Original Airdate: January 22, 2015
Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Jillian Tamaki
Finn no longer suffers from the major depression that he experienced at the beginning of the season, but that hasn’t stopped him from his search for meaning and self-examining behavior. Finn is at the age (likely 16 by now) where he’s beginning to question his own purpose in the world, as well as the purpose of the world itself. And often, when looking at life and its results as a whole, disappointment is certainly one of the most common feelings that we as human beings experience, and the Land of Ooo isn’t a stranger to that either. Finn gets a firsthand experience of how loneliness impacts the people of Ooo, and begins to wonder if living life is actually really worth it. This one is written and storyboarded by Jesse Moynihan and Jillian Tamaki, who joined the AT crew for this episode, as well as The Diary later on. While Astral Plane includes some of those typical Moynihanisms that seem more as though they’d be coming from his mouth than the mouth of our main character, the episode does manage to come off in a pretty natural and interesting way, and does genuinely exude some though-provoking material.
Not only is Finn beginning to act older and more mature, but the way he’s drawn in this one actually makes him look taller as well. It’s a nice touch, though I wouldn’t really call it a permanent change for his character design. Every storyboard artist has their own take on Finn, so his appearance is never really entirely consistent to begin with. But still, the effort is felt, and it’s really nice to just see how much he’s grown both physically and mentally. His camping experience with Jake is also super cute; I love any moments that showcase the two brothers just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company, and Finn’s ponderous concern about owning pets is just the kind of goofy conversation I would expect them to share, which also ties into Finn’s behavior in the episode.
It’s notable that Finn entering his astral form in this episode is kept mostly ambiguous. While he did so by sheer concentration back in Still, this one has him summoned against his will, which could be contributed to the nature of the comet. But of course, as we learn, the comet is actually Martin’s star ship, so I’m quite curious as to why exactly Finn entered this plane of existence. Was it because of his search for answers that sent him hurdling toward Martin, or possibly just to Mars? Was his ascension inadvertently caused by Martin? It’s tough to know, and I myself don’t have a definitive answer. But regardless, the ride is more noteworthy than the actual destination.
As Finn laments later in the episode:
“If just being born is the greatest act of creation. Then what are you suppose to do after that? Isn’t everything that comes next just sort of a disappointment? Slowly entropying until we deflate into a pile of mush?”
This is reflected through his experiences in the astral plane, and just how much he realizes by observing other people. Using this quote for reference, I’ll be diving into each character’s story individually.
The first person Finn comes across is Mr. Fox – er, Mr. Fox’s subconscious, more like it. Leaving right where he left off in Another Five More Short Graybles, Mr. Fox lives completely alone in his log cabin, and has essentially only himself to chat with. Thus, Mr. Fox experiences a life of solitude and isolation, but one that’s completely by choice. Mr. Fox is lonely, as Finn notes, but it’s never addressed that Mr. Fox is actually depressed. In fact, his astral self is even somewhat sociable with Finn as he enters in. Yet, Mr. Fox would rather live a life of comfort and peace, rather than one following his dreams or achieving any types of life goals. Finn notes that, while this lifestyle does seem awfully lonely and unfulfilling, it has some perks. People who are lonely often have more time to focus on work and their own personal projects, as Mr. Fox showcases. Though, it argues the question: is it more fulfilling to spend your time alone to work, than to experience life and the outside world? Should one attempt to fill their life with as much as they possibly can, or focus on developing their own skills in absolute seclusion from the outside world? There’s a happy medium for both, but I don’t think there’s a solid solution either way: The former has you sacrificing part of yourself, while the latter leaves you with nobody to share your life with. It’s a dicey path for people who especially love their own work.
Bounce House Princess, the most obscure featured character in this episode, (seriously, this is her second, and also last, appearance in the series. Kinda weird to see her here, but also welcomed) is the next person Finn experiences on his travels. Bounce House Princess is also an introvert, though one that suffers from a pretty bad case of agoraphobia, and who can blame her? The world is pretty dangerous for a little bounce house, especially when there’s porcupines roaming about Ooo. Bounce House Princess’s dilemma is a sad one; she wants to be able to put herself out there and connect with other people, but she’s too afraid of (literally) getting hurt and/or ruining her life. It shows how dreadful anxiety can be: BHP loathes herself and is angry that she can’t just get out there and socialize with others, though anxiety can be consuming and is something that is somewhat out of her control. And her worst fears actually do come true when she deflates, proving that allowing herself to interact with the world may just be a bad life choice. Poor gal.
Ice King brings to the table his usual awkwardness, though it’s viewed somewhat in a complex light. Here, he’s actually pretty social. He’s talking to ladies at a party, and keeping everyone happy with supplies of ice. Yet, he’s overshadowed by his talent of producing ice, and nobody really wants to get the chance to know him otherwise. He is insane, after all, and everyone in the Cloud Kingdom likely recognizes this. While he’s not outright rejected, it becomes pretty clear that Lauren, the cloud chick, is more interested in Finn than she is by the IK. Thus, Ice King feels lonely, and only contributes to his own loneliness by pushing away the people around him. He freezes all of the Cloud People, thus eliminating a way for himself to be rejected. As Finn notes “it’s like part of him wants to be a sad wong-lord.” While Ice King likely doesn’t want to be sad, he eliminates all opportunities for himself to be happy because of his self-destructive and unorthodox behavior. He wants to be happy, but doesn’t rationally understand people and social cues enough to achieve such bliss. He’s simply stuck in his own awkward ways, unable to move forward because of society’s perception of him, and the fact that he’s never able to make choices to shift this perception. This leads Finn to question, “why would anyone want to be sad?”
This transitions into Marceline’s tune (it had been months between Princess Day and Astral Plane by this point, I almost forgot that Marceline was even a character) “Yeah Girl, It Stinks,” which is brief, but awfully depressing and sheds light on Marceline’s emotional state as a whole. Practically in response to Finn’s question, Marceline sings about how she pushes away everything and has taught herself to not care simply because everyone she’s ever cared about has either died off or forgotten about her. Marceline also wonders what the point of everything is, because after a thousand years of putting her care and love into the world, everything is fleeting and nothing lasts, and she’ll continue to end up being alone. Marcy realizes that and channels that negative energy into her own creative outlet: music. This causes Finn to question whether sadness spawns creativity, which isn’t completely far from the truth. Oftentimes, sadness and loneliness can be channeled into something exceptionally beautiful through artistic mediums, but like Mr. Fox, is it worth it to feel sad and lonely if it means that you’ll possibly be more creative?
Finn has all of these conclusions about the meaning of sadness and loneliness, but no true answers. It isn’t until he experiences the convergence of space lards, and the birth of a baby lard, that he discovers the true amazing nature of creation and just how spectacular it is. Birth is a nearly unexplainable gift of nature that can ultimately not be conquered by any other event in life as more significant. In general, the scene is pretty gnarly. I love the simplistic design of the lards being used for something so epic, and the continuation of the ever-growing lard species never ceases to amaze me. There’s also the notion that they can see and even know Finn by name, further exemplifying their mystical nature.
Though, the episode hits its climax as Finn hovers over to Mars, which is awesome to see once more. It’s even cooler to see the CG-animated introduction shot of Mars, which looks like something straight out of Futurama. All of Finn’s lingering questions arise when he’s met with the “G-Man” himself, Grob Gob Glob Grod. It’s cool to see the Glob gang back again, and even cooler to see that Finn essentially turns to answers from “God.” Of course, we have the background story of the “comet” heading straight for Mars, which is a direct continuation of the previous episode. Adventure Time is getting much better at picking up more quickly on story arcs and plot points, and that really only continues to improve with the next few seasons. But back to Finn and Glob’s conversation, this is where Finn begins to drop his knowledge on what he’s learned about the world around him, which is where Glob mentions that, “it’s not enough to have created something amazing, right? What if I just let my Martian super society go to butt?” meaning that anything one creates is deserving of protection and care. Creating is one thing, but managing and allowing that creation to thrive and develop is another. Of course, Finn retorts with the obvious, “what’s the point if we’re all gonna die in the end?” which is inherently nihilistic, but a thought process that’s easy to get wrapped up in. Ultimately, life is short and fleeting, and everything we do and everything we are will eventually come to end, so is there really any point in trying to impact the world, one might ask. This is counteracted by Glob’s decision to fly head first into the comet, ultimately deciding to potentially give up his own life for the sake of his own creation. Thus saving Mars and allowing everyone to continue living their own lives. Glob proves that, even through the disappointment of life, there’s something worth fighting for. Whether it be the lives of others, yourself, or the greater good, there’s always something tying purpose and meaning into the gift of life, and that’s defined through actions and personal impressions of yourself. Of course, not everyone in this episode is able to combat their own lives filled with disappointment: Ice King, Marceline, Mr. Fox, and BHP don’t have any well-defined resolutions, but they’re living regardless, knowing to trust their own intuitions and to keep moving forward.
As Finn states upon landing, “Glob is dead,” which is both literal, and humorously ties into Friedrich Nietzsche statement of “God is dead,” which references that fact that the rise of modern philosophy practically disproves the existence and effect of God. Finn realizes that, with all of the enlightening things he’s experienced, there are more complex ways of experiencing life and its meaning than just by one, solely-defined answer. There are many ways to live life, and many other opportunities, both disappointing and successful, in the future. One opportunity that fits under the category of both is the fact that Martin’s spacecraft is actually the comet hurdling toward Earth, and that his next meeting with Finn is inevitable. Though this really kind of bothers me: a space craft is what killed Glob? Really? Considering that he’s practically God in this universe, I have trouble believing that a machine would be his ultimate downfall. Granted, it makes sense that it wouldn’t actually be the catalyst comet, but it still feels like somewhat of a letdown that Glob was killed by a mere spaceship, and that he didn’t even destroy it in the slightest.
Regardless, Finn, back in his own body, mentions to Jake that Bounce House Princess needs their help. Following in Glob’s own footsteps, Finn realizes that there’s something in life worth protecting. Adventuring has provided a gateway for the boys to preserve life and to help others in the past, and it truly helps to propel Finn forward into a more rounded and meaningful lifestyle.
I really dig the motifs going on in this one; the whole thing kind of feels like a Graybles episode specifically dedicated to sadness. I maybe would have chosen some different characters for representation… like, it’s cool to see obscure characters like Mr. Fox and Bounce House Princess, but I ultimately think it’s easier to connect with the characters we know better. I think Princess Bubblegum would have been able to fill in the shoes for isolation quite nicely, and maybe even Lumpy Space Princess could have fit in Bounce House Princess’s place. But that’s not a complaint by any means, I still do enjoy M.F. and BHP’s individual roles. As always, Moynihan creates a trippy and psychedelic environment that is pretty unforgiving with how philosophical it gets, and it’s always pretty sweet to see something this unique and different on a mainstream children’s network. Of course, to some it’s pretentious, and I understand where those people are coming from, but man, is it interesting regardless. Moynihan and Tamaki successfully create an interesting concept and environment based on the overarching theme of sadness and loneliness, and leave you with no defining answers, but rather even more questions than you had before. In typical Adventure Time fashion, Astral Plane aims to make the viewer think, rather than to be spoon-fed answers. And in a world with goofy Candy People with noodley arms, it’s always nice to see a little touch of sadness and existentialism.