Archive | June 2018

“The Mountain” Review

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Original Airdate: February 12, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan

The Mountain is possibly Adventure Time’s most ambiguous episode to date, and it’s definitely difficult to understand. I wasn’t really excited for more Lemongrab when the premise for this one was released; I had kind of thought Lemongrab’s arc was finished by the time Lemonhope aired, and didn’t really want the character to be milked any further if there wasn’t a legitimate new direction to take him in. And apparently, Jesse Moynihan thought so too. On his blog, he detailed how he thought of the story for this one right as he was falling asleep, and he actually have a great sum-up on emotionally ambiguity in television in general. I’ll leave some of it below for reference:

“In my mind, the thing I really wanted to get away from, was the complete narrative handholding that embodies not only kids television, but almost all television: The ideology that demands we understand at all times what the character feels, what the conflict is, how exactly the audience should feel, and maybe the moral message. Even on shows I really dig like Game of Thrones, or True Detective, there’s very little ambiguity when it comes to how the audience is being manipulated to feel. Often times, in lesser TV shows, the writing acts as a rote, step by step instructional guide for how we should emotionally proceed as an audience. What’s funny is how well it works, despite its fake hackiness. Someone on screen yelling “I am mad at you! You killed my father! But I need your help!” or “I feel X because of Y, so you should Z” in the dumbest way possible can still have an impact on me. If I give in to the scenario, I guess part of me gives up an aspect of emotional control or something. It’s passive engagement with archetypes and familiar emotional cues. I’m willing to participate in passive engagement, but I greatly prefer the idea that entertainment may reflect the poetry and ambiguity of life.”

It’s a pretty neat mindset, and kind of addresses the experimental nature of season six, and the anxieties that went along with its production. During this season, Adventure Time has churned out some of the most different and unique eleven minute stories that television has ever seen, but again, as Moynihan touched on in his post, it’s hard to say that this is actually what people want to see. In fact, it isn’t! So many people left the AT bandwagon for Steven Universe at this point in time, and not to say that this is a bad thing, but SU is much, much more open about the issues each character is facing and how it affects themselves, while Adventure Time, or at least Moynihan, was trying to get away from that method of writing all together. Thus, The Mountain aims at tackling the complexities of both Finn and Lemongrab’s own insecurities, without making anything apparent. While it’s chock full of Moynihanisms, it’s also the storyboarding debut of Sam Alden, who is one of my favorite storyboard artists and writers on the show.

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The opening provides some nice insight into what Castle Lemongrab has been up to recently, and it seems like all of the Lemon People are being treated relatively well. Granted, Lemongrab still receives the “royal treatment” and keeps everyone on a strict schedule, though nobody in the kingdom seems opposed to it, as they seem to be at utter peace. That is, except for Lemongrab of course, whose failure to be content in his own skin is represented by the crack in the mural on his ceiling. We saw those who struggle with their own disappointing lives back in Astral Plane, but here, Lemongrab is outright refusing his own being. It’s an existential crisis that has him searching for more than just self-satisfaction, but a search for something deeper and greater for his own being.

On the other side of things, Finn and Jake enjoy yet another campfire bonding session together, as they prepare to watch the “Dap of the Heavens,” which just feels like Adventure Time in its most classic form. Those fun times end when Finn discovers Flame Princess and Cinnamon Bun working out nearby, which once more reinforces that Finn isn’t really over her entirely. I absolutely love the show’s commitment to Finn’s inability to completely move on from his ex-girlfriend. A lot of break-ups in television are glanced over after the course of a couple of episodes, but here, even an entire season later, Finn is still struggling. It’s painted refreshingly in a different way here, however, as Finn seems more anxious than anything. After a period of growth, Finn likely realizes just how embarrassing his actions were towards FP in the past, and is haunted by his own mistakes. This is why I really like his statement of, “I need to distract myself with work.” After a period of depression, Finn realizes that he can’t accomplish anything by merely allowing himself to feel bad, and that he must shift his focus onto something more productive. It’s really sweet to see how proactive he’s become.

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Though not above all issues, it seems, as the guardian of the Mountain of Matthew acknowledges that Finn is filled with “way cray beeswax.” This likely is addressing the onset of problems that Finn began to experience following his break-up with Flame Princess, and how all of those negative, raw feelings are being brought back at the sight of her.

The inside of the Mountain of Matthew is pretty nicely designed, though nothing I would call especially remarkable. I actually felt its interior was a bit too reminiscent of the tree domain in Little Brother, though they aren’t entirely identical. It’s here where Lemongrab experiences the door trial which propels him forward. Since he and Finn both share a similar experience, I’ll quickly jot down what I think each door represents and then elaborate on it:

  1. Desire.
  2. Fear.
  3. Empathy.

Through the first gateway, Lemongrab sees PB with a catcher’s mitt, and asks Lemongrab to play with her. The use of a catcher’s mitt to represent Lemongrab’s loneliness is first utilized in You Made and is referenced again at the beginning of the episode. What Lemongrab wants most of all is to bond with his mother unconditionally in the strongest way possible, which is, in his lemon-y mind, playing a game of catch. The second door features Lemonhope in a successful place as the ruler of Castle Lemongrab, which shows Lemongrab’s absolute inadequate feelings towards his own status. Aside from having a relationship with Princess Bubblegum, Lemongrab has always wanted to feel successful in his own skin, and successful as a ruler of his own kingdom. Watching someone who strayed away from his sour ways be able to actually run the earldom better than his own self is deeply stressful for Lemongrab, and interferes with his own view of his place in the universe. The empathy card with the last one is definitely the most questionable, but Lemongrab’s caring feelings for his china doll, and the possible remaining feelings he may share for his brother, propel him to act unselfishly and do something for the greater good, which allows him to move forward.

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As for Finn’s experience with the doors, things go quite comparably. Through the first door, Finn has the opportunity to take Cinnamon Bun’s place, both physically and metaphorically, to “be with” Flame Princess. The second door has Jake and BMO about to feast on Finn cakes, without the company of Finn, which could simply represent Finn’s simplistic desire to possess his special cupcakes, or it could picture Finn feeling like he is ultimately left out of something. Finn can be a bit clingy and possessive, so it would make sense that his fear is something that reflects his underlying need of support and love. The last door doesn’t show much, aside from a giant butterfly (Finn’s spirit animal), though the screams of Lemongrab can be heard in the background. Finn, like Lemongrab, chooses the path to empathy, rather than something that will directly benefit himself.

During a retrospective trial where both Finn and Lemongrab are met with massive versions of themselves, things start to get really trippy. Lemongrab’s experience while walking on his own body has him come to terms with the fact that he is coated in grease, and that to be a lemon is inherently to be “greasy.” Lemongrab was referred to as “Lemongrease” by the Pup Gang in You Made Me, though he strictly denied being such an entity. Here, after spending time on his own body, Lemongrab finally realizes that he is “grease.” Whether this means he’s a buzzkill, a dickhead, or a real out loud flim flammer, Lemongrab verbally acknowledges that he himself is a troubled being, though he also rejects this aspect of his life. As he chooses to progress forward to meet Matthew, Lemongrab bids farewell to his current self, in the hopes that he’ll find serenity and peace once he leaves behind all of his flaws and imperfections.

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While Finn’s experience through this portal isn’t nearly as reflective, there are some cool thing to point out. Finn continuously runs on his arm, which is missing in the vision. I believe this is in reference to the reinforced message that, even though a part of Finn’s self returned when his arm did, he still is not fully “whole.” This is shown in Is That You? with Finn’s thorn, and is displayed here as a means of showing that, while Finn’s arm is back, it isn’t fully there. Finn’s childlike happiness has returned to him, but it will never be the way it used to be entirely.

All of this boils down to the climax, with Finn and Lemongrab meeting up with Matthew. It’s both the coolest part of the episode, and the most confusing. But I’ve pieced it together as much as one can, and after years of reading what others have said, and as well as what I myself interpreted, it seems more apparent. Matthew states:

“The meat-bodies who have journeyed to this mountain have distilled themselves to their original source materials, and now exist in oneness.”

Matthew is essentially a cult leader or a false prophet of some sort, offering peace and restoration when the second end of the world comes, and for anyone who can no longer find peace and meaning in their own lives. Essentially, Matthew boils people down into being thoughtless, desireless beings who merely follow in the path of one ultimate sense of power that gives them meaning. It is cool how Matthew isn’t necessarily presented as a villain; like everything else in this episode, his state of being is ambiguous. There’s nothing that suggests he’s downright malicious, though his ultimate downfall is the fact that he destroys the free will and identities of other beings, but only at the expense of their original choice to sacrifice themselves to become something greater. This is why Lemongrab came; Finn states, “I know ya got issues,” and that’s exactly what propelled Lemongrab to choose a new path of being: to surrender his worldly and inner problems, and to become part of something bigger than himself, as many do with any kind of religion. Though, Lemongrab’s ultimate ego is what leaves him unable to surrender himself to Matthew. As he pulls out the remaining Lemonjons (or lemon candies) he gathered from his dinner, he realizes that the Lemonjons, being greasy and “flawed” could break Matthew. Lemongrab exclaims, “if you are the head that floats atop the ziggurat, then the stairs that lead to you must be infinite. Infinite stairs are UNACCEPTABLE!” Lemongrab knows that, to actually be something or someone as great as Matthew, the path to become undoubtedly perfect offers an impossible destination. Lemongrab came to the Mountain of Matthew to find peace in his state of being, but as it has been enforced time and time again, in Lemongrab’s mind it’s “his way or the highway.” Lemongrab fails to understand why he should give himself up to be like everyone else, because even though he isn’t fully happy with his life, he knows that he doesn’t want to lose his lemon-y essence in the end. The imperfect nature and utter “grease” of the Lemonjons causes Matthew “perfect” nature to erupt, and to show the true face of his followers, who are all identical and unremarkable, showing that his followers truly did sacrifice every sense of their being. It’s complicated to know if what Lemongrab did was right; these people are clearly upset with his actions, and while I don’t think the nature of Matthew was truly authentic, some people would much rather be apart of something that helps them feel more special and unique, even if it does stifle their own individuality and characteristics.

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But, the important part story-wise is that Lemongrab did successfully achieve solace through his experience in the cave. As he returns home, he spits the remaining gunk of the Lemonjon he was chewing into the cracked mural, and utters, “yo, yo, it’s grease!” It shows that even grease, something that Lemongrab once revolted against, could be something that’s filling and purposeful. Lemongrab is “grease,” but his overall acceptance of himself and his way of life is exactly what he needed to feel more comfortable in his own skin. Lemongrab does as he will, and his acceptance of how he does things, and the reassurance that they do embody something meaningful, gives him a reason to chill out and let things be.

Woof. This one is a doozy, y’all. And honestly, it’s hard to put into words exactly how I feel about it. It’s certainly interesting, and there’s no denying that. The themes and metaphors it presents are often difficult to read into, but provide this episode with a ton to work with when it comes to those deeper, analytical expeditions, as this review was. So it’s definitely intriguing, but does it work on a surface level? Well… I think it depends on the person. This is one that took several viewings for me to get fully invested in; there’s so much going on that it takes a lot of reading into to fully understand what’s going on in the story, which can certainly be frustrating. There’s other things holding it up: the environment, atmosphere, and trippy visuals are certainly a treat. Some of the trials that Finn and Lemongrab go through aren’t entirely difficult to understand, and Lemongrab himself is, as always, hilarious. My favorite bit is the running gag in which he simply utters “bye” before abruptly doing something extreme. Also, the scene where he kills the guardian, as Finn responds, “dude, I was gonna ask him to move,” had me in stitches. Granted, I still think the ability to get behind the actual themes and story of the episode is a big aspect, and I can totally understand if people weren’t able to enjoy this one as it is. It almost leaves too much up to the viewer where it feels like you HAVE to look deeper in order to have a pleasurable experience with it. But, as for myself, I do quite enjoy it, though that’s a personal preference and I don’t know how much of a gem it is on its own and how much I could truly recommend this to someone is. It’s an acquired taste, and one I get behind, but it surely isn’t for everyone.

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Favorite line: “You will be served in a pitcher by a little child!”

“The Visitor” Review

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Original Airdate: February 5, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

A lot of people were disappointed by The Visitor, either because it wasn’t raw and emotional enough (this was aired side-by-side with Steven Universe‘s On the Run after all, which was a terrific episode) or because many felt we didn’t learn anything particularly new about Martin. While it’s true that Martin is pretty much still just an irredeemable asshole, it does at least show how much Finn’s attitude towards him has changed over time. Finn no longer simply wants to force his dad to be in his life, nor does he want to extract revenge, but Finn still seems, at the very least, confused. He still doesn’t completely understand why Martin is such an utter piece of shit and why his father abandoned him, and Finn doesn’t have any idea about the truth behind his origins. This episode answers some of those questions… with mostly unsatisfying answers… but I’ll defend The Visitor in that I think it’s a very intriguing interactive episode between Finn and his father.

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The episode begins with another dream sequence to add to Adventure Time‘s absolute dream fetish quota. As usual, the sequence is pretty stellar and trippy, with allusions to Finn’s childhood self and the nature of his being. The sperm-y comet in his dream directly leads him on a path to Martin, as Finn carries his buff baby self. As the baby clings onto Finn and asks him to hold tighter, Finn responds, “it’s okay, I won’t ever let you go.” I saw this both as an allusion to Finn never giving up his childlike innocence, and also his failure to let go of his past history as a baby. Finn is still deeply affected by the fact that he was abandoned as a child, and he simply wants to know what the reason is behind that abandonment. It takes a long bit of time for him to truly move on from this aspect of his life. He acknowledges his statement in his mind by thinking, “that’s true.”

When finally confronted with his father once again, Martin seems as scummy and conniving as he did in Escape From the Citadel. The first shot we actually see of him depicts Martin eating the contents of a baby bird’s egg, and promptly spits the feathers out of his mouth once Finn enters the tree. Isn’t he just delightful? Martin also once again tries to divert Finn’s attention away from himself, though he fails entirely, and Finn figures his scheme out. The one difference between Martin’s original appearance and his role here is that he isn’t trying to get away from Finn with every chance that he gets… though he does try to at some points. Here, I think Martin is at least trying to bond with Finn, but he’s doing it entirely for himself, and not for Finn’s well-being. He wants to make himself believe he’s putting in the work of being a caring father, but doesn’t actually seem to care if he is one or not. And again, it seems as though he’s trying to find as many distractions as he possibly can; after crash landing on Earth, he immediately wants to return to space once more, because nothing beneficial is around for him on Earth. Or at least, that’s what he thinks.

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During this meeting, Finn isn’t entirely angry or furious with his father. He had gotten over the fact that Martin was the reason he lost his arm initially, and knows that revenge won’t bring him any form of satisfaction. Though, this doesn’t stop his general disgust from showing as Martin tries to hug him after tricking Finn into thinking he too lost a limb. Finn is rationally upset because he feels as though he can’t trust Martin for anything, and he’s only more-so disappointed by the fact that Martin assures him that he’ll never be able to tell the difference. One of the cleverest bits of Martin’s character is that you can never tell if he’s being sincere, or completely lying. Stephen Root’s work with Martin is great, because every line comes off as genuinely charming and affectionate, even is he’s being a complete asswipe. It’s an effect that not only works on the characters in this universe, but on the audience as well.

The villagers that Martin and Finn come across are pretty charming; their designs are super simplified, but their nature and character traits are actually somewhat profound. I kind of love that they’re smart enough to know that they’re being tricked, though they want to help out as much as they can just because they’re simple nature has allowed for them to become altruists. It’s pretty cool to see citizens of an area in Ooo who aren’t blatantly stupid or irrational, and some who are actually quite bright and humble in contrast. Fun fact: almost all of the guy villagers are voiced by Tom Herpich, and almost all of the girl villagers are voiced by Tress MacNeille.

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Most of the episode revolves around Martin manipulating the villagers into doing deeds for him, and while it’s relatively one-note, it’s all pretty funny to watch. I love seeing Finn’s absolute dead-pan reactions to all of Martin’s endeavors. The best part of it all is easily the party he throws for the villagers, in what is supposed to be a happy celebration, though everyone in sight looks like they’re either in pain, or absolutely miserable. Really paints Martin to be like an absolute monster, as it should. Even when he’s trying to do something for others, he still always selfishly puts himself first.

Though at the party, he does set aside time for his son, as Finn begins to grow introspective and wants to know some details about his past. Martin initially bats around the questions aimed towards him, though quickly grows to being genuine when he does acknowledge how much it means to Finn. This is probably Martin at his most sincere, and likely the most sincere I’d ever want to see him. Though as he proves, he can’t even really conquer sincerity the right way, as he just vaguely glances over key details in the story of Finn’s early days. It does add a bit of depth to Martin’s character, as he acknowledges that talking about Finn’s mother “stresses him out.” Again, not much is given when it comes to the concept of Finn’s mother, though we can at least gather that Martin did truly care about her at one point, and it’s a touchy subject for himself. It can be concluded that he’s the type of dude who has grown to eliminate anything even remotely stressful from his life, simply because, after all the traumatic things he’s been through, he doesn’t want to experience anything quite as emotionally taxing again. He does pull off the gist of Finn’s story quite nicely, and ends with, “I always planned to come back for you, but I didn’t.” Martin acknowledges this statement by mirroring Finn’s line earlier, “that’s true.” It’s a small, but huge moment that shows that, while Martin is a polar opposite in comparison to his son, the two do share at least one aspect of sincerity. Of course, Finn’s statement was about never letting himself go, while Martin’s statement related to actually letting Finn go, but it’s the one moment where Martin is completely and utterly honest with his son, and while it doesn’t lead to any actual development in Martin’s character, (which I wouldn’t want to see anyway) it does at least offer us a single scene in the grand scheme of things where the two characters are able to be somewhat real with each other.

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This doesn’t last very long, as Martin plans to leave on his ship (christened as the “Minnie”!) after leaving the entire village in absolute despair. He attempts to ditch Finn without even saying goodbye too, but also in a rare moment for himself, he invites Finn to come along with him in space. Granted, I don’t think this invitation is met with the same sincerity that his previous interaction was; I think Martin simply wants to use Finn as an ally and then to ditch Finn when he is no longer of use to himself. Finn is smart enough to now to know this truth, and instead of joining Martin in an attempt to either get closure or to bond with his father, he chooses the path that he knows and one that has benefited him in his toughest times: being a hero. And it also means sending his father directly into space, as far away from Finn as possible. Finn no longer feels like he needs Martin’s validation or love to move on with his life; Finn has a handful of other emotional support options to fall back on, and he realizes that his dad is genuinely a bad person. It certainly doesn’t make Finn whole completely, but he’s continuing to develop on himself by choosing to eliminate negative influences from his life, rather than to bounce back on them. In the end, he reigns a hero once more, but is confused about the lack of an actual comet that appeared in his dream. Little does Finn know, the actual convergence of a catalyst comet approaches shortly.

The Visitor is a good combination of funny and sad moments, with most of its poignancy reflecting just how awful Martin is to Finn and that Finn is still primarily deeply confused. It does end happy, however, with a positive step forward in Finn’s life path, and one that continues to increase his affirmation for life in general. Granted, I can see how a lot of people were disappointed with the lack of actual answers we got with Finn’s backstory, though I think I’m more so satisfied knowing that those answers are confirmed later on in the series. As is, The Visitor is an entertaining entry that focuses on the differences between Martin and Finn, yet cleverly also touches on their few similarities.

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Favorite line: “Everything is ruined. Everyone is fat.”

“Gold Stars” Review

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Original Airdate: January 29, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

This is Sweet Pig Trunks’ (or, Sweet P. for short) first appearance since his faux-debut in Escape From the Citadel, and the episode doesn’t stray away from from the biggest topic on everyone’s mind: if the Lich still has power within Sweet P.’s psyche. While Gold Stars confirms this theory in a chilling and impactful way, the rest of the episode… meanders. It’s not completely awful, but it suffers from being a bit unoriginal and has bits of lazy writing throughout.

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I think one of the main struggles of the episode is that Sweet P. himself is not an inherently interesting character. His connection to the Lich certainly makes him interesting and makes me care for him, but Sweet P. in general doesn’t really have a ton to his character as an individual. He’s sweet, sensitive, and kind… and that’s practically it. And this is about as harsh as I could possibly be on this blog, but his voice actor, Ethan Maher, gives an entirely stilted performance. Obviously it’s not the kid’s fault, he’s only seven years old! I’m sure he was trying as hard as he possibly could to read the lines given to him in a convincing way. But it really is just a result of pretty much every young child actor that’s ever existed not having enough experience in the field to know what exactly makes a good performance. I’m not blaming or criticizing his voice actor at all, but I do think it also hinders Sweet P. from feeling like he’s more than just a blank slate, because every line that comes from him is monotonous. Where these monotone lines do work, however, is anytime when Sweet P. is allowed to act creepy or threatening, which only really comes into play by the end of the episode.

I liked Finn and Jake taking Sweet P. to school with the squadron of Candy Kingdom military force surrounding them, though it really makes me wonder: why the fuck would they give Sweet P. to Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig in the first place if they were so concerned about his unnatural state of being? I mean, it’s proven in this one that TT and Mr. P are far from being the best parents, so how did they ever think such an idea was a good one? Seems to be a cautionary action that’s too little, too late. I actually like how Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s negligence is portrayed as mostly harmless and doesn’t really make them come off as shitty people. I mean, they’re not very responsible parents, that’s clear, but it kind of comes from their own naivety rather than them being terrible or anything. It does make me wonder, though, do these two even know that their son is the Lich? I truly wonder if anyone told them, and my guess is no. But that makes it somewhat more bothersome, because why would they put this temperamental child in the hands of two senile, old coots? As more pieces come together, I struggle to make sense of this decision.

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Though, Sweet P. isn’t the only character who takes center stage in this one, as King of Ooo returns once more after his debut in Apple Wedding. It’s good to see him again; I enjoy the King of Ooo’s tendencies of being an obvious swindler, yet one that still has charm, much like Martin’s character. And it’s cool to see Toronto finally included in this one after his first appearance was cut out from Apple Wedding. The two are presented as enjoyable assholes throughout the episode’s run, though I’m not the first person to feel like the episode treads similar territory to PinocchioAdventure Time has followed the outline of already-done stories before, such as Puhoy did, though that episode was subversive in nature and took a unique spin on the source material. This one seems to be a bit too much like a rip-off, but it’s not an element that particularly bothered me in any which way because I like the story of Pinocchio a ton, and it’s fun seeing it represented through these characters. I guess it’s more so the fact that it’s entirely predictable where exactly this story is going, which makes it less fun, especially on a first viewing. It always struck me as weird that King of Ooo and Toronto steal from people while they’re hysterically laughing… wouldn’t it make more sense and be less risky to just charge people for Sweet P.’s circus act? I guess that’s part of the joke, but I dunno, I didn’t really go along with it. Sweet P.’s truffle shuffle in general is just kind of… awkward, I guess? It’s something that’s funny to the characters in the show, but not necessarily funny to the audience. Which makes it sort of hard to believe in terms of relatability. I mean, the dance practically puts everyone in a trance, and it’s largely ineffective as a comedy device for any of us watching at home. Granted, I’m sure it would be legitimately funny to see a giant baby-man wiggling his tummy around in real life, but it gets so much focus in the actual episode and never comes off as humorous, even from the first time it’s utilized. I wouldn’t have so much of a problem with it, but it’s an episode that’s relatively devoid of humor otherwise, so I wish there could have been something with a bit more substance carrying the actual laughs.

As I mentioned in my first paragraph, this episode suffers from some pretty lazy writing in certain areas. There’s parts that feel almost entirely like padding, such as when Toronto is trying to trying to convince King of Ooo that Sweet P. has talent. It goes on and on and on, and is yet another instance of Somvilay’s writing style slowing down the pacing of the episode. But I can’t put all the blame on Somvilay, because Seo’s bits feel equally uninspired in their dialogue. The scene where King of Ooo and Toronto openly discuss how they’re deceiving Sweet P. is unbelievably dumb. I mean, seriously, this couldn’t have been carried across in any other way? Toronto’s line of “what does it matter? None of it was good!” somewhat makes up for it, but it still feels lazy in its execution regardless. It’s also somewhat jarring to see King of Ooo go from this manipulative con man into someone who’s legitimately violent and aggressive, and I don’t think it’s handled in a natural way. I guess it makes sense because his identity as a “hero” was in jeopardy, but in that case, should he really be openly stealing from others? Wouldn’t that potentially harm his career as Ooo’s savior? And how does burning down Sweet P.’s house “take care of him”? Wouldn’t that bring more attention to the situation? I have so many questions, purely because this entire scenario just feels completely absurd.

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Regardless, it does lead up to the best moment in the episode: the Lich being summoned. I absolutely love this entire bit; the way that the reflection of KOO’s fire shifts to a green flame in Sweet P.’s eye is a purely awesome transitional moment, and the dialogue that mixes between Mayer’s voice and Ron Perlman’s voice is chilling to the bone.

“Stop. I have learned much from you. Thank you, my teachers. And now for your education. Before there was time, before there was anything, there was nothing. And before there was nothing, there were monsters. Here’s your gold star!”

It’s awesome how difficult it is for the series to make a Lich monologue fail, and it helps that they’re used quite sparingly. The way everything goes silent, dark, and then fades into the Lich’s realm of monsters, sets an extremely off-putting atmosphere that once again builds on Adventure Time‘s lore and is pretty awesome in its own right. It’s cool to once again confirm that the Lich has existed for as long as time itself, and that he is likely the oldest being in the existence of this world. The designs of the monsters are all grotesque, yet aesthetically pleasing, along with a cameo from a little guy who we will be meeting shortly. The only thing more disturbing than the actual speech is Sweet P.’s remark that it was “just a dream,” mirroring his line earlier. The Lich is horrifying enough as it is, but connecting him to the life and being of this innocent child makes things even more terrifying. Really leaves a bad feeling in my gut every time I see it.

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However, it still leaves for a relatively happy ending, as Sweet P. is truly a kind kid by nature. Even after being bullied by others, he chooses to laugh along and not let others bother him, rather than channel into his own self-conscious fears and darker tendencies. It’s a bit telling for what kind of a character he is, and plays into his development later on.

As is, this one is mainly mediocre, with some bits I think are really just plain bad. The Lich’s speech at the end surely justifies Gold Stars‘ existence, but the rest of the episode is coated with poorly written dialogue, a predictable story, and a pretty sub-par main character at the helm. It really doesn’t help that it’d be a whopping 82 episodes before we would even get a follow-up of this story, which decreased my investment in this actual arc as time went on. Granted, this is not a fault of the episode, but Gold Stars has many other issues worth noting, with one gem moment that at least helps it stand out.

Favorite line: “Did your grandma knit your clothes?” “Yeah, and she’s my mom!”

“Astral Plane” Review

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Original Airdate: January 22, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Jillian Tamaki

Finn no longer suffers from the major depression that he experienced at the beginning of the season, but that hasn’t stopped him from his search for meaning and self-examining behavior. Finn is at the age (likely 16 by now) where he’s beginning to question his own purpose in the world, as well as the purpose of the world itself. And often, when looking at life and its results as a whole, disappointment is certainly one of the most common feelings that we as human beings experience, and the Land of Ooo isn’t a stranger to that either. Finn gets a firsthand experience of how loneliness impacts the people of Ooo, and begins to wonder if living life is actually really worth it. This one is written and storyboarded by Jesse Moynihan and Jillian Tamaki, who joined the AT crew for this episode, as well as The Diary later on. While Astral Plane includes some of those typical Moynihanisms that seem more as though they’d be coming from his mouth than the mouth of our main character, the episode does manage to come off in a pretty natural and interesting way, and does genuinely exude some though-provoking material.

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Not only is Finn beginning to act older and more mature, but the way he’s drawn in this one actually makes him look taller as well. It’s a nice touch, though I wouldn’t really call it a permanent change for his character design. Every storyboard artist has their own take on Finn, so his appearance is never really entirely consistent to begin with. But still, the effort is felt, and it’s really nice to just see how much he’s grown both physically and mentally. His camping experience with Jake is also super cute; I love any moments that showcase the two brothers just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company, and Finn’s ponderous concern about owning pets is just the kind of goofy conversation I would expect them to share, which also ties into Finn’s behavior in the episode.

It’s notable that Finn entering his astral form in this episode is kept mostly ambiguous. While he did so by sheer concentration back in Still, this one has him summoned against his will, which could be contributed to the nature of the comet. But of course, as we learn, the comet is actually Martin’s star ship, so I’m quite curious as to why exactly Finn entered this plane of existence. Was it because of his search for answers that sent him hurdling toward Martin, or possibly just to Mars? Was his ascension inadvertently caused by Martin? It’s tough to know, and I myself don’t have a definitive answer. But regardless, the ride is more noteworthy than the actual destination.

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As Finn laments later in the episode:

“If just being born is the greatest act of creation. Then what are you suppose to do after that? Isn’t everything that comes next just sort of a disappointment? Slowly entropying until we deflate into a pile of mush?”

This is reflected through his experiences in the astral plane, and just how much he realizes by observing other people. Using this quote for reference, I’ll be diving into each character’s story individually.

The first person Finn comes across is Mr. Fox – er, Mr. Fox’s subconscious, more like it. Leaving right where he left off in Another Five More Short Graybles, Mr. Fox lives completely alone in his log cabin, and has essentially only himself to chat with. Thus, Mr. Fox experiences a life of solitude and isolation, but one that’s completely by choice. Mr. Fox is lonely, as Finn notes, but it’s never addressed that Mr. Fox is actually depressed. In fact, his astral self is even somewhat sociable with Finn as he enters in. Yet, Mr. Fox would rather live a life of comfort and peace, rather than one following his dreams or achieving any types of life goals. Finn notes that, while this lifestyle does seem awfully lonely and unfulfilling, it has some perks. People who are lonely often have more time to focus on work and their own personal projects, as Mr. Fox showcases. Though, it argues the question: is it more fulfilling to spend your time alone to work, than to experience life and the outside world? Should one attempt to fill their life with as much as they possibly can, or focus on developing their own skills in absolute seclusion from the outside world? There’s a happy medium for both, but I don’t think there’s a solid solution either way: The former has you sacrificing part of yourself, while the latter leaves you with nobody to share your life with. It’s a dicey path for people who especially love their own work.

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Bounce House Princess, the most obscure featured character in this episode, (seriously, this is her second, and also last, appearance in the series. Kinda weird to see her here, but also welcomed) is the next person Finn experiences on his travels. Bounce House Princess is also an introvert, though one that suffers from a pretty bad case of agoraphobia, and who can blame her? The world is pretty dangerous for a little bounce house, especially when there’s porcupines roaming about Ooo. Bounce House Princess’s dilemma is a sad one; she wants to be able to put herself out there and connect with other people, but she’s too afraid of (literally) getting hurt and/or ruining her life. It shows how dreadful anxiety can be: BHP loathes herself and is angry that she can’t just get out there and socialize with others, though anxiety can be consuming and is something that is somewhat out of her control. And her worst fears actually do come true when she deflates, proving that allowing herself to interact with the world may just be a bad life choice. Poor gal.

Ice King brings to the table his usual awkwardness, though it’s viewed somewhat in a complex light. Here, he’s actually pretty social. He’s talking to ladies at a party, and keeping everyone happy with supplies of ice. Yet, he’s overshadowed by his talent of producing ice, and nobody really wants to get the chance to know him otherwise. He is insane, after all, and everyone in the Cloud Kingdom likely recognizes this. While he’s not outright rejected, it becomes pretty clear that Lauren, the cloud chick, is more interested in Finn than she is by the IK. Thus, Ice King feels lonely, and only contributes to his own loneliness by pushing away the people around him. He freezes all of the Cloud People, thus eliminating a way for himself to be rejected. As Finn notes “it’s like part of him wants to be a sad wong-lord.” While Ice King likely doesn’t want to be sad, he eliminates all opportunities for himself to be happy because of his self-destructive and unorthodox behavior. He wants to be happy, but doesn’t rationally understand people and social cues enough to achieve such bliss. He’s simply stuck in his own awkward ways, unable to move forward because of society’s perception of him, and the fact that he’s never able to make choices to shift this perception. This leads Finn to question, “why would anyone want to be sad?”

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This transitions into Marceline’s tune (it had been months between Princess Day and Astral Plane by this point, I almost forgot that Marceline was even a character) “Yeah Girl, It Stinks,” which is brief, but awfully depressing and sheds light on Marceline’s emotional state as a whole. Practically in response to Finn’s question, Marceline sings about how she pushes away everything and has taught herself to not care simply because everyone she’s ever cared about has either died off or forgotten about her. Marceline also wonders what the point of everything is, because after a thousand years of putting her care and love into the world, everything is fleeting and nothing lasts, and she’ll continue to end up being alone. Marcy realizes that and channels that negative energy into her own creative outlet: music. This causes Finn to question whether sadness spawns creativity, which isn’t completely far from the truth. Oftentimes, sadness and loneliness can be channeled into something exceptionally beautiful through artistic mediums, but like Mr. Fox, is it worth it to feel sad and lonely if it means that you’ll possibly be more creative?

Finn has all of these conclusions about the meaning of sadness and loneliness, but no true answers. It isn’t until he experiences the convergence of space lards, and the birth of a baby lard, that he discovers the true amazing nature of creation and just how spectacular it is. Birth is a nearly unexplainable gift of nature that can ultimately not be conquered by any other event in life as more significant. In general, the scene is pretty gnarly. I love the simplistic design of the lards being used for something so epic, and the continuation of the ever-growing lard species never ceases to amaze me. There’s also the notion that they can see and even know Finn by name, further exemplifying their mystical nature.

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Though, the episode hits its climax as Finn hovers over to Mars, which is awesome to see once more. It’s even cooler to see the CG-animated introduction shot of Mars, which looks like something straight out of Futurama. All of Finn’s lingering questions arise when he’s met with the “G-Man” himself, Grob Gob Glob Grod. It’s cool to see the Glob gang back again, and even cooler to see that Finn essentially turns to answers from “God.” Of course, we have the background story of the “comet” heading straight for Mars, which is a direct continuation of the previous episode. Adventure Time is getting much better at picking up more quickly on story arcs and plot points, and that really only continues to improve with the next few seasons. But back to Finn and Glob’s conversation, this is where Finn begins to drop his knowledge on what he’s learned about the world around him, which is where Glob mentions that, “it’s not enough to have created something amazing, right? What if I just let my Martian super society go to butt?” meaning that anything one creates is deserving of protection and care. Creating is one thing, but managing and allowing that creation to thrive and develop is another. Of course, Finn retorts with the obvious, “what’s the point if we’re all gonna die in the end?” which is inherently nihilistic, but a thought process that’s easy to get wrapped up in. Ultimately, life is short and fleeting, and everything we do and everything we are will eventually come to end, so is there really any point in trying to impact the world, one might ask. This is counteracted by Glob’s decision to fly head first into the comet, ultimately deciding to potentially give up his own life for the sake of his own creation. Thus saving Mars and allowing everyone to continue living their own lives. Glob proves that, even through the disappointment of life, there’s something worth fighting for. Whether it be the lives of others, yourself, or the greater good, there’s always something tying purpose and meaning into the gift of life, and that’s defined through actions and personal impressions of yourself. Of course, not everyone in this episode is able to combat their own lives filled with disappointment: Ice King, Marceline, Mr. Fox, and BHP don’t have any well-defined resolutions, but they’re living regardless, knowing to trust their own intuitions and to keep moving forward.

As Finn states upon landing, “Glob is dead,” which is both literal, and humorously ties into Friedrich Nietzsche statement of “God is dead,” which references that fact that the rise of modern philosophy practically disproves the existence and effect of God. Finn realizes that, with all of the enlightening things he’s experienced, there are more complex ways of experiencing life and its meaning than just by one, solely-defined answer. There are many ways to live life, and many other opportunities, both disappointing and successful, in the future. One opportunity that fits under the category of both is the fact that Martin’s spacecraft is actually the comet hurdling toward Earth, and that his next meeting with Finn is inevitable. Though this really kind of bothers me: a space craft is what killed Glob? Really? Considering that he’s practically God in this universe, I have trouble believing that a machine would be his ultimate downfall. Granted, it makes sense that it wouldn’t actually be the catalyst comet, but it still feels like somewhat of a letdown that Glob was killed by a mere spaceship, and that he didn’t even destroy it in the slightest.

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Regardless, Finn, back in his own body, mentions to Jake that Bounce House Princess needs their help. Following in Glob’s own footsteps, Finn realizes that there’s something in life worth protecting. Adventuring has provided a gateway for the boys to preserve life and to help others in the past, and it truly helps to propel Finn forward into a more rounded and meaningful lifestyle.

I really dig the motifs going on in this one; the whole thing kind of feels like a Graybles episode specifically dedicated to sadness. I maybe would have chosen some different characters for representation… like, it’s cool to see obscure characters like Mr. Fox and Bounce House Princess, but I ultimately think it’s easier to connect with the characters we know better. I think Princess Bubblegum would have been able to fill in the shoes for isolation quite nicely, and maybe even Lumpy Space Princess could have fit in Bounce House Princess’s place. But that’s not a complaint by any means, I still do enjoy M.F. and BHP’s individual roles. As always, Moynihan creates a trippy and psychedelic environment that is pretty unforgiving with how philosophical it gets, and it’s always pretty sweet to see something this unique and different on a mainstream children’s network. Of course, to some it’s pretentious, and I understand where those people are coming from, but man, is it interesting regardless. Moynihan and Tamaki successfully create an interesting concept and environment based on the overarching theme of sadness and loneliness, and leave you with no defining answers, but rather even more questions than you had before. In typical Adventure Time fashion, Astral Plane aims to make the viewer think, rather than to be spoon-fed answers. And in a world with goofy Candy People with noodley arms, it’s always nice to see a little touch of sadness and existentialism.

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Favorite line: “Hey, do you ever say ‘Oh my Glob?'” “No, but sometimes Gob does.”

“Evergreen” Review

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Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Original Airdate: January 15, 2015

That beginning transition from the opening title with Finn and Jake to the title card with Gunther and Nina is all we really need to completely engross us in a prehistoric version of the world of Adventure Time, and the first pre-Mushroom War episode to date. This is a pretty huge episode, and it doesn’t really take its time explaining anything. It immediately throws you into an entirely new, but familiar world, yet it’s another example of what season six does so well. By this point, we’re somewhat used to episodes that don’t focus on Finn and Jake, and as long as the characters and stories are interesting, we don’t truly feel the weight of their absence. This episode is not only big in its scope, but it’s also somewhat significant in how this episode was practically written entirely by Tom Herpich. While Andres Salaff directed it and Steve Wolfhard assisted with some bits and pieces during the storyboard process, Herpich conceived the story for this episode entirely on his own – a rarity for the series in general. Though, I couldn’t think of a better person to put at the helm of Evergreen. Herpich is one of the greatest storytellers in the series, both visually and writing wise, and he’s able to tell a tale that is heartwrenching, and serves as one of the most lore-heavy episodes of the entire series.

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Even if Finn and Jake aren’t in the episode, their identities are still captured through the presence of Gunther and Nina, who aren’t exactly like their human counterparts, but still manage to capture some of that charm. For instance, Gunther is a pretty goofy kid with a good heart who only wants to serve for what is right (Urgence Evergreen) even if that means he can often times get wrapped up in his own conflicted behavior. Nina shares virtually no similarities to Jake aside from her appearance, but doesn’t do much to impact the story in any way either. She’s simply there to be Gunther’s loyal companion, as Jake is to Finn. Gunther is enjoyable by just how much his childlike inspiration consumes him, which, like many other characters in the AT universe, is attributed to some terrific voice acting. Pamela Adlon voices Gunther, whose voice is likely most well-recognized from King of the Hill, and she does a spectacular job of giving Gunther the right amount of energy and heart behind his lines.

It always surprises me just how serious and straightforward this episode is. That’s not to say it’s devoid of lighter and funnier moments, but this is the type of episode that is entirely more focused on creating an enticing story and an apprehensive atmosphere than trying to force laughs from the audience, and I commend it for that. The convergence between Evergreen, Chatsberry, Slimy D, and Balthus is entirely foreboding. The “funniest” aspect of this meeting is the fact that the elements in the Adventure Time world are fire, ice, candy, and slime, which are both hilarious and kind of awesome bits of lore to add to the series. In a world where candy is so dominant, it nearly makes sense that such a heavily focused aspect of the series would have some sort of elemental nature, and helps the Adventure Time world to stand apart even more from other fantasy worlds. Sure, they could’ve gone with the already well-known classically defined elements, but in the surreal and unusual world of Adventure Time, this seems the most fitting. The elementals are all really well-designed and portrayed. It’s a nice touch having Keith David voice Balthus, though it’s a little disappointing in hindsight, seeing as how Flame King didn’t end up being the fire elemental. Having Alan Tudyk voice Chatsberry was sheer brilliance, seeing as how he previously voiced King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph. And of course, Tom Kenny does a standout job voicing Evergreen. I know Kenny is used rampantly throughout western animation, so it’s a given that he’s a talented guy, but it’s his distance from the more goofy and cartoony inflections through his characters in AT that truly define how much range Kenny has. He’s able to capture Ice King, Simon, and Evergreen, who all relatively have the exact same voice, in unique and diverse ways, giving each character a specific identity. I also gotta give props for his design; he sorta just looks like a more disheveled and ominous Ice King, but the random inclusion of chicken legs helps to provide Evergreen with interesting mythological properties.

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The entire middle of the episode is dedicated to showing Evergreen and Gunther’s relationship in great detail. The connection between the two is simple, yet telling: Evergreen is so consumed with his own ego and desires to save the world (but mainly himself) from impending dangers that he doesn’t recognize Gunther’s desires for love and compassion, or at least doesn’t care. It’s made very clear from the beginning that Evergreen is a loony survivalist who really only wants to preserve himself and his legacy, but doesn’t care for those around him or their well-being. Gunther is quite the opposite; he cares for Evergreen and respects him probably more so than he does for himself. But Evergreen doesn’t accept Gunther’s niceness and loyalty, and views Gunther more as a prop or a servant to help him to carry out his more tedious deeds. Evergreen simply manipulates Gunther by bringing the little dino boy under his wing, only to make Gunther feel inferior and as though he’ll never be able to achieve any success as long as Evergreen is around. And Gunther feels just that, as his undying loyalty to his master causes him to feel increasingly low about himself. So much so that Gunther’s need to do things the way Evergreen would causes him to make the same behavioral mistakes that his master does. When his mission to gather water is failing, and his pet Nina attempts to help, Gunther smacks Nina aside and shouts “Nina, no!” It’s probably one of the darkest moments of the episode to see this cute little creature tossed aside so aggressively, and even a bit depressing that we watch this goofy character mirror his idol’s abusive behavior.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but good God does this episode just look beautiful. Once in Magwood’s volcano, the eruption of different reds and oranges illuminate the screen, and the way these colors reflect through the characters just makes everything look like one big visual treat. And keeping in the realm of variety, those reds switch to harsh greens when the catalyst comet grows closer, giving the entire location a feeling of trepidation. This is probably the best example of using color to shift atmosphere in the entire series, and it really gives the entire episode a cinematic feel. There’s also some solid bits of animation, mainly with the way Magwood interacts with its surroundings, and when Evergreen nearly melts while in its cave. The design and different forms of Magwood are inherently interesting in general, ‘specially since it kind of resembles Tree Trunks, despite the fact that it is supposedly a dog. Would not be surprised in the least if this resemblance was on purpose – this episode was storyboarded by Tom and Steve, after all.

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The battle inside Magwood’s cave is all pretty awesome and the stakes do truly feel high (Magwood even kills the poor, old Ice Imp!) but the real clincher is the way that Evergreen responds to Gunther’s actions. Though Gunther was noticed by Magwood, his distraction gave Evergreen an opportunity to rejuvenate and to successfully steal the jewel off the Magwood’s head. But Evergreen doesn’t acknowledge this, as the only thing he knows is that Gunther disobeyed his orders. Despite having essentially saved the day, Gunther is left only with the impression that he disappointed his main hero, as he solemnly drops his head before a dramatically placed fade-to-black.

The hectic climax begins to build as the catalyst comet grows closer, and it becomes more obvious what the comet represents. As the ice tower is shadowed by the color green and the comet continues to fall with two twirling horns, it’s pretty apparent that said comet represents the Lich. The Lich’s history began to become a little confusing at this point, as most people were conflicted as to whether the Lich’s origins were brought about through the mutagenic bombs during the Mushroom War, as opposed to a deadly comet. Though, these next few episodes, and the rest of the series in general, make apparent that the Lich simply represents anything that embodies mass death. He is the entity of ending all life, whether it be a deadly comet offering nothing but extinction, or a harmful nuke used in the brink of a war. It makes his presence much more frightening and deadly.

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It’s nice to see that the ice crown’s creation ties back into Ice King’s statement in What Have You Done? that he built it with the magic that he stole. Once again, the writers outdo themselves by touching on previous plotholes early on in the series and correcting them without retconning anything. After a reckless encounter with Magwood, Evergreen is left in a state he isn’t quite used to: being completely powerless. For once his life, he cannot rely solely on himself, and must turn to Gunther to do so. Following Evergreen’s orders, Gunther must put on the crown and focus on his deepest and truest wish. However, as Gunther places the ice crown on his head, we’re reminded of Chatsberry’s words earlier in the episode:

“This wish may see things in you you cannot see yourself. Can you truly say you know your heart’s truest desire?”

Evergreen never told Gunther what exactly his truest desire should be, and Gunther is left with nothing but his own inhibitions in that regard. Sadly, Gunther does get his wish: to be just like his master Evergreen. What Gunther didn’t know, however, is that it meant being an obnoxious, loud, egotistical maniac. Had Evergreen taught Gunther how to use magic as he said he would, or if he even just treated Gunther as a genuine person, Evergreen possibly could have saved the lives of himself and others, but he failed to do so simply because his own negligence backfired on him. It’s a cautionary tale to show how important it is to treat others with care and respect, as that failure to do so could lead to the worst possible results. And it’s genuinely somewhat uncomfortable to watch Gunther transform from his wacky, dumbfounded self into a completely lunatic. Again, it’s one of the darkest endings to any Adventure Time story to date, only lightened by a somewhat comedic realization that it was all a dream sequence of Ice King’s… or was it? Obviously we know that said events actually happened, just as how we know that the events of Joshua and Margaret Investigations were legit. Annnnd, just when the episode feels as though it couldn’t get even grimmer, we’re left with the sole image of a comet heading directly for Ooo. Knowing what we know now, that “comet” isn’t as disastrous as we once thought, but the ending still strikes as an impactful and alarming conclusion to an episode that is pretty unnerving on its own.

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But as off-putting as it is, Evergreen is Adventure Time’s storytelling at its absolute finest. Like I said, it’s mostly straightforward, but I honestly think the way it’s told and and the message that’s carried across makes it feel like a fable of some sort. I could easily see this working as a story from Grimms’ Fairy Tales, because its characters and writing are so strong that they could also stand alone from the AT universe. But, in the spirit of it being in AT’s world, Evergreen is able to build on its lore so significantly. We learn more about the ice crown, catalyst comets, the elementals, the Lich, and life before Ooo all in the course of one episode. It packs so much into one neat package and doesn’t feel at all like it’s trying to cover too much territory. Plus, the visuals are GORGEOUS, as I mentioned, which helps Evergreen to feel like one big source of eye candy. This is one that I think hits home on almost every level: its characters, story, visuals, atmosphere, scope, worldbuilding, and so much more. Evergreen is truly one of Adventure Time’s most ambitious efforts to date, and it feels like a big jump forward for season six, as well as the series, as a whole. 

Favorite line: “Gettin’ fat. Gettin’ fat, right?”

“The Pajama War” Review

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Original Airdate: January 8, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

There’s been years of awkward tension surrounding Finn and PB by this point. Finn loved her, briefly moved on from her, went running back for more, and then generally distanced himself as he began to get wrapped up with other issues. The Tower showcased PB more as a therapist than as a friend to Finn, even though her efforts came from a caring place, and the two haven’t truly hungout as friends in what seems like forever. The Pajama War puts an end to any apprehension between the two and allows Finn and PB to connect through their respective periods of growth.

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The name and initial premise of the episode sounds jarringly similar to Slumber Party Panic, and while The Pajama War isn’t a direct sequel to that episode in the way that Too Old is a sequel to Too Young, there’s a couple different allusions to it. The hilarious interaction between Finn and Mr. Pig at the beginning when Finn mentions Tree Trunks’ “hot buns” is an obvious reference to his line in the first episode, and works as a mechanism to show just how much time has passed since the series premiere. Likewise, the dynamic between Finn and PB in this one really shows how much has changed in their own relationship; Finn no longer swoons over her and feels head over heels in her presence. He still loves her, but understands that there is no romantic future between the two. Likewise, PB still deeply cares for him, but no longer wants to tease him or give him false hope for such a future. So the two are casually nice and polite to each other, but don’t know exactly how to connect after so much change has occurred over time. Their interactions are clearly awkward after their failure to land a seat in “music chairs” leaves them stuck in a closet to play “7 Minutes in Heaven.” Finn has a way of politely trying to respect people’s boundaries as much as possible: he attempts to be as quiet and to mind his own business as much as possible around PB, and is even surprised when she invites him to go for a walk with her. This is once again brought up again later in Bun Bun, when Finn almost immediately leaves the Fire Kingdom until Flame Princess invites him in. After making a long chain of mistakes, Finn realizes how pushy and clingy he may have been, especially with his female comrades. That being said, he’s still very naive. He chooses the polite and respectful path, but doesn’t realize that those people he hurt still care for him and want to be his friend.

During their time together, the two mainly shoot the breeze; they go for a walk in a VR grassland, play with PB’s giant cat named Timmy, and eat edible fire. It’s pretty cool to see that Prubs has an entire secret room where she can get away from the stressors of her everyday life, though I also bet that she rarely ever uses it. Bubblegum’s whole deal is being encased in her work and barely ever having time for herself, but as of her recent decision to allow herself to take a chill pill for once, she’s allowed herself an opportunity to explore her own laidback realm with the company of her close friend. It also allows the two to open up to each other for the first time in a while. It’s kind of awesome that we have PB talking about her own revelation that she wants to relax more and allow her citizens to go about their lives as they please only an episode after The Cooler. Adventure Time usually takes its sweet time with following up on plot points, though it’s refreshing to see this element of PB’s development being referenced so soon. One thing that hasn’t been referenced in quite some time is Finn’s father, who Finn seems to have been dwelling on over time and has come to his own conclusions about Martin’s questionable behavior. As Finn states, “but, but maybe acting like daddy just isn’t what he does. Maybe my dad’s not a dad but a kid stuck in a dad’s body.” It’s a step forward for Finn to feel some form of empathy for his father, though he’s still attempting to justify Martin’s behavior. It isn’t for some time that Finn finally accepts his father for being genuinely shitty, as Finn still wants to believe that Martin is worth changing. PB and Finn are able to chat about these issues casually, as most people with a long history are. Though, in the spirit of close friends, they don’t focus on this heaviness, and get right back into having carefree fun.

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There’s also a small, but huge moment when Finn realizes the Candy People have gone completely insane. He’s hesitant to tell Bubblegum, but then shows her quickly after she asks a second time. The Finn we saw in Too Old would have totally tried to divert the attention from the video so he could spend more time with Bubblegum, but it’s clearly framed here that Finn doesn’t want to show PB because he doesn’t want her to suffer. It’s an example of Finn being much more selfless in his behavior to the princess; he doesn’t want to be dishonest with her, but he also doesn’t want to tell her anything at the expense of her own happiness. Months earlier, his primary concern would have been his own suffering, but as Breezy proved, his love and care for others is what defines Finn as a person.

As the two reflect while watching the VR sunset, they confide to each other how much they enjoyed hanging out. That’s the subtle beauty of Adventure Time; you don’t need to have PB and Finn talk about how awkward things have been and then decide to be best friends once more or something shmaltzy like that. As solid writing typically goes, The Pajama War shows, rather than tells. It shows PB and Finn bonding and rekindling their friendship, but kind of leaves things ambiguous for the future. When this episode first aired, there were a ton of people who thought it was implying that Finn and PB would eventually hook up, but the show has continued to disprove that possibility from this point on. It’s a terrific shift in dynamic for the series, and continues to showcase AT’s desire to move forward with its characters in new and exciting directions.

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And I didn’t even mention the main plot yet featuring the Candy People, which is good fun! Albeit nothing special or new, but entertaining regardless. It’s always nice to see side characters like Manfried, the suddenly very popular Colonel Candy Corn (seriously, what is it about season six and its obsession with this guy?), and Crunchy, whose introspective fascination in tyranny makes a lot more sense in hindsight. It also ties back into the allusions of Slumber Party Panic, by mainly focusing on the absurd nature of the Candy Kingdom’s citizens. It’s a great opportunity to showcase the stupidity of the Candy People, and just how easy it would be for their society to collapse without Bubblegum around. It really paints a gray picture for PBubs: as much as she wants to be chill and let her people live their lives, they’re incredibly stupid and have no shot of living a well-kept life on their own. At least she tried to have faith in them, even if it backfired. Regardless, I don’t have much to say about the A-Plot. It’s full of intermittent humorous moments, like the way Jake sadistically watches as the Candy Kingdom collapses before his eyes, but it isn’t really worth going over in great detail.

As a whole, I think this one is mostly solid. It captures the heart of PB and Finn’s developing friendship, with the Candy People providing good laughs in between. Granted, this is one I respect more than I actually enjoy on a personal level, but it’s deserving of that respect. This is probably Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim’s best episode of the season (this one has Seo written all over it, with its Fubblegum centered premise and its desire to be as cute as possible), and that’s because it focuses on the growth and development of our main characters. And, as Somvilay and Seo have proven in these later seasons, that growth is something they can pull of with great results.

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Favorite line: “For a society to function, it needs rules. 1. You must drink tea with your pizza. 2. Pizza can only be eaten alone. 3. If a pizza is found in a field, you must make the next person you see holding a glass of milk eat it.”

“The Cooler” Review

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Original Airdate: December 4, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

I had actually started to miss Flame Princess’s character during this point in season six. I definitely don’t love Flame Princess by any means, but I had grown fond of her over the course of season four and five, and knew that it was inevitable that she wouldn’t be appearing as much. It is nice to see, however, that her star appearance in this episode has absolutely nothing to do with Finn, which is exactly the type of spotlight I wanted for her character. And it doesn’t disappoint, developing on the already established dynamic between FP and Princess Bubblegum.

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The cooling of the Fire Kingdom provides for some pretty funny interactions between its citizens, which is a given, as no Cole Sanchez/Andy Ristaino episode is without its laughs. Among of the funniest of these citizens is the guy who can no longer fit in his pants and the two brothers who tragically merged bodies with each other. The cooled down kingdom in general looks pretty awesome; we’re so used to seeing the Fire Kingdom engulfed in red, orange, and yellow, but The Cooler provides for a more subdued landscape, shadowed with gray and blue color schemes. It’s a nice shift from what’s expected from this location and helps set the mood for the rest of the episode.

One of the most noticeable changes in Flame Princess’s character is how she’s drawn to look more mature and adultlike. Of course, this is more-or-less a complement of Cole Sanchez’s storyboards, as Andy Ristaino resorts to a squishier, more rounded depiction of the character in the second half of the episode, but Sanchez’s efforts still pull through as effective. I like seeing her more competent and comfortable in her role as a ruler, and it’s the first time we truly get to see her from a political viewpoint. In fact, the entire conflict in the episode could be interpreted as a political standpoint, and while I previously mentioned back in Ocarina that I thought AT should never incorporate politics, I think it’s handled in this one relatively open-ended. Politics can be especially tricky with any show aimed at children, just because any topic that leans one way or another can easily come off as propaganda and fail to be challenging in the slightest. OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is another great series currently airing on Cartoon Network, but one of its episodes suffered from the reasons aforementioned. The Cooler cleverly presents the conflict based on how each character featured would act in a situation that could possibly imply war, and feels much more in touch with Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum’s behavior rather than trying to force a direct message that seems out of character.

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It’s also pretty cool to see Flame Princess’s family back again! They had previously made a brief appearance in Jake Suit, but they get a true chance to shine in this one. I really love all of their quirky personalities; Aunt Agnes and Randy are two likable dimwits, and Flint is enjoyable in his hot-headed personality. Flint somewhat represents the side of society that simply thinks destroying/invading other bodies of land is the easiest solution in times of crisis, though it is pretty cool to see that this idea is not immediately turned down as completely irrational. Of course, Flint is hot-headed and beyond reason, but Flame Princess states that she’s prepared for any type of action if it means protecting her kingdom, which I thought was actually kind of nice to see that violence isn’t immediately shut down. FP hasn’t been opposed to violence in the past, and it makes sense that she wouldn’t be opposed to it in the present either. Yet, she has grown to be more intelligent, and knows how helpful Princess Bubblegum could be as an ally. Her desire to do what is best for her kingdom also helps to connect her character to Princess Bubblegum later on, showing that the two aren’t so different in motivations. Really adds depth to her character. Contradicting intelligence, however, is Cinnamon Bun, who seems to be back to being slightly incompetent in this episode. It’s strange, because I guess you could attribute this to the cooling process, but later episodes have showcased CB outside of the Fire Kingdom and he still retains his newfound intellectual abilities. I’ll let it go for now, though, because it at least makes sense in the present moment.

The connection between Flame Princess and Bubblegum is presented quite interestingly in this one. Keeping in touch with Flame Princess’s flat-out honesty, I enjoy how she tells PB upfront that she genuinely does not consider her a friend and that she merely wants to keep things professional and non-personal. And who could blame her? Though FP originally went along with PB’s experimentation in Earth & Water, she later discovered how untrustworthy PB can be and quite “devious” at that. Princess Bubblegum doesn’t really do anything to disprove this theory during her meeting with Flame Princess, as she uses manipulation and the promise of friendship as a means of trying to get FP to let her guard down. Of course, this fails, though PB would later use this manipulative behavior in a different way once the two come across the Sleeping Fire Giants.

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The backstory of the Fire Kingdom is briefly explained through Flame Princess’s very first song, A Kingdom from a Spark. It’s all cool stuff, and adds significance, as well as great power, to the identity of the Sleeping Fire Giants… I only wish the song had been a bit less awkward. Yeah, I’m not really a fan of it. Jessica DiCicco’s singing voice isn’t awful by any means, though the tune of the song itself isn’t really presented in a catchy or interesting way, and the lyrics just feel like a jumble of mismatched sentences that don’t even really deserve to be in a song sequence. I think I would’ve liked this bit better as spoken word, as it would make for a less uncomfortable experience overall. Though the song is there primarily to distract FP from Bubblegum’s tinkering in the background.

I think Bubblegum’s fears and paranoia of Flame Princess possibly using the Fire Giants to blow up the kingdom are very much well-defined and reasonable, even though she is clearly wrong and beyond her boundaries. Though, isn’t that kind of cool as well? Bubblegum is obviously shown in the wrong for dismantling a weapon that could potentially destroy the Candy Kingdom. Again, the episode does its damnedest to spread across a message that exemplifies the importance of trust, rather than the disregard for potential violence. Flame Princess would likely never consider the destruction of the Candy Kingdom because of her ties to Princess Bubblegum, and even taking into consideration the feelings of Cinnamon Bun and his relations to the Kingdom. PB put herself and her kingdom in an even further state of jeopardy by simply not allowing her fears to subside. Though again, this isn’t really totally despicable for PB herself. She cares for her kingdom and wants to make sure it is in the greatest state possible, even if it means that her methods of protection become self-destructive.

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What brings this episode down a slight notch is the entirely stupid way the Sleeping Fire Giants are disposed of. Like, there’s the somewhat believable way it’s carried out when Princess Bubblegum uses her shield to block FP’s shots, but there’s moments where Flame Princess COMPLETELY misses PB and knocks two Fire Giants out instead. I get that she lost control of her anger, but this form of recklessness just made her seem completely oblivious. I have trouble that Flame Princess would be careless enough to destroy the one thing that she went on and on about its importance.

Bringing it back down to the more rational side of things, Bubblegum finally comes clean and reveals that she was the one behind the cooling process, which upsets FP. For the longest time, Princess Bubblegum has looked at her tendency to spy on others and her manipulative attributes as mere quirks and nothing more, though this is the first time someone is directly calling her out on being a shitty person. PB likely has acknowledged in the past that she may be going too far with her invasiveness, though she always had the reassurance that everything she did was for her Kingdom. Only now is she realizing that the consequences of her actions not only cut off potential allies, but potential friends as well. FP was willing to give Princess Bubblegum the benefit of the doubt and to trust her, but PB has become so disconnected and out of touch with people that she couldn’t even manage to be respectful and trustworthy. It’s this realization that causes PB to allow one Sleeping Fire Giant to remain, in hopes that Flame Princess will understand where Princess Bubblegum is coming from. Honestly, I think PB is let off a bit too easily, and I think it would have been slightly more effective if Flame Princess just passively let Bubblegum go, leaving her with her own fears and anxieties of the future, but without direct validation of safety. Granted, I think Flame Princess’s more understanding side is used to her advantage, as she finally reveals her first name: Phoebe. It mirrors Bubblegum’s question earlier in the episode, and shows that Flame Princess is willing to consider Bubblegum her friend, if she merely chooses an honest path over one of deceit and shadiness. And look at that, she got Ice King in on the whole thing too! Thought that was a pretty hilarious reveal, by the way. Though would Ice King logically be able to produce frost in the heated atmosphere of the Fire Kingdom? It’s up for debate.

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The episode does leave off centering around PB’s lingering feeling of discomfort, and it finally has her coming to terms with her invasive nature. She cuts the line completely to her security system, with a promise of never returning to her spying nature. I think it’s a pretty effective moment in PB’s developmental path, and it really doesn’t come across as too irrational for her character. It doesn’t downplay the importance of general surveillance, but shows that PB is starting to realize that she doesn’t need to keep an eye on every individual member of her kingdom at all times. Finn and Jake are free to serenade each other with the Food Chain song as much as they like, without PB watching their every move. It’s a huge jump for her character, and though she chooses to make the right decision, the latter half of the season would prove that this choice may have been too little, too late. Even if Peebs is willing to change, it will take a lot for her Kingdom to notice and accept these changes.

The Cooler isn’t perfect, but it’s thoroughly entertaining and capitalizes on a truly interesting dynamic. Again, I didn’t think this episode tried to preach anything too heavy on the political side, as it focused more on showcasing how its two lead characters treat honesty and respect. This would be Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum’s last episode interacting with each other, though it’s a perfect time for their characters to separate, as Bubblegum becomes consumed with her own identity crisis. Flame Princess is the most brutally honest character to face off with Bubblegum’s shady nature, and The Cooler uses this conflict to its advantage. It’s Flame Princess’s only star role in season six, and though that’s somewhat of a sad thought, I think her presence is used in the best way possible, and helps her to develop by diverting her attention away from Finn.

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Favorite line: “I’m PB! I spy on everybody. No big D!”

“Dentist” Review

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Original Airdate: November 28, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Never in a million years would I think that a trip to the dentist could go hand-in-hand with military service, but Adventure Time continues to defy my expectations. Dentist is definitely one of the most uniquely clever premises in the entire show, and makes for a pretty enjoyable episode as well. Granted, there are aspects that weigh it down, but none that truly squander its strongest elements.

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I should first start off by saying I have no trouble believing that Finn would develop a cavity. That boy barely bathes as it is, you expect me to believe that he brushes his teeth two to three times a day, let alone at all? His fear and denial of going to the dentist, or as the episode simply puts it, “going dentist,” is something I think that anyone can relate to. A typical tooth appointment is painful enough, but being left behind by your friends in a hole with a pile of rotten butter and snakes? Sounds absolutely brutal. I do think the episode presents the actual issue in an appropriate way. Bubblegum’s statement of “Finn, this is literally serious,” kind of puts into perspective how untreated cavities can actually become a much more urgent ailment than one would expect. They can legitimately cause you to die. I really don’t think kids’ shows emphasize that enough. Though PB and Jake do leave Finn in the state that he was exactly trying to avoid, I do appreciate the sympathy and help that Jake attempts to provide beforehand. There’s that nice little moment between the brothers when Finn crashes through the Tree Fort, and Jake lightly pats his head sympathetically. Sweet moment between the bros.

Upon his descent into his true destination, he finds himself in an ant military base, which is a really fun and humorous setting for the episode. Andy Daly and Lucy Lawless provide some great voice work as the drill sergeant-esque commanders, and Finn proves to be just as entertaining, by being partially confused but also going along with the whole shtick. The entire concept of dentist is so convoluted, but it also almost makes sense: dental care is exchanged for brief military service. I guess this is Adventure Time’s version of insurance? Also love the goofy characterization that Steve Wolfhard specializes with when it comes to Finn’s character; it can make Finn look downright brainless in an episode like Lemonhope – Part 1, but it also can add a childlike charm to his character, as Dentist aims at executing. The repeated dialogue of “my tooth hurts,” provided for a decent laugh.

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Tiffany (Oiler) also returns in this episode, and I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of Tiffany, as I’ve mentioned in the past. I think his long-winded monologues are more tiresome than funny, and his insistent urge to constantly shout his lines can get a bit grating on the ears. The latter doesn’t really come into play this time around, though the former is emphasized to extreme lengths. Don’t think any of his speeches hit home in this one, though I think his presence is definitely more tolerated when working off of Finn, rather than Jake. There’s an interesting connection of jealousy, as well as Tiffany simply not understanding Finn’s relationship to Jake. Tiffany pretty much just thinks that Finn stole Jake away from him, and probably doesn’t realize that the two are literally brothers. I also enjoy how Finn isn’t really vindictive or hateful towards Tiffany, he’s just pretty genuinely pissed off by him throughout the entire experience. Even when Tiffany attempts to stab him, Finn is just like, “dammit dude, can’t you wait till we’re done with our duties?” It’s hilarious and kind of sweet to see just how passive and cordial Finn can be even with people who hate his guts. There’s also a great moment where Finn interacts with the Finn Sword, and the tiny Finn within the sword refers to himself as “Finn Mertens.” This is the first mention of Finn’s last name since Finn the Human, and even then it was used by Farmworld Finn and not by Finn himself. I think this is a nice subtle reference to the fact that Finn had actually learned things about himself through his wish that the Lich never existed. Afterall, Jake never retconned the wish that Finn made, as he simply wished that the two would safely return to Ooo. Finn had likely subconsciously learned his last name without even realizing it, just as he subconsciously developed the skill of using his flute. Nice detail.

The action sequence in which Finn and Tiffany fight off the worms is just awesome. Tom Herpich never fails when it comes to unique camera angles and dynamic action shots, and there are plenty of those here. Watching Finn quite seamlessly slice through giant worms was great, providing for some pretty violent sequences, but none that prove to be overly gruesome. The bit where Tiffany nearly allows Finn to fall into the worm’s mouth provides for some decent drama; I actually like the side of Tiffany that is soft-spoken and morally confused, and it’s cool to see that he actually chooses the right of non-involvement instead of directly causing Finn to die. Of course, it doesn’t justify his actions, but it’s a step up from his usual vengeful behavior, and it’s nice to see that he’s still a deeply troubled adolescent who clearly does blame Finn for all of his problems. I really thought this was the best example of Tiffany’s turmoil being shown in full detail, and one of his better moments at that. Of course, he does get his comeuppance for all the wrongful things he’s done when Finn knocks him into the Worm Queen’s mouth. Though, I call bullshit with the way it was presented. Finn is launched into a stalactite, and then falls sideways into the wall and bumps Tiffany. It looks far too awkward for me to buy into.

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Finn does get a happy ending as his teeth are all replaced. Though, I always thought this bit was odd: they replace all of his teeth except the one that’s missing on the top? It’s kind of a silly idea, though I wouldn’t really want to see Finn with all of his teeth as it is, and God forbid that Cartoon Network would have to create a Finn action figure with a whole set of teeth. It is cool to see that Finn does show a bit of sadness at the thought of Tiffany’s demise. Even with everything that Tiffany put him through, Finn still deeply sympathizes with the lad and wanted things to work out for the better. The two would later reunite, in what results in more-or-less the same outcome. The ending itself was cute, as the Candy Kingdom citizens celebrate Finn’s return, knowing that he would be perfectly okay in the end. Only he can’t talk about it, because there are fly spies everywhere. Fly spies!

Dentist is good fun. I think it boasts a pretty strong story and has some solid action sequences and a quirky environment to carry it through. Granted, Tiffany is still pretty annoying, and weighs down the episode just a bit. Though, I thought his interactions with Finn were enough to justify his presence in the episode, and add a bit of poignancy to his character. But overall, Adventure Time makes for one of the most enjoyable dentist visits possible, even if that’s not saying much.

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Favorite line: “A common mistake—you were expected to arrive with snacks and a flashlight. Either way, you’re here.”

“Jake the Brick” Review

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Original Airdate: November 26, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne

Jake the Brick, like Is That You?, is a concept that just sounds incredibly nonsensical on paper. I mean, Jake shapeshifts into a brick? That’s the best idea they could come up with? Jake the Brick actually derives from a game of exquisite corpse that Tom Herpich doodled up during a writers’ meeting, and Kent and the crew found it so humorous that they decided to make an entire episode out of it. Yet, the idea of Jake being a brick as the main story of an episode is a mere farce; the episode is really about Jake simply narrating the life of a bunny, and how it interacts with its environment. This story sounds even more boring, but it’s executed in such a way that I think is just brilliant. This is Kent Osborne’s first solo-board, and likely his best episode of all time.

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The beginning of the episode is likely one of my all-time favorite AT moments. Finn walking through various areas in the Grass Lands, while we’re treated to some absolutely lovely backgrounds (this episode is chock full of ‘em) and Tim Kiefer’s chill score in the background is the very definition of zen. Reminds me of those lo-fi videos on YouTube that play nice electro-jazz music while a looped AT video rolls in the background. The atmosphere is pure bliss, and it’s always fun to just see Finn breathe and relax in his environment. Despite his anxieties and personal issues, he really does embody the playful, laidback teen that we’ve all come to love so much. In addition to that, he even has his own little motif going on in this one, as he continuously attempts to toss various items into a trash can, though fails at doing so. It could be tied back into the overall theme of failure followed by an ultimately satisfying outcome, but I just like to think that it gives Finn his own simplistic conflict to get through. And just like the somewhat mundane issue presented in the episode, Finn’s unexpected success in the end is just as rewarding.

When coming across Jake, it’s pretty clear our lovable dog friend is in some type of mood, and it borders on the existential side. If Jake was ever shown in partake in some kind of weird, ambitious midlife crisis, I think this would be the greatest example of such a thing. It’s hard to say what exactly Jake wants to experience, as I don’t think his silly desire to be a brick in a wall is something he considered on a surface level. As he states later, “Who cares about being a brick in a wall of a fallen-down shack? There’s something bigger than that, and the bunny has answers.” We all know how calm and welcoming Jake is when it comes to death, and I feel that Jake the Brick finally has him come to terms with his own fascination with the great beyond, as he acknowledges that life is much more than just waiting on the entire world to perish. And for Jake, that’s huge!

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There’s something about Osborne’s take on the characters that just always feels incredibly sweet to me. Osborne really seems to capture the non-cynical nature of the AT world to a tee; I thought it was absolutely adorable how upset and worried BMO is for Jake, along with the little pat on the head that Finn gives him, and the fact that Finn is so impressed and captivated by Jake’s narration that he puts it on air for all to hear. Of course, this could have so easily turned into a “get rich fast” scheme, or an opportunity for Finn to embarrass Jake, but these characters are much too caring and compassionate for such a behavior, and Kent is very much aware of that.

The beginning of Jake’s narration encapsulates more of those delectable backdrops I mentioned earlier. The shift from daytime, to evening, to nighttime beautifies the entire environment. The atmosphere in general is quite mellow, as John DiMaggio reads off a smooth and relaxed description of the woodland area around him. DiMaggio himself should have won some type of award for his role in this episode; he embodies everything that shows like Planet Earth and The Blue Planet set out to do, by showing off nature’s wonders, with a competent, cool voice at the helm. Animation in general is a great medium to tackle such an idea, and I really haven’t seen any other show carry out an idea like this the way Adventure Time does. Granted, I’ve seen spoofs and parodies of such documentary series, though none that are as earnest and dedicated as Jake the Brick attempts to be. And the cinematic moments in these bits are great, using slow fades to transition into some unique, soothing shots.

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As the night continues into a harsher rain, Jake keeps his cool as he continues to narrate the journey of a bunny, with dozens of Ooo citizens now listening in. It’s both hilarious and undeniably sweet that all of these various random characters would listen in to hear Jake talk about a bunny, but it is really nice to see all these various people who are so different in many ways have some sort of common interest, all tied back to our main character. Without even trying or knowing it, Jake has brought together so many people with the simple power of his words. Jake believes that secluding himself as a brick will help to show him the meaning of life, though he’s already proven said meaning by connecting to the people around him in outstanding ways. There’s so many great callbacks here that it would be redundant to mention every single one of them, so I’ll just call out my favorites:

  • Really loved seeing Lady and T.V. playing cards together. T.V. is pretty clearly a homebody, and I get the feeling that Lady embraces that and looks upon him without judgement.
  • Sweet P’s first reappearance since Escape From the Citadel, and his cute little jammies.
  • Colonel Candy Corn listening in with a full globe of Earth in his quarters. Just how old is this guy?
  • Rattleballs rebuilding his motherfuckin’ bros. I would love if this army of Rattleballses came into play in the finale.
  • Abracadaniel having a “Buff Wizards” magazine next to his exercising bike. They’re not even being subtle here.
  • Lemonhope’s wild adventure on an eagle.
  • Betty doing research in a cave with the letters “M+M+S” written on a piece of paper. Great foreshadowing.

The music and visuals during Jake’s narration are also just splendid. Love the uplifting little acoustic guitar tune that plays as the beavers assist the bunny, and the cute animals in general are all just so charming. Also, props to see the sea lard back in action. The lard species takes a big step in prominence this season.

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The ending that ties it all together is also really nice. I love just how extremely invested these citizens get to the point where they’re all wearing “I ♥ Bunny” t-shirts. As a viewer, I could never fully understand the tensity behind the bunny’s situation, though the way everyone reacts to it really draws you in. They care about this one bunny so much that it effectively makes the viewer care about it as well. And, through it all, Jake realizes that his lifelong ambition just simply isn’t worthwhile. There’s tons of life out there and it’s time to experience it just like this one bunny. In the wildness of Ooo, it’s nice to see something so uncomplicated having such a positive impact on this world.

I think Jake the Brick is just terrific. It’s so calming, cool, and enjoyable, and creates an atmosphere unlike any other episode to date. Granted, it’s not an absolute person favorite, but it does everything so well that I have to commend it regardless. It has beautiful scenery and music, features incredible voice acting from John DiMaggio, is overall just a thoroughly pleasant experience, and checks up on most of our favorite characters, some of whom we haven’t seen in quite some time. This episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Short Format Animation, and I can’t think of a better standalone episode from this season to win such a category.

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Favorite line: “No, man, bricks don’t stay in touch!”

“Is That You?” Review

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Original Airdate: November 25, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan

Looking at Is That You? from its premise alone, it easily could have tanked. A quasi-clip show episode that once again defies the status quo by returning Prismo to his former state and centered around a wildly convoluted and barely understandable story created by Jesse Moynihan? Yeah, this one just sounds like a dud on paper, but one that is actually quite awesome in execution. Really proves just how successfully Adventure Time is able to pull off any type of story, no matter how cliched or ridiculous it might sound.

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As for Prismo’s revival itself, I’m not sure that it’s actually entirely necessary. I mean, Prismo appears about three more times in the series (one of which is a flashback), and Crossover is the only episode where he contributes to the actual story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Prismo, but I wish his revival actually played a bigger part in the grand scheme of things. It seems more like a copout when characters in this series are brought back simply for the sake of being brought back, with the most prominent example being Root Beer Guy. Though, as I mentioned, there’s an episode like Crossover that absolutely cannot exist without his presence, so I guess I’m contradicting my own point. And, the way he’s actually revived in this episode seems completely in line with something that Prismo would do/plan. Get the feeling Jesse really understands and enjoys Prismo’s character.

Prismo also finally gets a proper memorial service, and unlike how Billy’s death wasn’t acknowledged for an entire span of a season, this gap of time actually feels like it makes sense. Jake isn’t one who takes to death too lightly and would rather stay in denial than to actually deal with his close friend passing away. The service is certainly emotional for Jake, but it’s once again presented in such a goofy and hilarious way that it avoids being too lamentable. Adventure Time has this really great way of making light of darker situations, though it (usually) never feels tasteless or awkwardly placed. The way Finn and Jake send off Prismo is likely exactly how Prismo would want to be remembered.

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I think it’s a given that any show that has at least 300 episodes would have a clip show or a recap episode at some point, and Adventure Time has done both, while cleverly subverting tropes and never actually hitting on cliches. Jake’s time-lapsed self recreates some of his all-time best moments, including everything burrito, Bacon Pancakes, and his techno-tuned dance moves from Power Animal. The best part is that the episode actually recycles the exact poses and animation from said episodes, which can really make for some hilarious night-and-day scenes. It’s also quite endearing; just look at that uncomfortably wonky shot of Jake saying “tough boysss!” from Crystals Have Power and compare it to Jesse’s mostly stellar work now. He’s really come a long way since the beginning. The moments themselves are a funny tribute to some of Jake’s greatest hits, and even funnier is that each sequence ends with Jake fucking exploding. It’s a gag that never truly gets old, and it’s even more enjoyable to watch Finn go from being absolutely terrified from such an occurrence to being totally numb to the whole situation.

Speaking of which, it’s nice to see Finn getting some action once again (though not in the Breezy sense)! He had major appearances in the past ten or so episodes, like Ocarina and Ghost Fly, but this feels like the first time in a while that we’re seeing things through his perspective once more. There’s that great shot as he wakes up from his nightmare and notices the now browned thorn on his hand, reminding us and himself that his physical and metaphorical scars still remain very much in tact. Though the episode doesn’t really focus too much on Finn’s own baggage, as he’s more preoccupied with the wellbeing of his brother.

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And booooy, is Jake’s journey a doozie. It’s an Inception style trek through space and time that feels almost impossible to follow entirely. Essentially, the present version of Jake takes the place of Prismo’s resting spot, where he’s left to sleep before Finn wakes him up, assuring that the present Jake is kept alert while the past version of Jake once again takes his place in the bed, so current Finn can then approach the past Finn and stop him from waking past Jake up, assuring that the two will still be intact even after Prismo’s reincarnation. And if you had trouble following that, believe me, so did I. But the great part is that I don’t really care that I don’t fully understand what’s going on. Finn and Jake, and even Prismo, aren’t even sure they comprehend their surroundings, which is reassuring from an audience perspective and kind of just helps us to enjoy the journey regardless, which is a ton of fun.

The backgrounds in this one are LUSCIOUS. I could’ve sworn from the various staircase-style layers that Derek Ballard actually had some sort of part in designing the backgrounds for this one, but per usual, it’s Chris Tsirgiortis and Derek Hunter, who, also per usual, do a magnificent job. These backdrops aren’t especially complicated in nature, though their lush, painted color schemes and simple, boxed layout make them really aesthetically pleasing. I totally don’t agree with the notion that Adventure Time is the best show to watch while high, because I feel like that undermines its quality even during sobriety, but even then, this is the perfect episode in that category. It’s calming, cool, and bizarre in all the right ways, and really captures the more chill side of Jesse’s trippy writing style.

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Speaking of which, Moynihan also squeezes in some decent philosophy. Jake is mostly used as an observer in this one, but in a way that’s quite enjoyable. I love all of his little observations, especially his acknowledgement of, “what if the world was just some goof’s dream? That would be dumb.” Dunno about everyone else, but I always thought that touched on the ongoing belief that Adventure Time would end up just being one big dream sequence, which, as this episode states, would be incredibly stupid. Glad the audience isn’t the only one to think so. I also believe Jake thinking out loud is cool because it provides for some rare introspective moments from his character. Though it feels a little too eloquently put for Jake to state, his monologue during the Lich sequence is just great.

“I remember feelin’ like someone had peeled a layer away from my brain, and my reality was no longer anchored to any point of reference, and I had to fight to keep from being crushed under the weight of an unforgiving new paradigm of ultimate reality.”

Never would have thought those words would come out of Jake’s mouth, but it really just shows how in tune to his surroundings that Jake is. Though he’s easily distracted and somewhat absent minded, Jake really does soak in everything he possibly can when he’s invested in particular situations. The Lich aspect of the clip show is also a great reminder that the Lich is still very much alive, even if he’s subdued. Adventure Time has these great little moments sprinkled throughout seasons 6, 7, and 8 to remind us of just how evil the Lich is, even if he isn’t actively cognitive.

ITY 6

And of course, there’s also Prismo, who set up the entire plan. As always, Kumail Nanjiani does just a super job of portraying his character, and he may just be one of my favorite voice actors in the entire series! He captures the whimsy, charm, and detached nature of Prismo’s character all in one tone, and it always feels like he’s putting his all into Prismo even if he doesn’t have to emote much. The connection between Jake and Prismo is as strong as ever, and even Prismo and Finn form a more heartwarming connection. I love Finn acknowledging that he and Prismo aren’t truly close friends, though they just simply have a strong mutual respect for each other. I think we all know that type of person in real life, and Finn sums it up quite nicely. The icing on the cake is the ending, when Finn essentially kills himself to help to revive Prismo. In a long stance of stagnation in Finn’s life, I think this is just the kind of action that truly shows how heroic he remains. Even with his aforementioned scars, Finn is still willing to put others before himself, even if it means possibly sacrificing his own being. Granted, I think a lot of people could look into this in a much darker perspective, but I don’t think Finn willingly almost ending his life relates back to his own depressed feelings. He simply realizes that Prismo once took a bullet for him, and wants to repay that favor, and he’s rewarded in the best way possible: with a sick new sword. The Finn Sword may be my favorite sword in the entire series; it’s polished, clean, and wholesome, just like Finn himself! I think it’s the perfect visual representation of Finn as a character, and has possibly the biggest effect on the actual story out of all of Finn’s swords, aside from the grass blade. It’s a terrific welcoming back ceremony for the Pris-man.

This one’s just sheer awesome. It takes advantage of everything it has going for it, and though it has some aspects that could have easily come across as pretentious or even cliched, they’re presented in the absolute strongest and most unique ways possible. This is Jesse’s second solo-board in the series, and it fairs much, much better than Something Big. While complicated, Is That You? boasts a thoroughly cohesive story that brings back a very enjoyable character, and celebrates some of Jake the Dog’s greatest moments. And, in a bomb of episodes that goes out of its way to celebrate Jake’s character, this is quite the spectacular tribute.

Favorite line: “These picks were made by our friend to be mouth-loved!”