Adventure Time has been one of the most iconic franchises in the modern era of Cartoon Network. Set in the fantastical, magical world of Ooo, the show has had a lot of exciting adventures with its main duo Finn (Jeremy Shada) and Jake (John DiMaggio).
From fighting off an evil group of empires to saving Ooo from overpowered elementals, the original show brought a lot of charm and memorable moments thanks to its iconic characters and great writing throughout its arcs.
Fortunately, Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake‘s singular story has been able to incorporate many relatable themes surrounding the gender-swapped versions of our heroes: Fionna (Madeleine Martin) and Cake (Roz Ryan).
Fionna & Cake Episode 1 Recap Review
The episode first opens up with an exciting Sailor Moon-inspired rescue with Fionna and Cake trying to save some civilians. It’s a fun icebreaker as it uniquely reminisces on the episodes focused on the gender-swapped world in the original series.
After receiving some well-timed help from a dreamy Ice Prince to save the citizens, our duo take some well-deserved time to celebrate with the Prince mesmerizing Fionna under his gaze.
This sequence is an interesting form of escapism and sets up Fionna’s ultimate goal of embracing a more fantastical lifestyle, but she’s sadly awakened by her BMO (Niki Yang) -like alarm clock.
Unlike the original show’s world, this show opens up on a peculiar cityscape with none other than Fionna Campbell, who’s just trying to make her way through the day.
Not wanting to start her day (which is very relatable for every twenty-something), she tries to get back in bed to Zuzu’s “Not Myself”, a catchy beat on its own, but inevitably wakes up to another day of work.
We get to see Fionna’s life leading up to this moment, including her befriending and breaking up with DJ Flame and her hangouts with Marshall Lee (Donald Glover) and Gary (Andrew Rannells).
It adds some nice context and world-building to this unusual setting for a whimsical series like Adventure Time.
The episode’s central story focuses on Fionna trying to help an unusually irritated Cake all while trying to have a good day at work. Though Cake seems to be pulled by a blue light near anything made from ice, Fionna isn’t able to see that as the two can barely understand each other.
This serves as a parallel from the norm: where the original show’s Fionna and Cake were on the same level as Finn and Jake, the realistic rules of this universe create these barriers for them. Because of this, the only way Cake can get Fionna to understand her is through her actions, which drives Fionna to the brink of giving up.
At work, Fionna helps new tourists out through a bus tour service run by Queenie (Chelsea Peretti) (King of Ooo from the original show.) The bus comes across several points of interest including the local post office and an interesting statue of Betty, which Fionna points out much to Marshall’s disruption. However, those don’t seem to catch her eye unlike the aquarium as it has an eerily familiar penguin like in her dream.
The discussion about dreams brings up an interesting point as to how the show will incorporate the idea of self-discovery. For the life she’s lived in this world, Fionna has felt like she’s meant for something much greater.
She isn’t supposed to be this tour guide or working all these jobs without true fulfillment. She knows that she’s made for a life more exciting, but this reality wasn’t made for that excitement.
It provides this different perspective on the protagonistic role Fionna once had as well as the difference between who we are and what we’re made to be by fate.
It’s made even more clear as Fionna makes her way to Gary’s bakery as she doesn’t really appreciate the more exciting things that try to invite her.
Though Gary tries to help Fionna by giving her a taste of the cookies he’s making, Cake finds and tries to catch a mouse she’s found, but is ultimately stopped by Beatrice Buttler (Elle Newlands) (a play on Peppermint Butler.)
Forgetting she had to catch her appointment in the midst of this, she encounters Marshall once again, who’s playing in the streets after distancing himself from his mom. Inserting that distant relationship between Marceline and her dad Hunson in this gender-swapped world feels more natural and realistic even if it is a little tidbit for now.
Marshall has his own aspirations outside of what his mom wants from him, which is something that definitely holds true for a lot of the fanbase, now all grown up. With this setup, it definitely feels like it will be explored further down the line.
With a tip from Marshall to get help with Cake from Ellis P. (Pendleton Ward), Fionna has another incidental encounter in the park. This time, she encounters Hunter (Vico Ortiz), a park gardener who invites Fionna to enjoy nature before she meets with Ellis.
Showing her around her “garden”, Hunter gives Fionna a dandelion, something she can use to “help make her wish.” This scene, while also focusing on self-discovery, also opens up that door to explore the embracing of wonder.
Most adults, like Fionna, are forced, by life or otherwise, to mostly give up this childlike wonder and fantasy. However, in the case of Fionna and Cake, the two know that something is calling for them to be different and to embrace something new, which can both be amazing and scary.
Finally meeting up with Ellis P., Fionna tries to get the help she’s been looking for for Cake. Surprisingly, Ellis P. is able to do that, with a bit of catnip. With Ellis P. telling Fionna that she knows what’s wrong with Cake, this scene drives that theme of self-discovery deep as one of the show’s most integral ideas.
Both Fionna and Cake are beginning to embark on this wild journey that’s unclear to them as of now and hopefully, with this adventure, they’ll be able to learn something about themselves.
The duo understand that they’re not supposed to be living in this dull and bland reality; they’re two free radicals who are meant for the adventure. And so, Cake runs away from Fionna once again and manages to escape this world through magical means.
Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake episode 1 manages to have a strong centering on its themes and ideas of self-discovery and embracement even if it consists of many setups for future storylines.
With their journeys finally picking up, Fionna and Cake have a lot to face as something more magical invites them to explore who they really are. Though these setups with Gary, Marshall, and the “normal”-verse still have a lot to be desired, fans can be excited about what lies ahead for all of these characters.
4 out of 5 stars
Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake episodes 1 and 2 are now streaming on Max. New two episodes release every Thursday.
This review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.