Episode 8: What is Life?/Ocean of Fear
By: Carlos Uribe
Adventure Time is about the adventures of Finn and his dog Jake
“What is Life?” is a title that seems to suggest that the segment is going to explore into what exactly goes into living beings. What makes us alive? This is a very complex philosophical question and the segment doesn't exactly try to answer it. It does feature a machine that Finn builds who seems to have desires and emotion. A machine who is only completed by the thunder from the Ice King. This causes the machine to have conflicting loyalties. It wants to do pranks for Finn, as that was it's initial purpose, but it also wants to capture princesses, as he has gotten a piece of the Ice King. In a way, the series defines life in the context that the machine has free will. The machine is eventually forced to chose and it picks the protagonist, Finn. This does emotionally depress the Ice King, as is shown in a surprisingly moving fantasy within the Ice King's imagination. In the regard of having a sense of free will, this episode manages to define life. At the same time, consider what the machine chose. It chose to do what it was initially created for. It had free will but it decided to go with it's purpose, as given to it by it's original creator. The Ice King is more like a devil, who tempts the machine. It may not have been on purpose, but one could claim that this segment has some parallels with what my faith teaches me. I'll point out the similarities:
- The machine is created for some purpose. A difference is that the machine knows it's purpose from the beginning.
- It considers Finn it's creator and goes as far as to call him that.
- The Ice King is able to make the machine to be fully-functioning but in doing so he gives the machine the capability to go against it's intended purpose and sin
- The machine choses to follow the path laid out by it's creators.
It isn't a perfect comparison, but it's a surprising one to make. “What is Life?” seems to have an answer and it's not exactly a secular one. There's even more to the episode. Consider that the target of the segment is children. The machine was created for the purpose of pranking a friend. It's childish and an innocent prank. What the Ice King gives in it is a desire to chase after princesses, or women. In other words: the machine has a choice between innocent fun or going after woman. It's almost as if the machine is stuck between choosing childhood and adulthood. “What is Life?” has a basic plot idea: Finn builds a machine to prank Jake. Adventure Time has taken that idea and it manages to explore quite a bit. I've only scratched the surface, but it's definably one of the better segments of Adventure Time.
It's probably good that “Ocean of Fear” is more straightforward. The episode title isn't a metaphor but it's speaking in the literal sense. When Finn chases a bad guy to the ocean, he discovers that he's afraid of the ocean. The series even has fear manifest itself to Finn in order to ensure that the viewers get it. While the ocean flashing red should be enough to tip the older viewers, the younger viewers should be able to keep up. The manifestation is also a way to let the series explore just exactly why Finn feels the need to combat the fear. That's because Finn wants to be the best hero in the world. He feels that if he is afraid of anything then he can't possibly be a hero. His fear becomes an insecurity that is threatening to hold him back from achieving his goal. “Ocean of Fear” doesn't just refer to Finn's irrational fear of the ocean but also the power that the fear happens to hold over him. It's pretty clear that this episode is all about overcoming fear.
Which is probably why it's such a surprise that Finn doesn't actually overcome it. When Jake is in danger, Finn saves his life by knocking himself unconscious rather than actually beating his fear. The series then has some other manifestations come out and beat Finn's fear. While Finn might still be afraid of the water, it doesn't stop him from being a hero. As the manifestations point out, it's okay to be afraid of the ocean. It's Finn's flaws and everyone has a flaw. In this way the fear is overcome. It doesn't control Finn and it stops being an insecurity. He might be afraid of the ocean but he's no longer allowing that fear to control him. This isn't exactly being brave, but it is pretty close to being courageous. This segment is more simple than the preceding one but it does manage to accomplish it's goal.