Original Airdate: July 23, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan
The official planned release date for reviews will be Fridays from now on. The only exception may be next Friday, only because I’ll be pretty damn busy. And I know one review a week might seem slim, but I’m going to try my best to increase that amount through time and see how much I’m able to juggle at once. Again, thank you all for being patient!
So, to end this summer of daily reviews, we have Sons of Mars! A personal favorite of mine that I may have seen one too many times (the luster has faded a bit because of how many rewatches I’ve sat through) but one that signifies how all-around awesome it is. It’s loaded with world-building and mythology, and delves into the lives and stories of its central characters.
First and foremost, this episode reintroduces Magic Man, and he enters in the most sadistic and jarring way possible by turning that fucking creepy deer from No One Can Hear You into a telescope. This is still when it was fairly uncommon for AT one-off characters to return, so it was very surprising to see the nihilistic wizard who lacks empathy back once again, but surely rewarding. Magic Man is one of my favorite characters in the series, simply because I enjoy how little of a fuck he gives for other people, yet still manages to retain an unusually sympathetic side. This is the first episode to showcase this, as we get a look into some of his inner turmoil. Speaking of firsts, this episode is a pretty prominent point in Jesse Moynihan’s writing tendencies, as he began to get much more personal and surreal in his boarding efforts. Much of Magic Man’s story in Sons of Mars revolves around Moynihan’s own experiences with his girlfriend Margaret, who he called “Margles.” Jesse used this pet name to portray Magic’s lost love interest, and did his damndest to channel all of the negative emotion he had been feeling into this character and particular episode. In the words of Moynihan himself, “Magic Man had gone insane because I had gone insane.” This kind of self-insertion doesn’t seem to appeal to AT’s audience much, and would only receive even more negative attention as Jesse turned it into a regular practice. I dunno, for me personally, I think it’s one of the most interesting and ambitious aspects of Jesse’s writing in general. There’s no one on the staff quite as heady as Moynihan, and while I’ve criticized specific styles of the writers and storyboard artists on the show somewhat often, Moynihan’s is one I’ve never really had a clear problem with. It’s something I completely understand as to why people find it pretentious, but it also makes for some of the most imaginative and poignant stories and character arcs in the entire series. Moynihan’s ability to connect with Magic Man so closely and make one of the biggest assholes in Ooo seem more human is a really impressive task and one that I think was exceedingly well done. Moynihan believes he may have went a bit overboard with just how much of his own self he inserted into this episode, but I think it was handled with a great deal of subtlety. She’s only even mentioned twice briefly, but the most powerful moment comes from Magic Man discovering her photo after Finn tosses it aside. In a rare moment of Magic Man acting completely straightforward and honest, he quietly acknowledges the location of his Martian transporter. It’s a moment that feels so real and genuine, and doesn’t at all feel like it’s forcing me to care about a relationship that we barely know anything about. All we know by this encounter is that Magic Man had a significant other, who he tragically lost. But it’s how it personally affects Magic Man that makes it so much more interesting. The heartwrenching promo art sets up this unseen relationship, and amazes me at just how vaguely emotion is conveyed in this one without going into too much detail about what happened in the past.
We also get a bit of history with the introduction of Grob Gob Glob Grod and the King of Mars, two very important characters in regards to the overall lore of the series. These two characters have their fair share of goofy and fun moments (including the hilarious run-through of all of Magic Man’s terrible crimes, which they don’t have footage of, so it’s a good thing Grod is good at drawing), but I do really enjoy how the episode still treats them as very crucial beings in the world of AT. Grob Gob Glob Grod (blending the many humorous variations of “glob” mentioned throughout the past few seasons, though has anyone actually said “oh my Grob” before or even mentioned Grob? Poor dude doesn’t get enough praise) is essentially the religious figurehead of this universe, while King of Mars isn’t necessarily a religious figure but instead an all-knowing ruler of entire galaxies, who is represented by Abraham Lincoln himself. Pen Ward obviously incorporated Lincoln in the pilot of Adventure Time as a silly gag that was never intended to be utilized again, but this episode is very clever in never mentioning the 16th president of the U.S. by name, and is only ever referred to by his stance as king. It’s open for a good deal of interpretation as well; I think the whole story behind the King of Mars himself is that he is a magical entity and possesses the power to travel time and the multiverse. Him sacrificing his immortality meant that he would allow himself to be as human and vulnerable as the rest of society, causing him to take his place as a legend of the past, present, and future. A soul who traveled Earth as a human being thousands of years ago, an entity who ruled over the cosmos as the King of Mars, and a spirit who will continue to embark throughout the many lands of Dead World. Honestly, it just makes me think that the actual Abraham Lincoln was a lot more fucking cool than what high school history classes taught me. Props to you, Jesse and Ako. Of course, there are plenty of connections to the King of Mars and Abe Lincoln as well. The notion that he’s the “most honest being in all the land”, the penny he carries with him at all times, and his sad remark about his lack of peers that references his longterm depression. His exchange with Death is one of my all-time favorite moments in the series, and feels like a classic negotiation between two friendly rivals as opposed to good facing off with evil.
And at the center of this heady venture is the relationship between Finn and Jake. It’s funny because, looking deeper into Finn’s mission to get Jake back, he could honestly give less of a shit of the events going on around him. He has one goal: to get his best friend back and save him from certain death. He doesn’t care about the trial Magic Man was put through or the sacrifice of Mars’ thousand year ruler. He just wants his buddy back by his side, and it’s both really endearing and quite funny when you acknowledge that he just does not care that he practically initiated the King’s sacrifice. I mean, it’s pretty clear that ol’ Abe probably would’ve let Jake go when he discovered that Magic Man may have been experiencing real emotions, but Finn just pops the fuck out of nowhere and hits GGGG with a chair that ends up striking Jake with the wand. Finn inadvertently set a prophecy into motion, whether it resulted in positive or negative consequences, though he was correct in citing that nothing would have escalated had Abe and Glob believed in his brother’s statements. It definitely could’ve made Finn come off as a dick, but again, he’s doing everything for the sake of his brother, and he doesn’t care what powerful entities he has to cross to do so.
Jake’s role in this episode is interesting as well. He doesn’t do a ton, but we’re once again reintroduced to his desire to go out with a bang when it comes to death and destiny, though Jake acknowledges for the first time that, though he’d love to accept the afterlife with open arms, he’d be leaving his best friend behind, and he just can’t do that to Finn. It’s very heartwarming and thoughtful of Jake to put Finn before himself in this situation, and really shows how far he has come from his original stance. Knowing that Finn would do anything to save him and have him by his side, Jake will simply have to put off his own prophetic desires for the person he cares about most, and that’s what is really at the core of this trippy episode: the connection between Finn and Jake. Through all of the drama Magic Man experiences with his own personal problems and the collapsing of Mars’ government, Finn and Jake simply want to be with each other, and in the toughest of life’s problems, the relationship between two best friends can often bring light to some of the darkest of moments. Even the releasing of Tiny Manticore, who wrongfully dissed Finn and Jake, but will regret doing so to the two most caring guys in Ooo for presumably the rest of his life. His new prison is shame, if you haven’t heard.
The entire Martian space system looks amazing. Ghostshrimp once again designed a bunch of the scenery for this one, and I love everything from the design of the numerous domes and silos that populate Mars, as well as the terrific red, purple, and pink color scheme that makes the entire land feel foreign and unique. I think the designs of the martians who view the trial are kind of lame, however, though characters strictly in the background of AT episodes never look superb or detailed. I guess it’s just weird that they decided to include these random Martian civilians in the background at all because wouldn’t they like, be freaking out about what’s going on? They’re kinda just there to be there, so I feel like they could’ve just be excluded completely unless they were in-sync with the tragedies occurring in front of them. The design of GGGG is awesome though, one of my favorite character designs in the series. Love his/her rotating heads and the groovy headgear they wear to cover their baldness.
Sons of Mars embodies some of the greatest elements of any AT episode up to this point: the honesty of our two main characters, the ambition and headiness of the world surrounding them, the ability to humanize even the most abysmal characters, the intrigue of wanting to see even more of what this world has to offer, and the deep connection between writer and character. It’s one of my personal all-time favorites, and even though I’ve seen it a million times, it just has so much to offer every time I do watch. One of the biggest steps towards more surreal and intoxicating mythology that would grace the series much later on.
Favorite line: “How long have you had this house?” “Yes, that is true!”