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

Adventure Time: “Son Of Mars”

Illustration for article titled Adventure Time: “Son Of Mars”

Pendleton Ward promised a big mythology episode in season 4, and “Sons Of Mars” is a story for long-time fans of Adventure Time, featuring the debut of four-headed deity Grob Gob Glob Grod and the return of Martian King Abe Lincoln, who first appeared in the Finn and Jake Random! Cartoons shorts. Random is the perfect word to describe this week’s episode, which finds Magic Man switching bodies with Jake when his brother Grob Gob Glob Grod comes to Earth looking to punish him for his crimes on the red planet. Finn teleports to Mars, where he has to stop his best friends from being accidentally put to death by the immortal 16th President of the United States, and when he fails, Abe Lincoln makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his reputation as the wisest, most honest superbeing that ever lived.

“Son Of Mars” is an incredibly bizarre episode, and while it gives a better look at Adventure Time’s big picture, that big picture is a psychedelic panorama of absurdity. After Grob Gob Glob Grod takes Magic Man-Jake to Mars for trial, Finn travels to Jake-Magic Man’s house to find a way to save him, and discovers a shrine to all things dark and rotten. Finn thinks Magic Man’s home is a reflection of his sick mind, and he’s probably right, although a picture of Magic Man looking happy with a companion named Margles suggests that his story is probably more tragic than it seems. Finn finds a transporter to Mars in Magic Man’s basement, and he’s flung across junk food-littered outer space when he activates the device with the power of friendship. Once Finn gets to Mars, the episode starts to get even weirder, beginning with the appearance of the deified Abe Lincoln.

At the Martian trial, we learn of the horrific crimes committed by Magic Man on the planet’s populace, including turning their shadows against them, fusing all their arms together so they looked like a long string of paper dolls, and changing water to hair that makes everyone bald when they drink it. These are all drawn by Grod on a retro overhead projector using dry-erase marker, because they don’t have any footage of the crimes, but Grod’s a pretty good artist. The juxtaposition of an intensely strange character engaged in an ordinary act is something that this series does often for comedic results, and it works incredibly well during this sequence.

When Magic Man-Jake is declared guilty, Abe Lincoln summons up the wand that, once it touches Jake, will either kill him or convert his body to living stardust and jettison his consciousness across the cosmos on an endless journey of wonder and discovery! Finn doesn’t want to wait and find out which outcome it will be, but when he throws a chair at Grob Gob Glob Grod, the wand flies out of the four-headed god’s hand, touches Jake and immediately kills him. Finn is rightfully pissed that Abe Lincoln’s signature smarts failed him, and when Finn guilt trips the ex-president, Abe decides to venture into the underworld to retrieve Jake’s soul from the 37th dead world.

When Death asks Abe what he’ll offer in return for Jake, he offers him a penny, but that doesn’t fool Death this time. Abe ultimately offers up his immortality, and a gunshot is heard as Jake returns to life, Abe Lincoln is now a lifeless monument atop his Martian throne. Abe Lincoln is Adventure Time’s Jesus, eager to give his own life for the salvation of others, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds a way back from his stony prison and has himself a good old-fashioned resurrection. Still, it’s a surprisingly moving conclusion for the story, and a much cooler thing for Abe Lincoln to do than take up vampire hunting or some other nonsense. (Abe Lincoln on Mars is not nonsense.)

His best friend saved, Finn returns to Earth to serve up some justice in Magic Man’s face, crashing through his roof and knocking him unconscious. For a final bit of weirdness, Finn frees Magic Man’s tiny manticore, unleashing a beast who has trouble expressing his feelings. As he flies away, the tiny manticore laments, “I am the true coward, hiding from sincere expressions like a vampire in the nude who hides from the light. Thank you, brave hero. I was freed from bottle jail, but my new prison is shame. MY NEW PRISON IS SHAME!” It’s the kind of non-sequitur ending that Adventure Time loves, leaving the audience on a “huh?” note after an episode of WTF moments.


Stray observations:

  • Much thanks to Alasdair for covering for me last week, I was still in San Diego recovering from the barrage of Adventure Time material at Comic-Con. So many Finns.
  • Pendleton Ward originally wanted the four heads of Grob Gob Glob Grod to be voiced by Bill Murray, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. That would have been amazing.
  • I really like the way Jake’s physicality changes when he switches bodies with Magic Man. His limbs are longer, and he spends more time on his hind legs.
  • “You succubutt!”
  • “What am I stepping in?” “That’s where I blow my nose all day!”
  • “And what about that one time when he turned all the water into hair? And we all got so thirsty we drank it. And when we drank it we went bald! Many of us did not recover, and to this day hide our loss behind groovy headgear.”
  • “You bugged up, King of Mars!”