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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Adventure Time teases a deeper mystery behind Fionna and Cake

Illustration for article titled Adventure Time teases a deeper mystery behind Fionna and Cake

Fionna and Cake started out as the gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake that appeared in Ice King’s short stories, but “Fionna And Cake And Fionna” hints at a deeper story behind these characters. When an elderly Fionna appears at Ice King’s reading of his newest “Fionna and Cake” story, she provides new information that changes the role of these characters in the Adventure Time universe. This information comes courtesy of an old VHS tape telling the true story behind Ice King’s most recent work, and as Ice King learns more about his new visitor, we get snippets of a Fionna and Cake story that has them interacting with the latest gender-swapped character: the Queen of Ooo.

Chelsea Peretti guest stars as the Queen of Ooo, and she’s an exceptional casting choice for a duplicitous, self-absorbed character that will do whatever she can to ensure her personal gain. It’s not that different from her character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Peretti just has to slip into Gina Linetti mode to give the Queen of Ooo a rich personality. This show is very smart about casting guest actors whose voices have a distinct quality that fits the part they’re playing, so they can bring more of themselves into the role instead of putting on a character voice.

It’s always a good thing to have actors that have that flexibility and can take on a number of different characters that all have their own specific sound, but when it comes to smaller parts like the Queen of Ooo, bringing in actors whose voices naturally align with the characters is a quick way to give those figures more personality. (I’m also someone that likes being able to recognize a guest actor, so having them keep their voices with minimal modification makes it easier to pinpoint the performer.)

This show does consistently excellent work finding fun new ways for the shapeshifting characters to use their powers. This episode opens with sea creatures that transform into whatever their opponent is thinking about (a sandwich, a pretzel, a baby shark in a diaper), but the real cool stuff happens with Cake. There’s one specific moment that got an audible reaction out of me because it was just so damn clever: Fionna and Cake encounter a locked door, but Cake can turn herself into a key to get them in. First she turns her hand into a key, but that’s not all that imaginative so she decides that her eye should be the key. Her eye transforms and enters the keyhole, followed by a close-up side-shot of the inside of the lock. Rather than changing shape to move the pins like a real key, the tip of the key-eye transforms into a mini-Cake who shouts, “Bam!”, as she punches through the pins and demolishes them.

This is a remarkably creative use of Cake’s powers, and even though it’s a small moment, it’s the thing that sticks with me most in this episode. “Fionna And Cake And Fionna” isn’t bad, but after the emotional highs of the last two episodes, this episode feels shallower and more frivolous. It’s not completely devoid of feeling, though, and it provides a strong impression of what Fionna and Cake mean for the elderly Fionna, who is just a regular old lady that dresses up like Fionna because it makes her more confident. A former recluse, the woman discovered Fionna and Cake when her television picked up a strange signal, and she emerged from her cave in order to find more Fionna and Cake content, which leads her to Ice King.

The old woman says that Fionna and Cake is actually a TV show from a bygone era, and the final moment of this episode appears to confirm this statement. Ice King says early on that his ideas are beamed into his head while he sleeps (just like everyone else!), and we see that literal beam of information hit him at the end, suggesting that he’s been picking up ancient TV signals each night. This brings up some intriguing questions: Why is Ice King receiving these signals? Is someone broadcasting them to him specifically? Are Fionna and Cake real people? What is their relationship to Finn and Jake? I don’t know if any of these will ever be answered, and I don’t know if they need to be. I preferred it when Fionna and Cake were simply the focus of these silly, slightly creepy stories Ice King made up about his friends, but the writers of Adventure Time have more planned for these characters.


Stray observations

  • I love that Ice King’s stories are gaining an audience, and while it seems like people aren’t all that engaged with the material, they’re still showing up for the readings. I wonder if “Fionna And Cake” will get so popular that Ice King eventually signs a movie deal and we get an episode about “Fionna And Cake” on the big screen.
  • The colors and designs for the swamp where Fionna and Cake discover the door to the mummy’s chamber are very evocative. You get a sense that it smells really bad there.
  • Are we going to see some of Ice King’s video diaries in the future? They’re probably really weird, really sad, or both.
  • “I kinda dig getting loosely adapted.”
  • “I said the end!”
  • “What format is that?”
  • “Dude, I literally have one bazillion questions.”