The unique and diverse cast of ‘Adventure Time’ allows it to truly tell any story it wants. The many themes of the show are told successfully through the use of its many different characters. Despite Finn and Jake being the core of the show, there are many relationships throughout which have the same amount of love and care put into them. The unexpected dynamic between Simon and Marceline as revealed in what is arguably the best episode of the show uses the core themes of ‘Adventure Time’ to create an episode which embodies the show’s greatest strengths.
Despite growing up with this show for the past decade, it never crossed my mind just how thematically cohesive this show is. It never occured to me what this show was truly about till I picked it up again in quarantine where I eventually finished it. My understanding of this show is that it’s essentially describing life. While Finn and Jake are the protagonists, the show features multiple episodes without them, it always looks at the bigger picture. ‘Adventure Time’s’ storytelling is never restricted to the present. In a way the show serves as a very grim reminder that humanity or whatever lives on Ooo in this case will never learn from their mistakes. Good and Evil will never be outdated. This along with the theme of change go hand in hand as this show takes place throughout many ages in Ooo’s history. The Great Mushroom War may perhaps be the darkest reminder that is used. When you look at the show as a whole, the themes that stick out the most are “love”, “music” and “change”. While the entire show runs on these three fundamental elements and later even a fourth element, this is the episode that perfects it.
‘I Remember You’ has Simon and Marceline’s relationship as its core. The entire show is dependent on friendships, relationships and strong bonds. This episode plays around with that by making this pair feel like a revelation since they are the last two characters anyone would expect to be friends. This episode starts expanding the world and starts looking at the bigger picture. Both Simon and Marcy start out as “antagonists” but this episode starts revealing their complexity as characters. Upon rewatch, the more you know about their history, the more effective the episode gets. Marceline is being very vulnerable letting Simon back into her life. When Ice King starts singing she gets a small grin on her face but is then immediately shaken back to reality once she realizes what he is singing about. It is frustrating and emotionally devastating for her to see someone who was essentially a father figure to her become so unrecognizable. She still very clearly cares about him, she just doesn’t want to reopen an old wound. With Ice King, it is made crystal clear that he does not remember his past, it was even brought back in this episode at the beginning. That being said this is the one episode where Ice King feels a sense of the pain his tragic past caused the people around him because even he was disturbed reading Simon’s “lyrics”. This is the one episode where Ice King and a figure from his past share the loss of Simon. The way that happens is through music.
‘Adventure Time’ isn’t a show I would think of as a musical despite music being crucial to the story. Music serves a very specific purpose to whoever is singing it. Some characters sing purely for fun but for Marceline, music was always a means of expression. She writes down her feelings and processes them that way whether it’s her feelings for Bonnie or her frustration with Hunson. In ‘I Remember You’, she finally gets to experience a sense of closure for Simon with the words he left for her. Thanks to Ice King, the two share an emotionally intimate experience composing music together. It’s through music that this relationship between Simon and Marcy gets reinvented. Making music is a very personal experience for Marceline so the fact that she got to experience this with Ice King was incredibly vulnerable for her. Music has proven to be very powerful in ‘Adventure Time’, in fact it ends up saving Ooo in the series finale. The song ‘Time Adventure’ featured in the finale is basically telling the story of two friends who will be happening at every point in time. True love, whether it be familial, romantic or platonic will reinvent itself to stay alive. Similar to how Finn and Jake’s bond was reinvented through the new adventurers in the last shot of the series, Simon and Marcy’s relationship was reinvented in this episode.
That brings us to the theme of change. Things have undoubtedly changed between Simon and Marceline, in fact Simon is gone. It’s only through Ice King that she can have closure for him and begin anew with Ice King which we know happens because they’re seen hanging out throughout the remainder of the show. The glimpse of the horrifying Great Mushroom War at the end of the episode not only adds an eerie sense of change to the the entire series but also adds a new element that the show follows to a tee. While doing some research for this, I came across an interview with Rebecca Sugar who co-wrote the episode and wrote the songs. She comments on how the show makes incredible use of the sublime. In art, the sublime is used to create a world with crumbs for the viewer to pick up and complete the picture in their head. The grand scope of ‘Adventure Time’ can never be explained because the show is as complex as life itself. It is why those final few shots of The Mushroom War are so haunting, we are left to pick up the pieces to such a horrifying event. It is why ‘Adventure Time’ is such a personal and compelling show, everyone has their own ideas as to how they make the show fit their narrative. The use of the sublime has enabled the imagination of millions of people around the world without knowing it and that’s why ‘Adventure Time’ will go down in history as one of the best animated shows ever made.
While the entire show uses these themes in some shape or form, this is the episode that perfects the ‘Adventure Time’ formula. ‘I Remember You’ serves as one of the most emotionally powerful episodes of the series with a heart-shattering song which has never failed to make me emotional. Simon and Marcy’s relationship is told through bits and pieces after this episode and I could have definitely chosen the episode ‘Simon & Marcy’ to make this argument but we wouldn’t have that episode without ‘I Remember You’. While Finn and Jake’s presence doesn’t really add anything to the episode (besides a hilarious line from Jake), this is ironically the definitive episode of the series for me. This is an episode which you will never forget about.
Adventure Time and Adventure Time: Distant Lands are available to stream on HBO Max!