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

Adventure Time: "Blade Of Grass"

Illustration for article titled Adventure Time: "Blade Of Grass"

At some point in the future, Finn the Human is going to lose his right arm. It’s unclear when, but there have multiple allusions to a forthcoming amputation, including Finn’s one-armed former self Shogo in “The Vault”, alternate reality Finn and his crude robot arm in the fifth season premiere, and future Finn with a tricked-out bionic appendage in the Adventure Time comic book. This week’s excellent episode takes the first steps toward Finn acquiring his mechanical appendage by giving him a new cursed weapon, and returns to the show’s video game-inspired, Finn and Jake-centric roots along the way.

“Blade Of Grass” takes a classic video game concept—hero needs to upgrade his weapon in order to survive—and uses it to further explore Finn’s adolescent development, showing the stages of how he deals with a sudden frightening personal change. This season has devoted quite a bit of time to stories that have ties to major aspects of male puberty (most notably: the wet dream allegory “Frost & Fire”), and this week’s episode continues the metaphors by giving Finn a new phallus that grows out of his right arm. The Grass Sword, forced on Finn by a Grass Plains Wizard, is an incredible weapon that will serve him well on his future adventures, but it also has a deadly downside. In an intensely green dream sequence, Finn’s new weapon attaches to his arm and grows on his body like moss, turning him into a fragile creature of grass that collapses with the slightest breeze, and if that’s what Finn’s future has in store, there’s now a solid reason for why his right arm has to eventually go bye-bye.

Considering the symbolism traditionally attached to swords, it’s not hard to make a connection between Finn’s new weapon and his burgeoning sexual drive, which, as we’ve seen in the past, is awoken not by physical intimacy, but physical aggression. Fighting with the Grass Sword is Finn’s way of engaging with his sexuality, which is totally healthy if he’s smart and doesn’t overdo it. But the more he uses the blade, the more he risks losing himself, which could be an STD metaphor or it could just be a general warning about the personal stakes of sexual relationships. Either way, it’s Finn’s decision to look at this change as either a blessing or a curse, and when he sees how efficient his new weapon is, he decides to embrace the accessory, no matter what kind of risk it poses for the future.

After a few episodes that were fairly light on old-school adventuring, it’s nice to know that this show’s creators can still tell a great story with the series’ core elements: Finn, Jake, fighting, fantasy, and video games. The episode opens by throwing the viewer into the kind of chaotic action that hasn’t been seen in the last couple chapters, contrasting Jake’s combat prowess with the inefficiency of Finn’s old, broken sword as they battle a horde of long-haired men on a battlefield of metal playground slides. The fight sequences in this episode have a wonderful energy, and it’s easy to see why Finn would grow fond of his Grass Sword, especially once he starts utilizing all its special abilities, like turning it into a buzzsaw by spinning the blade.

Over the last month, I’ve been playing a lot of Ni No Kuni and Diablo III, and it’s astonishing how much funnier this show is after steady exposure to video games. The marketplace is a familiar location for players of RPGs and fantasy action games, and the writers make it a setting for comedy by showing what would happen if shop keepers in games held grudges because players visited other vendors. Choose Goose is not happy that Finn and Jake took their patronage elsewhere at the start of the episode, and he gives them grief when they’re forced to ask him for help in tracking down the Grass Plains Wizard to break Finn’s curse. It’s a fun little scene that uses a distinct supporting character to advance the plot without losing any personality (much like the earlier Tree Trunks sequence), and just one of the ways this show plays with video game ideas.

When Finn finds himself experiencing a significant personal change this week, he first reacts with horror before gaining a stronger understanding of what’s happening to him and changing his perspective. When the Grass Plains Wizard says the curse will be with Finn for eternity, Finn simply decides to stop looking at his new sword as a curse and now he can rest easy with an awesome weapon to show off. There’s definitely a strong element of denial in Finn’s logic for keeping the blade as he’s willfully ignoring the dangers of using it too much, but his choice is to either engage in denial and be happy or wallow in misery at his cursed existence. Sure, he might turn into a heap of grass, but he’ll worry about that problem when he gets to it. If anything goes wrong, he can just cut off the limb and replace it with a robot arm. That would be pretty cool.


Stray observations:

  • Michael DeForge, a character and props designer on this episode, has a gorgeous new graphic novel by the name of Ant Colony coming out this month from Drawn & Quarterly. I read it this past week and was stunned by the psychedelic visuals and depressing/hilarious/horrifying story. You can check out a full review in next week’s Comics Panel, and the entire comic is available online here.
  • Maria Bamford is consistently phenomenal on this show, and her wispy voice for elderly candle maker Suzy generates an instant laugh.
  • Hooligan: “Anarchy!” Finn: “School!”
  • Sue: “Don’t even worry about the damages.” Suzy: “We’ll just use the broken pieces to build a life-size candle in your likeness.” Sue: “Oh, and we’ll put it right by the entrance and it will be our mascot: The Candle Man!”
  • “I know that quack with the grassy shack. He’s a wizard from the grassy plains. He lives atop the grassy moun—tayne!” Rhyming is hard.
  • “That was all my grassy objects.”