“The Invitation” Review

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Original Airdate: January 30, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

We’re finally at Islands, folks! These next bunch of episodes are big ones, and answer some of the most sought-after AT questions from the past few years. Without a doubt, this was the miniseries I was the most excited for. While I could get behind the hype of Stakes, I’m much more invested in Finn’s character than I am with Marceline at this point in the series (though I still do love Marcy), and couldn’t wait to unravel some of the deeper mysteries surrounding Finn’s character, including where he came from, the status of his people, and how his abandonment came into play. But, I’m getting ahead of myself… my full length overview of the Islands miniseries will be released once we get through all eight episodes. For now, we have the episode that started it all, The Invitation! While I’ve been fairly critical of “setup” episodes in the past, such as Finn the Human and Marceline the Vampire QueenThe Invitation is pretty much the perfect example of a setup episode. Not only is it rifled with an array of various different major and minor characters and terrific interactions between them, but in general, The Invitation feels big. Finn, Susan, Jake, and (possibly) BMO embark on a grand adventure full of huge possibilities, and the episode doesn’t once stray way from showing how crucial and potentially risky this whole expedition really is.

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The beginning of the episode doesn’t hesitate to jump right into things, as we get a bit of a prelude to the story of the miniseries as a whole through the interactions of a girl and her doll. The setting for these first few minutes is a little odd to me… the Beach has never been shown to be an attraction for residents, as I always just assumed the Candy People didn’t have a reason to sit out, tan, and soak around in the water for any reason. It’s still a little weird to me, but I’m alright with it, just because it does seem like a perfect place for Mr. Cupcake to relax and flex his muscles. His sequence at the beginning is quite humorous, and hey, apparently his name is Todd? I always assumed that his first name was “mister.” Does this mean that Old Mr. Creampuff has a real name as well? (Edit: I just noticed that this is a reference to A Glitch is a Glitch, where he is referred to as Todd. What a callback!)

The silliness continues when we cut back to our main boys, who are shopping in preparation for an upcoming funeral. For anyone who hasn’t seen an episode of Adventure Time before, I feel like Jake’s line of “we’re gonna look awesome for this funeral!” sums up perfectly the balance of wackiness and darkness within the world of AT. The scenes in which Finn, Jake, and various other guardians of the Candy Kingdom protect against the emissary from Founder’s Island are high-energy fun. It’s pretty apparent by the presentation that the Founder’s Aircraft is quite powerful, though not entirely from my perspective, because by this point in time, the Gumball Guardians being defeated by anyone and everyone is nothing new. It’s essentially their birthright. This episode also debuts Finn’s new sword, which is unarguably his lamest sword to date. Not even entirely sure where it came from – it looks nearly identical to Rattleballs’, which was seen previously used by Finn in Do No Harm, but I do wonder how it was acquired by Finn himself. Perhaps Rattleballs chose to retire from swordsmanship after the events of Reboot and gave his sword to Finn? Not that it really matters, but it does interest me.

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I mentioned some really great character interactions within this episode, and yeah, it’s chock full of ’em. I love Jake immediately smashing the aircraft right before Finn is able to retrieve answers, as Finn presumably tries so hard to lash out at his best friend in frustration and simply accepts the results of what happened. I feel like this sequence could be used to represent the relationship between the series and its viewers quite accurately. I do enjoy how Finn has let go of some of the guilt he has held against himself so critically in reference to what happened with Susan. He simply apologizes briefly once more, and let’s things go from there. There’s really nothing more he can do to change what has already happened, after all. Similarly, I love how cold-hearted PB is in this episode. She’s not particularly close with Susan, and likely holds her accountable for harming Finn and Jake so brutally. She does a really great job of playing the part of the protective momma bear in this episode, even cuddling BMO as if she were her baby. That was straight-up adorable! I do think Finn’s reasoning for joining Susan is quite appropriate given that he likely doesn’t want the people around him to worry about what’s truly going on inside of his head. He’s old enough at this point and feels as though he doesn’t want people to go out of their way to worry about him, but of course, he isn’t really fooling anyone. Jake is there to support him, like always, but isn’t always assertive in trying to make Finn react emotionally to any given situation. Momma-Bear PB, on the other hand, knows something else is up. Also, there are some really nice storyboard moments within this episode. Love the way Alden made Finn play with and stretch out his bottom lip when scanning over the map of the Islands.

The scenes to follow are shot beautifully, and filled with some great interactive moments. I loved Finn’s heart-to-heart with Fern upon the top of the Tree Fort. I truly did not expect to see Fern again so soon, but I really love that, of all characters, this episode took the time to have Finn bid farewell to him as well. This is especially sweet on Finn’s part; Fern’s self-esteem is likely in a bit of a pit after realizing that he truly isn’t who he believed himself to be as he sits in the shadows of his former self. With Finn’s proposal, Fern finally gets the chance to claim his own identity, and also to get some attention as the designated hero of Ooo. Their bonding is really nice, especially with Fern’s “thanks for trusting me.” I love that sweet grass boy. Not to mention, their completely awkward handshake. Even with all of the nice interactions they do have, it’s totally unsurprising that they’re still awkward around each other. How could they not be? It was real nice to see Charlie again, and it’s also cool to see once more how the pups deal with their own insecurities in relation to their father. Charlie’s not really living the most glamorous life, and probably feels ashamed that Jake is (apparently) seeing her this way. It’s always cool to see the unique, differing perspectives that each pup has toward their dad. And of course, Jake’s goodbye to Lady really melts me. I love Jake’s expression during this scene, it really emphasizes just how much he cares for her. The icing on the cake is what Lady’s response translates to: “Don’t worry too much about me and just go be a good big brother.” D’aww. Even NEPTR gets to give a little goodbye to his creator, without the company of Shelby, who I can only imagine was unconscious from a long night of partying.

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PB’s cold-hearted, motherly nature does go a bit to the extreme when she almost seems angry at Finn for leaving on this journey in general, but again, you can totally sense where her overprotective attitude is coming from. It’s a really well-drawn sequence: I love how, during the lecture, Finn barely makes eye-contact with PB at all. Again, he’s likely trying to put off feeling emotional about the series of events in general, and doesn’t want to make a big deal about anything, despite his true intentions that PB can easily see through. Luckily Fern intervenes before things can get too heavy between them, as Finn says his goodbyes and the four set off on their journey. I do like Marceline being there, though I wish she did interact with Finn a bit more before his departure. Her shutting PB the fuck up was funny, however, and it got a little kick out of me to see her overtly flirting with Susan.

Overall, The Invitation is pretty great, and I’d even call it a potential strong-point of the miniseries. Like I mentioned, this episode is just so great at showing how important this trip really is, how tough some of these goodbyes are, and how much fun the writers can have while covering all of it. It perfectly captures the excitement I was feeling for the miniseries in general, and does not disappoint with hyping up that excitement even further. Marceline the Vampire Queen, the premiere of the Stakes miniseries, felt like it was more focused on executing really over-the-top and forced bits of humor, while The Invitation focuses on just the right amount of humor within its interactions and also reminds us why we should care about this story to begin with. Even in its first entry, The Invitation gives me enough of a reason to care about each individual goodbye that sets these characters further on their journey into the unknown.

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Favorite line: “You got this, Finn Mertens. You’re a buff, little, bionic baby!”

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