Archive | May 2019

“Islands” (Graphic Novel) Review

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Release Date: December 6, 2016

Written by: Ashly Burch

Illustrated by: Diigii Daguna

Islands serves as a precursor to the miniseries of the same name, but to be honest, there isn’t a ton within the book that actually makes it necessary to read for contextual reasons. The Islands miniseries still makes complete sense without it, and there really isn’t anything within the graphic novel that couldn’t already be presumed through miniseries itself. Regardless, as a standalone story, it’s pretty solid and does a great job at hammering in the theme of safety vs. fulfillment. In fact, I think it even executes this motif better in some areas than the miniseries accomplishes.

For y’all who haven’t read it, the book primarily centers around Jo, the bunny-hatted girl who was first seen during Stakes. Jo is constantly afraid of her surroundings, and after a near death experience, her fellow humans (including Two Bread Tom) struggle to ensure the safety of their well-being. Things do change when the human tribe comes across an entirely different human tribe, of whom have no issues dealing with vampires on their island. Regardless, they aren’t completely free of mutants, as Jo is kidnapped by a giant bird and taken far from her familiar surroundings. Jo is initially paralyzed by fear, but is able to get by through imagining what Marceline would do in any given situation. Jo is able to see the world for what it really is by exploring, and discovers that it isn’t as dangerous as she once thought it to be. Upon finally returning home, Jo discovers that Two Bread Tom and the other humans had built a giant robotic being, called the Guardian, to protect anything that would threaten their lives on the island. Jo rebels against the idea as she sees it an interference to living life properly, and leaves her tribe behind, along with her protective hat.

First off, I really like Jo’s role as the hero. It’s interesting to see how much her fear paralyzes her not because of her experiences, but likely because of the adults around her instilling it naturally. What bothered me about the way The Light Cloud panned out is that Finn, who has no previous knowledge or understanding of the economy of Founder’s Island, tries to persuade the citizens that their way of thinking is wrong. Here, it’s much more warranted that someone within the community is the one to decide that their way of living is bogus, only after experiencing the delights and pleasures of the outside world.

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What I do like about this setup up is the other humans are clearly not presented as stupid or manipulative in their approach to life. Two Bread Tom in particular gets a lot of focus, an is portrayed as a charismatic, yet overbearing anti-hero. He acts irrationally at times and perhaps sacrifices too much when it comes to the well-being of his people, but as I’ve said several times during my Islands review, can you blame ‘im? People look to him as a leader and an influence for the preservation of their entire species, and their methods of survival in general seem increasingly difficult. That’s why he feels the needs to take such precaution, even though he is inadvertently deteriorating the integrity of his fellow humans as a whole. After all, he mentions the tribe as “helpless” without Marceline, even though Marceline really just started out as a normal chick who vowed to defeat vampires for a living. It also makes me wonder – what happened to Marceline after the Vampire King bit her? Did she distance herself from the humans in a sense of shame and defeat, or did the humans themselves become distant in a state of fear that she would turn on them? Both theories are super interesting, and I’d be willing to believe either.

Ashly Burch, who is a story editor for Adventure Time, wrote this novel. I’m all for different writers and illustrators working with the comics and novels, but it feels especially special when someone from the actual staff has a part in producing a piece in the expanded universe. Such has happened before with Luke Pearson, Emily Partridge, and Kent Osborne. The novel was illustrated by Diigii Daguna, who has created artwork for Adventure Time comics and books prior. Daguna’s art work is simple, yet lovable. The action itself isn’t presented in a particularly compelling way, but the simple colors and cute facial expressions give Islands an irresistible identity. There’s a couple technical errors, like some of the word bubbles look particularly wonky, and an extended series of panels features Jo wrapping herself in a sleeping bag, only to show her up and about in the very next scene. It doesn’t really seem like any passage of time had passed either.

Regardless of those small issues, Islands is a delightful treat that offers a bit of lore and delicious drama to foreshadow the events of Islands. As far as graphic novels and comics go for Adventure Time, it’s one of the better ones. Right up there with Playing with Fire and Beginning of the End.

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Season Eight Review

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Following the huge backlash regarding the tone and execution of Season Six of Adventure Time, Season Seven was, in turn, somewhat of a return to form of less heady and complicated stories that focused more on our main heroes. Season Eight takes that notion one step further by feeling as if it is catered to please the Adventure Time fandom in general, offering more resolutions to ongoing storylines, less filler episodes, and more of a central focus on Finn’s character and role in the series. As a result, it really pays off and makes for, in my opinion, probably the most satisfying and enticing Adventure Time season to date.

Season Eight is practically the most exclusive Adventure Time season to date, and what I mean by that is that there really isn’t single episode within this packaged bunch that any common viewer would be able to watch without having some trouble following. There’s a few entries at the beginning of the season that are a bit more inclusive, namely WheelsHigh Strangeness, and Horse and Ball, but those still feature characters and situations that are better enjoyed with previous knowledge and information regarding the series. This is also probably why Cartoon Network practically shunned it from the network and aired episodes completely unadvertised throughout the course of the entire season. It’s a strategy that caused a lot of uproar at the time, but I think I kind of understand where the network was coming from. I mean, they had already cancelled the series, and with the new season being targeted almost entirely towards longtime fans, the network would kind of be wasting money on advertising a show to children unfamiliar with its history. Anybody who actually wanted to watch the show obviously kept up with social media more than television advertising. After all, up to 20 million people in the US got rid of cable in 2017, which is a fuck-ton. I don’t blame the big boys at CN for thinking that this was the best way to go about things. Just makes me slightly sad we weren’t able to get ant really rad previews like this anymore.

Regardless of that tangent, it is really satisfying to feel as if every episode being dished out this season is important. I’m all for filler episodes of the series, but inconsistent airdates from the network can often result in deteriorating interest. Season Six was the first season to have inconsistencies in its airing schedule, and considering that the season was filled to the brim with wildly different stories that often didn’t connect in any particular way, it often left me a bit dissonant. Season Eight’s episodes actually aired in four different pairs, essentially. The first six episodes were aired in bomb format in the course of a week, Islands and Elements were released digitally all at once, both of which I watched straight through in one sitting, and the last five episodes of Season Eight were all dropped on the app at the same time. I’m all for the practice of watching episodes week-by-week, but at the expense of Cartoon Network’s insane schedule changes, I’m glad we were always left with satisfying bunches in return.

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“Satisfying” is a term I throw around a lot when describing this season, and I think most of the credit is due to the fact that this season had not one, but two miniseries(es)! Islands and Elements are easily two of the greatest accomplishments that Adventure Time has ever pulled off, and showing just how successful the show can be when telling a dedicated and ongoing story. Stakes was the first attempt at practicing this method, though I like how Islands and Elements are way more incorporated into the main story, while Stakes was (for the most part) standalone. Also, unlike StakesIslands and Elements are actually good. I’m anticipating many, many death threats for that statement. I could talk about Islands and Elements more here, but it’d be less redundant if y’all just checked out my individual reviews of both of them if you haven’t already!

It is weird talking about this season without including the miniseries(es), but there is one, main ongoing story outside of these individual arcs: Fern’s inception. As I’ve mentioned before, Fern is one of my favorites. I think his stellar design and portrayal, coupled with his compellingly tragic story, really makes for one of Adventure Time‘s strongest secondary contenders. Even though he was only fleshed out in the course of four separate episodes (with some minor bits of characterization in both Islands and Elements) it’s really easy to get behind his story because of how recognizable he is. He’s essentially Finn if things went horribly, horribly wrong everyday of his life. It’s even more fittingly appropriate that (originally) Season Eight begins with Fern’s arc in Two Swords and closes out his role as a unlikely hero in Three Buckets. Thankfully, we’ll see more of the little weirdo later on in Season Nine!

Finn is the primary star of this season, with both of the miniseries centering mainly around him and his story. Both of them feature some of the most emotionally charged tales featuring our main hero to date, namely his origins and his loving connection to his brother. Though Finn steals the spotlight most of the time (rightfully so) everybody gets a chance to shine in their own compelling way. Princess Bubblegum continues to battle with her own identity and individual power in both High Strangeness and Jelly Beans Have Power, Jake struggles to cope with the changes and stress in his life in Cloudy and Abstract, Marceline comes to terms with her own repressed emotions in Ketchup, BMO learns to appreciate his real-life connections above all in Imaginary Resources, Susan’s arc FINALLY is restored as of Islands, while Elements features LSP’s unlikable personality actually benefiting the world for once, Ice King experiencing a sense of self-actualization, and Betty going bonkers. The only characters within the main crew that don’t really get to do much are Flame Princess and Lady Rainicorn. Flame Princess gets a big role in Happy Warrior, but she doesn’t really get a chance to shine in full form since she’s altered by the elemental effects. Lady Rainicorn had her swan song in the self-entitled Season Seven episode, though she has some nice moments in The Invitation and Abstract. Even though half of the season is encompassed by Elements and Islands, the other lovely citizens of Ooo still get a great chance to shine in the other 16 episodes.

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The teams this season were pretty stellar all around, but I have to give special props to Sam Alden. He worked with a total of THREE different storyboard artists throughout the run of this season, and his work always stands out as top notch. Alden started out being easily glanced over during his time with the incredibly out-there Jesse Moynihan, but he’s really come into his own the past two seasons by having an recognizable style, a strong focus on passionate characterization, and a heavy emphasis on studying the works and tactics of his peers. Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard dish out their usual atmospheric treats, with slightly less classics than previous seasons. Seo Kim and Somvilay Xayaphone don’t have a single bad entry this season! Granted, they worked on some of the weaker miniseries episodes, but they also spearheaded one of the best – Bespoken For! Hanna and Aleks worked on episodes that were mostly good, with a heavy emphasis on mostly. And per usual, uncle Graham Falk stopped by on occasion to offer his delightful zaniness. There’s definitely less of a focus on new staff members, with a couple exceptions, namely Laura Knetzger, Polly Guo, and Charmaine Verhagen. It really helps to nail the notion of stronger character portrayals and longterm story arcs by having mostly veterans take the helm this time around.

Top 5 Best Episodes

5. High Strangeness – Bizarre and potent, this one is the best Tree Trunks episode to date, and another compelling look at PB’s inner doubt.

4. Bespoken For – A brilliant tease for lore that ends up being a hilarious day in the life of Ice King, and also a very depressing day in the life of Betty Grof.

3. Do No Harm – A terrific back-to-back exploration of both Finn and Fern’s characters, and one that’s both beautiful in the art and sound department.

2. Cloudy – A beautiful celebration of Finn and Jake’s relationship.

1. Min & Marty – AT‘s storytelling at its absolute best, giving us one of the most compassionate, and most heartwrenching, tales of Finn’s past to date.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. Slime Central – Man, this one isn’t even bad! I just didn’t know what else to put at the fifth spot. I guess it’s just kind of surface level entertainment, but in the same sense, it is entertainment.

4. Hero Heart – Again, I guess it’s a little slow, but ehhh, I still enjoyed it??

3. The Light Cloud – I think its message is slightly problematic, but again, it has some really great moments! I actually enjoyed this one more than the previous two, but since I have clear problems with it, I ranked it slightly higher.

2. Wheels – In the risk of sounding redundant, I did enjoy this one! It has a lot of funny moments and competently animated scenes. Buuuut, it also features Jake at his absolute worst on the parental front, and considering that this is the last “Jake and his kids” episode to date, that rubs me slightly the wrong way.

1. Fionna and Cake and Fionna – The only actual bad episode this season, and booooy is it bad. A completely pointless and joyless entry that messes with the fabric of Adventure Time‘s world as a whole.

Final Consensus

If my “Top 5 Worst” list was any indication of the quality of this season, it should show why it’s personally the best in my opinion. It really feels like a huge passion project from the AT crew to try and give fans exactly what they want without it feeling gimmicky or unwarranted. Season Eight is fanservice in the best way necessary, focusing on closing doors that have been open for far too long, while also opening new ones along the way. It’s some of the best storytelling the series has ever told, and certainly the peak for the show in general. Not to say Season Nine is bad, but it’s an… interesting beast. And I look forward to tackling it head on shortly!

“Three Buckets” Review

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Original Airdate: July 21, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Fern’s inception began in Two Swords, and so begins his demise in Three Buckets. The “clone vs. OG” is a story that’s been done a handful of times among popular culture, but Three Buckets manages to stand out in a particularly dark and somber way. This isn’t really even an “evil clone” type of situation to begin with – this is the culmination of Fern’s bent up angst, frustration, and feelings of dejection resulting in his desire to be what he always wanted to be in the first place: Finn.

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The beginning of the episode starts out silly enough. Not only because Jake’s vuvuzela, that he’s never, ever been seeing using after over 250 episodes of Adventure Time, is smashed unexpectedly, but because he opts to buy a new vuvuzela at the “vuvuzela store.” In the Land of Ooo, there is apparently an entire store dedicated to selling colorful, plastic horns. Even better is that NEPTR confesses to the crime of breaking the horn, likely only for the chance to get some much needed attention. The poor little guy gets left out of shopping with Jake and BMO, as well as Finn and Fern’s adventure! He just can’t win. Speaking of dudes who can’t win, Fern begins by showing off his new ability of mimicking the real Finn, which is an ability that makes sense to me for the most part. I still feel really unconvinced that Fern would be able to recreate Finn’s bionic arm, however. That doesn’t make a lick of sense, not to mention that Fern’s right arm in the previous episode formed a flesh limb, so it’s inconsistent as well. I guess the episode wouldn’t have really worked without it, so I’m partially fine with it, though still slightly bothered. I do like how the beginning proves that Fern still wouldn’t be a good Finn even if he tried, or at least the “same” Finn. Fern still has literal demons within him that influence his dialogue and behavior – Finn wouldn’t really be one to “slash the flippin’ faces” off of his friends, after all.

In consistency with the past handful of episodes, the backgrounds here are pretty great. Love the vast meadows with miscellaneous objects scattered throughout (including A-Bombs) and the inclusion of the maze-like ziggurat. Got major Zelda vibes from the setting as a whole. Finn and Fern’s trip together ranges from goofy fun times to awkward and tense. The simple game of rock, paper, scissors really shows just how deep Fern is into his own envy and self-pity. I think we’ve all had those days where the tiniest, most insignificant occurrences trigger a history of negative feelings that send us into utter defeat. Only this time, it’s Fern’s entire life. It’s also kind of fun, in a sadistic sense, to see how much Fern truly resents Finn on every level. Finn’s line regarding his brotherhood with Fern is met with a long, blank stare and a lack of response from Fern. Fern has grown so much hatred towards his counterpart that he doesn’t even have the energy or charisma to manipulate him. He just wants to rid his life of Finn as quickly as possible. On a manipulative level, however, I really can’t decide if I like Finn’s line from a writing perspective. It feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to build up the eventual tragedy when Fern does turn on Finn, but on the other hand, I think it makes sense for Finn to make such a proclamation if he was trying to make Fern feel better for any past grievances. Only in this case, it fails.

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Fern’s kindness extends to the small favor that he at least provided Finn’s favorite meal for him within the stone prison… or at least, he tried to. That brief thoughtful act aside, Fern’s completely sociopathic side begins to come out (with the nice visual edition of his glowing, cursed eyes) as he only offers to provide Finn with resources once a month and practically leaves him to rot. It’s also fitting that Fern pronounces his favoritism towards NEPTR, considering that they’re both outsiders who don’t really get the respect or attention that they desperately strive for. Finn’s response to such a betrayal prompts a lot of interesting solo-convos with himself, starting with the fact that Finn refers to Fern as “grass Finn” rather than the actual name he christened himself with. This really touches on Finn’s more judgmental side and the fact that he may not have ever viewed Fern as an equal to begin with, or at least he doesn’t any longer. Finn bringing up his sensitivity to abandonment was a hilariously sweet moment; I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I always figured that Fern winking at Finn through the wall opening with the added sound effect was a subtle reference to Martin, showing that Fern followed in the footsteps of arguably their greatest enemy.

Upon dicking around during his imprisonment, Finn discovers a hidden feature on his bionic arm that uncovers hidden abilities of the arm installed by PB. It’s weird to me that the princess didn’t tell him beforehand, but still, I really dig how sweet this moment is. I just love socially awkward PB and her inability to understand the basic knowledge of humor, and the fact that it shows how Finn truly has the upper hand (literally) against his clone. Fern may be able to take on the appearance of Finn, but Finn still has strong support from his friends and family that goes far beyond what Fern has been able to accomplish. The only thing that upsets me about these newly discovered powers is that Finn never utilizes the arm’s abilities again! It’s such a shame, as it appears to have some really neat features just from what we saw. Even a “sad marionette” function! I have no idea when that would ever come in handy, but sure.

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I mentioned that this was a particularly somber and dark entry, but it’s interlaced with humorous moments that never feel out-of-place or unwarranted. That being said, I love Finn’s transition into the fight by screaming “YOU DONKED UP,” followed by all of the unintentional responses from PB’s AI. Regardless, the fight itself stays thoroughly tense in its entirety. It’s a battle that isn’t visually appealing by nature, but is competently animated and weighted to feel like a true struggle, unlike the former battle scene in Reboot that was also storyboarded by Steve Wolfhard. The sequence is also coupled with some profound interjections from Finn, such as the clueless, “what ARE you?” when Fern’s demon half takes over, and Finn’s final wish of giving Jake a proper farewell. It’s so lovingly sad that, even in Finn’s potential last moments, he’s still thinking of the person he cares about the most rather than his own immediate safety. Hell, it’s even aggressively sad on it’s own that our main character, who is 16 years of age, is essentially the closest he’s ever been to dying and has no choice but to accept it. Finn’s had many possible life threats throughout the show’s history, but none have felt as real and dangerous as this instance. Once more, Fern is unable to see through Finn’s sadness, because he feels as though his love for Jake is essentially enough. This battle all comes to an end when Finn’s arm enters fatality mode, and slices Fern to bits. It’s already a pretty morbid concept on its own, but the way it’s executed just adds to the blow. Fern’s head slowly twisting further and further into his chest was surprisingly graphic, and really makes this “death” seem even more painfully tragic than it already was.

In typical Adventure Time fashion, extended moments of noise and action are always followed by quiet poignancy. Finn returns home in one of the most heartwrenching exchanges AT has ever churned out. Finn doesn’t even have the words or energy to describe what happened, and how could he? He likely blames the outcome partially on himself and feels as if he could’ve prevented it, but even that might be pushing it. I think Finn is in total shock and can’t even begin to comprehend such a devastating moment. Once more, such a tragic moment is interlaced with just the right amount of humor, as that little devil BMO is ALREADY trying to break Jake’s new vuvuzela and references back to when he also killed his brother in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. Oh, BMO!

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Like most season finales, we’re left on a hefty cliffhanger that involves the remaining pieces of Fern’s body being picked up by a mysterious stranger. Who is this mysterious stranger? Well, I guess we’ll just have to find out in season nine!! Three Buckets closes out a busy and hectic season properly with a busy and hectic episode. As things began to calm down following the madness of Elements, they have only flared up once more, leading us into an invigorating and… somewhat questionably satisfying… journey to the ultimate finale.

And that’s the end of season eight! Gonna be frank with you all, my schedule is becoming more and more tight and I’m struggling to meet deadlines as efficiently as I once was. After all, I’ve been doing this gig for nearly three years now, and my life has changed a lot since I started. BUT, regardless, I still intend on carrying through to the very end, I just ask for all of your patience as I try my best to balance everything else in my life along with this side hobby. The season eight review and bonus review should be out sometime next week or into the following week, and if I have the time, I might churn out the first few batches of season nine episodes. It’s gonna be somewhat of a relief when I do end up finishing this project, but man, it’s been one hell of a ride thus far, and I plan on putting everything I’ve got into these last batch of reviews!

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Favorite line: “My belzer!” (Okay, so this is kind of a cheat because this episode had a lot of really great lines, but I legit call my stomach my “belzer” religiously because of this one line. It just felt obligatory.)

“Whispers” Review

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Original Airdate: July 20, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

Whispers was a long-anticipated entry for myself, mainly because I had expected a major role from the Lich on two separate occasions prior: first was the season six finale, of which I figured would somehow involve the Lich’s relationship with the catalyst comet in general, and the season seven finale Preboot and Reboot, which I thought to be a reference to Jake’s line in Escape from the Citadel, “That sap rebooted him or something!” 83 episodes after Gold Stars, we finally get to see more into the dynamic between Sweet P. and the Lich, in a thoroughly satisfying entry… for the most part.

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I actually think the best portion of this episode centers around Finn and Fern’s relationship. Fern is noticeably upset about the events of Elements and can’t seem to bring himself out of the funk of feeling useless in the grand scheme of things. It’s understandable why Fern would feel this way – even though it clearly wasn’t within his control, he still is overly critical and not a stranger to self loathing. What’s more interesting is that Finn doesn’t immediately invalidate Fern’s feelings and kind of goes along with it, telling him to “learn from his dinks.” I think this could be looked at one of two ways: 1. Finn knows that trying to sweet talk Fern is useless, given that he isn’t very susceptible to positive reinforcement. 2. Finn subconsciously still feels slightly concerned about Fern being a stronger and more influential version of himself (as elaborated on in Cloudy) and doesn’t want him to feel too empowered. The latter paints a more darker and selfish version of Finn’s character, but I think it’s all-the-more interesting if the two of them both experience feelings of inferiority towards each other. Their bond is certainly awkward, but similarly sweet. I like how, since Fern is essentially a duplicate version of himself, Finn can pinpoint exactly how to cheer his quasi-brother up with a simple “squoze.”

Fern alone is pretty much the highlight of the episode for me. His problem obviously isn’t that he just flat out sucks, but his preconceived expectation for failure and a general negative outlook prevent him from truly becoming a competent and successful hero. Finn goes through similar trials and tribulations throughout this episode, namely being vested and almost killed off entirely by the Lich, only to be saved by Sweet P. This is something that Finn could easily dwell on and use for self-destructive behavior, but he doesn’t. Fern, on the other hand, perceives any minor failure as affirmation that he’s awful. No matter how hard Fern tries to separate himself from Finn, he’ll always be reminded of who Finn truly is and that Fern will never be as well-regarded as he once knew in his distant memories. I really love how much the writing staff took advantage of Fern’s inferiority and didn’t choose to fully resolve his arc in Do No Harm. Some would call Fern’s arc as a villain somewhat of a predictable turn given that it’s a common trope among clone stories in film and television, but I feel as if it’s unique enough in this situation to work. Without trying to sound redundant, Fern is Finn, but that unfortunately means that he can’t be Finn and will never be regarded as highly as his counterpart. This partially has to do with Fern’s preconception of himself, as well as the element of reality playing a part too. Some of these failures are played straight for dramatic effect, while others are more humorous. I love how his suggestion to help Sweet P. involved mercilessly murdering him.

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I didn’t really think Sweet P. had much of a character in his original star role during Gold Stars, but Whispers plays around with his identity and connection to the Lich much more effectively. Similar to Fern’s connection to Finn, I like how Sweet P. isn’t simply a “vessel” for the Lich as suggested and actually exists as his own independent being. Granted, he’s a child, and doesn’t know a ton about forming his own identity. But, from the simple mind of a child, Sweet P. knows that he wants to be good and to do good things, quite separate from the Lich’s desire for ultimate destruction. This is the last Lich centered episode of the series, and I was originally kind of opposed to the idea that Sweet P.’s arc is resolved in a much lighter and simpler way than expected, but I think it’s kind of fitting considering Adventure Time‘s main theme of change that the ultimate evil within the world of Ooo becomes the ultimate source of goodness and innocence. It’s such a drastic twist that seemed kind of cheap in its inception during Escape from the Citadel, but now I think it’s a change that feels quite endearing on a developmental level. Granted, I can’t help but feel slightly cheated by how much the show built up the Lich over the years, even in recent seasons, but I’ve grown accustomed to the concept that what ultimately killed the greatest source of death and evil in the world was a source of life and righteousness. It’s a simple, yet light-hearted decision that I can get behind. Sweet P.’s presence in this episode is benefited greatly by how Finn acts around him. I love how much of a sweet caretaker he is, even getting to bond with the toddler over having a shitty dad! That was a terrific edition. It also helps that Sweet P. isn’t really meant to be taken completely seriously throughout this one’s run – Sam Alden and Polly Guo have a lot of fun with how massive Sweet P. is, mainly when he tosses himself down the sewer and crushes everything in sight. It’s a fantastic bit of slapstick.

Now, I really like Whispers for the reasons I mentioned above and will mention below, but I think it’s important to discuss the biggest issue with this episode, which is kind of a big one: from a character standpoint, this is the Lich’s weakest entry to date. I’m almost glad this is his last appearance, because I think this episode is a clear sign that he may have outlived his usefulness. The Lich, plain and simple, isn’t scary or intimidating in this episode. There was a time where he really would feel like the big bad he was designed to be, providing a level of intensity and uncomfortable feelings that’s unique to his character only. Even in a bad episode, like Gold Stars, the Lich is able to add substance and atmosphere that nearly justifies the entire episode’s existence. But here, he kind of just feels like a stock bad guy. I thought Finn’s “oh boy, here we go,” in Crossover was a hilarious nod to show how he is pretty used to dealing with the Lich by now, but all of the little nods in this episode, which are funny, just kind of downplay the Lich more and more to where I kind of feel as if there aren’t any stakes at hand at all. It’s really disappointing to say because the Lich is one of those great villains that typically adds so much whenever he’s on screen, but this just kind of feels like overkill. I think the Farmworld Lich hand was a cool twist that I never expected to come back, but the silliness of the hand talking also kind of kills any creepy or threatening vibes in the air. The Lich’s dialogue isn’t particularly engaging either… I think they made Ron Perlman say “child” a few too many times to where it just feels somewhat comical. The one aspect that stands out with the Lich’s presence is that he mentions himself as “the last scholar of Golb” which is interesting, to say the least. I do wonder if this implies a more two dimensional side of the Lich that wasn’t entirely evil before absorbing the knowledge and tendencies of an ultimate evil. Golb is a character that we begin seeing more of from this point on, and this was a great starting point. Otherwise, I was pretty ready to move on from the Lich’s character. People often complained about the Lich only appearing after a handful of episodes, but I think it was the best decision to keep his character intimidating. Otherwise, he’s no more threatening than Orgalorg is.

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While the Lich himself isn’t scary in Whispers, the atmosphere, environment, and ambiance suit it nicely. The quiet nature of the forest was a terrific location to build up fear and concern, while the return of the abandoned subway station and the Lich’s well of power carry through that build up in the most invigorating and intense way. Sweet P.’s dialogue continues to be creepy because of its stilted nature, namely when he describes the terrifying nightmares that he’s been having. Even the shadows of the Lich and Sweet P., while slightly silly, provide a bit of a creepy demise for the Lich and a threatening feeling overall. The rest of Whispers looks gorgeous; once again, Ghostshrimp is back at it providing more memorable landscapes, namely the fishing pond that is also a graveyard. The lighting and shifting of the time of day similarly allow for some really beautiful colors and shading to shine through.

It also helps that Whispers is thoroughly hilarious. Whether it be Finn’s back-and-forths with Fern (apparently Fern doesn’t have tree senses, hm), Mr. Fox’s cranky discovery, Jake’s morbid voicemail, or Sweet P.’s uncanny nature, there’s a lot of funny moments packed in this one, especially on Sam Alden’s side of the board. Whispers ends on the stressful and ambiguous note that Fern wants to become the only Finn in Ooo. Sweet P. chose to shape his own destiny, but in Fern’s case, that isn’t exactly the simple route for just everyone. ‘Specially when you have an evil grass octopus living inside of you.

Aside from my gripes with the Lich aspects, Whispers did its job in being both thoroughly entertaining, and a solid entry for development. It still is strange to me that the Lich’s final appearance is just a standard 11 minute episode, but like I mentioned, I guess it’s for the best. The Lich was designed to be the big bad during the show’s initial inception, and I don’t really think anyone expected for Adventure Time to run as long as it did. The sad truth is that the Lich simply had too many opportunities to shine, and isn’t able to recreate the same magic that he was capable of at the beginning of the series. He’s a character that is deservedly retired, for better or worse.

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Favorite line: “I can’t come to the phone right now. I’m either hanging with Finn, my kids, my G.F., or I’m dead. Bye!”