How do you make a show that has a foundation of deep weirdness even weirder? How about a dream episode? “Orb” was just that… or perhaps more accurately, a nightmare episode.
Finn, Jake, and BMO are still at sea on their way back from meeting Finn’s mom and other humans on the Islands. Their boat is filled with bananas, which they have apparently been subsisting on for quite some time. BMO points out that a weird cloud is following them, but Finn and Jake ignore their robot son, and so BMO just shrugs it off, even when the cloud turns into a mysterious and menacing black orb.
Any time Adventure Time delves into dreams it inevitably gets weird, but the writers really upped the ante with this one. It perfectly mimics that unsettling surreal tone that real dreams can have. Abrupt setting changes, people swapping places, illogical goals which nonetheless seem to make perfect sense at the time… This show is so good at using its medium to its full advantage, shifting animation styles and taking full advantage of body horror. (Creepiest part, at least for me? The gaping, toothless maw of a giant Princess Bubblegum…)
Ultimately, it turns out that the Orb wasn’t actually a malevolent presence at all. In fact, she was Nightmare Princess, just trying to bargain our heroes for some bananas. That’s Ooo for you, where even mind-bending eldritch abominations just wanna chill sometimes.
Considering Nightmare Princess’s goal, and how incredibly dense the episode was, looking into the dreams for deeper symbolism might be a bit of a difficult prospect, but I’m going to try anyway. We can definitely see some obvious fears and desires reflected. Jake wants to connect with his family, in particular his brother and his deceased parents. He still holds a residual fear of vampires, and we see his concerns about growing old. BMO acts out his control issues, his concerns about alter-ego Football, and AMO, the self-centered robot he was forced to kill.
Finn, though? As unsettling as his dream was, it didn’t seem to reflect any of his major fears or insecurities– possibly because at this point, he’s managed to work through so many of them. Yet the conversation he had with dream-Bonnie was nonetheless… uncomfortable. Finn was able to fly, only to lose the ability once he talked to her. She proudly presented him a handful of loose teeth. She begins to swell in proportion, but remains completely oblivious to the monster she’s becoming…
Is it possible, perhaps, that Nightmare Princess was trying to give Finn a greater message? PB has long been a morally enigmatic character, with good intentions but a tendency to get carried away. Perhaps this was a signal that she may finally be going too far. Combine this with the worrying final shots of the episode — BMO observing Ooo from afar, only to see it covered in ice, slime, scorched earth (fire), and candy. He describes it as looking “like a dream”… but as this episode made very clear, that isn’t synonymous with ‘good’.
Author: KK Bracken & Laura B
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