Archive | September 2018

“The Hall of Egress” Review

THOE 1.png

Original Airdate: March 5, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich 

Before I get into this review, I wanna thank fellow readers Zach Goff and William Zall for donating to my DVD gofundme! I appreciate your contributions and am so very thankful to have dedicated readers like yourself. As promised, these two get to decide on a special bonus review of their choice, so there will be a ton of new bonus content at the end of the season! One final time, thank you two dearly for your contributions, and thank you for reminding me why I love to do these reviews to begin with. Onto the review!

THOE 2.png

When Tom Herpich posted the promotional artwork for this one, he mentioned in the description that he initially disregarded the idea for this episode as “irredeemably dark and unpleasant.” While he also mentions tinkering with the concept a bit to make it actually work, this episode, in part, lives up to that description. This is perhaps Finn’s most unimaginably terrifying adventure yet; over the years, he’s been faced with the deadly nature of the Lich, the sadistic shenanigans of Magic Man, the tumultuous relationship with his father, and the struggle to conquer his own identity, but nothing strikes me as more threatening than this endeavor. I won’t beat around the bush, this might just be my favorite episode of the entire series. I know that’s probably somewhat of a unoriginal claim by now, but for very good reasons. This episode just does everything right; I’ve sung my praises about Herpich before, but I really can’t deny that The Hall of Egress feels like he’s using everything that he’s learned about Adventure Time over those six past years and channeling that energy through Finn. A lot of my all-time favorite episodes actually don’t center around the main boys at all; You Forgot Your Floaties was mainly about Magic Man, The More You Moe, The Moe You Know was about BMO, and I Remember You follows the backstory of Simon and Marcy. But what sets The Hall of Egress so high up is that, not only is it an incredibly sophisticated story that strays from the typical “dungeon” themed episode, but it also centers around what I consider to be the absolute central heart of the show: (you guessed it) Finn and (a good amount) of Jake.

This episode truly brings Finn’s growth and evolution to the forefront, and I have reason to believe it was done entirely on an intentional level. The very beginning of the episode opens with Jake mentioning the dungeon train, which was last seen in the self-entitled Dungeon Train right after Finn’s big break-up. His bro even mentions this, to which Finn responds, “heh, yeah, that sucked.” Dungeon Train saw an entirely different Finn than the one we’ve seen over the course of season 6 and 7; Finn was unable to fully deal with his problems and relied on the help of outside sources (PB, the dungeon train, Jake, etc.) to ease his pain. Now, I’m not saying this to imply that support systems are not useful, but Finn’s behavior was clearly much more manipulative and worked harder at putting up a mask more than anything. He wasn’t dealing with his issues, he was finding ways to get around them. The funniest part is, this was the original destination in Dungeon Train. It’s almost horrifying to think of what would have happened to Finn, had he experienced this a year earlier. That’s not to say he went from being a complete dumbass to a brilliant mastermind over the course of time, but his ability to cope and deal with issues has certainly matured and altered from the norm, having been through so much and understanding his own skills in stress management.

THOE 3.png

Though again, that doesn’t make this trip any less terrifying. While we get intervals from Jake and BMO from time to time, this is mostly a bottle episode, featuring Finn in one place and leaving him to ramble on to himself for a period of time. As always, we’re treated to his delightfully silly and quirky behavior, even in the midst of a sticky situation. While a good amount of the beginning spends time setting up the absolute ludicrous nature of the dungeon, it’s made fun just by how many delightful Finn moments are scattered in throughout: his pronunciation of “foyer,” the brief flashback where PB explains what egress means, Finn finally adopting the last name “Mertens” and using it proudly as his identity, “breadcrumb style,” the way he cleverly maps out an exit plan using muscle memory, and much more.

The entire hall is pretty cool from an initial standpoint. It’s made eerie and solemn, and its vague nature is what helps to set those feelings. Who set up this dungeon? Why did Flambo’s (unnamed) brother send the boys there? Is it supposed to be exactly what it seems? Herpich truly is the king of clever ambiguity, whereas he provides enough for the audience to create their own wildly different ideas and theories, though none of it is ever proven or set in stone. It’s the same with Phlannel Boxingday: everybody pretty much assumes that he’s Princess Bubblegum, but Herpich never provides any actual confirmation that they are the same person. This episode is just riddled with stuff like that, with my favorite being the snowman statue. There’s a lot of emphasis (including close-up shots) put on this upside-down snowman statue that never actually serves any relevance in the plot. Was it merely put there as a red herring for viewers to assume that this was the solution to the issue, or would setting the snowman up in the correct order actually have some sort of effect on whether Finn would be able to escape? My money’s on the red herring excuse, and I think the mere implication of it is that it’s “too easy” of a solution. The entire point of Finn’s journey in this episode is that he’s not able to easily find a way out of this mind dungeon, and must somehow find a different way out. The snowman is placed there as an obvious mislead, as it’s implying that such an intense, complex situation can be easily fixed in the mere matter of seconds.

THOE 4.png

As Finn learns pretty early on, this dungeon is exactly the opposite. While Finn walks through the actual hall, it’s made visually appealing through cloudy shades of white and blue, though it also interestingly works off of the viewer’s sense of touch rather than creating an elaborate design. It reminds me a lot of Rainy Day Daydream, in which Finn and Jake embark on a full-scale adventure and fight baddies, of which are never seen, because they’re all “imaginary.” This episode works in the same vein, by using sound effects and Finn’s body language to show what actually exists in the Hall. It’s even made better by the fact that, while Finn can see inside the hall while closing his eyes, he technically is “going in blind.” It’s a cool way to make the audience feel as though they’re going along with this journey, and feel as if they’re in the same boat. Just like Finn, we can’t explain why this is happening, and there’s no clear answer to what the Hall of Egress is or how to escape from it. The only theory that anyone could have come up with, at the time, is the concept of the snowman, though that’s easily debunked about halfway through. A big element of this episode that contributes to its success is empathy.

Now, empathy has always been a big part of Adventure Time, but I honestly think it’s a rarity among my other favorite episodes. Floaties, The More You Moe, and I Remember You have me sympathizing with the main characters, but I dunno if I can really put myself in their place, with the possible exception of parts of The More You Moe. That’s a personal point of view and I don’t expect everyone to share it, but I say it because it’s not like I’ve ever had/lost a wife, and I’ve never had a loved one who went through Alzheimer’s. Of course, I’ve never been through an endless mind dungeon myself either, but this bit of empathy also works with the episode’s other strongest point, of which I mentioned is its dense ambiguity. I’m sure all of us have been in an impossibly unsolvable situation, of which it seems like there is no possible solution. Hell, as a sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I deal with it regularly! But this episode manages to use an entirely fantastical scenario and has a limitless sense of opportunity in how people can connect with it. Again, that’s the beauty of Adventure Time in general, and having its greatest and most developed character at the center is what drives it forward even more.

THOE 5.png

As Finn continues to churn forward, that perceived hopelessness becomes even stronger. Not only is he faced with this treacherous dungeon at hand with no possible way out, but he’s also the only one who actually believes that it exists. It’s an incredibly difficult dilemma, in which he does have the support of his friends, but they don’t understand the situation at large. The support that BMO and Jake do offer is undeniably sweet, however, and provides for some of the cutest interactions between the boys to date. That simple kiss that Jake gives Finn before he goes to bed is absolutely adorable! It’s such a small moment, but such a loving gesture that I don’t think we’ve seen the boys ever exchange up to this point. BMO’s bits are limited, but more than anything, he plays the part of the anxious little child that still lives within Finn. BMO barely speaks in this episode, and when he does, it’s merely to ask Finn questions about his state of being and whether he’s going to attempt to open his eyes or not. BMO is simply representative of the anxious voice within Finn telling him to remain the same and to not change his methods of dealing with a situation. While Finn is uncertain if opening his eyes will actually work or not, he’s still tempted by the most simplistic and obvious way out of things. Though, more often than not, his friends are on the exact same page with that incessant impatience.

Some of the more humorous moments from this episode derive from the idea that Jake continuously tries to open Finn’s eyes, even after being informed of his dilemma. Also, Jake’s hat was terrific. Where can I grab a hat like that? Ultimately, though, the humorous moments underlie the great tragedies of the entire situation: Finn is completely alone. Jake tries to be as supportive and understanding as possible, but as we’ve often seen from Jake, he’s typically more focused on problem-solving than utilizing his abilities to empathize. Not to say that’s a jab at Jake, because he’s doing the best anyone can in that situation: his brother is going on about a dungeon that apparently doesn’t even exist, and won’t open his eyes for the course of an entire month because of a perceived misfortune that only he believes in. While it’s easy to empathize with Finn, it’s difficult to disagree with Jake’s logic as well from a bystander point of view. We empathize with Finn because we watch his situation go down and feel his pain that no one will believe him, but honestly, it all just seems like gibberish otherwise. There’s no way that Finn can possibly explain his story in a convincing and evidential way, which makes it even more tragic and upsetting.

THOE 6.png

After several attempts to gradually help Finn escape from his own personal hell, Jake and BMO’s efforts prove to be a stagnant trial. Finn isn’t getting any better or farther in progress than he was before. Though he loves Jake and BMO, their assistance is ineffective, and at worst, slowing progress down. Finn realizes now that only he can be in charge of figuring out a solution for himself, or at least adjusting to society as it is. Finn’s growth throughout the past season has lead him to be competent in taking on an impossibly unsolvable situation, even when it means letting go of the people and the things around him. It’s a tough, but brave decision, and one that feels less like a move of desperation and more as a method of acceptance. While Finn tosses away his clothes and tighty whiteys, he utters “no more threads left behind… no more egress.” The “no more egress” aspect is what really hammers in the theme that Finn has no interest in escaping or running away from his issues, and would rather run into them head-on than to try and come up with another failed attempt to solve his dilemma.

The next few shots are masterful. Herpich really nails cinematic moments, as seen in episodes like Lemonhope, Evergreen, and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. The shots of Finn in the wild add a terrific sense of ambiance, and both dramatically and humorously catches us up on how Finn has adapted. The best part about this sequence is how it’s not measured by time at all; we really don’t know how long he spent within the Hall of Egress, and it’s once again left up to the interpretation of the viewer for how much time passes by. I have my own headcanon that Finn had a series of different blinded adventures during his time within the hall, and I’d totally be down with a one-shot comic series within the hall. Seems like it’s a concept that has a ton of different possibilities on its own.

THOE 7.png

Finn’s travels eventually lead him right back to where he started at the beginning of the hall, where his realization is translated through BMO’s voice, “something’s different.” The voice that was used to merely remind Finn of his conformity to reality earlier in the episode is now telling Finn that he instinctively notices a difference. While that voice was used to first mirror Finn’s opposal to change in dire situations, it’s used later to show his shift in perception.

As Finn walks through the door, he wanders into a contained space of where he’s able to see everything on the outside of the cave. Finn is essentially viewing life as “transparent” and his patience is helping to finally see things clearer than they once were. In both a glorious and somewhat humorous scene, Finn charges through the dome to return to his brother, as PB’s voice narrates, “hurry Finn… at the seashell’s center lies the cornucopia’s smallest door.” PB was previously shown to help Finn’s intelligence and comprehensive skills expand further when she explains what egress is. Here, he’s taught himself his own valuable lesson in emotional intelligence, as she narrates what can only be described as personal enlightenment. Though, I still have no clue what “the cornucopia’s smallest door,” is. There’s a great analysis of it on YouTube, which will probably add more insight into the topic than I possibly could. It’s perhaps AT’s most ambiguous line, but one that I enjoy, strictly for Hynden Walch’s whimsical inflections.

THOE 8THOE 9THOE 10

This stressful, exhilarating, jam-packed episode ends on the perfect silly and simplistic note, with Finn shouting, “no comment!” after Jake asks him about the cave. And that’s really what this one boils down to; it’s a thoroughly compelling drama with just the right amount of funny and rewarding moments to carry through its darkness. It’s the most condensed version of Finn’s personal growth and development yet, and I feel as though it really embodies everything that these past two seasons set out to accomplish. Probably the coolest thing about this one is that, while it does have some continuity nods, it’s most standalone and can be enjoyed even by the common viewer. It establishes the characters pretty well without having to know them personally, and there’s added bits of subtle character moments that will treat longtime viewers even better. The Hall of Egress is also really sharp on a technical level. The music cues from Tim Kiefer are, per usual, terrific, and Herpich is always tremendous with utilizing different camera angles and cinematic moments to their best abilities.

It truly is my idea of a perfect episode, but alas, no episode is without imperfections. My main criticisms for this one are mostly nitpicks, but I think the title card is kind of trash. It’s just a simple shot of the exterior of the cave, and the font is a direct reuse of the one featured in the Stakes miniseries. I think it’s pretty boring, and especially upsetting considering how cool the original title card concept was. I mean, look at this image! It’s so much more powerful than what we got. My other criticism actually spans from the length of the episode, because I feel as though this could have been a full blown half hour. Not just because I enjoyed it, but it does feel like there are some missing elements. Like, why did the boys’ never seek out PB’s help? It seems weird that Finn would go potential months being blinded without looking for help from his mastermind of a best friend. I feel as though her incorporation could have made that ending voiceover from herself even more powerful, and it would be interesting to see PB’s scientific methods fail, as she feels incapable of helping her friend.

But, those are mostly just instances of myself looking for problems, because The Hall of Egress is one of my favorite episodes of television in general. It’s unique, it embodies the heart and soul of the series, it’s Finn’s most compelling journey, it uses cinematography well, it’s ambiguous and open to interpretation, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s developmental, and so much more. It’s no wonder this one ended up winning an Emmy, of which it certainly deserves. By doing his normal shtick, Herpich in turn would end up creating a magnum opus for himself and the series in general, one of which would never be topped (IMHO), but one that builds off of everything that Adventure Time is and was: a terrific exploration of the trials of growing up.

THOE 11.png

Favorite line: “Yeah, you’ve done it like, 30 times now.”

Adventure Time: Final Seasons Update

Hey y’all! I’m almost nearly done with (what Cartoon Network considers) season seven of Adventure Time! With this in mind, I now only have one boxset left that I need to complete these reviews. I’ve purchased the past seven or so, and while it isn’t without my affordability to purchase the last DVD boxset, I wanted to see if y’all wouldn’t mind contributing a dollar or two to help me claim it.

I don’t wanna be manipulative with this, and want to be completely straightforward: I only need $18, and even if I don’t get it, reviews will still continue as expected. I love doing these reviews more than anything, but it gets increasingly tough with the workload that I’m already faced with, so this is also a self-fulfilled opportunity to keep me churning forward. In addition to that, the combined price of each of the season DVDs so far has been costly, so I figured it might be a good opportunity for crowdfunding in my very last leg of this blog.

GoFundMe Page Located Here!

Any type of donation is welcomed, no matter how small. As you’ll see on the crowdfunding page as well, there are incentives for those who do donate specific funds!

  • If you donate $1-$4, you’ll be listed as a funder on the About page and given a shoutout in the next review.
  • If you donate $5+, you get a special bonus review of your choice!

But again, no pressure if it’s not within your affordability. That’s perfectly acceptable and you don’t have to feel as though you’re putting my life, or this blog, in jeopardy.

I’ll be casually advertising this until/if the goal is met on the next few blog entries. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions/concerns on the Contact page. I’ll see you all Friday for The Hall of Egress!

 

“Crossover” Review

C1.png

Original Airdate: January 28, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Sam Alden

The wish-world that Finn created in Finn the Human and Jake the Dog was a realm that I never expected to be revisited. I figured that the reality was instantly reversed when Jake wished for him and Finn to be back home safely in Ooo, so this plot point in particular was one that definitely flew far off of my radar. So, when I discovered that this episode would feature a return to the Farmworld dimension, I was cautiously optimistic. Optimistic, because the Farmworld bits in Jake the Dog were easily the strongest parts of the episode, but cautious because I wasn’t really sure I actually wanted a definitive resolution to this conflict. Luckily, Jesse Moynihan and Sam Alden manage to pull off exactly that while executing it in an absolutely stunning, tense, and hilarious way.

C2.png

I have very few criticisms of this one, but I’ll open up with what I think is possibly the most questionable aspect of Crossover: why did it begin in media res? I’m not necessarily saying that it’s a problem, or detracts from the quality of the episode in anyway, but I do kind of wonder what it actually adds to the episode. Granted, it’s a cool opening, and sets an ominous tone for the episode, as well as a sense of curiosity. But the episode returns to the exact same scene only a minute and a half later, and it doesn’t feel like the beginning was inserted to really save time on any aspect. It’s surely strange, but again, it’s not something I actively dislike, I just find it slightly distracting.

Though, that may just be do to the fact that the rest of the episode is mostly fantastic. This one truly has a star-studded cast, with Finn, Jake, Prismo, Ice Finn, and the Lich at the helm, along with side roles from BMO, Bil- er, Bobby, and Big Destiny. It feels like a big episode in just how crucial the main characters are in terms of their ranks in the universe: Jake and Finn are the epitome of good, the Lich is the epitome of evil, Prismo is the guardian/overseer, and Ice Finn is at the center of it all. It really helps to add to that sense of direness when some of the most powerful beings in the series are present, and their roles are certainly not wasted.

C3.png

Prismo returns once more (in Kumail Nanjiani’s LAST performance as the character; sad, ain’t it?) mostly to deliver much needed exposition, but also to act as the cautious “jedi master” type. His concern and wary nature that Finn and Jake must exterminate Ice Finn in his way and his way only once again adds to that tension on whether everything is going to end up alright in the end. And of course, his concerns actually do make sense. At first, I was kind of like, “why the fuck would Prismo care about this?” but he’s the one who technically created it to begin with. Thus, he’s responsible for the nature of said universe and how it directly affects the existence of other universes. It is curious, however, of who his boss truly is. Given that it’s never directly explained at any point in the series, I do wonder if Prismo’s boss was ever intended to be apart of the series, though the staff was never permitted the time to incorporate said storyline. My money’s on this guy, of whom Adam Muto created conceptual drawings for, but never actually made it into the series.

The way Finn views Ice Finn is certainly unique and interesting, and definitely ties into his development and growth over time. Call me out on it if you will, but I feel as if past Finn would simply go along with Prismo’s plan, and end up destroying what he would think is merely “an evil version of himself” in the process. Here, Finn is much more sympathetic and understanding. Not only has his view on evil beings changed over time, but he also likely empathizes with the Ice King more, since he realizes what little control he has over the crown. This also ties into Finn’s refusal to diss the Ice King as the series goes on, as he understands the pain he experiences and wants to do everything he can to minimize that pain as much as possible. Finn’s view of himself as well has adapted as well. In a way, Finn essentially “helps himself” in this episode using everything that he knows about his own character, including his pride, temperance, and his strong sense of morality. The days of Finn feeling sorely bad for himself are over, and he’s able to know himself better through self evaluation, and the evaluation of Ice Finn. Through this effective transformation of character, Finn helps validate his alternate self, and his own self in the process. Finn knows who he is, and that is unquestionably being a devoted hero.

C4.png

Of course, Jake’s along for the ride as well, and provides some great comic relief in response to some of the heavier, and headier, business going on within the actual story. While Finn has to deal with the inner workings of the mind of his alternate self, Jake is merely faced with a completely evil alternate version of himself that isn’t down to go through the same type of self evaluation. It wouldn’t be a completely terrific Jake appearance without his absolute devotion to his brother as well, which is fully emphasized here. Whether it be his cute “I love you,” to Finn as they almost bite it, or his courage to take on the fucking Lich for Christ’s sakes, is just great. Jake really will go the full mile for his brother, even when there’s opportunities for the two of them to safely go about finding a solution, as shown in the beginning. Jake has likely killed hundreds of baddies before, but none that looked as hauntingly similar to his own bro. And it’s the last thing that Jake would want to involve himself in.

After so many sporadic appearances in the series, I expected to kind of be nonplussed by the Lich, but Ron Perlman once again distills just the amount of solemn horror into his voice. It is hilarious to see how immune Finn and Jake are to the Lich by this point in the series. Of course, the Lich is still the big bad, and could kill any character he wants at any point, but there’s something so distinctly hilarious about Finn looking death right in the face and saying, “oh boy, here we go…” Of course, they’re terrified by him, but they’re pretty much prepared for this kind of situation by this point. They’ve been through it a handful of times before, and by now, Finn probably realizes that, though it’ll be tough, they’ll get through it again. However, I’ll reinforce that this in no way undermines the Lich’s role as a threat in this one. Despite the ultra silly way his head is placed on Jake’s body (which actually makes him even MORE threatening) Perlman’s monologue about how everyone in every multiverse will die once again hits home. As Jake said to Ice Finn earlier, “come on dude, he’s not even trying to hide [his evil]!” the Lich doesn’t even try to mask his true intentions to Ice Finn after he gets what he wants. The Lich has no need for allies or partners: once he obtains the ability to cause death everywhere possible, he has all of the power in the world to do so. He’d even kill Jake, if it wasn’t for Finn’s handy-dandy thorn arm. Once again, the thorn arm returns, this time actually having a role in battle. As proven in episodes like Billy’s Bucket List, The Comet, and Checkmate, the grass curse only effectively activates when Finn is powerless and consumed by his inability to help a situation. I do wonder if some form of level of anxiety within Finn’s system is what triggers the grass sword to act upon itself. It’s probably not important, but it’d be rad to actually have an episode where Finn attempts to control the power of the grass arm. I’d be lying if I didn’t pan out the possibility of that entire episode in my head. Maybe I’ll write incorporate it into fanfiction someday. Hm.

C5.png

After the Lich’s arm is chopped off into multiple dimensions (of which will be explored later!) the episode dissolves into one big, frenzy-filled sequence where Jake helplessly tries to fight off the Lich, and Finn attempts to reasons with his counterpart. Again, the pacing in this one is terrific. It speeds up all of the action-packed sequences to make them feel more tense and relentless, while slowing down the more character driven moments, as I just mentioned. The interactions between Finn and Ice Finn are really touching and telling (apparently Finn has a birthmark of a “flaming sideways teardrop,” or essentially, a comet. Nice touch there, Alden). These interactions are ultimately what leads the boys to working together with “The Maid,” which is one of my absolute favorite weapons in the series. That little “housekeeping!” that goes off when activated is priceless.

That help that Finn begins to offer is unfortunately cut short, but luckily, Prismo’s an expert with Adobe Premiere and patches the whole thing up. Of course, it’s one big reference to the fact that the ice crown was accidentally shown to still be on Simon’s head in Jake the Dog, but I’ve seen a couple different complaints of people who thought this was somewhat of a deus ex machina and that Prismo shouldn’t really possess the power to interfere with other universes. Honestly, I didn’t mind it at all because 1. It’s funny. 2. It’s at the command of the wish bearer himself and the being that granted the wish. Prismo could theoretically just let Finn sit with the wish that he made, but he isn’t a dick. Prismo would rather help the dude who saved his life than to let someone endlessly suffer for the rest of eternity. Though Finn helps his alternate self, the only thing that’s possibly more painful for Finn than Ice Finn suffering is the fact that he has a really good family life outside of everything. Finn has never met his mom, and had previously spent an entire year dealing with the fact that his dad is a legitimately shitty person. Though Finn has a home with Jake and BMO and the other treehouse boys, he’s still stuck with the sad reminder that he has no caring birth parents to rely on. It’s the perfect quiet ending to cap off an otherwise intense episode, and one that opens up Finn’s longing for more possibilities in the future.

C6.png

On a visual aspect, this episode is just gorgeous. Aside from Evergreen, this may be the best looking episode to date. The subdued blues and whites of the iced-up Farmworld are pleasant and somewhat calming, so when the brighter yellows and greens arise during the Lich’s arrival, it really adds a dark and foreboding feeling, even if the contrasting colors are saying the opposite. The landscape in general is really awesome, feeling like an even bleaker and less welcoming Ice Kingdom. In addition to that, Finn and Jake looking fucking rad in those snow jackets. No kidding, I would pay good money for a vinyl figure of Finn in that jacket with his Finn Sword. Get on it, Kidrobot!

Other small things I liked about this one: hearing Lou Ferrigno’s one final time in the series as Bobby, the return of the Enchiridion and the fact that it actually has a unique, different design on the cover, the boys’ random Tree Fort activities at the beginning of the episode, the return of the talking Finn Sword, and the allusions to Finn getting better at playing the flute ACTUALLY having a role in future episodes. It’s always been a headcanon of mine that Finn subconsciously picked up the last name “Mertens” from his experiences within the Farmworld.

Crossover is just an overall delight. Sam Alden and Jesse Moynihan make for terrific boarding team this season; Moynihan is still able to pull off some crazy, off-the-walls stories like this, but is more grounded with Alden’s guidance. It’s a fast-paced, fun, exhilarating journey that really kicks off a series of terrific episodes spanning across the entire rest of the season. In particular, my favorite of season seven is coming up next.

C7

Favorite line: “Are you bein’ stupid on purpose?”

 

“Scamps” Review

S 1.png

Original Airdate: January 21, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

The first half of season seven is comparable to the first half of season five, in a way. While not bad in any way, shape, or form, season 5.1 was filled with a lot of decent to good episodes, but very few that actually stood out as exceptionally hilarious or dramatic. In the same vein, the first half of season seven has had FootballEverything StaysMay I Come In?, and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know (and I just miiight throw in Varmints as well) while the 20 or so other episodes have ranged from mostly decent to just generally good. Not to say this is a bad thing; season 5.2 and season 6 contain some of the best episodes of the series, and also a handful of the worst episodes of the series. Thus far, the only episodes of this season that I would consider “bad” are Cherry Cream Soda and Checkmate, so it really does not hurt to get treated to a series of mostly decent or pleasant episodes that are mildly inoffensive in their own right. But at the time, it did have me longing for some of those really strong entries that season six was churning out. I mention this because Scamps is perhaps the last fluff episode of season seven, and we start getting some exceedingly terrific entries from this point on. It’s hard for me to actually think of a single episode after Scamps that isn’t intriguing on some level (that’s not to say there aren’t any criticisms to be had, however) and I really look forward to entering the second chapter of this season. For now, we have Scamps, which again, isn’t terrible by any means, but probably equals Paper Pete‘s level of “so unimaginably simplistic that I nearly forget it exists.” Seriously, I have trouble thinking of anything that actually stood out to me in this one.

S 2.png

The Marshmallow Kids are… odd characters to introduce at this point in the series. The episode actually opens with a mini face-off between the Marshmallow Kids and the Notorious Pup Gang, and it really made me wonder… why the fuck didn’t this episode just star the Pup Gang? They’re already established characters and criminal adolescents with nearly identical backstories, I have no idea where the concept came from to introduce a set of entirely new characters (of whom we’re never even going to see again) just for the purpose of this episode. They’re cute in their antics, I suppose, but are all pretty interchangeable and don’t really have any defining personality traits outside of being swindlers. The only thing noteworthy about them that I actually realized while rewatching this episode is that one is voiced by Max Charles, who portrays the titular character in Harvey Beaks. It was nice to hear his voice in something else, and it actually surprised me to see that Charles is featured a lot in other television roles.

Finn’s part in the episode is pretty nice. It’s just cool to see him in the role of caregiver in general, and after all of the growth that he had experienced from the previous season, it’s even nicer to see that he’s a better teacher to children than his own father was to him. The way he uses genuine survival tactics as a method of tricking the children into scamming is pretty cute, and in the most “Finn” way possible. Honestly, the one thing that bothered me the most about Finn in this episode are his facial expressions. I really, really hate this gambit of having to shit on Somvilay in every single episode he works on, because the guy has some honest to God great stuff coming up, but the way Finn’s eyes and mouth are distanced from each other when his face is shown is truly offputting. It’s almost like Somvilay was working off of Herpich’s method of drawing Finn’s facial expressions, but took it one step beyond in a way that just makes Finn look really wonky and unnatural. I know you’re a professional who could probably care less about the opinion of some dork on the internet, but my apologies, Somvy. I promise I’ll show you justice in the future.

S 3.png

There’s a few other things I like about this one; PB’s voice memo to Finn, and her outfits in general (momma’s lookin’ good) are pretty great, and Jake’s brief role was priceless. I love how much Jake’s changes in lifestyle are emphasized in the beginning of the episode, and then retroactively retconned by the time he realizes how successful he can become. That boy couldn’t stop loving crime all together even if he tried.

The two things I like most about this episode are actually on a technical level. As always, the backgrounds and colors look beautiful, especially the transition from daytime to night. Also, Tim Kiefer’s score throughout Scamps was on point! He uses really distinct trumpet sounds to go along with the personalities of the Marshmallow Kids quite nicely, in a way that actually reminds me of Ed, Edd n Eddy (wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Kiefer got his inspiration for this one).

S 4.png

Otherwise, this episode is just entirely forgettable. Similar to Paper Pete, it’s hard for me to trash it completely, because I don’t find it unbearable, but it’s so uninteresting in its story and execution of events. There are very, very few jokes, the Marshmallow Kids are particularly unremarkable, their relationship with Finn, while cute, is just kind of generic, and it fails to stick out to me in its humor, story, drama, or anything else it has to offer. Similar to The Pods, it’s a straightforward story that could have been done on pretty much any other show. When I think of Adventure TimeScamps is one of the last episodes to actually come into my head.

Interestingly enough, Scamps is actually Adventure Time‘s peak in viewership. This episode garnered 1.45 million views, a feat that no other episode of the series since has been able to accomplish. Granted, CN’s poor television marketing and the decline of cable in general could easily be at blame for this, but it’s still humorous to think that this episode was the dropping point for AT in terms of viewership.

Favorite line: “Ya know, those Marshmallow Kids remind me of you when you were a young lad.”

“King’s Ransom” Review

KR 1.png

Original Airdate: January 15, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Andres Salaff

The oddest thing about King’s Ransom to me is that it centers around Ice King’s journey into finding the missing Gunter, which is the exact same plot of the Ice King comic miniseries that was released FIVE DAYS after this episode had aired. I mean, it’s likely a coincidence, but just strikes me as especially odd considering that storyboard artist Emily Partridge ended up being the head writer for said miniseries, and whether or not it’s canon, I can imagine that anyone who picked up Ice King Issue #1 that week suffered from a serious case of deja-vu. But, regardless, the episode itself proves to be a lot of fun, and one that works mostly on simplicity as a means of success. And who better than to capture the charming, lovely simplicity of the main cast than Hanna K. Nyström?

KR 2.png

Nyström only just began as a storyboard artist in season seven, but her ability to empathize and understand these characters, as well as her strong efforts in storytelling, have truly led her to be one of my favorite board artists in the latter half of the series. Like Kent Osborne, Nyström has a way of depicting the cast in such a non-cynical and loving way that is just absolutely irresistible. It’s a method that may have been a bit too sweet early on in the series, but as our main characters begin to change and evolve, it’s more than welcomed as an accurate form of development. Joining her at the helm of this one is Andres Salaff, who doesn’t have a very big portfolio in the storyboarding realm aside from this episode and The Music Hole, but his efforts in those two do reinforce his equal ability to understand the characters on a personal level. Hell, he was a supervising director for two seasons, after all!

Following up from that whole ramble, a lot of the enjoyment from this episode comes from the absolutely delightful interactions between Finn, Jake, and Ice King. I certainly view King’s Ransom as a big turning point in the relationship between the boys and Ice King. By this point in time, Finn has almost fully warmed up to the IK. In fact, he shows absolutely no sign of being angry or frustrated by Ice King, even when he’s directly inconveniencing the brothers. Of course, Jake still hasn’t fully warmed up to Ice King’s often manic behavior, and is noticeably upset with him, at least at first. Jake slowly begins to sympathize with Ice King as the episode progresses, mostly in a way that goes back to Ice King’s previously sentiment that Gunter is comparable to being Finn’s Jake (or vice-versa). Jake likely identifies in the sweetness behind Ice King and Gunter’s relationship, in the same way that Jake would do anything to save his little bro in his time of need (humorously, Ice King might actually be even more dedicated in his efforts than Jake would. We all remember Power Animal, right?) so he’s able to look at the IK from a more sympathetic outlook. It would still take a bit more time for Jake to fully treat the guy as an equal, but this is a HUGE step for him in his behavior.

KR 3.png

While I don’t mean to undermine some terrific conflict episodes between the brothers and their overly clingy compadre, it is really cool to see a straightforward adventure-themed episode with all three boys working together in harmony. A lot of the fun with this one does derives from all of the back-and-forth interactions between the boys, and the circumstances that befall them. This is also an episode that is particularly silly in its execution of particular elements; the literal fox chase that involves Jake multiplying into several identical (non-sentient) Jakes, Mr. Fox’s disturbance in his own lonely bedroom, the added bit of lore to Ice King that he begins to look more like Simon whenever his crown is miles away from him, and various other visual gags that are just delightful (the return of the Jake car got me particularly giddy). The concept in general, while treated in a genuine way, is equally kind of hilarious when you start to think about it. Ice King is searching specifically for “Gunter”, while there are hundreds of other penguins that take refuge in his own kingdom. I didn’t even think he could tell the difference half of the time.

Though it’s silly, a lot of the episode does work off of your emotional investment in the situation, which again, I believe to be genuine. You really get the feeling that Ice King does care about Gunter, beyond being just the archetypal sidekick for his muse. It’s probably one of his most heroic displays to date, and he constantly puts himself in dire situations, just for the sake of saving his little buddy. While Ice King’s entire existence is based around the life of a man who cared very little for his pupil, IK proves to be an improvement just by showing that he does care in one way, shape or form. Of course, some of this did read to me as a bit schmaltzy at first, but it was quickly negated when we get to the end.

KR 4.png

I probably sound redundant getting to this next point, but I once again think it’s SO IMPORTANT that Ice King willingly almost gives up Gunter at the sight of a beautiful woman. While I’m totally for getting bits and hints of Ice King being able to develop over a period of time, it is once again an important reminder that Ice King will never fully change as long as the crown holds power over him. And that’s alright! Ice King’s apathy and failure to understand social connections are what made him great to begin with, and while I love the connections of understanding and love that he develops throughout the series, it great that the show is still dedicated to showing off his insanity and selfishness despite it all. As for the reveal of Betty, it was pretty fine. It leaves a bit of intrigue for Broke His Crown, but doesn’t really do much for me here. I think the reveal in general was pretty obvious for anyone watching, and the Herpich-styled tin can voice just kind of felt like an excuse for how Lena Dunham couldn’t make it into the booth at the time. I do love the fakeout, however, where Ice King begins to stutter and finally calls her “be-autiful” instead of “Betty.” Once again, it’s important to remember this guy has lost his mind, and there’s very few things that can change that at this point in time.

But overall, King’s Ransom is a lot of fun. Definitely not one of the stronger season seven episodes, but one that’s delightful regardless. It’s so weird to think that the last episode based around Finn, Jake, and Ice King’s relationship was Play Date, so it’s exceptionally rewarding that this episode simultaneously gets back to the basics, while also showing clear signs of evolution. This attitude surrounding the Ice King would only continue to shift as time went on, especially within this season in general.

KR 5

Favorite line: “The last time I saw Gunter, I was yelling at him for pooting. But it wasn’t Gunter who pooted. It was me!”

 

 

“Bad Jubies” Review

BJ 1.png

Original Airdate: January 14, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kirsten Lepore

Bad Jubies is the fourth installment in Adventure Time‘s guest animator series, and it might be the best looking entry to date. I’m a sucker for stop motion; whether it be truly gorgeous pieces of cinema, such as Anomalisa or Isle of Dogs, or even some of the sillier examples, like Gumby or those corny Rankin-Bass holiday specials, there’s something undeniably charming about the art form that draws me in, even when the material isn’t particularly good. There is a clear sense of effort put into this episode, which took over a year to make. In fact, it actually started production before Water Park Prank, the previous guest animated episode, had even been conceived. And that effort really pays off; the characters look true to their 2-D counterparts, the backgrounds and scenery are absolutely gorgeous, and the animation feels thoroughly expressive and fluid throughout the run of the episode. The episode was directed entirely by Kirsten Lepore, an animator who specializes in stop motion. I actually had not known of Lepore’s work before this episode, but I did check out her stuff afterwards and quickly fell in love with it (with Bottle and Hi Stranger being my favorites). She’s also provided animation for Yo Gabba Gabba and recently has taken on the role of being a storyboard artist for Summer Camp Island. But, while I love the look of this episode, how does it fare when it comes to story and writing aspects? Well, it’s… alright.

BJ 2.png

I really feel bad saying that, and I really wanted to like this one, but just as I’ve said with the past three episodes, it comes across being “just good enough.” There’s nothing particularly bad about it, so to speak, and I think it actually gets down the portrayal of the main characters much better than most of the other guest animated episodes were able to. Granted, some of the portrayals may have been a bit too exaggerated, but I’ll get into that in a bit. Ironically, however, Lepore’s attention to the characters and environment actually somewhat backfires in a way. Typically, guest animated episodes are a chance for the animator to blend their style with AT in a way that sets it apart, while still feeling as though its capturing the show’s essence. Lepore does so well, but in a way that feels like it’s playing it a bit too safe.

Elaborating on what I mean by this, Food Chain was obviously set apart by the detailed Flash animation and surreal stories it could tell through its medium. Bad Jubies is the opposite. It presents a pretty subpar story and doesn’t really do anything particularly creative or interesting with the use of its stop motion that sets it apart from any other episode. Really, if you take away the element of stop motion, this is just your average Adventure Time episode. With a genre as sophisticated and unique as stop motion, I wish a lot more could’ve been played with in terms of fun and surreal animation – imagine the possibilities with Jake’s stretchiness! Again, I hate talking shit on that aspect, because stop motion in general is really expensive and time-consuming, but it fails to get me invested on the story in general, and the animation doesn’t really benefit for any little added bonuses that help carry it through.

BJ 3.png

Aside from the story being rather generic and bland, the episode isn’t really on the more humorous side either. In fact, I fail to remember a moment where I had even laughed once. A lot of the attempts at jokes in this one revolve around Lumpy Space Princess being really loud and selfish, and all of you longtime readers probably know how I feel about that by now. She’s obnoxious, intolerant, and unfortunately takes up half of the episode. This is around the last point in time where LSP significantly weighs down an episode with her own vanity, and thank God for that. I’m all for giving the girl a chance, because she has episodes like Bad Timing and Be Sweet under her belt, but I had grown exceedingly tired of her character by this episode. She’s Adventure Time‘s Eric Cartman without any of the charisma or subtle brilliance, and is merely there to be the loud valley girl and nothing more. Luckily, she has a nice breakout role in Elements down the line, which gave me a full season break from her character that I truly needed.

In addition to that exaggerated character portrayal, I thought Jake might have been a bit too zen for my own liking. I dunno, I might be nitpicking here, because I don’t think it was totally out of line with his character, but some parts felt a bit contrived to me. Jake’s spiel about people being way too locked into their technology just didn’t seem like Jake. He’s a cool guy and real spiritual, but he spent an entire episode dedicated to beating his high score on his favorite video game, so I feel as though Bad Jubies tries to showcase him in a bit too much of a Buddha light. He almost seems too unconcerned by the events of the storm that he doesn’t even care if anything happens to himself or his friends in the process. Granted, I do like his role overall, and I think it was a unique decision for Lepore to make Jake the star of the episode over everyone else. While Finn and Jake have had somewhat of an equal role in the past three guest animated episodes, this one is clearly leaning more towards Jake. I just think it would’ve been a lot cooler if Jake had some sort of grapple with his mortality, or something. That stuff is always fun.

BJ 4.png

Finn and BMO are portrayed well, but as I mentioned, the story is what mostly suffers from this one. Again, it’s not particularly interesting, and I feeling like it’s trying to have a message at the end, but it really isn’t cohesive. It feels as if the episode is attempting to portray Jake in a better light than everyone else, because he’s managing to find peace and serenity while everyone else stresses out… but isn’t it kind of perfectly reasonable for them to do so? I mean, it’s a deadly storm, and the set up of the episode makes it pretty certain that this is not something that they can get around. If the episode had perhaps centered around insecurities and fears that seemed irrational, Jake’s zen behavior may have provided for a better light of positivity. I get that Jake ends up saving the day by being level-headed and peaceful, but I dunno, it kind of just reminds me of the people in disaster stories who put all of their faith in the church, and then end being swept up by a tornado. I feel like stress is a genuine necessity when it comes to dealing with crisis situations.

So, what do I like about this episode? Well, as I had mentioned before, the look of it is gorgeous. The backgrounds and models are great, and the music really sets the ambiance (which was composed by diasterpeace, whose work in this one sounds a lot like Tim Kiefer’s). That gag at the beginning with BMO’s super-detailed weather forecast face was pretty humorous, but that’s kind of it. Not to say that I hated the rest of the episode, but very little actually stuck out to me. I could see this concept working as a 3-5 minute short, but I don’t think it really makes for an entirely satisfying 11 minute segment. I still want to commend Lepore and her team for their work on this episode, as this is easily the most impressively constructed guest animator episode thus far. There’s actually a short 12 minute documentary about the making of this episode, entitled Good Jubies: The Making of Bad Jubies, which you can watch on Cartoon Network’s YouTube here, and you can also check out all of Lepore’s other wonderful animations here.

BJ 5.png

Favorite line: “How bout some o’ dem bean-beans?” (It’s the inflections that really make this one)

 

“Blank-Eyed Girl” Review

BEG 1.png

Original Airdate: January 13, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Blank-Eyed Girl is a horror-themed episode that mainly deals with the ideas and concepts of the horror genre. A lot of the discussions between Finn, Jake, and Starchy aim to analyze fear and frightening objects of our perception and to conclude with where the source of said fear comes from. Each of the boys ends up coming up with their own separate points, but result in mostly confused by the conclusion. And while this episode isn’t particularly strong in its story, humor, or visuals, it does manage to get me invested in the allusions to horror in general.

BEG 2.png

Each character follows a pretty interesting archetype, so I’ll briefly chat about each depiction. Jake obviously plays the part of the skeptic: someone who is close-minded when it comes to the existence of the unknown and is unable to accept it as anything more than “bologna.” It is shown, however, that Jake actually ends up being the most frightened when it comes to dealing with the existence of the blank-eyed girls. It’s an interesting analogy; those who reject the harsh truths or the unknown aspects of reality are the ones who are likely the most afraid of those possibilities of said truths. After all, Jake has a ton of life experience under his belt and likely rests easy knowing that he probably feels as though he has the world itself figured out on his own. But, there will always be that scary aspect of the unknown, and life experience itself is what really cripples Jake. It’s the reason older people in general are more likely to be close-minded: while the world changes, adapts, and unravels with new secrets nearly everyday, an aged person is more likely to dismiss such, as it’s not something they have been trained to adapt to.

Finn, on the other hand, is young and malleable. He’s able to become more accepting towards the unknown because he hasn’t gotten to a point where it has separated itself from his grasp on reality. Thus, Finn is still scared, but he’s able to look upon the blank-eyed girls with acceptance and an analysis on creepy stuff in general. As the boy eloquently states, “Creepy is just another label we use to distance ourselves from stuff we don’t understand. Or reminds us of something within ourselves we’re not comfortable with. It just ain’t an actual thing, unless you choose to believe it.” That’s actually some pretty truthful shit, and while I think there are definitely things that can accurately be determined as creepy, (as in things that are also illegal) it is easy for social norms to be a deciding factor in what is viewed as creepy or beyond one’s understanding. As an avid collector of Powerpuff Girls merchandise, I can assure you that I am a victim of the former theory! I also think it’s cute that Finn genuinely has an interest in Starchy’s radio show and doesn’t dismiss it as Jake does. While the boys never really felt one-dimensional as a unit, it’s still cool to watch Finn grow and to see that he does have interests that differ from Jake’s own itinerary, especially when remembering the age gap between the two.

BEG 3.png

Starchy plays the part of the conspiracy theorist, and the show does a good job of portraying him as both a complete fabricator, and also somewhat competent in his position. It’s easy to dismiss him as a crazy conspirator, but half of the time, he’s usually right in his hypotheses. He was right about Princess Bubblegum being impersonated by a lizard, her own shady behavior, and the existence of the blank-eyed girls. Starchy may be a nut, but he also plays a part in showing how we also often dismiss people like himself for being insane, though it’s difficult to completely disprove his conjectures. He was also a million times more likable in this episode than he was in Cherry Cream Soda, so that on its own is a plus.

The blank-eyed girls prove to be beyond anyone’s comprehension, however. It’s a good reminder that, though we can try however we want to cope with fear and the unknown, we never know exactly what it will bring. The blank-eyed girls remain as an enigma and an example of how bizarre reality can be in its own right. As BMO also remarks in response to their transformation, “I think it was… beautiful!” there’s beauty to find in even the most horrific things perceivable to mankind, as it proves for most horror movies fanatics.

BEG 4.png

I mean… did you expect me not to put this screenshot in here?

This episode is scattered with funny and/or likable moments: Finn and Jake deciding to hold hands on their walk home was adorable, the fact that they spent $200 on pizza was a great throwaway gag, John DiMaggio’s voice acting is usually on point, and that end sequence is pretty great. The episode in general is nothing particularly remarkable, however, because I don’t really think the story is that strong. While the roles that Finn, Jake, and Starchy take on are certainly interesting, I find a lot of the episode to be lacking substance. Most of it is just Finn and Jake being freaked out by the concept of blank-eyed girls, who are really uninteresting in their own right. I do like how they’re somewhat of a satirical look at society’s genuine fear of creepy, little girls, but otherwise, they don’t do much and aren’t particularly frightening either. I think the title card for this episode is way creepier than anything within Blank-Eyed Girl. This is also the fourth or fifth strictly horror-themed episode of the series, and it feels like it’s treading on similar grounds by this point in time. Hell, a lot of this episode feels as if it’s borrowing from Ghost Fly, which similarly felt unremarkable.

So, it ends up being a fairly passable episode that’s mostly inoffensive. I do find it strange that Angel FacePresident Porpoise is Missing!Blank-Eyed GirlBad Jubies, and A King’s Ransom all aired in bomb-format, as most of these entries fall under the “just good enough” category. Perhaps it was a method to further progress the season, and I think it actually works quite nicely, as it allows for a group of breather episodes to pass by pleasantly throughout the week. While none of these episodes stand out as great for myself, this bomb did resonate for me as just a genuinely nice waste of time.

BEG 5.png

And as I sit here chatting about wasting time, we have only a mere few hours until the series finale finally airs. It has been so delightful to do these reviews over the past two years (the show’s cancellation had already been announced for three months when I started this blog, and now we’re more than halfway through the series!) and I look forward to continue to do so even after the series is finished. This is such a special show for myself, as well as for you readers and the AT fandom in general. I sincerely hope that all of you enjoy and cherish this final 44 minutes of content, and whether you enjoy it or not, it’s hard to deny that it was well worth the ride. As a final sentiment before the finale, I share with you all some fanart I drew up of my favorite boys. I’ll miss the Tree Fort family more than anything.

treefort boys.png

Favorite line: “I took up rock climbing! … My wife left me… and all new conspiracies!”

“Adventure Time Reviewed” crosses over with RE-Cast

Hey y’all! The Blank-Eyed Girl review will be out later tonight, but I first wanted to share something I did earlier this week over on YouTube. I had the pleasure of being apart of Pieguyrulz and MonsterReview’s podcast series entitled RE-Cast. They’re two really cool guys who are truly intellectually engaging when it comes to animation.

The podcast involves analyses of Slumber Party Panic and From Bad to Worse. Given that I’m not particularly crazy about either episode, it was pretty interesting to look back on both and to see which one was able to successfully explore the story better than the other. I hope you all enjoy listening to it more than I do, because I hate the sound of my own voice!