On last night’s episode of Adventure Time, “Graybles 1000+,” Cuber relies on his grayble-fable lessons to survive on post-Ooo Earth, hunted by a grieving wedding party in attack ships. It’s the eponymous time again.
If last week’s “Chips and Ice Cream” felt a little inconsequential to you, then “Graybles 1000+” might provide more heavy plot than your tiny boy- and girl-hearts can handle. It’s another episode that imagines a distant future of Ooo where all the stories and characters you love are long gone in ruins, and exist only as grayble stories curated by your lovable host Cuber.
I can’t imagine a more feels-inducing way to integrate Cuber as an important entity in Ooo the way this episode did; “Graybles 1000+” reveals that Cuber exists perhaps thousands of years after the events of his graybles, and what’s more, his graybles might be the only record left of Finn, Jake, Lady Rainicorn, and the rest of that colorful cast. This is one of many episodes that imagine a post-Ooo Earth, and like the ending to the Lemonhope arc (where Lemonhope returned after eons to a ruined Candy Kingdom) or the Farmworld from “Finn the Human / Jake the Dog” (which is more alternate-Ooo, but still), it’s unbearably sad. Like, coming back to your home decades after civil war kinda sad.
The beginning unfolds like most of the grayble episodes, wherein Cuber presents slice-of-life mini-stories with a common thread running through them. But when Cuber takes us in to observe a space wedding, a slip of the finger hurtles his spaceship into the bride’s space suit, shattering it, and sending her careening off into space. The wedding party attacks Cuber’s ship, forcing him to escape to earth with the guests in pursuit.
It’s a graybles episode gone awry (“APPLESAUCE to a theme; your friend Cuber doesn’t want to die!“) as Cuber flees across a landscape that we quickly recognize as a ruined Ooo, and while on the run, he activates his graybles to learn aspects of the past that might help him in his present; he unearths a wish cannon buried by Finn and Jake to flee from his pursuers; when he lands in a river and breaks his leg, he learns how to reset a bone from a distant memory of Ice King’s, back when Gunter used to break his legs in his sleep with a brick sometimes (ah, those days).
Most shockingly, he accesses a memory from the Candy Kingdom, where Starchy flees from Princess Bubblegum’s surveillance systems and stows the tracking device in a passing grass-lard. Cuber finds the tracker, activating an evolved form of the Gumball Guardians that looks like the Grand Budapest Hotel crossed with a toy capsule machine. Inside, with Cuber’s pursuers pew pew-ing away at the toy capsules, we realize that each one contains a perfectly preserved Candy Citizen.
The events follow each other in quick succession, and it’s easy to get overloaded on the shocking plot reveals as well as the more inconsequential details (haha, Jake wastes a wish on a sandwich for like the 50th time), especially when you realize that all of these stories are ancient history, like Polaroids of middle school friends. BMO wishing he were a human boy like Finn, Gunter being murderously playful, Princess Bubblegum motherlording over her candy citizens, all in the past. And it’s especially painful to see the extant remnants of Ooo, like the little monument to Starchy beside the future grass-lard, or Marceline’s (still lit!) lagoon cottage, and the freaky beard-head thing in the Ice Kingdom that sounds suspiciously like Ice King himself.
If there’s any kind of theme to the series’ diverse episodes, it’s the preparation of the child for adulthood through this realization or that confrontation. Along that line of thinking, there’s no greater realization than of death, and that’s exactly what these post-Ooo episodes are for. They aren’t all grouped towards some final climax of the series, they’re sprinkled intermittently amongst the seasons so that you have a sense of Ooo’s mortality even as you watch its stories unfold in real time. It’s promoting a view of life that doesn’t run from the idea of death and change, but integrates it alongside the other experiences as well, to get a full feeling for the whole shebang, childhood, adulthood, and the twilight years, all at once.
And depressing as it is to say, most adults will agree that adult life can be absolutely trying, as desolate-feeling and broken as the landscape of “Graybles 1000+” where everything reminds you of the technicolor days and old imaginary friends. The episode puts forth itself, and arguably all stories, as little survival rations meant to ease the child into adult life. While we won’t always derive such literal answers from stories as Cuber does (the Wish Cannon is buried beside the tree!), the non-literal morals are just as important.
When Cuber’s bag of graybles is destroyed inside the Gumball Guardian, he relies on his final grayble, the memory we saw in the opening where Cuber becomes lost on an unnamed planet, facing down a snarling dire wolf. His sister Tuber throws Cuber a rock to defend himself, with the message of “Self-actualization, lable-brother.” It’s these little messages of “You can do it, Cuber!” that sustain him in the wastelands, and at its best, that’s clearly what Adventure Time aims to do for its own generation of viewers.
Cuber takes his sister’s words to heart, and quickly disables his pursuers with a can-do attitude and spunk. He commandeers one of their ships and manages to make his way back to his spaceship, where he opens a cupboard and apologizes to his tiny sister for the mess he made.