Archive | April 2019

“Fionna and Cake and Fionna” Review

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Original Airdate: July 19, 2017

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

I don’t think a single episode of Adventure Time strikes me as more bizarre than Fionna and Cake and Fionna. A bold statement to say the least, but it’s not because the episode is filled with weird gags and non-sequiturs, akin to King Worm. This is the type of episode that really makes me wonder, “who thought this was a good idea?” With all of the controversial misfires that AT dished out over the years, such as Finn gaining his arm back and Betty’s introduction being quickly glossed over, I’ve been able to accept everything for what it was even if it wasn’t perfect, or good, at the very least. However, the decision to build on the lore behind Fionna and Cake is one that I typically ignore all together just because of how ridiculous and pointless it is.

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The big revelation within this episode is that Fionna and Cake were apparently apart of some super old television show before the Mushroom War. So, all of this time, the Land of Ooo has comprised of coincidental duplicates of the entire Fionna and Cake cast? How… does that make any sense? It’s absolutely jarring information that (nearly) ruins the fabric of the AT world itself. Even worse is that it’s treated so casually, almost as if this is information isn’t Earth shattering in the slightest, and just a simple piece of expository dialogue to drive the episode home with. I’m guessing that this information was going to be utilized for later Fionna and Cake entries, but the show got cancelled and then nothing else ever came from this story at all. I don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse, really, because as much as I feel like this plot point needs further explanation, I just don’t care in the slightest about Fionna and Cake or their role in this world at all anymore. The concept started out as a fun crackpipe idea that Natasha Allegri came up with, but has gotten so lost in the weeds that it doesn’t even know what it wants to be anymore. The world of Fionna and Cake simply isn’t that interesting – it’s just a watered-down and less characterized version of Ooo. The first two F&C episodes were satirical but loving jabs at the nature of fanfiction in general, the third and fourth entries seemed so straightforward and less committed to being parodies that there really wasn’t anything of substance within either, and this one feels like a desperate attempt to keep Fionna and Cake relevant in the world of Adventure Time through the most convoluted way possible. It’s pretty apparent that the staff really doesn’t know what to do with these characters anymore, but they clearly feel obligated to keep churning out an annual entry.

It doesn’t help that the episode is pretty boring on its own. My favorite bits of this episode are at the beginning – I love Finn, Jake, and BMO’s raft ride! After some of the craziest adventures they’ve ever been through, it’s really neat to see the boys back to having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Ice King’s book reading is similarly enjoyable, just for the fact that he actually had a decent turnout of people interested in listening to his stories. I really disliked that Bad Little Boy uncharacteristically portrayed Ice King’s writing as incoherent, because it’s actually one of his strong suits. As goofy as the subject matter is, he actually manages to churn out semi-decent tales with a committed story structure, and it’s nice to see that the folks of Ooo are captivated by these stories. The ol’ coot deserves it! As for the good stuff, the list pretty much ends there. Once the Fionna impersonator introduces herself, the episode slows down entirely while feeling like it’s accomplishing nothing at the same time. The Fionna impersonator really isn’t that interesting… you know from the beginning that she isn’t actually Fionna, so it ends up being a game of waiting for the revelation to come to the forefront. That element alone isn’t always poorly executed, but again, the fact that fake Fionna has little to no character at all makes it a pretty drab experience. I don’t know why they didn’t choose the more fun route of turning her into an obsession stalker, since it would’ve been cool to see Ice King work off of that type of personality. Speaking of which, Ice King isn’t at his A-game in this one. They don’t really give him any humorous material to work with; the closest moment he gets to being funny is when he incorrectly comes to the conclusion that the fake Fionna must be a mummy, but even then, it doesn’t do much for me. After coming off of the heels of Elements, this is probably the weakest IK episode in a long, long time.

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The actual Fionna and Cake segments are equally as pointless. Cake remains to be the only likable character in the F&C world, as Fionna continues to feel like a hollow and lifeless version of her counterpart. The story meanders for a good while, until the eventual twist that the mummy was actually the Queen of Ooo, which is a slightly obscure cameo, but it’s a pretty lame climax. The joke is essentially, “here’s this character all of you know, except as a lady!” which feels incredibly cheap and repetitive. A lot of Fionna and Cake stories are boring and forgettable, but this is definitely the most unremarkable of the five.

This episode tries to make up for being pretty joyless by leaving the audience with a few things to chew on, mainly the concept of Fionna and Cake being real that I had mentioned, and the fact that ideas for Fionna and Cake are beamed into Ice King’s head at night. I guess this could possibly mean that Ice King’s crown somehow picks up the signal of past Fionna and Cake episodes, or vice versa, with his mind projecting the ideas out to Ooo’s television signals, but again, I just could care less. I know that’s kind of an arrogant thing to say, mainly because I write this blog with the intention of putting as much care and passion in as possible, but I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve realized that Fionna and Cake really add nothing to the series beyond their initial episode. As I’ve mentioned, it was a enjoyably bizarre idea for the first entry, but it’s not a concept that lends itself to multiple different independent episodes centered around the idea. This episode would be atrocious for completely disregarding what made Fionna and Cake unique to begin with, but I’m not angry at it for the main reason that I’m not invested in this concept at all to begin with. Fionna and Cake outlived their usefulness long ago, and I’m eternally grateful that this is the last F&C episode ever produced.

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Favorite line: “Yes, let’s never do anything boring ever ag… Time for Ice King’s boring book reading!”

“Ketchup” Review

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Original Airdate: July 18, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Here’s a lil’ bonus review for y’all! Happy Easter/Passover/Whatever you choose to celebrate… Day…!

Ketchup is a sweet treat. It’s not only cool to see Marceline and BMO interact, which almost NEVER happens, but also to welcome back Alex and Lindsay Small-Butera to the team, who previously worked on Beyond the Grotto. I mentioned in my review of Beyond the Grotto that it was visually stunning, but had a pretty lackluster story at the helm. Ketchup is quite the opposite, having a (mostly) solid recap story that is complemented by the guest animation nicely.

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Ketchup begins so brilliantly. As an episode that seeks to shed some light on the past two miniseries(s), it’s so clever that Stakes was also referenced as a result, in a way that feels totally in line with BMO’s character. I can imagine Finn and Jake bringing it up to each other and BMO, without even telling them, chooses to set out on his own vampire hunting adventure. The little guy even has stakes prepared! As I mentioned, it’s really sweet to see Marceline and BMO chatting with each other. After 250+ episodes of the series, it amazes me that the only thing Marceline has ever said to BMO is, “Come here, baby,” in What Was Missing. It’s crazy that there’s still an opportunity for new character interactions, but hey, I’m all for it! Marceline herself is a lot of fun in this one – she’s been limited to a lot of dramatic entries in the past, and while Ketchup is one to an extent, it’s still cute to see her so energetic and playful in BMO’s presence. Lovin’ those ponytails, too!

Things really pick up when the episode gets into the actual “ketching up” part, as BMO describes his Islands trip to Marceline, which has to be my favorite part of the episode. I love how even with plenty of stories under his belt, namely the fact that he was a literal god within a virtual world, BMO still chooses to tell a story completely nonsensical and untrue (though emotionally true, as he later reassures). The animation within this sequence is particularly a spectacle. Not only are the colors beautiful, but the vibrancy of the animation in general is so refreshing. There’s a lot of nice slapstick as well, like Finn’s constant falling over and knocking into his surroundings, or the brief squash-and-stretch as Jake lands onto the island. The flying animation is hilariously beautiful as well; there’s something surprisingly humorous for me about the simplistic design of the cat and how superbly it’s animated. The song itself is lots of fun, which was actually written by Pat McHale and his younger son. There’s actually a demo somewhere out there with McHale’s son singing the song himself, it’s adorable! It also helps add to BMO’s childike wonder that a child themselves worked on a song for his character. The J.G. Quintel blue jay is as close to a crossover as I’d ever want Adventure Time to go, too. It’s a silly reference on its own, and I’m glad it doesn’t go too over-the-top or reference heavy towards Regular Show in general.

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Marceline’s story doesn’t quite live up to BMO’s visual or humor wise, but I love the effort she put in to making it fun and engaging for BMO. In general, I don’t think this is a story I really needed to hear. It’s supposed to be giving us information about the events leading up to Elements… but nothing that I found particularly interesting or surprising. We learn that Marceline did all that she could to try to save PB during the elemental shift, but again, I feel as though that’s just kind of common sense given the situation. And I certainly wasn’t especially stoked that the ONE Marceline-centric episode of the season finds a way to shoehorn her relationship with PB in. I’ll reiterate that I don’t hate their relationship at all, but I find it tiring that it feels like her character can’t just exist on her own without some sort of Bubblegum reference.

That bitching aside, I do like the execution of the story, mostly on a visual level. I think the designs of lollipop and rockstar girl are really cute and lovable, and it’s so nice to have a return of Patience St. Pim’s character once more, of whom I never expected to see again! She gets a handful of funny moments, namely the fact that a migraine was what nearly led her into undoing all that she worked to accomplish (I do wonder why Patience wasn’t affected by the elementa- er, potato curse during the story sequence. Wouldn’t she have been affected the same time that PB was?). The backgrounds are similarly gorgeous. I love the soft, matching color schemes that inhabit Weekend City. It almost reminds me of the beautiful UPA-like backgrounds in The Powerpuff Girls – another one of my favorite shows. The emotional ending of the story didn’t really get me, but Marceline’s follow-up about her own lack of honesty when it comes to her emotions was actually pretty effective. Marceline’s been through a lot in the past year, including losing and gaining back her vampirism, meeting back up and having to leave her former father figure, and nearly bidding farewell to the one that she loves, only for everything to end up back to normal. She’s gone through so many whiplash-like transitions that she probably never even gets a chance to think about how she feels or how she should feel.

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It isn’t until her flashdrive finally loads through BMO’s projector that she discovers a distant memory that channels into her emotions – the image of her mother. Despite all of the numbing Marceline has had to force on herself in order to get by, such a memory is a reminder of sweet and simpler times, and a time where she was arguably more emotionally honest with herself and others. Marceline’s always had to hide her emotions for one reason or another, but such a memory is a great reminder of a person who was always there for her, through both darker and lighter times. The tale that BMO weaves is sweet and artistically pleasing. Despite the Small-Buteras animating each story segment of the episode, I love how they do bring a different flair to each portion, as the Moon Lady segment artistically looks straight out of a storybook itself. It’s a really neat and sad moment that appropriately utilizes Marcy’s mom to her best potential. I never really wanted a full explanation of why Mrs. Abadeer left or where she went to begin with, so I feel that a story that somewhat captures the essence of her past is enough to make for a satisfying emotional conclusion for her character, and a partial resolution for Marceline’s character as well.

Ketchup has its problems; for an episode about Marceline’s experiences during an sixteen episode gap, I don’t think it was as compelling as it could’ve been. But it’s an episode that’s irresistibly sweet, and one that’s visually stunning as well. Shout out to the Small-Buteras for being the only animators (aside from Science SARU with the alternate intros) to be guest talents on AT twice! I liked Beyond the Grotto fine, but Ketchup is clearly superior. It’s much more fun and coherent within its individual storylines, with a big heart to boot. I never knew I wanted an episode focusing on Marceline and BMO’s relationship, but I’m damn glad we got one regardless.

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Favorite line: “Then we floated with the boats. Not in the boats, but with the boats.”

“Abstract” Review

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Original Airdate: July 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Laura Knetzger

From a cast of emotionally-fueled characters, Jake is certainly an outsider on Adventure Time. We’ve seen him time and time again ignore significant changes in his life and as he attempts to treat drastic shifts as if they are easily manageable and barely noticeable. This has always been a consistent trait of Jake’s character, even in the earlier seasons and more comedic centered episodes. Trouble in Lumpy Space features Jake largely downplaying a potentially crucial life change, while Chips & Ice Cream has him ignoring a physical change almost completely. On the surface, it looks like Jake is accepting change exceptionally well, though it’s clearly more so the denial that any change has occurred to begin with. Abstract exaggerates said denial to extreme lengths in the best way possible. As we witnessed recently in Cloudy, Jake struggles to be open about his fears and inner conflict, and Abstract takes it a bit further by showing his resistance to any form of transition around him, good or bad. It isn’t necessarily change itself that Jake fears, however. Over the course of the show, we’ve seen Jake go through several transitions, namely becoming a father. He’s always found comfort in the fact that those around him, including his brother and loved ones, have looked at him as the same person he was before. Now, with changes noticeably happening around him, Jake is terrified that such changes may result in a total change of his character, and his life.

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Jake’s denial of such changes really shine through in the first few minutes, and it’s really interesting to see how each character acts in response to his new form. BMO is a child at heart, and is understandably the least accepting to such changes. We’ve already seen in The More You Moe, the Moe You Know that BMO perceives change as something Earth shattering, rather than a natural part of life, so it’s no wonder that he’s so opposed to such jarring shift. Finn is a bit more open to the new alien-like Jake, though not by much. He struggles to even look his brother in the face and bats around the topic rather tackling it head on, which is similarly understandable. Jake gets defensive after Finn only brings up the obvious, thus Finn tries to be as supportive as he possibly can, while still being the slightest bit freaked out by his brother’s transformation.

On the even more supportive side, I love how kind and caring Lady is toward her S.O. She never passes judgment against him and shoots the dirtiest of looks towards Dirt Beer Guy (in his final appearance) for invalidating her boyfriend. It just goes to show how sweet she really is, having Jake’s back no matter what he looks like or does, as long as he is content with himself. This is practically one of Lady’s only standout roles in season eight, and I’m glad we do get an opportunity to revisit the kind-natured character every so often. I also love the subtlety in her moments with Jake… as she says she loves Jake, he responds with, “I love me too!” referencing his desire to stay the same forever.

Things quickly go astray when Jake begins experiencing strange shared dreams with Jermaine, which aren’t as prophetic or metaphorical as most AT dream sequences go, but are just as bizarre. Something that is immediately noticeable within this episode is that the backgrounds standout more than usual, and that is a result of former AT artist ghostshrimp returning to the team! Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great background artists following his departure, but I don’t think anyone has quite matched ghostshrimp’s legacy since. The amount of detail he puts into every single aspect of the screen is incredible; when I think of AT backgrounds in general, I think of soaking in every individual piece that I can analyze for further implications. Ghostshrimp gets this better than anyone, and really puts his all into making scenery look as bizarre and unique as possible. And what better way to do that than with an episode entitled Abstract?

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The episode title, of course, also connects to a more literal meaning. Jake perceives Jermaine’s painting of abstract portraits as out of character and concludes that something must be wrong with him, which quite clearly connects to Jake’s mindset that if he chooses to change, it may lead to dire consequences for himself. Finn helping out Jake is sweet and brings up an adorably childish side of his character, in which he draws out his weird dreams using crayons. I’d love to see what he whipped up based on his dream experiences in Frost & Fire. It’s also funny to note that Finn continues to avoid making eye contact with Jake during this experience, likely because it’s frankly strange to view his brother, of whom he’s known since birth, as a five-eyed, blue, alien-like creature. The crayon therapy proves to be ineffective for Jake, as he acknowledges that changing isn’t in Jermaine’s “nature.” This similarly applies to Jake’s thought process about his own being; in Cloudy, Jake mentions that being the responsible caregiver means that he isn’t supposed to talk about his stress and anxieties to Finn. Thus, he also believes that Jermaine isn’t supposed to express himself through abstract art because it doesn’t represent the Jermaine that he once knew. Jake also dismisses the abstract art that he draws himself, calling it out as “just squiggles.” Abstract art later becomes a metaphor for personal change, to which the previous moment adds to, as Jake views change as something insignificant.

Though, through his soul-searching, Jake does decide to set out to find Jermaine (equipped with his blue pack! With all of the disappearing props throughout AT‘s eight years on air, I’m glad that Jake’s trademark backpack has still remained a consistent element). During his travels, he runs into James, a character of whom I’m not very fond of, but I was still happy to see. He even gets a few laughs out of me this time around – I typically never found James’ “WHA?” catchphrase to be particularly funny, but there’s something about him using it a third time around that gets a kick out of me. I can’t really explain why, humor’s just weird like that. I will say that I think the middle section of the episode is a bit weak. A lot of it feels like it’s just plodding until Jake finally reaches Jermaine. I didn’t find the wall of water that funny, nor did I with Bryce, whose interactions with Jake felt particularly purposeless. It’s even more distracting that Bryce’s voice actor, Jon Wurster, also portrays the wall of water, who appears directly before Bryce. Wurster’s voice really isn’t that difficult to identify.

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It’s very nice to see Jermaine again, who seems noticeably happier. I dug the stick-in-the-mud Jermaine we saw in his debut episode, but seeing him much more relaxed and compassionate towards Jake is just as rewarding. Though he is compassionate, he doesn’t bullshit, and he’s probably the only one to be so straightforward to Jake thus far. He says it like it is – Jake has changed and despite his denial and ignorance to it, he can’t remain stagnant. His personal changes come from several different factors: 1. He’s more open and honest about his emotions, as Cloudy proved. 2. He’s getting older and wiser, and even more mature as a result, but also retains his sense of fun and loving nature despite everything. With all of these changes at hand, Jake does worry that he’ll no longer be able to be the fun-loving guy that he once was, but Jermaine reassures him that he can still remain the same person while changing regardless. Jermaine’s interactions with his bro are irresistibly sweet, especially with lines like, “He [Joshua] told me to be supportive, but I would’ve done that anyway.” Jermaine painted a picture of a jealous person who resented his brother for all that he doesn’t have, but Abstract proves how much Jermaine truly loves his brother despite their differences.

In an effort to understand his brother’s artwork, Jake examines Jermaine’s paintings in a trippy, peaceful sequence.

“The shapes are always changing. Changing is their normal state, like us. Even if we’re not changing on the outside, we’re changing on the inside constantly. There’s some stuff about me that I’ve been ignoring for a long time. I’m afraid of that stuff. But it’s part of who I am. As long as I know the shape of my soul, I’ll be all right.”

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Change is a core theme of Adventure Time, and this is yet another beautiful sentiment. It’s a reminder that, whether you like it or not, change will happen and is ALWAYS happening. Despite all of it, however, one’s soul and values do not change. Learning to trust one’s self is much more vital than trusting the finite structure of the ever-changing world, and Jake recognizes that. His ability to acknowledge that, whatever changes do happen, he’ll still be the same Jake that he recognizes to be good. This is another one of those Adventure Time moments that is pretty divisive among the fanbase. This is an example of AT kind of batting around the status quo to ensure that everything remains familiar. I’ve mentioned before that I was mixed with Finn’s arm coming back in Breezy; on the one hand (no pun intended), it was an incredibly dumb decision to return his arm to normal only episodes after he had lost it, while on the other hand, it still really worked with the theme that the episode set to accomplish, and I feel the same here. Jake’s appearance changes only after he discovers that his entire soul doesn’t have to change even if he does, which visually leaves us with the yellow stretchy dog that we’ve come to love. I’ll even say that I don’t think it was a dumb decision to bring back yellow Jake at all – the shapeshifter design is a bit… wonky. It’s fine for what they set out to accomplish within this episode, but I don’t really think I’d want Jake to look like this for the rest of the series. I think when fans complain about this type of situation, it helps to wonder if they truly want the change in the first place, or if they just don’t want any type of change to be retconned. The latter’s understandable, but I really do question the former. Jake returns home and finally recognizes that he’s returned to normal, knowing that he’s changed, but is still the same on the inside. Everything stays, mothafuckas!

Abstract is a pretty solid entry. It has it weaker and more controversial moments, but at its core, it’s a solid developmental episode for both Jake and Jermaine. After so much mystery and ambiguity about Jake’s character, season eight has really done a great job of showing us subtle glimpses into Jake’s psyche. It isn’t much, but then again, Jake’s baggage isn’t really his strong point to begin with. He’s a fun, comical, and loving character, and as Abstract has shown, its a title he chooses to defend and represent above everything.

Also, fun fact: all of the abstract paintings in the episode were created by Laura Knetzger, who co-boarded this episode. This is Knetzger’s last episode working on the show. Thanks for the fun, Laura!

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Favorite line: “Funny, though, I can kind of taste the toast’s emotions or something.”

“Elements” Miniseries Review

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Elements is the last miniseries that Adventure Time has ever produced, and it really closed things up with a bang. I’ve debated up to this point whether I think that Islands or Elements is the better miniseries, and I’m still slightly torn. I think I definitely have the stronger emotional connection to Islands, but Elements as a whole is the least problematic miniseries as a whole. While I have a ton of problems with Stakes and a few minor ones with IslandsElements has very few actual issues that I can pinpoint. While Stakes and Islands had their weaker entries, Elements really doesn’t have any duds on its hands. It’s weakest episodes mainly are limited to being entertaining on a base level, but still, they’re at the very least entertaining.

The opening of Elements is AMAZING, and quite possibly my favorite alternate opening that AT has ever put out. There’s just sooo much going on in it. While I previously complained that Islands‘ intro was just limited to a long-pan of the ocean that didn’t look all that spectacular, Elements gives us a glimpse into each of the elementified kingdoms (with the exception of the Fire Kingdom) and even adds a bit of backstory to the events of Elements as a whole. There’s a brief bit of foreshadowing with a happy LSP floating through the literal elemental apocalypse. There’s also that really neat shot of Fern being fully consumed by the candy wave; everything is presented in such a quick and tense matter that there’s a ton to absorb in such a short amount of time. The downside is that, while Science SARU is usually top-notch when it comes to guest animation, there are some sequences that are awkwardly storyboarded that make it feel slightly wonky in execution. Hanna K. boarded this one, and while she usually is pretty competent from an artistic front, there are some scenes (namely the dynamic pan up towards Patience) that just feel a little sloppy. But, it’s so fast-paced that you barely even notice, and only really sticks out upon actual analysis. I also appreciate how cryptic the nature of the intro is in general; as usual, this miniseries lists off four main heroes, but Lumpy Space Princess’s role is barely even alluded to. It really keeps things interesting in that sense. I’m usually not a fan of PB’s singing voice all that much, but you can almost tell how much fun Hynden Walch is having singing that classic AT tune. It’s kind of hard to resist.

Oh, and holy shit, are those title cards beautiful! These have got to be some of my favorites in the series, with each title card shifting the main character of focus more and more to the left, which makes for a really neat looking banner. Joy Ang painted half of them, and while her art is always beautiful, Benjamin Anders, who joined the design team this season, really shines with his work in designing and painting a good majority of the cards.

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Like Islands and StakesElements features a main, ongoing story, but there’s also A LOT going on beyond the surface as well. You have the mysterious and often hostile relationship between Betty and Ice King, the constant tensions between the four kingdoms (of course, it’s only natural that the Fire Nation are the ones to attack), Lumpy Space Princess’s role as a hero, and the subtle, but still very much prominent, development of Finn and Jake’s relationship with each other. While F&J’s strengthened bond isn’t focused on as much as those other elements (pun intended), I think it’s undoubtedly this miniseries’ strongest arc. The passion behind Finn and Jake’s brotherhood is something that has been hit on numerous times throughout the run of the series, with great standout entries such as StorytellingMorituri Te SaltutamusSons of MarsDungeon Train, and Don’t Look, but never has it been more apparent how much they truly appreciate each other. Cloudy is, without a doubt, one of the best episodes Adventure Time has ever put out because it really emphasizes what makes the series so lovable to begin with: the simplicity of Finn and Jake and their friendship. I say simplicity not to undermine the complexities of their individual characters, but because their friendship is not bogged down by their baggage. Even with the weight of the world on their shoulders, Finn and Jake still manage to get by in their ability to enjoy each other’s presence and take delight in the simpler things. Cloudy had the potential to be a dark and grim entry, but it instead chooses to be a celebration of the positivity of our two heroes. It ultimately makes it all the more poignant when Jake is separated from Finn. We’ve seen Finn struggle without Jake plenty of times before, but the timing of their mutual trust that everything will end up alright makes consequences all the more dire, which in turn makes their reunion all the more heartwarming.

A surprising feat for this miniseries is that it also features Lumpy Space Princess at her absolute best. It’s really cool how such a shallow character can be incorporated into the overall lore of AT in a meaningful and believable fashion. It’s also neat that her development comes full circle by the end of Elements. LSP has always been a character that has lived in stagnancy and has been unable to actually grow because of the way she is and how she will always be. Here, Elements allows for her to be accepted and celebrated for who she is, rather than what society wants her to be, and I think that’s pretty swell. I’m usually fairly critical of LSP’s role in nearly any episode she’s in, but I really only have one nitpick for her arc in general: the way each writer handles her character can be somewhat inconsistent. I’ve mentioned before that a hidden talent of Seo Kim is portraying Lumpy Space Princess as sympathetic and thoughtfully as possible, and she’s really at her most likable in Hero Heart. She’s just as humorous in the following episode, but Steve Wolfhard portrays her as much more cold and detached from wanting to have any role in helping the people of Ooo. It feels a little bit of a drastic shift, but meh, it’s not something that particularly bothers me because I do appreciate each of these LSP entries.

The ongoing storyline featuring the elementified kingdoms is handled pretty successfully. While some of these individual explorations are (appropriately) silly, like the party-crazy Slime Kingdom, others are used as a deeper dive into more challenging allegories, like the question of whether permanent happiness is logical or not, or how easily controlled anger and rage truly are. There’s a nice balance of drama and fun mixed into it all, with the Candy and Slime Kingdom’s being used to showcase the comedy and fun of the shift, while the Fire and Ice Kingdom are used to emphasize how truly bleak this essential apocalypse is.

Then there’s Betty and Ice King, who work off of each other pretty greatly, though with some weak spots along the way. I’ll say this, I think Elements may be the best stories for Ice King and Betty’s characters individually. Ice King is still the lovable goofball we’ve come to love, but I really love how much of a team player he is in this. Ice King tagging along for Finn and Jake’s adventures has always left him either ignored or useless, but here, he’s actually one of the most competent members. Not only did he manage to avoid getting transformed entirely on his own (which may partially be a result of his crown) but he’s the only one who stays entirely focused on the central mission throughout this whole journey. Even Finn, who is understandably upset after losing Jake, is given a bit of reality check from ol Simon. It really shows how far his character has come and how truly devoted he is to being a hero in his own right. Betty is similarly terrific, for entirely different reasons. For one, she has a new voice actor that actually seems to care about the world itself, which helps for her character to truly shine through. Betty is still thoroughly sympathetic, and perhaps more-so than ever. I’ve mentioned this before, but even though she’s insane, she’s understandably insane, and it’s easy to get behind her woes knowing everything she’s been through. Not to mention she also has terrific comedic timing when interacting with other characters, such as Finn. It’s a perfect balance of wanting Betty to succeed, but also wanting Ice King to thrive in his own element. My few problems with their interactions stem from the fact that I think the pacing for Betty’s turmoil could have been panned out slightly better. It appears that she’s had it planned all along that she wants to steal the Enchiridion to get Simon back, but she has a brief moment of understanding and connectedness with Ice King in Hero Heart, which ultimately ends with her deciding to go through with her plan all along. It feels a bit out of place; I get that the endgoal was to make Betty’s betrayal a surprise, but I feel as though it allowed for false implications of development to still be executed and ultimately feel wasted by the end of it. Outside of Hero Heart, however, I thought everything moved relatively smoothly, so I’m nitpicking a bit.

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As for the rest of Elements, you’ll mostly find myself nitpicking a few other issues that are barely really issues. I think the elementified versions of the characters are slightly gimmick-y in who is affected (Sweet P. is not, but Gunther is; Finn’s flame shield doesn’t protect him, but Cinnamon Bun’s weaker shield does) as well as the fact that everyone has conveniently clever names for their transition, but it’s all in the spirit of suspension of disbelief, and to harp on the latter point would just show how soulless and not fun I truly am. I also believe that the first half of Elements is objectively better than the second half, but that’s not to say that those last four episodes are bad by any means. Elements just started out unbelievably strong and I don’t think those first few entries are met in quality by the second half.

I typically don’t talk about storyboard teams during the miniseries(s) because pretty much every staff member gets a chance to shine, but something still baffles me about Elements… where was Tom Herpich? Steve Wolfhard had a guest spot with Laura Knetzger in Winter Light, and then worked on Skyhooks II entirely on his own. Was Herpich just busy at the time, or did he purposely opt-out of storyboarding for the miniseries? I dunno, it’s a strange absence that really just has me scratching my head.

Best to Worst Episodes

  1. Cloudy
  2. Bespoken For
  3. Skyhooks
  4. Winter Light
  5. Happy Warrior
  6. Skyhooks II
  7. Hero Heart
  8. Slime Central

Final Consensus

It’s no wonder that season eight is such a renaissance period for past fans of the series, as it really just gets better and better as it goes along, and Elements is a prime example of that. It’s a celebration of everything that the series started out as and everything it has become, allowing for non-stop fun and non-stop lore to blend in seamlessly. I’m overall excited to move on to a non-miniseries, because Islands and Elements have basically consumed my life for the past few months, but overall I was just really happy to get to rewatch these two landmark AT entries once more. Might be a controversial statement, but I truly do think that Islands and Elements may be the two best batches of episodes that the series has EVER put out.

 

“Skyhooks II” Review

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Original Airdate: April 24, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard

Something that sets Skyhooks II apart from its predecessors The Dark Cloud and The Light Cloud (aside from a pretty lazy name) is that this miniseries finale focuses less on the idea of absolute closure and instead, in typical AT fashion, opens the floor up for even more questions. It only makes sense that such a huge and drastic change to the Land of Ooo is not met with an immediate resolution on all levels. Skyhooks II directly affects the remainder of the series in several different ways, making it feel perhaps the most important and crucial miniseries storywise. It also helps that the finale itself is thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking.

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The episode starts off right where the previous episode left off, as an endangered Finn is saved by the newly heroic LSP. It’s actually news to me that the “Bon Bon Ballad” that PB sings is NOT a pre-existing licensed song. I always thought that it, along with the other songs featured in Elements, were ripped directly from outside sources. But it’s not, and hey, it’s pretty catchy! I also love how PB’s horrifyingly strong powers are combatted by just how sweet and pleasant she is. For all of AT‘s straight-up villainous characters like Oragalorg, Hunson, and the Lich, it’s profound to me that one of the toughest baddies that the boys, and all of Ooo, have been up against is menacing in her own sweetness.

Even more fittingly contradictory is that one of Ooo’s most powerful heroes is the disinterested and self-absorbed LSP. Per usual, her behavior throughout this miniseries continues to amuse me. I love that the power within her to potentially save the world could have stopped things a lot sooner if she had just listened to her parents for once. Kinda reminds me of Lemonhope, in a way – you have these two prophetic beings who just want absolutely nothing to do with what they were prophesied to be. Aside from verbal humor, this is also a pretty decent visual episode as well. Steve Wolfhard boarded this one entirely on his own, being the second he’s done solo since Graybles 1000+, and it looks pretty great. Love LSP’s hand sinking into her cheek as she gushes over Michael by the fire.

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On the other side of things, Betty has lost her fucking marbles. After building her up as semi-competent throughout the run of ElementsSkyhooks II throws that all out the door in order to show off her true nature: a hopeless romantic who is destined on preventing any tragedies in her life and others, even if it means preventing the Mushroom War as a whole (even Prismo and Cosmic Owl are shocked!) Betty’s plight is hugely similar to Magic Man’s that we saw in You Forgot Your Floaties, as we watch her go to extreme lengths in order to be reunited with the one she loved, even if that means altering the world as we know it. While MM’s role in that episode was certainly sympathetic, Betty’s role in Skyhooks II is definitely more tragic, or it at least feels that way. Betty’s obviously insane, but you can’t really blame her for being insane either. The man she once loved has turned into a decrepit, goofy, old man, with absolutely no logical solutions in sight. That’s enough to turn anybody insane, and Felicia Day does an absolutely stupendous job at capturing both the madness and sadness that lives inside Betty.

But, something amazing happens during the run of this episode that has changed my perspective on Ice King as a whole. While Betty has a great sympathetic role, Ice King has an even greater one. Up to this point, I’ve been pretty supportive for Ice King’s “cure” that would ultimately revert him back to his former self because I always saw Ice King as an alternate version of Simon. But then, we get this brilliant line that really picked at my brain:

“Lady, this Simon sounds cool, but I’m Ice King! I guess I’m a special person, and I am worthy of respect.”

Ice King’s charm and charisma has always come from this fact that he’s a lovable, creepy goof, but this line alone humanizes him more than the series ever has. Ice King is an individual, he is his own person, and he is not Simon. So, with that in mind, is it really ethical on any level to “save” Simon if it means erasing Ice King? The IK, while occasionally harmful, is still very much a socially conscious person who is susceptible to all of the privileges that any other living being has, such as personal growth and self-actualization. Since Holly Jolly Secrets, the mindset I have always had is “it’s so sad what happened to Simon,” but now, if Simon were to be restored to his former self, my thought process would change entirely to “it’s so sad what happened to Ice King.” The show has really done it’s damnedest to add as much empathy to not only Simon’s character, but also Ice King’s, throughout the past few seasons. Even with an episode like I Remember You, which I LOVE, Ice King is kind of viewed more as a plague than someone to be celebrated. Skyhooks II acknowledges that, yes, the loss of Simon is sad, but at least we got Ice King out of it, and despite his shortcomings, he deserves respect like anyone else. Not only is this terrifically represented through IK’s line alone, but also the explosion that destroys his bespoked suit, exposing his classic blue moomoo and the return of his crown. It feels like a final, definitive statement that Simon is gone (for now) and that Ice King is here to stay, and that’s okay too! Elements has been a truly profound experience for the ice man.

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As we return to PB’s sweet-pocalypse, it’s especially fitting that Patience St. Pim once again chooses to freeze herself instead of dealing with the consequences and her mortality at hand. Similar to Betty, Patience is still unable to deal with the changes and transitions in the world around her, and this time it was her own doing. As AT has shown time and time again, history repeats itself, and Patience may never learn to accept her own fate. History repeating itself is also humorously shown in Ice King’s behavior; even after all of the growth and development he’s experienced, he still can’t seem to remember who in God’s name Betty is. Betty will never forget her Simon, but Ice King can’t seem to remember a woman of whom he interacted with minutes earlier.

LSP’s “bullish” nature proves to be the most effective it’s ever been by changing the DNA of elementified Ooo citizens back to their natural states of being. Elements has already been jam-packed with characters prior, but Skyhooks II welcomes back a number of secondary characters, some of which we haven’t even seen before during this miniseries! Namely Bronwyn, James Baxter, Toronto, and Huntress Wizard. The real icing on the cake is watching BMO hold Fern’s hand, though. That shit melted my heart. It’s a pretty triumphant moment for LSP’s character, and even kind of wraps up her arc as a whole. The most cynical Adventure Time character is finally shown to be worthy for the exact reason that she was excluded for prior. There’s no LSP-centric episodes following Skyhooks II, probably just for time constraints, but it’s a decision I felt was most appropriate and satisfying.

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As I mentioned, Skyhooks II has several lasting cliffhangers: Sweet P.’s regrown horn, Ice King’s loose jewel, Jake’s… haircut, and Betty’s judgment from Normal Man. I always wondered how/why Betty ended up at Mars… was she transported there from the Enchiridion explosion, or did Normal Man transport her there personally? Either way, it’s clear that her tampering in chaotic magic has put her on trial for the same reasons MM was put on trial prior. The episode, and miniseries, closes with the revelation that Jake has reverted to his shapeshifter form (which again, is slightly gimmicky… why didn’t Fern revert to both the Finn Sword and Grass Sword? Why didn’t Gunther revert to Orgalorg?), but at least he’s reunited with his brother. Probably the most important thing that Elements has sought to accomplish, beyond its story, is the reinforcement of Finn and Jake’s strong bond with each other, and it pays off beautifully. Jake’s simple “I love you,” is irresistibly sweet, with clear compassion and sincere love in John DiMaggio’s voice.

So, that was Elements, and it was better than I remember! I always dug it, but its strong-points really do stand out as some of the best entries AT has ever put out. Next week, I’ll be taking a look at the miniseries as a whole. Islands and Elements took a lot out of me; two miniseries that I was hoping to get done by February ended up taking three months to complete. But, regardless, I’m eager to continue on as we enter in to the last leg of Adventure Time as a whole!

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Favorite line: “People say you shouldn’t live in the past! But I say, ‘Why not?’ I love it.”