Magic Man interrupts Finn and Jake’s day by slipping a magic bag into Finn’s pants. Finn opens the bag to find miniatures of him and everyone else in Ooo. Like a game of Sims, Finn decides to play God and mess with the love lives of his miniatures. Jake sees Finn’s series of romantic hypotheticals as ethically wrong and leaves, but Finn ignores Jake’s warnings and continues to tamper around with his subjects. After things go predictably awry, Finn learns that inaction is sometimes the best course of action.
Adventure Time is no stranger to meta-commentary. Over the last few seasons, the writers have dropped in episodes and gags toying with their audience, particularly the online audience. Be it through the creep of romantic subplots and darker backstories into the show or explicit call-outs like the ending to “Fionna and Cake,” the show has made their acknowledgement of adult fans very clear. Nowhere has this been more overt than this week’s episode, “All the Little People.” The episode is a full-on rebuke of fanboys and fangirls who obsessively ship characters and try to bend the show’s canon to their will, regardless of in-character consequences. By skewering the ludicrousness of crack-ships and slash fiction and showing the unfortunate implications often ignored by fandom, Adventure Time accomplishes something novel and rare for most children’s shows.
A massive reason for the show’s appeal to all ages is the writers’ ability to keep adults in mind, but also keep them at arms length. This is why Adventure Time often seems so naturally mature, where the forced shock value of Bravest Warriors and the pandering shout-outs of Friendship is Magic fail; the writers aren’t writing shows so Tumblr will say “That validates my headcanon!” or “Wow, they must really care about me if they referenced my favorite show!”. They’re skilled at putting in enough layers to make people see what they want to see, as it is here; adults see a scathing satire on fandom, while children see a simple lesson about meddling in others’ affairs and the true nature of love. As much as I like shows that will also appeal to me, it’s even better to see a show have restraint and stay away from the creatively toxic nature of fandom. This is a really daring episode and one of the best of the season so far, and I hope Adventure Time continues to ruffle feathers like this in the future.