Illustration by Shelly Freund of the Adventure Time cast
Catch the cast of Adventure Time: Distant Lands on HBO Max. (Illustration by Shelly Freund, Elon University)

‘Adventure Time: Distant Lands’ Is the Continuation of Greatness

Fans were fearful that the new HBO Max reboot would kill off the amazing world of the original series. Fortunately, the genius has only expanded.

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Illustration by Shelly Freund of the Adventure Time cast

Fans were fearful that the new HBO Max reboot would kill off the amazing world of the original series. Fortunately, the genius has only expanded.

When “Adventure Time” ended in 2018, I wasn’t one of the fans who was sad to see it go. Don’t get me wrong, I love “Adventure Time” and the quality of the story never dropped in its eight-year run. Rather, I was content with a natural ending instead of having to watch one of my favorite shows slowly digress into mediocrity. Saying goodbye to Finn, Jake and the Land of Ooo was a small price to pay to preserve the show’s integrity.

However, when it was announced that HBO Max was resurrecting one of the most influential cartoons of the past decade, I was ecstatic. Although, the resurrection is less necromancy and more like looking into a crystal ball.

Four 45-minute specials that follow various members of the cast of “Adventure Time” will be available on the streaming platform. The first special, which has already been released, follows BMO on an outer space journey. The next episode, featuring Princess Bubblegum and the Vampire Queen Marceline, is scheduled to release on an undisclosed date. The other two episodes will follow Peppermint Butler and finally a reunited Finn and Jake.

The series executive producer, Adam Muto, explained the decision to focus exclusively on the named characters in an interview: “At some point, it just starts being the show again, and we don’t want to encroach on what we did with the series.” In essence, “Adventure Time: Distant Lands” takes what made the show popular to a whole new level.

Adventure Time Has Always Been Different

When the cult cartoon first aired on Cartoon Network in 2010, many expected the show to be like any other series on the channel at the time — aimed at a younger audience who would be entranced by the bright colors, fart jokes and “XD” humor. While the show caved into some of the cheap gags at the beginning, it was destined for greatness.

The show’s D&D inspirations and post-apocalyptic setting made the show immensely popular; but a couple aspects made it especially enduring.

One facet that set “Adventure Time” apart from other series was the maturation of its protagonist over the show’s eight seasons. Watching Finn deal with growing pains, including failed relationships, the death of a loved one and existentialism, made the narrative more meaningful for fans who were aging with him.

“Adventure Time” also uniquely refused to shy away from exploring more experimental avenues of storytelling. For example, “Jake the Brick” follows Jake as he makes observations as a brick in a wall that is about to collapse. Episodes like “Thank You,” which include almost no involvement from the series’s protagonists, prove Finn and Jake are important to the story but not always essential. Furthermore, “Adventure Time” has hosted three miniseries in its run, proving the plot can work longer than an 11-minute episode.

The Continuation of Greatness with BMO

In the past, episodes with BMO as the main focus are often zany misadventures with completely heartbreaking revelations.

The BMO story featured in the first “Distant Lands” special opens with the little robot traveling on a rocket ship to Mars, singing about his journey and ultimate goal to cultivate potatoes on the red planet’s surface. Suddenly, a droid, who BMO promptly names “Olive,” hijacks the ship and they are sent to a mysterious space station where they crash land into a group of hostile crablike humanoids and alien men.

Luckily for BMO, a young rabbit girl rescues them. The three form an unlikely team as they traverse the space station, rescuing civilians and eventually uncovering corruption in the station’s leadership.

I won’t go much further in the plot to avoid spoilers. I will say the first installment of “Distant Lands” hit the spot for what Muto intends the specials to be. As Muto clarified, “We had to build these worlds that felt like ‘Adventure Time’ but also had to feel interesting enough on their own.” While watching, I couldn’t help but think how the special both was and wasn’t “Adventure Time.”

The Connection With and Departure From the Original

The “BMO” special had its own distinct style that felt similar to its mother show but was different enough to remind the audience that it wasn’t just another episode of “Adventure Time.” The colors were a little more muted and the art style was more fluid. On the other hand, the writing and artistic depictions of the characters were consistent with content from the original show.

What’s great about BMO’s story is that fans are left with an expanded world and many more questions. I was initially worried that prolonging the series would wrap up too many loose ends, killing the world. But the first of these 45-minute snippets prove “Adventure Time” still has stories worth telling and a group of talented creators to make them compelling.

I am ecstatic to see what the highly anticipated “Obsidian” has in store next. Fans will finally get to dive deeper into Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s past and their relationship, which was confirmed in the finale. Hopefully, with the platform of HBO Max, the romantic nature of their relationship can be more overt.

Honestly, I have no expectations for “Wizard City,” as it follows a young Peppermint Butler at wizard school. The unlikely protagonist has so much mystery surrounding him, I’m sure any story exploring his past will be a treat.

The special I’m most excited for, “Together Again,” will follow Finn and Jake as the pair reunites for an epic adventure. “Adventure Time” has used Finn’s growth as way to delve deeper into themes the aging audience can relate with. As a young adult who grew up alongside Finn, I am curious to see the life he’s been living since the series wrap. Maybe he can spread some enlightenment within the endless void of growing older.

Ultimately, if these episodes are anything like “BMO,” each is sure to be a beloved fan classic.

For me, it just feels good to ask again, “What time is it?”

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