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finn standing in front of a glowing jake Image: Cartoon Network

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The new Adventure Time special messed me up, bro

Finn and Jake are finally together again

So far, all of HBO Max’s Adventure Time: Distant Lands spinoff specials have showcased different kinds of emotions: BMO centered on the loneliness of the titular little robot, while Obsidian explored Bubblegum and Marceline’s complex relationship. But the third in the series, Adventure Time: Distant Lands — Together Again, is a more specific gut-punch. Adventure Time has a grand tradition of threading big emotions and deeper questions in amid the fun, kooky hijinks. Together Again starts off with a fun quest, but eventually morphs into something poignant.

Helmed by longtime Adventure Time producer Adam Muto, the newest hourlong Distant Lands episode finally brings back Finn and Jake for their ”biggest adventure yet.” It’s an emotional rollercoaster that gives the characters closure in a particular hard-hitting way.

[Ed. note: This review contains some spoilers for Adventure Time: Distant Lands — Together Again.]

finn looking really confused Image: Cartoon Network

Adventure Time ended with a bittersweet finale back in 2018, which was the last time fans saw series stars Finn the Dog and Jake the Human. This new special opens on Finn looking for Jake after they’ve been separated for a long time. As Finn searches through a new land, he runs into old friends and foes. Once he does find Jake, the duo has to figure out how to save the realm from a selfish ruler.

Together Again feels a bit like a reunion tour. The previous specials focused specifically on one or two old characters, introducing new ones to supplant their stories. Together Again goes further, bringing back old favorites like Lumpy Space Princess, Ice King, and Peppermint Butler for brief appearances. It’s a little check-in after all this time, reflecting on what’s changed in the world of Ooo, and what’s stayed the same. Not all of the cameo characters affect the plot, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The focus here is on Finn and Jake, with the rest of the characters mostly as auxiliary additions.

Visually, Together Again is gorgeous. As Finn searches for Jake, he travels across many different lands, each with a unique setting. From a luscious underwater garden to a vast cavern with a goo-filled lake in the middle, each realm operates with its own sort of logic, and they’re all beautifully rendered. Adventure Time has always excelled in creating memorable and breathtaking settings, and this special is no exception. While Together Again only briefly shows some of the lands, they each fit like mosaic pieces in the grand arc of the episode, augmenting the larger ramifications of what’s going on.

finn and jake falling with a golden background Image: Cartoon Network

Very few characters or lands linger for long in these episodes, but that just emphasizes how these people and places have shaped Finn and Jake’s special bond. In fact, the entire episode plays like a metaphor for the journey Finn and Jake went on in the show. Important players from their past, like their parents and rival Tiffany, weave in and out of the plot of this specific episode, but at the end of the day, Together Again — and Adventure Time as a whole — is about Finn and Jake, so the big emotional payoff comes from the moments they are together.

Even with a selfish overlord and Tiffany vying for Jake’s attention, Together Again is about Finn and Jake being, well, together again. All the other plot elements serve to bolster their relationship. Finn needs to find Jake. They need to reconnect and resume their friendship. They need to band together to save the world one more time. Every bit of this episode — and honestly, every bit of the show — comes to fruition in the last moment, where the two best friends have to make a hard decision. It’s a beautiful, powerful, poignant ending that really captures the emotional depth of Adventure Time, and lingers in the best sort of way.

Adventure Time: Distant Lands — Together Again hits HBO Max on May 20.