Valerie Navarrete

It started with a pilot episode that looked like it was made by a 9-year-old boy on Microsoft Paint. It ended with eight Primetime Emmy Awards, critically acclaimed as a genre-defying show that broke barriers for its universal themes and open LGBT representation.

“Adventure Time,” a Cartoon Network TV show, was a cartoon, but it was far from a “kids show.” Throughout its eight-year, 10-season run, the show earned itself a devoted audience from teenagers to young adults with its thought-provoking, envelope-pushing themes. “Adventure Time’s” finale aired on Sept. 3, a bittersweet day for fans, but this truly unforgettable show will forever hold a revered place in pop culture.

“Adventure Time” followed the escapades of a boy named Finn and a magic talking dog, Jake. They explored a colorful fantasy world called Ooo, encountering supporting characters like Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen. In early seasons, each 11-minute episode told wholesome but rather frivolous stories, such as Finn’s quest to become a righteous hero or his mission to save princesses captured by a chaotic neutral Ice King.

But these bubbly, whimsical characters distracted from the fact that they were actually mutated creatures living in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by nuclear wars. In later seasons especially, the show evolved into something much deeper, much stranger. It delved into dark and intense themes, bringing the show to the attention of an expanded, mature audience. Several episodes centered on overt philosophical themes, such as being human, existentialism and nihilism. Concepts of reincarnation and alternate universes were visualized through haunting flashbacks or glimpses into space or the cosmic realm.

Through the lens of naive but strong-willed Finn, audiences also experienced everything from girl troubles to facing the inescapable void of death. In backstory episodes, Finn struggled with an absentee father and a constant feeling of being alone as the last human on Ooo. The show’s young adult audience may not live in a post-apocalyptic world, but anyone can identify with feeling lost and alone.

On the brighter side, “Adventure Time” has recently become beloved for its LGBT representation. Cartoon Network has had a good history of portraying non-straight relationships in their shows, such as those in “Steven Universe”; it was a huge step for cartoon shows to depict lesbian relationships such as “Bubbline” — the ship name “Adventure Time” fans created for Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, who is also bisexual. The relationship has been teased since Season 2, but fans have been waiting for canon confirmation for years. But amid fears of censorship or cancellation, the creators of “Adventure Time” waited until the last possible moment to deliver. In the series finale, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline confess their feelings and share a kiss, causing Stan Twitter and gay Twitter to collectively lose their minds.

Beyond this representation, “Adventure Time” has even created complete episodes with gender-bent characters in a parallel universe where Fionna and Cake, instead of Finn and Jake, are the stars of their own adventures. The implications of these special episodes are boundless — they could be a nod to gender fluidity or a reference to the multiverse theory. And honestly, it’s just plain fun to see gender-bent versions of favorite characters. Especially when Donald Glover voices Marshall Lee, Marceline’s bad boy counterpart.

With such dramatics in past seasons, expectations for the four-part finale were high. However, the final battle between the main characters and some generic villain monsters didn’t reveal a dramatic end of the world or some game-changing revelation. The characters banded together and defeated the monsters by singing, a tribute to the central role of song and harmony throughout the show, but a fairly lame plot by “Adventure Time” standards. This was but another little blip in the grand history of Ooo, but it actually worked as a finale because it allowed the characters to continue on with their adventures. Over 280 episodes’ worth of intricate world-building and exhaustive character development could continue to thrive beyond the end of the show, but in fans’ imaginations instead of on the screen.

And so, the final scene was a sentimental montage of the characters simply living their lives, while the end credits song, “Come Along with Me,” played one last time. As fans say goodbye to characters they grew up with for the past glorious eight years, the era of “Adventure Time” is yet another reminder that all good things come to an end.

Episode Recommendations–

Bubbline episodes:

Sky Witch (Season 5, Ep. 29)

Varmints (Season 7, Ep. 2)

Stakes miniseries (Season 7, Ep. 6–13)

Philosophy episodes:

The Vault (Season 5, Ep. 34)

Astral Plane (Season 6, Ep. 25)

The Hall of Egress (Season 7, Ep. 24)

Music episodes:

What was Missing (Season 3, Ep. 10)

I Remember You (Season 4, Ep. 25)

The Music Hole (Season 8, Ep. 10)

Stunning Visuals episodes:

It Came from the Nightosphere (Season 2, Ep. 1)

Death in Bloom (Season 2, Ep. 17)

Elements miniseries (Season 9, Ep. 2–9)

Ashley Fan ashley.fan@yale.edu