Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake Review – A Bold New Direction

Adventure Time grows up with its fans in the superb Fionna and Cake.

Adventure Time Fionna and Cake
Photo: Max

Following Adventure Time‘s conclusion in 2018, some storytelling doors were left wide open. One unexplored idea was the multiverse, which existed in the canon long before the modern era of TV and film had multiverse mania. In the latest AT limited series, Fionna and Cake, that long-awaited promise die-hard fans anticipated is finally fulfilled thanks to the canonical gender-swapped characters. And it all happens in a bold new dimension unlike any Adventure Time series to date.

Much of the original show’s audience was around pre-teen to teenage ages. Those fans are now in their 20s, experiencing new adult emotions like depression and dissatisfaction that didn’t spin through their minds as children. That all corresponds directly to Fionna Campbell (Madeleine Martin), a Bridget Jones-esque young woman living in a small studio apartment in a non-magical, metropolitan town where many notable Ooo residents are human like her best friends – a baker named Gary Prince (Andrew Rannels) and aimless musician Marshall Lee (Donald Glover). She’s as quintessentially relatable as every 20-something: hopping from one dead-end low-paying job to another, drinking wine on the couch with her cat Cake (Roz Ryan), perpetually late on rent, etc. But most importantly, she’s discontented with her surroundings, wishing her mundane life was more magical. 

That ennui extends to a much older Simon Petrikov (Tom Kenny) – formerly known as Ice King – who, after the events of the “Obsidian” special, integrated himself into a futuristic flying city in Ooo as a 20th-century antiquarian. But he’s more revered for his traumatic Ice King past. Specifically, the Fionna and Cake book series Ice King wrote while Simon was under the crown’s curse. Petrikov is also low in spirits, deep in grief without his sweetheart, Betty (Felicia Day). He’s so detached from his Ooo reality that he uses magic again. When not even Prismo the Wishmaster (Sean Rohani, replacing Kumail Nanjiani)–who also returns as strung out as the leads– can’t help him, Simon takes matters into his own hands.

Returning to Ooo and watching most of these beloved characters right where we left them (no pun intended) within the past few years has been delightful. Distant Lands was a return to form that bore the series’ familiar tone. With Fionna and Cake’s spotlight, however, showrunner Adam Muto and his creative team recognize the franchise’s now adult fanbase as they are and cleverly reinvent the characters, new and old, recontextualizing the deep pains plagued by their past and illustrating them with profound nuance. 


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