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.
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.
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.
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.