Adventure Time: Distant Lands - Obsidian Review: Not Just Your Problem

Adventure Time: Distant Lands returns this week to HBO Max for its latest special, Obsidian, all about Marceline and Princess Bubblegum. The new special, set after the events of the television series, sees the pair called to action once again to defeat a monster they contained ages and ages ago, but it’s never as simple as all that when the two of them are involved.

While Adventure Time was foremost the story of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog, the secondary characters always dazzled, and it’s wonderful to spend a little extra time with them and their pursuits beyond the limits of a traditional episode. In some ways, the initial BMO special feels like a bit of an amuse-bouche to Obsidian’s entree.

ATDL_Obsidian _PB
(Photo: HBO Max/Cartoon Network)

In addition to catching up with fan-favorite characters, Obsidian also introduces a new land, the Glass Kingdom, and its inhabitants. The whole thing is kicked off by one of the kingdom’s subjects, Glassboy, trying to fix a crack in his head and accidentally releasing the slumbering dragon that had been locked away. In order to resolve his mistake, he sets out to find Marceline, the legendary hero that locked the dragon away in the first place.

In what will surely excite all the Bubbline fans out there, the centerpiece of the whole special is the relationship between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum -- both in the here and now, and in the past. We’ve seen and heard a not-insignificant amount about this before, but Obsidian absolutely takes all of the threads that were present before and runs with them.

There are, of course, several different, beautiful songs in the special. And while plenty of them are delivered by Marceline herself, she’s not the only one that gets to rock a solo. The music of Adventure Time was never limited to Marceline herself, but some of its most deeply emotional, tug-at-your-heartstrings moments are inextricably intertwined with her musical stylings, and it’s a delight to see that once again on display in Obsidian.

ATDL_Obsidian_Young Marceline
(Photo: HBO Max/Cartoon Network)

Adventure Time, at its best, applied a silly, nonsensical veneer to an emotionally resonant core. Obsidian is the same, sometimes quite literally. Sure, yes, it’s got an ancient half-demon, half-vampire bassist, and a sentient candy princess, but it’s also about being true to yourself, and sometimes that “yourself” changes with time. What you might have found to be true in the past isn’t necessarily true now, and it doesn’t have to be true in the future. Only you get to decide that.

I admit to having had some hesitation about the series of HBO Max specials when they were first announced. Adventure Time felt like something special, and making more for the sake of making more, well, that is rarely a good thing. But here we are. If the whole purpose of Adventure Time: Distant Lands’ existence was to deliver just this one special, it will have been worth it.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

Adventure Time: Distant Lands - Obsidian is set to release on HBO Max this Thursday, November 19th. Two further specials, Wizard City and Together Again, are expected to release in 2021. You can check out all of our previous coverage of Adventure Time: Distant Lands right here.