When my wife and I got married, we decided that we were not going to own a television. Yes, we were one of those couples. Early twenties and ready to make the kinds of lifestyle choices that went against the norms of society. We weren’t obnoxious about the fact, but we did take a measure of pride in the fact that we weren’t wasting our time in front of a screen like so many of our friends. However, after three years of watching movies huddled around our tiny laptop and trying to find that impossible position where we were both comfortable and could still see the screen―we gave in.
So on Halloween night (believe me, I know how cheesy that sounds at the beginning of a creepy story, but that was actually the night) we went to the store and bought a flat screen like all of our other married friends. Then we picked up a PS3 because we still hadn’t given in to watching television, we just wanted to be able to comfortably watch movies and play a few games. I had instant “buyer’s remorse” as I watched our bank account shrink, but my wife was happy and so I loaded the boxes into the car and we headed home.
We set the screen at the foot of our bed and for the next month we rented movies and I beat my first video game since middle school. My remorse slowly lessened and I began to feel that we had made a worthwhile addition to our home. Sometime in early December, my wife’s brother asked us if we had ever watched “Adventure Time.” I said no and asked what it was. He told that the most amazing cartoon series ever and that he had seen every episode. He offered to torrent the entire series for us and I said sure. The next day he brought over a flash drive and transferred the show to our PS3’s hard drive. Then we did what everyone does when they get a complete TV series―we watched the whole thing in just a few days.
It was seductively easy to watch an entire season in a single day, especially since each episode is only about eleven minutes long. Although the first episode seemed strange and a bit pointless, but by the fourth episode we were addicted. By the time we got to the fourth season, the randomness of the earlier episodes had transformed into coherent narrative arcs that could span multiple episodes and the continuity meant that certain plot elements could often reappear a dozen episodes later. Cryptic hints of an elaborately tragic history within the show (a “Great Mushroom War” is frequently mentioned) made us begin paying attention to even the slightest references and passing remarks made by the characters. The schizophrenic nature of the show’s characters in the early episodes gradually disappeared and the greater character development allowed us to connect with, at times even sympathize with, each figure. Some episodes were even able to strike genuinely emotional notes, though they always quickly retreated back to the lighthearted and brightly animated essence of the show.
For those of you who have not watched the show, I feel that I should give a brief explanation. “Adventure Time” is a cartoon that follows the adventures of Finn the human and Jake the dog in the colorful Land of Ooo. Finn is the last remaining human on earth and is determined to be a great hero. Jake has magical powers and is there to protect Finn on his adventures. Their adventures usually center around rescuing one of the many princesses in Ooo. Dozens of races inhabit Ooo (the candy people in the Candy Kingdom would be one example) and each has their own princess (Princess Bubblegum in the case of the candy people). The primary cause of trouble in the Land of Ooo is the kidnapping of princesses by the lonely Ice King. More misunderstood than actually evil, the Ice King desperately wants to marry a princess and Finn and Jake regularly have to invade his Ice Fortress on rescue missions. However, there are rarely any hard feelings between them and in several episodes the Ice King even begs the heroes to be friends and hang out. When not battling the Ice King, Finn and Jake play video games, fight monsters, and travel Ooo looking for anyone who needs help. In many ways the show is a cross between Calvin and Hobbes and Where The Wild Things Are.
Needless to say, my wife and I loved the show and soon we arrived at the final episode on our hard drive―the Season Four finale. I had talked to my brother-in-law earlier that day and told him we were almost at the end of our last season. He got really excited and told me that the last episode was titled “The Lich” and that it was a cliffhanger that carried over to the first episode of Season Five. I was pretty excited myself when I got off the phone and we hurried home that night to watch our final few episodes. It was after midnight by the time we reached the last remaining file on our PS3 hard drive, but there was no way we were going to sleep. I quickly selected the file.
However, when I highlighted the final episode the title read “It’s Not My Fault.” That’s strange, I thought. Every other episode had been properly titled and played perfectly. It seemed odd that the very last one would be the only one mislabeled. I scrolled back through the previous episodes now afraid that somehow an episode had gotten out of order and that we didn’t actually have the season finale. I even did a quick internet search to see if perhaps it was an alternate title for the finale. “It’s Not My Fault” did not appear in any of the episode lists I could find and we were left with no other option but to watch the anomalous episode and try to find the finale later.
As I clicked on the file, I noticed that instead of being a usual eleven-minute episode, the menu showed it as being a full thirty minutes long. I assumed that this was either wasted space or perhaps whoever had created the torrent had included whatever cartoon came on after Adventure Time. I don’t think my wife noticed the time difference and I didn’t feel any need to point it out. The familiar opening sequence and catchy theme song played just like every other episode and I shrugged my shoulders. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
The show opened with Finn chasing Jake around their treehouse. Jake had found Finn’s diary and was threatening to read it out loud. Finn screams that he had better give it back. After destroying several rooms, Jake suddenly stops and calmly hands the book over to Finn. Finn is surprised and asked why he gave it up so easily. Jake says that he was never really going to read the diary because he respects Finn’s “p-biz” too much and that everyone, especially heroes, deserve some privacy. “Besides,” said Jake, “I already know what’s in there. A bunch of mushy stuff about Princess Bubblegum.” Jake then transforms himself into the shape of Princess Bubblegum and begins making kissing noises. Several penguins were walking by the window at that moment and spot Princess Bubblegum/Jake. They break through the wall and excitedly begin to carry Jake away. Finn chases them with his sword drawn. Jake escapes by transforming himself into a giant dog and barking ferociously at them. All of the penguins scatter in terror except one, who Jake is able to catch with his lasso-hand. Finn points his sword at the penguin and demands to know why they were trying to kidnap his best friend. The penguin refuses to answer. Jake realizes that they only wanted him because they thought he was a princess and Finn asks if the Ice King is kidnapping princesses again. The penguin glances around nervously before nodding his head. Finn tells Jake that they have to rescue the princesses and asks what it is. “Adventure Time!” says Jake.
The next scene showed Finn and Jake leaping through the window of the Ice King’s fortress. The Ice King, surrounded by his army of penguins, is facing a giant cage and laughing. The cage holds every princess in the Land of Ooo with the exception of Princess Bubblegum. Finn demands that the Ice King surrender and release the princesses. The Ice King continues laughing and tells Finn and Jake that they can’t stop him this time. Five giant penguins suddenly appear and grab Finn and Jake. As the heroes struggle against the penguins, the Ice King begins to explain his plan. “You know I’ve always wanted to marry a princess,” he begins. “Well, tonight I shall have my wish. As you can see, I have captured every princess in the land except one. We all know that Princess Bubblegum is a lady of her word and that is why she is not here. Even I speak, one of my penguins is delivering her a message: Either she agrees to marry me or I will kill the other princesses. You and I both know which choice she’ll make. She’s just too noble.” The Ice King laughs again and flips a switch on the wall. The room begins to shake. The floor of the cage slowly begins to retract, revealing a deep pit full of ice spikes. Jake begins to panic and tells Finn that the Ice King might be right and that Princess Bubblegum might actually marry him. Now empowered by the fury of a jealous lover, Finn explodes in a rage of violence. Unleashing a mighty, cracking scream, he punches free from the giant penguin guards and launches himself at the Ice King as Jake flips the switch, stopping the floor. With a flying kick to the face, Finn knocks the Ice King to the ground and draws his sword. The princesses cheer and the defeated Ice King begins whining in disappointment.
At this point we were about eleven minutes into the episode and I assumed that Finn would give the Ice King his usual speech about how it is wrong to kidnap people and the episode would end. I was wrong. Instead of calming down now that the vanquished Ice King lay at his feet, Finn continues to shake in anger. He began to scream and raises his sword above his head. The Ice King is surprised and asks Finn what’s going on. “You’ve won,” admits the Ice King, “You can take the princesses and go.” “NO!” screams Finn. Everyone in the room goes silent and stares at the lifted blade. “As a hero, it is my duty to fight evil and this is the last time you will ever kidnap someone!” shrieks Finn. In one disturbingly quick motion, Finn brings his sword upon the Ice King’s neck―severing his head completely.
I glanced at my wife. Her eyes were wide with disbelief. On the screen I could see the blood gushing from the body and the head. It had a surreal quality, almost as if the animators had used a mixed media technique. The blood did not appear to be drawn, but rather it was as if someone was pouring actual liquid onto the image. A hint of steam even rose from the ice floor as the hot blood pooled upon it. The caged princesses were now screaming uncontrollably. Jake had wrapped his arms around himself, his face frozen in a silent scream. Finn, slowly coming to his senses, stares at the Ice King’s decapitated corpse with vacant eyes and begins to mutter apologies. “I-I-I didn’t mean to actually…I mean, it-it was an a-accident…It’s not my fault,” says Finn, his eyes filling with tears.
“This is your fault.” Doctor Princess had moved to the front of the cage and was now looking directly at Finn. “You had already defeated him. You didn’t have to do this.”
“B-b-but I’m a h-hero,” cries Finn. “It was an accident.”
“No Finn,” says Doctor Princess. “You have done something very, very serious. The Ice King is dead and it’s all your fault.”
“It’s not my fault!” screams Finn. He jumps out the window and runs off into the snow.
Princess Bubblegum and Lady Rainicorn arrive and Jake tells them what has happened. They free the rest of the princess and leave to search for Finn. The princesses return to their kingdoms.
But they have seen too much.
The next scene showed Finn hiding inside a snow fort. He is trying to process what he has done. He reminds himself that is a true hero and that everything he has done was only for the good of others. He says that he might not have meant to kill the Ice King, but it only happened because he was trying to do the right thing, trying to protect the princesses. His thoughts are interrupted when one of the penguins discovers him. It’s Gunther, the Ice Kings favorite penguin. Gunther begins honking loudly to alert the others. Finn grabs the penguin and puts his hand over its mouth, but Gunther bites him. Finn draws his sword and points it menacingly at Gunther, telling him to be quiet. Gunther stops honking and begins to accuse Finn with gestures and squeaks. Finn screams that he is not a murderer. Gunther continues to blame Finn, slowly moving towards him and pointing his flipper until he has backed Finn into the corner. Then he jumps on Finn’s chest and slaps him across the face. Something inside of Finn snaps. With a sense of righteous anger, he trows Gunther off and screams at the top of his lungs, “It’s not my fault!” In another sickeningly fluid motion, Finn arcs his sword and slices Gunther completely in half. Again, the vivid blood begins to pour from the body. I could now see for certain that the animators had somehow incorporated an actual blood-like substance into their animation. Not only did the blood form a puddle around the body, but it actually begin to run down the sides of the frame, down to the bottom of the screen where it began to pool―almost as if the screen itself was bleeding. Even when the angle changed, the blood running down the screen remained. Now, through a slight, reddish tint, I could see Finn. With Gunther’s accusing cries now silenced, Finn realizes the solution to his dilemma. He must kill everyone who witnessed his crime.
For the next several minutes, a gruesome montage played out across the screen. Beginning with Doctor Princess, Finn proceeds to brutally murder every princess in an attempt to erase his crime. In every kingdom across the Land of Oo, the same scene plays out. Without a word, Finn approaches a princess, swings his sword, and spills more hyper-realistic blood across the screen. By the end of the montage, I could hardly see the characters through the red streaks.
After murdering the princesses, Finn realizes that there is only one witness left: Jake. He travels to the Candy Kingdom and confronts Jake in front of Princess Bubblegum. Jake transforms into a giant dog with a sword hand and fights with Finn. Finn demands to know whether Jake thinks it was all just an accident or if he too considers Finn a murderer. Jake says that he knows Finn. He knows that he would do anything to help anyone―that he true spirit of a hero―but that this time he went to far and that even a hero should be willing to face up to their crimes. Finn drops his sword and bows his head He begins to cry. Jake shrinks down and begins to hug him. Suddenly Jake screams. Finn’s sword is buried deep within his stomach. “I’m so sorry” says Finn. “I’m so so sorry. This is all my fault.” As Jake lays dying, Finn looks up and sees Princess Bubblegum staring at the scene in horror. The pink has drained from her face. Finn, still holding his bloodied sword, begins to walk towards her. Only one witness remains. Princess Bubblegum falls back and raises her arms to defend herself as Finn continues forward. She begins to sob. Finn pauses above her. “I’m sorry,” he says. He raises his sword. “This is all my fault.” Then the screen went black.
I looked around. I was now standing across the room from our TV. I looked behind me. The image on the screen showed the main menu as the first 5 seconds of the episode continuously looped. Yet the sobs continued. I looked down at my feet and saw my wife crumpled on the floor. In my hand was a knife from the kitchen. “Please don’t kill me,” begged my wife. Coming fully to my senses, I dropped the blade and sat on the floor next to her. She screamed. I tried to hold her, but she desperately pushed away and began to cry harder. Realizing that I had almost done something horrible, I begged her to come back to me. “It’s not my fault,” I said.
My wife erased the files from the hard drive in morning. She said she never wanted to watch that show again. When I asked her what she had seen, she said that the episode had ended after eleven minutes like all the others and that as soon as it had ended, I had slipped into some kind of trance. She said she had no idea what I was talking about when I tried to describe the rest of the episode to her and discussing it only made her cry. I begged my brother-in-law to show me where he had downloaded the files from, but he couldn’t remember.
Now you may wonder why I am choosing to share this story. It’s quite simple. No one believes me when I tell them what I saw. They all believe that it was my fault, that I had really tried to kill my wife. So now I’m sharing this in hopes that one of you, through morbid curiosity perhaps, will look for that same torrent that I was given. Maybe you will find it and you will be tempted to watch the last file. Maybe you will see the same thing I did. And as I wait for that fatal curiosity to overtake someone, I will keep my eye on the news. Just hoping that some day there will be a story about someone who killed their family and blamed it on a cartoon they watched. Then I’ll know. Then everyone will know. It really wasn’t my fault.
by Ward Hocut