Finn, Jake, and Lady Rainicorn spend a day out on a picnic. Finn realizes that he brought his
Frisbee throwing-and-catching-disk, and Jake obliges in a game of Frisbee throwing and catching. The game ends early when Finn launches the disk straight into a massive nearby tree. Refusing help from Jake and a few overly friendly woodland critters, Finn takes matters into his own hands by scaling the towering tree and realizes that his disk isn’t the only thing waiting for him at the top.
After a months-long string of serious, exposition-heavy episodes like “I Remember You” and the Lich trilogy and experimental, high-concept adventures like “Five More Short Graybles,” “King Worm,” and “BMO Noire,” it’s been way too long since Adventure Time had a chance to breathe, relax, and have a simple episode based on Finn and Jake having fun and little else. “Up a Tree” isn’t the writers’ best try at one of these laid-back stories, but it does have enough moments to not make the whole thing a dull wash. While the first half feels too derivative to “Another Way,” particularly in Finn’s stubborn need to do things alone, it picks up once the plot veers on its own path and he meets the cabal of tree dwellers.
There are some questionable artistic decisions by storyboarders Skyler Page and Somvilay Xayaphone (most notably Finn’s freakishly small face and the woodland critters’ creepy ovoid bugged-out eyes), but the usage of lush oranges and yellows create some beautiful bits of scenery, like Finn’s ride on the flying disc and his climb through a swarm of butterflies. The wonderfully surreal voices used for the critters, specifically the porcupine voiced by Jim Cummings and the owl with the Southern drawl, were a big part of the episode’s draw for me, and just another example of how Adventure Time uses out-of-place voices to squeeze extra laughs out of a subject it shouldn’t get that much mileage out of. While “Up a Tree” is as average as Adventure Time gets, “Adventure Time average” still means there’s plenty to love.