Mild Spoilers ahead for the upcoming Adventure Time: Elements miniseries.
It’s perhaps the only animated adventure this year that features bespoke suits, a pink mountain intoning “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and a slime-themed roller disco. What time is it? Adventure Time: Elements...uh, time.
As its eighth and final season continues, Adventure Time seems to have embraced the weeklong miniseries format first used with Adventure Time: Stakes in its seventh season. Coming off of the revelations-filled Adventure Time: Islands, the new miniseries Adventure Time: Elements, which begins Friday with the prologue episode “Orb,” can at times feel like almost a victory lap as our heroes return to the Land of Ooo. The series’ mythology isn’t advanced much over the course of these episodes, but it’s still a visual feast as Finn and Jake journey through a radically altered Ooo, and the cast of characters introduced over the course of the series.
Taking place immediately after Adventure Time: Islands, Elements has Finn, Jake and BMO return to Ooo to discover that things have gone screwier than usual in their absence. The strangeness ties back into the Season Seven episode “Elemental,” which introduced Lauren Lapkuss’ Ice Elemental Patience St. Pim and the idea that Princess Bubblegum, Flame Princess and Slime Princess were Elemenals like her, with enormous untapped powers.
Patience’s experimentation has caused all four Elementals to get supercharged and megalomaniacal, altering both the landscape of Ooo and everyone unlucky enough to get caught in their path (somehow, the Earl of Lemongrab is even creepier when he’s trying to be nice). On the run, Finn and Jake find their only hope might be Ice King, who’s reunited with his now-magically-powered ex Betty (now voiced by Felicia Day), and possibly Lumpy Space Princess…in other words, the motliest of motley crews.
The plot’s not terribly important – midway through, the action shuts down for an entire episode to leave Finn and Jake stuck on a cloud and opening up to each other. However, the miniseries format helps the show create a stronger sense of focus through the combination of self-contained and more serialized episodes.
The piecemeal mythology that Adventure Time’s developed over the years has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s helped to create a greater sense of depth and maturity to the series; on the other, it’s sometimes seemed to be at odds with the more random, self-contained nature of many of the episodes. Those are often the series’ best, but it can be frustrating when four or five episodes go by with Finn and Jake as minor characters or absent.
The miniseries format helps this somewhat, with every episode giving the sense that the story is building to a larger conclusion, and you can just go along for the ride. And Elements is quite a ride - it’s an excuse for the show’s designers to dig deep, with redesigns of almost every supporting character ever seen on the show.
Indeed, almost every installment of Elements is a visual feast, with creepified re-dos of Marceline, Princess Bubblegum and some characters that might have fans digging deep into their memories (a few episodes to rewatch: “The Tower” and “Love Games”). But it’s all grounded in the history of the show; a visit to the re-done Ice Kingdom calls all the way back to the show’s original pilot.
As we said, Elements sometimes feels like a victory lap - there’s not a lot of forward momentum in the overall mythology of the show, and some characters wind up pretty much exactly back where they started. But it’s a perfect excuse to employ the mass of characters from throughout Ooo, and the final moments very clearly set up the next miniseries…one that looks like it will resolve one of the show’s biggest mysteries.
As with most Adventure Time stories, it’s best just to sit back and let the craziness wash over you. And if you’re trying to cut back on sugar…well, there’s enough candy creatures here to send anyone into vicarious insulin shock. Be warned.
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10