Original Airdate: May 20, 2013
Written & Storyboarded by: Thomas Wellmann & Jesse Moynihan
UPDATE: I was informed this one was actually storyboarded by Thomas Wellman, instead of Ako Castuera. This post was updated for accuracy.
PB’s remained mostly in the background of the first half of season five. Despite having plenty of minor appearance here and there, and appearing as a major player during the guest animated episode A Glitch is a Glitch, there hasn’t really been anything new or telling about her character that season four so seamlessly pulled off. The Suitor takes PB back to the spotlight, revolving around the status of her love life while also introducing a likable newcomer. It’s an interesting tale of love and patience, and for what this one was going for, I think they pulled it off greatly.
I especially love the beginning, and any other moments that revolve around Peppermint Butler’s dark deeds with the demon Ogdoad. Prior to this episode, we’ve only ever seen hints and allusions to Pepbut’s ominous nature, though this one really kicks off his strange behavior by having him summon a demon in the first 10 seconds of the episode. And I love the way it’s stage: the guardian angel from Dungeon is there, as well as animals that look menacing and starved, with a clueless Cinnamon Bun at the center of it all. It’s just the kind of delicious obtuse behavior that I wanted to see from the little peppermint man. What’s also tons of fun is watching him interact with the Gumball Guardian. The Guardian has never really been given a solid personality aside from the fact that he puts his all into protecting the kingdom. Here, he acts like an actual guardian of the princess and of the kingdom, which is a pretty interesting dynamic they chose to work with. He goes from a subservient assistant to an overprotective parent of the princess. I especially enjoy his line, “the Candy Kingdom worries for its leader, and it worries for you, dark one.” The bickering between the Gumball Guardian and Peppermint Butler is a lot of fun throughout the entirety of the episode, and I wish we could see more instances of it in subsequent episodes. I can think of a few of the comics, namely Issue #11 of the Adventure Time Comics series where this dynamic is brought back, but aside from that, this is the only in-universe instance.
The suitors who have been waiting for a countless amount of years once again pose the interesting query of “just how fucking old is PB?” which once again is glanced over with subtlety. It’s where we’re introduced to Braco, the main protagonist of the episode. As far as Braco goes, he’s pretty likable; I enjoy how the episode goes to great lengths to kind of make him seem pathetic and obsessive, yet still make him kind of rootable. I admire him for all the death-defying stunts he’ll put himself through just for PB’s affection, even if it is foolhardy at best. But most interesting is that, while I do root for Braco in this one, it is pretty obvious that he doesn’t actually love Bubblegum, and the show knows that. When he’s first introduced to PB, she immediately acknowledges that he’s “infatuated” with her, and his only feelings of love for her come from a relationship that he’s created inside his mind. I think most people can relate to this – I know I can – and I think the episode and the direction of the writing is smart for not treating this like any typical love story. It acknowledges that, while Braco probably does have some real feelings for the princess, he’s more lonely and naive about love than anything, and instead is looking to fill that void and desire with fabricated tales of true love that he’s convinced himself of.
These stories can sometimes be insufferable with just how much of an awkward doofus the hopeless romantic can be; Jamie’s first appearance in Steven Universe definitely comes to mind. Yet, I find that, while there are a couple of instances where Braco is portrayed as an awkward doofus, he’s still fun to watch and actually a pretty poignant character throughout the episode’s run. I like his little observatory where he writes in his journal and documents his feelings, and I think it’s pretty sweet that he turned to his late grandfather for tips on how to win a girl’s love, even if it failed miserably. And okay, how long ago did this guy die?? Jake’s been alive for what, 14 human years, and were supposed to believe that at some point he wrote this book under an alternative ego that was the key to Braco’s grandad’s luck with the ladies?? It makes no sense! It’s by all means something that only I’m confused about and no one else is, but still! J.T. Doggzone will never fail to flabbergast me.
Finn’s brief bit in the episode is something I do find really interesting, mainly because he’s totally jealous. It’s already been pretty well established that Finn isn’t totally over PB at all, so watching him somewhat unsuccessfully try and act like he doesn’t care was really quite telling of where he is in his developmental stage. And I’m glad they kept Finn’s jealousy to a minimum; had it take up the course of an entire episode, it might’ve been frustrating and a bit unlikable, but here we just get a brief 30 seconds of Finn trying to pull off a farce and then smack talking Braco for a bit. It’s a bit petty of him, but he’s a 14-year-old boy with hormonal imbalances. I’m actually surprised he turned out this well. I also love his brief bit of nihilistic wisdom to Braco, “the path you’re on leads to nowhere,” which also includes Finn allowing Braco to take on the task. I dunno what Finn’s intentions were; it could be that he knew Braco wasn’t going to get anywhere, but let him go on the quest for shits and giggles, or that he actually wanted to see Braco succeed where he failed. I’d lean more toward the first option, though I wouldn’t be completely opposed to the second either. I also like how they’re able to incorporate Jake into these bits exceptionally well. Jake doesn’t even have a line, though his facial reactions to Finn’s uncomfortable behavior are just terrific. I love how he’s somewhat skeptical about Finn, while also simultaneously concerned for him.
The task for the soul stone is a very neat one. Vapor Swamps is a pretty dope looking landscape, with hints that an old city once existed there. The swamp monsters are also pretty visually interesting. They all have a sort of Muppet look to them, which makes them feel straight out of Labrynth or The Dark Crystal. The Beast is especially cool, though I can’t think of that name without immediately imagining Over the Garden Wall. The way Braco reasons with the Beast about his love for Bubblegum seems like it’s going in the direction where he’s just going to get beat up and suffer more, though I enjoy how the Beast actually lets him go because of it. Wonder what that fuzzy monster’s backstory is.
Though Braco goes through a decent amount of pain throughout this one, it never feels mean-spirited or like it’s mistreating Braco. He willingly puts himself into situations that aren’t meant for him to be apart of, and instead of just sitting back and being patient, he instead throws himself into instant suffering. The epitome of his pain comes from when Peppermint Butler strikes a deal with Ogdoad to make Braco a walking love magnet. What I really like about the revelations surrounding Pepbut in this one is that it’s made very obvious that, while he has a fascination with dark magic, he’s still just kind of a cool guy who puts his loyalty towards PB before anything else. I think people had in their minds that Peppermint Butler was going to be one of the big bads at the end of the series that would take on the role of main villain, though I think that’s somewhat against his character. He’s perfectly conscious of his dark habits, and though it can stray in a path of borderline menacing at times, he still would never put the princess or her kingdom in a state of jeopardy. He’s Peppermint “Butler”, after all.
Braco pays the ultimate price for love, and ultimately, it still doesn’t win over the princess. It’s another great step in the lesson of not sacrificing yourself or your dignity for the love of another person, because 9/10, that person still isn’t going to come around. But, through all the mental and physical pain he endures, he still gets a PB robot that he can fuck all he likes for the rest of his life. Yippee!
I’ve kept quiet about PB’s actual depiction in this one on purpose, mostly ‘cause I wanted to save it for last. I think she’s portrayed quite perfectly in this one! While I’m sure some people have targeted her for supposedly being unlikable and putting Braco through hurdles of pain, that’s not what I got at all from this one. Again, everything Braco did was completely against what PB wanted. She gave the task to find the soul stone to Finn and Jake, who she knew would be able to grab it without a problem. Braco took on the task without having the prowess or keen sense of heroism that the two boys had, and suffered for it. PB also had no idea that Braco was going to completely distort his appearance for her love, which again, was his own choice. She devoted all of her energy and science to creating what Braco wanted most, and if that isn’t some enlightening motherly attention, I don’t know what is.
I think the episode does a great job at showing her stress and isolation. She has to consistently focus her attention on running an entire kingdom (all while taking care of a caged Phil) and the idea of sacrificing her kingdom for romance just isn’t strategically possible for her. I get the feeling that, from the last scene, she did have feelings for Braco that went beyond just caring for him as a Candy Person. She probably saw potential in him that she saw in any former love interest, though she knew she couldn’t act on it because “responsibility demands sacrifice.” We were all expecting a sad ending from Braco, but I think in the end, I mostly feel bad for PB. She wants to be carefree, giddy, and naive like Braco once was, but her impact on her kingdom and her people is unfortunately more of a priority for her. Though I doubt anything hurt as much as Peppermint Butler’s bitch-slap. Man, was that hilarious.
So yeah, I think this one’s pretty great. Really nice characterization of each of the characters that are focused on, and just some all around solid writing from Jesse Moynihan and Thomas Wellmann. You can really tell that they have a pretty deep understanding of unrequited love and infatuation, and it really shines through in this episode. This one also features a special outro, written and sung by Moynihan, with backup vocals by Ako Castuera. It’s a really nice tune, check it out here if you haven’t before.