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Review: Adventure Time – 601 & 602 – “Wake Up/Escape From The Citadel”

BEFORE YOU READ FURTHER, PLEASE BE AWARE: THERE ARE A BUNCH OF SPOILERS AHEAD!

There’s something I want you to do. Seek out the original Adventure Time short, the one that aired on Nickelodeon. The one before any sort of series pickup, or whatever, when the main character was named Pen, and he talked to some sort of celestial Abraham Lincoln at some point. Watch it, and then watch the first two episodes of season 6. Or even the Finn The Human/Jake The Dog half hour. Compare and contrast.

One of the biggest themes of the show is “growing up” and the show itself has done just that over the course of five seasons. Monday night, it kicked off its sixth with a half hour story that basically changes the scope of the television show that airs Mondays on Cartoon Network forever.

If you’ve been keeping up, you know that season five ended a few weeks back with an episode where Finn discovers his hero Billy’s bucket list, which he left before he died and never really got to finish. With the help of Billy’s ex-girlfriend, Canyon, Finn ran through the entire list to make sure everything his idol, and for a time, his friend, wanted to do before he died actually got done. After knocking everything else on the list out, Finn discovered a hidden list item all the way at the end that forced him to confront one of his biggest fears that was introduced way back when in season one, the ocean.

“Lie on my back in the ocean. Just float.”

The Fear Feaster manifests itself from Finn’s stomach, and to defeat him, Finn overcomes his fear (and then Finn’s grass sword kills the Feaster despite it being explained that no mortal blade could do so). Billy’s list was finished, and he appeared in the clouds a la Lion King to explain to Finn a few things– he could now rest in peace, and after a reminder, that Finn’s human father was still alive, and at the Citadel.

Flash forward a few weeks and we arrive at Wake Up and Escape From The Citadel, season six episode one and two respectively, a half hour extravaganza that kicks off what hopefully will be an incredible season. It starts off great enough.

Adventure Time has had its share of heavy, dark situations pop up, and it has definitely found a strength in those real, dramatic moments over time. What made Finn The Human/Jake The Dog so good was the startling alternate reality, where Finn took the old Ice King crown from an aged Marceline, busy guarding the corpse of Simon, and used it. It drove him mad, and the bomb Simon held back was detonated, and the entire planet started becoming ravaged by the radiation. It was essentially the beginning of what is Ooo, and it was dark enough that the scenes with Prismo, Jake, and Cosmic Owl at Prismo’s place in his hot tub seemed necessary for the show– kids still watch this, kids need some comic relief thrown in, probably. Everyone does, really.

This episode lays down some big plot points and there are big events in this half hour that change this show permanently.

The half hour gets kicked off with Wake Up, which opens with Jake chillin’ with Prismo and a bunch of other friends at a party, where the Lich is situated in a corner, not moving an inch, not flinching as party guests TP his body and take selfies on him. After some good times, where Jake and Prismo express their friendship (“I’m always smiling when I’m around you! I just noticed that, I always am!” “I’m always smiling when I’m around you too.”) and munch on some cheesy crackers, Jake heads home to find Finn, wide awake in bed. Finn explains that he found out his father’s still alive. He takes some convincing, but decides he may as well go meet his dad, just to see what he’ll look like when he’s an old dude. Back at Prismo’s, the duo explain they need to get to the Citadel and while Prismo warns them they don’t want to go there, he promises to help if they’ll just go find an old man sleeping on a rock that’s shaped like an upside down duck right outside, and make sure he doesn’t wake up.

Here’s where our first big moment comes in.

After Finn and Jake fight off a ton of night terrors coming from the old man, they arrive back to Prismo, who tells them that now, they can wake him. It turns out that the old man is Prismo, and Prismo is nothing more than a creature created by this man’s dream. By waking him, they kill Prismo, which is a cosmic crime– the only way to get to the Citadel. The Lich, previously still and unmoved despite how much toilet paper wound up on him, wakes to shake the old man awake and kill Prismo. The old man, unaware of where he is and why he’s awake, not to mention unaware of the being holding him up, asks to be brought back home because he’s ready to take another nap. Instead, the Lich kills him.

So, point number one, Prismo is now gone for good. It’s a sad loss. Despite only being in two episodes, I was a huge fan of the character. Maybe it was Kumail Nanjiani’s voice that drew me in? Or the friendship he had with Jake that made me want him to stick around and hang out forever? Whatever it was, it’s a big loss. The wishmaster is gone.

Most importantly at the moment, though, is the fact that the Lich has just stolen Finn & Jake’s only ticket into the Citadel. A portal opens, and a guardian freezes the Lich and begins dragging him through to bring him to his prison. Finn and Jake jump on at the last second to hitch a ride to the giant crystal jail and hunt for whoever Finn’s father could be. After about a minute, the two find a man with a beard and one curly hair on his head who looks to be the one human and kind of looks like Finn. While they look, the Lich begins burning and melting the Citadel down with black flames that begin to free creatures and force them into the Lich’s power. Finn’s father begins to be freed by the fire, and they unleash him with one of Jake’s best uses of his stretching powers yet, a mace and chain that wraps around Finn and smashes the crystal apart.

While the Citadel melts, Finn interacts with his father, Martin, and finds that he’s not a particularly good dude. Finn was, all in all, better without him– he’s a thief, a criminal, and someone who does not care about this kid who seems to be his son. All he wants is to escape and only shows interest in Finn when the flesh on his leg is destroyed and he needs his newfound son to get some guardian blood to heal it. It’s obvious that had Martin actually raised Finn, a totally different person would have come out of the situation. Joshua, Finn’s adopted dog father, did a lot to make Finn a model citizen. Joshua raised Finn into a hero, or at least a to-be hero, and instilled a moral compass in Finn that has helped him so much throughout his life to be good. Had he been with Martin, who knows what would have happened? Perhaps the two would be imprisoned together.

Meanwhile, the Lich continues to melt the house down, and Finn wants to fight the destructive force as a family– but Martin runs away. The Lich bursts out of his crystal and utters the word “fall,” casting the entire landscape except for the island Finn and Jake are on in blackness.

Here, we have a terrifying moment. The Lich doesn’t get too much talking time, but when he does, Ron Perlman almost always delivers something chilling. The monologue the Lich gives while Finn blindly tries to fight back with his grass sword, but lacks all strength in the darkness, is one of my favorite parts of this half hour:

In case that video gets taken down:

“You are alone, child. There is only darkness for you, and only death for your people. These ancients are only just the beginning. I will command a great and terrible army, who will sail to a billion worlds. Who will sail until every light has been extinguished. You are strong, child. But I am beyond strength. I am the end. And I have come for you, Finn.”

It’s a chilling monologue and it is delivered perfectly by Perlman. This is something this show has proven it can pull off time and time again, with an amazing cast of stars that are either always on board or come on every once in a while for things like this and a staff behind the show that knows just how to make an episode feel like there is nothing for the heroes to do, that they’re hopeless. That they’ve truly lost. It’s an amazing strength for a show to be able to make the audience truly afraid that the protagonists are done.

But, of course, they never are done. Finn tries ever so weakly to fight off the Lich, and throws guardian blood on him, which hurts him. He throws more and more, and flesh begins to grow on the terrifying beast that has the power to destroy all. Finn tells Jake to finish the Lich off while he runs to try to stop Martin, who is actively trying to escape through a portal with a bunch of other convicts, from leaving. He tries to grab onto the crystal Martin and the other bad guys are riding away, and the grass sword begins to swell and try to give Finn strength to hold on.

But, here’s the earth shattering moment in the episode that changes things forever.

The sword can’t hold, and it tears, and as it does, it sends Finn falling into the liquid of the melted Citadel without an arm. The arm that the sword took up residence on is torn off, and the guardian blood that helped heal and helped grow flesh on others doesn’t do the same for Finn– instead a flower grows at the elbow, where the arm cuts off.

You may remember that in other dimensions and realities in the show, older versions of Finn are all missing the same arm. He has a pillow arm in Puhoy, and a mechanical one in other episodes, including Jake the Dog/Finn the Human. Now, just like in all of the other realities, this Finn has lost the arm, and it isn’t coming back. It’s heartbreaking, and made even more so when Shelby, who was with Finn and Jake originally to wish them to the Citadel but wasted his wish on a pony for his GF, crawls out from under Jake’s ear, crying, and curls up on Finn to comfort him.

The good news, though, is that the Lich has been almost totally defeated as he’s been stripped of his powers and is completely harmless now, as the guardian blood grew flesh on him and turned him into literally, a giant baby. We end the episode on a lighter note, as Finn and Jake leave giant baby Lich at Tree Trunks and  Mr. Pig’s doorstep, saving their marriage.

This half hour does so much to completely shake up the landscape of Adventure Time. Prismo is dead. Finn has only one arm. Martin is out there somewhere, and he could always come back into the picture. Finn is irrevocably changed, on the outside and most definitely in, and from here on, the character has nothing else to do but grow. And it’s exciting, because character development is something this show does oh so well, and for Finn to learn and grow and adapt to what has happened to him will be ultimately fascinating over the next season. What will he replace it with? What will he do without it? Where do we go from here? Ooo has been shaken up.

There are episodes coming up that aren’t canon, like Food Chain, directed by Masaaki Yuasa, and the show will undoubtedly be as lighthearted as ever going forward, but these are events that will linger over the show’s timeline from now on. And the thing about that is– it couldn’t be a better show for it. This show has shown time and time again that it can do this stuff and be just as strong as it could ever have been. The people who make this show do incredible things and never really stop.

We’re here to watch Finn grow up, and see what kind of adventures he gets into with his buddies and adopted brother. And this episode kicks off a season that promises to be full of that. I can’t be more excited.

Watch Adventure Time Mondays at 6/5c on Cartoon Network. This is more than a piece of info. This is something you should definitely do. Watch this show, if you already aren’t.

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