“Cloudy” Review

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Original Airdate: April 25, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Graham Falk

I sometimes question myself about why Adventure Time is my all-time favorite series at the moment. I could name a couple of reasons off of the top of my head, but I think the simplest reason that has always kept me coming back no matter what is the earnestness of Finn and Jake’s relationship. Even the best of friendships in animation (and television in general) can often feel so tacked on or situational. Most shows feature friendships that are highly interchangeable given the conflict of the episode; characters like SpongeBob and Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants or Stan and Kyle from South Park can be as close as possible in one episode and be at each other’s necks in the next. Other cartoons often rely heavily on the “opposites attracting” formula by creating relationships that feel potentially phony or heartless (Regular ShowFoster’s HomeRick & Morty). This isn’t a personal attack on any of these dynamics or programs, as a handful of them succeed specifically because of the uniqueness of each relationship. However, it’s refreshingly revolutionary that Adventure Time has crafted a friendship so genuine and undoubting. Finn and Jake might be the least cynical best friends I’ve ever witnessed. That’s not to say that they don’t have their differences, but it’s their deep understanding and acceptance of those differences that makes them so lovable. Cloudy is a way to explore those obstacles in their relationship while reinforcing how it strengthens their bond as a whole. It’s an episode that former creative director Patrick McHale initially came up with seven years earlier during the first season, where Finn and Jake would “get stuck up in the sky and just talk for the whole episode; relationships, Finn’s past, Jake’s dog side, where their lives will lead, singing songs, etc.” Elements finally allows for that story to see the light of day, and it makes for one of the most delightful viewing experiences I’ve ever had with Adventure Time.

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As a result of their restless adventuring, Finn is understandably wired. The little guy wants to do anything and everything he can to support his friends in the process of saving Ooo, likely as a result of a deeper feeling of guilt that he has been experiencing since he returned home. His efforts to help are admirable even if they are slightly obnoxious… I can’t help but feel so sorry for the little guy as he tries his hardest to be as generous as possible when explaining the science of page turning to Betty. Betty, in general, has a lot of really great comedic moments within this episode, courtesy of Felicia Day actually putting effort into her performance. Finn’s curiosity about graduate school was similarly hilarious, and you can’t really blame the kid for thinking about what’s on all of our minds. Jake, like the good big brother he is, identifies Finn’s need for unwinding, and carefully handles the situation. It’s adorably sweet that Jake putting Finn to bed is accompanied by the tune of their mother’s music box. It’s a terrific symbolic piece regarding how the positions within the dog family have changed; Margaret was, of course, the primary caretaker of the family, but now Jake has circumstantially taken over in ensuring his brother’s uttermost safety and peace of mind. I love how motherly Jake is in his actions, as he doesn’t even ask Finn if he needs to rest, he just knows that he does and sweetly aides his comfort.

Pat McHale was credited as a story editor for Cloudy, but I’m somewhat surprised that he wasn’t acknowledged as a straight up storyboard artist. The first few minutes of Finn and Jake being lost are nearly completely identical to McHale’s initial notes and boards for the planned season one episode. Though a lot has changed over the years, it’s amazing to me how well these moments work seven years later. While Finn and Jake have gone through many personal transitions, one aspect remains unchanged: the silliness and love for fun that the two so passionately bond over. The gliding is sweet fun even if it entirely contradicts Finn’s valid point of “No planes! Never planes!” in Normal Man. Even the pee joke, which could commonly be seen as a lazy attempt at potty humor, is just so charmingly silly. I love how an impatient Finn still respects Jake’s privacy enough to allow him to do his business even in their time crunch. Though, as that patience quickly resurfaces, Jake realizes he needs to dig deeper into his caretaker role. Finn has been mostly independent throughout the past few years, dealing with issues that Jake personally does not understand. Jake has always been there for proper comfort, but over the past few weeks, he’s experienced Finn’s stressors head-on, and see’s it as an opportunity to allow the lad to learn the importance of self-care. And nothing says self-care like a haircut!

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The haircut therapy is great; not only do I love the implication that Jake used to cut his brother’s hair as a child, but that it also allowed a younger Finn to let his feelings and emotions out in a calm and relaxed environment. The barber banter is too likable, and the best part is that it actually does work. Finn’s melancholy over his departure is deeply sympathetic. We’ve been shown on several occasions now just how hard Finn can be on himself in episodes like Don’t Look and Do No Harm, and this is another example of Finn weaving a narrative that simply does not exist. It’s a strongly profound statement for Finn to wonder if he purposely wanted Fern to fail in appointing him as Ooo’s protector, but that clearly is not true. Finn deserved to be selfish in choosing to visit Founder’s Island, as it gave him a better understanding of himself and his past history. Yet, it’s easy to see how he could believe that he’s ultimately at fault for what happened, even if it’s clear that one person could not have prevented an entire environmental shift. The haircut therapy allows for Finn to get these feelings out in the open, but ultimately doesn’t prevent himself from feeling any less responsible for fixing Ooo’s current state. His resistance to allowing himself to relax is ultimately what breaks Jake, in another role reversal that allows for Finn to take care of his brother for once.

Never have we gotten a moment where Jake is as open as he is in Cloudy, and it’s awesome and perfectly fitting for his character. It’s easy to look upon Jake as non-caring because of his upbeat and lax personality, but it’s these traits in particular that prove just how caring and responsible he is. In nearly all of his relationships, Jake feels responsible for being the one to keep things light and positive so that others are not negatively affected by his own or their own anxieties. It’s once more very easy to look at him from a parental role, as he feels that he needs to be this way, instead of wanting to be this way. It makes me really admire past episodes like Dungeon Train, where we have those smaller moments of Jake pondering his own life that really put into perspective how much he gives and puts other people before himself, namely Finn.

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It’s also just incredibly sad to wonder how many and which worries Jake keeps hidden completely. It’s easy to see how these feelings could reflect his own insecurities as a father, again, making an episode like Ocarina more understandable from Jake’s perspective. Jake isn’t dumb – he probably knows that Kim Kil Whan resented him for his lack of knowledge on parental abilities, but didn’t want to fully confront that fact and keep things light and amiable between the two. This episode proves, without a doubt, that Jake is much better at parenting than one could ever guess. Through caring for Finn, Jake has taken on a position of responsibility that he himself may not even recognize, and it’s incredibly sweet to see just how much he loves Finn and cares for his own well-being. What this episode also cleverly explores is how, at a certain point, caretakers need care too. It’s obvious that Finn deeply cares for his brother, but Jake’s revelation opened up a side of him that was completely foreign to Finn. Finn’s new understanding is represented beautifully through the reversal haircut therapy, which shows that he can take on his brother’s role quite nicely. If all of this wasn’t precious enough, the two reenact the intro as Jake climbs up Finn’s body to properly pay him for his haircut. This episode could essentially be named “Finn & Jake” for how perfectly it embodies the heart of their friendship.

Even the song, which isn’t technically a good song, is just so likable and charming that I couldn’t help but have a dumb smile on my face throughout its entirety. Rewatching it almost brings me to tears! With Adventure Time‘s finale being six months old by now, Cloudy really has me longing for the simplistic loveliness of Finn and Jake’s bond. Their song is so irresistibly sweet and likable that I don’t even mind that it doesn’t match the lyrical genius of some of AT‘s past entries. This is another one of those episodes where nearly every line of dialogue is perfect in its subtleties. Jake’s line of “it happens sooner than you think,” when Finn mentions being 35 is so utterly poignant. It’s a brief tie-in to Jake’s rapid aging, but also a great allusion to how a life of peace and positivity can often move so fast beyond our control. It’s even a bit of a sweet sentiment for viewers of the series as well. I started Adventure Time as a young, energetic 12-year-old, and now I’m here writing about as a 21-year-old with so, so much that has happened in between. My balls hadn’t even dropped yet when I started! Life moves fast, y’all! And, just for a random bit of appraisal, I love Jake’s impression of stereotypical Italian man. It’s such an out of nowhere gag that just works wonderfully.

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The climax of the episode is a ton of fun; I love how, even after we’re shown how loving the brothers are, they still get to engage in some likable and light banter, particularly with Finn’s jabs at Jake being smelly. The Cloud Lard was a nice edition to the ongoing lard species, and they add plenty of AT‘s bizarreness to his character, like his eventual ability to speak. While returning back, F&J seek comfort in the fact that, despite everything that has happened, they still have a chance to fix things. It’s a beautiful conclusive piece to their struggles, as they expressed them, learned to accept them, and now work to fix them. Ice King gets a small role in the episode, but it’s pretty fun and delightful at that. I love how Tom Kenny’s inflections can give Ice King the most random instances of humanity, like his small “ew” when the angler lard attempts to eat him. And of course, the haircut line was just the kind of hilariously corny joke to wrap up such an endearing episode.

Cloudy‘s brilliant. Not only does it carry across an atmosphere of what makes the series so lovable in the first place, but it’s one big love letter to the heart and soul of Adventure Time in general. This is an episode I’ve wanted to see since I first read about it in The Art of Ooo, and it did not disappoint. If I had to criticize any aspect of this episode, it’d probably be a technical aspect: I thought Jake’s facial expressions while blowing up could’ve been stronger. Graham Falk is usually great with silly and cartoony expressions, but dramatic faces are certainly not his forte. Otherwise, Cloudy is nearly perfect. While Elements is great in general, it’s most surprising that it’s greatest entry is almost entirely self-contained. It really shows how strong any episode can be when it puts our two lovable heroes at the forefront.

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Favorite line: “Talcum?” “Enough calm!”

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