Original Airdate: November 4, 2015
Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk
As far as I’m concerned, the only thing more offensive than Root Beer Guy’s death is his revival in Cherry Cream Soda. I wasn’t particularly mad at the fact that the show initially killed off Root Beer Guy back in Something Big, as I never thought that RBG’s character needed any subsequent appearances outside of his debut. He was a lot of fun in Root Beer Guy, and it was nice to see him in brief cameo shots afterwards, but he doesn’t have the type of personality that truly leaves me wanting more. My main gripe with his death was that I thought it was presented a bit tastelessly, and I would have preferred just never seeing RBG again than to have him kicked off in such a mean-spirited way. But of course, a ton of people were upset with his death, and I’m sure that was part of the reason the writing staff decided to resurrect his character once more. It’s not even like Prismo, whose revival at least provides for an important episode down the line. RBG was simply brought back for the sake of this one episode, and instead of being the fun reunion that Is That You? was, Cherry Cream Soda mostly has me scratching my head and asking “why?” At this point in the series, it’s quite frustrating that Adventure Time cannot simply just commit to killing off a character. This isn’t even an instance that provides for a juicy or interesting story, like with Prismo, and later with Glob and Fern. Cherry Cream Soda genuinely feels like a waste of my time.
The strongest part of this episode is definitely the beginning, and I don’t even mean in comparison to everything else. Cherry Cream Soda going about her day, unable to move past the grief that surrounds her with each waking morning, was legitimately good stuff. The atmosphere is sad and ominous, and carried a lot by the backgrounds, music, and terrific voice work from Anne Heche. Heche is definitely the best part of this episode, devoting her full energy to every single line presented to her. Of course, I don’t know at all what it’s like to be a struggling widow, but the situation is presented so well that CCS still has my fullest sympathy. There’s many poignant exchanges, mainly between CCS and her newly wedded husband Starchy: “I love you, baby, but isn’t there an expiration date to this grieving thing?” “I don’t think it works that way.” It’s quite frankly a melancholic sentiment that reinforces how the pain of losing a loved one never truly disappears, especially early on. There’s also that depressing opening statement from CCS of, “one day at a time,” which is an optimistic viewpoint in its own right, but typically translates to struggling.
The flashback reveal that CCS and RBG were literally “made for each other” is also an interesting concept that really sheds to light on how the Candy People operate. While it doesn’t seem ill-intentioned, PB’s behavior once again comes into question on whether or not the methods of creating her people were actually orthodox or not. On one hand, it is nice that PB created two beings and automatically paired the two with one another – it’s almost like character constructing, in a way! But on the other hand, she never gave Cherry Cream Soda or Root Beer Guy the option to be alone or even to get to know each other. This may relate to PB’s failure to understand just how much humanity that her people do possess, and that not everyone can be as dumb and half-witted as Cinnamon Bun.
That’s pretty much where the good stuff ends, as Cherry Cream Soda bids a final farewell to her late husband. Might I also note that RBG being revived by lightening is the single most uncreative revival this series has ever pulled. In a world full of magic, the episode uses a method that is absolutely banal.
What follows this lightening strike is just… weird. I know that’s a vague statement on its own, because AT as a whole is an inherently obscure series, but Cherry Cream Soda is unusual in all the wrong ways. It feels like the episode is trying to be really quirky and jokey with the way that Root Beer Guy and Starchy interact with Cherry Cream Soda, but after the already established macabre tone from the first act, it’s kind of tough to get behind this story taking somewhat of a goofy turn. It’s also just really… uncomfortable. I get why Cherry Cream Soda is pissed at RBG and think the pain that she conveys is legitimate, but I also think it’s unnecessary for Root Beer Guy to get shit all over. I mean, he literally sacrificed himself so that he could potentially save all of the Candy Kingdom (and possibly Ooo) in the process, and now he’s suddenly alive out of nowhere. Did Cherry Cream Soda expect him to NOT come back and feel like everything is normal? I really don’t know what I’m supposed to be feeling or even who I’m supposed to be rooting for. This feels like the exact wrong episode to put Graham Falk behind the helm. Granted, Falk storyboarded the original Root Beer Guy episode, so it only makes sense that he would also board its successor, but his style is way too zany and comical for a complex scenario such as this one. But it’s not only that it’s complex, it’s also that I just don’t really… care. I cared about Root Beer Guy and Cherry Cream Soda’s relationship in Root Beer Guy mainly because of the comically melodramatic tone that episode took on, but here, it really just does not work. It’s not fun in the slightest, and that’s fine that the episode wanted to take a more dramatic turn, but my investment in the withstanding of Cherry Cream Soda and Root Beer Guy’s relationship is little to none. The humanity that both characters showcased in both Root Beer Guy and the beginning of Cherry Cream Soda are what make their characters legitimately poignant, but when you take out that humanity and substitute it with a bizarre, unlikely situation, it kind of kills what made their characters interesting to begin with.
I’ll give Cherry Cream Soda this, I do like the scene with (the newly christened) Dirt Beer Guy within the Candy Tavern, mainly because I had missed seeing Lady and Jake together after such a long time. But, that scene ends as quickly as it starts, and we’re treated to a truly off-putting squabble between Starchy and DBG. I’m typically impartial to Starchy, but he’s painfully unfunny and unlikable in this scenario. The bits towards the end where Starchy attempts to get rid of DBG are paced so awkwardly and unremarkable that I honestly remember thinking to myself, “if this is what season seven has to offer this early on, AT might be in trouble.” Luckily, that statement was soon retracted, but the bad taste of this one still remains. The ending scene where CCS chooses to dump Starchy, and then get to know Dirt Beer Guy, somewhat makes for a nice ending, but it’s also slightly confusing. I mean, the main thing that is different about CCS’s husband is his physical appearance, but it seems like he’s pretty much the same person that he always was. And, even though they never got a chance to “take it slow” before, didn’t years of being married give CCS and RBG a chance to really get to know each other? So, I get what the ending is trying to accomplish, but I feel like it’s somewhat squandered in its execution. I do like Cherry Cream Soda’s line of “one date at a time,” that mimics her first statement in the episode, but I also feel as though Cherry Cream Soda ends pretty much out of nowhere. Again, this is a series that usually features abrupt endings, but this one felt especially unceremonious.
Cherry Cream Soda is just simply a shit show of tonal confusion, and one that really, really makes me wish that Root Beer Guy just stayed dead. I’m usually fairly forgiving with plot points and story arcs that I don’t particularly like because I grow to appreciate how they affected the series in the long run, but I can honestly say that Root Beer Guy’s revival may be one of the most POINTLESS stories that Adventure Time has ever told. There’s that bit of lore regarding the creation of the Candy People, but that’s about it. I feel as though I have gained nothing from this episode and his subsequent appearances. I really would have liked if Cherry Cream Soda just committed to the “CCS is a sad widow who is trying to get by each day” story, because that was most certainly the most well done aspect of this episode, but even those bits are made absolutely pointless by the fact that everything ends up alright in the end. We’re instead treated with an uncomfortably harsh story that’s nowhere near as poignant or interesting, and one that is most definitely among my least favorites.
One thing interesting about this ep is that it’s the only ep to involve a boarder (who isn’t Adam Muto or Kent Osborne) who’s still on the show, to be involved in the story but not the writng/storyboard: In this ep’s case, Steve Wolfhard