Original Airdate: March 3, 2014
Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Pendleton Ward
Lumpy Space Princess’s vanity and ego make her quite the difficult character to feel sympathy for. While all of the characters within Adventure Time have their fair share of flaws throughout the run of the series, all of them at least have something that gives me a reason as to why I should care for them, that is, all except for LSP. Bad Timing does the unthinkable. It manages to make me care for LSP’s character in a way I really never imagined. And this isn’t an episode that gives a cute or likable side to her character; the episode still does its damndest to show that LSP is crazy and arrogant in her own lumpy way, but it’s exactly that kind of attitude and behavior that directly contributes to the tragedy of her character as a whole. This is all tied together with a unique framing device that includes some delightfully silly creations from Pen Ward and Kent Osborne, and helps to all connect to Bad Timing’s piteous ending.
The episode is introduced to Princess Bubblegum once again battling the logic behind anomalies and magic in contrast to her deep faith in her own scientific studies. Her method of time travel is also rather complex, but interesting. The back-to-back bickering between PB and Jake is quite enjoyable, as always; I really enjoy this playful conflict between the two. It’s pretty obvious that Jake is more captivated by presentation rather than the deep intervals of the space time continuum. He’d rather just see cool time portals and shit than a big presentation about the construct of time, which PB fails to understand, ultimately diminishing her faith in magic even more. It’s also nice to see one of the Mud Scamps from The Hard Easy back again! I love those quirky little critters.
As LSP enters the scene, it’s already clear what her current state of mind is. After literally sleeping in a gutter for the night (a terrific metaphor for her deranged mindset), she nearly tears PB apart for not allowing her to use the time device to visit her past boyfriend Brad. We haven’t seen a ton of LSP this past season and a half, as her only major appearances were in Candy Streets and Apple Wedding, where her deteriorating mental health is in clear view. And this one does not hold back when showing LSP at her absolute craziest and most desperate. It isn’t devoid of some of her funnier moments as well; Pen Ward gives his all with this performance, showcasing Lumpy Space Princess and her most loud and obnoxious, but also her most passionate.
While LSP drowns her worries at the Candy Kingdom Tavern, as Tree Trunks softly sings “Slow Boat to China” (a referential moment I actually quite enjoy), she comes across Johnnie, or as she called him in high school: “Ugly Johnnie.” Johnnie is the perfect example of just a likable “nice guy” character. He’s certainly not the most interesting character that has ever starred on the show, but I don’t really think that was the point. He’s just supposed to be this really sweet guy who shows Lumpy Space Princess something that she has probably never received, or at least accepted: care and compassion. He’s also not without his funny moments, mostly stemming from his clear social awkwardness and quirky behavior. I like how corny and kind of stilted his interactions with LSP are. They laugh about using a vinyl record to stimulate a face, and then Johnnie immediately just tells Lumpy Space Princess to sleep on his couch. Talk about a confident and forward man! And honestly, Johnnie is the perfect representation of “that person from high school who went waaay under the radar.” I think all of us who have gone through high school know that one person you look at now and just wonder “damn, where were you three years earlier?” Is that rude? I don’t know.
But the utter tragedy of it all is seeing just how well LSP responds to all of this. She isn’t demeaning, she isn’t arrogant, and she isn’t being vain. She genuinely enjoys the company of Johnnie, and is much happier with herself and her life spending time with someone that not only benefits her own existence, but somebody that she can care and love for as well. Johnnie was able to build confidence and self-esteem through her own actions, and carried those skills over to get a job within the Candy Kingdom. Lumpy Space Princess most likely only dated guys who were physically attractive for a social status back in Lumpy Space, so this is definitely the first boyfriend she has had who isn’t completely materialistic. But of course, LSP’s desire for love is still a very self-centered desire. Though she’s able to give love to Johnnie, anything threatening the love that he gives her ultimately threatens the relationship as a whole. Lumpy Space Princess doesn’t know that love requires trust and flexibility; her only understanding of true love is that it feels good and that she doesn’t want the high to leave. Especially in this case, seeing as how Johnnie is a legitimately kind and loving guy, she does not want to lose him or the way he feels about her for anything.
During Johnnie’s dinner with Princess Bubblegum, LSP sits sadly outside and utters a monologue that is so raw and passionate that I couldn’t help but include it in this review.
Oh, Johnnie… Ugly Johnnie, through my tender love you have metamorphed into Beautiful Johnnie Butterfly. Every relationship, I gamble with my heart. I go all in because the payoff is true love. I see you when I close my eyes, and thinking of you makes my mind feel light. All my problems fade away, and I can’t help smiling. To let someone you love go into the arms of another takes a big person. I don’t know… if I can be that big.
This is one of my favorite soliloquies in the show, and honestly the best representation about what Lumpy Space Princess as a character is all about. It’s easy to dismiss her as crazy, but even easier to empathize with her viewpoint on love and how important it can make one feel. Yet, it’s important to also realize that LSP isn’t in love… she has only known Johnnie for a day. However, the impact of the brief relationship and the effect it had on her is exactly what makes her feelings so validated. LSP is a person constantly looking for love, and one that struggles so hard to ever find it. For the first time in her life, she’s at least found a genuine person who she could actually see herself with. The thought of mutual love is enough to make her as high as could be, and the only thing that actually threatens her is the loss of that love. It’s a lot similar to Braco’s situation in The Suitor: if the two of these characters were patient and understanding with their alleged loved ones, they would have ended up having a much more positive resolution. Yet, LSP is left with only her paranoia and feelings of heartbreak, which continue to contribute to her own self-destructive behavior. She’s unable to look past her own insecurities because she is afraid of losing everything she has worked so hard to create, even though she’s actively destroying exactly what she wanted in the first place. In a very Lumpy Space Princess-y way, this is a very sad truth when it comes to love and infatuation.
And of course, let’s not forget the tranch herself, Princess Bubblegum. I think PB is written pretty terrifically in this one, and it’s a nice balance to show her caring and compassionate side after sooo many episode of referencing her more shady and conniving nature (though he use of cyanide laced gum is quite questionable). Even though she initially threatens to declare war on Lumpy Space after a trivial fight between LSP (the chick can be petty sometimes!), her sympathy and understanding of Lumpy’s own self-doubt is exposed in all the right ways. Instead of reprimanding LSP for stealing her material, wrecking her castle, and sort of killing someone, she would much rather put a halt to Lumpy’s suffering, even if it means feeling the wrath of her own hostility. PB is a caring and understanding person when she realizes the emotional turmoil that is going on within other people, and after 800 years of trying to build a happy Utopian society, there’s still the underlying realism that some citizens do deal with deep emotional issues. And sometimes the only way to cope with the heavy issues of her citizens is to have a nice drink at the Candy Kingdom Tavern. Poor gal.
The ending is about as heartwrenching as it gets. Through the outer circle surrounding the episode, we see that these creatures are from an alternate dimension, and that the time machine sent Johnnie here instead of his past timeline. As LSP bawls over the loss of her love, we see that Johnnie can also see exactly what is going on within the Land of Ooo. As she angrily runs out, Johnnie sadly slouches himself, knowing that he’ll never be able to see his lover ever again. Johnnie perhaps receives the saddest fate out of any character in the entire show; he’s doomed to a dimension that he can presumably never escape from, and through everything, he really, really liked LSP. He never doubted his relationship or lost his feelings for his special someone, and Lumpy Space Princess’s failure to understand social cues is what ultimately led to the demise of their individual lives. It’s sad stuff.
The outer circle is certainly an interesting gag within the episode, with many cute little characters and gags within it. I also think it was delightfully clever to tie the entire episode back to the actual visual gag. Though, I think this is definitely a feature that works much better on rewatches. When I initially viewed this episode, I was quite distracted by the actual circle and actually missed the emotional ending with Johnnie ending up in the circle. Thus, this is one that benefits from multiple viewings, so now I can either focus entirely on the circle, or the events going on within the episode. Each are equally interesting in their own right, and the cute little creatures have Pendleton Ward written all over them. Perhaps my favorite of these doodles are the peanut who splits into two individual nuts and the triangle and square happily see-sawing together.
This one is an emotional rollercoaster, and one that I’m quite fond of. This is the best Lumpy Space Princess episode to date, and it’s one that finds all the right ways for me to sympathize with her. By the end of the episode, she’s still entirely vain and insane, but Bad Timing finds just the right balance to still make her charismatic. One of Ooo’s most unsympathetic characters was able to also become one of the show’s most tragic, and I think that’s just another magical actual of great writing within the scope of Adventure Time.