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

Adventure Time: “Dungeon Train”

Illustration for article titled Adventure Time: “Dungeon Train”

Finn the Human is depressed. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really understand what depression is, so the best he can do in “Dungeon Train” is describe his general mood as “grey.” Jake calls Finn’s condition “lady sad,” but these feelings go deeper than just disappointment over being spurned by the opposite sex. Like most teenagers, Finn’s heartbreak has forced him to second guess the framework of the world he lives in, revealing his philosophical side as he asks questions like “What is the meaning of soup?” The emotions Finn experiences are a mystery, and he doesn’t know how to process them, so he begins to wonder about everything. He says the little voice inside of him doesn’t have much advice regarding how he should move forward; it’s a great way of verbalizing the mental emptiness following particularly traumatic experiences in adolescence, and Finn can let that emptiness swallow him, or he can take action and try to fill his life with new positive experiences.

In response to Finn’s melancholy, Jake offers his usual bad advice in the form of a speech composed of clichés, essentially telling Finn that he just needs to keep meeting new girls to erase his old pain. What Finn actually needs is a huge boost of self-esteem if he’s going to pursue any sort of future romance, and he gets the opportunity to rebuild his faith in himself when he and Jake discover the titular Dungeon Train, a never-ending locomotive that travels on a small circular track. They’re immediately attacked upon boarding the train, and that piece of action is exactly what Finn needs to get his mind off of princesses.

Dungeon episodes mean video game shout-outs, and while some are obvious (bad guys drop fun loot when slain), others are more subtle (Jake’s boredom watching Finn’s single-player game). The episode title had me nervous that the story would just be a mix of season two’s “Mystery Train” and one of the various “Dungeon” installments, but like most of season five, “Dungeon Train” is elevated by its attention to the emotional growth of these characters. The writers are constantly showing an eagerness to explore new facets of the cast, and this week, we see Finn and Jake continue to grow apart as they travel through each new train car.

Finn is still in an exciting, discovery-heavy period in his life while Jake is entering the calmer later years of his, and Jake just doesn’t get the same thrill out of dungeon crawling as he used to. Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard’s episodes this season have excelled when it comes to capturing relatable emotions in a hilarious, fantastic context, and the events of the team’s previous endeavors like “Puhoy” and “Jake The Dad” heavily influence the plot of “Dungeon Train.” The train serves a similar purpose as the pillow world in “Puhoy,” giving Finn a place to escape from the anxieties of his everyday life and regain his composure, and the maturation of Jake that kicked into overdrive with the birth of his pups continues here.

Fighting infinite waves of bad guys and collecting bigger and better treasures with each kill is the best kind of vacation for Finn. The routine is relaxing but rewarding, and the pain he experiences in battle compensates for the overwhelming numbness he’s been feeling since Flame Princess broke up with him. Finn is going to stay in this mode until he’s healed, but the repetition quickly becomes uninteresting for Jake, who is hungry and just wants to go home, or at least to the dungeon they were headed to originally. Having spent much of the last two weeks watching friends play Grand Theft Auto V, I can understand the boredom and frustration that sets in while watching someone go through a single-player game, and the creators behind this episode cleverly expand on those feelings with Jake’s experience. Jake sees a chance for escape when he looks through a future orb that reveals Finn to become a soulless, ultra-powerful boss for others to fight in the Dungeon Train, but the omen does nothing to dissuade Finn’s teenage boy mind, which ignores the “soulless” and focuses on the “ultra-powerful.”

Jake decides to give Finn some space and retreats to the top of the train, where he rests his head on a Hair Ape and utters one of his most important lines: “I wonder what my kids are doing?” It’s a fantastic reminder of how far this character has come and explains his growing disinterest in the activities he normally engages in with Finn. Why is he wasting his time getting dragged through Finn’s adolescent crisis when he could be spending time with his kids? We’ve seen that the pups could use some extra guidance of their own, and it’s very possible that Jake will take on a more active father role in the future. If that means more appearances from Kristen Schaal and Dan Mintz on this show, then I’m all for Jake becoming “Dad Of The Year.”


As is usually the case on this show, Finn’s friendship with Jake is what ultimately saves him from the sad fate of the future orb. When he sees Jake by his side in the vision, the little voice in Finn’s head awakens and helps him make sense of his recent journey. He now understands that this isn’t supposed to be a permanent state of being, and tells Jake that he’ll be home in a week or so once he’s finished out his dungeon therapy. Hacking and slashing is a nice routine, but nothing beats the simple pleasure of washing dishes with his best friend. Once the fighting’s finished, Finn can go home and start having fun again. Hell, he might even get back into the dating scene.

Stray observations:

  • The design in this episode is spectacular, from the various enemies taken down by Finn to all the weapons and armor dropped by the fallen villains. I especially love the Battle Moon, a Death Star-like accessory that orbits the user’s head and shoots down any incoming attacks.
  • Fans of Adventure Time comics and this show’s princess cast will be happy to know that the next original Adventure Time graphic novel from Boom! will spotlight the royal ladies. Here’s the cover.
  • “Girls is like horses. When you fall down, it’s important that you get right back on again. On a different horse. And there’s a lot of fish in the scene. Lot of fish. Penny saved is a penny earned.”
  • “Fiiiinn, I made those biscuits with so much butter. You were just responding to the butter! This whole place is butter!”
  • “If you wish to join me, I’ll be in the treehouse experiencing the joys of life and not getting attacked by gorillas made out of hair.”