Original Airdate: September 2, 2013
Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone
I have some time off next week, kids! I’m trying to get some of the lighter episodes in this bunch done since I have the available time, so I’ll most likely be covering from Time Sandwich to Red Starved. So expect somewhat daily reviews within the next week. Until then, we have Earth & Water! An episode that takes a breather from Finn’s perspective of the break-up to focus some much needed time on Flame Princess’s perspective, and we get some interesting insights, but a lot of it feels more like plot setup rather than interesting character study.
First off, I do enjoy how this episode kind of establishes Finn and FP’s break up as AT’s first truly serialized arc. These past three episodes have focused heavily on the fallout of the relationship between Finn and Flame Princess, and the motif of Finn’s guilt and sadness would carry over heavily throughout the the second half of season five, and even into season six. Overall, I think it works pretty successfully; I know a lot people would go on to complain about how Adventure Time became too focused on “relationship bullshit,” but I don’t mind it because it’s not presented badly. The relationship drama of these characters never feels like the focal point, the focal point is always how the break up has affected themselves and their individual identities. And here, Finn is clearly still sad, and I’m glad his sadness isn’t glanced over so quickly. Of course, the next two episodes don’t touch on these issues at all; they’re about an ultimate sandwich and Finn’s past lives respectively. Yet, the sadness shown by Finn works as an in depth look at how he deals with these issues. When he’s sitting around idly as Jake continues to beat him in video games, he’s more prone to fall into depressive territory. As he gets distracted later on by battling snow-a-constrictors, he acknowledges that it helped him get his mind off of his worries. So whether it’s fighting snow beasts, helping his friend rescue his perfect sandwich, or discovering a part of himself he never knew existed, Finn is able to cope with his problems when he’s faced with something that consumes his time. When he isn’t, he’s destined to face his sorrow and continue to feel bad for himself, which consistently happens in Earth & Water when he’s faced with the fact that he hasn’t yet come to terms with his errors. Enter Ice King.
Ice King’s moments are brief and thin, but are still a lot of fun. This also establishes Ice King’s big move into Finn and Jake’s Treehouse, which is a shamefully under-focused subplot, though it does lead to to some fun comedic opportunities in the future.
The main focus of the episode, as I mentioned, is how FP is dealing with the break-up, with bits and pieces of PB goodness sprinkled throughout the episode. Starting off by talking about the relationship between the two seems most appropriate, as the budding conflict between PB and FP is actually one of my favorite dynamics in the series. The butting of heads between PB and Marcy is clearly the more mainstream and popular conflict, but I enjoy how PB and FP’s issues with each other stems from an entirely different basis. PB simply cares for her kingdom and the wellbeing of her people; she’s terrified of the idea of Flame Princess because of her unbalanced nature. So much so that she legitimately considers cutting off FP’s emotions entirely just to assure protection of her kingdom. Though, it doesn’t come off completely cruel or irrational. Bonnie likely realizes that Flame Princess isn’t only a threat to the Candy Kingdom, but also to herself. FP’s instability nearly led to her burning out in Burning Low, and as it does show in some portions of the episode, PB certainly does care about Flame Princess to an extent. Second, PB’s disconnection from her own emotions has proven quasi-effective for herself; though it’s helped her to focus on her own work, she doesn’t yet realize the damaging effect it also has on her own identity. So it’s quite likely that she simply believes that FP being cut off from her emotions could prove to be beneficial for both of them.
FP’s depiction in this one is poignant; I don’t think her turmoil is explored as well as it could have been, as this is really the only episode that actually focuses on how she feels in regards to her break-up with Finn, and it’s only elaborated on for a brief span of six minutes, if that. Yet, I do like what we get. I enjoy how she’s totally willing to just eliminate her emotions completely, it really shows how big of an impact Finn’s douchery had on FP, and that his lack of an apology early on has likely led to much stress and dismay for her in the long run. And of course, the main issue at hand that I think is really valid and understandable: Flame Princess is sick of being lied to and deceived. After dealing with Finn’s secretive desires, PB’s plotting and shady experimenting, and the long running Shakespeare-ish and deceptive nature of the Fire Kingdom, her pain is well-defined, and made even stronger by the flashback sequence of her early years.
The flashback works great as a brief bit of exposition that gives just the right amount of Flame Princess’s past history. I enjoy how the tone of it is mostly kept light as well; plenty of AT’s main cast have a tragic backstory they carry with them, and while FP’s definitely borders on tragedy, it’s told with a humorous edge that mostly focuses on the absurdity of Flame King’s mindset and just how destructive an infant FP could be. It’s a shame because, with a better father, Flame Princess may have been able to control her elemental nature, though FK never got to take the time to know or educate his daughter. He casted off his daughter based on some nonsensical prophecy (which then became self-fulfilled) and chose his own selfish deceit over everything. The flashback sequence is filled with great tidbits; I love the random Messenger from the Fire Kingdom who gets really attached to baby FP, that was both hilarious and also kind of sad. There’s also the inclusion of PB that shows a much kinder side to help round out her questionable behavior in scenes prior. We already learned that PB was the reason behind Flame Princess being kept in captivity, but here, it’s much more reasonable and rational. Bubblegum didn’t “have her locked up,” as it was simply a result of Flame King choosing to be a poor father figure. I’m glad this was included as a way of showing that PB does care to some extent (she’s probably known Flame Princess longer than she’s known Finn, which is also an interesting tidbit), and also works as another way of making the viewer ask “just how old is this bitch?!” Assuming Finn and Flame Princess are around the same age, it’s also pretty cool to see that Finn is around 15-years-old at this point. From Mystery Train to The Comet, we never get a clear timeline of Finn’s age, so it’s nice that little bits like these are included so that it does give us a good idea about how much time has passed.
My disdain for Cinnamon Bun aside, I actually do like his inclusion as FP’s pal in this episode. They actually work off of each other pretty well; CB himself is genuinely pretty cute and nice as opposed to being loud and obnoxious, and this initiates his new role as Flame Princess’s knight that I think really adds to his character. I’ll take competent, badass Cinnamon Bun over braindead, pain-in-the-butt CB any day.
By the episode’s end, Finn finally does get to apologize to Flame Princess – or, in this case, the new Fire King – and she accepts it, though she does not take Finn back as her boyfriend. Although, she still wants to be friends, as long as Finn is completely honest with her from now on. Finn obliges, though it’s made much clearer later on that Finn was not ready to make such a promise. It’ll take him some time to learn that simply saying something and acting on it are two different things, and it will be long before he finally does commit to being completely honest with his ex-girlfriend.
As is, this episode is decent. I think it has some really good bits, especially the flashback sequence, but as I mentioned, it feels much more like setup than interesting plot exploration. We’re introduced to Ice King moving in with the boys, Flame Princess ruling over the Fire Kingdom, and Cinnamon Bun departing his comfortable home in the Candy Kingdom. All are interesting in their own right, but as mentioned, I would have liked a bit more focus into Flame Princess’s psyche. The past two episodes have been terrific when it has come to diving deeper into the depths of Finn’s character, and this conclusion to the Finn/FP break-up trilogy is just somewhat standard. Also, there’s some bits that don’t really work. Finn and PB attempting to get into the Fire Kingdom using brute force doesn’t really add anything to the episode. It’s mildly amusing, but just sort of meanders from the legitimately intriguing parts that we visited earlier. Overall, a decent contribution to the ongoing saga of Finn and Flame Princess’s fallout, but there are plenty more interesting episodes that focus on this issue to come!
On a final note, this is the first episode co-boarded and written by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim. While Kim in particular isn’t one of my favorite staff members, I attribute a lot of praise to her because I feel as though she really helps round out Somvilay Xayaphone’s writing style throughout the remainder of the series, and Xayaphone’s episodes get gradually better from this point on. Emphasis on gradually, however.
Favorite line: “Sorry, I’m on edge ’cause I’m worried that Jerry here will find out I’m dating his sister.”