What We're Watching: Fionna and Cake (Spoilers!)
On a random Monday in April thirteen years ago, the cartoon world was changed forever because, on that day, Adventure Time aired its pilot episode, “Slumber Party Panic.” Finn the Human and Jake the Dog quickly became the favorites of children and teenagers everywhere with their goofy humor, fantastic adventures, and their unbreakable brotherly bond. After ten seasons and two hundred and eighty-three episodes in eight years, Finn and Jake said goodbye in the final episode, “Come Along With Me.” Though we may never get to see Finn and Jake star in their own show again, Cartoon Network has aired two more shows in the Adventure Time franchise. Adventure Time: Distant Lands was a limited series of four episodes taking place in different universes released from June 25, 2020, to September 2, 2021. Fionna and Cake is the newest installment featuring the gender-bent Finn and Jake ‘created’ by secondary character and long-time nemesis, Ice King. Fionna and Cake’s story begins in a world devoid of magic and fantastic adventures, antithetical to the post-apocalyptic, bizarre Land of Ooo in Adventure Time. Perpetually deadbeat yet longing for more, Fionna skips from job to job complaining about the mundane until the magical and the mundane combine.
Fans of Adventure Time would know that Ice King was cured of the madness of the Corrupted Wish Crown when the main antagonist and entity of chaos, Golb, ‘digests’ Ice King by reversing time until he becomes the renowned scientist Simon Petrikov once more and the crown returns to its uncorrupted state. In an act of great self-sacrifice, Simon’s girlfriend, Betty, takes the crown herself and wishes for Simon to be safe, but, in keeping with the theme of the consequences of power, the irrevocably merges Betty with Golb. Fionna and Cake picks up in the Land of Ooo with a cured Simon mourning the loss of his only love and educating passersby on life before the apocalypse by reenacting the daily life of a regular human being in a house with three out of four walls. When he tries to summon a pathway from Oo to Golbetty, as the chaos being/nice lady hybrid is now called, he accidentally opens a portal from his world to the mundane city inhabited by Fionna and Cake. This accident proves fortuitous for some and disastrous for others as the selfish and morally gray Fionna and the chaotic and unconscientious Cake are unleashed upon the magical world of Ooo.
My overall impression of this series is that it was a fun throwback to the original, but it lacked the wonder and heartfelt connections that Adventure Time was known for. Fans of Bee and Puppycat will feel right at home (maybe too at home) with Fionna’s constant reliance on the generosity of others and refusal to work hard and Cake’s general air of ‘devil-may-care’ and lack of empathy. Another point of contention for me was the lack of heartfelt connection that characterized Adventure Time. Finn may not have gotten everything right, but he always tried to help others and apologized for his mistakes. Jake has been the real missing piece in the last two additions to the franchise. His genial attitude and brave loyalty were the cherry on top of that show. His absence has left everything else wanting since.
The real shining star of the show was Simon. He started the series as a broken-hearted man pushed to the edge of his sensible morality by grief and ended with a new understanding of how to be a good friend and partner to the people he loves.