Egress Means Exit, Exit Means Begin Again
- By TearDucks
- On 13/03/2019
- 1 comments
Adventure Time is known for its uniquely strange, inexplicable, symbolism-rich surrealist tendencies, but Hall of Egress is unique in these regards even within this canon. In it, Finn is trapped in his most most daunting dungeon crawl yet as he must escape a maze that doesn't end when he leaves the dungeon. The concept is presented abstractly enough that it has spawned dozens of entirely valid [i][/i]interpretations, so I am merely throwing my beanie into the ring. I believe Hall of Egress preludes Finn's character arc as Adventure Time enters its endgame phase.
Finn gets trapped in a room in a cave despite his careful planning against typical dungeon traps and tricks. He fails to escape through any usual means until he rests his head against the hatch and falls straight through. He realises the path is a treacherous maze that changes whenever he tries to plan his route and his only way out is to blindly rush through it. If he opens his eyes, he starts the maze again, but leaving the dungeon doesn't mean leaving the maze. He tries to live normally but his whole life goes back to the start of the dungeon, erasing any time since he entered if he opens his eyes. He leaves his family, clothes, identity behind to become a desert nomad and eventually finds his way to the cave again and earns his freedom.
My interpretation posits that the dungeon represents Finn as a warrior, a mode of existence that is beginning to lose its lustre after the Catalyst Comet shows him all he could be and has been and then briefly working for a royal conman. Shortly after this episode, preboot/reboot happens, bringing with it Fern, who seems to represent Finn's more destructive side, I mean he's literally the baby of 2 sentient swords (but that's a whole other discussion). If you watch the following seasons, you will notice Finn spends less and less time fighting monsters , and none at all going out specifically to look for them like he used to (until the Three Buckets incident, at least).
The recurring upside down snowman sculpture is often touted as the "obvious solution" to the dungeon, but Finn almost totally ignores it (except when he throws part of it at the hatch in the cave... DAMMIT he was SO close). Just as we often don't know or understand what we truly need even when it's RIGHT THERE and have to go the hard way to achieve results. In short the snowman is chance, and a reminder that sometimes we lose out on it, but that doesn't mean we will never find our egress.
The maze is him allegorically trying to change something that shapes a core part of his identity. Just like Finn can't escape the cave through normal methods, you can't change your core identity looking at yourself and your environment the way you usually do, and finding another way to see it isn't instant. Until you do, you'll be stumbling in the dark. The urge to just go back and see things the old way will build up and burn like lactic acid when you're holding something too heavy for you. You can't use your known methods to reach a new answer either. Strategies will trip you up. And even when you're not acting on your old beliefs, if you cling to that part of your identity, you never really let it go. You need to leave it behind if You'll still find yourself back in the dungeon. Even if you're careful, external forces will sometimes force your hands. You're still in the maze. To find your way out, you need to shed your identity, and become lost, in order to find your answer.
Finn's subsequent character arc in the last 3 seasons of Adventure Time seems to follow this journey. As the crystallisation of his destructive side and angst sprang to life, he became more interested in helping people in less violent ways, but failed frequently (trying to be a doctor, mentoring Fern). He seemed content to not be a warrior anymore, but external forces that take priority kept finding him, like finding the human colony was alive and coming back to Ooo turning into a four seasons pizza of weird wizbiz. Just as Finn is unable to see if he's out of the cave, he is unable to tell if he's shaken off being a warrior and found a new way to be a hero. And just as he thinks he's sure, he'll find himself being in the cave again. This culminates in Three Buckets, where he believes he murdered someone he cared about, and experienced a very literal loss of self.
Shortly after you see very clearly his internal struggle with violence, as he's unable to fight without being reminded of Fern at the start of the final season and tries everything he can to be diplomatic with Gumbaldia even after finding Fern was alive. He even briefly speaks about his newfound preference for nonviolence directly . By the time the finale gets to the ending montage he has completely let go of his identity as a warrior and seems at peace with his lost limb, just as he completely lets go of his old life and wanders nomadically through the desert and finally frees himself from the maze.
Almost every interpretation of Hall of Egress has growth and character development as major themes,and that's probably why it has as many interpretations as it does. Growth, change, surrealism, mystery, complexity and silliness intertwined, in the end, Hall of Egress is a love letter to the show it is part of, and all it represents.