Martin the Human is a despicable being. He’s manipulative, deceitful, unfaithful, and totally delusional, believing that he’s a huge hero despite the fact that he is the complete opposite. All these negative qualities are highlighted in “On The Lam,” Martin’s first solo spotlight episode. Imprisoned on an alien planet where rebel koalas fight for food and medicine from reptilian oppressors, Martin is working on a chain gang at the start of the episode, but by the end he’s escaped and gotten everything he ever wanted, and all because he’s a total piece of shit. That explains why Martin doesn’t feel satisfied despite his newfound wealth and freedom when all is said and done. He can get gather all the material belongings in the world, but without meaningful personal connections, his life will remain empty.

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After escaping from the chain gang with an adorable koala rebel in tow, Martin is brought into the koala camp and treated with kindness and generosity by the fuzzy animals that are happy to have their ally back. They offer the hungry Martin a bowl of milk from their giant moth, but Martin turns down the meal, instead hatching a plan that takes advantage of the koala’s overwhelming hunger and need for medical assistance. He names himself the new rebel leader and proclaims that he will ride the moth into the city and raid it for food and supplies, but when he arrives in town, the first thing he does is sell the moth for a bag of gold. Martin has no consideration for the koala people in his decision; he knows that the moth is their only source of food, but he has no qualms about getting rid of it.

Martin’s relationship with Finn comes into play through Martin’s relationship with his fellow escapee, the koala he names Martin 2. The koala’s head reminds Martin of Finn’s hat (just a little), and Martin 2 becomes a replacement for Finn by developing an intense attachment to the man who freed him from the chain gang. Martin 2 calls Martin “papa,” and Martin accepts the koala as an adopted son by passing his name down to him, but Martin 2 learns the hard way that being Martin’s son doesn’t mean that you are actually important to him.

When the Martins are discovered in a bar, Martin makes a run for it and hides in a barrel, where he tells Martin 2 that he’s running out of options and will need to abandon him. It’s possible that this is a reflection of the development of Martin’s relationship with the newborn Finn. At first Martin is thrilled by the prospect of a miniature version of himself, but once things get tough, he realizes that a child is a responsibility that makes things even more difficult. He literally throws Martin 2 out of the barrel to distract the surrounding officers, and when Martin learns that Martin 2 is the officers’ primary target, he’s totally relieved.

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There’s no heroic impulse to jump into battle to rescue his new son, who it turns out is really old and the leader of the rebels. Instead, Martin uses this opening to make his way to the king’s treasure room, which is full of gold and jewels. He’s overcome with pure glee when he sees the room in all its glory, and immediately starts hording as much as possible, telling himself that it’s what Martin 2 would want him to do. And when he finds the moth in the treasure room, he believes that it’s a gift from the Globs for his great acts of valor. The deluded Martin confuses coincidence with divine intervention and thievery for heroism, because if he doesn’t, he’s just a fugitive deadbeat dad. He refuses to accept the reality of his circumstances because that means admitting that he’s a villain, and his delusions keep him from experiencing the guilt that is surely piling up somewhere in Martin’s brain.

Those delusions are also what keep Martin in a routine that prevents him from having relationships with others. If he opened his eyes to the truth of his actions and how they affect others, he might change his behavior, but that won’t happen as long as he continues on his current path. But maybe change is on the horizon. As Martin travels through the stars on his cosmic moth transport, he’s initially enthused by all his new riches, but after clinking his gold chalices together, Martin lets out a forelorn sigh, suggesting that he’s starting to realize that a life of wealth doesn’t really mean anything if there’s not someone to share it with. Does that sigh mean Martin is going to change? Or is it a sigh of resignation, of sad acceptance that this is who he is and there’s no getting away from his true nature? Only time will tell, but that simple sigh introduces some much-needed complexity to one of Adventure Time’s nastiest characters.

Stray observations:

  • Stephen Root continues to be perfect casting for Martin, bringing just the right amount of sadness to the character to keep him from being completely unsympathetic. He’s a selfish jackass, but you get the impression that he’s dealing with some rough stuff in his past, which I’m sure we’ll learn about at some point in this show’s future.
  • Martin sure is acrobatic for an older man. It makes me want to see more of him in action, because it’s pretty fun seeing him hop around.
  • Does the Turtle know that the Martins are in the barrel, or does it just love recapping its future plans when it’s alone? I’m going to guess it’s the latter.
  • “I’m talkin’ about the milk of freedom!”
  • “You’re just an eyeball-lickin’ sweetie, ain’t ya?”
  • “Come on. I’ll buy me a drink.”
  • “Tankard of goop, comin’ right up.”
  • “Goop, goop, goop.”
  • “I keep the best goop stashed away for people that can tell the difference.”
  • “Holy bags! Martin 2 is old as heck! Well, see ya.”

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