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?
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.
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 Mentions: Everything Stays, Flute 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.
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!