s episode: a celebration of art and it’s power to heal, but tinged with some sadness to make the joy all the more powerful. After four years, TV Club is saying goodbye to episodic coverage of Adventure Time, and frankly I’m astounded that I’ve been able to keep these reviews going for so long considering the show’s crazy schedule and the fact that it’s a 10-minute cartoon primarily intended for children. It speaks to the show’s brilliance that I’ve been able to find deeper meaning in these episodes and explore major themes that have developed over the course of four long seasons, and even after all this time, Adventure Time has never stopped surprising and engaging me.

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Part of the surprise is the schedule. Sometimes Adventure Time runs a long streak of new episodes every week. Sometimes it’s a short streak. Sometimes it’s a week of new episodes. “Music Hole” is one of those episodes that drops on a random week all alone; there hasn’t been a new episode in a month, and the next new episode runs in two weeks. (Zach Blumenfeld wrote an FOC about how this irregular schedule benefits Steven Universe, specifically.) This scheduling kept me on my toes, even though it could be frustrating/exhausting at times, and if you want a great writing workout, I highly recommend reviewing five Adventure Time episodes in five days.

“Music Hole” is perfectly timed to air during music festival season, and the episode does a remarkable job capturing the atmosphere of a summer music fest. You can almost smell the sweat and marijuana smoke in the air as various citizens of Ooo take to the stage for a Battle Of The Bands organized to cheer up Finn, who is overcome with grief after the breaking of his Finn Sword. This is an especially music-heavy episode, and it is a whole lot of fun. The songs range from a Susan Strong power ballad to a rap single performed by MC NEPTR and Flame P, an upbeat disco booty-shaker from Ice King, a nonsensical fiddle ditty by Jake and Lady, Marceline covering Mitski’s “Francis Forever,” and an emotional duet between Finn and the Music Hole after she lures him to her. The lyrics and melodies match the genres extremely well (I love that MC NEPTR and Flame P are all about hyping themselves and their product—true rap capitalists), and in the case of Finn and the Music Hole, the song creates a strong personal bond, ending the episode with a touching sentiment about find a kindred spirit in the intersection of pain and art.

The Battle Of The Bands is intended to make Finn forget his sorrows, and while it does bring him joy, none of those tunes are as enchanting as the faint song he hears from Music Hole’s cavernous mouth. When he finds her, she tells him that her voice can only be heard by two kinds of people: those that view the world with pure childlike wonder, and those that have a deep of loss in their hearts. Finn doesn’t think he fits the childlike wonder criteria, and it’s a telling line regarding how Finn views himself. He recognizes that he’s not a child anymore, and one of the main indicators of growing up is this sense of loss that he’s feeling more and more often. There’s the loss of his father, the loss of his arm, the loss of the Finn Sword, and the compounding pain of all these events weighs on Finn and gives him a new, more adult perspective of the world.

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Princess Bubblegum and Jake want to wipe away Finn’s bad feelings, but they don’t understand that the only way for Finn to move forward is by fully processing these feelings and working through the deeper issues that are feeding them. Music Hole helps him do that with art, and through their shared sorrow they are brought together to give each other comfort, which they feel when they join their voices together in song. It’s a really beautiful message from writers/storyboard artists Polly Guo and Andres Saraff, and Eli Moore’s song for Finn and Music Hole captures all those rich emotions in a short but meaningful tune. This episode hits hard by the end, and committing to that undercurrent of melancholy elevates the story, which would still be really good if it was just Adventure Time characters singing and having fun.

I couldn’t have asked for a better episode than “Music Hole” to cap off TV Club’s Adventure Time coverage. It’s colorful and funny, packed with catchy songs and delightful character designs, and still finds space to tell a deeply personal, bittersweet story within the whimsical fantasy framework. It’s everything I want from an Adventure Time episode, and I love that after seven seasons the show hasn’t lost sight of what makes it so compelling to such a wide audience. It’s not the same show that it was when it started, but it manages to maintain the juvenile qualities of the earlier episodes as it ventures into more mature narrative territory, holding on to childlike wonder as it explores the pain and loss at the root of this post-post-apocalyptic world. My extended stay in Ooo has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career, and even though I won’t be writing about the series, I’ll still be at my TV in two weeks, ready for a new adventure.

Stray observations

  • Huge thanks to everyone that read and commented on these reviews over the years! You enlightened my viewing of the series and kept me passionate about it. Also a huge thanks to the editors that allowed me to write about nearly 150 episodes of this silly kids show.
  • Marceline and Mitski is a match made in heaven. Olivia Olson kills it on “Francis Forever.”
  • The festival fashion is on point in this episode, particularly Princess Bubblegum’s crown braid and sleeveless, belted romper. Fewer tan lines! (Does Bubblegum tan?)
  • I love that Finn’s sash for being the celebrity judge is a music staff. Very clever design.
  • Gunther breaking the leg of a Banana Guard is one of the most brutal things I’ve ever seen on this show. I know it’s just a wooden stick, but that’s the guy’s leg! And it looks like it really hurts!
  • There’s a great transition from a shot of Music Hole to a close-up of Finn’s face, accentuating the growing bond between them by having their faces dissolve into each other.
  • Finn: “Everything’s broken.” BMO: “No it’s not! This is still good! Five seconds rule!”
  • “Jeffreyed up in the dome piece!”
  • “Wow! I wonder how long they practiced that.”
  • “Find my pick, you scroobs!”

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