The final season of Adventure Time is here and boy, is it beautiful. It has been full of emotional through-lines, not least James Baxter (or Games Bookstore?) discovering dancing for himself.
But the Islands miniseries is defined by them. It begins and ends with shots into the unknown oceans of Oo, something that Finn used to be petrified of. The growth of the characters has pretty much fulfilled the promise of the world that has been presented since 2007. The feelings at the end show that despite this being the last run, the land of Oo is going to be open to expansion in speculation and fan-fiction for some time.
Although the early episodes have some one-off plots and characters, most are focused on Finn’s goal of finding the last place of the humans. This is the second go Adventure Time’s had at a miniseries since the Marceline-focused Stakes in 2015, but it doesn’t fall into the pitfalls of formulaic storytelling that let that one down so badly. What was sad about the first go was that the character and story was there but it was uncharacteristically predictable, it felt very un-Adventure Time in that respect. Islands manages expectations well.
“The feelings at the end of the show that despite this being the last run, the land of Oo is going to be open to expansion in speculation and fan-fiction for some time”
The new titles and polaroid title-cards keep it rooted in the format of the rest of the series that is loved so much but it gives it a kind of pseudo-nostalgia for thing that haven’t happened yet that cements the gravity of the plot points in terms of their effect on how we’re going to see the characters for the rest of the series (and when it is religiously re-watched far into the future).
All of the core characters (noticeably barring PB and Marceline) get a lot of character development. One of the biggest introductions is Susan Strong finally getting her backstory. A part of the A Brave New World/The Island-esque future human society made by ‘The Founders’, she’s found to be one of their enforcers.
The switching from flashback to present is useful and depressing in seeing the consequences of Susan’s actions on her best friend, a ‘hider’ (someone who wants to leave the island). Finn’s dad, also gets some redemption along with everyone else’s growth. He gets to not always be a deadbeat dad, and turns out that he was actually a pretty good one. The tragedy of what happens to him, being chased by people from his former con-man life, makes his condition later in the series and what he does to Finn even sadder. For Susan and the present and Martin in the past they both get redemption, something that so-well compliments Finn’s journey and its discoveries.
“The sunset ocean that epitomises what Adventure Time has always been about: growing into emotional maturity through fun, weird and scary adventures”
Finn’s journey is framed by journeys into unknown waters, one from Oo, one to. He looks for the humans and finds them and in that he finds a past for himself and the people who are responsible for his existence. They don’t define him, but he has a better knowledge of himself. The sunset ocean that the series finishes on and the tear that he shows in the end while he hugs his mother, epitomises what Adventure Time has always been about: growing into emotional maturity through fun, weird and scary adventures.