Author Topic: Adventure Time: The Ice King  (Read 2004 times)

Offline Edymnion

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Adventure Time: The Ice King
« on: October 22, 2012, 10:22:34 AM »
Abbreviations used by this thread:

IRY - I Remember You, episode
HJS - Holly Jolly Secrets, episode (particularly Part II)
MoM - Memory of a Memory, episode

IK - Ice King, character
SP - Simon Petrikov, character (IK's original human self)
PB - Princess Bubblegum, character
Mar - Marceline, character
F&J - Finn and Jake, characters

PMW - Pre-Mushroom War, time period, general
TMW - The Mushroom War, time period, specific
AFW - After War, time period, general

LoO - Land of Ooh, location
IC - Ice Crown, object, the Ice King's crown
Ench - Enchiridion, object, the hero's handbook


After last week's new airing of IRY, we finally have enough pieces to put IK's full history (or at least it's beginnings) into focus, and it really is a tragic story.  I don't mean just sad, but "Holy Hannah, what is this horrible, dark, heart wrenching story doing floating around in the background of a silly kids cartoon?" tragic.  It really is amazing how much depth and character development we see in Adventure Time, once we learn to look beyond the silly antics that are put at the forefront and really start to pay attention to the stuff going on in the background.

Before we can really get into the Ice King's history, we need to stop and look at the Mushroom War.  While it only gets occassional mention in the show directly (I believe the only direct reference to it was Jake saying that the films they watched on movie night dated to before the mushroom war), it quickly becomes apparent what it actually was once we really stop and pay attention to the background details.  For starters, F&J are always adventuring through the remains of civilization.  Old cars, airplanes, bits and pieces of technology and buildings are all over the LoO.  In the opening sequence, an unexploded nuclear bomb is clearly visible.  In the episode where Finn is getting over his fear of the ocean, we briefly see inside an old building where two skeletons sit on a sofa, clearly killed extremely quickly, so fast they didn't even have time to stand up.  And most telling of all, we see repeated views of the world where a large chunk is outright missing.  In one episode we get a holographic projection of the world that not only shows the missing chunk, but seems to clearly show the continents of North America and Africa, with the hole occupying the space where Europe and Asia used to be.  The Mushroom War clearly refers to all out nuclear war, the mushrooms being the infamous mushroom clouds created by atomic weapons.  Why explain that?  Because it is vitally important to understand how utterly the world was devistated in understanding the history of the IK.

The History of the Ice King

In IRY, we briefly see a newspaper clipping that M holds up and she's saying "This was you!".  If you freeze frame on the picture, you can see several things.  One, the man in the picture is the same man we saw in HJS, so we know that it is indeed a picture of SP.  Two, he is holding the Enchiridion.  Three, if we look on the left hand side of the picture, there is a woman driving the car SP is getting out of.  We don't see much of her, but her hair is the same as Betty's from HJS.  We know from HJS that Betty left SP shortly after he acquired the IC, so if we accept the woman driving the car is Betty, then SP found the Ench before becoming the IK.

We know the contents of the Ench are about how to be a hero, and more specifically how to fight mystical monsters (it had an entire chapter on cyclopses, for example).  Advance the timeline a bit and we come to the first of the IK's recordings from HJS, where SP tells the camera that he doesn't believe in magical things, and that he is just facinated with superstition.  It is reasonable then to assume that he gained this facination from reading the Ench, and that lead to him buying the IC.

Advance the timeline a bit further and we see SP telling the camera that he put the IC on his head to try and entertain Betty.  He doesn't remember what happened next, but that Betty feared and hated what he had done so much that she left him over it, permanently.  In the next recording we see where the IC is starting to physically change SP into the IK, and he says the IC is whispering things to him, secrets of ice and snow and how the IC will save him while the town outside his window freezes over.  There are two interpretations here that I see.  One is that the blizzard outside is a manifestation of the IK's power, and the beginnings of the Ice Kingdom.  Another possible interpretation is that it could be a nuclear winter from the war, however with the fact we see a normal plane flying by and no harsh reactions, I'm inclined to believe that it is the IK's powers manifesting.  Also note that in this recording that SP is only beginning to get his patchy beard in.

For what happens next we have to jump to IRY to fill in some details.  We see in the flashbacks in this episode that SP's beard is fully formed but still short, placing it after the scene where he described the crown whispering to him.  It also places it before the next recording from HJS where his beard is longer, but we'll come back to that.  The world is already in ruins in the IRY flashbacks, so we have to assume that TMW occured somewhere between patchy beard and IRY flashback time.  We also see in IRY that SP has a large backpack, indicating that he has been hiking around the desolated landscape for some time.  It must be assumed then that SP first met Marceline either during TMW or shortly into the AFW period.  During IRY, IK's notes indicate that he wants to protect Mar, and that he needs the power of the IC to do that, even though he realizes it is slowly driving him insane.  Since we know he first realized that his mind was slipping away back in the HJS clip prior to this (where he says he knows his mind is going, but is already too far gone to be able to figure out what to do about it), we know that he knows the crown is bad for him.  This is also where we go back to just how horrible TMW must have been to literally and physically blow two continents off the face of the Earth.  The power and immortality granted by the IC must have been the only thing that kept SP alive through TMW when virtually all the rest of humanity was destroyed.

The record now jumps to a scene that we first hear about in the "lyrics" that Mar reads out of IK's notes about where SP saw Mar frown, and begged forgiveness saying whatever he did wasn't him, it was the crown.  At the end of the episode we see what appears to be this moment where Mar is alone and crying and SP finds her and gives her Hambo.  What happened there?  We aren't told, but again we can make some assumptions.  We know that SP had times where he would black out and do things so terrible that his own fiance would up and leave him over them virtually overnight.  We know that little Mar was out alone but did not react negatively when SP showed up, the implication being that she already knew him.  We also have the song pointing out how sorry he was for doing whatever it was he didn't remember to Mar.  The most fitting conclusion therefore is that SP slipped into full blown IK insanity and did something that scared Mar enough for her to run away from him, after which he went looking for her after he came too.

Fast forward to many years later in Mar's memory in MoM and we see young Mar with an old and tattered Hambo saying that he is her only friend.  Rewind a bit to HJS's next recording with the longer beard and we see SP screaming into the camera about being trapped in his own mind.  Clearly at some point SP realized that he could no longer take care of Mar due to his rising insanity and was forced to cut her loose.  I prefer to believe that this happened directly after he gave her Hambo to protect her from now on, which explains why the doll was so very important to her.  Her old friend was having to go away, and this was what he gave her as a sort of replacement.  If we accept that he did this because he was losing control more and more often, then Mar may have understood that he was in one of his increasingly rare lucid moments, and could acknowledge that her friend was slipping away and there was nothing either of them could do to stop it.  By the time we get to the HJS recording, the IK must have been in almost complete control.  The recording may have been one of the last moments where we ever saw SP's true mind raging against what he was becoming before slipping back into the depths of insanity and the end of the recordings.

However, it appears that some seed of SP still existed in the IK.  We see in IRY that IK has been keeping tabs on where Mar lives (as he asks Gunter where she's living now, and seems dissappointed that she's living in a cave).  We also know from Mar's first episode that she moved around a lot, could it be because the IK kept finding her and showing back up?  That some part of SP survived inside the IK that remembered that he had to watch over her, to protect her?  We also saw how the IK instantly apologized for pushing Mar, and did so repeatedly when it would have been out of character for him to do so with anyone else.  Something in there must still remember.

Further evidence that SP may still be in there can also be found in IRY, namely in the The Past Room.  IK goes down trying to remember something about his tortured past and finds his scrap book, "wet with tears".  The IK's castle is frozen solid, for those pages to be wet with tears, somebody must have been crying over them *VERY* recently.  What was IK doing when we first saw him this episode?  Wearing a Mar wig and singing her "Do you even love me?" song to Gunter.  What would have brought that on?  Well, if he had just had a moment of lucidity and was down there crying over what he had lost, and what he had become before losing his mind again, that would give a pretty good reason why Mar was on his mind.  The general question of why he would have such a room in the first place aside, if you look at the assorted junk, you just might recognize the diner sign from MoM, the sign from the diner Mar was in when her father ate her fries.  Why would the IK have that particular piece of ruin in his memory room, unless he had been there, watching over Mar when it happened and realized that was a crucial point in her life?

Perhaps most telling of all is the overall physical plot of IRY.  On the surface its just the IK coming to Mar to help him write a song to pick up princesses with, where he just has the old scrap book pages for inspiration, but watch it again.  In his own way, the IK repeatedly forces Mar to look at the pages.  He literally throws them at her even.  Why?  When he only wanted her to make the music (which he could have done himself, we know he plays the drums and the keyboard from earlier episodes), and he was the one doing all the singing, why would he insist that she look at the pages?

Because those were the pages he had written his confession and apology to her on.  That even when the insanity of the IK was in full control, when he couldn't remember anything that had happened, there was still some small part of SP in there pushing him into finding a reason to get that apology letter into Mar's hands.

Here is a man that found the Hero's Handbook, and was inspired by it to greatness.  Only to have that greatness explode in his face and destroy his life.  He lived through what amounted to the extinction of humanity, only to find a scared little girl that needed him, just to have the power that let him survive strip him of the power to be the protector he so desperately wanted to be.  And then to spend a thousand years (Mar is repeatedly said to be around a thousand years old, which means TMW and the start of all this must be roughly the same age) alone and being driven increasingly insane by a force outside of his own control, while still desperately struggling to watch over someone from the shadows because part of him knew it would only cause her more pain if he came out of them.

Thats some pretty deep, dark, tragic stuff for a show about the adventures of a boy and his magic dog and the bubblegum princess of the candy kingdom.