“The Hall Of Egress” begins with a callback to “Dungeon Train,” another Finn-centric episode featuring a dungeon on a loop. Tom Herpich co-wrote/storyboarded that season 5 story, but he goes solo with this week’s chapter, delivering one of Adventure Time’s most harrowing dungeon adventures as Finn finds himself in the middle of an exceptionally tricky puzzle. Stranded alone in a cave, Finn gets caught in a time loop outside the Hall of Egress, an exit path that can only be entered when a person has their eyes closed. If Finn opens his eyes, he ends up back in front of the hall, and as he quickly learns, the hall doesn’t end once he breaks out of the cave, reunites with Jake, and returns to his old life.
Finn recalls the Dungeon Train with delight when he and Jake see it on the way to a new cave, but it’s doubtful he’ll look back on the Hall of Egress with any sort of affection. In addition to the closed eyes criteria, the path also changes each time to maps are useless, and it’s magically engineered to be more hazardous to people that are careful and determined. The only way to get out is by charging through recklessly, and it takes a while for Finn to realize just how long he needs to charge before he truly escapes. It’s sort of like Groundhog Day, except it’s even worse because Finn has his eyes closed and is able to live out long stretches of time before everything resets.
It’s a pretty terrifying situation, and Tom Herpich uses it to tell a fascinating psychological horror story about a boy shedding everything that defines him in order to move on to the next phase of his life. Because this is Adventure Time, there are still moments of humor, but a comedic bit like the montage of Jake pulling Finn’s eyelids open gains an element of tragedy when all those slapstick actions result in Finn getting sent back to the front of the hall. With scenes like that montage, Herpich condenses a lot of time in this 10-minute episode, and the longer Finn spends inside the Hall of Egress, the more distressing the story becomes.
Finn’s sanity starts to become an issue when he tries to explain the increasingly complex situation to Jake each time he goes through the hall, and he eventually realizes that he has no hope of breaking the cycle if he tries to just live his old life with a blindfold. Finn decides to leave Jake and BMO behind, and when a thread from his shirt gets caught on a branch, leaving a clear path to track him (bread crumb style), Finn ditches all his clothes as part of the primitivation that will ultimately be the thing that saves him. When he sheds all his clothes in a river, Finn delivers one last line before going silent: “No more threads to follow. No more egress.” It’s a chilling line that suggests Finn is giving up on his old life and choosing to live as a wild man, which would be a sad fate if it weren’t exactly what he needs to do to escape.
The thread motif could be an allusion to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, in which Theseus used a piece of thread to trace a path that would lead him out of the labyrinth after he slayed the beast at the center, but in order for Finn to escape his maze, he needs to stop trying to find his way back and become the most primal version of himself. It goes back to the reckless charging he had to do earlier, which forced him to completely trust his instincts, a trust that the hall responds to by leading him in the right direction. Running at full speed while screaming is exhausting so Finn isn’t charging anymore, but by going primal, he makes instinct his guiding force and eventually makes his way out.
That journey back to the dungeon containing the Hall of Egress is composed of only four shots, but the dramatic shift between settings (accentuated by distinct color palettes for each one) makes it feel like Finn’s been on a long, intense voyage across all of Ooo. When he finally reaches the dungeon, he doesn’t hit the trap that blocks the entry behind him, and he walks through a different archway, one that has a ramp instead of the ledge Finn fell from on his first trip. His instincts are guiding him exactly where he needs to be in order to be free, and when he reaches the entry to the Hall of Egress, Finn’s instinct (and a BMO voice in his head) tells him that the change he’s been waiting for is finally here.
Finn removes his three blindfolds and walks through the door, and for the first time he can finally see the invisible pathway that he went through earlier. This leads to a very trippy sequence as Finn maniacally runs to his freedom, eventually bursting his head through the top of the mountain where Jake is waiting. The episode ends with a rush of joy as Finn swings Jake around, providing some much welcome relief after a story that puts Finn through a psychological gauntlet, but even though Finn is cheerful in the end, he makes it clear that he’s experienced a big shock with this dungeon experience. He refuses to comment on his experience in the cave, and given his enthusiasm about the Dungeon Train at the beginning of the episode, his decision to stay silent about what happened in the Hall of Egress reveals that he doesn’t want to think about what he was forced to endure on this brutal cyclical adventure.
- I love the rendering of the trees around the Dungeon Train at the top of the episode. Very nice detail and lush colors.
- The music does a great job setting the mood in this episode, especially for the scenes when Finn is inside the maze within the cave: the meandering guitar for Finn’s first reckless charge, the chaotic electronica when Finn is in the final stretch, overwhelmed by emotion.
- “You don’t put traps in the foyer! The foyer is a safe space.”
- “Uh oh. Options.”
- “What do you think? Wanna try opening ‘em? It’s a beautiful day. Plus I need someone to tell me if this hat looks cool.”
- “At the seashell’s center lies the cornucopia’s smallest door.” What the hell does that mean? Seriously, can someone help me out here?