New Blog!

Hey, y’all!

It’s been a while since I’ve been around, but I wanted to share with you all a new project that I’m starting up. Keeping It Short will be tackling animated short films from the beginning of the medium up to the very present. I’ll be covering pretty much anything that I feel is worth talking about; from domestic to foreign, from comedy to drama, from stop-motion to traditionally drawn, or from bad to good. As long as it’s short, it qualifies! Feel free to send in any suggestions you may have. Check it out here.

In the meantime, I’ll still be working on Adventure Time Reviewed in my spare time. I do plan on tackling the Fionna & Cake series whenever it comes out, and I still plan on whipping up a complete review of Distant Lands down the line. I appreciate everyone’s patience, and I’m still open to tackle different AT topics on this blog if there are any suggestions! Until then, thank you for your continued support.

– Eric

“Wizard City” Review

Original Airdate: September 2, 2021

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström, Anna Syvertsson, Maya Petersen, Aleks Sennwald & Haewon Lee

Wizard City was the one special that fans seemed somewhat indifferent to when it was announced. I can see why, as Peppermint Butler is perhaps the most obscure choice for the main focus out of the four. I was, however, cautiously optimistic, firstly because Pepbut is my favorite secondary character in the series and I’m a sucker for anything relating to AT‘s wiz-biz. So I gave it the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately, Wizard City ended up being the weakest of the Distant Lands specials.

A lot of the issues within Wizard City stem from the fact that a good portion of it is just tackling hackneyed tropes and plot points we’ve seen hundreds of times in other media with little to no distinction of that AT goodness. If you’ve seen any magical school or secret society story prior, there’s really nothing here that makes an effort to standout beyond that. Even Adventure Time‘s sister show OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes did this exact story only a few years earlier that played on the exact twists and turns that Wizard City tackles. Part of the fun of Adventure Time is watching it take on relatively common plot devices at times with an added sense of uniqueness. Is That You? is essentially an Adventure Time clip show, but incorporates this element into the actual story of the episode which makes for both a trip and fun endeavor. All the Little People takes the average “king for a day” story and connects it to Finn’s budding sexuality and his hidden desires to manipulate others. And even Fern’s entire arc, which can be boiled down to the traditional evil clone and “there can only be one” story takes a psychological horror turn and showcases Finn if everything went wrong for him. Many of the Distant Lands episodes have featured characters or situations that have had obvious beats from the very beginning: I think we all knew what the purpose of Y-5 and Glassboy’s characters were from the first five seconds they were on-screen. Wizard City is exactly the same with its story and characters, feeling like it’s simply going through the motions of its plot without offering anything remotely challenging.

I don’t mean to act pretentious in this either, though I’m probably coming off that way. Wizard City isn’t devoid of surprises – there is the twist at the end with all of the Wizard School teachers turning out the be evil, but again, in my personal experience absorbing these stories, I feel as if this type of twist could be seen from a mile away. I think especially in the era where twist villains are so commonplace in animation, especially in Disney films, I could see through the Caledonius façade pretty quickly. And even if it was surprising, I think that’s fine, but I really just don’t see how this episode works outside of a surface level beyond that. Aside from the cool allusions to the Second Age of Terror that was first referenced in The Mountain and Coconteppi taking the appearance of one of the ancient monsters from Gold Stars, there’s really nothing compelling or analytical lore-wise.

As for general entertainment, I find the special equally meandering. There are some humorous moments sprinkled throughout, such as the various gags done with Larry’s rock form and a lot of decent visual gags with Cadebra in particular. But I find them to be few and far in between, with many gags lacking the usual Adventure Time spunk that the other Distant Lands specials similarly struggled with. A lot of the special is mainly just focused on Pep navigating through the struggles of Wizard School and regaining his magical prowess, along with dealing with bullies and his frustrations towards Cadebra, which again, feel incredibly formulaic. I’ve been seeing a lot of people obsess over the bully trio from Wizard City, but outside of Blaine’s undying obsession with Spader, I also found them pretty run-of-the-mill. It was also cool to see Blaine being referred to as “they” so casually – probably the first time I’ve seen LGBTQA+ representation in a series where I really didn’t actively think about it on a first watch.

So I’ve dunked on this one a lot, but there are quite a few things I do like about it. Even though Pep’s journey leaves me quite uninterested, I do think there are parts of it that I admire. I think the idea of Peppermint Butler coming back to haunt Pep is certainly an aspect that puts him in a negative light, but I don’t think its main purpose is to demonize Peppermint Butler himself. The curse was merely a representation of everything that Pepbut wanted to accomplish as a dark lord, and operated more as internal pressure rather than an actual venue for Peppermint Butler to act antagonistic. The pressure Pep puts on himself is something that I can personally identify with – I think it’s easy to look at a past version of yourself and resent where you are in the present. Hell, there was a point where I was writing reviews for this blog four days a week, and now I torment myself on why I can’t even churn out a written post once a month. So Pep coming the conclusion that he still wants to succeed, but doesn’t want to let his past dictate his entire journey, is a resolution I find quite satisfying. Even if the story beats that he goes through are quite predictable, as I had mentioned. I don’t really love Pep as a character that much, but I think he has his moments outside of story purposes, mostly in the area of humor. I think his whininess over wanting to be a dark lord can certainly be funny at times, along with his goofy shrug when Cadebra discovers his true nature. Cadebra is another character I enjoy. Again, her journey is mostly uninteresting to me because of how cookie cutter it is, as well as the fact that you know what the special is trying to communicate with her character very, very early on, but she has her share of cute/funny moments, mostly because of the way she is illustrated along with her exaggerated expressions.

Other highlights were seeing some of the classic wizards from the original series (Bill Hader as Bufo was a nice touch), some of the background characters were cool, and the incredibly dark joke that Spader was killed in such a merciless way was kind of wild. I’ve seen a lot of people who were pissed off by this, but I dunno, I actually kind of respect the commitment. Yes, Spader was a character that didn’t really deserve this morbid fate, but in a series where characters so rarely die permanently, it’s kind of hilarious that the writing staff decided to just straight up murder a relatively smug character and not bring him back at the end. Kudos for that.

But still, Wizard City leaves me pretty underwhelmed. This honestly might be one of the AT entries that has the least rewatch value for me personally. Yes, there are far worse Adventure Time episodes out there, but most are only 11 minutes and barely make a dent in my day. Wizard City is a whopping 44 minutes that mostly leaves me just bored – and the humor certainly isn’t strong enough to have me coming back frequently. A lot of people wish that Together Again was the special that concluded Distant Lands, and while I had my own issues with that special, it definitely would’ve ended the series with a bang, whereas Wizard City ends with a whimper. But, as the post credits scene with a dark Choose Goose proves, there’s probably going to be a dozen more AT projects in the next 10 years regardless. For better or for worse.

Favorite Line: “No! Original flavor Spader!”

“Together Again” Review

Original Airdate: May 20, 2021

Written & Storyboard by: Hanna K. Nyström, Anna Syvertsson, Iggy Craig, Maya Petersen & Serena Wu

Together Again was easily the most anticipated Distant Lands special for me personally. Come Alone With Me still stands as a decent cap for the original series, but it left me a bit unsatisfied with how Finn and Jake, the core of Adventure Time, were mainly sidelined for story purposes. That being said, I may have went into this one a little too hyped. The story that I thought I was going to get in Together Again was very different from what actually happened, and I couldn’t help leaving this episode a bit disappointed. I was mainly expecting it to be about Finn’s life during the timeline of Obsidian, his grief over the loss of his brother, and his eventual acceptance of his passing after a shared epiphany. That being said, I’ve watched this special several times since my first viewing with a different perspective – it’s unfair to view it through the eyes of my own personal bias, so I wanted to give myself a chance to appreciate it for what it is. And, lo-and-behold, I got that chance. Together Again really is the solid conclusion to Finn and Jake’s brotherhood that I was still truly craving even after all was said and done. That being said, I think some of the initial criticisms I left with after a first viewing haven’t completely dissipated, but I’m still feeling mostly optimistic.

I know it’s only been like, two years, but seeing that classic Adventure Time opening, along with the traditional title cards, was a bit too nostalgic to resist. I think it’s all the more fitting that the remainder of the opening is set up like a classic Finn and Jake entry. I will say that the entire beginning of the episode is a little underwhelming for me in terms of capturing that classic AT spirit. I know that it’s all just a hallucination, but I felt as if there wasn’t enough dedication to truly making it feel like Season One Adventure Time. It’s a little bit too low energy and the characterization of Finn and Ice King just doesn’t really seem on par with what you would expect from the time period it’s supposed to take place in. Ice King’s a little overly sinister and Finn doesn’t really capture his youthful energy. I feel as though it would’ve been a stronger tribute if some of these beginning elements have been fine-tuned. That being said, it’s a fine opening that makes it pretty clear early on that it isn’t actually from that time period; there are snowmen that look very similar to Gumbald and Peacemaster, and Finn’s voice is very clearly… pubescent. What it boils down to is Finn’s continuous attempts to keep the light adventuring going so that Jake doesn’t have to leave. Probably the biggest emotional takeaway from Together Again comes when Finn has to once again deal with the idea of Jake “dying” in a very disturbing way. The panic that Finn begins to experience is genuinely heartbreaking, and as much as I emphasized that I originally wanted this episode to be about Finn accepting Jake’s passing, the episode makes it very clear early on that Finn really never did. Or if he accepted it, it still tore him up a lot. And honestly, I do feel like that’s much more appropriate than what I wanted. As sad as it is, the idea that Finn was really never the same after Jake passed away just feels… right. It would make me personally more comfortable to see Finn acknowledge and accept his brother’s passing because I want to believe the lil guy would be okay even after such a tragic event. But this special emphasizes again and again and again – it fucking hurts, and even if he lived a life where he had things that brought him fulfillment, he still never was able to feel full after Jake passed. Damn, man.

The longer I think about it, the sadder I get, so let’s keep this sucker goin’. Seeing Finn as a withered old man is a decision that I really didn’t expect the team to take, but because his scenes are left so vague, it really doesn’t give much info into Finn’s life. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because while this episode continues AT‘s trend of keeping things mysterious, it also slightly hurts the realism of the episode in the process. Or confuses it, at the very least. For the entirety of the episode, Finn is actually an elderly man, but takes the appearance of his 17-year-old self. It’s weird in that sense because, in his 70+ years of living, we don’t really see anything indicative of major changes in Finn’s behavior or what he’s been up to, so his developmental state comfortably sticks with what is recognizable for viewers. Finn even alludes to this when choosing his appearance. You could argue that Finn being reconnected to Jake brought back his youthful sense of self, but I dunno, it’s super difficult to keep this mystery up when literal decades have passed by and outside of a few throwaway lines, Finn doesn’t exhibit any signs of growth outside of what we are already familiar with. I don’t necessarily see this as a major flaw – I don’t really think it would be particularly fun to see Finn acting like an old, whimsical coot for the entirety of the episode. I still can’t help but feel like it’s slightly gimmicky in its presentation regardless.

As much as Together Again presents itself as a climax of Finn and Jake’s journeys together, it also weirdly offers closure for some very random Ooo inhabitants. Mr. Fox and Tiffany are both given conclusions to their individual “arcs,” per se, and it’s kind of awesome, actually. I peruse through old reviews sometimes to see how my perception has changed overtime, and I kind of have no idea why I was so passive to Tiffany in the past. At this point, I think it’s hilarious that this intended one-off character became a fully realized, Shakespearean anti-hero who only ever wanted the love of a momma and poppa. I was a bit miffed that all of these other characters were coming in to mooch off of Finn and Jake’s time, but I really think these additions, such as Tiffany’s arc as mentioned above, help add a layer of fun to the special in general. He’s finally gets to be blood-brothers with Finn and Jake! As I also mentioned, Mr. Fox gets his big day in the limelight. I especially like how far Mr. Fox has come, because he’s pretty much the least notable side character in the series for any casual viewer. But here he is in Together Again, in all his glory, as he’s now the official ruler of the Land of the Dead, even after all he wanted was a cushion-y pillow. As always, M.F. would be nothing without Tom Herpich’s terrific performance. Something that never quite gets old to me is how it feels like Herpich isn’t really even voice acting, but just stumbled into the booth and started reading a script. That sounds incredibly harsh, but I promise you all that I mean it in the most flattering way necessary. Because there are too many to mention in their entirety, here’s my personal favorite callbacks and cameos throughout the special:

  • Jake’s clap from James Baxter the Horse! Kinda wish they didn’t call extra attention to it, because I feel like it was instantly recognizable otherwise.
  • I like that Mr. Fox, after all these years, is seemingly still carrying a torch for Boobafina. It’s time to move on, man.
  • I believe this is the first time in the series/any form of AT media where Jake is confirmed to be a reincarnation of Shoko’s tiger. Always was assumed, but cool to have that additional confirmation.
  • It was super sweet to see Finn interact with Joshua and Margaret as his adult self, but I think the icing on the cake is that he could care less about seeing Jermaine. Nobody cares about poor Jerm.
  • Peppermint Butler being the new princess is both very interesting and cryptic. I doubt this implies Princess Bubblegum’s death, assuming that the disguised figure in Come Along With Me‘s opening was her. It is interesting to see all of the additions to the castle in general, adopting many elements of wizardry and dark magic. Wondering if this will be touched on at all in Wizard City, though I’d think likely not.
  • Choose Goose appearing AGAIN! Considering that the trailer for the next special also includes his voice, it’s amazing to me that nearly half his appearances in the entire series will derive from Distant Lands. Is this spin-off bait just waiting to happen?
  • Clarence and Ghost Princess living it up big time in 50th Dead World.
  • Tree Trunks living it up big time with all of her man slaves in 30th Dead World. Also featuring Polly Lou Livingston’s last performance before her death. Rest in peace, you lovely gem.
  • Wyatt NOT living it up in 1st Dead World. He really is the worst.

In general, the exploration of the Dead Worlds is super gnarly to me. This worldbuilding in general feels like something that Adventure Time has wanted to do for years but for whatever reason it never got past the conceptual stage. A portion of this story was actually adapted from an outline Jesse Moynihan worked on back in season three that was initially going to be Ghost Princess, but it was revised to have a smaller story. I really thought the gorgeous backgrounds in Together Again were works of ghostshrimp, but it was actually two other designers that did a fantastic job: Udo Jung and Julian De Perio, who both worked on BMO. I really love how each Dead World, even the unnamed realms, have a unique and abstract feel to them that you really can’t decipher if it’s peaceful or threatening. It also kind of makes you wonder how each works on an ethical standpoint – clearly the 1st Dead World is equivalent to Hell and the 50th is comparative to Heaven, but is there any true “ranking” that goes into the other Dead Worlds? If I had to guess, I’d say placement in a prospective Dead World connects to the values of the deceased. 37th Dead World feels like Tree Trunks’ meadow residence with added luxuries, while 45th Dead World appears to just be a very Homeworld-esque suburbia for loving families. Or, at least in this case, the Dog family. That being said, it kind of makes you wonder how some folks ended up where they did. You can’t tell me that my boy Choose Goose deserves to be rotting with Maja.

We’re introduced to the offspring of Life and Death in this episode, simply named New Death. New Death is a bit of a pain in the ass throughout the run of this one. His rebellious teenager personality is amusing at first, but quickly tires out after a period of time. He really doesn’t take up a ton of time in the special itself, but any time he shows up, his presence really doesn’t add much, outside of a killer design by Iggy Craig. The one bit I did find genuinely intriguing from him was the moment at his demise when he solemnly mentions his mother’s name. Feel like it was surprisingly a bit ballsy to give him one moment of humanity before he is legitimately destroyed. Of course, the late Miguel Ferrer sadly could not reprise his role as Death, but it is cool seeing more into Life’s perspective. Life is another aspect of the special that feels like she was always meant to have a larger role in the series, but it just never was able to come into fruition. Her realm is similarly gorgeous, with lush ocean colors permeating throughout. I find Life’s personality as a sweet but relentless ruler that you do not want to mess with a lot of fun – it gives you a pretty good idea of why she had married Death in the first place.

I’ve been batting around with a lot of the less major stuff up to this point, so let’s get into the meat of this episode: Finn and Jake’s connection. I do feel like everything that is portrayed with Finn and Jake’s relationship in this episode gets the emotions right, but not always the characterization. Let me elaborate: nothing in this episode feels out of character or unlikable for the boys, but it also feels like there’s something slightly off or different about their individual roles. I think I could honestly just say this about Distant Lands in general, however. Considering that the writing staff is completely different, with the exception of Hanna K. Nyström, it’s really no wonder that this feeling arises, though I can’t entirely put my finger on it. There’s something a bit less goofy about it and slightly more straightforward when it comes to the humor and dialogue of Distant Lands that just feels lacking of a certain spunk and identity the original series had. Even certain lines, such as Finn’s “because it’s no jerks allowed!” felt especially corny for him to exclaim. It still captures the heart of Adventure Time, but I think any media franchise that runs for a period of time and changes teams majorly is going to run into this problem. Hell, comparing season 8 of Adventure Time with season 1 is literally comparing two radically different shows with radically different teams. Even the lack of Tim Kiefer is very apparent. Amanda Jones does an okay job at composing the score for the special, but there’s really nothing about it that connects to the essence of what Kiefer was doing. I really hate to complain, because nothing Distant Lands has done so far has been anywhere close to bad or disrespectful to the original series, but I think it’s one step at showing how much one team over the course of a few years really defined the series (Jesse, Tom, Pen, Steve, Ako, Rebecca, Somvilay, Seo, Adam, Graham, etc.) and how, as more spin-offs and reboots come into fruition down the line, it’s likely that the magic of the original will never truly be replicated.

But my bullshitting aside, I do think that the team behind Together Again did their damnedest to really paint a beautiful story among AT‘s baby boys. This is probably the most emotional we ever see Finn in the series, and I think it pays off super well. Finn and Jake’s brotherhood has always been the heart of the show, but Together Again really stresses how much Finn was never able to fully live the same again after Jake’s passing, and I think it makes total sense. Finn probably wasn’t that old when Joshua and Margaret passed, so Jake essentially doubled as both a brother and parent to Finn for so many years. That grief of losing someone is something that really never fades, and Together Again is genuinely relentless in showing that. It was especially devastating to see that Jake doesn’t initially recognize Finn, as he continues to fall into breakdown category. That poor boy just needs a squoze from his brother. Despite it being quite difficult to stomach, I do think that it ultimately makes sense that Jake would let go of all earthly possessions, as alluded to throughout the years in his desires to fulfill his croak dream. I’m sure it wasn’t something that he was consciously okay with from the start, but he let go as a means to find his inner peace and allow for his destiny to truly unfold. Finn, however, has never really been the destiny or holistic type; his true meaning in life comes from his dedication to others. It does make me wonder what Finn’s connection to the 37th Dead World is, considering that it was left mainly ambiguous in Sons of Mars. Since Jake initially ended up there, I wonder if it has something to do with selflessness. Jake chose to stay alive rather than fulfill his destiny on Mars because Finn needed him, and Finn likewise died on some sort of rescue mission it seems. That, or it’s where original Death would send people that he was tight with.

Although only about half the special focuses on their brotherly bond, there are tons of highlights throughout: Jake letting loose a toot while they try to be incognito, Jake offering caring advice when Finn feels at fault for New Death’s scheming, Finn’s admiration for Jake’s mermaid bod, the reunion of the Jakesuit, and many more. Even their overly aggressive fight is super endearing in their continued desire to protect and aide each other. And of course, one of their most cherished, shared activities is a good old-fashioned Lich fight! I gotta be honest y’all, I went from really not liking this shoe-horned inclusion to kind of digging it. I was pretty done with the Lich after his appearance in Whispers, where he was no longer intimidating and felt like he was about effective as any other villain in the series. Here… he’s still not very intimidating, but Ron Perlman’s voice acting is almost impossible to not be impressed by at all times. The Lich gets a few solid lines, namely “the spawn of life and death is a creature without purpose, fit only to be a pawn in my eternal quest to end all life.” Even though he is quickly disposed of, it seems apparent at this point that, like Life and Death, the Lich will always be around as an entity of destruction and death. And truthfully, I feel like the only appropriate way to cap off Finn and Jake’s role in the series is to have the Lich as the final big bad. The Lich was the first true trial in their journey as adventurers, and it feels appropriate that he would be their last as well. The ending is probably the highlight of the entire special. Once again emphasizing Finn’s need for Jake in his life, it’s super touching that Jake would give up a lifetime of enlightenment just to live with his bro again. Even before he joins, the tight hug Finn gives Jake shows that he’s probably not fully committed to letting go of his reincarnation dreams with Jake, and Jake has his own epiphany that the strength of his brotherhood outranks any type of Glob destiny that awaited him.

Together Again isn’t a perfect AT episode for me personally. Some of the character dialogue feels a little clunky, there’s maybe a bit too much fanservice, and it lacks that certain spunk of the original series that I had mentioned. But it’s so committed to being a love letter to everyone that cared so dearly about Finn and Jake that I really can’t have too much of an issue with it. Come Along With Me felt like a big jumbled mess that wanted to tie up any loose ends that it could in the span of an hour, while Together Again is very much committed to the heart of AT itself that it feels much more akin to a finale than the prior entry. So far, I think it’s probably the strongest of the DL specials, and a wonderful way to cap off the spin-off series as a whole.

… Oh yeah, we still have Wizard City. Huh.

Favorite line:All I ask is for permission to use your bones…for a spell.

“Obsidian” Review

Original Airdate: November 19, 2020

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström, Anna Syvertsson, Iggy Craig, Mickey Quinn, Maya Petersen, James Cambell & Ashlyn Anstee

Well, this was a long time coming, huh? It’s Bubbline time, babies!!

When the Distant Lands episodes were first announced, Obsidian was the one that I was looking forward to the least. I’ve stated how I feel about Bubbline at least 30 times on this blog prior, but for the sake of sounding redundant, here we go once more: I don’t actively dislike their relationship, but was kind of bummed by how oversaturated it was in the show to the point of it being the driving force of including Marceline in stories. I had been pretty burnt out with their ship by the end of the series, and I wasn’t really craving much more between these two as a package deal. Obsidian ends up presenting their relationship in the same way that previous incarnations have – by giving the fans what they want. However, it actually feels somewhat warranted for a couple whose entire romantic history was left to implications and Easter eggs for so many years. It’s fanservice alright, but GOOD fanservice at that. It’s jam packed with all kinds of moments that AT fans can revel in… in fact, it’s jam packed in general. For better or for worse.

Obsidian brings a lot to the table: an entirely new kingdom with new characters, a conflict in said kingdom, struggles within Marceline and Bubblegum’s relationship, Marcy’s relationship with her mother, a self-esteem allegory that spans across three separate characters, Bubblegum’s inferiority complex that mirrors See-Through Princess’s… etc. It’s a lot to take in, but most of it is tied together in a relatively satisfying way. I’d say it does its job at connecting everything on a decent level, but there are definitely some bits that work better than others.

Let’s get into the good stuff first: like BMO, the best aspect of this special is our returning players. Marceline and Bubblegum’s relationship is at their most romantic, because for once, they don’t have to put up with network demands. We see them kiss, sleep in bed together, and even explore their long-alluded to break-up. What I really like watching from these two, however, aside from the schmaltz, is that it’s really clear WHY they’re together as of Obsidian. They’ve had clear chemistry before, but their dynamic was always kind of held together by their contrasting “nice girl/bad girl” dynamic. In bringing out their insecurities, it’s clear to see what they cherish about their connection – Marceline feels less “damaged” and Bubblegum doesn’t feel like she needs constant approval from third party sources.

I’ve been particularly critical about Marceline’s role in the series post Season Four, but this certainly is one of her better appearances to date. Funny enough, with that being said, it doesn’t really attempt to resolve any of the issues I’ve had with her character up to this point. My main issue with Marcy is that she started out as this super fun, energetic character and then sort of fizzled out into a story prop whenever they needed to tell an early post-Mushroom War story or appeal to the Bubbline fanatics. Here, it isn’t really a return to how her character used to be, but that’s sort of the point. She ISN’T the same person she was at the beginning of the series, and this episode deals with it by exploring her insecurities about becoming “soft.” Reminds me a lot of Bojack Horseman‘s season six episode Good Damage, where one of the main characters experiences writer’s block after beginning anti-depressants. Marceline similarly needs to be brooding and edgy for the sake of her identity, in an attempt to romanticize all of the shitty things that happened to her.

Because we’ve already seen enough of it over the years, the special wisely decides to not use Marceline’s relationship with Simon as a main vocal point of her past pain. Instead, we get a long desired story about her mother (formally named Elise!) as the two fight for survival in the post-war days. Elise is NOT voiced by Rebecca Sugar this time around, which I can only assume was probably due to scheduling conflicts or an active choice by Rebecca to not redeem the part. The latter is more likely for me. I’m sure it wasn’t anything personal; voice acting isn’t really Rebecca’s strong suit, and her role in Stakes worked mostly because it was short and sweet. I really couldn’t see Sugar delivering some of Elise’s more raw moments, such as screaming out in fear and lashing out at Marcy. Since Rebecca doesn’t reprise her role, she decided to send her Sapphire as a consolation prize. Erica Luttrell does a solid job at establishing the clear pain and fear that Marcy’s mother is experiencing. Ava Acres does not reprise her role as young Marcy either – understandably so as she’s now 15 years old. She’s instead voiced by Audrey Bennett, who’s been in a decent amount of TV shows that I’ve never seen, but she does such a good job that I honestly thought it might be Acres at first! Kudos.

The post-war scenes, per usual, are great. I really love the fact that the simple moments between Marceline and her mother are underscored with a feeling of dread. Even when she’s just watching her color, Marceline’s mom is preparing her daughter for the absolute worst of what’s to come, having her create a map to their safe haven in case she gets lost. It’s also super interesting to see Marceline’s struggle as a demon and not a vampire – both of which reinforce the negative implications of her song, “Everything Stays.” Even through overcoming the negative stigmas of being a demon, she was still left being reviled as a vampire for quite sometime. It’s no wonder these feelings are so deep-rooted for Marcy, having been influenced in her younger days and reinforced almost every step of the way. It was sad seeing her so distressed at the thought of upsetting her mom, and even sadder later on when she’s reflecting her own fears onto her imaginary friends. It’s painful to see some of the deep cuts such a young child can project, such as her comment about her dad leaving her because of who she is.

As always, the post-apocalyptic references and Easter eggs are great. Love the designs of the wuzzup dogs that fends off against Marcy and Elise, though I did feel quite bad for the wuzzup pup. There’s the typical tragic spray painting and writing in surrounding areas, such as “DON’T TRUST ANYONE,” “NO SYMPATHY,” and most interesting, “After nihilism?” I can only assume it’s referring to the presumptuous man-made errors that led to the destruction of civilization. I think one of my favorite moments in the entire special is when Marceline initially enters the secret hideout, flips the light switch, notices only skeletons, and flips the switch back off. A perfect depiction of dread and hopelessness without a single word.

I will say, I thought that the death of Elise was a moment that should’ve felt more impactful than it was. It certainly didn’t lack impact… but it wasn’t exactly as emotional an experience for me personally. Maybe it was the sudden tone shift with Glassboy barging in, but I think it kind of attributes to AT‘s past habits of showing less and implying more. It kind of reminds me of the scene in Everything Stays where Ice King leaves Marceline. This is an idea that is tragic in theory, but doesn’t feel as tragic when it’s actually shown because most fans already had their own headcanon about how it went down. That being said, I don’t think the execution is poor, it’s more so my desires for emotional ambiguity. I do think that this was one of the ballsier onscreen deaths from the series. This is actually the first time in the show’s history where I can pinpoint blood being used in a painful fashion. There were little moments, like Jake’s blood being sucked by Kee-Oth and Finn’s finger getting pricked in Helpers, but this was a bit more on the graphic side.

All of this trauma clearly connects to Marceline’s desire to be cool with being a giant edgelord. But of course, embracing her ability to not give a shit about anything leads her to hurt herself when it comes to her future relationship with Bubblegum. Well, partially at least. I’m not gonna act like Bubblegum is a saint either; she’s an egotist with mostly good intentions, but that egocentric attitude is likely what contributes to Marcy’s feelings of inferiority. It’s no wonder that Bonnie not trusting Marceline is what sends her into a spiraling journey to recover her edge. This is because Marceline believes that the only way she can truly make an impact is to be the “monster” that she once was. Of course, this doesn’t last long, because through it all, Marceline recognizes that her damage isn’t something to romanticize. It helped define who she was for a period of time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was good for her. She acknowledges that, regardless of her newfound “softness,” she is a much more well-rounded person around Bubblegum. The final nail in the coffin that drives home her emotional growth is when her bass is smashed – an item that has helped to characterize her gloomy demeanor. Instead of responding in the way that would bring out her more monstrous side, Marcy chooses to accept the outcome and focus on what truly drives her now: her feelings of love and how they round her out. It’s nice to finally get an episode about this growth that Marceline has undergone throughout the course of nine/ten seasons. I only wish that it could have somehow incorporated how Finn’s connection to Marcy also helped shape her morality. But alas, I can only wish so much.

Princess Bubblegum’s development is also clear. Throughout the entirety of the special, and seemingly from her previous experience with the Glass Kingdom, she still needs to be recognized for her contributions towards society. The aftermath of episodes like The Cooler, Hot Diggity Doom, High Strangeness, and Jelly Beans Have Power have showed how fragile PB can be when it comes to the potential of letting her people down and ultimately being a failure. One thing that keeps Marceline and PB’s relationship interesting is that both characters are still clearly very much flawed – Marceline is still weighed down by emotional baggage from her past… or, in this case, struggling because she isn’t struggling, and PB still needs to be respected and loved to achieve self-actualization. I think it’s even more fitting that these flaws are what ultimately led to the initial end to their relationship. The comics previously tried to build on this lore by stating that their drifting apart was caused by Marceline’s continued involvement with her band, the Scream Queens, buuut that’s kinda dumb. I think it’s much more fitting that this drift was caused by their largely conflicting personalities – Marcy’s edgelord phase and PB’s apathy. Things do come together in a nice way when the two are put into a dangerous position, as Marceline accepts being emotionally honest with herself and others and Princess Bubblegum accepts her own shortcomings.

One other strength that Obsidian has is its soundtrack. I think “Woke Up” is quite possibly the best Marceline song, and song in general, that the show has had in years. And it’s surprisingly to me how much I get into it! The show’s strength in tunes has always been… well… Rebecca Sugar. But AT has had some other bangers since her departure, none of which I really ever attributed to Marceline though. The post-Sugar tunes for Marceline always kind of felt like generic loner material, but the tunes introduced in Obsidian showcase a more fun, poppy punk melody akin to “I’m Just Your Problem.” Lyrically, they’re pretty intriguing as well. The opening song, “It’s Funny,” contains these lines:

Everyone’s so desperate

To feel like they’re serious

Everyone’s a scaredy cat

And I find it hilarious.

This definitely mimics Marceline’s “edgelord” attitude that I mentioned earlier. She once viewed anyone who ever took anything seriously as “desperate” or something to laugh about. This is contrasted heavily by her final song, “Monster,” which I think it probably one of the weaker songs to come out of the special. It’s not bad, by any means! It’s just really not nearly as catchy or fun to listen to as some of the others from Obsidian. That being said, I do love the sequence that goes along with it. I never would have imagined that Larvo would end up having a tragic backstory, but it actually kind of works! As silly as it seems, it’s handled well through a genuinely sad and sweet flashback sequence and these uniquely painted frames that showcase Larvo’s growth into a damaged beast throughout the years – almost looks like a Pokemon evolution chain. It even ends up concluding with a super silly but enjoyable ending for Larvo… that he had a cute kitty bat within him all along! (PB’s suggestion to immediately kill it was especially funny to me) And even though it’s not actually good by any means aside from an instrumental note, Glassboy’s purposefully off-key “Eternity With You” is a sweet closer, especially with the reveal that PB met Marceline at a concert, and that’s where she received her most valuable keepsake: Marcy’s trippy t-shirt. D’aw.

One other perk of Obsidian is all of the familiar faces we end up getting to see. Simon was particularly delightful, as it’s clear he’s still going through some major shit after he regained his sanity. I don’t really think we’ll be getting a ton more into his life at this point, but it’s good to see that even reversing him back to his original state wasn’t enough to fix everything. The dude has been through 1,000 years of not being himself and is now stuck in this world that he doesn’t even fully understand. No wonder he needs to use the freezer to cope. Also returning is Choose Goose – a character I was fully ready to never see again, but I’m so glad that isn’t the case. Especially since he’s a popular character that really doesn’t get that much screentime throughout the series. They could’ve easily used a more recurring character like Lemongrab to fill his shoes, but I’m so glad they didn’t. This is the fanservice I want!! Speaking of fanservice, easily the most interesting moment of the special is seeing a hunky adult version of Finn! It actually took me about 5 seconds to process who he was when he showed up, but flipped out when I came to the realization. Probably also should address the elephant in the room – Jake’s dead, right? People have put out more optimistic theories that Jake might just be traveling/adventuring elsewhere and Finn got a tattoo to always be with him… but if that was the turn this development was taking, I’d feel a bit disappointed. Not that I want Jake to die, but I can’t think of any other reason Finn would have this tattoo if not to commemorate his late brother. Who gets a tattoo of an alive person?? I have a feeling that Together Again is going to be much, much sadder than anticipated. But again, with all the times that Jake’s death has been alluded to over the years, I think it would be the most fitting cap for the series, and his character, if this is the direction it was going. I’m just gonna be sad as hell for several months if that’s how it goes down. Also appearing is Bronwyn, who looks cute as hell! A lot of people are going with the headcanon that Finn and Bronwyn are romantic together, which I really can’t get behind at all. I could see Finn being her guardian/traveling partner after his brother’s passing, but nothing more than that. He ain’t gonna bang his bro’s granddaughter! It is interesting to see Finn’s adult behavior – many have already noted that his lingo and attitude is pretty similar to Martin’s. I can get behind both, but I still think he’s very different from his father. He obviously takes on his lack of social cues and general laidback personality, but he’s far from ever being the careless monster that Martin is.

The elements of the special that I’m less invested in are the moments with the new characters. I don’t dislike Glassboy as much as others do, but he really didn’t do much for me either. I get that he’s supposed to parallel Marceline’s story and show how similar they are, but honestly, I thought they covered those comparisons much more efficiently with Larvo. Similarly, See-Thru Princess isn’t very compelling either. She’s essentially there to also parallel the pressures that Princess Bubblegum is feeling in her own role. Again, I feel like it also has to do with the special packing so much in it already. I was pretty invested with PB and Marcy’s arcs on their own that I didn’t really care about what happened to these characters that really don’t have the time to be properly fleshed out anyway.

Overall, I think Obsidian is good! I went from loving it to just liking it since it premiered. I do appreciate everything it is for fans who have wanted to see this for so long, but personally, it’s just not entirely for me. Thus far, these specials have been pretty straightforward and haven’t fully committed to AT‘s usual brand of quirky oddities. It’s mostly a new team, which is to be expected, and they’ve been doing a solid job at that. Honestly, just the fact that Adventure Time is able to successfully adapt to a 44 minute runtime is an achievement on its own. These just aren’t really specials that I find particularly memorable or groundbreaking up to this point. Still glad it exists and I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Together Again is definitely what I’m looking forward to the most, so high hopes that it hits!

Favorite line: “Yeah, sorry for bullying you your whole life.”

“BMO” Review

BMO

Original Airdate: July 25, 2020

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström, Iggy Craig, Laura Knetzger, Anna Syvertsson & Adam Muto

Before we start, I wanted to plug a project from my friend, Paul Thomas. Paul has written a really neat account of Adventure Time‘s production history, storytelling mechanics, and its fandom. I also contributed a small portion to the book as an interview piece in the fandom section, under my full name, Eric Stone. Though I haven’t been able to read through it fully yet, it’s a really detailed and packed novel that I think any Adventure Time fan should surely check out. You can read this novel here!

Welp, here we are kiddos! Most fandoms have to wait like, 10 years for new content after an original IP ends, the AT crowd has been blessed with new stuff only two years down the road! The sweet part about this is it probably wasn’t too hard to wrangle up most of the original crew (as of this episode, we have Adam Muto, Hanna K. Nyström, Jack Pendarvis, Andy Ristaino, Benjamin Anders, Anna Syvertsson, Laura Knetzger Michael DeForge, Jesse Balmer, Amber Blade Jones, the Frederator crew, and Tim Kiefer as returning members; correct me if I missed anyone) and the style is able to remain pretty true to the original, with some added upgrades. And for the most part, BMO does manage to capture that AT feel more than I was originally expecting from it.

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As a precursor, I’ll mention that it’s good to be back in this role. I truly have missed talking about AT in any capacity, and honestly, it really took new content to get my motivation back again. It is definitely strange to be talking about it in this position – I had reviewed each episode long after their initial airdate. There’s a large community of cartoon reviewers that can probably get to this faster than I can and likely say everything that I would have already said otherwise. That being said, I hope that I continue to add a layer of freshness to these reviews and that there is still a desire for open discussion around this blog and its themes. That aside, let’s get down to the good stuff.

Distant Lands immediately sets itself apart by having a distinct opening that feels slightly alien in comparison to any AT content that we’ve seen prior. Despite its namesake, Distant Lands doesn’t borrow from Adventure Time‘s opening credits much at all. It appears each special will have its own unique opening, with the additional interstitial beginning that features a quick bombardment of past AT characters and moments. Lack of lyrical accompaniment aside, BMO‘s intro does follow the standard that most AT opening titles follow – it’s a sweeping journey, filled with familiar sounds, and an eventual climax to the central focus. This beautifully crafted CGI intro was animated by Encyclopedia Pictura, a film and animation studio that has worked on some really gnarly stuff, including music videos and bizarre, but beautiful, short films. Their attention to bright, vivid colors and smooth designs make me truly crave a fully guest animated 11 minutes from them, but I suppose we’re past that point… for now. The ending credits also feature a cameo of AstroBMO, which is a real life BMO that was sent into space!

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I was initially a bit cautious about BMO having his own 44 minute special. With some clear exceptions, BMO is very much a comic relief character. She certainly has her depth and isn’t only good for jokes, but BMO isn’t necessarily an “epic” character by any means. Not to mention that Adventure Time has really only dabbled with the 44 minute formula once before with Come Along With Me and… yeah, that was a bit messy. I will say that the two aspects of the special I was most concerned about were actually some of the strongest elements. BMO, per usual, is his usual lovable self. Even if his dialogue isn’t laugh-worthy, it is undeniably charming. BMO’s bizarre dialogue and tendency to not understand structural sentences really never tires itself out, which could be chalked up to solid writing, but it’s also just Niki Yang being the absolute best at what she does. I don’t think I praise her enough on this blog, but Yang’s dedication to really embodying the character and knowing just how to hit all of the right notes for a successful delivery always pay off so well. I think voice actors very much embody their character and cannot be replaced, but there are surely occasional issues with delivery that can sink certain impactful moments for individual characters. I feel like Yang almost never skips a beat – almost because BMO’s inflections are, by nature, slightly monotonous, but I mean that in the most loving way. Even when just speaking in her natural voice, Yang recognizes how to add an extra bit of gusto every single time she gets in that recording booth.

BMO’s silly opening monologue is lots of fun, and it’s a great way to showcase all of the visual elements that this special has to offer. BMO alone gets a pass for being absolutely gorgeous – Adventure Time has never looked so good! The lush colors and richer backgrounds (though somewhat of a departure from the original series) felt like breath of fresh air. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Adventure Time has never looked bad (okay yes Seventeen exists. I know, guys) but the increased budget that Max has allowed for is certainly noteworthy and quite frankly exciting. Imagine what a Finn and Jake adventure is gonna look like on a high budget! Impressive colors and animation aren’t the only new element in the visuals department that BMO brings to the table – or in this case, an old element – the return of the eye whites! Eye whites were retired from the series around season two because Pen felt that it took viewers out of the universe and made characters feel less “human.” BMO is drawn with them as he transcends into The Drift, and while I’m not the hugest fan of them myself, it is kind of nice to see them back in this fashion. It’s a visual element that does add to Distant Lands‘ clear interest in expanding on the design of the original series. ALSO, it’s around this point that we meet Olive, one of the cooler characters that BMO dishes out. In typical AT fashion, Olive’s simple design is her biggest strength, being both very charming and intriguing from a minimalist perspective. Olive also provides for some gnarly shapeshifting moments, easily filling in Jake’s shoes while he’s absent.

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After we get this establishing piece with BMO and Olive, we’re treated to another establishing piece within the Drift, where we meet the other featured characters and settings of this special, which are some of the weaker bits, in my eyes. Elaborating on what I said about the visuals above, the backgrounds within the Drift are gorgeous. They certainly are a bit of departure from what we’re used to seeing from the original series – Ghostshrimp’s backgrounds were filled to the brim with every possible apocalyptic Easter egg and neat hunk of junk that he could imagine, while the background artists clearly focused on more interesting textures and attention to color for BMO, and that works just as well. I was surprised to see just how thick some of the outlines were within several backdrops – really makes the whole thing feel like a comic in motion. Which… I suppose is exactly what animation is. Hmph.

It’s here that we’re introduced to Y-4 (later known as Y-5) who is… okay! I actually think her design is very cute and she’s competently portrayed by Glory Curda, but her character isn’t really super compelling in any way. That’s not to say that she’s bad! I didn’t actively dislike any aspect of her personality or arc, but it never really managed to grab me in one way or another. Her relationships with other characters end up putting her in pretty predictable spots, namely that her obedience to her parents would end up causing a tiff in her newly found friendship with BMO, and that her relationship with her parents would ultimately come to a resolve when they recognized the error of their ways. It’s all stories that we’ve seen in other movies and shows before, and while none of it is done badly, it’s not the type of story that I feel is captivating for me personally. I do have to give Adventure Time credit where its due because, while the parents that don’t trust their child is a trope that’s been tackled before, it’s a bit new to Adventure Time. Parental figures within the original series are usually just straightforward really shitty or astute moral guardians. Here, these parents act shitty, but it’s both resolved and tackled in somewhat interesting way regarding their unbridled faith towards governmental power.

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The aliens we see throughout this special, namely the Shells and the Elves, are decently fun. They have the same goofy disagreements that would be commonplace in Ooo, yet are unique in their foreign designs. I do think AT‘s character team is really smart with understanding what works for different settings; I don’t know what it is about the Elves and Shells, but they just feel like beings that wouldn’t really be fitting for Ooo, even if it is an open world for all kinds of weird inhabitants. These aliens feel akin to On the Lam, in the way that they aren’t a complete departure from AT‘s style, but feel off enough that they wouldn’t necessarily be roaming the Earth either. It’s also fun to see how, despite the fact that they’re portrayed as the antagonists, BMO’s kind of the asshole that gets in THEIR way, and the episode has a lot of fun with that. BMO is most fun when he’s only interested in satisfying his own needs and gives zero fucks about anything else. That’s not to say she isn’t still sweet and lovable, but anything that doesn’t directly inconvenience her isn’t really an issue. This also leads to one of the funniest moments in the episode, in which BMO is lauded for single-handedly saving everyone in The Drift… with the exception of the Elves’ leader. Let us also not forget the BMO is the one who caused this breach in the first place!

Y-5 and BMO’s relationship is pretty similar to the E.T. type kinship that has become commonplace in cinema and television, but it is, at the very least, delightful. They have some pretty humorous back-and-forths, with a highlight being BMO’s sass anytime Y-5 tries to question or contradict him. As they begin to explore The Drift further, we’re treated to a decent amount of world-building. I don’t think The Drift is especially mindblowing or distinctive from any other fictional space station, so it’s the AT charm that really helps set it apart from any other generic location. I love the parrot merchant shouting, “buy my eggs! Buy my eggs! Or I swear to Glob, I’ll eat them myself,” and the squidlike alien that wants to eat his space lards. Again, it’s cute how everyone treats BMO as this really noble and heroic icon when he clearly is just speaking from a child’s perspective. He likes the cute space lard, so he’s going to protect the cute space lard. That’s really all there is to do it. Long live BMO and her love for the name Ricky.

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Two characters I actually had completely forgotten about before rewatching are Sweetie and Darling, the heist bugs! I feel guilty even saying that because, while their designs are pretty unremarkable, they are plenty of fun. BMO’s second big task in the Drift is a rescue mission after a communications hub floods. This is one of my favorite bits of the special, namely because of how fluid the animation is throughout the entire sequence. There’s a ridiculous amount of motion during the scenes that feature Y-5 swimming, with so many little fun details that are easy to miss, such as BMO riding her head like a cowboy as she tries to communicate with her parents. It’s a scene that, again, would likely be an afterthought in terms of visual flair when Adventure Time was on a television budget, but now we’re on HBO, bitches! It really helps add to the general frantic nature of the sequence, and really pays off as a visual delight.

The main conflict really sets in when BMO is sent on a governmental mission by Hugo and Mr. M. Hugo is somewhat in the same realm of Y-5’s characters, though I’d say that Y-5 probably has more going for her. He’s mainly just there as plot device for villainy to take place – I’m not even entirely positive that I fully understand his story or his plan. So, he was a human who sought to survive the apocalypse of mankind by traveling out into space and he made a compromise with aliens to remove the humanity of himself and his crew. That succeeded… but also caused some sort of societal collapse? And then as they were drifting through space, Olive picked them up and warped them into the Drift, and then Hugo decided to proclaim himself as the leader? It’s an arc that, unless I’m missing something, feels like a haphazard attempt at world-building and doesn’t seem concise in its characterization or the timeline it wants to set up. Were Hugo and crew members just floating through space for hundreds of years? I dunno, I guess it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s cool we get to learn more about the other options of humanity following the Great Mushroom War, and the best part of all? The entire backstory sequence is animated by David freakin’ Ferguson himself! It was really nice seeing his style back once again, especially with the manner in which it was utilized. I’m glad that, despite the overwhelmingly negative reception Water Park Prank got, Ferguson still got the chance to come back and share his unique artwork with a mainstream audience. You da man, Ferguson!

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Mr. M, on the other hand, is a really interesting side villain, mainly because of the fact that he quite obviously is none other than Martin Mertens! Well, maybe not entirely obvious, but enough information is presented to draw up a conclusion. I really like the fact that, despite the fact that Mr. M is very clearly supposed to be Martin, the episode never outright has him reveal himself. There’s the certain bit of anticipation throughout the special that he will be exposed, but you never truly get that full satisfaction, which in turn makes the payoff even more satisfying. It personally reminded me of the visual gag of Dr. Princess dressing up as Science Whyzard, only with much more purpose and attention this time around. There’s several different indicators that Mr. M is Martin Mertens, including quotes that he’s used before previously, the fact that his feet are very clearly human, and the namesake alone. There are some additions that I don’t really care for, like the fact that Mr. M jokes with Y-5’s parents about being called out for their deadbeat nature. It’s throwaway line that’s only used to further identify Martin, but since he didn’t have a tumultuous relationship with his son at this point in the timeline, it just doesn’t really make sense. Of course, I’ll discuss more about the fact that this special is a prequel later on, but might I just add that I’m glad it is, because if Martin’s cosmic destiny just meant he was a grifter in space elsewhere, that would be really fucking lame.

The eventual tiff between Y-5 and BMO is played out in a way that mirrors this type of trope in most buddy-buddy stories, so it doesn’t feel particularly enticing when you can kind of seeing it coming from their first interaction together. Thankfully, the drama isn’t played up too much, and BMO has lots of funny lines to make up for it, including “I have no feelings,” followed almost immediately by “you make my feelings happy!” It does help provide for a solo BMO journey into the Jungle Pod, which ends up making for the best parts of the episode. I standby the idea that all of BMO’s strongest moments are just when he’s alone and chatting to himself. Or, in this case Football, who increasingly becomes a coping mechanism to help BMO deal with the thoughts and fears inside of her head. This mechanism of placing her own fear onto her imaginary friend only gets BMO so far, as she finds herself in certain danger pretty quickly. The winged crabs were also a nice touch for this special, which I’m pretty sure was a reference to Abstract, was it not? When Jake’s alien form sprouts wings, BMO accuses Jake of being a “crab.” Maybe I’m digging too deep, but I thought of this almost immediately. It’s a shame Crusty died as quickly as he lived. R.I.P. my man.

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Things take a very dramatic turn when BMO is ripped apart after taking the Jungle Pod’s crystal, where we are treated to what feels like a classic AT bad trip. In a similar fashion to BMO Noire, Niki Yang delivers each line as she normally would for BMO, yet the framework of the scene helps it to come across in a much more unnerving fashion. Because of BMO’s role as a child, any mention of death or substantially dark topics come across in this really uncomfortable fashion, and I mean that in the best way. Like previous BMO entries such as BMO Noire, BMO Lost, and The More You Moe, The Moe You KnowBMO understands how to balance the humor of the character, as well as the very dark reality that he’s only a mere child in a very threatening world. BMO’s colorful subconscious returns during his “death” and reminds him of the inevitable: that he is just a lil kid in a big world that’s often times difficult to navigate. Again, I think it’s kind of a familiar path for this type of story to take – the hero discovers he/she is in over their head and temporarily admits defeat. But since it’s portrayed in such a dark, visually interesting matter that only AT could pull off so well, I really don’t mind it at all.

The climax of the episode, which involves Y-5 rebelling against her parents in order to save BMO. It’s where we meet CGO, who had appeared earlier in the episode for a brief moment, and heard singing the Frasier theme song. I do like how the major connections to the old world are mainly drawn through theme songs of classic sitcoms. CGO is a fun little bot herself, kind of reminding me of a toned down Carroll. Her introduction also provides for a genuinely emotional moment in the episode in which Y-5 breaks down into tears after learning the truth about Hugo. It’s a small, quiet moment, but it’s quite impactful. Y-5 is essentially learning that everything she has worked hard for to achieve, whether for herself or for her parents, has virtually been for nothing, and that the only one who could have saved her might be dead. AT‘s sadness is usually confined to these quiet, ambiguous moments, but Y-5’s sadness takes the Steven U route of being heavily tearful, which hits pretty hard. Of course, BMO ain’t dead though, you dumb babies!! He is revived in the midst of Y-5’s breakdown, and the two travel to save The Drift together.

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Hugo is outed, and though I don’t think his plan is entirely fleshed out, his argument against the citizens is pretty interesting. It’s not really a good argument; Hugo’s essentially just saying that the citizens of The Drift are just as selfish as him because they didn’t really care about what happened to it as long as they were able to leave. It does tie into the fact that civilization and humanity in of itself is predominantly selfish, and Hugo believes he’s truly just one of those citizens that happened to have made it out on top. The climax comes together in a pretty satisfying way, as the many minor characters that we’ve met throughout this special team up to stop Hugo from destroying The Drift. Y-5 also makes amends with her parents, which does feel earned in the sense that her parents feel like decently rational people by the end of it, despite their shitty ways. And best of all, Olive gets what she always wanted – and presumably Hugo as well – a friend!

The ending of BMO closes out with the biggest surprise and possibly the biggest delight of all: it was a prequel! For the first time ever in AT‘s history, we get to see a toddler version of Finn and a teenage version of Jake! It’s a really sweet twist that makes any qualms that I would have with the story, such as Martin being a space grifter, essentially moot. Though I’m not necessarily free of qualms with this twist. A lot of people have brought up that BMO’s characterization is way different in BMO than it was earlier in the series. I would somewhat agree with this, though not necessarily entirely. I don’t think BMO was ever really that uniquely different early on in the series, besides being a bit more robotic and snarky. He still had a sense of childlike wonder, it just wasn’t fully realized yet. Even then, he’s frequently referred to as a “sassy robot” in BMO, so the snarky aspects of his character really aren’t all missing entirely. I will say that one issue I do have with the continuity is that I think it kinda stinks that BMO was going on these massive adventures before he even met Finn and Jake. The early days of BMO’s journeys involved him mainly playing with himself (hardy har har) and making his own fun/drama. Hell, the events of The More You Moe, The Moe You Know are acknowledged as his “greatest adventure ever,” yet he was traveling through time and space since the beginning? A little hard to believe.

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Overall though, I quite enjoyed BMO, even more so on my second watch! It isn’t perfect – the story and characters feel a bit cookie cutter at times and there’s never really a point, aside from the ending, where you feel like you don’t know where the general structure is going, which isn’t usually that commonplace with Adventure Time. But it’s a thoroughly fun and endearing special that succeeded way beyond my expectations. I really didn’t think a silly BMO entry would be able to hold a 45 minute period, but it does so tremendously well, and BMO is actually the best part of it! Shouldn’t have doubted the lil guy. This definitely was a great start to reignite my interest and love for the series, and though it probably could have been stronger on certain levels, it was a fun, beautiful, and sweet journey that has me pumped for the future of Distant Lands.

Favorite line: “He died as he lived: sucking big time.”

The Worst of Adventure Time Episodes!

Well gang, here they are! The episodes that I would consider to be some of AT‘s biggest failures. I’ll remind y’all of my contingencies for this list that I included in my Top 10 Best Episodes:

  • It should go without saying that everything compiled onto this list is entirely my own opinion. This is, by no means, a compilation of episodes that are considered the worst of all time. It merely exists as an entirely opinionated listing of episodes that I find to be pretty stink-o after years of watching the series. I welcome with open arms constructive debating if one of your personal picks didn’t make the list, but this ain’t an outlet to complain about my list aligning with your own. You’re all good boys and girls, though. I trust y’all.
  • Some of you may realize that the choices on my list may not have gotten the number one spot on my season reviews, which is simply because my opinion has shifted over time. In fact, most of the “Top 5” lists for each season are irreversible, or at least the top 3. After much time spent thinking and going over which episodes truly left me with a bad taste, I think this list will be the most accurate compilation to date. But again, check back with me in three years and see what I have to say.

Top 10 Worst Episodes

10. Son of Rap Bear

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If there was any Adventure Time episode that even gave me hints of secondhand embarrassment, it would probably be Son of Rap Bear. Adventure Time has always incorporated rap in hints and little tidbits throughout the show’s history, and while there’s definitely an atmosphere of these instances feeling self-aware, there’s also the reality that they just aren’t self-aware enough. Son of Rap Bear is kind of the pinnacle of that lack of awareness, trying to do its best to be hip and goofy at the same time, but trying waaay too hard in the process and feeling laughable at that. It doesn’t really help that this is Flame Princess’s last big role in the series and it’s wasted on a minuscule story that doesn’t really leave us with anything telling about her character. Adventure Time‘s final season had a plethora of somewhat pitiful “shitty dad” stories, and Son of Rap Bear was the first instance that showed this recurring theme didn’t really have anything more to say. Something that would have been cool is if Marceline taught Flame Princess how to channel her feelings towards her father into her music. It at least would have been something different, but instead, we get a really cliched, repetitive story that feels more like a Hanna-Barbera special than Adventure Time.

9. Slow Love

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Adventure Time has always, in my eyes, stood out for its unique and interesting one-off characters that always manage to leave a lasting impression. Snorlock is one of those characters that, like many, shows up only to never appear again. Though, I’d say there are some pretty good reasons for that. The entirety of Slow Love encompasses Finn and Jake’s sympathy for this really obnoxiously unsympathetic character that never really warrants any kind of compassion to begin with. It’s one that easily evades my memory – it isn’t particularly funny, nor is it visually interesting, aside from some cool misty shots of the Grasslands. It’s a story that sounds okay from a conceptual stage, but really, there’s not a ton to expand on. It’s just a drawn out 11 minutes of one idea that doesn’t particularly work to the strength of its characters.

8. Gut Grinder

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Gut Grinder is surprisingly significant in how generally insignificant it is for Adventure Time standards. And I don’t mean because it doesn’t directly affect the mythos of the series, it just doesn’t really possess any of the charm or delight of a typically fun Adventure Time entry. From a first watch, it already feels like a predictable story without much setting it apart or breaking tropes, and any further rewatches don’t necessarily offer much in terms of humor or visual splendor. This episode did offer up Finn’s memorable line of “justice never sleeps,” but as for the rest of it, it just kind of feels like a slog. It’s a story that’s been done a million times prior, and unlike usual, Adventure Time doesn’t really take a unique twist on it to make it stand out more. It’s definitely the first episode I think of when I think of a forgettable Adventure Time entry. Does… does that make it less forgettable? Hm.

7. Marcy & Hunson

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I originally had Son of Rap Bear in this spot, but honestly, after rewatching Marcy & Hunson for the purpose of this list, I forgot how frustrating this entire episode is. The last episode with Hunson Abadeer as character was five years prior to this episode, and it’s pretty noticeable right from the get-go how much time has passed. The staff doesn’t really seem to understand Hunson from a character perspective anymore, and he’s boiled down to just a straight up dumbass. Most of the intricate dad conflict stories in the final season were squandered by making each of these unique personalities inseparable. Hunson’s no longer the devious, sophisticated, conniver that he was in his first three appearances and deviates into a big goofy dork that breaks Marceline’s shitter and doesn’t understand how to not embarrass her at a concert. Marceline has also changed a lot since her days resenting her dad and is more of a blank slate throughout the entirety of these 11 minutes. It’s alright though, because instead of presenting her as the fun and enjoyable character that she was while Hunson was around, she becomes a vessel to spoon feed all the hungry babies in the audience their yummy, yummy Bubbline references! Marcy & Hunson also has the displeasure of feeling like a rehash of the past two entries featuring Hunson and Marceline while lacking what made them unique and interesting. Not to mention this is another episode in the season that shoehorns in the Gumbald family conflict without really having much to say or add to it. Aside from some nice exchanges between Finn and Jake, this one is a definite misfire.

6. Water Park Prank

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There was a time when I thought that Water Park Prank was the worst episode Adventure Time has ever put out, but I think I’ve actually warmed up to it a bit over time. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I still think it’s pretty damn bad. BUT, I respect it for what it is. The mastermind behind this episode is David Ferguson, a Scottish animator with a very neat and cute style. Unfortunately, I don’t think his style, writing or design wise, truly fit Adventure Time‘s mold. The main takeaway that I think sticks with everyone is Finn’s design – the eye whites, stretched mouth, and pointed nose are features that make him look super unappealing and unrecognizable. I think the other designs are mostly endearing, but Finn’s is definitely the one that sticks out the most and the one that everybody seems to remember. The script for the episode is also super juvenile, feeling like it doesn’t just quite get Adventure Time‘s humor. I had the same issue with A Glitch is a Glitch, but where I’ve grown to appreciate that episode’s visual flare over time, Water Park Prank is one that doesn’t have me consistently coming back. As I mentioned on my review of the episode, I do encourage everyone to check out Ferguson’s work on his Vimeo. Ferguson is very multi-talented when it comes to tackling different animation styles, and his work is much more fluid on his own terms and not weighed down by network budget restrictions.

5. Princess Day

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I always think this one is a shame, because an episode featuring all of the princesses of Ooo in one space is, on its own, a really promising concept. Yet, we’re treated to a needlessly mean-spirited romp that feels like its trying to be poetic in its attitudes of rebellion, but entirely misses the mark. I’ve said it before on the review itself, but this is one of those few episodes that I feel has a really shitty moral for the kiddos watching at home. I’m all for the mindset that there’s no real sense of wholly good or bad when it comes to individuals, but the attitude that it’s okay to do bad shit if they’re only “mistakes,” is really quite jarring. This is the same episode where LSP and Marceline physically assault BP’s guards, hit BP with her own car that they stole, and then end up destroying that same car by the end of the episode. In what sense is that a mistake? Princess Day is an attempt to bring two of Adventure Time‘s most insubordinate characters together to help them relate and connect to each other’s experience, but it does so in such a tone-deaf and unpleasant way that it probably wasn’t even worth it to begin with.

4. The Prince Who Wanted Everything

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The Prince Who Wanted Everything is the moment that I realized that I was perfectly fine with never seeing Fionna and Cake again. While the first two entries proved to be satirical, yet sweet riffs of modern day fanfiction, The Prince Who Wanted Everything pretty much discounts that entirely by desperately trying to get us to stay invested in these characters that don’t even really set themselves apart anymore. I’ve mentioned how LSP’s incessant vanity can severely impact the quality of an episode, and The Prince Who Wanted Everything celebrates it in the most unappealing of ways. The jokes and story are just slight variations of everything we’ve already seen from this character prior, with nothing new to add. The Prince Who Wanted Everything also has one of the worst songs in the entire series, which is the first apparent notion that Fionna and Cake probably wasn’t worth salvaging after Sugar’s departure. Aside from Peter Serafinowicz’s strong performance as Lumpy Space Prince, this is one that just feels tiresome.

3. Cherry Cream Soda

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Cherry Cream Soda starts out strong in its first minute or two in showing the grieving process of CCS after her husband was killed one season prior, but then it divulges into a confusing, uncomfortable mess that retcons a previous plot point for the sake of fanservice. It’s funny, because I don’t think people were mad because they would never see Root Beer Guy again. I think they were mad only because his death was handled in an unnecessarily tasteless way. I certainly didn’t think the gag death was particularly funny, but I also wasn’t vying for more RBG episodes anyway. He did his part in Root Beer Guy quite well and that’s all I needed to see. So the fact that this episode wants me to care about his comically soap opera-ish relationship is just too much to ask for. I think if this episode took a similar route to Root Beer Guy and showed the realistic struggles of adulthood and having a grip on one’s own identity through CCS’s point of view, it could’ve worked out a lot better. Instead, we get this really pointless resurrection of a character that ultimately amounts to nothing, simply because the series didn’t have the balls to keep him dead.

2. The Red Throne

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While many disagree, I honestly think season five’s “Finn is a horny douchebag” arc wasn’t particularly bothersome for myself. I think it’s okay to take characters in a controversial or unlikable direction if it’s done right, intentionally, and is building to a larger developmental path for the character. People seem to think the same for Steven’s role in Steven Universe Future, but like, do you really want these nice characters to be absolutely perfect at all times? The humanity of both Finn and Steven is that they aren’t perfect people, and the best way to show us that is to show them at their lowest points. The Red Throne, however, takes this one step beyond by making Finn practically sociopathic for comedic purposes. Like, there’s being desperate, and then there’s just being legitimately predatory. Yeah, he’s 15 and this is typically when kiddos struggle with their horny demons, but the choice to make it the butt of several continuous gags and jokes just does not work. Nor does it make for something I actually want to watch, especially with a character I love so dearly. Every episode where Finn acts in a manipulative way has some sort of reason or purpose for putting Finn in such a light – his longing for the old days in Too Old, his battle with loyalty in RattleballsThe Red Throne just seeks to make him as pathetic as possible to show that even a dumbass like Cinnamon Bun looks better in comparison, but there’s a way of doing this that doesn’t completely decimate the foundation of Finn’s character in an attempt for cheap gags. Though, that’s not the episode’s only sin. It’s weighed down by really shitty pacing and an awful, overly long bit of referential humor that I can guarantee 90% of the audience didn’t catch onto. This is also an FP-centric episode where she really doesn’t get to do much unfortunately, because I guess Seo and Somvy were more interested in what other aspects the episode had to offer. Which, unfortunately, were not much, and still leave me with a bad taste in my mouth to this day.

1. Fionna and Cake and Fionna

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From one of Adventure Time‘s best seasons, we have one of, if not the worst episode the series has ever churned out. The word “pretentious” has been thrown around a lot about the past couple seasons of AT, but no episode strikes me as more pretentious than Fionna and Cake and Fionna – an episode that so desperately wants to keep these characters as a part of this world that they would throw such an unbelievable doozy into the lore to do so. I guess every citizen of Ooo is just coincidentally a carbon copy of those from the Fionna and Cake TV show? There’s hints by the end of it that this may not be the case, but since nothing else was done with it, there’s very little to the imagination. This also just isn’t a fun episode in the slightest. No good Ice King quotes or moments, a super unremarkable one-off character, standard visuals, and pretty lame Fionna and Cake moments that don’t add much to help stretch out the episode. It’s essentially just an episode that exists to incorporate forced lore that nobody even asked for. Remember in Mystery Dungeon when the show made fun of the idea that Fionna and Cake would cross over with reality? Well, here we are four years later, where the series is doing it for real with complete sincerity! I’m bashing Fionna and Cake a lot on this list, and I really think that while they make for one of the show’s greatest successes, they also embody one of the show’s biggest failures. They emphasize the staff’s collective hubris and unshaken faith in this concept. That, even though Fionna and Cake are so well-received, maybe they don’t HAVE to appear every season. Maybe we COULD just leave it to those two episodes. Considering that I almost never see Fionna and Cake diehards talking about this episode, or even the last three F&C entries, I think it’s pretty clear that even that section of the fanbase had enough. It’s just a shame that it took an entirely bizarre and scattershot idea to finish off Fionna and Cake for good, leaving nothing but bitterness and confusion behind in the process.

Adventure Time: Reviewed (May 2020 Update)

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Well, it’s been almost three months without a post on this blog, and things have certainly… changed in that time. But, on the bright side, we’ve gotten some Distant Lands content on the horizon!

I’ll be frank, quarantine (along with other factors that have come with it) has really killed my motivation to do just about anything lately. Thankfully, that trailer for BMO reignited my overall joy and enthusiasm when it comes to talking about the series, along with the debut of Midnight Gospel. Seriously, if y’all haven’t watched it, please do. I’ve been considering starting up an entire review blog about that.

In the month leading up to BMO, I’ll be dishing out some new rad content that I think y’all will really dig, as indicated in the artwork I made above. It’s actually been a while since I’ve checked out the blog, and I was amazed and humbled to see that it still gets nearly 200 views a day! That’s amazing, guys! I’m truly thankful for everyone who has been patient with this blog. I know there’s not a ton left to cover at the moment, but there’s still topics I’d love to discuss and see what y’all have to say about them. I can’t really promise any release dates for content right now, because I’ve been burned by my own lack of dedication in the past, but I can promise you all that there is new stuff in the works, some of which is nearly finished! Once again, thank you for your patience, and I look forward to chatting with you all soon! Hope everyone is staying safe and feeling good!

– Eric

The Best of Adventure Time Episodes!

This is one that I’ve been a pretty excited for. Let me start out with a bit of a precursor:

  • It should go without saying that everything compiled onto this list is entirely my own opinion. This is, by no means, a compilation of episodes that are considered the most popular of all time. It merely exists as an entirely opinionated listing of episodes that I find to be terrific after years of watching the series. I welcome with open arms constructive debating if one of your personal picks didn’t make the list, but this ain’t an outlet to complain about my list aligning with your own. You’re all good boys and girls, though. I trust y’all.
  • Some of you may realize that the choices on my list may not have gotten the number one spot on my season reviews, which is simply because my opinion has shifted over time. In fact, most of the “Top 5” lists for each season are irreversible, or at least the top 3. After much time spent thinking and going over which episodes truly impacted me, I think this list will be the most accurate compilation to date. But again, check back with me in three years and see what I have to say.

Without further ado, I give you my top 10 best episodes of Adventure Time!

Top 10 Best Episodes

10. Evergreen

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Adventure Time‘s lore is rich and expansive, but Evergreen is a testament to how strong it really is. Outside of the fact that it is providing information into one of the show’s longest running mysteries, it just makes for a terrific tale. Evergreen feels like an old children’s fable at heart, with a cautionary message tacked on about respecting and treating the people in your life properly. Evergreen is also the series at its most beautiful, with beautifully crafted background, designs, locations, and lighting that really make the whole thing pop. This one was boarded by Tom and Steve, though Steve admits that it’s really Tom’s baby. I love these two as a team, but I really connect with Tom’s stuff the most. The man is a master storyteller, and I think Evergreen is a passion project that certainly proves how much creativity explodes into his work.

9. Cloudy

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Cloudy isn’t a standalone episode, by any means. It’s apart of the Elements miniseries, and one of the few filler entries of said miniseries at that. That didn’t stop Cloudy from being the strongest episode of Elements, let alone every miniseries to date. Cloudy was spawned from an idea by Pat McHale that came around during the first season. The idea was that Finn and Jake would get stuck up in the sky and just talk for the entire episode about relationships, Finn’s past, Jake’s dog side, where their lives will lead, and so on. Cloudy sticks to most of that, while taking its own creative liberties in how far our characters have come since the beginning. The jokes, story, and interactions are mostly simple in the most delightful way possible, though Cloudy does have a strong emotional core. Jake finally outwardly acknowledges the stress within him that he doesn’t like to talk about because he’s supposed to keep it together. As close as Finn and Jake are, you really get the idea that they’re so much more closer because they’re able to be so transparent with each other. Cloudy is an episode that celebrates these two lovely boys that we’ve come to know for so long, in what is probably the sweetest AT episode of all time.

8. The Eyes

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An early example of an episode that really opened my eyes (no pun intended) to the show’s true merit. The Eyes is a hilarious situational episode that pits the boys against a poo-brained horse that won’t stop watching them no matter how many times they try to divert its attention. Confusion and frustration are two moods that I often find the funniest to deal with, and watching Jake and Finn become absolutely delirious as they fail time and time again really never wears on me no matter how many times I watch it. It’s also just a really strong episode that showcases their brotherly bond. Even as they begin to bicker, they recognize that the situation at hand is driving them apart, not each other. Couple that with an Ice King appearance that makes for both a really fun, fast-paced battle sequence, but also a bittersweet revelation from the old coot: that he just wanted to watch Finn and Jake so he could learn how to be happy. I’ve pointed to What is Life? as a key moment in Ice King’s transition into a more sympathetic character, but I really feel like The Eyes kicked it into full gear. It’s both really funny and super sad to hear him admit that he’s still unhappy as the episode draws to a close, and I feel like it’s the perfect, quiet closing to an episode that is otherwise restless. In the best way possible, of course.

7. Time Sandwich

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It’s funny because Jake’s self-entitled episode from earlier in Season Five feels almost less representative of Jake than Time Sandwich does. Jake the Dog seems to only really recognize the less than optimistic side of Jake’s personality: his selfishness and his ability to be easily distracted. Time Sandwich focuses instead on the simple kindness of Jake’s character in the most effective way possible. While it’s fun to have the entire gang together in general, Time Sandwich is a hilarious, memorable, and sweet treat. As the band member with the least baggage, it’s really nice to see everyone stand behind Jake, putting their own resilience to the table for something as simple as a sandwich. Even after forming the “ultimate sandwich,” Jake’s first instinct is to share his creation with his friends, rather than to hog it for himself. It’s a tiny moment that really goes a long way in showing why this mission is so important, and even more triumphant when Jake does get his big, glorious win in the end.

6. All the Little People

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Certainly the most Twilight Zone-esque episode of the series, All the Little People is a really intriguing exploration of a power struggle during Finn’s formative years. A good chunk of it could have easily been dismissed as mean-spirited, promiscuous nonsense, but the episode is very smart with making Finn’s role as a god more out of curiosity than out of malice. After all, he’s not doing anything to purposely hurt the little people, and there is the consistent excuse that they’re “only toys.” Of course, it still goes to pretty dark places, as Finn soon discovers that his experimenting does have consequences and he is determined to make things right in the end. All the Little People exists not only as a fascinating concept, but as a really neat exploration of the Finn’s entrance into adolescence.

5. Incendium

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Adventure Time has gotten a lot of flack over the years for being stagnant in its growth and development. While the show’s more ballsy decisions definitely arise later, I still think its early seasons were dedicated to the expansion of its characters. Aside from Holly Jolly SecretsIncendium is one of the first big 360s for the series, acting as a culmination of Finn’s failed romantic advances towards Bubblegum, and an explosion of raw, powerful bits of teen angst. The two songs within this episode “All Gummed Up Inside” and “All Warmed Up Inside,” are some of my favorite in the entire series, allowing Rebecca Sugar to really nail it in releasing that sweet, sweet emotion that she loves so dearly with the former. Incendium is also quite beautiful, containing some of my favorite imagery and music in the series, namely when Flame Princess ignites the Tree House. It’s also quite funny, featuring two of my favorite side characters in the series: Flame King and Flambo. Along with a pretty strong introduction for Flame Princess, who, even at her most basic and one-note, makes a very powerful impression right off the bat.

4. I Remember You

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I know, I know. I’m basic. But I Remember You is too damn good, y’all! It really brings together some of the strongest writing in the series, being essentially a bottle episode that exists to explore the unfiltered relationship between two characters. It reminds me a lot of All in the Family‘s episode Two’s a Crowd, which is primarily a very similar concept – two polar opposites are forced to spend time together and discover an emotional center about the other through their bonding. Except in this case, the bond is already there, Ice King just isn’t able to discover such an element. The songs, per expected, are terrific; some of the best in the series. I know a lot of people who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s really identify with this episode because of its themes, and while I can’t necessarily say I’ve lived through similar experiences, I still think the episode is powerful whether you relate to the situation or not. It’s simply an impactful story that finally tackles the true reality of Ooo’s past and present, helping the show to grow and expand because of it.

3. The More You Moe, The Moe You Know

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Adventure Time has always hit it out of the park when it comes to tackling the subject of growing up, and how utterly terrifying the thought of it can be. Normally we see these themes through Finn’s perspective, but The More You Moe, The Moe You Know gives BMO a chance to deal with his own feelings of being forced into growth. The episode really never strays away from some of harsher elements that life often presents – this certainly isn’t your “yeah, everything is gonna be okay in the end!” type of story. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. BMO’s creator is dead, he killed his brother, and he’s left with the uncertainty of his own being. The More You Moe, The Moe You Know is quite explicit in showing that life really doesn’t always end up alright and that there are tragedies that can occur quite literally out of nowhere. It certainly isn’t bleak in its execution, however. BMO is left with the consolation that, as long as he always trusts his own intuition, he’ll be alright. Similar to Herpich and Wolfhard’s other half hour special, Lemonhope, this episode is packed with a lot of cinematic moments – namely any time BMO reflects on what it means to be grown. Its lovely imagery and commitment to the darker aspects of its themes is what makes The More You Moe, The Moe You Know stick out as one of the strongest.

2. You Forgot Your Floaties

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You Forgot Your Floaties is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in an animated series aimed at children, and it doesn’t ever act like it’s trying to be anything else. Sadness and loss are themes that the series has been no stranger to either, with Season Six in particular exploring depression as much as possible. While Finn’s own personal turmoil is resolved a few episodes later, You Forgot Your Floaties deals primarily with two people who are unable to cope with the losses that life has dealt them. Magic Man and Betty are two characters that I never thought would make a good pairing, yet they are so ingeniously tied together because of their dedication to their late spouses. At first, I was really sure how to feel about Magic Man being painted as a more sympathetic, human character, but I think the episode’s dedication to showing how madness and sadness are interconnected really goes a long way in showing the intricacies of his past. The scenes from his past with M.A.R.G.L.E.S. always leave me awestruck – I suck Tom Kenny’s dick nearly everyday on this blog, but I think this is surely one of his most standout roles in the series. And speaking of standout roles, this is also one for Jesse Moynihan. This is definitely an example of Moynihan at his most unhinged, as he’s allowed complete creative freedom to go absolutely bonkers. In doing so, he whipped up the show’s most ambitious effort to date.

1. The Hall of Egress

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Easily the most interesting 11 minute cartoon I’ve pretty much ever seen. Egress is a simple story that works surprisingly well for its repetitive nature, going to dark places that do a better job of expanding Finn’s growth into adulthood than words ever could. This is an episode that forces Finn into a role of independence after years of relying on those around him to make everything better. It’s his first real step into the unknown as he depends on his own intuition and instincts to help him through. Similar to other Herpich entries, Egress feels almost like a cinematic experience. It’s as creative as ever, with beautiful imagery, an intricate setting, and enough complexities that could allow for hour long analyses on the topic. Possibly Egress‘s best quality is that it’s primarily standalone, and you can pretty much show this to people who have never seen the series and not lose much. This is always my go-to for friends who haven’t watched the show before, and the reaction is usually pretty positive (though slightly confused at the same time). For so long, Adventure Time fans have been craving its ongoing story and nothing else. Egress is an example of “filler” that goes above and beyond just merely connecting to existing threads and provides an example of the series at in its most passionate and creative form.

 

Stay tuned next time for the WORST of Adventure Time Episodes!

Season Nine Review

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Has anyone realized yet that I always start the season reviews with a picture of Finn and Jake and sometimes other people hugging? Seriously, look at every other season review. Even the miniseries reviews had ’em. I’ve worked really hard on finding these hugging pics guys. I honestly think that shit ties this entire blog together. It’s my true magnum opus.

Anywho, season nine! Season nine is probably the weakest Adventure Time season to date. There has been a couple of seasons that I didn’t really connect with on a greater scale. Season 5.1 kind of strikes me as slightly hit-or-miss with not many episodes that truly stood out. If we’re taking Cartoon Network’s rebrand into consideration (of which I’m really starting to regret not following, I feel like I’ve ultimately dated this blog for future readings) Season 7 wasn’t too hot either. I think Season 9 stands out more than others on a quality front because:

  1. It is the last season of the series, after all.
  2. It’s shorter than every other season to date.

The second aspect is interesting, because I don’t necessarily think a smaller quantity equals a lesser quality – in fact, it’s usually the opposite. But in this case, it’s noticeable because Season 9 mainly spends its time focusing on a more serialized story arc, rather than following the show’s previous attempts at being episodic. Considering that I think the Gumbald arc sort of falls apart by the finale (though it was never especially interesting to begin with) it makes the season feel more wasted, even if I do appreciate that it was giving fans what they wanted after so long: a continuing story, not weighed down by filler.

I have a weird relationship with Adventure Time‘s attempts at serialization. I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea, but this is a series that was kind of built on the foundation of having little-to-no continuing story. That’s not to say it can’t change – Steven Universe was also kind of in the same boat in its first season (and in some respects, the seasons that followed it) until committing to a more ongoing storyline. Part of what makes Adventure Time so unique, however, is that it can kind of do whatever it wants whenever it wants with very little limitations at hand. A serialized story, while more rewarding in a sense, actually makes Adventure Time‘s individual entries standout less. I remember Always BMO Closing less as a fun BMO and Ice King adventure and more as a dull continuation of Gumbald’s story. Marcy & Hunson isn’t allowed to just focus on the already tumultuous relationship between Marceline and her father, but it also has to shoehorn in a secondary forced conflict with Princess Bubblegum’s cousin Chicle. Then again, Adventure Time ‘s eight season was almost exclusively bigger, serialized stories with very few standalone entries, and it proved to be one of the show’s best. So does it just boil down to poor quality in general?

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I think it’s easy to kind of jump on the idea that Season Nine COULD HAVE been better had the series not ceased production so early or if there were more episodes in general. But I think there’s also the possibility that AT may have just run its course. Not saying that it’s the obvious answer (we’ll see how Distant Lands fairs) but I think there’s a definite chance that the series, seven years old by this point and 260 episodes in, just wasn’t able to delight and surprise as it once did. Don’t get me wrong, Season Nine had some goodies. Blenanas was just the kind of standalone madness that I had been craving from AT by the time it aired. The Wild Hunt boasted some of the show’s slickest animation and storyboarding yet. Ring of Fire, despite the criticism facing it, was a delightfully horny Tree Trunks entry. But, even then, the entries that are great or good don’t really even rank among a top 10 or anything. Likewise, the episodes that are bad aren’t horrendously bad, but they’re also a special kind of mediocre that I’m not really used to seeing from the series.

Jake the Starchild was this really big culmination of a lot of elements that were built up throughout the series and it kind of just ended with these elements going absolutely no where. I know one could argue that Adventure Time is no stranger to holding the status quo oh-so-dear, but at this point in the series, I’d like to see some actual punches thrown. It doesn’t even really have to be a gamechanger by any means necessarily, but just do SOMETHING new with this story element that quite honestly wrapped up perfectly fine in Abstract, even without lasting consequences. While The Wild Hunt boasted some of the best animation in the series, Seventeen exhibited some of the worst, feeling like a mish-mash of storyboards that just felt super unpolished. Hunson & Marcy, aside from bits of forced conflict, brought back a long-running antagonist only to basically execute an exact repeat of all of his spotlight episodes thus far. Comparing it to the previous season once more, I feel like Season Eight seemed to address the show’s longstanding complaints by closing doors and offering more immediate satisfaction and overarching stories. Season Nine, while keeping in the spirit of what Season Eight wanted to accomplish, feels like one step back in its execution of these events.

The actual story arcs weren’t particularly strong either. I’ve gone on and on about how Gumbald’s arc fell flat in previous reviews, so I wouldn’t be adding much by elaborating on it here. At the very least, I will say that the Gumbald stuff isn’t awful, nor does it ruin any aspect of the series for me. It just isn’t very good and kind of squanders the potential of the last handful of episodes, but it’s executed in a quick and painless way and at least provides for some (relatively) interesting bits of PB’s past. I said “story arcs” above, but truthfully, that’s pretty much it. Fern gets some flack throughout, and while I don’t think his ending was particularly strong, I think his recurring role in the series probably makes for some of Season Nine’s strongest points, namely his battle with Finn in Gumbaldia. Otherwise, that’s kind of it for ongoing arcs. There’s a few episodes with Jake and his dad that go nowhere, as well as setup for GOLB, but most of that is dealt with in the finale.

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It’s difficult to talk about the success of boarding teams this season since there’s so few episodes. Per usual, Sam Alden hopped around from partner to partner, and almost always did great wherever he landed. Current and old AT staff members hopped on board to assist every now and then, which was a treat. Adam Muto chimed in for Marcy & Hunson, and I’m kinda sad in realizing that a lot of the Muto-boarded episodes after season three… aren’t very good. I mean, he’s had some gems, such as Everything StaysLittle Brother, and Varmints. But he’s also had The Prince Who Wanted EverythingDark Purple, and Marcy & Hunson. Yeeesh. Still love the direction that he took the series in, but I can’t really say he’s been the strongest when it comes to the boarding front these past few years. Erik Fountain joined Sam Alden for The Wild Hunt and proved that he’s one of the most skilled storyboarders on the staff. Pat McHale returned after years apart from the series for Blenanas, making for the best episode of the season. And Kent Osborne lent a hand for some BMO-Ice King goofiness in Always BMO Closing. For all of the praise I focused towards Seo and Somvilay last season, I really didn’t like a single episode they churned out during Season Nine. Their chunk of the finale was probably the weakest, and I think Son of Rap Bear ranks upon one of AT‘s worst efforts. Tom and Steve’s work was enjoyable, though not necessarily up to par with what I typically expect from them. I completely acknowledge that I sound like a self-righteous douche saying that, but I mean that in the most complimentary way. They’ve been one of the strongest teams throughout this show’s run, but nothing in Season Nine struck a chord with me in a particularly strong way. I kept thinking that Temple of Mars should have been the greatest episode ever, but it just wasn’t. Hanna K. and Aleks Sennwald dished out a good amount of hit-or-miss material, with the mixed bag of Bonnibel Bubblegum, the mostly delightful The First Investigation, and the painfully bland Jake the Starchild. Per usual, Graham Falk hopped around as well, in mostly decent-to-meh boarding efforts. It’s funny to me that Falk ended up boarding the last chunk of AT material to date. I have mixed feelings on his episodes overall, though I do recognize his talent. Still, he’s one of the last storyboard artists I would have expected to finish out the series entirely. I guess his role in the final calls is also up for debate, however.

Top 5 Best Episodes

5. Temple of Mars – A pretty neat continuation of Betty’s story, along with some cool psychological trials along the way.

4. The First Investigation – A fun time-skip episode interlaced with really sweet moments between Finn, Jake, and their late parents.

3. Ring of Fire – The journey of life told from a horny elephant’s perspective. I’m sold!

2. The Wild Hunt – An action-packed, high stakes episode with stellar animation to boot. A really nice exploration of Finn’s psyche as well.

1. Blenanas – All-in-all, a super fun, endearing, lighthearted, and funny entry that is as simple as the series can possibly get. And, as proved time and time again, that can sometimes be enough.

Worst Episodes

5.  Always BMO Closing – A mish mash of silly ideas and forced serialization that never truly complement each other.

4. Seventeen – The animation and poses in this episode are super awkward and stilted, and the plot itself isn’t entirely compelling.

3. Jake the Starchild – Just a really lame, pointless story that kind of goes no where and has nothing new to say.

2. Marcy & Hunson – A rehash of every Hunson entry in the series so far, interlaced with pandering moments for Bubbline fans.

1. Son of Rap Bear – A truly insignificant way to wrap up Flame Princess’s character, mixed with poor story elements, weak character moments, and even somewhat of a desire to be “hip with the kids,” which I never thought I’d say about Adventure Time.

Final Consensus

Season Nine is likely the weakest season to date. Outside of time limits, the episodes we got just weren’t very good in my eyes. There certainly is much more of a higher expectation for this season than previously seasons, however. Considering that this is the final batch of episodes for such a longrunning series, there’s more immediate satisfaction desired. Episodes in the past with some of the biggest sins, such as Breezy, are now more overlooked since episodes like Reboot came along to repent. Episodes such as Jake the Starchild and Son of Rap Bear aren’t as easily overlooked, considering that there’s no longer a cushion to make up for their squandered story elements. But as I’ve said above, this season wasn’t necessarily awful. It never had me shaking my fist in anger or denouncing the series. It was just kind of a let down for a series that has been going on for so long and has consistently sought to improve itself. But, considering that we now have more Adventure Time material on the way, maybe this will be the staff’s opportunity to truly get their final say in. Or maybe it will tease seven seasons worth of Adventure Time material down the line. It’ll probably be the latter.

That about wraps it up for the routine material – now we get to the fun stuff! Tune in next week for the Best and Worst of Adventure Time episodes!

 

 

 

 

 

“Come Along With Me” Consensus

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Before checking out this review, be sure you read the segmented analyses of each part of Come Along With Me.

It’s been a while, friends! Hope everyone had a terrific holiday season and a great start to their new year! Following the release of the final Come Along With Me individual review, I was definitely feeling burnt out and needed space from the series and this blog for a bit to rekindle my energy. My enthusiasm for discussing AT has happily renewed, and I’ll be wrapping up the first wave of this blog throughout the next few weeks with some bonus content. Since I’m just getting back into the swing of things, I don’t want to promise any form of heavily stressed deadlines, though this is the order of content you can expect for the next few weeks:

  • Season 9 Review.
  • The Best and Worst of Adventure Time Episodes.
  • Top 10 Adventure Time Moments.
  • Adventure Time Character Analysis.

I’ve batted around a few more ideas for bonus content before, and those ideas are still on the table, but I’d like to focus on the stuff I really want to tackle before possibly over-promising anything too elaborate.

A reminder that my giving campaign is still up and running! If you feel like you got one dollar’s worth of entertainment reading this blog in the past or present, or if you want to support the future of this blog, feel free to throw some cashola my way in you have the extra money!

SUPPORT ADVENTURE TIME REVIEWED!

With that said, let’s take a look at Come Along With Me as a whole! Ever since the release of the finale, I’ve seen nothing but overwhelmingly positive responses about Come Along With Me. Review sites like The A.V. Club and IGN awarded the finale with an absolute perfect score, while several longtime fans and fans who jumped back on board to see how the series ended were pretty amazed. I was pretty much in the same boat, but as time has passed, and I’ve looked at the finale with clear eyes not clouded by hype of everything…

It’s a’ight.

I think there’s a lot to like about Come Along With Me. In many respects, it is a completely inoffensive, loving, and dedicated finale. This certainly isn’t a Game of Thrones situation where the finale is so bad that it hurts both rewatch value and the overall quality of the series, but it is a finale that I find somewhat underwhelming. On a thematic level, Come Along With Me succeeds in following the main mission statement of the series that “the fun will never end,” by portraying the optimistic viewpoint that life and existence still continue regardless of impending doom that so often afflicts humanity (and Ooo-manity, of course). But, when looking at it from a surface or story level, I think there’s still a good amount to be desired.

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Let’s start with the good stuff. The expansion of the 1000+ world that was introduced in Graybles 1000+ is quite impressive. I was initially a bit miffed that this futuristic element was being crammed in, seeing as how the finale was already so jam-packed as is, but I think it really adds a lot to what the episode sets out to say. Shermy and Beth are quite likable, albeit not particularly remarkable. I think they fill the shoes of “two wide-eyed scamps set out to do good,” really nicely. BMO’s presence in the future is also similarly endearing. I think he’s really the only character from the main cast that I would actually like to see this far into the future. Every other character is tied to some form of baggage that would probably devolve them into a gritty, worn-out version of their old self, but BMO is just BMO. His stagnant personality is a perfect fit 1000+ years later. The general layout of the 1000+ world is pretty gnarly. It does a great job at setting itself apart from the past version of Ooo, while still retaining its likable nature. I’ve seen a lot of comments about future Ooo being depressing, though I can’t really can’t behind that. There’s a definitely a more muted color scheme, but its spirit still feels light and playful. And considering that there’s a giant heroic Sweet P. traveling the land, it also still retains its large sense of heroism. After all, the whole point of the finale, as well as BMO’s story, is that there really is no end to anything. Ooo is different from what it once was, and Finn and Jake are no longer roaming around, but their spirit and energy lives on in other brave souls and environments. Like I said, the thematic elements of the episode are quite strong.

Come Along With Me feels very dedicated in its fanservice. Some moments feel like a little bit of a stretch for me, (Shermy singing “On a Tropical Island” was a bit too on-the-nose for my liking) but I think it is quite enjoyable for that reason. BMO’s treasure trove of items from the show’s history is so wide that I’m sure there are some elements that haven’t even been discovered yet. There’s plenty of cool character callbacks, some of which return just for the sense of wrapping up their individual arcs, like Maja and APTWE. The ending montage, in particular, is chock full of characters from the show’s history, as well as important character moments. I’ll throw in the entire montage as one of the great elements of this finale, partly because I never get sick of hearing “Come Along With Me,” and because there’s a couple bits that even got me misty-eyed. BMO sending Moe’s memories into space was a perfect epilogue to Moe’s story that ended in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know, Prismo not being able to bring back Betty was a super clever way of turning the tables on Simon’s tale, and Magic Man coming to terms with Margles’ absence was undeniably sweet. I also really can’t think of a better note to leave Finn’s character on than his mother and the humans finally arriving in Ooo. I still hold close that it would’ve been cool to see Finn and Jake take on their parents’ old job as a way to fulfill their desires of adventuring in a more stable environment, but I think this was a solid way to leave off his story in a relatively ambiguous, yet hopeful, way.

The finale also does have moments that legitimately do grab me in terms of excitement. The third part of Come Along With Me is probably my favorite, mainly because it is this fun, fast-paced, action-packed battle that never really takes a second to breathe or think. This is kind of what I was expecting for most of the finale, and I’m glad it delivered on some level. It gives you an idea of how tense and real the stakes are, even if everything ends up okay, for the most part. I think there’s three moments in the finale that really echo that somewhat hopeless feeling: Jake realizing the destruction after he arises before battling GOLB’s beasts, BMO’s face being smashed up, and the animals watching on as GOLB sucks up everything. There’s a true sense of finality that I do think boosts Come Along With Me into feeling like this big, grand entry. The song “Time Adventure” assists with that, which is a song that I love, though not particularly in how it’s executed within that actual episode. The studio recording of “Time Adventure” is a tune that I genuinely love and one that truly does make me feel something, but the way it’s included in the episode feels a little hollow. I still like everyone joining together in harmony in an attempt to defeat GOLB, but I would’ve like it if we got to hear the song the way it was intended (i.e. with Jake singing the final line to Finn).

There’s also Marceline and Bubblegum’s scene, which explicitly shows that they are involved romantically. Thought this was a super nice treat for people who had been invested in their relationship for so long, and somewhat of a big step forward in LGBTQ+ representation within children’s media. Like I said prior, Steven Universe had beaten AT to the punch YEARS before they had pulled this off forreal, but I think it still feels impactful. Steven Universe always kind of had the excuse that the gems were “genderless” in order to fly by the censors. This is an instance where two female characters are quite clearly portrayed as sexual counterparts, and I don’t think there’s really explanation around it either way.

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Now onto the bad/mediocre material. Surprisingly, I think Come Along With Me is really weak from a character standpoint. All of the main characters, in my opinion, are weighed down either by a story element, or the fact that there’s just too much going on at once, with the exception of BMO. Finn gets severely shafted in the third and fourth parts, being essentially a fly on the wall while all of this cool shit goes on around him, and his main character motivation in the first half is handled poorly. Bubblegum’s story of empathy has a pretty lousy payoff, considering that she really doesn’t end up changing the behavior that got her into such a circumstance to begin with. Jake’s presence is fun, but a bit too distracting in terms of tone at points, and he really isn’t given any kind of overarching role aside from being a bystander. Marceline is once again weighed down by her character only revolving around Bubblegum and Simon and not really getting a chance to do anything independently. As for Ice King, I think it works in everyone’s best interest (or at least a majority of the fan base) that he got the resolution that has been built up for so long, but I still have a couple qualms about how Simon’s return essentially means the end of Ice King, even if Gunter’s role attempts at subverting that.

A lot of these issues tie into the fact that there really is just too much going on in Come Along With Me, as to be expected with a series that’s been on this long and that has so many lingering mysteries. Even the elements that are given a good bit of attention, such as Fern’s redemption, feel all too rushed along for myself to truly get behind. Couple that with the fact that the story, or stories, themselves are not very strong.

The first half hour of the special is dedicated to the Great Gum War. This storyline had already felt kind of clunky throughout the course of season nine, but it really ends up going nowhere in its climax. While the dream sequence is interesting in some aspects, namely the scenes where PB and Gumbald experience life inside each other’s shoes, it feels wasted with the conclusion we get. I’m not even sure what the takeaway of Gumbald’s entire story was. It was originally supposed to tie in to PB’s overall insecurity of being a corrupt ruler, and it seemed like that’s where this episode wanted to take it, but it basically just ends up exactly where she started, trapping her family members in a barren vessel because she doesn’t want to deal with the real issue at hand. Except for Aunt Lolly, who apparently is super sympathetic towards PB for… some reason? Even though the last episode clearly showed that it was all a ruse? Her character is painted with little to no depth and it really shows. Not to mention that her role in the episode makes the entire first chunk of the finale moot, since Finn’s choice to Nightmare Juice PB and Gumbald had no effect on Aunt Lolly’s decision. Yet, the episode acts like Finn was the holy savior even after the fact when his choice only benefited Fern and not the overall war. I don’t get it, man. I could go on and on about how the way Gumbald’s betrayal at the end of Part 2 is written in a very sloppy way, but I think I could forgive the conclusion itself if we actually got something interesting from the war element. Since the development between Gumbald and PB ended up being scrapped, I would’ve at least liked to see some of the excitement that the past two episodes have so desperately built up to. I know its in typical AT fashion to subvert expectations, but c’mon, it’s the series finale. Go big with it! I wanna see Pete Sassafras murder someone.

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The GOLB twist provides for that surface level excitement I had been longing for, but I don’t think it’s especially strong either, which mostly has to do with GOLB as a character. The build up to GOLB’s presence was super mysterious and kind of suspenseful, but when he actually shows up, he’s kind of lame. He mainly just acts as a plot device for absolute destruction. The thing is, I’m not really sure how to make GOLB more interesting. I think it’d be silly if he had a speaking voice or some kind of evil plan, but I feel like another element should’ve been added to make him appear more intimidating. The animation shift to a more sketchy style during his demise was rad as hell, I wouldn’t mind if his entire appear called for some kind of animation shift. Or even just in shading – Come Along With Me is also plagued by really dull colors.

Simon’s story is wrapped up within the last chunk, and ehhh. I can’t really put blame on the staff for deciding that the only decision that made sense was curing Simon after years of build up, and to be fair, the way it’s executed isn’t bad by any means. I just think that Ice King’s character became way too elaborate for its own good to the point where I really didn’t want Simon to come back at all. Ice King is a character that has been shown to grow and develop on his own, so why should he get the shaft? I know that he technically still lives on through Gunter’s wish, but I dunno, it seems like a more complicated issue that was glossed over all too fast for the purpose of a quick conclusion. I do think Betty’s sacrifice was genuinely quite potent, and made for a nice role reversal in Simon and Betty’s never-ending saga.

Fern’s arc also gets a grand conclusion, which is bumpy, but still relatively satisfying. I think Part 2’s redemption story for Fern is way too obvious and unchallenged in how it handles his quick decision to cooperate with Finn, but I ultimately find his death to be quite poignant and a nice sentiment of Finn bidding farewell to his childhood and a part of himself.

Parts Ranked

  1. Part 3 – Just a ton of fun, and the one chunk of the finale that actually had me super invested in everything going on.
  2. Part 1 – A nice exploration of the 1000+ world, and a genuinely suspenseful build in to the faux war that never actually comes into fruition.
  3. Part 4 – A little clunky and awkward in how it tries to quickly wrap everything up as fast a possible, but still provides for a nice ending.
  4. Part 2 – The only part of the finale that I’d say is just straight up bad. Makes the entire storyline of the season feel partially wasted and it just isn’t all that interesting either.

Final Consensus

Come Along With Me is a safe, inoffensive finale, and that’s not necessarily a huge downfall. I think, in its core, it is a finale that had a lot of passion and love put into it. Like I said, there’s really nothing in here that could ruin the series for anyone or is even that deplorable, but I don’t really think that makes it especially good either. It still is very underwhelming in parts, and clearly comes from a staff that really had no idea how they were going to tie everything together. In my eyes, the series has already churned out some episodes that could make for great finales. Faults aside, The Comet did feel like a culmination of everything that Finn had learned up to that point, and a nice conclusion of himself finally finding peace. Islands also wrapped up a lot of long-standing questions, and offered fans an essential answer to who Finn truly is. Not necessarily saying that these episodes should have been finales – I think it would probably drive people insane if The Comet was the series finale. But those are both examples of episodes that set out to tell interesting stories first without the pressure of having every lingering detail figured out. Come Along With Me feels like a hodgepodge of ideas that want to offer ultimate satisfaction, but never really just focus on being entertaining first. Overall, I think it does get a pass for trying its damnedest to make everyone as satisfied as they possibly can be. But for me personally, it’s far from one of AT‘s strongest entries.