Original Airdate: July 19, 2010
Written & Storyboarded by: Elizabeth Ito & Adam Muto
If you ask me, I think Princess Bubblegum is certainly one of the most fleshed out and developed characters on Adventure Time. While every character has their spotlight of hidden depth and character development, Bonnie Bubblegum has grown the most beyond her original stereotype of “the pretty princess”. Though the show has pandered to her by making her character seem so one-dimensional, this is the first time we get to take a gander at her darker side. And booooy, is it fun.
Like a lot of the first season episodes, The Duke offers a somewhat generic premise, but it goes in a somewhat interesting and delightful direction that I don’t really mind it as much. After Finn and Jake mess around with some bottles, they accidentally turn Peebles green and bald. So begins her descent in psychosis. I think the most interesting thing about her freakout is that it was never built up upon in past episodes. She’s just completely batshit whilst she was mild-mannered and friendly the past 5 or 6 episodes she was in. Again, it sort of adds to her character while also acknowledging that this is most likely a pre-existing side of her personality.
Aside from that though, the backgrounds and designs in this episode are terrific. First of all, the Palace of Nuts is awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever given Ghostshrimp proper credit on this blog before, but his background work for the first season (and every following season he’s worked on) is outstanding. The details of the castle and landscape are terrifically mapped out and the colors of the sky and kingdom are beautifully vibrant and poppy.
What I like most about this episode is the introduction of two characters who really deserve more screen time than they’ve ever received: The Duke of Nuts and the Duchess of Nuts. The Duke of Nuts is an enjoyably polite character, and I especially enjoy anytime Steve Little does a voice for the show. The Duke’s voice inflections would later be transferred to Turtle Princess and Nurse Pound Cake, but I especially feel like the voice fits this character. I dunno… something about Steve Little voicing an anthropomorphic nut just seems so right. In addition to PB’s psychosis, the Duchess of Nuts is another “nutty” (I’m really sorry for that one guys) character whose personality and presence is so strong that I’m only wishing we could’ve seen more of her. Also, that squirrel who is unhealthily obsessed with Jake debuts in this episode, and boy is he a riot. I wasn’t really crazy about his subsequent appearances, but just the ambiguity of his character in this episode cracks me. Why won’t Jake answer his fan mail? Since when does Jake have a holographic advice column? Also, I need a full length rip of his background score.
Most importantly though, this episode offers an important life lesson for Finn, given by the Duke himself: “Making mistakes is part of growing up, and you never really stop growing,” which basically translates to “you’re gonna fuck up a lot in life, but hey, that’s just life.” Even if you do consume barrels of pudding and turn your crush green and bald, you still have opportunities to redeem yourself. Which is exactly what happens in the end when Finn and Jake step in for Bubblegum at the Grand Meeting of Ooo Royalty, only to get. It’s a shame we don’t get to see more of the Duke, I really hope that he got that pudding deficiency regulated. I know how much of a struggle that can be.