Since posting my review, it’s occurred to me that I could have completely missed the point. This could all be a huge Mind Screw by Pen & Company, deliberately writing the episode as if it were a bad fan-fiction to cover up the implications of Simon’s behavior Out of Character.
Very frequently, OOC Is Serious Business – and the Ice King was acting more than a bit OOC in “A Glitch Is A Glitch.” Specifically, he was acting like an Omnicidal Maniac.
And who do we know in the series who is an Omnicidal Maniac?
What if he’s been possessed, or (more likely, given the power of the Ice Crown) tricked … by the Lich?
The notion of deleting the Universe is very much OOC for Simon Petrikov, who even as the Ice King puts limits on his own actions. Even the Ice Crown wants to freeze – not destroy – the Earth (and given the preservative qualities of the default ice it generates, it might be argued that But destroying all life is the specific goal of the Lich King – as it is not of any other villain in the series (for instance, Hunson Abadeer wants to harvest souls, the Fire King wants to burn up the world and colonize it with his own fire elementals). Thinking about it, I find it more than a little bit suspicious that the Ice King attempted a plan which would have achieved the Lich King’s goals.
Furthermore, the Ice King has never shown any capability to alter the fundamentals of space and time. At most, he’s aware of and able to peer into other dimensions with his “wizard eyes,” but not to change them. (We know this because he couldn’t even force the spirits haunting his castle back into the Spirit World on his own – he had to recruit Finn to help him).
The Lich, on the other hand, knew how the Crowns and the Enchiridion might be used to reach Prismo and edit the Universe by wishing. When we last saw him, he was outside of our spacetime, in the middle of the multiverse, a place from which he might have reached anywhere.
And he just might understand the dimensional connections well enough to move to a position dimensionally-adjacent to the Ice King’s castle. From there, he might have whispered his lies into Simon’s confused mind, moving him to do something profoundly OOC by using Simon’s known weaknesses (loneliness, and attraction to Princess Bubblegum).
If the Ice King’s plan had worked, the ones to suffer the most would have been the Ice King and Princess Bubblegum, who would have been trapped, alone with each other, in an eternal Void. As the Lich would surely have known, Bubblegum would have hated the Ice King for destroying everything (including her friends and her people). Given their respective natures (empowered by the Ice Crown and a sapient biomass of bubblegum) they could have fought for a very long time without conclusion, and then the victor would have died alone in the Void – a truly terrible fate, far worse than mere deletion.
Would the Lich have had a special reason to wish such a fate upon Bubblegum and the Ice King? Yes – he has a personal score to settle with them. Bubblegum was one of his gaolers after Billy captured him, and the Ice King defeated the Lich when he possessed Bubblegum.
But the Lich King failed completely.
Or did he?
If we take this episode seriously, the Ice King has just shown himself (in the eyes of Bubblegum, Finn, Jake and pretty much anyone who realizes what just almost happened) to be incredibly untrustworthy and dangerous. And this, after several previous episodes in which they were coming to trust and like him more.
The Lich is Genre Savvy. He learns from his defeats. When Billy defeated him with the Gauntlet, the Lich first destroyed the Gauntlet and then destroyed Billy, to ensure that he might never be defeated in this manner again. Recently, he’s been defeated three times: twice by Finn and the Ice King, and once by Finn and Jake.
Between Finn, Jake and the Ice King, who’s the weakest link? Weakest from the viewpoint of being the easiest to detach from the alliance?
Why, the Ice King. Whom Finn and Jake now distrust, and Bubblegum probably hates, at present.
Also notice that this would drive a further wedge between Bubblegum and Marceline.
I’m suggesting that this was a Xanatos Gambit – the Lich set things up so that, no matter who won, the Lich would get something. Either the Universe would be destroyed, or his enemies would be divided – just so long as said enemies never realized who was really behind it all.
And from where I’m sitting, it looks like the Xanatos Gambit worked.
Oh … one last thing.
A glitch is a glitch.
And a Lich is a Lich.