When Adventure Time’s finale aired in 2018, many fans suspected it wasn’t really the end. And there is “some amazing force outside of time to take us back to where we were.” Viewers were invited back to the Land of Ooo in 2020-2021 for a four-part limited series, Distant Lands, which answered some lingering questions about where Finn, Jake, and their friends wound up. And now a new spinoff, Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake, is set to debut on Max this week, following Finn and Jake’s gender-bent counterparts on a new quest. So… where did the original show leave off? And what should folks know before jumping into the new series?
When Adventure Time premiered on Cartoon Network in 2010, its premise seemed pretty straightforward: A human boy and his shapeshifting dog go on adventures in a fantasy land. Simple! But while the series began episodically, with inane, seemingly unconnected subplots, over 10 seasons and a final miniseries, it coalesced into a more cohesive, albeit dense, story. More than 1,000 years prior to the events of the show, the Land of Ooo was an Earth-like planet. But the “Mushroom War,” a cataclysmic nuclear event, destroyed civilization, creating mutated humanoid beings like an immortal princess made of bubblegum and a sentient gaming console. Over the years, the beloved series built on that lore considerably, transforming from a whimsical Dungeons & Dragons-inspired children’s cartoon to an ambitious meditation on life, loss, and connection enjoyed by teens and adults as well as kids.
Finn the Human and his best friend and adoptive brother, Jake the Dog, go on quests throughout the post-apocalyptic world, fighting increasingly existential threats and making friends and enemies along the way. During their years of adventures, they learn where all the humans went, what Ice King’s deal is, whether Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen are really “just friends,” and where beings go when they die. With alternate timelines, worlds within worlds, and events that exist outside the parameters of space-time, it would be impossible to recount everything that happens in the series, but the ending is pretty clear.
[Ed. note: The rest of this post contains spoilers for Adventure Time.]
The last season leads up to the Great Gum War. Hundreds of years earlier, Princess Bubblegum, ruler of the Candy Kingdom, created her uncle Gumbald (out of candy, of course) because she felt lonely. In the years since, however, their relationship fractured, and in the final season, he forms the powerful city-state Gumbaldia, which declares war on the Candy Kingdom.
During the battle, Ice King (the human Simon Petrikov, who has lost his memory and sense of morality due to the magical crown he wears that gives him his ice powers) and his former fiancée, Betty, accidentally summon GOLB, a godlike entity embodying chaos and disorder, which ups the stakes of the scuffle considerably.
Along with Finn, Ice King and Betty are swallowed by GOLB, which reverts Ice King to his human form and returns his memory permanently. Betty fuses with GOLB and leaves Ooo in order to save Finn, Simon, and her friends. The war ends, PB and Marceline kiss, canonizing their romance, and humans return to Ooo after more than 1,000 years of living on islands far away from the main continent. Finn and Jake’s close friend BMO (the aforementioned sentient video game console) outlives nearly everyone and recounts these events to future Oovians, Beth and Shermy, in the series finale.
In Distant Lands, we learn that Finn and Jake both die eventually, and after finding each other again in the Land of the Dead, they’re reincarnated (as what, no one knows), presumably fated to go on more adventures together. Princess Bubblegum and Marci share a life together after the events of the main series, and Simon is shown visiting (wearing his old blue robe and Gunther slippers in a nod to his old alter ego).
So where do Fionna and Cake — the protagonists of the new spinoff — fit into all of this? The former is a human girl, and the latter is her shapeshifting cat. In the world of Adventure Time, Ice King wrote these gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake for his elaborate fanfiction. On Earth, the characters were created by character designer and storyboard revisionist Natasha Allegri. The response to drawings of Fionna and Cake online was so strong that Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time’s creator, decided to add them to the series.
While we don’t know much about Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake outside of what the trailer released on Aug. 17 shows, we know that aside from the titular gals, Simon will return for a big role in the new series. The official synopsis on Max teases a “multiverse-hopping journey of self-discovery,” a “powerful new foe,” and special appearances from other Adventure Time characters. It’s sure to be mathematical!
Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake premieres on Max on Aug. 31 with two episodes.