Original Airdate: April 24, 2017
Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Polly Guo
Interesting aspect to note before I start this one off: Niki Yang is not listed anywhere in the end credits. How odd! I can’t think of a single other time I’ve noticed an error like this. Sorry Niki, you know we love your voicework.
Anywho, it’s Elements time! While Islands branded itself mostly as a big, emotional journey, Elements certainly taps into AT’s absurdity more than anything. This is definitely the weirdest miniseries of the three, but I don’t use that term to patronize it in any way. Elements still carries with it the strengths of its predecessors; it manages to feel like one big, grand adventure, and after coming straight off of the heels of Islands, I think it’s especially impressive. It might even rival Islands for best miniseries. But I’m getting ahead of myself… for now, we have Skyhooks! A simple, yet pretty enjoyable opening that works off of what made The Invitation just as enjoyable: stellar character interactions. Being introduced to the new entities that embody well-known characters is a ton of fun, and also comes with a surprising amount of weight that carries through in several different story arcs for the remainder of the series.
Skyhooks is an episode that establishes itself very quickly while also taking its time in the process, which is pretty evident during the first few minutes alone. I like how the episode allows for moments where Finn and Jake are clearly realizing something isn’t right within Ooo. That slow pan of Jake walking is just as atmospheric as it is kind of haunting. The two boys are carelessly entering a completely warped version of their home without even (fully) realizing it. Finn, of course, has some idea of things going awry, as his observant self typically does, while Jake shuts him down. It’s pretty apparent that Jake notices these changes as well, but in typical Jake fashion, he would rather ignore the potential of dangerous truths and simply tries alleviate Finn’s worries in the process, like a good caretaker does.
Jake’s calming attitude can’t keep Finn at ease for long, as the discovery of the candified Tree Fort leaves the boys in utter awe. The candy versions of Fern, NEPTR, and Shelby are all just freakin’ adorable and look terrific. Really wish AT didn’t slow down on the merchandising front at this point in time, coz you know I’d totally splurge on Elementified versions of the crew. This is also, to my knowledge, the only time in the series the entire Tree Fort family is together in one place! Of course, they aren’t their usual selves, but it’s still an endearing thought regardless.
The way the boys individually perceive their altered friends is a lot of fun. I love how Jake openly calls out how lame some alternate dimensions stories truly are; all I could think about was the particularly bland and uninteresting first few issues of the AT: Season 11 comic series. BMO’s strange fascination with his new surroundings (I’m assuming it’s mainly because it’s bright and colorful) is also really enjoyable, considering that he doesn’t once question anything. He’s also opined that he’s going to start treating NEPTR (er, NECTR) as an equal because of it, which is also a hilarious sentiment. Finn, as expected, isn’t as easily swayed by his new home and roommates. I like how the show doesn’t stray away from Finn’s more defensive side as he initially scolds Fern (er, Fun) for the damages left to his household, and Ooo in general. I don’t think Finn is necessarily upset directly at Fun, but I can imagine he’s entirely stressed out about what he allowed to have happened in his absence. Of course, it’s shown later that it’s almost lucky that Finn and Jake had stepped out at the time, but I can easily see how Finn would immediately jump to the conclusion that he fucked up for leaving his friends and former home in such a state. Though, once again, this doesn’t phase Jake.
The episode has a lot of fun with Finn and Jake’s dynamic in this episode, and I always like how the writers never single out Finn’s POV as the necessary “right” option. Jake does have a solid point: Fern is typically in utter turmoil, NEPTR lives a life of neglect, Lemongrab (who has now transformed into the somewhat more terrifying “Lemonpink) is, for once in his entire life, actually happy and sociable. It brings the main question at hand that is a recurring theme among the civilians of the Candy Kingdom in general: should people that do not want to change have to change? It seems like an obvious answer; Fern, Lemongrab, and many others should be allowed the free will that they aren’t necessarily given within their altered forms, and even though they are “happier,” they still aren’t living that way by choice, or even their own method of thinking. But again… they are happier, and that’s always the most difficult argument to battle with: is it better for people to be happy or self-aware? I don’t think it’s something that has to be mutually exclusive, but the happiness portrayed in Elements is clearly an extreme that needs to be addressed.
The clear turning point of Jake’s perspective is when he recognizes the legitimate danger of the new Candy citizens. Sweet P., who has been gone for well over 50 episodes (surprised he doesn’t have a manlike, deep voice by now), is left without actual caregivers since Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig have been turned into utter nightmares. Granted, TT and Mr. P probably weren’t the best parents to begin with, buuuut they were marginally better than what was displayed here, and the desire to “change” anyone who does not fall into the social norms of the Kingdom is an upsettingly creepy concept. The cute and sweet cult-like environment of candified Ooo certainly isn’t an idea that’s exclusive to Adventure Time, but I think they handled it relatively well by knowing when to make things terrifying and when to keep things genuinely cute.
Speaking of genuinely cute, I love the inclusion of Finn mentioning his “late night bedtime calls” with Jake when he’s at Lady’s. It’s such a sweet notion. I can imagine half of those calls are just completely silent while Finn and Jake do some other kind of menial task, like play video games, cook food, or something else, but they just enjoy the idea of having each other there while they’re doing it. I love those bros. It does give me a bit of a sad though; I feel like Jake leaving his phone behind meant that he likely didn’t get any texts from his children, or at least as many as he was hoping for. Or, on a less sad note, maybe it’s Prismo. We do get to see him partying later on, so maybe Jake just ain’t his main squeeze for that type of stuff anymore.
And, once more on the topic of adorable, I loooove Marshmaline’s design! Someone on Etsy actually whipped up a felt version of her, which looks absolutely lovely! Unfortunately it’s $70 and out of my minuscule pay range. If only I got paid in obscure AT merchandise for my blogging efforts. Anywho, the sequence leading up to Finn and Jake’s arrival on PB’s tower is serenaded by Marshy, who hums “Greensleeves,” or “What Child is This?” for the 90% of people who more likely know it by that name. Like most of these small, but prominent AT moments, this one has been up for several different interpretations. There’s a solid UncivilizedElk video on it, which kind of knocks my theory out of the park. I mostly saw it as a way to show Marshmaline’s disconnection from using music as an emotional platform. While the lyrical interpretations of “Greensleeves” lean on its message of heartbreak and desolation, Marshmaline hums the tune in utter euphoria. While sad tunes still seem to exist within the candified remnants of Ooo, it’s quite apparent that Marshmaline lacks the raw material and attitude to effectively embody these tunes as she used to. It’s simple, but I think it still holds up a bit.
Perhaps the most hilariously horrifying entity in Ooo is PB, who personifies a giant tower, and even has tiny, cute T-Rex arms to articulate with. Finn’s anger and disgust with PB is also apparent here, and I wonder if he truly recognizes that it isn’t actually her in the moment. To be fair, PB isn’t always the best in balancing logic with emotions, and has tried to build on the Candy Kingdom’s territory on more than one occasion. That anger could also be reflected at Finn’s ability to recognize the changes that PB has gone through in recent years to become a better person, and likely wonders if she’s truly decided to go back on her policies. It isn’t till Ice King comes to the rescue with his skyhooks (a nice callback to Elemental) that Finn and Jake truly recognize the severity of the dilemma that they’re experiencing.
Couple nitpicks with this one, that might honestly be nitpicks aimed towards the miniseries as a whole: Finn and Jake are a bit negligent for the purpose of moving the story forward in this episode, to the point where they leave an unattended child in utter terror (Sweet P.) and their own child of whom they don’t really blink twice at over his loss. I get that there’s plenty of other people that Finn and Jake are close to that they also need to save, but I feel like BMO’s too close to the comrades to the point where they should be a bit more affected by completely forgetting about him. Only thing that resolves my issue with it is the idea that BMO really doesn’t give a fuck about being transformed to begin with, so maybe it was for the best at the time. Also, the whole idea that every elementified Ooo citizen now has a name that’s more appropriate to their state of being is a little gimmick-y. Who’s even giving them these names, and why are their forms always so coincidentally close to their name or identity? To harp on this would just show what a joyless, twisted person I am, so I really don’t have a legitimate complaint here. It’s gimmick-y, but enjoyably gimmick-y at that.
Otherwise, Skyhooks is pretty great! It’s not only another great showcase of solid character interactions, but also a great showcase for Ooo in general. So many various players within the Land of Ooo show up throughout this miniseries, it’s amazing! I don’t even think the finale was able to pull off such a feat. Skyhooks is also a visual treat as well, along with the seven episodes that come after it, making beauty out of the most horrid and twisted of situations. It’s a great and funny start to Elements that sets things up nicely.