Archive | September 2017

“Who Would Win” Review

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Original Airdate: September 3, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Many moons ago, I reviewed Video Makers and was pretty vocal about my general distaste for the type of story they were going for. Jake and Finn fighting with each other, in most cases, just isn’t very fun to watch. They’re best friends and brothers, and that doesn’t mean that they need to be kissing each other’s asses all the time, but anytime their bickering and disdain for each other is used as a focal point in the main conflict, it just doesn’t work for me. It kind of feels forced and melodramatic if we’re supposed to believe their main issue is with each other, rather than the main opponents who typically face them. It is, however, realistic to portray them having differing desires and wanting different things from each other, which Video Makers did do, but again, not in an entirely enjoyable way. Here, I think it’s much more fun to watch. Where this episode doesn’t have an especially strong story, it makes up for with some pretty great slapstick and a very enjoyable physical battle between the two boys.

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I love, love, LOVE the beginning of this one. Finn and Jake just hanging out, enjoying each other’s company, and allowing some time to themselves. Finn acknowledges that it’s nice to have bro-time for once, and after a long season of exhausting drama regarding Hunson Abadeer, Ricardio, Princess Bubblegum, and Flame Princess, it is nice that the two take the time to get away from it all. The music, the visuals, and the dialogue between the two just really make this an entirely adorable scene. Also, on a more personal note, rewatching these episodes and taking note of who boarded what is really making my brain hypersensitive to detail. Like, I actually noticed that the first five or so drawings were done by Herpich, despite not being credited for the storyboard overall. These reviews are doing things to me, man.

The scenes that follow are pretty fun, as a bunch of different warriors (who look very similar to the Marauders; wonder why they didn’t just bring them back) face off against “The Farm.” The Farm is a delightfully designed anti-hero, with droopy limbs, a blank facial expression, and great voicework from Tom Gammill. There’s also “The Train” voiced by Dana Snyder. The design of The Train is just so ludicrous I can’t help but not enjoy it, especially how his mouth scrunches up every time he forms an “o” sound. There’s also a bit of unintentional subtle lore here, as The Train mentions his “friend” who can give him a new pair of bionic legs. In addition to all the warriors who have bionic limbs and attachments, I would guarantee that he’s speaking of Dr. Gross, which totally wasn’t intended as I mentioned, but it works as a bit of nuanced foreshadowing for the eventual reveal. Always fun to piece together bits and chunks of this show.

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Some pretty apparent nods to Gross’s work.

I like the dynamic they put Finn and Jake in especially in this one. Both are being rather selfish, though for justified reasons. Finn only wants Jake to do what he wants to do, but it’s only because Jake offered to so in the first place, presumably because Jake didn’t want to let his brother down. Yet, Jake shouldn’t have agreed to do something he didn’t want to do, and should’ve emphasized his affinity for Kompy’s Kastle. This is where the battle ensues, and it’s very much my favorite part of the episode. The line that starts it off is actually particularly sweet: “I’m gonna break every bone in your body, then heal you later with that magical goo we got from the Cyclops’ eye!” suggesting that, while Jake is clearly pissed off at Finn, he would never actually want to put his best friend through any lasting harm. The way the fight is portrayed, I think it can be clear that this has all happened before to some extent. Jake’s exclaiming, “no bities!” leaves me to believe this did happened at least a couple of times when they were children, though as Jake got older, as well as Finn, it really hasn’t happened in recent years. What we’re treated to is some delicious slapstick from this point on: Jake growing dozens of legs just to repeatedly kick Finn in the face, Finn spitting an entire fucking dollop of saliva into Jake’s face, and Jake repeatedly hitting his own face and rump by accident. It takes up a large chunk of the remainder of the episode, but stays thoroughly entertaining and humorous throughout. I always die laughing whenever The Farm abruptly squats on both Finn and Jake and then disposes barn animals all over them. That’s always pretty priceless to me.

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Once we’re introduced to the Dream Warrior, however,  I think the episode kind of reaches a bit of a halt. I think it’s all pretty obvious from hereon in: the advice that the Dream Warrior gave was all nonsensical, yet subtle advice that Finn and Jake had to use to defeat the farm, and Finn and Jake would finally team up and be able to work together. None of it’s done badly, of course, but it’s quite dissonant from the first half and never quite lives up to what it started out with. I also don’t know why Jake comes out as the one on the bottom by the end; sure, he compromises and enjoys the victory with Finn, but I wanna see Jake kicking ass in some Kompy’s Kastle too! Didn’t seem fair to the little yellow guy. In addition to this, the Dream Warrior himself isn’t that remarkable or noteworthy, besides the fact that he’s voiced by Matthew Broderick (what an unusual role for a guest celebrity) and I just don’t feel like there’s anything that unique or funny about the sensei-type advice he gives the boys. It’s just somewhat of a simplistic resolution for an episode that’s already pretty lowkey on its own.

I do enjoy this one, though. I don’t think it’s anything great, but it does handle the conflicting side of Finn and Jake’s relationship a lot better than an episode like Video Makers did. It uses the appropriate differences between the brothers and turns it into a fun, fight-filled romp. It’s not especially strong in story, but after coming off the heels of the past three or four episodes, it doesn’t need to be. A smaller, lighter episode after some heavy inner and outer drama is always warranted. Always nice to see an episode focusing on the relationship between our two main boiz.

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Favorite line: “Don’t you always call sweatpants ‘give-up-on-life pants,’ Jake?”

“You Made Me” Review

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Original Airdate: August 27, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Tom Herpich

The Earl of Lemongrab had potential to be the most disposable character after his debut in Too Young. He was an absurdist gag who was used as a humorous plot device, and outside of that, I didn’t really expect to see him again. When I heard he was returning in You Made Me, I was slightly nervous. One-shot comic relief characters typically are never as funny as they were in their first appearance, and to a degree, this episode arguably supports that idea. However, it also takes Lemongrab’s character in a very interesting direction in regards to his connection with PB. We’ve already gotten so many glorious in depth looks at PB’s character this season, and this is just another addition into an already solid collection. Season four really is the season of PB, y’all!

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The episode starts off silly enough with another peak at Peppermint Butler’s dark and twisted psyche, followed by a mildly humorous interaction between the boys and the Banana Guards. I find it interesting the BG’s are practically rebelling against PB in this sequence, it’d be the first of many instances where the Candy People disregard PB’s orders out of their own stupidity. This is when we’re reintroduced to the creepy lurker himself, Lemongrab. The entire meat of this episode is introduced once PB barges in, and that’s the connection between Bubblegum and Lemongrab in a mother-son scenario. Lemongrab was originally pitched to be PB’s uncle in his first appearance, which was scrapped before its development, but kind of shows as PB generally disregards his physical and emotional well being without even slightly holding back. Here, she’s generally more sympathetic and caring towards him, and their first interactions with each other really give us a more impactful concept of how their relationship actually is. PB isn’t some cynical tyrant making his life more difficult for the sake of her own sadistic gain, but a loving and caring mother who simply can’t empathize with or understand one of her children. It reflects her dialogue in Too Young, where she describes Lemongrab as her first experiment that “went wrong.” All of the Candy People were designed to be moderately simple-minded so they were able to enjoy life freely and have little bottling issues, yet Lemongrab was born with an imbalance that made him unable to experience life as the other Candy People. So, as Bonnie shouts out, “I don’t understand you, Lemongrab!” it isn’t out of anger or malice, but simply her failure to understand the Earl as easily and carefully as she is with her other candy citizens. Lemongrab seems to hold this against PB deeply, as his fears and sadness are something he directly blames on his creator and mother. It’s oftentimes troubled children will blame their parents for any psychological issues they’re experiencing, and it’s only emphasized by the fact that, here, PB literally created Lemongrab with her own two hands. So, it only makes sense that Lemongrab would blame the princess for every single thing wrong with him, including his inability to socialize and live life as carefree as the other citizens. I’m sure I’m just babbling about the obvious right now, but it’s all really interesting written out.

This inner conflict within Lemongrab’s psyche carries through the entirety of the episode, and he begins to sink deeper as he believes that he’ll never be able to conform, so he must change the views of others to better fit what he was made to do. This is where the Pup Gang comes in (based on a real group of kids who threw a basketball at Jesse Moynihan’s head, my apologizes, Moyns) a group of enjoyably juvenile children who simply want to earn cash to support their delinquent mothers. The Pup Gang’s strong demeanor and outlandishness simply aren’t fitting of Lemongrab’s perception of how society is supposed to be, so he decides that the only way to change their perspectives is through extreme means of conditioning. It’s a really big switch from what we’ve seen in his first appearance; he was originally a token buttmonkey and an ineffectual pain in the butt, but here, he’s a much bigger threat and even more sympathetic than before. Despite his insane means of punishment, he still is deeply troubled for the sole reason that he was made to think and act this way, even though PB didn’t intend for this to happen.

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In the same way, PB is also sympathetic. Despite her being the creator of Lemongrab and being unable to fulfill his needs the same way she is with her other people, I do enjoy how motherly she is with LG and how she simply tries to level with him instead of butting heads with his mannerisms and preferences. Even though her efforts to try to help him to see the light fail, she does so in such a genuine and passionate way that isn’t talking down to Lemongrab in the slightest, and it’s really nice to see that she does care for him. Even when she knows that other Candy citizens (though, are the Pup Gang actually Candy People? If so, what the hell are they?) are in danger, she still wants to try to help him, because, in her own words, he’s her responsibility. From a mother-son perspective, it really is done fantastically. We get to see both sides of the situation, and it never feels too one-sided. Both characters have their flaws, which are demonstrated individually in a very fascinating way. “Raising” a child can be mentally taxing for both the mother and the child.

Entering Castle Lemongrab is where we do get to view sad symbolism into Lemongrab’s life, including the fact that he owns empty catcher’s mitts, a sign that he does want to relate to “normal” civilians, but has never found someone he’s able to relate to enough, or even accept into his life, that he’s willing to do so with. The turmoil within LG unleashes when PB enters his reconditioning chamber and pleads with him to stop. Lemongrab argues with PB, “You’re the one who made me this way, how can yoooou help??” It’s clear that his fear to change also stems from the fact that he was born with terrible fears and suffering, meaning that allowing PB to help him could result in only more problems and difficulties in his own life. He isn’t willing to risk that, and instead wants PB to feel and think exactly how he does.

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And I guess I can’t write this review without taking a deeper look into why Finn took the blow for Bubblegum at the hands of LG’s sound-sword. I think it can be looked at two ways: 1. Finn is heroic and willing to take a bullet for those around him, and I think that goes without saying. 2. He still loves PB. Not that he’s still in love with PB, but he still deeply cares for her and his feelings for her will never go away completely. Though he’s willing to do the same for others, Finn really would take a bullet for PB without question, as someone he cares about, serves, and respects greatly. I think this interpretation is much more interesting to me, because even after we get an episode like Burning Low that highlights Finn’s changing feelings and moving past his infatuation with Bubblegum, he still thinks very highly of her and would never let something terrible happen to her. It’s a moment I think could really put shippers in a tizzy, but honestly, I think it was just a nice moment showcasing that Finn still deeply cares for Peebles, and I’m glad they never really added any more attention to it.

The ending is the perfect solution to Lemongrab’s issues (for now, that is…) as he meets his new brother: Lemongrab 2. It’s a sweet and funny ending that once again highlights PB’s compassion; I’m sure there may have been a way for Bubblegum to simply change Lemongrab’s mind chemistry to think and act more like the other Candy People, but it’s clear that, despite his erratic behavior, PB does care and respect Lemongrab for the way he is and wants him to be comfortable in his own skin. The Lemongrabs get acquainted by humorously poking each other over and over and bid their new friendly guests farewell, in perfect Lemongrab fashion.

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I don’t think Lemongrab was that funny in particular in this one, but I don’t think he really needed to be. He’s transformed from a one-time gag into a legitimately compelling and interesting character, and I think that’s much more effective. At times, the screaming can get a bit tiring, but I think that’s something to expect from any Lemongrab episode. I actually think the Candy People were pretty funny in this one. I liked the stuff going on with the Banana Guards, Mr. Cupcake brutally breaking his own arm to get out of residing in Castle Lemongrab, and the Pup Gang are a very delightful addition to the tertiary cast. Also, I thought PB’s hair was somewhat of a funny sight gag for some reason. Her hairstyle was based off of a dutch crown, which I’ve seen in person before, but it just kind of looks wonky in most scenes here. A nice unintentional bit of humor for me. As for scenery, Castle Lemongrab is a very intentionally ugly looking landscape. The yellows, greens, and beiges make it a real eyesore, but always feel appropriately fucked up for the kind of place Castle Lemongrab is supposed to be.

Overall, this episode’s real interesting to me. I love the dynamic between Lemongrab and Princess Bubblegum, and how far they’re willing to stretch Lemongrab’s dysfunctionality. I’ve mentioned many times already, including in the beginning of this review, but the development for PB lately is fantastic. She’s gone from one of the weakest main characters to one of the most interesting and a personal fave for myself. Thank you, season four.

Favorite line: “We want the big cash money wad! Enough to provide for our delinquent mothers, so that hopefully they’ll show us the love we always dreamed about in our sad, young lives!”

“Lady & Peebles” Review

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Original Airdate: August 20, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Lady Rainicorn and Princess Bubblegum’s relationship is one that always baffles me. In the original series pitch bible for Adventure Time, the friendship between PB and LR is really exaggerated to the point where it includes “when she [Lady Rainicorn] wakes up and doesn’t see Princess Bubblegum, she’ll dash around the castle grounds gaily searching for her mistress.” While the pitch bible isn’t necessarily the most factual piece of reference for AT’s current status, it still was insinuated in the very early days of the show that these two were supposed to be close pals – hell, PB’s even riding on top of Lady in the opening theme. Besides that, we get a few instances of the two together, namely in the pilot and What Have You Done? and… yeah that’s about it. Weird that we’re supposed to believe these two are close companions when the show has never suggested otherwise, until this particular episode. It’s nothing particularly telling of the friendship between the two, but it does give us some insight into two of Adventure Time’s most prominent female leads.

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The beginning starts off as a compelling, tension filled bit of expository information regarding Finn and Jake’s disappearance. It’s enlightened by Bubblegum’s goofy behavior which is always refreshing; I enjoy how she can go from a very stern and solemn ruler to somehow who is just as wacky and unusual as the rest of the cast of AT. The tenseness comes from Lady’s perspective, and, while a good majority of us have no idea what she’s saying, Niki Yang delivers it so eloquently and in such a sincere tone that it keeps my attention despite the fact that I can’t understand Korean. I feel like I’m watching a weighty foreign dub throughout this scene, and despite the fact that it feels heavy and serious, it’s once again lessened by PB’s totally genuine, yet sarcastic reactions to Lady’s monologue. You can tell she’s taking every word LR says seriously, but she does so in such a hammy and amplified way that is then followed by such a minuscule response that it just cracks me up. I love any depictions of PB’s character, but goofy PB really just rubs me the right way. Also, I’ve never mentioned it before, but the way Lady communicates with others is done so in such a non-pandering way. Most English-speaking viewers won’t be able to understand her, but they don’t go the unnatural route of having every character that interacts with her respond to her with “what do you mean you feel [this way] because of [this]?” There’s no spoon feeding with the writers trying to make us understand every single thing Lady says or feels, and we’re just generally supposed to accept this based on the way she emotes and her tone, which is so much more effective than having an English-speaking character repeat every single thing she says. It would defeat the point of having a Korean-speaking character to begin with.

In my somewhat scathing review of King Worm, I mentioned that the slow pacing of the episode was what really brought it down, and this episode takes its sweet time with the entire middle section as well. The only difference to me is that it actually works to strengthen the episode a great deal. The entire expedition through the black ice cave is remarkable, once again showing off the terrific backgrounds (BGs have been on point this season!) equipped with an ominous atmosphere to really drive the tension and mystery even further. Lady & Peebles embraces the quieter and more subdued moments to make a very convincingly unnerving atmosphere, and also helps make the action sequences more impactful. The action sequences themselves aren’t anything special, though the girls do face some visually interesting foes, from hand beasts to a giant tongue. These battles really show off how Lady and PB deal with physical combat: PB is equipped with her typical scientific technology, while Lady herself seems to be somewhat of a pacifist. Lady’s strengths seem much more on a moral and virtuous level rather than her own physicality. She’s evasive and defensive with her own skills, such as her tactic of phasing through walls and ability of flight, though I think it’s tough to picture Lady being someone who would throw punches, especially with her condition that’s revealed later on.

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The real icing on the cake is the reveal that Ricardio was behind Finn and Jake’s disappearances, however. I wasn’t too big on Ricardio or the episode he debuted in, for that matter, but by God, Sugar did her damnedest to make his return as chilling and uncomfortable as possible, and boy, does it work. They’ve somehow managed to make him seem even creepier and more grotesque than his first appearance, and added a layer of body horror with his loosely connected limbs. And for the first time, he does feel like a legitimate threat. I think the brief scene of him breaking Ice King’s bones was totally wince-worthy, and this time, he’s an actual adversary to Finn and Jake. Despite being easily beaten the first time, Ricardio had the upperhand by poisoning the boys with zanoits (something he and Bubblegum both shared a fond interest of in Ricardio the Heart Guy). It makes for a nice role reversal that Finn and Jake are now the ones who are in danger and PB has to be the one that saves them, and really shows how far she has come since the beginning of the series as a character.

After an unnervingly blatant moment of Ricardio making sexual advances towards the princess, Bubblegum is able to face off with him in a very simple, yet effective takedown. Sugar herself said it was really rewarding to include a scene where Peebles is able to engage in hand-to-hand combat without any of her weapons, and yeah, it’s pretty awesome to watch. It doesn’t feel out of character or like a manipulative tactic from the series to highlight feminism, but instead a great spotlight chance to showcase PB’s true strengths: her role as an intellectual. She isn’t able to defeat Ricardio specifically because she’s really buff or fierce, but because she identifies factually that Ricardio is simply not built as a stable living creature. She denotes this by saying, “I know a thing or two about building a body out of biomass,” which could both refer to herself, as well as her people. Bubblegum can easily identify strengths and weaknesses within living creatures simply because she built herself and her people from scratch. She can use her knowledge to help create life on all layers of the earth, or destroy any artificial being in a matter of seconds if need be. It’s a moment that really had me fully invested in PB as a character. Season four is really her first shining season in my eyes, and this particular battle had me cheering her on and just acknowledging how fucking badass she is by the end of it. It’s an excellent bit of growth for what was originally a damsel-esque character, and it’s terrific to see how far she has come from that stereotype.

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So with that, Finn, Jake, and Ice King are saved, Ricardio is defeated, and everything returns to normal… that is, besides the fact that Lady reveals to Jake that she’s pregnant. I love how this bit is handled, too. With Lady’s tears and general tone, it seems like she and Jake had no plans or desires to have children just yet, and Jake’s humorous closing remark suggests that as well. Despite the fact that the two end up loving their children, it’s clear that they’re a couple that wanted to play things safe and casually for the time being. And how ballsy is it that an unmarried couple are having children on a kid’s show? Pen Ward mentioned in the commentary that the original pitch was to have Jake and Lady break up, due to the stress that Lady endures when Jake goes on adventures, I’m so glad they didn’t go that route. It would’ve been incredibly melodramatic and pointless for a couple as laidback and caring as Jake and Lady to break up, especially given Lady’s devoted and unconditional love for her boyfriend. The pregnancy reveal honestly strengthens the episode for me as well. I love the little bits of foreshadowing, such as the heart monitor reading seven heart signatures instead of two. It also increases the impact of some scenes much more – I feel legitimately sick to my stomach every time I watch Ricardio tie Lady’s body in a knot. I know that aspect never comes into fruition (a lot of people argue Jake Jr.’s face is a birth defect, but that theory has been officially debunked) but it’s still very gruesome to watch a pregnant woman abused in such a way.

I enjoy this one, primarily because it does spotlight these two characters who are rarely seen together, yet feels so genuine and powerful. I don’t think there’s a single other time in the series where PB and Lady are seen together, yet, this episode does such a terrific job of building the unseen connection between them that I never have a hard time believing they are close friends. It also adds layers onto their individual characters, and leaves us wanting more from each of these gals. It’s both honest and telling for both PB and Lady, and adds excitement for the future of their respective character arcs.

Favorite line: “Then, I’ll use my Ball Blam Burglerber!”

“King Worm” Review

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Original Airdate: August 13, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn, Steve Wolfhard & Somvilay Xayaphone

There’s no denying that Adventure Time has some kind of giant dream fetish. Up to this point, there’s been several trippy dream sequences (namely in The New Frontier and BMO Noire) and there will be many, many more to come, but this is the first episode to completely revolve around the absurdity of Finn’s unconscious projections. There’s a couple of neat ideas in here, like the idea of foreshadowing future events to come and resurfacing Finn’s developed fears throughout the years, but ultimately, it kinda falls flat for me. The humor of the episode derives from unusual and bizarre imagery, but I don’t think King Worm ever commits to this concept strongly enough and the end result is a very slow-paced and somewhat awkward entry.

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Somvilay drew Finn’s hat’s ears longer unintentionally at first, and the staff just kind of rolled with it as a way to distinguish Finn’s dream-self.

I mentioned in my Burning Low review that the preview for that episode was a giant tease, and while I don’t think this one falls under the same category, it’s a preview that was so fucking awesome that it made the entire experience legitimately underwhelming. I mean, check this shit out! It’s sick. It promises a high-stakes battle in Finn’s dreamworld that he may not even be able to escape. And there’s a keyword included in that sentence that’s the main issue of the episode: the stakes feel incredibly low. The way Finn is written in this one is just somewhat bland and dull, he doesn’t seem to react to his environment that strongly, and it’s actually tough for me to feel like there’s a legitimate conflict when Finn is completely stone-faced for half of the episode. He doesn’t even slightly flinch when his best friend melts in front of him! I know he realizes that it’s not real, but still, real or not, that’s gotta be traumatizing.

With the dream sequences, there’s nothing that creatively interesting to me. Again, there’s hints of the future with Finn glancing at his alternate self in the mirror and the army of Gunters which are nice touches, and there’s a few standout moments I enjoy. The dream version of Lady was adorably creepy, if that’s even possible (though that scene in particular really took its sweet time), and the bit with Joshua added a psychedelic edge, but besides that I can’t really think of anything that noteworthy in the first act. A lot of the “weird” moments aren’t really unique, psychedelic, or funny enough to get a reaction out of me. The episode was heavily inspired by YouTube Poops, and honestly, that just isn’t my type of humor. Not to downplay the creativity that goes into some YouTube Poops, but even with some of the better videos I’ve seen, they always come up hit-or-miss regardless. The season nine episode Orb later attempts this same plot with arguably much better results because it knows how to make dreams over-the-top and insane enough to be enjoyable. This one is a lot more subtle and downplayed, which works on occasion, like the scene where Ice King is running up the hill and then randomly runs right up to Finn and Jake, but I think any type of story like this is strengthened by being as overtly surreal as possible. While this one doesn’t fail at doing so, it fails at choosing the proper tone to assist the story. In addition to that, there’s a ton of little bits of information and the subconscious in Orb that are able to be analyzed further and thought about in great detail, while King Worm doesn’t give us much to chew on in the aftermath. Not that every episode of AT should have to be analyzed in great detail, but there should be some lasting impression.

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The one bit I do really like is where Finn does face his subconscious fears, namely involving his fear of the ocean, the ghost from The Creeps, the Lich, clowns, and, most notably, the idea that he is “too young” and is therefore looked down upon. It blends complexities within Finn’s inner soul perfectly while also being perfectly amusing, and is the final driving point that defeats the King Worm. Though enjoyable, I do wish this whole scenario was a bit longer and even darker. I think it is played a bit too comically and never acquires enough time for legitimate fruition.

The other thing I really like about this one are the backgrounds. Besides regulars ghostshrimp and Santino Lascano, background designers for this episode in particular included Derek Hunter, Jon Vermilyea, and Peter Herpich (Tom’s brother). The landscapes are very well crafted in a topsy-turvy sort of way, and they all look beautiful. It’s just the kind of imaginative absurdity I wanted from the rest of the episode. Somvilay also includes some of his trademark dynamic shots, which usually look very off-putting, but work with this type of episode regardless.

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The entire last half was boarded by Steve Wolfhard, his first board for the series!

Overall, this one just doesn’t sell me. I’m not even sure what the timeline is with King Worm; the character of King Worm hypnotized Finn and Jake all the way back in Evicted!, so are we just supposed to believe he came back a second time after hypnotizing them the first? It makes no sense to me. I think it could’ve been a lot more engaging and imaginative with its humor, and as is, it stands as one of my least favorite episodes of the fourth season.

Favorite line: “Make-out dreams? Nice…”

“BMO Noire” Review

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Original Airdate: August 6, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page

BMO Noire is the first true BMO-centric episode of the series, and it quite delightfully blends experimental themes of black and white crime films with a hint of BMO development added in. This episode is essentially working off of everything we’ve learned about BMO so far; despite his childlike wonder, BMO wishes only one thing: to have normal “living” emotions like Jake and Finn. And while BMO does experience feelings deep down similar to his close friends, he still is a robot on the outside, which has kickstarted a lot of inner turmoil that has caused him to be almost borderline sociopathic at times. No matter how cute BMO is, there’s not denying that a lot that goes through his head and his everyday actions are generally fucked up. BMO Noire is essentially the best kind of episode to showcase this aspect of his character; it’s a fun and sweet adventure on the surface, but underneath is a layer of BMO’s dark and tortured imagination.

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It’s probably appropriate to start off this review by mentioning that BMO was totally playing with himself at the beginning of this episode. There is just simply no other way around it. The episode wastes no time, however, by immediately setting up the somewhat trivial conflict that is taken completely seriously by our robot friend. The episode pulls off many noir-themed references and homages very humorously as well as effectively. The episode, of course, is completely in black-and-white (something that Pendleton Ward was really psyched about doing), there’s the bit where BMO steps on his controller cord as if it were a cigarette bud, and the dialogue between the characters (or, in this case, the characters BMO has created) is all very 1950’s. A lot of the exchanges between BMO and his imaginary friends, though very amusing, can also be taken completely straight as well. This episode is full of its funny moments, but honestly, I found myself laughing a lot less after watching it this time around. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. I just think anything noir-themed is pretty fucking cool, so I mostly enjoy this one out of admiration for its tone and style rather than believing it’s a straight-up hilarious parody of crime films, and I think that’s how most people feel as well. You can laugh at the fact that BMO is legitimately having a serious discussion about his past relationship with a chicken named Lorraine, but it’s played so dramatically by BMO that it still amazingly kind of works as a somewhat somber tale.

Of course, I also enjoy this one for the aforementioned development of BMO’s character. Throughout the episode, it’s filled with a lot of silly conversations between Ronnie the rat, Lorraine the chicken, Lieutenant Whiskers, and others that exist as talking figures in BMO’s imagination. They start out harmless and playful enough, but BMO’s dream sequence really sheds light to the questionable and histrionic elements of his actions. BMO concocted the entire scheme, meaning he stole from his friend, supposedly “killed” Bebe, put lipstick on F&J’s pet chicken, and knew the entire sequence was all in his imagination.

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It makes me question what exactly BMO’s motivation behind this elaborate plan was; was it to get attention from Finn and Jake and appear as a hero like the two of them do? Was it strictly for the cause of going on his own enjoyable investigation? Or, going off of the last reason, was it to ultimately feel more “human”? The dream sequence also suggests this aspect (boarded by Tom Herpich, who always does a standout job with dreams or hallucinations, but this is definitely an exceptional one) as BMO is briefly seen with a human face, the same human face seen in the title card for this episode. I think it once again stresses the fact at how BMO feels like a living creature and desires to be like any living creature, but simply cannot be one with the body he was given and the function he was, supposedly up to this point, made for. BMO will always be Finn and Jake’s cute, baby robot, but with any child, there are layers of hidden trauma and turmoil that I’m sure BMO himself isn’t completely cognizant about. The only thing he is aware of is that he has a conscious desire, without soundly too cliche, to “be more”. This is hinted during his exchange with NEPTR, leading to one of the funniest and most poignant lines of the episode, “no NEPTR, I am not like you.” It’s works as a laugh-worthy “fuck you” to Adventure Time’s most in-universally ignored character, but also as a glimpse into what BMO believes he truly is, and that’s something more than just a robot.

This heaviness is blended nicely with the fact that, once again, it is all in BMO’s imagination. I like all of his interactions with these characters, and how he’s able to effectively converse with Lorraine or Ronnie without them ever responding back. There’s a really great moment where Lieutenant Whiskers hands BMO a confession from Ronnie, and there’s just no way in the fucking world someone actually handed it to him. It just kinda sticks up out of nowhere, which harms the authenticity that all of this episode is just in BMO’s head, but it’s so hilarious that I don’t even really mind. There’s also moments reminding us that BMO is indeed still a robot, like the controller stomping I had mentioned and the bit where BMO splashes his face in water, only for his circuits to smoke a bit. I’m actually really glad Herpich got to work on this one. Not even for a writing reason, but I just feel like his really chunky and squishy drawings of the characters blend nicely with the black-and-white and old-timey feel of the episode. It was a nice stylized choice. Also, huge kudos to Niki Yang in this one. Ako Castuera refers to this one as a “Niki Yang voice acting extravaganza” in the commentary, and that’s pretty much the best way of putting it. Yang does an excellent job of pulling of different, distinct and silly voices for each of the newly introduced characters. 

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And after all the psychological issues he goes through, BMO is able to have a moment of victory and lightheartedness as Finn and Jake return home from Glob knows where. The staff would oddly elaborate on this subplot later in season five, but we’ll get to that when the time comes. The ending does hint that BMO does want to be more like Finn and Jake and go on adventures like the two of them, so it’s endearing that he’s able to have a brief moment of triumph at the fact that he saved the day, though it was secretly instigated by himself. We do get one final very small, yet effective scene at the end where BMO blushes at the thought at Lorraine, once again showing that he’s much more “human” than we were lead on to believe. Though he’s still a robot at the end of the day, BMO will always have his attributes that make him equivalent to any other lovable, yet troubled little boy.

I dig this one a ton. Like I said, it’s not one that I find particularly hilarious, but it’s filled with great atmosphere and interesting peeks into BMO’s character that I don’t mind at all. It’s silly, yet intense, and a perfect start to BMO’s descent into his own personal issues.

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Favorite line: “I feel like I got hit with a Dracula by King Kong.”