Archive | December 2018

“High Strangeness” Review

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Original Airdate: January 25, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Pendleton Ward & Sam Alden

These first six episodes of Season 8 were initially aired in “bomb” format, meaning within the same week. Of all six episodes, High Strangeness was likely the one that I was looking forward to the least. By watching the initial previews, I was really under the impression that this would be one of “those” later season episodes that tries so endlessly hard to replicate the random wackiness of the earlier seasons, but never really gets it quite right. On top of that, this was Pendleton Ward’s return to the storyboarding front after being absent for the entirety of two seasons, and I was somewhat skeptical about how in touch he would be with his creation after being gone for so long. Likewise, his board partner Sam Alden seemed like an… odd fit for him. Alden typically specializes in adding coherency to Jesse’s overly heady stories, while occasionally hitting on the humor of individual character moments. It seemed like an odd pairing to say the least, but with that skepticism aside, this episode is pretty great and likely my favorite of the bunch (save for Do No Harm). Not only is it a hilarious episode with tons of sight gags, subtle moments, and terrific one-liners, but it’s also surprisingly heavy in its closing moments.

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I never knew that I wanted an episode centered around Tree Trunks’ extra-terrestrial husband and offspring, but it surprisingly just kind of makes sense. As promiscuous as she is, I have no problem accepting that, at some point in time, Tree Trunks fucked and married an alien. It’s a hilariously over-the-top bit of character building for her character, but it’s fitting nonetheless. Dunno why, but I feel like Pendleton Ward really specializes with Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s characters. I have no proof to back this, because Ward has not written or boarded a single episode with these two as the focus, but I get the feeling that they’re just his type of characters. They’re silly, often bizarre, and simple. Not to imply that Ward doesn’t work well with complexity, as Adventure Time was his creation after all, but his approach to writing for these characters channels into his roots as a storyteller. The reason we care for Finn and Jake initially is because they’re so simple and silly, whereas TT and Mr. P are pretty much in the same vein.

A lot of those small, subtle moments of humor that I mentioned earlier run rampant in Ward’s section of the episode, in the best possible way. I can’t even express to you guys how much I love the blank-faced Finn portrait above Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s bed. It’s like, why the fuck is that even there? I mean, yeah, he’s a close friend to both of them, but why would they position a portrait of a 16-year-old kid directly in the center of their bedroom? What makes this so hysterical is that, again, it kind of makes sense. With Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s strange lifestyles, I can totally see this being a decision that they sat down and chatted about. Also, Mr. Pig’s way of taping his loved ones’ noses as they snore is both demented and kind of sweet. I only say sweet because I really can’t resist that moment of Mr. Pig looking over Sweet P. while he sleeps. That melted my heart.

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The scenes to follow at Princess Bubblegum’s science festival are equally as bizarre and delightful. That pose of Jake stretching into a comfortable seat while holding BMO and holding various objects is another example of something that only a goofball like Ward could come up with, along with the shoe camera that Starchy utilizes and PB’s Texas shaped button. The addition of Princess Bubblegum and her plans of colonization are really what add another layer of substance to this episode. I was curious as to how PB’s developmental transition would change or alter her character, and I’m glad that this episode shows that she does still battle with her own morality in reference to what is best for her people and the Candy Kingdom in general. Here, it’s a more complex situation than what we’ve dealt with in the past. No one from the Candy Kingdom is directly affected by PB’s decisions, but outside sources are. Bonnie likely doesn’t realize the effect she’s having to begin with, but I think she does realize from the beginning that it could have somewhat of a harmful result. Her line “I’m doing the right thing,” definitely implies that there is some form of regret behind her actions, though she knows it is important to keep her legacy and the Candy People alive and well.

An added dose of PB’s shadiness means we get to see the Veritas Brigade once more! It’s a bit disappointing that Peace Master doesn’t appear once more, though understandable why he wouldn’t come back. The scenes leading up to TT and Starchy’s convening are just great; Tree Trunks writing “fascist” in glitter is one of my favorite gif-able moments in the series and completely unexpected… just how many kids know what fascism is anyway? Also, Starchy’s super drawn out method of getting to the secret location of the Brigade, only to find out that it’s where he and Tree Trunks had initially met, is just priceless and something I didn’t even notice on my first couple viewings. This really is a spectacular “blink and you’ll miss it” episode. In general, I like seeing the Brigade again, and even enjoy the way the members are fleshed out a bit more in this episode, like the Banana Guard and “Booshy.” One main question I have one my mind, however: what the hell happened to Toronto in that picture on the wall? I dunno if it’s something that was just generally lost in the animation process, but man, it’s freaky.

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When the Brigade does break into PB’s storage unit (with more hilarious tactics; Nurse Poundcake uses a smoke bomb where it’s clearly not needed) TT and PB come face to face in a dramatic way. After being abducted by the spaceship, PB begins to understand the weight of her decision, and chooses to step back from her methods. Her reasons are, again, understandable. After everything that has happened to the Candy Kingdom in the past year or so, with the passing of the catalyst comet, the invasions of vampires, and the idea that her role as a ruler is finite, PB’s choice to colonize makes sense with the reality that there are plenty of horrific things that could become of the CK (and eventually do). The scene with PB and TT walking and talking during the sunrise is another one of my favorites from the series; it’s a potent moment in which PB allows herself to become vulnerable to someone she doesn’t even like in order to reveal her personal struggles in the process. Similarly, Tree Trunks allows her stern, no-nonsense self to lighten up and compromise with someone who is presumably her strongest enemy to date. It’s a really nice moment between two unlikely characters. But of course, the episode comes to its grand conclusion when Tree Trunks’ alien husband and Mr. Pig humbly come face-to-face with each other. I really don’t know how much more stress Mr. P can take at this point.

High Strangeness is, like the title suggests, an odd and unusual entry, but one that owns its bizarre nature and turns it into utter hilarity, while also knowing the importance of carrying through with its story. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Tree Trunks-centric episode, and High Strangeness really delivers with a story that’s as silly and strange as her character, but one that also helps to flesh out the world of AT and the vulnerability of its characters. It’s also a visually strong episode, with Alden’s scenes being really well-detailed and lit, and Ward’s depictions of the alien society being just trippy enough to work. One criticism I do have is that the design of the aliens feels somewhat lazy and uninspired, but not particularly unlikable. There is a reason why the simplified big eyes and slanted nostrils is so popular, and it works within AT‘s world decently. And truthfully, any episode that involves Tree Trunks smacking Mr. Pig’s ass gets a thumbs up from myself.

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Favorite line: “Booshy’s only prison is this wicked planet!” “Yeah… well, join the club.”

“Wheels” Review

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Original Airdate: January 24, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Charmaine Verhagen

Wheels is… an interesting episode. One that I think is neither good nor bad… but… interesting. In the grand scheme of things, there’s only about 40 episodes of AT left by this point, and this is sort of the last episode focused on Jake and his kin. With that in mind, this episode focuses less on the relationship between Jake and his son, Kim Kil Whan, and more on Jake and the relationship between KKW and his daughter Bronwyn, a rebellious skater girl. That aspect of Bronwyn’s personality alone seems a bit sitcom-y, and it even plays out mostly in stereotypical sitcom fashion, though by the end of it, Jake hasn’t really learned anything about himself or his behavior to those around him. I’m not saying any of these aspects are really bad things either; the story treads similar waters to the “rebellious kids and dorky elders” trope, but isn’t painful or cringe-worthy in any fashion, and while Jake doesn’t treat his granddaughter in the nicest fashion, it’s mostly in line with his character. However, looking at in hindsight, I’m not really sure this is the story or the conclusion that I really want to see at this point in the show’s run.

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One decision that I am thankful for is that Kim Kil Whan is a hell of a lot nicer and more reasonable in this episode than he was in Ocarina. The interactions between Jake and KKW at the beginning of Wheels are genuinely nice and charming. It honestly works somewhat against the episode that KKW is presented this way, however. By the end of the episode, you kind of end up sympathizing with Kim Kil Whan much more than one would with Jake, and while that’s impressive on its own, I’m not really sure I should be meant to feel such a way. Like, Kim Kil Whan was pretty much an utter asshole in Ocarina, and even though he had reasons for behaving the way that he did, it was much easier to feel for Jake because of how sweet and lovable he is. Here, the situation is kind of flipped (though Jake is way more tolerable than KKW was in the former episode) and it’s a shame that this episode more-or-less paints KKW in the right for thinking his father is essentially a deadbeat. The growth in KKW’s behavior can obviously be seen, as he doesn’t absolutely retaliate against Jake as he previously did, though we don’t really ever get to see Jake “win” in this arc. Ocarina ended with Kim Kil Whan feeling a bit better overall after seeing that Jake at least meant well in his behavior, though Jake himself never really got an opportune chance to prove himself as a father figure or as a person in general. Here… he doesn’t really get to either. The entire arc between these two characters then feels somewhat unsatisfying. I always figured that the series would end on Jake’s status as a responsible father still being highly questionable, but sheesh, Wheels really doesn’t hold back on the fact that Jake hasn’t learned absolutely anything by the end of it.

While we’re on the topic, I’ll repeat myself once more: I don’t think Jake’s role in this episode is necessarily bad or out of character. His desire to be cool likely stems from the fact that Jake probably didn’t really have a true chance to be a teenager. After all, he’s essentially 16 in actuality, and probably didn’t get the full experience to “be cool” and impress the other kids around him. We actually know very little of these formative years in Jake’s life, so I think it’s easy to assume that this could be true and tie into his fear of aging as a whole. Jake also has the laidback, rebellious, somewhat competitive side of a teenager, which also helps to show how he fits into the crowd. Tying back to what I was saying before, it just so happens that I feel this is the exact wrong story and wrong time in the series to have him behave this way. I get that Jake is the one character that kind of stays himself while everyone around him goes through their own personal epiphanies, but I would have liked to see him have a bit of remorse and responsibility towards his treatment of Bronwyn. I do like the moments where he’s legitimately concerned about how the kids view her and tries to help her out, but that kindness quickly shifts into his competitive nature, which is fun, but not really the type of experience that I feel was necessary for his character in any which way. I think this story would have been executed a lot better in general had it just been a group of random teenagers that Jake was challenging, rather than someone from his immediate family. Just felt like they were pushing the envelope a bit too much with how careless Jake can be.

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Bronwyn is somewhat of a cult character among fans. Granted, her fanbase isn’t exceptionally huge, but I have seen a lot of artwork of her character on tumblr, deviantart, and other spaces of the internet (don’t take that the wrong way). Her character is… fine, I guess. I’m not really sure where her appeal comes from, to be honest. I mean, she has a cool design and gnarly powers (love the lightning abilities) but otherwise, there’s not much to her. She’s kind of just a generic teenage rebel character. She isn’t particularly funny, tragic, or intriguing, and I’m not sure the episode really means for her to be, but man, I am surprised at how much people get into her character. I guess it is her design, which is admittedly well-crafted, but otherwise, I think she’s mostly forgettable.

I keep mentioning the “story” of this one, but truthfully, outside of Bronwyn and Jake’s dynamic which is mostly funny, I feel as though the plot of Wheels is somewhat paper thin. A lot of it is just Bronwyn’s group of friends switching back and forth on whether they think Jake or Bronwyn are cool or not. It quickly gets repetitive until we actually get to the final sequence: a big skateboard race between Jake and Bronwyn. Part of what makes this aspect work so well is board supervisor Erik Fountain’s assistance with the skateboarding scenes, which turned out really fluid and delightfully complex in the final cut. It’s a really enjoyable sequence that I initially expected to be dreadful, but it turned out quite nice in its execution. Combine those scenes with some scattered funny lines and enjoyable moments, like Finn’s sleep-fluting (which even summoned his former flame, Huntress Wizard) or Jake’s delirious rambling after face-planting, and we’re left with a half-decent episode.

I dunno, I’m divisive with Wheels. I like parts of it, and even the parts I don’t really like, I acknowledge that they aren’t especially bad or detrimental, but I feel as though it just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. If there was ever an episode that left me feeling as though Jake was a flat out poor parental figure, I think this would be the one. I still believe that Jake as a character is a loving and caring person, but I’m not really sure what exactly this episode sought to accomplish. Was it to show that Jake simply can’t grow beyond his childish and immature demeanor? Was it an apology letter to those who thought Kim Kil Whan was too harsh in the previous episode? Whatever it ended up being, I really can’t grab for a clear, concise reason for this episode. Not that every episode really needs to have a reason or a purpose, but when we’re so far down the line with only so many episodes left, I’d expect an episode centering around Jake and his family to be a bit more potent. Sadly, things end in a bit of a whimper, and it’s a little bit disheartening that this was the culmination of everything that Jake has tried to achieve as a father. We get more moments later on revolving around his relationships with the pups, though, it’s mostly reiterating what we already knew. Wheels tries something new, but in my humble opinion, it’s information that we didn’t really need to begin with.

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Favorite line: “Not the swan, that’s where the pups came from!”

“Do No Harm” Review

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Original Airdate: January 23, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Emily Partridge & Laura Knetzger

Two Swords was a great introduction to grass Finn’s character, or Fern as he’s finally christened in this episode, though it left me wanting even more from his character. Do No Harm quickly delivers, and cleverly chooses to separate both Finn and Fern in order to expand on their characters individually. What makes this episode so great, however, is the strong parallels that are ingeniously tied together between the two boys.

Aside from All the Little People, this is one of my favorite episodes that Tim Kiefer has ever scored. The ambient harp used throughout this one’s duration gives it both a hint of whimsy and a slight unnerving feel, which really hits home during Fern’s mini tantrums. Part of why I enjoy Do No Harm so much is 1. because of how nice it looks. 2. because of how nice it sounds. The slow transition from Finn to Fern as the sunset rises in Ooo and Kiefer’s score plays gently in the background is already one of my favorite scenes and it’s in the first five seconds! With an added killer story, this one really has a lot going for it.

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It’s nice how this episode continues to paint a picture of how much Finn and Jake differ when it comes to strangers/people who they aren’t necessarily close with. While Finn is generally more kind and accepting (as he grew to be with Ice King and how he was with “Moe” in The More You Moe), Jake is a bit more judgmental and awkward. Finn is more times than most the awkward one of the duo, though Jake experiences such social crutches when he fails to fully understand people. Jake is inclined to better click with those who fit his type and lifestyle, so he tends to struggle with those who need special accommodations because he isn’t really able to put himself in their feet. Finn advises Jake that Fern is just another version of himself, but even so, Jake previously had trouble empathizing and understanding Finn’s own emotional trauma a year earlier. From its inception, it’s certainly a recipe for discomfort!

Despite discovering some aspects of his true identity in the previous episode, Fern is still somewhat under the impression that he’s Finn. I’m not sure if its denial, or if another part of his brain is operating during these periods, but I’m glad they kept this aspect going to really hammer in his inability to conform. Even when faced with his favorite meal of meatloaf (I love how this is a recurring trait of Finn’s character), he’s unable to consume it. This could easily be seen as a moment that simply seeks to explain how the grass bod works, but it’s also a key indicator of Fern continually losing more and more aspects of his former self that he once found pleasurable. Again, it really paints a depressing picture. How is Fern supposed to be happy when he can’t even enjoy his favorite meal properly?

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Though it’s unnecessary for him to have to explain himself, Finn still goes out of his way to apologize to an unconscious Susan for what happened with his grass sword. It’s a touching moment, but ultimately, I think our little guy is too hard on himself. He mentions not being strong enough to stop himself from hurting her, but it was a situation that was out of his control. The main purpose of his apology, however, is to draw on similarities between he and Fern. Fern is constantly mentioning how he can’t do anything right, even though most of his shortcomings are circumstantial at best. In a similar fashion, Finn blames himself for his own shortcomings that he really doesn’t have any control over. This brief emotional interlude is cut short when Doctor Princess enters Susan’s room and immediately appoints Finn as a physician. In what has to be one of the funniest Adventure Time moments in the past few seasons, Doctor Princess reveals to Finn in confidentiality that she isn’t actually a doctor, and it just happens to be her surname. The Doctor Princess is neither a doctor nor a princess. Her character is essentially one big, mysterious dead-end. Regardless, Finn chooses to take on the position and learns some new aspects about himself in the process.

Meanwhile, over on Fern and Jake’s side of things, the two boys get wrapped up in finding something for Fern to get involved with. Fern is unable to play flute, another one of Finn’s favorite hobbies as of recent, as he begins to go through yet another breakdown. Again, it might be seen as a cool aspect of Fern’s character that he doesn’t even need to breathe, but when its something as simple, given, and humanistic as that, it really sets out to hammer in how abnormal Fern’s entire existence is. Jake does manage to pull through in a pretty heartwarming way, as he reminds Fern of what his (and Finn’s) true favorite activity to embark on is: adventuring and slaying evil. They head to a grassy maze, in what feels like a fun return to AT‘s video game-esque dungeon scenarios. Much like Blade of GrassDo No Harm is heavily reliant on the color green, but in the best, least nauseating type of way. As we soon find, this is just one of many similarities that this episode shares with Blade of Grass. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. As Fern battles off grass demons, he begins to feel good about doing good in general.

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Finn, similarly, feels great being able to help others out. Whether it be a splintered Mr. Fox or a back-broken Ice King (whose toes also taste like jam, for whatever reason), Finn simply seeks pleasure from being able to treat others, of which later ties into another aspect of his past, and also kind of channels in to Finn’s maturity by this point in the series. While Finn loves adventuring and beating up bad guys, his main goal and desire in life at this point in time is to simply help others and make it so that their lives thrive. It’s a really sweet sentiment from our big, baby boy.

While Fern continues to sweep through lower-tier enemies, he finally ends up on the other side of the maze, of where the boys convene with the Grassy Wizard. I totally didn’t expect the Grassy Wizard to ever appear again, but damn, I’m glad that he did. He plays a much bigger part in the series than the staff likely thought when first introducing the grass sword, and it makes sense to revisit his character as a potential source for answers and closure. Those two elements are exactly what Fern is looking for, as he begins to question Grassy Wizard on his current state and what his birthright truly is. It is interesting how, here, Fern refers to Finn as a separate person from himself, contrary to how he was acting earlier in the episode. By this point in time, to the remainder of the series, Fern has pretty much realized that, no matter how much he feels as though he is, he simply isn’t Finn and has to move on from that idea. Though, despite not being the same person as Finn, their similarities are practically uncanny, and that goes beyond the two sharing the same anatomy and memories. Grassy Wizard plays the part of Fern’s shitty, neglectful father, as he basically admits that he only created Fern as somewhat of a joke and because he thought it would be “cool.” Grassy Wizard reeks of Martinisms, failing to understand even the slightest bits of empathy, but gets his comeuppance as Fern wallops him in a punch that’s nearly identical to the way Finn punched “Martin” in The Tower. Fern has now experienced yet another moment that places him in the same place that Finn was once at, though, while Finn learned to accept Martin and move on from his hatred, Fern nearly beats Grassy Wizard to a pulp, thinking that’s what he’s supposed to do. Jake quickly informs Fern that it isn’t exactly natural or healthy to go about defeating evil this way, as Fern finally realizes that he simply isn’t Finn. No matter how good it feels to do things that Finn would want to do, he isn’t able to take on those tasks with the exact same flair, further alienating him from what he believes to be right and true.

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Finn begins to experience this same form of dissonance as he realizes that his efforts to help others essentially failed. Finn and Fern are essentially on the exact same wavelength: they want to do something that they know is good and helps others, though they aren’t exactly sure that they are cut out for the job. These two stories come to a culmination when the two reconvene at the hospital, and Fern realizes that, despite doing things “as Finn would,” he just isn’t Finn, and he has to find his own path in life, via a beautiful departure on Starchy’s new motorcycle. One thing I also love about this ending is it recycles the same music from the ending of Blade of Grass, when Finn learns to accept the grass sword as a part of him. Here, this score is used as Fern accepts himself for something that he is realistically not and chooses to take on a new journey to truly figure out who he is in the process.

Also capping this episode off is the revelation that Susan is alive and well, proving that Finn’s medical advice was indeed correct, and further leading us into the Islands miniseries.

I really love Do No Harm. It’s a terrific character study of two boys faced with hopes and desires, but ultimately coming face-to-face with their own shortcomings and insecurities by the end of it. Fern worries that he isn’t anything like Finn, though if the events of this episode prove anything, the two are more alike than he could possibly know. My only issue with this one is that I feel as though Jake’s concern wasn’t entirely believable within the grass maze. We’re supposed to believe that Fern is going too far in his efforts to defeat tertiary bad guys, but I dunno, haven’t Finn and Jake involved themselves in similar carnage in episodes like Dad’s DungeonDungeon Train, or even Memory of a Memory? Finn evens mentions in Puhoy that he “kills stuff lots of times,” so I feel as though this aspect of the episode didn’t necessarily hit home in painting Fern in a poor light. But overall, it’s another really strong episode to flesh out Fern’s character, and a sweet episode for Finn in the wake of the eight part miniseries based around himself and his past.

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Favorite line: “I don’t even have a medical degree. I just came in here one day for an X-ray, and my first name is Doctor, so, well, one thing led to another…”

 

“Two Swords” Review

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Original Airdate: January 23, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Two Swords takes a step back from the frenzied ambiguity that the previous two episodes had consisted of and takes a moment to add clarity to the current situations at hand. I was initially under the impression that Reboot would bring us straight into the Islands miniseries in the following episode, though this episode interestingly has very little to do with the fallout of Preboot and more so with the fallout of Reboot. Much damage was done to our main and supporting cast, and an entire new entity was unveiled in the process. Thus, Two Swords seeks to sit us down and explain some much, much needed information that isn’t even exactly clear by the end of it, but the show knows just as much. Bubblegum’s confusion is directly identical to our own confusion, as we try and piece together who and what exactly the mysterious grass guy is.

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Right away, this episode starts off with a glorious, triumphant moment that everyone has been very patiently waiting for: Finn FINALLY has a bionic arm! Good Lord, it’s happened! I remember being super stoked by this news when promo images first arrived, though I was equally on edge regarding this concept. I was never as furious as others were regarding Finn getting his arm back in Breezy, but had he gotten an identical arm following the events of Reboot, I’d likely be consumed by my own frustration at this point. I even remember seeing a storyboard promo for the future episode High Strangeness, where Finn was drawn with a normal arm, and being absolutely disdained by that concept. Though, luckily for myself and the sanity of others, the bionic arm was added in the animation process, and Finn remains being arm-less throughout the course of the series. I really enjoy how Finn mentions his numbness to losing his arm a second time, in a way that connects to his tolerance of pain and tragedy. The original loss of Finn’s arm signified his grapple with abandonment and the absence of his former self, though here, Finn seems to spin that loss around into something more positive and exciting overall. He’s learned to live and move on with that loss in his life, so once the arm itself is finally gone, he’s adapted and doesn’t really notice said absence. Really nice motif there.

The contents of this episode really boil down to two informational backstories: Finn’s first encounter with grass Finn, as well as the backstory of grass Finn in general. The first is told in a way that immediately follows the events of Reboot, as grass Finn quickly shifts from his rounded, bushy form into a figure that is more closely identical to Finn’s. I will say this: Grass Finn, as he’s referred to in this episode, is one of my favorite characters in the series. Not only do I love his design, voice work from the talented Hayden Ezzy, and his general demeanor, but he likely has one of the most intriguing and haunting backstories in the entire show, and they never really stray away from such. This is a character who could have so easily been just a copy of Finn (I’m so glad they didn’t just have Jeremy Shada voice him, by the way), but they chose to take him in such a unique direction to the point where he also becomes one of the show’s most sympathetic characters.

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In a way, grass Finn is behaviorally identical to Finn – he’s goofy, true to his friends, and good-natured. I even like how his behavior also brings out a side of Finn we don’t often get to see; while addressing Finn when they first meet, grass Finn is awfully smug about Finn being dressed exactly like him. I don’t think that Finn is generally smug as a person, but I’m not really surprised at the fact that he would have somewhat of an ego regarding his state as one of the most prominent heroes in Ooo. After all, one of Finn’s biggest character flaws that has been present even in his tween days is his more judgmental side, so it’s likely that he does acknowledge his legacy and status to a degree.

The thing that is somewhat terrifying about grass Finn’s existence is that none of what he believes to be real is actually real. Everything he knows about himself and those close to him is essentially a lie, so I really don’t blame him for going off the handle in the second half of the episode. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t with this potential reality at hand? Granted, he’s also being partially possessed by a cursed squid demon from the remnants of the grass sword, so that’s a factor as well, and accurately represent the “inner demons” that exist within him. The scenes between the grass sword demon and Finn Sword are particularly eerie. As I previously mentioned, I think Hayden Ezzy is really talented. Not only does he add a lot of charm and emotion to grass Finn’s character, but also manages to pull off a truly intimidating performance as the grass squid. I feel like the grass squid’s role within grass Finn’s mind could easily be labeled as a justified reason for his volatile behavior, but I think it goes much deeper than just a curse. In general, grass Finn’s darker side only comes out when facing the turmoil of his own existence, so I do believe it’s more of an inability to cope with his own circumstantial state of being, rather than some kind of possession from the grass demon. Just the like the grass sword itself, it only arises in certain states of emotion. For Finn, it was somewhat of a fight-or-flight response, whereas with grass Finn, it channels into his negative emotions of inferiority.

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I also wonder if part of grass Finn’s inferiority comes from the idea that, whenever the grass sword would attempt to help Finn in his time of need, it often lead to more harm than good. The grass sword cost Finn his arm in Escape from the Citadel, refused to cooperate with him in Checkmate, nearly harmed Farmworld Finn in Crossover, and smashed through the Finn Sword in I Am a Sword. Perhaps grass Finn feels somewhat subconsciously responsible for consistently failing to properly get things done, and that guilt continuously plagues to the point of an identity crisis when he begins smashing up the Tree Fort. Upon interrogation, Finn does reflect on what he and PB had chatted about and concluded within the Candy Kingdom hospital. Finn begins to realize that grass Finn likely is the same Finn that once existed within a sword and, essentially, is his own being. This is where Finn decides to give grass Finn a Finn Cake – a symbolic display of respect that places grass Finn on the same level as Finn himself. Grass Finn is reminded of who he is: a “good boy” who enjoys embarking in heroic endeavors. While he doesn’t have himself fully figured out, he’s at least left with the knowledge that he has an idea of who he wants to be. However, Two Swords closes out with a chilling reminder that the turmoil within grass Finn remains very much alive through the existence of the grass demon, simply waiting to be unleashed.

Aside from being an interesting episode of exploration, Two Swords is also filled with many funny moments. I love Jake’s sudden and destructive awakening when he finds out BMO’s in trouble, BMO’s call to Finn about him wrecking the kitchen was hilarious, and the general interactions between grass Finn and Finn upon meeting are great. This one’s also filled with some great storyboarding feats, especially on Wolfhard’s part; Jake following grass Finn around in a circle repeatedly was great, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I love Finn nearly falling on his ass while trying to retrieve a Finn Cake. Dunno, that moment just felt so human and realistic to me.

Overall, Two Swords is a pretty great introductory to grass Finn. It’s funny, dark, and does a solid job of introducing his character in the most interesting way possible. While this episode establishes a lot of grass Finn’s character, I think the next episode does an even better job of working with his character’s strengths and weaknesses.

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Favorite line: “I have a crush on Jake.”

“Frog Seasons” Review

While I’m somewhat certain that Graybles Allsorts was always intended to be a series of shorts, Frog Seasons was intended to be a full-length episode in its inception. Not sure what change occurred to demote Frog Seasons to shorts status, and it’s not like the channel was advantaged or disadvantaged by this in any way. They just stuck these 3-minute shorts at the end of episodes during the “Regular Time Adventure Show” block (otherwise known as the “Adventure Time/Regular Show Purgatory Block”) that no kids even ended up watching anyway. So I dunno, it’s a mystery to me, not that it matters much. For the most part, Frog Seasons is a delightful array of shorts that’s kind of improvement over Graybles Allsorts, mainly due to the atmosphere that each minisode possesses. Interestingly enough, the plot for the Frog Seasons shorts is borrowed from the beginning of The Witch’s Garden, a moment that I initially had completely forgotten by the time these minisodes came out.

Spring

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Original Airdate: April 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

Frog Seasons: Spring is unique in being the one time (along with its sister minisode) that Breezy reappears. It’s delightful to see her once more, and I do enjoy how she and Finn are able to have a casual interaction with each other after everything that happened in Breezy. Not to say anything ended awfully between the two, but certainly… awkward. And it’s equally fitting that, in her one reappearance, Breezy breaks out yet another sexual innuendo. That girl’s got all levels of hypersexuality. Also loved how Jake rushes Finn as Breezy begins talking about pollinating. Good brother.

This minisode isn’t especially entertaining and suffers from being a bit slow-paced, though I really appreciate its laidback tone. The backdrops and skies in Spring look terrific and I love the brief moments where Finn and Jake are cheerfully swimming through the pond and engaging in small talk with each other. I’m a huge sucker for the Spring season as a whole, so the atmosphere in this one fills me with nothing but good vibes all around, and it also helps that this short initially aired in April. Made its presence feel even more appropriate. Though, like I said, it’s far from the most interesting of the shorts. When entering the frog’s kingdom, we’re treated to a very drawn out sequence with the frog inside of his room until Finn and Jake are finally kicked out. It’s a little slow, but I think the colors and atmosphere are more than enough to justify Spring‘s existence.

Summer

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Original Airdate: April 9, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto

Definitely one of the funnier shorts. One thing I appreciate about Summer is how it plays with the boys’ personalities to its best abilities. I like how Finn is simply into following the frog around for the sake of his diehard curiosity, similar to how he doesn’t mind a boring dungeon crawl in Vault of Bones because he enrolls himself in activities that are strictly for the experience. Jake, on the other hand, isn’t into the idea of pseudo-mysticism and just wants to relax with the Water Nymphs, in what is arguably a more worthwhile experience overall. ‘Specially since Finn mentions wanting to get with babes.

Temperamental Jake is always a ton of fun to watch and Summer is no exception. I love the sudden shift in his attitude when the frog finally does put on the crown (in what is a pretty spectacularly animated sequence) and even in his state of frustration, I do enjoy how he sticks with Finn no matter what. Even though he does have the opportunity to ditch his bro to chill with Water Nymphs, he still stands by Finn’s side, and even ends up getting consumed by the frog because of it. But hey, at least it’s cooler in there, right?

Autumn

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Original Airdate: April 16, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

While I probably would’ve preferred Fall scenery akin to the paintings in Over the Garden Wall, I do appreciate Autumn‘s mid-November-ish approach to show a more colorless display, with wilted trees and muddy landscapes. I guess it’s technically more realistic to the season than the expectations we usually have for it. It’s definitely not complete eye candy for that reason, but I do dig parts of the story of this one. I truly sympathize with Raggedy Princess in Autumn; up to this point, Raggedy Princess was just sort of a gag character that other characters would shit on from time to time. This is her first real moment in the limelight, and I actually really get into her character. Her voice certainly isn’t the most pleasant, but it is sad to see that, even with her incredibly sweet demeanor, no one will stay to hear her poems that she clearly worked hard on. Even nice dudes like Finn and Jake don’t set the time aside from her. I think her character works great to emphasize those feels of isolation that typically set in this time of year.

The close of this one is alright, with Jake once again choosing his own route to go about the crown situation. The parts with RG were definitely a lot stronger… while the ending to this minisode kind of loses me.

Winter

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Original Airdate: April 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto

Right up there with SummerWinter is pretty damn funny. Ice King, as always, is hilarious in his desperate efforts to hang out with Finn and Jake (he even calls back to when he used to hate them back in season one) as the boys are resistant as ever. Aside from how blatantly they ignore him, Winter also features Jake’s pretty hilarious walk cycle of how he simply bobs up and down the mountain as Ice King follows him.

This one is also kind of neat on an introspective level. I like how Jake mentions that “life is short.” In their endeavors following the frog, Finn and Jake have missed out on catching up with Breezy, hanging out with Water Nymphs, and even hearing Raggedy Princess’s dope poetry. It begs the question, is one potentially unfulfilling experience more important than three individual ones? Finn mentions that it’s important to finish what you start, but at what cost? If the result is truly disappointing, then is the experience really worth the trip? Finn ends up giving up on his journey but ultimately does miss out on a sweet experience when the Frog transforms into Life and clears the snow straight off of a mountain. I guess Winter is really poking at the idea that every journey has its pros and cons, and that there’s no guarantee things will ultimately work out with any one experience. It could ultimately be fulfilling, but it’s really all about whether the trip there is actually worth it. Good on Ice King, though. Even if he got dissed by his two bros, he still ended up having the best experience in the end. Hooray for underdogs!

Spring (Again)

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Original Airdate: September 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

Spring (Again) easily feels like the most unnecessary addition to the Frog Seasons series. Aside from it lacking the nice visuals or the humor of the previous shorts, it also aired several months after the initial shorts did. Hell, I kind of didn’t even realize this one existed at first. I always thought the “(Again)” meant that they would be reairing Spring a second time on television.

Not really into the script of this one at all. Jeremy Shada doing his impression of LSP is always kind of cringe-worthy to me, and Breezy doesn’t really offer the same amount of charm and compassion that she did in the original Spring short. Honey Man’s dance is certainly cute, with nice musical accompaniment from Tim Kiefer, though it’s hardly as whimsical or beautiful as it was likely intended to be. I guess the real reason Spring (Again) exists is to tie into season seven’s main theme of how “everything stays, but it still changes” in the sense that Finn and Jake continue to follow the frog even after everything they’ve been through (I’m starting to think the frog does cause some sort of time paradox) but otherwise, I thought Winter did a fine job of wrapping of this series of minisodes.

Consensus

Frog Seasons is definitely an improvement over Graybles Allsorts. Frog Seasons really works well with its visual elements, and I genuinely enjoy the idea of a series of interconnected shorts that really don’t have a consistent continuity between each other. It really adds to the anticipation of not knowing what will happen upon each segment. It’s interesting to see how each short differs according to its designated board artist; Adam Muto worked on Summer and Winter, while Hanna K. Nyström boarded SpringFall, and Spring (Again). Ultimately, I felt that Muto’s episodes were a bit weaker in the visual department (aside from some nice boarding efforts), but they were much funnier and more entertaining than Nyström’s overall. Nyström had the nice visuals and atmosphere, but her portions were a bit weighed down by their slow and somewhat dry pacing.

Best to Worst

  1. Summer
  2. Spring
  3. Winter
  4. Fall
  5. Spring (Again)

Favorite line: “Following frogs is like, one of my top 20 favorite pastimes.” (Frog Seasons: Winter)

Season Seven Review

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Although I’ve established it before, when I refer to season seven, I’m referring to everything from Bonnie & Neddy up to Reboot, whereas Cartoon Network, and most other streaming platforms, refer to Bonnie & Neddy through The Thin Yellow Line as the official seventh season. The AT staff had intended for the former order to be executed this way, so it only makes sense that I address it in the fashion that it was intended. Though, it does bring up an interesting argument that I would like to briefly discuss before I dive into this review: do the season rebrands actually matter?

The short and sweet answer, from my perspective, is no. The only reason I go by the staff order rather than the rebrand is that it is the way I initially viewed it and I’ve kind of conditioned myself to think about these episodes in a certain way. It’s like when ABC Family went through a revamp and became Freeform – despite the name change, everyone still calls the channel ABC Family. In addition to that, I kind of respect the staff’s choices more than the network’s choices as a whole, so eh, I feel somewhat inclined to follow along with their thought processes. Otherwise, it truly doesn’t matter to me. I know a lot of people are bummed because it messes up the fluidity of some other seasons; while season eight initially started with Two Swords and ended with Three Buckets, it now starts with Broke His Crown and closes out with The Light Cloud which… really aren’t connected in any way necessary. But, then again, neither are Bonnie & Neddy or Reboot. In fact, the span from Bonnie & Neddy to The Thin Yellow Line has a much clearer arc regarding PB’s rise back into her former position as ruler, so the rebrand actually adds clarity from that standpoint. Overall though, it’s an issue that doesn’t really bother me at all, just one that, at worse, seems somewhat unnecessary.

It does interest me in seeing how people react to the rebranded season seven, however, because for the most part, the first half of season seven is kind of dull. Aside from Stakes which is pretty universally loved (by everyone who isn’t a miserly cynic like myself), I think a lot of people were just as turned off by those first 20 or so episodes as they were with season six. Alright, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but I don’t think season seven was drawing fans back in from its inception. A lot of the stories told in this first half are mainly inconsequential tales that attempt to emulate a “classic AT” feel, with episodes like Mama Said, Angel Face, President Porpoise is Missing!, Blank-Eyed Girl, and Scamps. While none of these episodes stuck out to me as awful, a lot of them were plagued by having paper-thin ideas that don’t really have much to work with outside of being light and silly. Buuuut, season one and two were like that in a lot of ways and still managed to pull off those stories with success, so what’s lacking here? I think there’s definitely an apparent decrease of energy in these entries. Around the time season four came along, Adventure Time became a lot slower and quieter in its approach to storytelling. That’s not to say it lost its sense of humor, episodes just became a lot more character driven than situation driven, hence the decreased wackiness that’s even noticeable by the time season two came along. So, in execution, episodes like Angel Face and President Porpoise are weighed down simply because it feels like they want to be something that they’re clearly not. I think the thought process behind this shift to lighter episodes was in response to the harsh tone of a lot of season six entries. Though, by this point in time, I really don’t think people were looking for a trip down memory lane. I think they were more so searching for answers to longterm questions outside of the strange allegories that season six had to offer, which is why the second half of season seven, as well as Stakes, are more popular with most audiences. While I’m generally not crazy about these episodes either, I think there are a couple of gems in the first half of this season that deserve more recognition, namely Football, The More You Moe, The Moe You Know, and King’s Ransom. They’re three great episodes that I rarely ever see anyone talking about. In general, I really never see people talking about BMO-centric episodes to begin with. I wonder why?

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The second half of season seven picks up A LOT, with pretty much every episode after Crossover (save for Five Short Tables) hitting its mark in one way or another. While season six was primarily about Finn’s journey through uncertainty, the one thing that the sixth season lacked was, well, Finn. Season seven makes up for our main character’s past absences by making his growth and evolution the forefront of several episodes, including The Hall of Egress, Don’t Look, I Am a Sword, Bun Bun, and The Music Hole. A handful of these stand out as some of the greatest episodes the show has ever put out, and all have a heavy emphasis on the periodic changes that Finn is going through. In general, the theme of season seven can be boiled down to the idea of change and what change means to individual characters. Will it change them internally and externally? Is change even a real concept? Will others accept those who do change? This is also the forefront of several other episodes like the Stakes miniseries, The More You Moe, The Moe You Know and Normal Man.

While season six was very much about Finn learning to understand his issues, season seven is mostly about Finn learning to work past his issues. I’m really glad the staff didn’t decide to leave season six as a “happily ever after” for Finn and chose to explore the deeper complexities of his strides to better himself. I love how Finn actually fears becoming a bad or immoral person in this season and does whatever he can to prove to others that he is a hero and wants nothing more but to help others. This especially shows when he makes amends with Flame Princess, which arguably weighed heavier on his soul than anything else he had experienced so far. Princess Bubblegum probably goes through the most character development thus far, as she begins to put aside her more controlling ways and actively wants to become a better person in the process. I was always worried that “nice PB’ would end up making her entirely less interesting in the long run, but kudos to the staff for still making her character entertaining and delightful amidst all of these changes. I like how, though she does end up on top in the end, we still get episodes that deal with her inability to consistently know what is morally right. We get a lot more of those in the next few seasons, and they’re often some of my favorite episodes. While season six pushed a ton of main characters to the side in favor of several new characters and one-offs, characters like Marceline, Ice King, and BMO make big comebacks in season seven, each having at least three major episodes dedicated in their honor. I pretty much discussed Marceline’s individual arc as much as I could in my Stakes review, so if you’re interested in what I have to say about her depiction in this season, you can check it out there. Ice King not only gets a good amount of screen time in this season, but the idea of him returning to his former state as Simon Petrikov is hinted at a lot more, which was the first real indication for myself that we were getting pretty close to the end of the series. Per usual, it’s always nice to see more of BMO, and I’ll always have a soft spot for the little guy. It is interesting to me how the main characters who got a lot more of a central focus in season six were somewhat demoted in season seven. Jake’s only true star episode without Finn was Daddy-Daughter Card Wars, and Lumpy Space Princess only has one major appearance in the entirety of the season. I was starting to become under the impression that the show didn’t really know what to do with her character anymore, but the staff surprised me in the following season by incorporating her into more of the action.

Coming hot off of the heels of season six, Jesse Moynihan surprisingly wanted to take an entirely different approach in his boarding efforts, as he began to stray away from his typical psychedelic roots. Equally as surprising is the fact that his more humorous entries really paid off, as him and Sam Alden really made for the best board team this entire season. The episodes they worked on struck a perfect balance between comedy and story, which especially shows in Crossover, Flute Spell, I Am a Sword, and Normal Man, which are… actually every episode they worked on this season. They managed to produce straight gold without skipping a beat. I’m glad Jesse and Sam were paired together because the throwback duo of Jesse and Ako Castuera clearly wasn’t working out during Stakes. Seo Kim and Somvilay Xayaphone actually managed to step up quite a bit this season. While they had some more middling entries, such as Angel Face and Blank-Eyed Girl, they still managed to churn out some of this season’s best entries, like Bun Bun and Don’t Look. Kudos to them for managing to tackle topics that I never knew they’d be capable of. Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard were mostly absent outside of their work in the Stakes miniseries, and weren’t exactly up to par with the usual quality I expect from them. Granted, Herpich wrote and boarded my favorite episode of the series The Hall of Egress, and the duo also boarded another one of my favorites The More You Moe, The Moe You Know, but their other entries (Vamps About, The Dark Cloud, Bonnie & Neddy) were middling at best. Even Reboot, an episode that I’m personally very fond of, is riddled with various different issues. Other board artists, like Hanna K. Nyström, Adam Muto, and Kent Osborne all hopped around from episode to episode without having set partners and did pretty well no matter where they went. Season seven also welcomed guest artists, like Kris Mukai and KC Green, while it welcomed back various different AT alumni members, like Luke Pearson, Emily Partridge, and Ako Castuera. Hell, Emily Partridge and Luke Pearson might actually be my favorite team from this season and they only worked on two episodes together (Football and May I Come In?)! Definitely a good amount of diversity this season that is surely embraced. I actually think that the weakest link this season was Graham Falk. He was faced with several different episodes that were more somber and quiet in tone (Cherry Cream Soda and Summer Showers) in which his style really did not match with.

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Similar to last season, since there are so many darn season seven episodes, I’m going to once again extend the top 5 best episodes into a top 10 list. Keep in mind, this is including Stakes.

Top 10 Best Episodes

Honorable MentionsEverything StaysFlute Spell

10. Football – A psychological horror disguised within an expectedly cutesy BMO episode, and one that really brings out the best in BMO’s messed up lil’ mind.

9. Reboot – Once more, not an episode I can really call great, but one that I thoroughly find entertaining and invigorating regardless.

8. Don’t Look – A really neat exploration of how Finn views others, as well as how he views himself.

7. Normal Man – A nice semi-conclusion to Magic Man’s character and Jesse Moynihan’s time on the show; one that is pure fun from beginning to end.

6. May I Come In? – The best episode in the Stakes miniseries, and one that manages to be just as fun as it is foreboding.

5. Bun Bun – Great developmental episode featuring the various changes that Finn, Cinnamon Bun, and Flame King have undergone in the past year.

4. Crossover – An episode that looks absolutely gorgeous all around, and one that is just as entertaining as it is off-the-walls crazy. God, won’t someone please make me a vinyl figure of Finn in his winter coat!?

3. The Music Hole – An episode revolved around the connection between creativity and sadness, and one that is just as sweet as it is poignant.

2. The More You Moe, The Moe You Know – The best BMO episode to date, and one that always strikes me in how profound and ballsy it is in exploring the fears and tragedies within BMO’s life.

1. The Hall of Egress – Likely my favorite episode to date, and one that pretty much encapsulates everything I love so much about Adventure Time.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. Blank-Eyed Girl – I was ultimately torn between placing this episode, Bad Jubies, or Marceline the Vampire Queen at this spot, but ultimately felt as if Blank-Eyed Girl was most appropriate. It isn’t a terrible episode, and it likely has fewer problems than the aforementioned episodes, but it’s so bland. It doesn’t really do anything interesting with its story, and sort of just meanders for 11 minutes.

4. Scamps – Again, not one that’s terrible, but it is terribly forgettable. There’s really nothing that draws me back into watching this one aside from the fact that it’s inoffensive. It’s likely as disposable an AT episode can get.

3. Five Short Tables – Another uninteresting F&C episode with nothing new to bring to the table. See what I did there??

2. Checkmate – Haha, probably gonna get flack for this one, but man, I do not like this episode. It really breaks any sort of dramatic tension that the Stakes miniseries was trying to accomplish by making really terrible jokes every other second. It also kills any form of remaining fondness I had for the Vampire King by this point in time.

1. Cherry Cream Soda – An episode that had potential in its first few minutes, and then just turns into an utterly pointless display of absurdity that feels both tasteless and confusing.

Final Consensus

Season seven started out admittedly slow but gradually picked up in quality as it went along. I used to think this was a big improvement over season six, but looking back now, I think season six is the stronger season. While season six is messy in a lot of places, it was often times churning out big episode after big episode. So even if it had one or two bad episodes in a row, it was almost guaranteed to deliver on the third episode. Season seven is quite the opposite, where it doesn’t really gauge my interest until the latter half. Granted, when comparing the two, season six definitely has more bad episodes, while season seven only really has a few. Though, in general, season seven only starts delivering consistently when Crossover comes along, which is about halfway through the season. So yeah, I’m overall positive about season seven, albeit it takes a while to get going. I think the downside to the bigger AT seasons is that there are more inconsequential episodes that likely get overlooked, simply because there are so many bigger episodes down the line. Inconsequential isn’t really a bad thing, but episodes like Scamps and Blank-Eyed Girl certainly don’t feel like passion projects by any means necessary. Season eight ends up having a lot fewer episodes than the past couple of seasons, which I really think shows in the overall quality of each individual episode.

Tune into tomorrow for a special bonus review: the Frog Seasons shorts!

 

 

“Reboot” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard 

Preboot alone had already raised several questions and opened new doors for the series in general, so it’s surprising that its sequel episode, Reboot, seeks to answer zero questions and instead manages to be even more ambiguous. Reboot, in many ways, is one big mess. There’s hardly any resemblance of a story, the humor falls flat a majority of the time, and the animation is often underwhelming. Yet, I find myself strangely captivated by this one. Out of every episode in the series, I think I can say with utter certainty that I don’t think I’ve ever been on the edge of my seat more than I was with Reboot. It’s a high-speed, stressful rush that, once started, never really lets up until the very end of the episode when things just… end. It’s likely the most abrupt that an episode of AT has ever closed out, and I think it’s somewhat ingeniously executed. Right when the episode is at the peak of its intensity, things suddenly stop, leaving the viewer (at least, from my personal perspective) wanting even more. AT has always been good at teasing its fanbase for what’s ahead, but with the end in sight, I think everyone was much more optimistic about the unraveling of said mysteries rather than feeling cheated.

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There isn’t a whole lot to analyze or go over for this one, aside from simply emphasizing my points from the intro paragraph. From the moment Susan’s implant goes haywire, the episode transitions into a frenzied, anxiety-ridden sequence, and anxiety-ridden is a pretty decent description to how every character reacts in this episode: Finn must resist the impulse of allowing his grass sword to take over, PB must find a way to save everyone without causing harm to anyone, and Jake is faced with his failure to resist protecting his brother at all costs, even if that means hurting those around him. Of all of these introspective character moments, I think I especially like Finn’s mini-arc. With all of the power literally in the palm of his hand, Finn can so easily allow himself to be saved if he just simply gives into those urges. Though, in his eyes, it doesn’t seem like a viable option. After everything that happened with Finn Sword, I think Finn is afraid to even allow the grass sword any kind of power, in fear of hurting anyone like he previously did. Finn’s fear of hurting others and his inability to properly fight and defend himself in the process progressively becomes a more consistent part of his character as the series continues, and he only continues to struggle with similar circumstances from this point on.

When I appeared on the RE-Cast podcast back in September, I joked that the episode title From Bad to Worse could easily apply to any episode in the series. If I had to pick a more appropriate episode for that title, it would certainly be Reboot. I really love how much the episode plays around with just how strong Susan is, and any attempt to actually stop her only makes things exceedingly more dangerous. I think it’s a little bit contrived that Susan’s chip absorbed the Gumball Guardian’s blast, but even then, I do think it’s fun to watch all of these really strong and not-so-strong characters go against Susan with relatively no chance of succeeding. It becomes a bit repetitive after a while, but I really think it adds to the tension that Susan is absolutely unstoppable, and it really makes you wonder just how exactly she’s going to be stopped.

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AT is a cartoon, so more often than not, pain feels and is executed in a very temporary fashion. For the most part, however, everything presented in Reboot feels kind of gruesome. Rattleballs is smashed to bits, Finn and Susan suffer long-lasting injuries following this episode, and even Jake gets royally fucked up to the point that a ton of fans actually thought he was dead. Like, no kidding. There was a point in time when fans thought that Jake had died 40 episodes before the series finale. While it’s easy to dismiss this theory as ridiculous, it really goes to show how well this episode presents pain and injury. It’s kept mostly light at first with the absurd catchphrase “yubba dubba dubba,” but by the time Jake utters it, it feels more concerning than comedic. Even though Jake is one of our main characters, the stakes within this episode feel so real that you can’t really help but question his well being yourself.

But before he does end up biting the dust, Jake assists his brother in fighting off Susan. The scene in which Finn slides up Jake’s body and transforms into the Jake Suit is legitimately one of my favorite moments in the entire series. The momentum, timing, camera angle, and music are so Goddamn pitch-perfect that it legitimately took my breath away the first time I had seen it, and still does to this day! The fight sequence that follows is less remarkable for its lack in fluidity, but I do somewhat admire it for being a uniquely choreographed battle. The camera pretty much stays in one spot as Jake Suit and Susan perform a number of different wrestling moves on each other, and it’s neat, despite the middling animation. The most tense moment in the episode is easily when Finn’s grass sword does go berserk and begins to crush Susan with all of its might. Again, tying back to what I was saying earlier, we should know that no lasting damages are actually going to happen to Susan, but execution is everything with Reboot and it feels quite stressful and unpreventable. If that wasn’t enough, however, the episode leaves us with one of the biggest “what the fuck” moments in the series, as Finn’s grass sword leaves his body, merges with the Finn Sword, and becomes an entire being in the course of a few seconds. Finn is once again left armless (permanently, this time!) and an entirely separate story arc has now emerged itself into the main story. Once again, in typical Adventure Time fashion, things only continue to get exceptionally crazier and lore heavy down the line.

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So, I really can’t defend Reboot on all levels. Besides its somewhat sloppy pacing and forced jokes, there are some minor to major inconsistencies that this episode presents. I appreciated that they brought back Finn’s immunity to electricity, but what was the point if they have him getting shocked by Susan’s headpiece only a few seconds later? And, in a more pressing issue, Susan’s lab name from Dr. Gross appears to be “Strong,” which is a bit of an unbelievable coincidence. In the episode Susan Strong, Finn simply gave Susan that name because of her physical appearance. Now we’re supposed to believe that it was also her code name all along? Yeaaaah, I don’t buy that at all. It’s right up there with Gunter riding a “G” labeled boat in Orgalorg. However, plot holes and story issues aside, I still have to commend this episode for being as thrilling and entertaining as an Adventure Time episode can be. It’s kind of like how I feel with Star Wars: The Force Awakens… it has its major and minor issues, but it’s such a damn fun ride that I really don’t mind. Reboot is far from a perfect episode, but it’s almost as if it makes up for it by being a perfect experience: a fun, invigorating journey that leaves me wanting more. And I think that’s a pretty fair compromise, especially considering that it is season seven’s grand finale.

So yeah, that’s it for season seven y’all! As always, I want to thank all of you for tuning in and making this such a fun side gig. This year alone, AT Reviewed has racked up almost 45,000 views, which is amazing! You guys rock, and I’m so glad to be sharing this experience with you. Per usual, the review and bonus review will be coming shortly (likely on Sunday or Monday), and I’m excited to announce that I’m back to posting semi-daily reviews and plan on covering at least half of season eight throughout the next month. Stay tuned, y’all! Some of the series’ best entries lie ahead.

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Favorite line: “We need a finger, not a thumb. Finesse, boi!”

“Preboot” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Adam Muto

Before diving into this review, I think it’s important to discuss a little bit of this episode’s history and how it actually plays into the rest of the series. A preview (aka, the first five minutes) of this episode initially aired at San Diego Comic Con back in 2016, and I remember being a bit taken back by what I had seen. After the course of season seven, it really seemed like the show was beginning to slowly wrap up, with many ongoing arcs closing up (PB’s morality, Finn’s aging and resolution with Flame Princess) and many others that are consistently hinted to be wrapping up (Ice King being “cured,” the possibility of another huge war at the hands of Patience St. Pim). The five minutes shown seemed to open up yet another door for exploration when there was already so much on the table that needed closure, and with the additional revelation around the same week that there would be a ninth season of AT, I was really starting to become under the impression that the series was never going to end and that it would eventually lose the luster that made it so special to begin with. I had spoken too soon, apparently, as it was revealed under two months later that Adventure Time had been canceled by Cartoon Network. This was news that was certainly bittersweet for myself, as I was confronted with the idea that my favorite show would be ending, but also that it meant that things would be wrapping up before I had lost interest or investment in the series. As a few more months passed by without any news regarding new episodes, Preboot and Reboot were slated for a November airdate, and Tom Herpich had posted on tumblr in reference to the remaining episodes. He mentioned that, after Preboot and its sister episode, “everything starts rolling into one big snowball that rolls and rolls all the way to the end.” I was struck with curiosity by this statement, but cautiously optimistic. I remember hearing reports back during season six that Escape From the Citadel was stated by the staff to break the status quo entirely when that simply was not true. Though, looking back now, Herpich’s statement really did deliver! I won’t say that everything ties together perfectly, but for the most part, Preboot and Reboot really are a turning point for the series. AT’s relationship with the status quo was the one thing that was holding it back from telling all of the stories that it wanted to tell, and I feel as though the transition into (almost) full serialization is the best possible move and reward for fans at this point in the series. Really feels like a treat for everyone who has been paying attention up to this point. So, without further ado, we have yet another episode that changes Adventure Time as a show forever: Preboot.

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The beginning of this episode is always weird for me. Like, I had always assumed that the Comic Con preview started a minute into the episode or something, but it’s actually the start and jumps immediately into the situation. I usually enjoy when AT throws us into weird situations with no exposition, but it kind of feels like a part of the episode is missing in this case. Was it at PB’s command? Was it a request from the Hyoomans? Definitely could have used some more context clues. I do enjoy their brief excavation, however. Jake genuinely wanting to be cursed is just classic Jake, and Finn thinking that horses used to have poles in their spines before the Mushroom War is classic, dumb Finn.

Things take a very abrupt turn when the assumed to be dead Tiffany pops out of the ground in a narwhal shaped shuttle. Not only did he get a sick new bionic arm, but he’s also going through puberty! Good on him. This is one of Tiffany’s better appearances, though Colin Dean’s voice shift does weigh it down a bit. It’s not like it’s his fault or anything, but it’s really hard for a child voice actor to capture the same charm that they once did before their balls dropped. Of course, it’s different for a character like Finn, who’s actively aging and evolving with each passing episode. This shift reminds me more of Chowder’s shift in Chowder, or Jeff’s shift in Clarence, it feels like some kind of whimsical magic was lost during the change that just can’t be recaptured anymore.

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Aside from Tiffany though, we’re also introduced to Dr. Gross, a character that is pretty cool in her general design (both initially and post-suit removal) and ultimately decent in her motivation. I feel as though her presentation is a little too obvious in this episode, in the sense that it becomes pretty obvious early on that she will be an antagonist towards Finn and Jake. Hell, the episode doesn’t even really try to hide it – Susan is adamantly opposed to Dr. Gross’s behavior and surroundings from the start. As a villain, she’s alright. I think her motivation becomes more clear and somewhat twisted in subsequent appearances, though here, it’s pretty base level stuff. She wants to utilize Finn in order to help to bring himself (and others) into a new golden age of humanity, featuring various different mods and altercations. But after they (very quickly) escape, she kind of just decides that she wants to kill the gang and use them for spare parts instead. I guess it’s supposed to paint her as crazy, but it kind of weakens her character if she’s not given consistency with her motivation. I mean, Finn and Jake were never into the idea of being operated on the begin with, how would their attempt to escape change literally anything? It really seems like her presence in this episode is to merely set up her backstory for future episodes down the line.

Though, her dystopian lair and menagerie are pretty terrific, albeit the song sequence, which is just okay. A lot of the lyrics feel forced and hardly catchy, though I do dig the electro-funk tempo in the background. The animal hybrids are too a lot of fun, with my favorite being the Wolf Lards, who have the “high endurance of a sea lard combined with the bloodthirsty killer instincts of a sea lard.” That was just priceless to me. There are a few other nice editions; I love the scorpmunk that can talk and instead uses dancing to warn others of danger, the return of Clockbear after his debut in Hoots, and the apple with a humanistic face, of which I’m preeeetty sure was based off a child’s drawing for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but I couldn’t find the information when looking for that fact, so hey, you guys can confirm that for me!

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This scene always weirds me out. Finn and Jake are fucking huge compared to Dr. Gross!

I mentioned this episode setting up for Dr. Gross’s eventual subsequent role, and that’s pretty much Preboot in a nutshell. Not only is it set up for the following episode, but also for future episodes involving Finn’s destination to find other humans. It was admittedly funny to see Finn’s shock about the existence of other human beings, only to contradict himself by mentioning just how many humans he’s actually met over the course of the series. Though, I do have to bring up that it’s a bit contrived that Finn doesn’t mention Susan. He declares in the following episode that he didn’t know she was part cyborg, so wouldn’t his assumption be that she truly is human after the events of Beautopia? I get that they had to play around with the mystery elements for the sake of the story, but I feel as though this is info that he should downright know by now.

And as a whole, Preboot essentially is one big mystery element. It plays around with a lot of ideas and concepts that haven’t yet been answered, and also adds even more questions than we had before. In fact, Preboot alone probably contains the most amount of questions in a single Adventure Time episode yet, of which are answered shortly after, thankfully. Though, it’s kind of hard to go back into this one knowing everything that I know now. It’s got some funny jokes, fun action sequences, and sweet locations, but its ultimate goal is to build on exposition and facts about the past and future of the series that mostly tease viewers into wanting to see more. So when I find did get more, I was satisfied, but there isn’t a ton that draws me back into this one aside from those scattered fun moments throughout. The main goal of this episode is to set up a mask of ambiguity to once again pique the interests of AT audiences, but ultimately sacrifices a portion of entertainment in the aftermath. I truthfully ended up enjoying the second part of this episode, Reboot, more for various different reasons. You kids can read all about it here!

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Favorite line: Crisis Another critical life juncture in the ongoing saga that is Tiffany.”

 

“Daddy-Daughter Card Wars” Review

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Original Airdate: July 7, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Adam Muto

One of the more common complaints I see being thrown at Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is that Card Wars gameplay is generally glanced over in favor of a story that has practically nothing to do with Card Wars. But honestly, that’s one of this episode’s perks. I mean, did people really just want to see straightforward gameplay for a second time? We already saw that in the original Card Wars, and even then, the game wasn’t really the main focus. It was more about Jake’s unhealthy obsession with the game itself, and how an opposing side of his typically calm and charismatic demeanor was unraveled. That being said, I’m glad Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is what it is. It works semi-successfully to wrap up Jake’s regretful past history, while also giving us more insight into where this turmoil comes from. It’s also essentially Charlie’s debut episode, of whom may just be my favorite of the pups.

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Charlie’s simply delightful. It’s interesting to me that it took her this long to be given a speaking role within the series, as she’s easily the most interesting and unique of her siblings. Aside from having obscure interests, a rad pyramid to hangout in, and intriguing psychedelic connections, she possesses the coolest abilities out of all of the pups. While most of the pups’ powers seem to be relatively basic, Charlie is able to grow to a size so big to the point where she’s literally able to walk across the Earth. That is awesome. In general, she’s really charming and enjoyable in her demeanor as well. She’s quite snarky to Jake throughout the entirety of the episode, and it’s a ton of fun to watch. It mostly comes off as loving and sweet, in contrast to the harsh and detached ways T.V. and Kim Kil Whan can often act towards their father.

I feel like the real thing that makes their relationship fun to watch is that they’re essentially both using each other. I’m often disheartened when the show either has entire episodes focused on Jake being a shitty dad or one of his pups being a shitty kid, but I think this episode has it balanced by showing off both of their shitty sides: Jake merely wants to resolve his past issues (without realizing that he’s adding fuel to that turmoil) and unknowingly recruits Charlie’s help to do so, while Charlie will only help her “poppa” out under the condition that he provides her with something (which is a scene that still freaks me the fuck out to this day. There’s something unnerving about Jake so easily pulling off a piece of his fingerbone).

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Though, it undoubtedly gets a bit muddled at times… about halfway through, Charlie realizes that she regrets not helping out Jake in the past, and it seems like the episode is attempting to paint Charlie as the bad guy in this situation… buuut, shouldn’t Jake also deal with some kind of repercussion regarding his treatment of Charlie? It’s a lot of fun seeing Jake as an absolute, boiling mess in Daddy-Daughter Card Wars, but I guess a tiny complaint I do have is that I feel like he’s a little bit too much of an asshole at times. Adam Muto and Steve Wolfhard do their best to make up for it, like when he literally offers Charlie every bone in his body if she would just simply spend an hour of her day helping him out, but there were certain scenes that rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t care how much Jake cares about Card Wars, I hate that he doesn’t save BMO in the beginning. I mean, my God, that’s your son dude! Granted, BMO jumping off the boat was hilarious, and I’m glad it was left it, but I thought the execution was a bit too harsh for my liking and it kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth for the remainder of the episode.

That aside, Jake is mostly enjoyable throughout the remainder of the episode. I’ll reiterate, I love seeing him so violently passionate about something. Jake’s mortality has nearly been as prominent of an arc as Finn’s aging process has, and it was really melancholic to see how wary he is for the near future. It is neat that Jake does have some form of self-acknowledgement about his regrets, and wants to at least move forward, even if he doesn’t really know how. In Jake’s head, becoming “dignified” means being able to achieve the victory against Grand Prix that he presumably never had, though it’s made clear by the episode of this episode that becoming dignified means accepting and becoming content with his shortcomings. I like how Jake’s conflict with Grand Prix also goes beyond that fact that he’s simply better at playing Card Wars, but that he also ended up with Moniker, Jake’s ex-girlfriend, which symbolically places him on a higher pedestal in Jake’s eyes. The connection between Moniker and Jake is also delightfully tense, complete with Jake being as awkward as he’s ever been. I like to think that Moniker was likely Jake’s first real significant other, which presumably fuels Jake’s anger and jealousy even more. It feels relatable in the sense that there’s always people from your past that you either hate or are simply envious of, and one has to constantly prove to themselves that they’re better than those people for some kind of unauthentic gratification. The scenes that emphasize Jake’s turmoil are really well done, and I love that the flowing, vigorous stream is a consistent audio cue to signify Jake’s feelings. I also enjoy how his relationship and battling within himself comes into play frequently. After Charlie leaves, Jake first adopts some of his old tactics and behaviors (by creating a duplicate of his past self) and then eventually becomes his old self (by morphing into his devilish, angered form). It’s a really nice touch in the visual department, and that goes for all of Jake’s facial expressions in general. Wolfhard and Muto clearly had a lot of fun with this one, and it helps that these dramatic expressions makes the episode feel like a true sequel to Card Wars.

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The most interesting bit in this episode is easily Charlie’s psychic visions of the future, which paints a bleak, yet deeply poignant vision of what lies ahead. I do like how Charlie’s foreseeable future contrasts with how Jake views each decade; while Jake assumes that he’s supposed to be a certain thing by a specific time in his life, Charlie’s look into the future proves that she really isn’t going to have things figured out until the very end of her life, and that’s pretty much life in a nutshell. While it seems that Charlie does live a fulfilling life, and ends up having a child of her own (none other than Gibbon!), it’s apparent that she also deals with the natural tragedies of existence as well: fearing what lies ahead, feeling intrinsically alone, and losing those close to her as she continues to age. While Jake assumes that he’s supposed to be dignified by this point in his life, he’s adding stress and turmoil to his life by not realizing the vast complexities that life offers. It isn’t until Charlie adopts the demeanor and lifestyle of her 90-year-old self that Jake is able to be “content” in his life, both in his regrets and his future. Though, to be honest, I thought that this was a pretty lazy conclusion. It feels like Jake didn’t really learn anything, and that he was simply altered by Charlie’s ability to give him this knowledge. I feel like it kind of tarnishes what the episode was trying to accomplish if he doesn’t go through the actual process of understanding his wrongdoings, and merely just adopts this knowledge regardless. What if in Don’t Look, instead of hearing what his friends have to say about him to help him to shape his self-view, Jake simply just walked up to Finn, touched him, and shouted “self-acceptance,” and that was that? It’s pretty uninspired and feels cheap. Though, I still do like Jake’s casual acceptance of his loss, and his official burial of his 20’s. Haha, okay.

I think Daddy-Daughter Card Wars is ultimately decent. It’s stronger points are definitely with Charlie, but of course, I’m biased. I think it does have some flaws in the execution of its story and Jake’s character arc as a whole, but nothing that’s especially detrimental to the quality of the episode, aside from the resolution itself. It’s still funny, thoughtful, and has a lot of nice backgrounds/drawings that translate well into the animation process. Two last notes: I do love how everyone within Jake’s contact list in My Two Favorite People is now accounted for thanks to this episode! So cool how they all have somewhat of an active role in this world, even if they’re only on-screen for like, two seconds. Also, Wolfhard drew up a prequel comic for this episode over on the AT tumblr. Check it out here! It’s tons o’ fun, and ties into the central theme of the episode quite nicely.

Semi-daily reviews return in two weeks! Until then, stay tuned for the double review release of Preboot/Reboot next week!

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Favorite line: Hey, you two been kissing?”