“Jelly Beans Have Power” Review

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Original Airdate: January 27, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Hanna K. Nyström

I dunno why but, before I had revisited this one, I almost completely forgot what had happened in it. Maybe it’s because I was heavily intoxicated inside of a college dorm bathroom when I first watched this one (new Adventure Time waits for NOTHING), but aside from the main plot, I struggled to remember key elements about this episode’s contents. My incoherence may have had something to do with it, but truth be told, I think this one’s a bit scattershot when handling PB’s character arc, at least in my eyes. Even having seen it 4-5 times by now, I still kind of scratch my head wondering, “what was Prubs upset about again?”

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Her pain stems from so many different corners that it never feels entirely cohesive what she’s going through, which is usually AT‘s strong point, but it kind of works against this episode because it seems like the writers are seeking to put her problems out in the open. First, it appears PB is jealous of Slime Princess for unlocking her skills in elemental prowess prior to herself, which leads PB into attempting to unlock her own abilities. When finally unlocked, PB utilizes her abilities to show-off in front of Slime Princess, and to show that they’re both on equal levels. At first, it seemed like this was an obvious representation of Princess Bubblegum wanting to be the alpha-princess in Ooo. PB has been previously worried about her own Kingdom’s state of power and ability to survive in episodes like The Cooler and High Strangeness, so I kind of figured that PB’s jealousy stemmed from her own fears of being inferior within her own kingdom. That’s… kind of what it is, but also not really. Upon speaking with Pepbut, PB tells him that she’s simply distressed over the fact that she ignored a crucial part of her existence when she should have recognized the ability to begin with. Ooookay, but how does that connect with her attitudes prior toward Slime Princess? SP only knew she possessed said power when speaking to Patience St. Pim – it’s something that NOBODY knew about until the eventual revelation. So I’m not really sure I understand how PB’s anxiety actually meshes with her feelings of envy. Hell, it doesn’t even seem like it should really matter. Bubblegum has created her own massive kingdom and defense system, as well as a reliance on her own physical strength and technology, so I’m not really sure why she feels so forced to channel this power in the first place. Again, it could tie in with her own desires to be on the same pedestal as other powerful princesses, but looking “deeper into” her stressors kind of retconned that for unnecessary reasons.

While battling off the “crystal” device, PB once again laments about her inability to understand her newfangled powers over her own understanding of science, but again, nobody is really forcing her to do so. When she finally combines her knowledge of science with her own elemental abilities, it results in a giant explosion, in which PB is looked upon as a “monster” of the sorts. Once more, I thought this was a bit unnecessary. Regardless of whether her powers impacted the blow or not, a giant, weaponized crystal is going to cause damage regardless of how PB attempts to stop it. And given that the episode puts her character in a more sympathetic perspective about halfway through, it never really feels like PB has any reason to be at blame for her actions. Had she continued with her somewhat arrogant and one-uppy behavior, this ending would have ultimately felt more powerful and impactful. There’s also the notion that it’s only Candy People who were hurt, which sounds kind of fucked up, but they can easily be put back together, as shown numerous times. I’m sure they didn’t wanna go too dark with this ending, but c’mon, if you want me to actually believe that Bubblegum is a overpowered zealot, realistic approaches to psychological or physical damage are necessary. I overall thought her arc over the course of this episode was pretty sloppy, as it struggled to find a true focus for her character, and it doesn’t even really come into play later on. Bit of a spoiler, but Bubblegum’s struggle with her elemental abilities only worsens when Patience St. Pim takes over, and really has nothing to do with PB’s own character or choices. It feels like a bit of wasted character exploration.

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With all of that criticism aside, I actually do like this episode. I think it’s unfocused from a character perspective, but it has a lot of really fun and enjoyable stuff going on. Most of that fun stems from the fact that Peppermint Butler has a major role in this one, and man, the staff really never fucks up when writing for him. Pepbut is a character that so easily could’ve been turned into a full-on villain about halfway through the show’s run, but here we are, eight seasons later, and even after knowing all of his dark and sinister deeds, he still appears to be a genuinely nice, supportive, likable guy. I really love his undying devotion to Princess Bubblegum, even going so far as to appear as a parental figure to her (“let me see your hand, young lady!”). The interactions between Pepbut and PB were truly delightful, and really helped to carry this one through. Also really dig the supporting characters in this episode; Maria Bamford is back as Slime Princess and just as hilarious as ever. Bamford never fails to carry out SP’s voice in the most sensual, and the most hysterical fashion possible.

Jelly Beans Have Power also see’s the return of Chatsberry! I do think it’s a bit odd that he is the one to chat with PB… maybe I’m just stuck with the Avatar mindset of believing that the last incarnation of said elemental always appears as the spirit guide, but I think I have my own separate skepticism. It’s revealed in Elemental that Chatsberry, Evergreen, Slimy D, and Balthus were not the original elementals, so why is Chatsberry randomly the one elemental who does end up guiding the princess (also, including Evergreen, who appears on Pim’s board at the end)? The obvious answer is that he’s the only other candy elemental in the series that we actually know of, but I can’t help but feel it’s slightly contrived. Granted, I do really like Chatsberry through his design and voice, so I honestly can’t complain. And my gripes with PB’s messy arc aside, I don’t think there were any portions of it that were bad; I truly do like how PB uses her own chemical properties to channel the elemental powers within her, thus never compromising her own desires and interests in the process. This is also the second appearance of Patience St. Pim, who unfortunately doesn’t get to do much aside from subtly unlocking Bubblegum’s powers in her actions. I do enjoy how the end very much builds up the eventual culmination of the elemental story, which is surprisingly getting a lot of attention, given AT‘s usual method of pushing arcs aside for later. Big things are coming shortly!

Only other thing to note about this one is that I feel like the episode’s title is somewhat uninspired. Yes, there’s what is believed to be a crystal in this episode, and jelly beans are in fact shown to be powerful, but Jelly Beans Have Power has absolutely no other correlation to Crystals Have Power story-wise. I’m really not certain as to why this connection was made. But, as is, I enjoy this one. It has its problems, but it’s still a lot of fun in its execution, mainly due to the character interactions and humor (love whenever Pepbut pressures PB to shoot out a candy product that she clearly cannot). This is the final “normal” episode before heading straight into two eight-part miniseries(s). Strap in, y’all, we’re in for one hell of a ride!

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Favorite line: “HEY, WOULD YOU KEEP IT DOWN DOWN THERE? SOME OF US HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW!”

 

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