“Root Beer Guy” Review

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Original Airdate: December 2, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk

Root Beer Guy is a diversion from the typical Adventure Time formula and centers around a character we know little to nothing about. The past episode James did so to its derailment, though this one effectively makes me care about this newly introduced character in a single minute than I’ve cared about James in any of his individual appearances.

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Root Beer Guy isn’t a completely new character, however. Root Beer Guy has made several background appearances throughout the past few seasons, so his inclusion in this one as a regular Candy citizen feels much more connected to the world of Adventure Time and not just a random entity. For years, we’ve seen the wacky jobs that Candy citizens possess, from Banana Guard positions to edgy tavern owners, but this is the most humanized example of the Candy Kingdom. On the one hand it’s odd, because The Enchiridion! gave us a glimpse at a kingdom that does nothing but wiggle their arms around and party all day, but this Candy Kingdom seems like a simple mundane example of everyday adulthood. Yet, that’s what works to this episode’s strength.

Part of what makes Root Beer Guy so likable, is the fact that he’s so simple. He represents the mundanity that everyone fears in adulthood, but the life of an man spending most of his days in an office is a sadly realistic reality. Experiencing his days exactly the same, with nagging anxiety about his life passing by around him, and the burden of the inevitability of the future growing more by the day (maybe it’s also because I have a part-time job in telemarketing, but I partially feel his pain). The beginning of the episode goes through great lengths to show the stagnant nature of Root Beer Guy’s life: his dead-end job and pushy boss, his casual train ride home, the repetitive nature of his dinners, and a somewhat awkward relationship with his wife. The first few scenes do a good job of showing that Root Beer Guy isn’t necessarily depressed, but striving for more from his everyday life. This is shown in his reaction to Finn and Jake battling the ogre (a callback to the aforementioned The Enchiridion!), his interest in graphic novels, and his own novel that he’s been working on for quite some time. It seems pretty obvious, though, that his own novel isn’t entirely a passion project, but an escapist project where he can easily place himself in the shoes of the main character “Joe Milkshake.” Root Beer Guy is merely a dreamer who wants a life of excitement and constant action, but is unable to do so by what the circumstances of life have dealt him. This is all established within the first few minutes.

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The way Finn and Jake are incorporated into this one is a lot of fun as well. Not to diss the later episodes that exclude Finn and Jake, but this one does a great job of having the focus be on separate characters while still including Finn and Jake in some of their most humorous moments. I love the way they’re painted in this one; they’re as absurd and disconnected as possible. Obviously we know that Finn and Jake didn’t actually kidnap Princess Bubblegum from the second that element is introduced, but their commitment to being as shady and unusual as possible is great. Moments such as when they take long strides through the streets of the Candy Kingdom with their arms still or when Jake easily tricks the Banana Guards with an entirely poor imitation of Princess Bubblegum are what really help to shape the humor in this episode.

But the episode still primarily centers around the life and adventures of Root Beer Guy, and that’s perfectly enjoyable as well. I like Root Beer Guy, and I really want to seem him succeed by the end of it. Again, a lot of his charm comes from his simplicity, as well as some terrific voice acting from Jack Pendarvis in his first ever voice acting role (aside from his work on the ever-strange Rudy & Gogo Famous Cartoon Show). I care about his relationship with the equally interesting Cherry Cream Soda, who simply wants attention from her husband and will go through several different methods to do so, no matter how kinky. Honestly RBG, you’re a fool for not paying attention to your French maid-dressed wife. All jokes aside, what makes this dynamic work is, again, the simplicity and realism within RBG and CCS’s characterization. The Candy Kingdom is full of crazy and silly characters, so to view the story of a member of this race that is more down-to-Earth and relatable is a refreshing change of pace that also works as potential worldbuilding. It not only makes me care for RBG, but also the entirety of the Candy Kingdom as a whole. It makes this entire area feel more like our own world, and more like a world that we can potentially relate to. Also, Root Beer Guy’s novel and indecisiveness with his writing style is hilariously relatable to me. I experience the same exact issue with rewording statements nearly every time I post for this blog.

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This episode is just as great in terms of visual appeal. Graham Falk returns once again for his second storyboarding gig on the show, and man, his influence and emphasis on silly expressions really help his episodes soar. His style is virtually different from any other storyboard artist on the show, and it allows for some really stretchy, evocative, and wacky character expressions that are practically eye candy.

It’s also scattered with funny moments outside of Finn and Jake’s influence. This is one where the Banana Guards are possibly at their finest, and their stupidity feels more refreshing than tedious. The melodrama between RBG and CCS, while captivating, is also quite delightfully silly on some aspects, namely the French maid outfit mentioned earlier. And I also enjoy the inclusion of another newly introduced character, Buck Pudding. Buck is the perfect example of a somewhat haunting, yet completely innocent redneck ally to our main protagonist. I’m glad he got at least one cameo appearance after this episode.

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The conclusion ties things together nicely; Root Beer Guy is able to have his moment where he saves the day, and he’s rewarded appropriately. I am glad that we are able to see RBG have a happy ending. Given AT’s somewhat sadistic and darker tendencies to its lesser known characters, I’m glad Root Beer Guy is able to have his happily ever after, where he appropriately ditches his typewriter to live out his own real life adventure.

And that’s mostly what this one boils down to: just a fun adventure featuring a rather subdued and unbeknownst hero, but it works really well. I enjoy the character exploration of Root Beer Guy, the solid animation and character drawings, and the lovely bits of humor sprinkled throughout. I think Root Beer Guy also works as a key indicator of how interesting it can be for Adventure Time to explore lesser known characters. Obviously it’s be done before with episodes like Thank You, but I think Root Beer Guy in particular paved the way for future episodes such as Lemonhope, Little Brother, Hoots and so on. It’s an experiment that I think works out exceptionally well, and one I continuously enjoy upon revisiting. If only Root Beer Guy’s legacy could be kept as perfect as this episode left it…

Favorite line: “Nice place to hide a body if you’re into that sort of thing.”

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