Season 5: A balancing act of episodes types, age-targeting, tone, and content but one that the season pulls off mostly very well
It is interesting to see a show like Adventure Time develop over 5 years. I'm not sure how shows like this target themselves to their audience, because on one hand you want to keep doing what you are doing that got viewers in the first place, but then at the same time if you are essentially making a show for teens and pre-teens, you have a demographic who would have gone from 8 to 13 years old in the span of this show thus far. This change in age brings a lot of change in taste, so a show not moving forward may lose them, which I guess means you can aim for the same age range and just hope the new ones come in the door to an already established show, or you try to age with your audience.
With Adventure Time I do not think they have always been successful with their development and aging, and to be honest nor have I always liked it, but it is a good strategy and probably is making for a much better show; season 5 is an example of how it can work, albeit also an example of the downsides of this. The fifth season opens up where the fourth ended, with Finn now very much a human and in a place where none of Ooo seems to exist. We see the reason for this and it produces a dramatic few episodes which are dark and unsettling in some ways my only complaint would have been that it seemed to resolve everything too quickly. From this point we have a long season ahead of us okay 10 minute long episodes, but there are over 50 of them in this one season double the length of all previous seasons.
It is a big ask but it is one that the show mostly manages to deliver on. It does this by mixing good random character episodes, adventuring episodes, character-developing episodes, and also world- developing episodes. I will not pretend that every single one of the episodes works, but mostly they are very good at whatever they are trying to do. The world of Lemongrab remains a most unsettling one, and this is continued; the world before Ooo and the history of the development of the Kingdoms is interesting and done with actual drama and danger; likewise Kingdom-specific and character-specific threads give quite a lot in particular backstory with Ice King/Simon. While it manages to remain a cartoon aimed at this audience, the stories do move forward and are more tailored to an audience looking for more than something to kill 10 minutes while also wanting it to do that too. The downside of this is that the fifth season does also stand out as the one that would put me off recommending the show for those below 10 years old it is a lot darker as it develops, and in terms of content there is also a lot more imaginative and weird stuff that frankly feels more at home in Adult Swim than the daytime Cartoon Network; Party God and an entire episode about a computer glitch being two examples.
That said, it does work, with good consistent threads, and little things dropped in to be picked up later. The standalone episodes often tend to be the slightly weaker ones, however if they involve BMO in any function then it is hard not to love them. The increase in romantic subplots is not the most popular I imagine, but I though they worked them into the world well and they did not overwhelm too much. More engaging was my view of PB a very simple character originally, this season shows that to rule a kingdom there will be a lot of tough decisions which are not popular, nor fair, but for the greater good. It is a cartoon but there is a lot of complexity to her history and character which the show brings out very well in season 5.
Not all of Season 5 works as well as it could, but the majority of this very long season is very strong. It delivers a good balance of episode types, with a tone and narrative which suits the age of its audience, even if it does rather exclude younger viewers getting on board at this point. Hopefully the 6th season will see fewer episodes, but very much the same approach and quality seen here.
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