Original Airdate: October 22, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page
Part of what makes the Lich (character) so great is his lack of frequent on-screen appearances. While most would disagree, as a major complaint of the show has been the lack of Lich appearances over the years, I believe he’s a villain that’s so sinister and captivating that he can really only be used so sparingly as an effectively terrifying presence. The Lich returns the aforementioned character to the spotlight, after 52 episodes of absences (unless you count King Worm or In Your Footsteps), and you can tell this is one that writers Tom Herpich and Skyler Page had a ton of fun with. The entire episode is designed around an alarming and ominous atmosphere that is genuinely uncomfortable to sit through, but one that builds up so perfectly to the eventual reveal of Ooo’s greatest villain.
The episode starts off with another unusual dream sequence, which is like, the third or fourth time AT has done so, and there’s only about fifteen more to come. Not to say this is a bad thing; AT nearly always outdoes itself with trippy and unusual dream sequences, and this one is no exception. It utilizes unconventional and somewhat startling visuals, including the blink-and-you’ll-miss appearance of the Lich as Billy, which of course works as foreshadowing, and also the bear, sporting a masquerade mask, uttering “dark times are coming.” There’s tons of conclusions you can draw by the beginning dream itself, namely that the Lich had killed Billy prior to this episode and disguised himself in Billy’s skin (I still can’t believe how gruesome that sounds/is) and that the Old Lady was presumably eaten by the bear, as we never see her again following this episode. This is where Finn awakes as we’re treated to a humorous dream story by Jake himself, which further implies his giant foot fetish. I dunno, I kinda wanna know how Jake handles this in his relationship with Lady. Like, she doesn’t actually have feet, does she?? She just has hooves, or stubs, or something. These are the types of thoughts that keep me up at night.
The scene to follow in Billy’s crack is a nice representation of the dynamic between Finn and Billy. Finn’s awkwardness typically only arises around his lady friends, but here we see Finn feeling a bit nervous and uncomfortable around Billy. Obviously his admiration for Billy has caused Finn to feel somewhat inferior around his hero, despite his own display of true heroism back in Season One. Finn still acknowledges Billy as someone he wants emulate and follow in his footsteps, which is why he does not know how to present himself and act like a professional hero. The entire scene in Billy’s crack feels… off to say the least, and that’s an atmosphere that carries throughout the run of the episode. I remember the promo for this episode really hyped up what Finn’s response would be to Billy when he asks him if he’s ready to save all of Ooo from the Lich, and somehow it was so much more impactful and uncomfortable to simply have Finn utter “… yes,” during the actual reveal. This is a moment Finn has been waiting for presumably years of his life, and he has no other way to express his feelings both excitedly and solemnly regarding the circumstances of the actual situation.
The following montage is just lovely. For an episode that really banks itself on being entirely uneasy and subdued, the montage of stealing the jewels of royalty is really a ton of fun. I love it all, from Finn and Jake pranking Ice King by writing “I suck hamburgers” on his beard (how does one even vandalize someone’s beard?), to the gross juices that fly out from Emerald Princesses’s head after F&J squeeze out her jewel, to a very rare appearance of Embryo Princess with her legitimately sleeping inside what appears to be an embryo. Of course, there’s the even grosser sequence of Finn removing LSP’s jewel from her head, complete with what Pendleton Ward calls “dog food sounds” playing in the background. Yuck. The montage ends with Jake, Finn, and Billy riding off into the night, as Finn takes notes of Billy’s flowing mane and cool exterior. Finn finally feels like he’s on Billy’s level, and removes his hat to allow his own hair to flow smoothly. This is the biggest task Finn has ever taken on, and it’s both exciting and somewhat heartwarming for him to be able to work so closely with someone he admires so dearly.
The scene that follows begins to reveal some very perplexing yet humorously revealed exposition about the Enchiridion from a little man named Book-o. The most notable bit of information from this portion actually didn’t make the episode. There was going to be a first mention of the Crystal Citadel by Book-o, including the introduction of Finn’s father, a hero who protected the Citadel, as seen below in the posted storyboard images. By God, am I glad they removed this scene entirely. First of all, this is way too much information to be glossed over so quickly and hardly elaborated on given the actual plot of the episode itself. Second, there’s no way in hell Finn is that dumb that he didn’t already know he was adopted. I just don’t believe that in the slightest. And besides, didn’t he already know that he was abandoned in the forest as a child? A pretty giant continuity error that would’ve been completely unbelievable. Third, Finn’s dad being a hero who is the guardian of another dimension is such a boring concept. I really like the route they eventually take with Finn’s father being a selfish jackass, and it made for a much more compelling story overall. It’s such a small scene, but it really had potential to screw-up a lot of loose ends as well as future story arcs.
The rest of the exposition exists in order to introduce Prismo and the time room, something heavily featured in the following episode that exists as a place to allegedly imprison the Lich. I think at this point in time, it’s pretty obvious that there’s something entirely sketchy and unnerving going on with Billy himself. The fact that he somehow acquired the Enchiridion from the bear, and his solemn, grotesque close-up are all key-components to Billy’s demise.
Annnnnd then we get to the scene inside PB’s castle. I don’t even wanna know what the fuck she was doing to those poor little parasites whose limbs were being snipped off, but it was hilarious. Even more chortle-worthy was the fact that the parasites seem like they couldn’t give a shit the entire time. The one just exclaims, “hey” and continues to smile during the entire procedure. PB really can be one concerning momma sometimes. After that polarizing sequence, Finn bursts through the roof (no idea why he couldn’t just use the door, no time, I guess?) as he desperately tries to grab for PB’s jewel, only to accidentally be sliced by her scissors. It’s a very tense moment for both Finn and PB. After an entire season of Finn building up turmoil towards the princess and making an effort to try to get over her, I think this is really where Finn’s anger and agitation with Bubblegum reaches its pinnacle. This was a driving point that would cause issues in Finn and PB’s relationship for years to come, as they would calmly return to being friends after the episode, yet still have plenty of awkward and angsty interactions to come.
As Finn flees with the Enchiridion and the jewels combine with the ancient book (all except for LSP’s, which is both really funny and also builds lore in regards to her elemental prophecy), Princess Bubblegum blatantly reveals that Billy is merely being impersonated by the Lich, something that I feel like people read way too deeply into for a while. It makes you wonder how PB knew that Billy was the Lich, which people often theorized was a sign of PB’s tyranny, though I always just assumed it was something revealed to her by one of the Gumball Guardians. Whatever the reason, we do get a pretty gruesome reveal as half of Billy’s face is blown off, which unleashes the sinister creature.
The conversation between the Lich and Finn is not one of my favorite interactions between the two, but it’s every bit as chilling, uncomfortable, and dark as usual. The Lich makes some Emperor-type offers to Finn regarding promises of immortality and the secrets of existence, something which I do appreciate that the show has never really tackled head-on. Finn is someone who rarely ever battles with his morality, at least in his younger days, but someone who fights for justice based on everything he’s ever learned about being good. He never falls for the Lich’s negotiating and promises of something bigger than himself, as Finn never gambles with the idea that the Lich isn’t anything other than inherently evil. Of course, his desire for doing good is what causes Finn to unleash an emotional tirade of attempting to destroy the book, which is exactly what the Lich wanted. I’m not positive if the Lich knew destroying the book would open the portal to the time room, but it is the Lich, so I’m assuming he had every intention of playing with Finn’s emotional fragility in order to achieve his goal. This leads to a high-stakes travel sequence as Jake latches onto the Lich legs, with Finn following close behind. It’s a really intense scene that’s filled with anxiety that kept me on the edge of my seat on a first viewing. Even now, as I know what follows, I still appreciate the very hyperactive and intense atmosphere as the episode jumps from very subdued and lowkey to extremely urgent and vehement.
The episode ends on one of AT’s most mysterious notes, as we’re treated to a more human-looking Finn complete with a nose and eye-whites, and a more dog-like Jake. We’ve entered the Farmworld, and, despite knowing practically nothing about it at the time, I think everyone figured that the normal, relaxed perception of the alternate reality of Ooo was soon in dire consequence of being obstructed. It’s one of the most mind-blowing endings in the entire series, and still one I hold close to me as a moment in the show that just completely caught me off guard. We’ll just have to wait until Season Five to explore Farmworld a bit more in detail.
And that’s the end of season four, folks! As always, thank you to the devoted readers for always coming back for more, and any readers who just joined in on the fun. Per usual, I’ll be covering the Season Four review next Friday, as well as a bonus review of the AT graphic novel Playing with Fire. Following next Friday, you can expect a Finn the Human/Jake the Dog double feature, so be prepared for lots of content in the next few weeks!
Favorite line: “Guess I done donked something up yet again.”