What time is it? Time to do a headache-inducing analysis of this children's cartoon! (Expect spoilers.)
The concept of the show
The show is mainly about two buds hanging out in any way possible, but since this is an analysis page...
The show relies heavily on use of fantastic elements (swords, monsters, princesses) in a fantastic setting (divided into kingdoms of fire, ice, candy, etc.), and many tropes consistent with the genre of High Fantasy. It does this in a new, modern, and weird way, though. Instead of a knight in shining armor and his steed saving a princess from an evil wizard, it is a boy and his magic dog saving many princesses from a sympathetic wizard who can be construed as not evil at all. The blatant over-abundance of princesses is perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of this show, and it helps that a lot of the princesses want Finn. So what we have here is a sort of "parody" of the fantasy genre, with more humor and in a laid-back and simplistic style, but the fantasy is still there, and the show's love for adventure prevalent in many episodes. There is more to be explored, however. Although on the surface the show would seem completely fantasy element-based, there are many real-world deconstructions; the show takes fantasy and injects reality. For example, the show completely ignores Amusing Injuries, even though the simplistic style of the show implies that it would be a show that has entirely cartoon-y physics. This is not the case; injuries are treated very seriously, and often even last throughout the episode. Fun and rather dangerous adventures often turn into "Hey! Get serious! We could actually die!". There are lots of Cerebus Retcons which show up as a result of Cerebus Syndrome; rather amusing things are revealed to have more serious meaning, like Marceline's Fry Song. Characters often have stereotypical fictional personalities, that contain another characterization underneath the surface:
- Finn: Bold, brave hero flinging a sword—revealed to be ambigiously self-conscious teen who is really sensitive and worries about becoming the Tagalong Kid, and also someone who struggles with his own methods of heroism.
"Deep down he's probably really sensitive, like me."
- Ice King: Evil wizard who constantly kidnaps princesses—revealed to be an extremely sympathetic character who only kidnaps princesses because he's extremely lonely and has never known a true friend besides his penguins. And this is further deconstructed when it's revealed that he was once a normal kind man who accidentally turned himself into a wizard, and his desire to capture princesses stems from his subconscious desire to see his old fiancee again, whom he called his princess.
- Marceline: Cool-as-ice, level-headed, and unfeeling Trickster (and ambigiously Mary Sue) vampire who is initially evil, only doing things for her own amusement—revealed to be an extremely lonely girl that desprately finds fun wherever she can with no friends who would probably rather not live forever, and hides a very sad personality; she would easily cry if it wasn't so embarrasing for her, and whenever she shows her more sensitive side, she gets mad.
"(singing) Blood red skies make tears inside that I always hide."
So, the show has the capability of subverting and/or deconstructing the fantastic feel of the elements of the show, and the characters. But what about the setting itself? Welp, turns out it was Earth All Along! That's right, the show takes place on Earth, but after an apocalypse (specifically due to a nuclear war), making one wonder just how the world can be so bright and colorful, and why the art-style is so laid-back, non-serious, and simplistic.
But of course, that doesn't mean the show can't have purely real-world plots (like the episode "Video Makers") . They'll just be viewed "through a fantastic lens" (to quote storyboarder Adam Muto).
NOTE: A lot of what is below this point is speculation.
The timeline of Adventure Time
One interesting thing I can say is that there is indeed a mapped-out timeline for Ooo's creation and any flashback hints you've seen so far match up with the timeline.—Ian Jones-Quartey, storyboard supervisor
Well, let's see how much of it we can get right. For further insight on this, visit the Adventure Time Wiki.
|Simon Petrikov is born. He grows up and, as a young man, studies to be an antiquarian and meets his future fiancee Betty.||Roughly 1020 years before the animated short|
|Simon Petrikov obtains the ice crown. After it begins to change his emotions, Betty leaves him. Marceline Abadeer is born with light blue skin and pointed ears to parents who also have these features. Earth is identical to ours.||1000+ years prior to animated short|
|The Mushroom War occurs, destroying large portions of the Earth and killing off all but a handful of humans.||Around the time of Marceline's birth.|
|Marceline is a kid and lives with her mom at least long enough to remember her. The Land of Ooo begins to form. The world is in ruins.||During and/or just after the Mushroom War|
|The emergence of the Hyoomen, an irradiated species of human who have turned into human-fish hybrids. Due to the fright they experienced during the Mushroom War, they retreat to a subterranean bunker.||At some point after the Mushroom War|
|Marceline's dad, Hunson Abadeer, eats her fries. Marceline is a teenager (probably 13–15), but has yet to get her bite marks.||Many years later|
|Hunson Abadeer moves to the Nightosphere (or returns there?), leaving Marceline independent on Ooo.||Unknown period of time later|
|Marceline begins writing her journal.||Must be after Dad|
|Marceline moves into the tree fort with Ash. She is now an ageless adult (physically 18–21), and has her vampire bitemarks.||At least 500 years of journal entries later|
|Marceline moves into Ash's current house with him. Later Marceline breaks up with Ash.||Maybe one or two years later|
|Marceline wanders Ooo like she said in "Evicted!" (and gains more territory now belonging to her). She defeats the Vampire King and claims his title.||Probably a few years later|
|The Rainicorn-Dog War ends.||During Lady Rainicorn's Father's lifetime, decades before the animated short|
|Finn and Jake are born.||Twelve years before the animated short|
|Finn makes his hat. Jake gains his powers.||A little later|
|Finn is abandoned by his parents and makes a vow to never abandon others in their times of need. Joshua and Margaret find baby Finn in the forest and adopt him.||Some time later|
|Joshua moves into the tree fort with Finn and Jake, then starts recording his holo-messages about building a dungeon 80 paces west of there.||Finn and Jake are still babies.|
|Joshua finds that Jake knocked out his brother, Jermaine. Jake is a little boy.||Years later, still years before the animated short|
|Joshua and Margaret die (not necessarily at the same time).||Unknown period of time later|
|Unsupervised, Finn and Jake are free to travel throughout Ooo, where they visit the Candy Kingdom and meet Princess Bubblegum and Lady Rainicorn.||Months before the origin point, the animated short|
|Soon after, The Ice King reveals himself and begins his task of stealing the princesses in order to find Betty, his "princess". Princess Bubblegum tasks Finn and Jake to protect her, which are happy to oblige.||Within the same time frame as the previous entry|
|Finn is 12. Jake begins a relationship Lady Rainicorn. Finn receives his first kiss from Princess Bubblegum.||During animated short|
|The events of season 1. Finn and Jake meet Marceline. Finn obtains the Enchiridion.||Just after to several months after animated short|
|The events of season 2. Finn turns 13. The Lich escapes and is re-imprisoned in the snail. Princess Bubblegum reverts to Finn's age.||Several months to over a year after animated short|
|The events of season 3. Princess Bubblegum turns 18 again. Finn and Jake discover Marceline's and the Ice King's past. Finn and Jake meet Flame Princess.||Over a year to almost two years after animated short|
|The events of season 4. Finn turns 14. The struggle for power over the Nightosphere begins and ends with Hunson Abadeer upon the throne. The Lich obtains the Enchiridion. Princess Bubblegum reveals Goliad, her genetic clone and possible replacement for her. Goliad's mental instability forces PB to create Stormo, Finn's genetic clone, to combat her.||Almost two years to two years and several months after animated short|
|The Grayble society rises to prominence. The arrival of Holo-Pyrimad technology, as demonstrated by Bayble Cuber.||Years after the events of the entire show|
On the relationship between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline
Ever since the episode "What Was Missing" was aired, the relationship between Adventure Time's two major characters, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline has been shrouded in controversy. The fanbase recently has gone to war on whether or not their relationship is platonic or if the relationship has a more romantic implication. The main issue here is subtext, but what we do know about their relationship is that Princess Bubblegum and Marceline was once friends, but had some sort of falling out before the series began, which explains the contempt they had for each other during the episode (and the attitude that Bubblegum had towards Marceline during the episode "Go With Me"). What we also know is that throughout "What Was Missing", Marceline made it very clear she wants to reconcile with the Princess and heal their relationship. Which is where we start the Flame Wars and arguments between the two camps. Here is where we start to analyze the subtext from the episode and the different explanations between each side. First, the song. It of course repeatedly hints at a past relationship, but it can be interpreted as a romantic one or platonic one. Notice how the word "friend" is never actually used:
Marceline: I'm gonna drink the red from your pretty pink face... I'm gonna...
Princess Bubblegum: Marceline, that's too distasteful.
Marceline: Oh... you don't like that? ...Or do you just not like ME?! 
Sorry I don’t treat you like a goddess,
Is that what you want me to do? 
Sorry I don’t treat you like you’re perfect,
Like all your little loyal subjects do,
Sorry I’m not made of sugar,
Am I not sweet enough for you? 
Is that why you always avoid me? 
That must be such an inconvenience to you well,
I’m just your problem,
I’m just your problem,
It's like I'm not, even a person, am I? 
I’m just your problem
Well, I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I shouldn’t have to justify what I do 
I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I shouldn’t have to prove anything to you
I’m sorry that I exist
I forget what landed me on your blacklist,
But I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I shouldn’t have to be the one that makes up with you, so 
Why do I want to? Why do I want to...
Later in the episode Marceline says, "Ha! Guess you're not as perfect as you thought! Guess you can't judge me anymore", to which PB responds, "I never said you had to be perfect!" further complicating things. Let's just assume PB and Marceline were just talking about the present, save for the line "Guess you're not as perfect as you thought" which hints at PB's high opinion of herself which strained their relationship.
Finally, the shirt scene. One piece of evidence which favors the romantic side is when Marceline blushes saying, "You... kept the shirt I gave you?" although it could just be general embarrassment. The romantic side, of course, assumes Marceline is thinking, "She really does love me!" or something similar. The platonic side assumes Marceline was just embarrased that her sensitive side was let out in the open like that, because the shirt obviously has sentimental value. Of course, this begs the question, what the hell does the shirt mean?! PB claims that she wears the shirt as pajamas all the time. Cue the two sides of the fandom arguing, "FRIENDS/ROMANTIC PARTNERS DO THAT ALL THE TIME!" So... yeah. It all really depends on the viewer and how they pick up on the "evidence" of their backstory. The creators are keeping their mouths shut on this.
- Let me take the other side of this. PB has been shown to be a bit of a warrior princess who defends her hapless subjects against monsters. Marceline was making a name for herself as a monster, for self defense, until Finn decided that she was a good girl. Marceline isn't looking for loving from PB, just social respectability. The problem is that PB sees all the pranks she still pulls and so keeps her at arms length to maintain her own position. That is why she can only wear the shirt in private.
- The map shows only one bridge that leads to the Candy Kingdom and Marceline resided at the one structure that guarded that bridge. So perhaps Marceline had a relationship with the former Candy Kingdom rulers much like her current relationship with the Duke Nut. She befriended a young princess then fled when young Bonnibel got too interested in necromancy. So the relationship was broken off to keep Bonnibel from causing exactly the sort of zombie plague she finally did several years later.
- Perhaps it is worth noting that unofficial promo art by one of the episode's storyboarders/writers, Rebecca Sugar (who composed the song) appears to show PB as a significantly younger girl awed by Marceline's singing. Marceline looks the same age.
- How exactly would MVQ and PB act differently if they were actually daughter and mother? They don't act like friends and they don't act like lovers.
Finn's crush on Princess Bubblegum vs. his crush on Flame Princess
A lot of people have questioned Finn's sudden shift in crushing on PB to crushing on FP (though it's unknown if he no longer has a crush on PB). There's also a prevalent Ship-to-Ship Combat. Let's examine Finn's love for them. First of all, when Finn is around PB he is mostly able to coordinate himself. He's able to hang out with her as friends, and he only acts weird when PB kisses him. He'll usually want to casually do something to impress her, but it's mostly due to Bodyguard Crush. Even when she was thirteen, Finn was willing to return her to her normal age to save the candy kingdom, sacrificing their relationship in the process. He was willing to throw away their relationship in the name of heroism.
Princess Bubblegum: If I go back to my real age, I'll be able to take back the throne.
Finn: What?! No!--Uh, I mean... You can do that?
Princess Bubblegum: My people need me, and that comes first.
Finn: (begrudgingly) Yeeeeeeaaaaaah....
With Flame Princess, Finn claims that his brain "goes stupid" whenever he's around her. He even went on to claim that he's never felt this way before. As soon as he saw her, he developed a crush. This can probably be chalked up to Love At First Sight. Other options are that he'll fall for any humanoid girl his age, since there probably aren't a lot of them around; or that he just fell for her purely because of her appearance. These options are probably a little less likely, though. When Flame Princess begins to head towards the goblin kingdom, Jake asks Finn what's more important: his love for FP or being a hero. When the options are spelled out for him, he's cerebrally able to make the right choice that coincides with who he's supposed to be: a hero. However, in the heat of things, when FP is burning the kingdom down, he's only able to think with his emotions. He isn't willing to hurt her. He was willing to sacrifice heroism to save their possible relationship. So, the situation is completely reversed from his situation with PB, and it provides evidence that his love for FP is stronger than his love for PB (sorry, Fubblegum shippers). He's never able to do it, either. Finn's heroic conflict only makes him break down and cry, which makes Flame Princess put away the flames herself, and you know the rest. Jake is the one who gets everyone out in time, so this is likely a recurring conflict for Finn.
Too long, didn't read: Finn is able to sacrifice his relationship with PB in the name of his character as a hero, but not his relationship with FP. Therefore Finn's love for FP could be stronger.
Is Flame Princess "evil"?
FP is not a killer. How do you burn down a city without hurting a single inhabitant? An evil and destructive princess indeed. It's assumed that FP has lived in the Fire Kingdom her entire life and has no idea that others cannot live with fire in the way she can. She stated she wanted to make the Goblin Kingdom "her Fire Kingdom." She wasn't being intentionally destructive and vicious. FP's also in a strange, new land with very little fire and probably a long way from home, considering she rushed out of the Fire Kingdom to track down Jake. And to top it all off, she's being followed by Finn, who (from her POV) has done nothing but hurt her. She's a lost and frightened, sheltered 13-year-old princess with little sense of right and wrong and a fiery personality, not evil or vicious.
- So she's much much closer to Natsume Hyuuga than Roy Mustang on the scale of living flamethrowers.
Flame Princess's gender
Is "she" male? When she turns three flame mommas into seven flame babies she is clearly taking a male role in reproduction.
- First, her name is Flame Princess. Second, she has a female voice. Third, Finn is attracted to her. Fourth, Flame King called her his daughter. Fifth, they aren't all "mommas"; Flame King was using unusual vocabulary as everyone on the show often does. Sixth, she didn't turn them into babies of themselves, she turned them into babies of an entirely different species, flame cats. Seventh, it isn't reproduction unless new organisms are being formed, not turning the same organism into something different (even if the first organism is being turned into multiple different organisms), hence the term re-production. Eighth, it was a simple Baleful Polymorph. No offense, but that is truly the wildest of Wild Mass Guesses.
- So the Flame Princess will never be a Flaming Queen?
The events of the series seem to be based on the black and white map, of which a small part is shown in a slightly modified form in The Other Tarts.
There appears to be days, nights and seasons not too different from what Earth currently has and if the sun rises in the east and sets in the west then the map has up being north. The general features of the map are consistent with a northern hemisphere placement of the Ooo continent with colder regions and conifer trees towards the north side, deciduous trees along the middle latitudes and palm trees in the south.
The opening sequence seems to be a sweep through western Ooo. The atom bomb looks to be in The Unknown Lands, the Ice King is south of there in the Ice Kingdom, then it's southwest to the Candy Kingdom and further south to the Mountain Kingdom (with Marceline) then north east through the grasslands (with the Ice Kingdom in the distance) to the treehouse and inside that for Finn and Jake's fist bump.
|Jake and Finn's treehouse||Just north of center|
|Candy Kingdom||West of the treehouse|
|Hyoomen caves / Beautopia||Under the Candy Kingdom|
|Ice Kingdom||North of the treehouse|
|Mountain Kingdom||South of the Candy Kingdom|
|Fire Kingdom||Southwest of the treehouse|
|Goblin Kingdom||Not far east of the treehouse, still in the grasslands|
|Library of the Turtle Princess||Also somewhere east of the treehouse in the grasslands.|
|Missing chunk of the Earth||NE of Ooo.|
|Candy Kingdom||The Candy Castle and the candy people in general, Choose Goose, Tree Trunks, Lemongrab, Nut dukedom|
|Grasslands||Finn and Jake, Banana space man, Turtle Princess, Goblin city, Donny and the village people|
|Mountain Kingdom||Marceline's current cave, village of the marauders.|
Humanity is clearly rare, as seen in Her Parents and Susan Strong. Given PB's comments in SS, we can conclude that she does not know of any human relatives of herself, and so the previous comments that she was half-human must now be considered to be non-canonical.
- Susan may or may not be purely human or perhaps even half-human.
- Finn's pure human status may be incorrect or he may spring from a hidden group.
- Marceline had inhuman features such as pointed ears and blue skin at birth, around the time of the fall and years before she became a vampire.
- Simon has been mutated to closely match the majority of the humanoid population. His contributions to the gene pool over the thousand years since are unclear.
- Pendleton Ward's FAQ page mentions everything is mutated.
A tome of untold power, the Enchiridion is "the hero's handbook". Everything you want to know about becoming a hero is in there, from saving the day to kissing the princess. Revealed in the Season 1 episode "The Enchiridion!". Though it appears throughout the series, it only plays a major role in two episodes. The second episode it appeared in was "In His Footsteps" in which Finn gives the book to a bear who wishes to imitate him. This turns out to be a ruse by The Lich, who now controls the book. It's importance to the plot, however, has yet to be revealed.
The grasslands around the tree house are cut short, like a lawn rather than a wilderness. These same grasslands are also home to giant snails, which presumably act as grazers. The northern forests might be too cold for the snails, the deserts too dry and the Candy Kingdom keeps the snails away from their fruit trees.
- It's unstated when in time pre-Mushroom Earth actually is. It's apparently far enough in the future for there to be "scientific parasites". Also Hunson is shown wearing what looks like his current suit while holding baby Marceline, and has his current eyes.
- (and it's unknown how or when the other kingdoms formed, when the creatures, monsters and/or humanoids of Ooo formed (or where they came from), when Billy or the Lich were born, or when Billy imprisoned him in the candy kingdom's tree.)
- The fire kingdom either has already been created or is created during this time period. It's unknown when she met Princess Bubblegum.
- It's unclear if Jake actually gained his powers before or after he met Finn. Finn doesn't know how Jake got his powers, but it's possibly because he just can't remember. Let's assume he got them before Finn was adopted into the family.
- Episodes count as events that happen in chronological order according to air-date.
- Assume "Heat Signature" takes place after "Mortal Recoil".
- Either she is being flirty with PB by calling her attractive and is suggesting she wants to kiss her face, or she's trying to spite her by sarcastically calling her pretty, and using PB's face in her lyrics means nothing.
- Marceline has a "What is this really about?" moment with PB, hinting at their past relationship. Obviously, "like" has two possible meanings here: platonic or romantic.
- There are parts of this song that seem sarcastic (mainly the parts where she's apologizing), but it is clear that she was being sincere since the door liked it. So she honestly laments that their relationship ended. Did their relationship end because Marceline was being the jerkass? Alternatively, she's talking about the present and PB was the jerkass.
- Either she honestly feels this way (due to the proposed lamentation previously mentioned), or she's really being sarcastic this time. If the latter is the case, then they're relationship may have been hurt because PB set her expectations too high and expected Marceline to treat her like royalty.
- Sarcasm or sincerity? Clearly she cares about their relationship.
- She reveals that PB constantly avoids her. Since Marceline still seems to have fun making PB angry like a Troll, as seen in "Go with Me", it's far more likely Marceline caused PB to hate her due to not treating her like a princess, as previously mentioned. PB's avoidance, coupled with her high expectations, must have annoyed Marceline, and thus this song, which was meant to sound sarcastic, but still has sincerity to it, because the subconscience tends to do that.
- Either she's saying "Deal with it, bitch. I won't change for you." or "Is that all I am to you? An inconvenience?" Most probably the latter thanks to the following lyrics. Alternatively she had the lines unintentionally drift in meaning mid-song.
- Marceline just wants PB to stop with the avoidance and at least give her a little respect.
- "Why should I justify why I don't treat you like a princess? Not EVERYONE has to."
- So apparently the biggest calamity is in the form of The Un-Reveal. All the rest was just side-stuff that strained their relationship. Since Marceline doesn't remember, it must've either happened a long time ago (though not likely since she can remember her childhood hundreds of years ago), or the event was so bad that she blocked it from memory.
- Marcie blames PB for what happened.
- But Marcie still wants to be the one who makes up first, showing her caring and sensitive side. The fandom has been pulling its hair out over what the hell the ending is supposed to be. Suggestions include "kiss you". It most probably was simply "make up with you".