Fionna and Cake Is the Irreverent, Emotional Adventure Time Sequel Fans Have Been Waiting For
Come along with me...
It started out as Adventure Time fan art. Fan art by someone working on the show, but fan art nonetheless. Created on a whim by series character designer and storyboard revisionist Natasha Allegri, Fionna and Cake went on to become two of the most beloved characters in a vast multiverse full of lovable weirdos — despite only appearing in a handful of the show’s whopping 283 episodes.
Now, over a decade after their debut, the gender-bent duo are getting a spinoff of their own, and expectations are high. Thankfully, not only does Fionna and Cake meet those expectations, but it manages to move the entire franchise forward by leaps and bounds, delivering one of the saga’s most emotionally mature entries, which, as Adventure Time fans will know, is saying a lot.
Warning: Minor spoilers for the first two episodes of Fionna and Cake ahead 🙀
If you’ve somehow landed on this review but know nothing about Adventure Time, I’ll take pity on you (although be warned, this new series won’t). Trying to explain the intricacies of the show to a newcomer is like trying to explain a dream you had three weeks ago while also coming down from an LSD trip, but let’s give it a shot.
Fionna and Cake were originally introduced in Adventure Time Season 3 Episode 9 as a clever twist on the show’s main characters, Finn and Jake. Finn (a teenage sword-wielding boy) became Fionna (a teenage sword-wielding girl), while Jake (a magic male dog with stretchy powers) became Cake (a magic female cat with stretchy powers). At the end of that episode, the entire thing is revealed to actually be a fictional story written by the show’s maniacal villain, Ice King. Later episodes revisited the world of Fionna and Cake while hinting they might be more than just the ravings of an unhinged wizard.
Fionna and Cake picks up a decade or two after the Adventure Time series finale (which was already set roughly 1,000 years after a nuclear bomb destroyed the Earth and paved the way for a magical new one called the Land of Ooo). In Episode 1, Fionna and Cake are living in a magic-free world that looks a lot like our own. Fionna struggles to hold down a job and Cake is a regular non-talking cat. But when they’re pulled through a magic portal into Ooo, they discover the truth about their own identities and set off on an adventure to restore magic to their universe.
The first two episodes of Fionna and Cake, which premiere on Max on August 31, also reintroduce several key characters from the original series, giving fans a glimpse at what they’ve been up to since the finale in what feels like the closest thing to a direct sequel we’ve gotten yet. Ice King has reverted to his human self, Simon, and seems to be living a pretty miserable life in a world he no longer recognizes. Finn, meanwhile, is taller and beefier with a massive beard, but under the surface, he’s still the same immature boy always looking for his next adventure. As for Jake, well, let’s just say Jake is missing in action.
But while checking in on these characters is a fun diversion, Fionna and Cake quickly moves beyond the Land of Ooo to explore a wide variety of parallel universes. To say much more would spoil the many twists and turns of the plot. Each episode brings you to another multiverse (some we’ve seen before and some totally new), and each will delight and surprise you.
Seven episodes in (out of 10 total), I’m still not sure exactly where this plot is headed, but I have full faith that the payoff will be there. After all, this is the team that managed to bring a satisfying ending to one of the most confusing and convoluted (and awesome) shows ever made. Surely they can handle this too.
If you’re in it for the trippy animation or the epically silly adventures that defined early Adventure Time, then Fionna and Cake might be slightly disappointing. That’s all still here, but it’s not exactly the focus. However, if your favorite Adventure Time episodes were the sad and existential ones, then this is the show for you.
At its heart, Fionna and Cake is a story about the heartbreak of growing up. Despite Adventure Time’s mostly happy ending, it’s hard to ignore the fact that everyone in Ooo seems pretty miserable by the time this spinoff picks up. (Even the indomitable wish-giving god Prismo is wallowing in misery.)
Growing up isn’t easy, and whether you accept it join the rat race like Fionna, or ignore it and keep going on childish adventures like Finn, the end result is ultimately the same. The best you can do is keep making friends and having fun along the way.