Listen, if you want to play devil’s advocate (which is ironically suitable in this instance) and entertain the possibility of PB’s rebirth into benevolence, fine, I’ll go for some practice in empathetic imagination. It’s fair to say that we may have been blinded by our bias toward PB, in that we were primarily looking for ways to confirm our sense of her as a tyrant and discounting any antithetical evidence. We can easily flip the script and do the same in favor of her goodness. Or we can just go Nietzschean on this whole thing and reevaluate all our values!
But I digress.
PB’s pulling an elaborate misdirect. Everything she does is for the sake of her own power, and so anyone in her kingdom that shows signs of power (which would threaten her) must either be destroyed or coerced into partnership (in order to help with the destroying). Finn is a threat to PB, and we’ve explored the idea before that he is yet another hero (Billy before him) being put under a spell by PB to do her evil bidding. Most of Finn and Jake’s adventures are trials intentionally set up by her to see what the two of them can provide her in sustaining her candied hegemony. She’s seeing just how strong they are, and noticing every weakness (the main one being Finn’s budding sexual desire). Finn is convinced that he’s doing good because he’s internalized PB’s belief system, which implicitly includes his subordination to her; he interprets this “less than” status as magnanimous, righteous service. It makes him heroic. (If we wanted to bring Nietzsche in here, it actually makes him have slave morality, in that he’s subject to his master’s rule, all the while thinking that things are as they are for a reason; the world as it’s presented to him must be the natural order, right? Not a construct that privileges the powerful and their petty ethics.)
What better way to secure the enduring adoration and service of Finn than to be resurrected, to be the savior in the Candy Kingdom mythology? PB is a divine figure who rules with arbitrary authority, like the Christian God in the John Milton (or Philip Pullman) revision. What if the Lich is a fallen angel figure like Lucifer? His greatest threat is that he wants to destroy the world? But what if it’s the world as we know it? What if he’s like the Joker, invested in destroying the social order? The Joker we can see as an ubermensch figure, except that he stares at the abyss and is defeated by it; the true ubermensch faces the void and creates new order out of it. Would that be the Lich? Might that be Finn? If so, then PB is his ultimate nemesis, the old order standing in the way of necessary evolution.