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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Adventure Time: “The Visitor”

Illustration for article titled Adventure Time: “The Visitor”
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Finn the human has undergone a fascinating evolution over the course of Adventure Time. He began as a fairly generic boy hero with a silly origin, but as he’s aged, his personality has gained more dimension and his backstory has grown into something strange and enigmatic. The series has shown him at triumphant highs and devastating lows, exploring a wide spectrum of emotion as Finn experiences the rollercoaster ride of life as a teenager, and in the last few seasons, his history has become the central mystery that gives the show an overarching narrative.

It makes a lot of sense to have Finn discover the details of his past when he’s deep in the throes of his adolescent identity crisis, and he’s curious to learn more because he needs to know where he comes from to understand what he’s going to become. When Finn met his father, Martin (the equally charming and despicable Stephen Root), it unleashed a wave of questions that Finn desperately needs to have answered, but “The Visitor” suggests that our hero may have to seek satisfaction from another source because Martin isn’t going to be much help.


After a season of build-up, Finn has his big reunion with his dad this week, and it’s a huge disappointment. Martin is still a selfish lying prick, and he’s also enslaved a race of tiny people to help him create an escape pod because it’s too dangerous for him to gather the materials himself. When Finn finds his father hiding out in a tree pretending to be a great spirit, he’s immediately greeted by lies about how Martin lost his arm when he was knocked from his spaceship and got his arm caught in a woodpecker hole. The story is ludicrous because Martin didn’t lose his arm. He just wants to make sure he looks especially pitiful so that his son doesn’t try to immediately kill him. Once Martin knows the coast is clear, he pulls off his army jacket and reveals his fully functioning arm, the first big red flag telling Finn to stay away.

“The Visitor” is about Finn realizing that he’s better off without his father in his life, but it’s also about the Nintendo video game Pikmin, because this is Adventure Time and it does random stuff like that. My experience with Pikmin is very limited, but I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent playing the game, and I imagine Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard are very big fans given the similarities between the concept of Pikmin and Martin’s situation. The lead character of Pikmin is Captain Olimar, who is followed by small creatures called Pikmin that he uses to collect the parts of his ship, much like how Martin uses his tiny servants.

It’s possible the script is making some sort of connection between controlling characters in a video game and parenting, showing that the latter is a much bigger responsibility with much bigger consequences. Finn is appalled at Martin’s treatment of his workers, and is acutely aware of how his father’s interference has disrupted the natural order of this farm village. These people should be farming, not risking their lives to help a stranger, but like Pikmin, Martin’s slaves don’t mind working for nothing in return. They’re wired differently and find pleasure in assisting Martin, even though it means the destruction of their village after a wild night of celebration depletes their crops and leaves the population fat and defeated.

During that party, Finn asks his father about his birth and his mother and other big questions, and Martin decides to keep the long story short. This is really a time when the long story should stay long, but Martin provides very vague answers, leaving plenty of material for the writers to explore further in future episodes. Or maybe not. The end of this episode gives the impression that Finn has no interest in spending more time with his father, and he ends up initiating Martin’s launch so that he can end his dad’s short, but destructive stay. And he clearly feels guilty for what Martin has done, so he brings all of his new little friends with him to the treehouse to prove just how far the apple has fallen from the tree.


While sleepwalking to Martin’s crash site, Finn dreams that he is walking on the bottom of the ocean, carrying himself as a baby and following a sperm-like comet that explodes after entering a crevice in the sea floor. Finn’s subconscious is warning him of what to expect and showing him memories that can mentally prepare him for this encounter, but he’s not aware of this as it’s happening. He doesn’t realize that the sperm-comet is an instinctual warning that his father is waiting for him at the end of this walk. He doesn’t realize that he’s reliving a past memory from when he was an abandoned baby at the bottom of the ocean. He just has a confusing dream that pops back into his head a day later, the way dreams do.

The only thing Finn has inherited from his father is immaturity, and he’s already outgrown Martin when it comes to understanding personal responsibility. Finn isn’t selfish or devious, so where did he inherit his positive qualities from? He asks about his mother this week, but Martin refuses to give a solid answer, dodging the question because it hurts too much to think about. There’s a lot more to the story here, and I suspect that, like Ice King, Martin is going to have a tragic past that puts his current character in a brand new context. Or maybe he’s just a total deadbeat that Finn needs to stay far away from.


Stray observations:

  • Martin is eating an egg when he first sees Finn in this episode, and he does a spittake that spews forth a bunch of feathers, suggesting that Martin likely just ate a baby bird that was about to hatch. He is evil.
  • So is there still a comet out there that will eventually bring an agent of chaos to Ooo?
  • Martin’s design makes him look like a middle-aged baby, which is perfect.
  • “No I’m a regular guy. I’m just not supposed to talk to strangers.”
  • “But it’s cool. Arms come and go. It’s family that’s important.”
  • Finn: “What the heck dad? Is everything you say a lie?” Martin: “Nah. Nah of course not.” Finn: “Well, is there any way I can tell the difference?” Martin: “(Laughs) I hope not.”
  • “One thing about this ship? It cooks!”
  • “Scoop it ‘til you poop it!”
  • “Let’s get grooooss!”
  • “Everything is ruined. Everyone is fat.”
  • “I’m seen 100 things weirder than a ship not blowing up.”

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