“Nemesis” Review

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Another awesome title card by Derek Ballard, this being his last one in the series. This episode is also his final role as a storyboard artist.

Original Airdate: August 7, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Derek Ballard

Ever since The Suitor, I’ve wanted to see an entire story based off of Peppermint Butler’s interest in the dark arts and how it connects to his character. I think all of us, at one point or another, assumed that Pepbut would take on some sort of antagonistic role and turn full-on evil, but the way this episode presents his character is very telling and interesting. Though he certainly isn’t a hero by any means, his duty first and foremost is to serve Princess Bubblegum, regardless of his interests in the dark arts. I also like how this episode once again ties into Princess Bubblegum being viewed as suspicious throughout the Candy Kingdom, in what is likely the most explicit example of her misusing her power up until The Cooler.

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First off, I really enjoy the Veritas Brigade (“veritas” is Latin for “truth”) and the collection of different people who gather for it. It really makes sense that Starchy would be the leader of this sort of thing, and the secretive nature of the group, along with how they practically speak in riddles, is really neat. The password itself to enter the organization, “to beelzebub with the brewer’s knave,” derives from the poem “The Romance Of Britomarte,” to which I have no clue what the connection is, so if you have any idea, let me know in the comments. The group slogan, “lux in tenebris,” translates to “light into darkness.” Love how much was put into establishing this society’s place in the Candy Kingdom, and the various interesting choices for members. Of course, Starchy is there because conspiracy theories are his one true passion in life, but what put people like Nurse Poundcake and Science in there? I like to think Starchy just brought Science there so it would appear as though he had more members. Also love the Banana Guard who wears a big plastic nose and fake mustache to avoid getting caught by PB. Though, that didn’t pan out too well, apparently.

Princess Bubblegum is once again shown spying on her people because, let’s face it, this is her source of entertainment. In her ever-stressful life, it’s almost impossible for her to relax, and her one method of escaping from the stressors of everyday life is to do so in the most “responsible” way possible: watch over her city, or in actuality, spy on others. Of course, she isn’t malicious about it. She doesn’t plan on punishing the citizens who rebel against her, nor does she plan on stopping their meetings. She’s simply being invasive and not respecting the privacy of others, though this is likely a more justified reason than most others. A secret society that bases itself off of Bubblegum’s wrongdoings could potentially get unorthodox or violent, and it makes sense that she would want to observe for the possibility of such an occurrence, even if it’s unlikely. Though, the donut man named Kenneth has apparently built a device that disrupts parallel dimensions, and it actually works, too! I do wonder who the shadow-y figure that Nurse Poundcake mentioned is supposed to represent: Peppermint Butler or Rattleballs? Pretty cool if the main concern from the group in this episode revolves around the intrigue of Rattleballs’ existence. Even though we don’t see him much, it’s cool that he is established to be guarding over the Candy Kingdom at night, where he cannot be seen. Also interesting is that the information that causes the Candy People to question PB’s behavior is actually protecting them from impending dangers. Though it’s also likely this shadow is referring to Peppermint Butler’s strange activities after dark.

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This is where Peace Master comes in: a delightfully hammy anti-hero who pretends to be a lot cooler in his head than he is in real life. He’s voiced by Rainn Wilson, which feels a bit distracting as it seems like including Rattleballs in this one was just an excuse not to find another voice actor for PM, though Wilson does a great job so I’m not complaining. Peace Master gives me major vibes of religious cult leaders who believe they are the savior over everything and that they are an all-powerful being, combined with elements of Batman. Though, PM isn’t the dark and tortured being he seems to portray. What makes Peace Master so interesting, however, is ironically the fact that he’s just a normal guy. Despite all of his abilities and his confidence in vanquishing all that is evil, he’s actually a father who is raising three kids. I love how much Nemesis builds this guy up, with his well-drawn dramatic faces and his menacing exterior, only for him to come off as a pretty lame dude when it comes down to it. Though I dunno, is it a little too mundane for anyone else that he just casually drives a minivan around? Who in the Candy Kingdom actually drives automotive vehicles? It seems too out of place for the setting, but I digress. I like how Peace Master even acknowledges to his children that he was pontificating, and just how much his children rebel against him. His children are essentially more down-to-earth than their father; Peacemaster dismisses the dark arts as nothing but monstrosities that deserve to be excluded from society, though someone like Peppermint Butler would prove that there is a balance between practicing such magic and also being a totally cool dude. Speaking of the peppermint man, his role in the episode is defined by PM’s defiance of such practices.

PB’s desire to shift the kingdom into full red alert mode is a lot of fun, namely the return of Colonel Candy Corn in a much more enjoyable appearance after his large role in Something Big. Something tells me that Jesse Moynihan just really likes this character for some reason. Regardless, his comments about his state of being and the nature of the Banana Guards were both hilarious, and it’s refreshing to see a member of the Candy Kingdom military who is actually relatively competent. Speaking of competence, PB calls upon the aforementioned Rattleballs after awkwardly avoiding the discussion revolving around him, in a pretty funny scene featuring an actual training session between Finn and himself! With Jake included, of course. The scene is pretty humorous in the fact that I have literally NO IDEA how such a skill is actually beneficial for Finn to use. It’s always fun to see Rattleballs, and it’s equally fun to see Finn and Jake by this point. I appreciate the direction that the show has taken to where they are able to focus on various different characters without the company of Finn and Jake, but their presence is still missed. It’s a lot different going back and watching these episodes now, where I can appreciate them more for what they are, rather than how they aired. Though I still enjoyed Nemesis upon airing, nearly a month of AT episodes had aired without Finn and Jake having a role, and I truly missed my boys by the time this one came along.

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It’s funny how I’m only now realizing that the true meat of the episode, which is Peppermint Butler’s conflict with Peace Master, only comes into play about halfway through the episode. Yet, I think the beginning of the episode does a pretty solid job of creating a sense of urgency throughout the Candy Kingdom, which is just as important. The atmosphere which leads into Peppermint Butler’s experimenting is really what helps to create a justification for such behavior. And man, is Peppermint Butler’s transformation seminar just awesome! His spiritual avatar itself is nothing special, but the bit where the boxed walls are torn apart and transition into an A-HA inspired sketch sequence is just awesome! These past couple episodes (Ocarina, Crabapples, and Nemesis) have all incorporated unique animation and art sequences that derive from the show’s usual fare, and it’s awesome to see how ambitious the series is able to be with every single episode by this point. Really feels like season six as a whole has shown an effort to be completely different on all levels. The exchanges between Pepbut and Peace Master are pretty enticing, namely the camera angles and how each side has their own unique powers. That blade that Peppermint Butler pulls out of his shoe is especially gnarly, even if it is virtually ineffective. Though PM is liked by his acquaintances of Veritas Brigade, I enjoy how everyone virtually sides with Peppermint Butler for simply being a cool dude. It really goes to show how much Pepbut has masked his identity over the years; though a participant of the dark arts, Peppermint Butler is laidback, polite, and a total bro, which helps shape his identity where PB fails. Peppermint Butler is essentially just as shady as Bubblegum, though he has the people skills and the right demeanor to alleviate all suspicion from himself. The way Pepbut is saved through Kenneth’s machine is also a pretty awesome callback. I’d love to see more of this Kenneth fella.

After the two separate, PM and Pepbut meet back up at the always visually interesting Wizard Battle arena (complete with a beautiful sunrise) and the atmosphere is certainly tense. The way Peppermint Butler enters, as he’s carried by that awesomely bizarre brain creature, shows that he seems to have the upper hand. This is proven right when he goes as far as transforming Peace Master’s children into literal monsters. It’s certainly a disheartening experience, though I enjoy the way it’s presented. Peppermint Butler isn’t in the right, and the episode doesn’t go through any methods to prove as much. Peace Master is essentially the hero who wants nothing but to defeat all evil that faces him and to make the world safer for his children. What makes this “wrong” is that he’s threatening the state of the kingdom, and its main ambassadors, even though he isn’t inherently wrong in his mindset. What makes Peppermint Butler “right” is that he’s doing everything he can to protect the princess and the Candy Kingdom, even though he goes through extreme lengths to do so. It’s a really interesting scenario where the technical hero is presented as a villain and the technical villain is presented as a hero, and Nemesis presents this a hell of a lot better than the previous episode Princess Day attempted to. What stops it from becoming absolute tragedy, however, is that the children actually like their transformation, and Peace Master grows to accept dark magic and monstrosities because of it, making for a relatively touching close to his character. It’s still a completely unfortunate situation for himself, though it isn’t portrayed in the most horrific way possible. Also like how “eating dirt” is going too far for Peppermint Butler, but turning his children into monsters is not. Again, Nemesis does this much better than Princess Day.

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But of course, after the entire situation fizzles out, Pepbut returns to his quarters, with little evidence that he was ever involved. Not even Princess Bubblegum knows the full extent of Peppermint Butler’s dark interests, though his demeanor once again proves just the opposite. Peppermint Butler is a complex soul who keeps himself presentable in the most appropriate of ways, yet will do what he must to protect what he stands for. Letting anyone know of his involvement in such sorcery would only confuse and put off most people, and Peppermint Butler knows this. He simply keeps to himself, but uses his powers for all the right things. At least, in his perspective.

The best way to describe this one is “cool.” It has some cool ideas, new characters, new developments from pre-existing characters, atmosphere, animation sequences, and more. It’s not necessarily the most amazing tertiary character spotlight episode, but it executes a lot of elements pretty well. It’s just the kind of Peppermint Butler episode I wanted, and aside from The Suitor, this is likely his best role to date.

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Favorite line: “Sorry, I hate evil so much.”

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