Finn, Jake, and BMO are headed home after having their longest adventure yet, and as they sail across the ocean, they confront some of their deepest fears before getting back to the lives they left behind. “Orb” is a dream episode, with most of the action happening in the unconscious minds of the three main characters as they fall under the thrall of Nightmare Princess. As expected from a dream, the storytelling is very fragmented and cryptic, but I like Adventure Time when it enters a weirder, more surreal mode. Episodes like this invite a lot of personal interpretation, and while I don’t know how much of what I took away from the episode is intentional, the fun is in having the opportunity to bring my own point of view to the table.

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Premonition dreams are a fairly common occurrence in Adventure Time, and having seen next week’s Adventure Time: Elements miniseries, I can confirm that there is a lot of foreshadowing in these dreams. Finn’s dream in particular features a lot of teases of what’s waiting for him in Ooo, and the final moment of this episode has BMO looking through a telescope at the new Ooo overtaken by the four elements: Ice, Fire, Candy, and Slime. I have a little more context for Finn’s dream than most of the viewing audience, so I can say with confidence that it’s about his fear of the world changing around him as he grows up. This is a theme that will pop up again in Elements, and Finn is realizing that as he gets older, he’s going to lose the freedom represented by him flying at the start of the dream.

The big shared fear amongst this trio is the fear of aging, but it manifests differently depending on the dreamer. Jake has the most intense dream, which explores his relationship with his dog family while his shapeshifting alien parent lurks in the background. The life and death imagery combined with the flashes of aliens suggests that the alien half of Jake’s biology is starting to become stronger, and he’s afraid of losing the dog parts of himself, which include his appearance and his family.

The episode’s most disturbing sequence unfolds in Jake’s head, beginning with the appearance of Margaret silently mixing a bowl of worms. Two giant roses appear behind her as she replaces the worms with a baby Jake, but when she comes in to give him a kiss, she grows vampire fangs and transforms into The Moon from Adventure Time: Stakes. Jermaine watches in horror and then flees by running into one of his paintings, and then a severely aged Jake pops up on the screen before crawling to his parents, who look down at him with eerie smiles. There’s a lot to take in here, and I’m not sure how all these different moments tie in to each other, but they effectively create an atmosphere that distances Jake from his family while highlighting his fear of having his the life force drained out of him.

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Finn is anxious about how his place in the world will change and Jake is anxious about how his place in his family will change, but BMO’s dream looks directly at his relationship with Finn and Jake. BMO is directing a play about Finn and Jake, but there are other forces influencing the production. Football, AMO, and a Lich version of BMO all appear in this dream, and the presence of these villains has me wondering if BMO might betray his best friends in the future. The Lich BMO has me especially nervous, and it would make a lot of sense to have the Lich take the form of a computer virus that infects BMO.

Dream episodes are a chance for the writers/storyboard artists to go really wild with the visual elements, and Aleks Sennwald and Adam Muto definitely deliver on the psychedelic, disorienting imagery. The entryway into the dreamscape via Jake is exceptionally strange, with shifting landscapes, character designs, and animation frame rates. Sometimes the transitions are smooth, often using a specific graphic element to join moments together, and sometimes they’re rough, throwing the reader into a new situation without warning. This episode is all about transitions, from place to place, young to old, and miniseries to miniseries. It’s interesting that the show has a standalone episode between Islands and Elements, and I appreciate that the writers do something weird and introspective before jumping into the next big event.

Stray observations

  • I will always laugh at candy and slime being two of the four elements in Adventure Time.
  • BMO’s director office is a great example of how to make a room really unsettling and creepy: put it on the side of a cliff and have a giant five-eyed octopus wraps its tentacles around the entire thing.
  • My favorite transition is the drifting white circle surrounded by a trail of dashes that settles in the middle of the screen and morphs into Joshua and Margaret’s house.
  • “I love art.”
  • PB: “It scientifically impossible for a human boy to fly.” Finn: “You’re going to wish it was scientifically possible to put those words back in your mouth.”
  • “She’s harvesting my mind fruits!”
  • Jake “What is this? Like nightmare juice?” BMO: “Let’s drink it!”

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