On the latest episode of Adventure Time, “Crossover,” Finn and Jake return to Farmworld to prevent an interdimensional disaster, but find themselves unable to pull the trigger, even when all reality hangs in the balance. It’s the eponymous time again!
Parallel universe plot devices call attention to the most basic function of fiction: to imaginatively, counterfactually ponder what never happened so we can understand what did happen, and perhaps more importantly, so we can edit our perspectives on reality. As Adventure Time is all about childhood and the power of imagination, it makes sense that parallel universes play heavily into the series, and in “Crossover,” the plot device poses to Finn a fundamental question that no one can confront without serious moxie: is existential murder alright? I mean, are there concepts and people that truly should not exist, and if so, who has the authority to make such a condemnation?
Trigger Warning for casual viewers: I didn’t realize it at first, but “Crossover” intersects with a lot of series mythology, so be prepared for a dozen tangents or more. Omitting just one of these tangents felt criminal, as “Crossover” is a culmination of so many important themes in the series. So, here’s an advance apology and warning; this is going to get awfully convoluted.
In “Crossover,” Prismo sends out the distress signal to Finn and Jake, telling them that something has gone seriously awry with the Farmworld dimension that they’d left behind, so many episodes ago. As a little canon catchup: in the 2-parter episodes “Finn the Human” and “Jake the Dog”, the Lich made his way to Prismo’s Time Chamber and made a wish extinguishing all life. To undo his genocide, Finn and Jake were forced to make very, very careful counter-wishes, which Finn bunked up royally. His wish for the Lich to have never existed resulted in the creation of the mundane (and utterly depressing) Farmworld, a sister dimension to Ooo where seemingly no magic exists. Even worse, in Farmworld the Lich is eventually birthed in an alternate origin regardless, suggesting that no matter the dimension, the Lich is destined to be, as the manifestation of anti-life that must necessarily come with life. After mercifully refusing to grant Jake’s dimwitted wishes (for a sandwich, of all things, something Jake’s done very often), Prismo nudges him towards the correct wish: to change the Lich’s wish to “I wish Finn and Jake were home.”
While this should’ve obliterated the Farmworld dimension completely… it didn’t. It looks as though every wish granted in this way causes an entirely new dimension to be born and exist independently and irrevocably, which is an intriguing idea for the current moment. Today’s headlines are littered with activists and would-be revisionists attempting to either confront or whitewash this atrocity, or that new perspective, to either insert or obliterate narratives from history books, and effectively from the public consciousness. Hence, parallel dimension episodes are very much about historical authority and the fluidity of prevailing worldviews, and the threat that even a backwater dimension like Farmworld poses to Adventure Time‘s multiverse suggests that even the unlikeliest narrative, the most insane conspiracy theory, the most fringe historical revision, has a shot at existence, a chance to influence.
Because Farmworld does indeed pose such a threat: Farmworld is very much alive and kicking, and Farmworld Finn, who’s been driven mad by wearing the Ice Crown, has been constructing a gateway to all dimensions with the help of the Enchiridion, the results of which are ambiguous, but almost certainly disastrous. Prismo is interestingly unable to interfere, despite being a Wishmaster and governor of all waking reality, the same way that Cosmic Owl governs dreams, the realm of unreality. If Farmworld’s Ice Finn does end up constructing his portal, Prismo fears that his boss, some unseen higher being, will be quite put off. We’ve heard of this higher being before when we learned about Cosmic Owl’s cosmic duty, which is governing dreams and determining which to appear in, which would cause them to be prophetic dreams that come true in reality, as a bridge between the real and unreal. It’s likely that future episodes will inch towards this being’s identity, which is very exciting, as it’s going to be Adventure Time‘s depiction of God, or something like it.
Prismo then tasks Finn and Jake with returning to Farmworld, and gives them a device with which to ‘fix’ the situation, which he states in a very (un)ambiguous way. Before explanations can be doled, Finn and Jake are promptly transported to Farmworld, where they sneak their way towards Ice Finn’s lair. There, they find him building the portal at the center of an auditorium constructed of frozen humans. They unpack Prismo’s device, which looks like a giant, pink cone-shaped eraser, that appears like it has the ability to actualize the user’s intention, and rub something literally out of multidimensional existence. It’s called the Maid, and if you look closely at its instructions, there’s a P.S. addressed to someone who accidentally erased their best buddy, which may or may not be a useful tidbit to remember for later episodes.
Once Finn aims the device, however, he finds himself unable to just destroy Ice Finn. He wants instead to cure his madness with the Maid, as he can’t bring himself to destroy this alternate version of himself who’s essentially a good guy constrained by circumstances into acting as an apocalyptic agent. Finn refuses because he’s essentially a good guy as well, and while this seems naive in the face of dimensional doom, Finn’s decision carries a lot of existential weight. “Crossover” is littered with godlike beings and devices dictating human affairs, all of which make it awfully tempting to be fatalistic and say that no one has any choice in anything, given forces that can edit reality and dictate dreams. It’s tempting to relinquish personal agency and authority to these forces, but by refusing to do so, and aligning himself with what he knows to be true (and he does know this, as the Finn Sword, the manifestation of Finn’s truest self, echoes his sentiments), Finn is asserting his will and rightful place as a thinking, deciding, and determining force in the universe. In essence, he’s placed himself on equal footing with these demigods by his self-determination.
Jake initially thinks he’s up to the task of murdering an innocent guy in cold blood, but fails as well. Together, they decide to just steal the Enchiridion instead, an asinine plot causing Prismo to scream with despair in his isolated Time Chamber. Jake’s valiant attempt to distract the simple-minded Ice Finn with shapeshifting ‘magic’ is thwarted when Farmworld’s Lich returns with the other gems necessary to complete the portal, something we saw happen back in “Finn the Human,” in which Ooo’s Lich gathered the gems from the crowns of Ooo’s various princesses. Finn is then frozen by Ice Finn, and Jake is trapped in the Lich’s grasp.
It’s worthwhile to think a bit about the Enchiridion as a device of interdimensional travel; the Enchiridion is the hero’s handbook detailing how to be a hero, which, in light of the series’ ongoing theme, translates to ‘how to adolesce well into a functioning and complete human being.’ Thus, adherence to these rules takes you to your personal center, where you can best actualize yourself by utilizing all possibilities and resources available to you. This is expressed figuratively by the Enchiridion’s ability to form a gate to the center of all dimensions and possibilities, and the gems’ role in this process also makes sense. As I said, the gems are gathered from the crowns of the princesses who rule over the various kingdoms of Ooo. These kingdoms represent the various wonders that make Ooo an Eden of the imagination; Adventure Time‘s most basic concept is a Dungeons and Dragons module that contains all DnD modules, a place where all fictional worlds coincide–basically, a world where anything can happen, like a wonderland is supposed to be. It makes sense, then, that the key to the center of possibility is a combination of personal enlightenment, and an awareness of the infinite variety present in the world. By contemplating the variety in the world, the limits of the finite, we can imagine the infinite, the same way that knowledge of good lets us posit evil, or the way scientists can see black holes not by noting blackness, but the absence of light.
It seems Ice Finn has been cooperating with Farmworld Lich because he sees the Lich as his own Gunter. If you’ll recall from “Evergreen” and “King’s Ransom,” every bearer of the crown is imbued not only with insanity and ice powers, but an inexplicable desire to have a companion named Gunter, as Ooo’s own Ice King has Gunter the penguin. The crown was created by a prehistoric egotistical wizard named Evergreen to protect the Earth from an apocalyptic comet, as it has the ability to fulfill its wearer’s fondest desire. When his emotionally abused and neglected ward/son Gunter was forced to wear it, instead of saving the world like it was meant to, it instead manifested his desire to be just like Evergreen, and for Evergreen to return the love of his son Gunter. Hence, Evergreen’s primal crime, of creating an unloved child, finds repercussion even in the distant Farmworld.
After the portal is completed, however, the Lich reveals to Ice Finn his intentions to extinguish all life in all dimensions, which comes as a shock to Ice Finn, who just wanted to travel. Just as the Lich is about to extinguish Jake’s lifeforce, the grassblade embedded in Finn’s right hand awakens, and severs the Lich’s arm. All of Finn’s hard-won experiences, and the tools that represent them, come into play in “Crossover”; the grassblade was a cursed sword that attached itself to Finn’s body, but rather than despairing over the permanent presence of grassblade, he makes peace with this Other and earns its allegiance as an inseparable part of himself, in a representation of personal changes that come with adolescence.
While Jake subdues the Lich, Finn reasons with Ice Finn, attempting to pierce the Ice Crown’s veil of insanity and remind him of his identity as an average but good-hearted farm kid who just wanted to help people. He manages to awaken an ounce of lucidity in Ice Finn, and together they’re able to wield the enormous Maid and erase the Lich. Finn’s decision to spare Ice Finn, hence, has massive repercussions. It’s a powerful statement of self-acceptance, of all aspects and possibilities inherent in Finn-ness; to reject an aspect of the self is to give into fear and invite neurosis and insecurity, but by allying himself even with this lowly Farmworld incarnation of himself, Finn and Ice Finn together are able to defeat the Lich, as one complete individual actualized across multiple dimensions. The parallel dimension plot device, then, takes on additional significance as an expression of the many aspects of the self, the same way that the competing histories of a society represent the multiple facets of that society, in both its moments of glory and also of tyrannical weakness.
By eliminating the Lich, Finn and Jake succeed in removing the interdimensional threat, and are transported back to Prismo’s Time Chamber. There, Finn begs Prismo to give Ice Finn a break and just remove the Ice Crown from Farmworld, which is currently wreaking incalculable emotional havoc in Ooo with Ice King, Betty, and Marceline. Prismo relents, and with his ability to edit reality like a common video file, cuts out the Crown, and pastes it into the Farmworld’s past moment in which the mutagenic bomb explodes, effectively destroying the Crown. If you were wondering why it was that Prismo couldn’t previously interfere, you’ve got two options at this point; it might’ve been the presence of the Lich, whose anti-life incarnation seems to be an almost unstoppable fact of existence that manifests wherever life does; or, you can see it from the perspective, once again, of the parallel dimension device. Prismo’s ability to edit reality places him in the role of a pseudo-creator, the writer behind the fictions of Ooo and the other dimensions. In that view, for him to simply edit Ice Finn out of existence feels like cheating, doesn’t it?
Which brings up an interesting point: why do such nonsensical, or arbitrary creative decisions feel so wrong when we’re reading a book or watching a movie? It’s because such a decision would fail to complete the logic of the fiction and lessen its impact as a meaningful creation, a believable piece of artifice. To apply this to Prismo, perhaps it’s part of his role as Reality Editor to make sure all dimensions are given their full expression, all narratives and stories allowed to ‘fend for themselves’, to either fail or succeed by their own merits, without artificial intervention from an outside force. This view lends even greater importance to Finn’s merciful decision: he is a product of his dimension, of his story and reality, and by doing the right thing, he maintained Ooo’s status as an Edenic wonderland, a place that can produce such essentially good characters. In other words, by letting Finn work this one out on his own, Prismo gave Ooo a chance at proving that its worth as a place of purity, by having its champion give it his all.
After Farmworld’s Ice Crown is destroyed, Finn takes a moment to reflect on how happy Farmworld Finn looks, with his now thawed-out family and Farmworld Jake. In many ways, what was at stake in “Crossover” is Farmworld’s right to exist and fend for itself, the way Ooo did through Finn. The dimension’s first appearance was beyond bleak: there wasn’t any magic, Jake was just a dog, Finn’s family was dirt poor and had to sell their donkey Bartram, everyone was being strong-armed by the Destiny gang, it was just overall terrible because it felt so depressingly real, so starkly contrasted with the whimsy of Ooo. Farmworld is basically our fallen world, and Finn’s decision to spare its proxy in Ice Finn is a heartening expression of optimism, that even such a broken world has worth in and of itself.
As you can see, “Crossover” is simply massive, despite not being an 8-parter like “Stakes” or even a 2-parter. To cover this much thematic ground in 11 minutes, just a thimble of time, without feeling overly rushed, is an amazing feat. “Crossover” recaps Finn’s growth as a hero and all-around decent guy, explores the Lich and Ice Crown as the roots of the series’ conflicts, and juxtaposes the real world with the perfect one of Ooo, and finds it not overly wanting. Between Farmworld and Ice Finn’s redemption, it’s a resounding affirmation that even the worst of us deserves a chance to see things through.