I grew up in a household where video games on the television were not allowed. I was able to convince my parents to let me have a Game Boy in junior high, but consoles were forbidden; my sister received a Sega Genesis for her birthday and had to publicly give it back to the people who had gifted it to her. There was a weekday ban on television that my sisters and I were able to convince our parents to waive, but video games were always prohibited, seen by my parents as the ultimate brain-rotting agent. That didn’t stop me from getting to them, and I would spend hours playing games at friends' and relatives’ houses if I was lucky, at video game stores and arcades in the mall if I wasn’t. During those weekends when I would sneak my cousin’s Playstation into our house, I would often play games while my sister watched, but dungeon crawlers were off-limits. They were just too boring and repetitive, and they’re not any fun unless you’re the person in charge of the controller.
Video games are an essential component of Adventure Time’s DNA, and “Vault Of Bones” addresses that dilemma faced by my sister and me when Finn takes Flame Princess on a dungeon quest to clear her mind of her father’s evil influence. When I first began watching this series, I thought the concept was that it was a video game come to life, and this episode certainly embraces that idea. There’s something very Scott Pilgrim about the way this episode finds comedy in video game tropes, with FP commenting on the things that Finn has simply come to accept over time. She notes that the dungeon’s skull motif is trying too hard, and laments having to backtrack when they discover a key that might fit into a treasure chest they found a few rooms back. (Spoilers: It doesn’t.)
From early on, it’s clear that FP’s powers give her an advantage in regards to dungeon crawling. While Finn is overturning rocks and pulling vines to find an entrance to the dungeon, FP just does a heat scan and sees that one of the trees isn’t made of wood. Finn needs a torch to light his way; FP is a walking torch. Finn needs the weapons and armor he finds on the dungeon floor; FP is a walking force of pure destruction. That said, FP’s idea of exploring a dungeon is lighting everything on fire until she reaches the end, and that takes all the fun out of it.
Finn sees dungeon crawling as a relaxing experience where you get to look for new stuff and try to convince others to hand over their stuff. It’s not about fighting, it’s about loot, and when they encounter their first opponent, Finn shows his girlfriend that you can get what you want through aggressive confidence. Faced with a nervous skeleton, Finn waves his sword, has a screaming match, and demands the skeleton do the splits. Once Finn’s broken the skeleton with the splits, they get a map and learn the location of a locked treasure chest, where they will return once they get a key in the room with a giant skeleton hologram. The difference mindsets of Finn and FP are perfectly represented in this exchange:
FP: “We have to go back?”
Finn: “We don’t have to, we get to!”
Finn leading the way means that FP is stuck as a bystander when they could be having a co-op adventure, and she tells her boyfriend that she’s not having any fun following him around and doing things by his rules. Finn has been learning new lessons about adolescence with each episode, and as his relationship with FP heats up, he’s beginning to face the reality of having a girlfriend. FP is not Jake, and Finn can’t approach a date the way that he would a hangout with his bro. Finn decides to relinquish control to FP after she tells him how she feels, and what follows is a wave of fiery fury as she burns everything in her path.
The thing that makes this episode so great is what happens when Finn is taken by a giant skeleton with chainsaws on all its limbs and FP is forced to confront an enemy without using her immeasurable power. She races toward the skeleton and stops just in front of his face, demanding that the milk-livered maggot pie do the splits for her. It’s a sweet moment where a girlfriend realizes that the goofy way her boy does things can actually be the best course of action. Finn walks away from the quest with a different lesson: Don’t go dungeon crawling with FP. The episode ends in signature Adventure Time WTF fashion when the couple opens the treasure chest they found earlier to find a green butt with eyes inside. The butt winks at FP, silently telling her that everything going to be alright. (Or it’s just a winking green butt… the ultimate treasure.)
- Can someone explain that weird sniffing-laughing thing that happens when Finn and FP are playing cards?
- I like that Jake recognizes that Finn and FP’s dungeon crawl is a date and not a joint adventure. He decides to stay at home, sipping tea on a bunch of foil. “Chamomile tea!”
- How many gauntlets do you think Finn has cluttering up the treehouse? He should stack them next to all the old Macintoshes.
- A giant skeleton is a pretty lame villain, but throw some chainsaws on it, and it’s suddenly a force to reckoned with.
- I would love to see an episode of FP in a really intense kung-fu adventure because I think her flame powers would look awesome in that setting.
- “Nice teapot.”
- “Do we need a torch? I’m sorta made of fire.”
- Skeleton: “What are you doing here?” FP: “Burning you alive!”
- Skeleton: “I—I can’t do the splits.” Finn: “DO THE SPLITS THOU MILK-LIVERED MAGGOT PIE!”
- Finn: “Like on a scale of 1 to 100, how good are you at quietly throwing a tiny bit of fire at a rope 15 feet away? Scale of 1 to 100.” FP: “42?” Finn: “42?!”
- “Dungeon crawl / It’s the greatest crawl of all. No crawl’s too small / For a dungeon crawl.”
- “Feel my flames, puny worms!”
- Finn: “I think next time we should just go a farmer’s market.” FP: “And burn it.”