As crazy as Adventure Time gets, there is still great storytelling and memorable characters in there, which is part of why itís so addictive. For example, when Jake and Finn get caught in the web of two giant spiders, itís not really about the fear of getting eaten or about developing a heroic plan to escape. No, first, itís about talking to the spiders about their problems. The spider couple that ensnared them has reached a rut in their relationship, and the guy spider agrees to talk things out with Finn. By the end of it, they make up. This is Adventure Time though, so itís in a disgusting rain of spider babies. But the really amazing thing is how natural things like this come to Finn and Jake. Talking is not some ruse to trick the spider, though he does want to escape eventually. No, Jake actually seems like a cool guy at times like these. Heís really someone you want to meet.
There are a lot of episodes about love in this season, not that the theme is particularly unusual for Adventure Time. For example, thereís also the episode where Tree Trunks the elephant and Mr. Pig, the, uh, pig, finally discover their true feelings for each other. And this is still Adventure Time, so they really discover each other, all over the kingdom, which makes all the candy people extremely uncomfortable. This is also the season where Finn pursues his (hopeless?) crush on the Flame Princess over a few episodes. Itís a love that would kill him, as she is made of fire. But somehow, he doesnít let that stand in the way. He even resorts to protective tin foil wrapping so that he can hug her, though that really doesnít make any sense as flame protection. He even ends up wrapping up some old feelings for Princess Bubblegum in this episode. For the Flame Princess relationship alone, the season is pretty satisfying.
But, of course, to say that there are any real story arcs that get closed off in a satisfying way is a bit much. That would imply that Adventure Time has really changed in a big way. No, as deep as some episodes in this season get, and as much as they reveal about character development and history, they always end abruptly. Youíre always left thinking to yourself, "What just happened?" And I may have said this before, but thatís got to be part of the appeal of a show like Adventure Time. It takes itself seriously for brief moments, and in these moments, your imagination can run wild with possibilities. I can only imagine the fan fiction and fan art that this series has inspired.
In addition to the Flame Princess and Tree Trunks fun, there are lots of great episodes in this season. "The Hard Easy" is a hilarious take on the Frog Prince fairy tale. "Lady and Peebles" is a great episode that explores Princess Bubblegum as the hero - or perhaps the anti-hero. George Takei also makes an appearance as the villain Ricardio here. Speaking of, there are lots of really great celebrity appearances in this season, including Keith David as the Flame Princessís dad, Flame King. Another great episode is "I Remember You," where the Marceline and Ice King make a connection, getting tantalizing bits of their past relationship revealed. "The Lich" is another amazing story about Jake and Finn getting their heroic side taken advantage of. Itís also just layered with what could be cryptic symbolism, or it could just be nonsense. Yeah, it's probably just nonsense. Overall, itís terrifying, brilliant, and very Adventure Time.
And speaking of Princess Bubblegum as the anti-hero, the episode "Princess Cookie" delves even more into her questionable past. The episode starts with Baby-Snaps, a cookie, holding several candy people hostage. He demands Bubblegumís crown because of an incident that happened between them long ago. Itís also a pretty hilarious combination of movie tropes like hostage negotiations, the villain that destroys himself in the end, and the redeemed misunderstood bad guy. Itís like a dozen different things Iíve seen in movies, but canít quite place, and it works in the same weird way that Adventure Time usually does. And again, itís just one of many episodes that makes you question Princess Bubblegum. Has she acted selflessly and just made mistakes along the way, or is there something darker at play?
Thereís also a special feature on the making of the music in Adventure Time. With music being a frequent and important part of the series, this is a welcome feature. Thereís some pretty interesting history behind the music in Adventure Time. The mysterious clicking sound during the opening song gets explained in one funny anecdote (hint: a lot of these stories end with "we just went with the worst version because why not?"). Thereís also Pen Ward singing a boy band song of his own creation that is so bad, itís brilliant. Jakeís "Bacon Pancakes" song is another one thatís also given some background story. Itís amazing how many of the simple and enjoyable moments like this almost didnít make it into the show. With so much of the funny and emotional points of the show wrapped up in its music, this feature is not to be missed.
Again, though a lot of previous relationships come to a turning point in this season, donít feel like youíre going to be lost if you jump in here. The story comes in very brief snippets. For the most part they feel universal, such as Jakeís confession to Bubblegum Princess about his frustration over their relationship. Somehow, even though the situations involving love, relationships, anger, and other common story themes are so simple, they donít seem forced or faked. Adventure Time really has hit a stride of being able to take you on a roller coaster of serious to nonsensical in under 15 minutes. And for those of us that have been following the series, thereís the added bonus of feeling at home with Jake, Finn, Bubblegum Princess, Ice King, and Marceline. These are characters you care about, even while they inhabit a world that makes no sense. Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season is Adventure Time at its best; Get off your lumps and buy it already.