As if using the word “totes” in a fantasy adventure cartoon wasn’t cool enough, Pendleton Ward took it to the next level.
This time, Finn the human totally uses to word “tots,” a totally hip intentional misspelling of the un-word totes, in In Your Footsteps, one of the latest eps of the perhaps the coolest cartoon of the twenty-teens. This show rarely falters to astound viewers with increasing levels of hipness, even in its fourth season. Awesomely cool stuff constantly happens, like Jake dropping a phrase right as the scene fades out, or Finn pointing at Jake stone-faced as he glides out of the room. And while all this could be taken as total sarcasm, it has to be recognized that this stuff, beyond the standard characters and thematic elements that always goes down on Adventure Time, really keeps this show on the cutting-edge of post-Scott Pilgrim awesomesauce.
Oh, yeah, and constantly introducing new characters is pretty spice too. Not just new characters, but nu-anced new characters. Like this bear that isn’t-but-actually-might be what he seems… Or probably-is-but-might-not-be more than he seems. If you’ll remember, there was this creepy ice king in a horse costume way-back-when in Adventure Time’s first season that was similarly creepy; I mean, he just stood there. And he stared, and had this long shadow cast by a full moon. Definitely enough to keep us engaged in the first season, but here is Season 4, we need a little more. And In Your Footsteps delivers. We’re tots used to the usual characters now- Jake stretching and Princess Bubblegum ruling the candy people isn’t quite as mindblowing as it once was, so having a more nuanced “Horse” is a must. So this ep’s bear, a similarly stupid anonymous animal, brings out a lot more relational tension between Finn and Jake- It’s really astonishing the amounts of twists and turns of jealousy, suspicion, re-uniting and betrayal take place because of this dumb animal.
Then there’s the end. For spoiler avoidance’s sake, let’s just say that, for starters, there isn’t more to this bear than there seems. But then there is. And then isn’t again. The bear’s character inverts on itself, and Jake and Finn’s treatment of the bear as well, that we definitely don’t learn anything at the end. Except that there isn’t anything to learn. Perhaps my favorite narrative trope of Adventure Time, and its most subversive tendency, is that we never get a Moral of the Story. Even though Adventure Time runs around in a Grimm’s Fairy Tale costume, it intentionally confuses every potential lesson-learned into vague meaninglessness. And does it get any more hip than that?