Judging from what I’ve gathered reading online comments, Adventure Time fans have mixed opinions when it comes to the romantic elements of this show. There are those (including myself) who think the series has gained more depth and emotional resonance by exploring adolescent affection, but there’s also the argument that all this lovey-dovey crap is drawing focus from the action-adventure that this show is all about. After all, it’s not called Romance Time.
In “Love Games,” Finn comes to the realization that all his time crushing on princesses has distracted him from saving them, so he chooses to give up on romance just as he’s faced with a situation where princess salvation lies in crooning, spooning, and smooching. Slime Princess is going to lose her kingdom to her treacherous but beautiful sister Blargatha if she doesn’t bring a husband home, and having already expressed affections for Finn in the past, Ooo’s only human is her only choice for a mate. (Ice King wants to get in on that, but Jake forces him to stay behind his curtain.) If Blargatha and her new husband Guillermo gain control, they’ll launch a military campaign that threatens all of Ooo, so Finn reluctantly accepts SP’s proposal, finding himself a husband before he ever really got used to being a boyfriend.
I’m consistently impressed by just how great this show’s fifth season is, and episodes like “Love Games” highlight all the things that make this series exceptional. At the core of the show is Finn and Jake’s relationship, and this episode keeps the best friends together as Finn ventures into the Slime Kingdom to prove his love to SP’s dad Elder Plops. Having a full-sized Jake would be weird during the more intimate scenes, so the writers shrink him down for the entire episode with simple reasoning: he has to make one kernel of popcorn last the whole trip. This allows him to chime in with his usual humorous asides and misguided pieces of advice, but also keeps him out of the way when the story is focused on Slime Princess and Finn.
After Finn’s friendship with Jake, his relationships with the women around him (specifically Princess Bubblegum, Flame Princess, and Marceline) are the most integral on this series, and “Love Games” continues to explore Finn’s bond with the opposite sex while maintaining the series’ spirit of adventure. There’s not much in the way of action, but by venturing into the new location of the Slime Kingdom, the writers don’t lose the sense of wondrous discovery that defines the series’ best episodes. There’s still so much of this world for the writers to explore, and part of the fun of this series is seeing what fun locales will appear next. This week, the journey to the Slime Kingdom reveals Ooo’s only “triple-cray rated” disco, where lovers Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig go to break it down.
Once in the Kingdom, Finn and SP have to test their love by undergoing the Trials of Glarb, an ancient ritual broken into three stages: crooning, spooning, and smooching. Finn and SP are competing against Blargatha and her mute husband to prove whose love is strongest, and for the first challenge, the males have to serenade the women with a heartfelt improvised song. Finn is nervous but SP tells him to just forget about everything and sing what’s in his heart, so he comes up with a sad tune about how he can’t get over Flame Princess. It’s not about SP but it’s a lot better than Blargatha’s tune, so Finn wins this first round. Unfortunately, the next two stages require physical contact; he flees when SP gets close on the bed, and vomits when they try to practice kissing.
Before he can lose the smooching round, Finn goes to punch Guillermo and put an end to his betrayal, revealing in the process that Blargatha has been tricking everyone with a fake husband. Like Mean Girls’ Regina George, Blargatha’s immense beauty has alienated her from the rest of the world and turned her into a total crazy person, so she created a fake husband in order to take control of the Slime Kingdom and later all of Ooo. “You’re alone in the hottest, most sexiest prison,” Blargatha confesses. “So I stuck some olives in a glob of gelatin and called him my lover.” That’s a quintessential Adventure Time line right there, mixing the absurd with the profound to offer surprising psychological insight in the context of a goofy children’s show.
Revealing Blargatha’s secret means the Slime Kingdom is saved, but Finn’s experience reveals that he still has feelings for Flame Princess that need to be addressed. It’s only a matter of time before Finn realizes that the person who needs saving is himself, and hopefully he’ll find the right person to pull him out of his continuing depression. Or maybe he just needs a good lady-less adventure to clear his head.
- This episode begins with Finn, Jake, and BMO recording a podcast, and later BMO’s sound editing skills are employed when Ice King records his own show. This show has done some cool experimental stuff lately, I would love to see them do an episode Comedy Bang! Bang! style, where an interview becomes a springboard for all kinds of wacky shit.
- Ice King is still living at Finn and Jake’s place, and I absolutely love the dynamic in the tree house between the two bros, BMO, and Simon. Maybe it’s just the number of roommates, but I get a New Girl vibe from this new setup.
- The voice cast of this episode is phenomenal and showcases how deeply entrenched this series has become in the contemporary comedy scene. Maria Bamford’s Slime Princess is one of my favorite characters on this show—the confident maturity of her voice is a hilarious contrast with her adorable blob appearance—and John Hodgman and Katie Crown do equally impressive work as her father and sister.
- “I have no intention of locking this down.”
- Finn’s song is heartfelt, sure, but Blargatha has the best lyric: “Maybe later we can get ‘do not disturb.’”
- Finn: “Hey Guillermo, can you come out here for a quick meeting?” Jake: “More like a quick beating. Hey-o!”
- “I’m sorry, Blargatha, but you’re going to have to spend more time in your metaphorical prison in a real prison.”