Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Adventure Time: “Astral Plane”

Illustration for article titled Adventure Time: “Astral Plane”

“If just being born is the greatest act of creation, then what are you supposed to do after that? Isn’t everything that comes next sort of a disappointment? Slowly entropying until we devolve into a pile of mush?”—Finn


Adventure Time is no stranger to philosophical material, but “Astral Plane” dives deep into metaphysical ideology to deliver a dense episode about the miracle of creation and the disappointment of life. It sounds heavy because it is, but as usual, the more substantial content is surrounded by goofy high jinks and fantastic visuals that keep the story light and fun. That’s the great thing about Adventure Time: If the show is going to ask big, meaningful questions, it does so in a way that infuses silliness to make those questions more engaging to a younger audience. That also makes them more entertaining for adult viewers that just want to watch brightly colored cartoon shenanigans without worrying about too much about intellectual stimulation.

The thing that excites me most about “Astral Plane” is the presence of Jillian Tamaki as writer and storyboard artist with Jesse Moynihan. Tamaki is the illustrator of two exceptional graphic novels written by her cousin Mariko—Skim and This One Summer—and I was eager to see how her lush, fluid art style would translate to the world of this series. There’s a grace to the visuals in “Astral Plane” that isn’t found in other Moynihan episodes, an ethereal quality that is closer aligned with Tamaki’s graphic sensibility. The detail of her comic-book art also comes through in the animation, which depicts thoroughly lived-in homes for Mr. Fox and Bounce House Princess and a party populated by Cloud People that look like they stepped off of a contemporary college campus.

While camping with Jake, Finn sees the comet from the end of “Evergreen,” a celestial sighting that causes him to ponder his place in the universe. As he falls asleep, his astral form leaves his body and is pulled to various places around Ooo, checking in with assorted side characters as he makes his way off of Earth and onto Mars, where Grob Gob Glob Grod is trying to stop the comet from colliding with his planet. It’s hard to determine just how these assorted threads fit together, but they are all somehow tied to the above quote because the episode flashes back to them when Finn questions the nature of creation while on Mars.

Finn’s first stop is the home of Mr. Fox, who lives a life of lonely solitude. Mr. Fox’s dream self would like Finn to stay for a drink, but Finn isn’t in control of his movements and is quickly pulled away to visit Bounce House Princess, who heads to her cave dwelling to relax after a day of letting kids jump inside her. Once inside, BHP is confronted by a porcupine that sneaks in through the front door, threatening her inflated existence with its sharp quills. When the episode flashes back to BHP on the line about entropy and devolution, she’s deflated on the floor of her house, and it can be assumed that the porcupine represents the forces that are constantly threatening to send the world into chaos. (I have no idea what Mr. Fox’s thread is supposed to mean, though. Can any commenters help me out here?)

The thematic importance of Finn’s next two stops is easier to conclude, spotlighting sadness and the role this emotion plays in stimulating creativity. When Finn sees Ice King struggling to make friends at a Cloud People party, he wonders if there’s an incentive to sadness, and he gets his answer when he sees Marceline playing a melancholy song while floating through the sky. “Is that where creativity comes from?” Finn asks. “From sad biz?” The philosophical content comes hard and fast from this point on, and when Finn sees a mother Space Lard giving birth, he wonders if birth is the greatest creative statement in the universe.

So why is Finn experiencing all this right now? The answer may be tied to the person inside the comet: Martin, who makes his return to the series in this episode’s final moments. What is he doing in there? Why did his presence summon Finn’s astral form? Grob Gob Glob Grod says that the comet brings an agent of change, and Martin definitely makes some big changes with his arrival, namely killing Grob Gob Glob Grod when the deity flies into the comet to prevent it from crashing into Mars. Glob is dead and Martin killed him, but what does that mean for the future of Ooo? We’ll just have to wait until next week to find out, because that comet is going to hit Earth very soon.


Stray observations:

  • Does anyone recognize the voice of Lauren the cloud girl? It sounds familiar but I can’t place it.
  • Ice King creates ice without wearing his crown this week. Animation oversight or potential character development?
  • Any episode with new Marceline music is a winner. This season has been pretty light on Marceline; I hope she has more to do in the final episodes.
  • “Isn’t it sort of strange that we keep pets? We kind of make them worship us.” I had this thought just the other day while petting my dog. Pets are weird.
  • “Man, this is screwy. Maybe it’s the can of beans we had for dinner.”
  • “Oh. That was sort of rude.”
  • “So I guess you’re more into the little brother type.”
  • “Hey Lauren, I heard your grandpa’s giving out ice.”
  • “Looks like I put this party on ice. Oh wait. You want ice? You got iced.”
  • Finn: “Do you ever say ‘Oh my Glob’?” Grob Gob Glob Grod: “No, but sometimes Glob does.”