On last night’s episode of Adventure Time, “Orgalorg,” a head injury releases Gunther’s true cosmic form, with ties to the Catalyst Comet, the King of Mars, and a distant planet. It’s the eponymous time again.
Airing the final 6 episodes of the season back-to-back makes perfect sense in hindsight: we’re getting a ton of plot reveal, all of which relate to the coming of the mysterious, recurring Catalyst Comet in so many interconnected story arcs. We’ve seen snatches of its significance throughout the sixth season, but with “Orgalorg” we get a substantial piece of the emerging puzzle, one that manages to connect the comet’s different facets: spirit guide, harbinger of doom, object of temptation. But ultimately, the comet is living up to its name–it’s neither good nor evil, but simply the embodiment of change, the unraveling of fate in an infinite number of intersecting directions.
And the latest piece in the puzzle is Gunther, the penguin pet of the Ice King, and who was trivially revealed early on to be one of the most evil things in the universe. We thought we knew how evil back in “Hoot,” in which the Cosmic Owl fell in love with Gunther, unwittingly, in the dreamworld. In the episode, Gunther manipulated Cosmic Owl (equally unwittingly, as we’ll discuss) in order to bypass the defenses of the near-omnipotent Princess Bubblegum, nudging her fate towards an eventual doom. But later in the episode, she makes even that feat pale in comparison.
At the start of the episode, the penguins drug the Ice King with a sleep grenade clumsily impressed into a cheesecake, in order to throw a completely banging party, and oddly enough, only inviting Lumpy Space Princess. I might’ve missed something, but I didn’t know Gunther had any significant ties to her, which she apparently does; the party takes a turn for the hardcore as pengins+LSP start a (probably) illicit walrus racing ring, and Gunther’s forced to intercede when a disguntled LSP starts a wrangle with Walrus #5. In the ensuing struggle, Gunther receives a serious head injury, then wakes up with her massive green brain oozing from her skull, Mars Attacks-like.
The injury frightens the guests away, leaving Gunther alone with flashes of a life she doesn’t remember. Dazedly, she proceeds to her workshop, secreted into the Ice King’s favorite lounge chair, to construct wooden cut-outs of arcane symbols relating to her prehistoric past. Using these as a conduit, she is able to contact a distant planet, one that doesn’t take news of Gunther’s awakened consciousness well.
The planet’s elders explain that long ago, before the Mushroom War or even humanity. Gunther had been called Orgalorg, a monstrous cosmic tyrant with a pineapple body, three eyes, and other Cthulhean features. Orgalorg had coveted the power of the recurring Catalyst Comet, prompting the King of Mars to send Glob/Gob/Grosh/Grod to strike her down. Orgalorg fell to Earth, collapsing under the planet’s gravity into the form of a willful penguin, and eradicating her memories of her former reign. Even before the head injury during the party, Gunther saw the impending Comet in the eyes of the walrus, remembering for a moment her past ambitions.
“Orgalorg” is a fascinating episode for the fandom because it connects meaningfully with so many other episodes. For example, in “Hoots” we learned that Gunther does evil not out of calculation or personal gain, but because she’s impelled to, by some force which makes her feel the rightness of these crimes. And what’s interesting is that the Catalyst Comet tends to have that sort of effect: Orgalorg was also fascinated by the comet, and her pride caused her downfall by Glob’s flaming Martian sword. But there was another character undone by their pride, as a result of the Comet’s arrival: Urgence Evergreen.
The saga of the Comet gets even more convoluted. In the episode “Evergreen” we learned that the Ice Crown, which has possessed the human archaeologist Simon Petrikov, perverting him into the maddned Ice King, was created by the prehistoric wizard Urgence Evergreen. Evergreen crafted the crown to fulfill his inmost desires, which was to stop the Comet of his era from eradicating all life on Earth. He went against the better judgment of his peers, who begged him to let the catastrophe take its natural course once again, but Evergreen’s pride compelled him to imprison his fellow wizards, and attempt to stop the comet himself.
Complications arose, and Evergreen was incapacitated at the final moment, leaving only one other to bear the crown–Evergreen’s neglected and abused assistant and foster-son, the lizard Gunther. Gunther donned the crown, fulfilling his inmost desire to be just like his admired Ice Wizard Evergreen. As the Comet bore down upon the earth once again, Gunther could do nothing but mimic Evergreen’s actions (“Gunther NO, Gunther NO, NO Gunther NO…”), and that era was destroyed.
As a consequence of wearing the Ice Crown, Ice King now shares not only a physical resemblance to Evergreen, but apparently, Gunther’s desire to be loved also. Ice King feels the need to have a being by his side called Gunther whom he can love, and even called Marceline by the name in a past episode. Orgalorg has been that Gunther, an interesting development as both are intimately connected to the Catalyst Comet.
And all of this begs the question “What the hell is the Catalyst Comet exactly?” For a long time we assumed it was a force of evil, since in “Evergreen” its greenish color and horned flames made it resemble the Lich, an archvillain in the series who’d been reincarnated as the giant baby Sweet P. But these events imply that it isn’t evil per se–instead, it simply lives up to its namesake. A catalyst in chemistry is a substance that enables a change, but isn’t expended in the process. In other words, the catalyst is an eternal occurrence in the ongoing reaction of universal events, one that doesn’t make either good or bad things happen, but allows anything to happen at all.
The comet is representative of whatever force, you can call it cosmic or religious or otherwise, that inspires actions, but seems to have no cause of its own. As represented by the Catalyst Comet, this force is the root of both senseless, cruel tragedy, and also unexpected miracles. It is the mysterious force that bids Gunther to do evil. It is a random symbol appearing in Finn’s dreams, guiding him to his father Martin. And it is also very likely an element of the Lich, the anti-life equation that existed before the Universe did, and which seems to have an incarnation in any reality, as we learned in the Farmworld of “Jake the Dog.”
If we had to gather together all of the random occurrences in our lives, the ones that seemed to have no logical connection to anything, but seems to point to a greater design that works through and affects us, you might call these the influence of the Catalyst Comet, the archetypal Star that tells everyone to put their business down, because there is an omen in the sky, there’s a star to be followed to some cosmic event, there’s a portent of something strange and powerful. It disrupts equilibria and causes events, stories, and conflicts, and in that aspect you could call it evil. But to Finn, it was also a guide; the Comet appeared to Finn in a dream that led him to his deadbeat dad Martin’s crash site, which led to his realization that he doesn’t want this disaster in his life and requires nothing more of him. Finn faced that hardship and is more mature for it, as everything is after being tempered.
The star is the Thing that makes things happen, good and bad, and by attributing all occurrences to this one single mystery, the writers are putting forth a worldview that doesn’t talk about good and evil as blacks and whites, but as different aspects of a single situation. The question wouldn’t be “why is this happening to me,” but “why is anything happening at all?” The Catalyst Comet is the culmination of Adventure Time‘s theme of evil, namely that there is none. There aren’t good or bad happenings, there are just happenings, and they are all equally mysterious as functions of the comet.
Before Gunther/Orgalorg can do anything further, the Ice King wakes up from his drugged slumber, and Gunther rushes to destroy her transmitting ritual before her wizard caretaker can find it. Ice King promptly nurses Gunther’s giant green brain back through the wound and bandages her with crochet yarn, but in the reflection of a mirror, Gunther now knows her true identity as Orgalorg.