The Moral Plot Holes of Adventure Time Distant Lands: “Together Again”


Tomas Curcio, Staff Writer

Finn and Jake return to the small screen with the advent of this newest Adventure Time: Distant Lands episode on HBO Max. This episode is the third of a four-episode miniseries that serves as an epilogue of sorts for the original ten seasons of Adventure Time.

This newest episode of Distant Lands comes as a return to the typical previous Adventure Time episodes, with the literal revival of the Finn and Jake dynamic. While previous Distant Lands episodes focused on specific pairings, whether BMO and the alien rabbit Y5 or Princess Bubblegum and her partner Marceline the Vampire Queen, this episode has garnered major excitement surrounding it due to this monumental return of the brothers. The 2018 series finale of the original show marks the last time both characters have appeared on screen together.

Due to this, many Adventure Time fans, including myself, grew extremely interested and curious about what approach the writers would take. 

The previous Distant Lands episode, “Obsidian,” which focuses on the relationship between Bubblegum and Marceline, has a surprise appearance of Finn at the end as an older man with a grown beard and all. The more surprising portion of his appearance is a tattoo inked across his chest that shows the face of his older brother, Jake. Coupled with the fact that Jake did not make an appearance, many fans developed theories that Jake may have actually died before this episode took place.

“Together Again” seeks to answer these important questions and hopes to leave the viewer with a fulfilled and satisfied feeling with a narrative that chronicles the life and death of two of Ooo’s greatest heroes. Now, does it succeed in this? I would say that for the most part, it definitely does.

The episode begins in quite a similar fashion as any other Adventure Time episode: Finn and Jake are on an adventure, running away from monsters. But soon, this reality begins to fadeit is a hallucination that Finn is forced to live through due to a brain-sucking monster. The nostalgic and fun regaling of a tale is a nice touch that reminds me of the simpler episodes of Adventure Time, which often had self-contained stories where Finn and Jake were the stars to the antagonist of the day. 

However, this sense of nostalgia immediately dissipates when it becomes apparent that Jake has indeed died, and that Finn is now an old man who still longs for and holds onto the memory of Jake. This episode of Adventure Time is rough; the viewer is quickly struck very hard at the beginning with the reality of the situation. 

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The show that had always revolved around fun, quirky buddy adventures where the two heroes always ended up fine in the end now has killed off both of its main characters. However, the show is known for dealing with real-world topics that kids shows do not often portray, whether it is gender identity, sexuality, obsession, mental illness and many other legitimate things that kids face in the real world. This is something that has always made the show quite admirable. 

Despite the supposed severity of the situation, which is shown through a stark title card that boldly states, “FINN AND JAKE ARE DEAD,” the episode does not really focus on issues such as missing the real world or regret in the afterlife, but rather Finn’s own obsession.

Finn goes on a mission to find his brotherthis serves as the main conflict that begins the episode. Finn literally travels through the plains of death on his mission to find Jake. While on his journey, he encounters many characters from the original show, such as Tiffany, Tree Trunks, Mr. Pig and even his own parents, Joshua and Margaret, whom he has not seen since he was a young child. Though he shows enthusiasm when seeing them after so many years, he quickly returns to the trail in search of Jake.

Finn’s literally undying devotion to search for his brother is extremely evident, and in the end, it begins to come off as rather negative. Finn does eventually find Jake, who has apparently reached spiritual enlightenment and is devoid of material want; his ethereal presence floats down to his younger brother. The scene is quite sentimental and rather tragic as Jake seems unbothered by the whole exchange, while Finn is left bawling on his knees at the return of his brother. 

But the issue that I take with the brotherly relationship is its symbiotic nature, and Finn’s inability to cope without his other half. While Jake eventually found peace in his death (as is seen in him reaching Nirvana), Finn lives to old age and even admits to feeling rather directionless without his brother. 

While this could serve as a poignant message about the issues and downfalls of obsession and the necessity of moving on during the grieving process but never forgetting your loved ones, they do not do that here. The writers of this episode instead bring the two of them back together for a final adventure. Once the adventure ends, Finn tells Jake how he will go on to be reincarnated while Jake can stay here and continue his spiritual enlightenment. Instead of the writers allowing Finn to learn how to truly move on and be on his own as a person, Jake quickly denies his previous enlightened status and rushes back to be reincarnated into reality alongside his brother.

The problem that I have with this is the lack of proper acceptance. Finn never accepts Jake’s death; he just waits until the day that he would see him again in the fields of death. Finn never learned. While, yes, you should always keep loved ones close to your heart—as Finn quite literally did with ink—the final stage of grief, acceptance, remains necessary.

For a show that always emphasized Finn aging, learning, improving and becoming a well-rounded person, the writers throw this all out the window for a happy ending when they imply that the two will go on to have adventures for eternity through their reincarnated forms. 

Throughout Adventure Time, Finn grows alongside his audience. At the beginning of the show, he is a 12-year-old boy, and by the end, he is a 17-year-old young adult; his voice has deepened, he has had romantic connections, he has seen more of the world and he knows so much more. Yet, despite having supposedly grown so much more in years after, he returns to the form of his teenage self, a form that he takes throughout much of the episode, showing a continued lack of maturity.

While the ending of this episode is quite heart-warming—aside from the whole dying situation—I feel as though it truly does not complete Finn. I still do not see Finn as a character with a whole completed arc. But maybe that is what the writers intended; maybe Finn’s existence as the innate good of the world means to demonstrate how morality is always changing.

Despite my long tirade on the morality and ethics of this episode’s writing, it is a nice little piece of content to keep the fanbase enticed. The animation of the episode is utterly gorgeous as it has been for the previous two Distant Lands episodes, and hearing Jeremy Shada and John DiMaggio return to voice these iconic characters is quite pleasant. The episode is also quite funny, especially with moments like Tiffany being brought into Jake’s family as his new brother.

However, to nitpick further, one issue I always have had issue with Adventure Time stories, dating back to the original seasons, was a lack of pacing. I have always felt that plotlines and issues sort of sporadically came to resolve themselves within a neatly packaged 15 to 20 minute time frame.This reflects a lack of ability to push back against these constraints put forth by cable children’s television. But on HBO Max and these hour-long specials, they really should have the open space for correct pacing. Despite that, I feel the same issue with pacing within this episode, especially with the deus ex machina of Jake’s miraculously unheard of ability to speak from beyond the grave to communicate with Peppermint Butler for assistance in overcoming New Death.

Overall, I do feel quite content with this episode. I really did enjoy watching one of my favorite cartoons return to the screen. The Finn and Jake dynamic is one the most fun and enjoyable relationships in cartoon history, and whenever they get together it is always a fun adventure.

Distant Lands have in store one final confirmed episode, which apparently will focus on Peppermint Butler. As for why to finish the series off with Peppermint Butler instead of the original show’s main characters, I have no clue. We all will just have to wait and see.