Archive | January 2017

“Dungeon” Review

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Original Airdate: July 12, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Elizabeth Ito & Adam Muto

One of Adventure Time‘s strongest influences, as well as creator Pendleton Ward’s greatest inspiration, are the Dungeons and Dragons video game series. While I was never a D&D junkie, or even a big roleplaying game fan myself, there’s no denying the impact it has had on society. From numerous pop cultural references to even immensely popular actors such as Robin Williams (God rest his soul) have admitted that its one of their favorite games of all time. It really seems like all of that passion towards one of the most popular roleplaying games of all time went specifically into this incredibly fun episode.

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One of the first things I noticed while rewatching this episode is that this is the first episode where Finn’s voice is noticeably changing. It’s only a slight change, but the reason I mentioned this was to make an observation on how Jeremy Shada’s voice work as Finn has developed so naturally throughout the years that it’s barely even noticeable when it begins to change. For example, though I think Zach Callison’s voice work as Steven on Steven Universe, while his inflections are terrific, his transition through puberty has been a bit less gradual. It’s understandable; he’s 19-year-old trying to force a 14-year-old’s voice, so it’s bound to be less natural sounding. Finn’s voice has always replicated a gradual journey from adolescence into adulthood.

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In addition, this is the first episode to really stress the differences between Finn and Jake. Finn is, of course, the energetic and pure hearted hero, while Jake can be a giant lazy fuck at times. It brings out the strongest parts of each character, but also makes an effort to still make Jake likable and fun to be around. In addition, we’re showcased to some creative and fun video game esque villains. Demon Cat, voiced by Clancy Brown, is an incredibly designed and amusingly creepy character. I love how his approximate knowledge of everything coincides with his limbs not fully connecting to his body. Nice little touch!

There’s also a Bucket Knight who grows when adding water and an evil Guardian Angel. All of these foes are so interesting that they could easily have entire episode devoted to them, especially that evil Guardian Angel. I wanna know what her deal is. The real draw of this episode, however, is the relationship between Finn and Jake. Jake is written terrifically in this episode; once it’s revealed that both Finn and Jake couldn’t make it through the dungeon, Jake doesn’t gloat or rub it in Finn’s face, but instead goes so far as to help Finn win a bet against. That’s true friendship right there.

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This is a delightful fun romp. AT has done several terrific dungeon episodes following this one (Dad’s Dungeon, Mystery Dungeon, Dungeon Train, Hall of Egress, etc.) and Dungeon is no exception. It highlights everything that makes the first season so great: lots of poppy animation, high energy, a lot of random humor, very creative locations and characters, and two likable heroes in the spotlight. What more do you need?

“When Wedding Bells Thaw” Review

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Original Airdate: June 28, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Niki Yang

The Ice King’s depiction in season one varies greatly. Just two episodes ago, the more sympathetic side of his character was brought out, and he was hinted at being genuinely caring and fatherly deep down inside. Prior to that, the IK was depicted more as a Saturday Morning cartoon villain that barely posed a threat to our heroes. Other times, he’s depicted as completely insane and sociopathic. This episode features more of the latter, though the entire episode ends up seeming almost as scattershot as Ice King’s brain.

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Ice King’s getting married! He informs Finn and Jake after trying to kill both of them. One thing this episode harps on quite a bit is the Ice King’s always growing one-sided friendship between he, Finn and Jake. Before this episode, the three of them were painted as rivals in almost every scenario, but this is the one that changes it up quite a bit for the remainder of the series. I wish there could’ve been a small segue to hint at this unexpected attachment Ice King obtains for Finn and Jake, but hey, it’s already established that Ice King is nuts. I’m ready to accept that he randomly awoke one day and decided that he wanted F&J as his best friends.

The one issue that this episode poses is that it’s pretty predictable. We know from the second Ice King mentions that he’s getting married that it ain’t gonna happen. We all know there’s no way in hell Ice King’s just gonna have a wife from now on, so it hurts the episode a bit that the twist ending isn’t really a twist ending. Also, I sorta feel like this episode would’ve been slightly more interesting if Ice King had brainwashed Princess Bubblegum instead of the newly introduced Old Lady Princess. Sure, that would’ve been an even more predictable plot, but I feel as though there would’ve been more comedic possibilities if they had used a recurring character over a character the audience isn’t familiar with.

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The episode isn’t devoid of entertainment, though. The Manlorette Party is a very enjoyable sequence, including what is arguably the greatest background score in AT history. There’s also a nice cameo of the bears who later appear in “Belly of the Beast.” Okay, here’s where things sorta lose touch with the rest of the episode. There’s a solid 2-3 minutes of Ice King debating on whether he should actually marry his wife because if he does, she may try to steal his demonic wishing eye. He also begins to realize he won’t be able to steal princesses anymore, so F&J end up trying to convince him to marry Old Lady Princess, to which he agrees to. Of course, later on, Finn and Jake find out that Old Lady Princess was hypnotized the entire time and realize that Ice King’s conflict with marriage was pointless, to which the IK responds that he’s “complicated.” Sure, the show is self aware of the previous scene being pointless, and it’s admittedly pretty funny that Ice King is convoluted enough to conspire with his own scheme, but it just sorta seems like those entire exchanges with Finn and Jake seemed pointless, since I couldn’t call them particularly funny. Thus, it results in a somewhat rushed (albeit entertaining) climax. But hey, Jake and the Ice King are officially married as of this episode!

So even though it’s purposely disjointed, this episode still seems a bit messy nonetheless. Besides the brief development between Ice King’s growing affection for Finn and Jake, it’s just sort of a lackluster episode with nothing particularly funny or groundbreaking to discuss. However, this episode would spiral into a series of future episodes that would further delve into F, J, & IK’s complicated relationship.

“Ocean of Fear” Review

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Original Airdate: June 21, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: J.G. Quintel & Cole Sanchez

“In the dark recesses of the mind, a disease known as FEAR feasts upon the souls of those who cannot overcome its power…”

– Pat McHale

This quote, delivered by Clancy Brown, sets the mood for this slightly off-tone and delightfully character building episode. I mentioned in my review of “Memories of Boom Boom Mountain” that this episode did an especially good job of teaching Finn an important life lesson. That being that fears are an essential part of life and not something with expectations to be conquered or eliminated at any point in time.

Finn’s fear of the ocean is one of the most intriguing elements of his character. There’s a lot we don’t yet know about Finn, between the history of his past, the identity of his mother, his origin or where the hell he got that hat from. Most of these are likely to be answered in the upcoming miniseries, but Finn’s fear of the ocean raises much speculation. Could it be from the time Finn’s neglectful father brought him out to sea on a banana boat? Could it be a more deeply rooted reason that we haven’t yet been informed of? Whatever the reason, the show does a terrific job of making it seem convoluted yet entirely realistic at the same time. Finn acknowledges that his fear of the ocean doesn’t make a lick of sense since he isn’t afraid of lakes or ponds or anything even remotely related to the ocean, but aren’t most fears, by nature, irrational?

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We’re also introduced to one of the first recurring villains in the show: the Fear Feaster. Mark Hamill had previously voiced the Dark Magician back in “The Enchiridion”, and while he uses similar inflections for the voice of the Fear Feaster, he does a terrific job of giving the character a menacing demeanor as well as a humorous one. In fact, this entire episode has somewhat of a menacing demeanor. The atmosphere is really creepy, including some underwater shots that give us some more brief glimpses of the effects of the apocalypse, with scatters of cars and trucks everywhere. It even goes into some really fucked up territory by showing the bodies of a dead family sitting on a couch. Yeesh.

It’s noteworthy that this episode was co-storyboarded by J.G. Quintel, the creator of “Regular Show”. You can really tell by the grotesque expressions of the characters that this episode wasn’t storyboarded by one of the show’s regulars, but they really help add to the unnerving presence. Some of the facial expressions even remind me of “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack”, another series J.G. Quintel worked on.

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Jake tries to be a supportive brother in order to help Finn conquer his fear, but exposing Finn to his fear doesn’t help at all and just leads to Jake getting his bread and butter all donked up. It’s somewhat of good commentary to also show that exposure to a fear doesn’t always cure the fear. In fact, it can often times exacerbate it, which is exactly what happens when Jake leads Finn to the bottom of the ocean and Finn freaks out, leaving Jake stranded below. This leads to one of the heavier moments of the episode, featuring a long, drawn-out scene of Finn unconsciously floating to the bottom of the ocean as it fades to black between each take. I don’t know what it is about “Adventure Time” and their common use of fading to black, but everytime its utilized, it really helps add a heavy atmosphere to the episode. It’s mostly used during quiet moments, which only increase their impact.

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The Fear Feaster declares that Finn will never be a hero if he doesn’t conquer his fear of the ocean, but Three Wise Men arrive and declare that all heroes have flaws and that Finn is truly the greatest hero in all of Ooo. As I mentioned, this is a terrific lesson for Finn, not only as a hero, but also as a human being. There are so many kids’ shows I’ve seen that have done these types of episodes and almost always end with the character having faced their fear in some creative or elaborate way. I’m glad AT doesn’t go out of its way to eliminate Finn’s fear completely, but instead embrace it as a part of his character and a flaw within himself.

This is one of my favorite episodes of the first season, mostly because of the approach that the show took to flesh out Finn’s phobia, as well as focusing less on random humor and more on environment and atmosphere. I’m not sure if we’re ever going to get a direct answer to Finn’s fear of the ocean, but either way, this episode did a delightful job of proving that fears are a part of the human condition and not something to be repressed or vanquished.

“And so fear is forced deep within the soul of a hero. Conquered… at least, for now…”

“What is Life?” Review

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Original Airdate: June 14, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Luther McLaurin & Armen Mirzaian

Season one of “Adventure Time” is likely the weakest season in my books. That’s not to say it’s bad, by any means, but its focus is more on sheer absurdity and silliness, rather than character building and experimentations. One of the common criticisms I’ve received about this blog thus far is that it’s heavily synopsis based with little review. This is because it’s pretty difficult for me to discuss these early season episodes in great depth and analyses considering that the past fourteen episodes I’ve gone through before have been mostly silly, with hints of backstory here and there. There’s only so many times I can say “that’s funny” or “that’s really silly.”

That being said, “What is Life?” changes the definition of what “Adventure Time” is, and is the most significant episode of the first season. This is the very episode that showed me that AT is a series that’s more than meets the eye. That it was a show that could include the occasional fart joke, but also one that was deeply enriched in the emotions of its characters. This episode really spotlights the many layers behind Ice King’s character, and proves that he’s much more than just the classic Saturday morning cartoon villain. There’s been hints of his tragic personality here and there, namely that he can’t connect with anyone even if he tries. Never has it been so explicitly obvious until this episode, however.

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The real star of this episode is NEPTR, though. After being pranked a series of times by Jake and reading about “Yo Whadup!”s in a book, Finn brings the Never Ending Pie Throwing Robot to life. Andy Milonakis does an excellent job with NEPTR’s reflections, and gives him such a likable presence. NEPTR’s truthfully one of my favorite minor characters. He’s so charming and delightful, and the fact that nobody in the series gives two shits about him only makes me like him more.

While Finn tries to teach NEPTR about the art of pranking, they break into Ice King’s house. It’s here we get a brief melancholic moment of Ice King having a conversation with himself in a female voice and claiming to Gunter it’s what it would sound like if he was actually married. It’s really the first “awww” moment the Ice King has, and you immediately can form a sympathetic connection with him. We get to see a little more of the ice castle in this episode as well, and I really like how creative they get with the ice creatures. The design of the Ice Bull is terrific, especially his transcendent guts just hanging out in the open, but it’s the Ice-o-pede that really grabs my eye in this one. He fucking shoots lasers!

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After getting zapped with Ice King’s bolt and fully bringing himself to life, NEPTR begins to have a fascination with capturing princesses, and IK begins to feel a connection to the robot as well.  As Finn and Ice King argue on who would be the better parent to NEPTR, it’s important to note that IK hasn’t really done anything wrong in this episode. Besides attacking Finn, who broke into his house to pull a prank on him, Ice King hasn’t done anything immoral or unethical, besides trying to swoo NEPTR over. In the end, NEPTR chooses Ice King (to prank) and joins Finn in throwing pies at Jake. It’s here that we see Ice King shed a tear and enter his imagination zone, in which him and NEPTR share a loving father-son relationship.

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It’s sad stuff, and the aftermath of this episode makes it worse. When you realize that Finn and Jake neglected NEPTR for months, Ice King probably could’ve made a better father for NEPTR in the end. Considering Simon’s long history with Marceline before the crown caused him to go insane, this may have been Ice King subconsciously trying to connect with a child once more. This episode does a perfect job of humanizing Ice King and having the audience empathize with him. It’s fitting that it’s called “What is Life?” because this episode really explores the meaning of not only NEPTR’s life, but also Ice King’s, showing that life isn’t always black and white, and villains aren’t always truly villains. Ice King’s character was forever changed for the better by this episode, solidifying him as one of the show’s most sympathetic characters. Also, suicidal balloons.

 
(UPDATE: As of now, I only have enough time in my schedule to post two reviews a week. So one review will be posted on Friday and the other will be posted on Monday. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

“The Witch’s Garden” Review

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Original Airdate: June 7, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne, Niki Yang & Adam Muto

The episode begins with Finn and Jake following a frog holding a crown. Finn just really wants to see what happens when that frog puts on the crown. It’s so interesting to me that this one little scene that’s less than thirty seconds spawned an entire series of shorts, which, to my knowledge, were originally supposed to be a full length episode. All you need with “Adventure Time” is one non-sequitur or throwaway joke and bam! You have yourself a completely new story arc or plotline for an episode.

They eventually come across a garden with delicious sweets growing out of the bushes. Jake uses his sniffer to detect if the donuts are poisonous, but they check out. However, a Witch arrives and accuses Jake of stealing her donut. Jake denies it, but realizes he has been eating a donut, all because of his subconscious. The Witch is seriously pissed off, and turns Jake into a normal dog, including a baby-like body and a pair of underwear. AT really goes one step beyond for sight gags like this; all the Witch had to do was take Jake’s powers away, but it’s waaaay funnier that Jake now has an overweight man-baby body. It’s little touches like this that really show how odd and quirky the writing for this show can be, in the best possible way. Jake notices immediately that his nipple count is strangely short, and the Witch notifies him that he won’t receive his powers back until he apologizes for stealing her donut. Then she brings a bagel to life and it has little legs and underwear. Cute!

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Finn begins to notice that powerless Jake is even lazier than regular Jake, so the two of them try to find out the source to Jake’s powers. Jake remembers first experiencing his stretchy powers when he was a puppy rolling around in a mud puddle. We don’t learn anything new about Jake’s backstory until five seasons later, but it’s nice that they kept it consistent with the truth behind Jake’s powers. He may not have received his powers exactly that way, but considering he was born with them while being in a puddle, it only seems logical that that’s how he would remember it. In the search for mud puddles around Ooo, Finn continues getting more fed up with Jake. There’s some really great instances of annoyed Finn throughout the episode, and the storyboard artists do a really nice job with his facial expressions. AT’s art style usually prevents from really spectacular facial reactions, but this episode has a lot of funny instances of Jake driving Finn up a wall.

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After trying out a mud puddle, Jake decides to listen to his sentient subconscious and give up the search. In the meantime, some skeleton mermaid named Gary pops out of the River of Junk and wants to get in Finn and Jake’s individual trousers. Finn and Jake are both really grossed out, so Gary says screw it to reproduction and attempts to feed Finn to her hatchlings. Jake begins feeling regret, so he and his subconscious decide to get his powers back from the Witch. The idea of a character’s subconscious leaving their body was introduced in this episode. It seems that anytime this occurs, the character has to go through some type of lesson or life experience, but Jake ain’t about learning lessons. He’s all about keeping cool and kicking back, and his subconscious is on the same page with him about that.

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The Witch decides that it’s too late for Jake to even apologize, so she puts his subconscious and himself through a series of humiliating stunts, which ends up killing Jake’s subconscious. Jake begins to weep because his best friend is in danger and that any remnants of his own self are gone forever, so the Witch decides to give him his powers back. With his powers back and his subconscious revived, Jake bitch slaps the Witch’s cane out of her hand and steals another donut, revealing that he didn’t learn anything at all. Hooray for anti-morals! Jake saves his best pal from the hatchlings, and denies having apologized at all, claiming he just found the right mud puddle.

Keeping in the tradition of what seems to be season one’s approach at branching out Finn and Jake’s characters, this is another episode where Jake goes through a similar situation as Finn, with different results, of course. In “City of Thieves,” Finn experiences the hardship of being deemed a thief and wants nothing tarnishing his status as a hero. Jake, on the other hand, is a bit more morally gray. He doesn’t really care what anyone thinks of him or what his status is in Ooo, he just does what he loves and loves what he does. He’s 28-years-old, and has already learned most basic life lessons necessary to grow as a person. He’ll steal a donut from a Witch if he really wants to. Otherwise, this is a pretty humorous episode. The Witch is a really funny one-off character, I almost wish she came back in future episodes. She’s delightfully insane and demented, bringing bagels to life and talking to her cupcakes. In addition, the dynamic between Finn and Jake is very well-crafted in this episode. I like how Finn really pushes for Jake to get his shit together, and his passionate desire to get his bro to return to his adventuring ways. A lot of elements within this episode return to be branched out later on in the series as well, including Jake’s subconscious, the frog with the crown, and Jake’s mysterious past. For a standard and goofy season one episode, it’s really nice to see that the writers took a lot of the simplistic elements and expanded upon them greatly later on.

“City of Thieves” Review

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Original Airdate: May 24, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn & Sean Jimenez

The episode begins with Finn walking around on all fours using stilts, as he tries to get on Jake’s level. These small moments between the brothers really are the highlight of the first season. They’re just so gosh darn likable around each other that just them hanging out and shooting the shit is enough to entertain me. I remember reading in the “Art of Ooo” book (marvelous book by the way, I’d definitely give it a read if you haven’t) that one of the scrapped episodes that was pitched was an episode involving Finn and Jake hanging out on top of a cloud and just talking about life for 11 minutes. I would have loved to see that!!

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F&J eventually come across a city, but an old, crusty hag warns them that it is the “City of Thieves” and that anyone who enters will become a thief. Finn disregards this warning and instead decides to help a little girl named Penny, as her flower basket had been stolen. Once in the city, Finn and Jake try to retrieve the basket, but it keeps getting stolen from one person to the next. Even Jake is tempted to steal, which gives us a brief insight to Jake’s criminal past. It’s interesting how these little scenes and moments can carry over into something bigger in the plot or help us better understand who these characters are little by little. Penny tells Finn about a king thief who steals belongings and takes them back to his tower, but only those who are pure of heart can get in. Finn’s ready to enter the tower, but Jake stole a pair of shiny red boots, so he can’t get in. I don’t blame him, those boots are luscious.

So Finn enters into the tower and retrieves a chest, but when he returns, he realizes it’s full of gold and there’s no basket inside. Penny was a sneaky little bitch who only wanted the gold, and ended up stealing Finn’s purity in doing so. Finn begins having some PTSD over being a thief and the old hag returns to gloat about being right, but Jake kicks her to the curb and helps Finn embrace his dark side so they can steal to help get back at Penny. Thus, Bat-Finn is born! Serving up justice through dark and questionable ways. Finn begins stealing swords, crossbows and even a bar of soap from a bathing horse. Sorry, Bojack Horseman. F&J proceed to break into Penny’s tent and confront her, followed by giving her a soap bath, thus purifying her. Penny thanks Finn and vows to never steal again, but when she embraces Finn, she also steals his shirt and pants. Oh Penny, you rascal!!

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This is a pretty standard episode. I really like the designs of some of the thieves, including a skeleton baby, a conjoined mutant with arms at the center of its body, and of course, the debut of Phil! How is he not human, by the way? The stealing sequences are really fast and really vibrant as well, helping give this episode a big kick to it. Other than that, there really isn’t anything too noteworthy to mention. I suppose the twist halfway through with Penny being a thief was somewhat surprising, but there was nothing especially funny or dramatic about it. I really like Finn’s descent into darkness after he steals the treasure, I almost wish we could see this side of the little man more often. And anytime Jake is portrayed as a thief is worth a good chuckle to me, he can’t help himself, dammit! Anyway, onto the next episode…

“Evicted!” Review

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Original Airdate: May 17, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn & Sean Jimenez

Jake tells Finn a spooky “based on a true” story about vampires that really psychs him out. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this yet, but Finn’s pajamas really psych me out. There’s no way in hell they’re even remotely comfortable, and they must itch a bunch. Finn heads off to bed, but is too scared to sleep, and is intruded on by a worm in his bed. Finn tosses the Enchiridion at it, because that book is only good for killing bugs and sitting on when the grass is wet.

After seeing the shadow of a vampire through his window, Finn rushes downstairs and panics to Jake. Jake calms Finn down by telling him that he made the whole thing up, but just then, Marceline the Vampire Queen pops in! And thus, we have our first appearance of Marcy. Sorta weird how it took 12 episodes to introduce one of the show’s most fleshed out and interesting characters, but here she is! Odd to say, but I especially like the way she’s designed in this episode. She’s wearing the basic gray outfit you see in most promotional pictures and merchandise (ain’t it weird how this is the only episode she wears that shirt?) but there’s something especially fluid and expressive about her movements and facial expressions in this episode. Marceline informs Finn and Jake of all her adventures around Ooo, including riding through a sea of fish in the DAYTIME. You lie, Marcy! Marceline overstays her welcome, however, when she kicks Finn and Jake out and claims that treehouse was her property first. Of course, Finn wants to kick her in the face a little, but Jake’s hella scared of vampires, so the two search for a new home together.

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What follows is one of my favorite scenes from AT’s first season: “The House Hunting Song.” The montage is a fast-paced romp, featuring some of the funniest and most absurd parts of the episode; Finn continuously keeps sticking his foot in people’s houses and a frog barfs a tiger, all perfectly ordinary events in the Land of Ooo. What really ties this scene together is Pendleton Ward’s hilarious singing voice. He gives every line of the song a certain umph and really nails every single delivery that the song never grows stale throughout its entirety. In addition, it even helps build Marceline’s character a bit! She’s 1,000 years old and she lost track of her moral code, but she certainly isn’t a villain of any sorts. After losing her closest friend, her jerky boyfriend, her favorite teddy bear and her father figure going completely bananas, I don’t blame her for losing stability in her life. The one small thing that bugs me about the sequence is that it raises the question: why isn’t BMO with the boys?? I know this is before BMO becomes a major character, but it seems like a bit of discontinuity looking at the series now with how close the boys are to their sentient game console.

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After that song is done with, we transition into another one where Jake serenades Finn by telling him that home is where the heart is. Obviously Jake isn’t really taking it seriously and is only having fun with it, but it’s a sweet little moment between the two brothers. After finally finding a home inside a cave, F&J decide to throw a rad housewarming party. A party that’s so rad, it raises back Tree Trunks from the dead!

As all the guests party, Marceline enters the boys’ new home and tells F&J that the cave is also her property. Finn’s like, “fuck this, it’s time to kill us a vampire!” Jake reminds Finn that home is where the heart is, which prompts Marcy to try to kidnap Jake. Marceline transforms into that awesome bat form that she has under her sleeve, as her and Finn begin to fight. Marceline grabs Jake once again, and sucks the blood right out of him. Finn is super pissed and punches that literal homewrecker right in the jaw. Marceline is impressed and kisses Finn on the cheek, causing his 12-year-old boyhood to exacerbate. Jake is revealed to have survived because he stuffed all of his guts in his thumb, and Marceline decides to give the boys their house back. Upon returning, Finn and Jake find that their house is infested by worms. The King Worm enters the room and makes Finn and Jake hug him. End of episode.

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There’s not a whole lot going on in this episode, to be honest. It’s pretty much just Finn and Jake get kicked out, find another house, fight Marceline and return back home. That being said, I think it’s a really great and fun introduction to Marceline’s character. While she actually doesn’t appear much in this episode, you can clearly tell from her brief appearance that Marceline is a very two-dimensional and layered character, and I really like how Finn and Jake work off of her. Jake is obviously terrified of her, while Finn seems equally scared of her, but more of an “intimidated by a hot girl” sort of way. Aside from that, “The House Hunting” song is really what turns this episode from a good one to a great one, and really is one of the most enjoyable scenes in the entirety of the first season.