In Adventure Time‘s “Mama Said,” Finn, Jake, and Canyon battle a transcended mushroom-being, as part of a pointless quest put forth by the King of Ooo. It’s the eponymous time again.
Well, that was by far one of the more random Adventure Time episodes in recent history, not only for the floating mushroom-hunting plot, but the charmingly off-the-wall anticlimax, which ultimately sold itself to me with a dancing Banana Guard chanteuse number. The nonsensicality of it all, while off-putting at first, does serve the purpose of underscoring this transitional period in the series and in Finn and Jake’s character arcs. Specifically, the ridiculous plot goes out of its way to show that King of Ooo is insane, and that Finn needs to grow up and find a new modus operandi.
Bubblegum has already begun her own journey of self-discovery, as a recently-deposed, former matriarch-superpower / Machiavellian control freak, and the seventh season seems to be setting up a similar arc for Finn. If this wasn’t obvious to our heroes before, it had to be once King of Ooo announced their newest assignment: to track down a mysterious floating mushroom caught on surveillance tape, and return it to KOO for him to ride upon. If it was at all frustrating to see our heroes work for a gold foil crackpot, then let this episode serve as an abrupt end to that.
The theme of growth (or rather, outgrowing) unfolds when on their quest, they encounter Canyon, Billy’s ex-girlfriend, and perfect example of the ‘awesome older girl’ trope formerly occupied by Marceline the Vampire Queen. After Canyon explains that she’s using a dowsing rod in order to find her family’s sacred spring, Jake is ready to pitch in on this vastly superior quest, whereas Finn’s still hung up on the fatuous orders of a sovereign who, though elected through a democratic and thoroughly official process, is nonetheless maliciously unfit to rule. Grow up, Finn.
Our hero’s circumstances are a reordering of that stereotypically rebellious pre-teen period, often misaligned in culture as an age at which kids rebel for the sake of rebelling, while ignoring the healthier aspects of the period’s opportunities of self-discovery. In this case, though Finn’s immediate role as a servant of the Candy Kingdom has superficially remained the same, the context has changed drastically; he’s now serving the impossibly fat-headed King of Ooo rather than the selfless Bubblegum. Through a completely natural course of events, circumstances have changed, and Finn’s ways of thinking about his own behavior have become hopelessly outmoded, and he responds with disobedience. Call it rebellion if you will, but it’s also a necessary evolution in response to material changes.
And what’s more, an evolution that should be ongoing in life, as Canyon’s words suggest: “If you don’t like your job, it might be time to find a new one.”
After a chain of increasingly bizarre circumstances, Finn, Jake and Canyon eventually locate the sacred spring, and with its power, defeat the higher-level mushroom aggregate, complete with ocular tentacles, levitating abilities, and destructive spore-rays. Canyon thoroughly establishes herself as a badass lady, wielding the spring like a cutting whip and sending our heroes on their way. Back at the Candy Kingdom, they present King of Ooo with no floating mushroom, but a consolatory mushroom pizza. For which they are fired and banished from the land.
If “Mama Said” was a tough watch for its freewheeling plot, it at least makes sense as a representation of the shifting worldviews of a pubescing pre-teen, who’s at that ripe age where mindless instruction simply isn’t going to cut it anymore. At some point in healthy psychological development, the world should look very strange, your responsibilities should be questioned, and your directions reassessed. At some point, it will feel very much like your authority figures are telling you to put everything down and go UFO mushroom-hunting, and some serious retrospection and possible redirection will be required. Ah, I get the title now. ‘Mama Said.’ “You can’t hurry love.” The Supremes. Life lessons. Gotcha.