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 Wheels, High 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.
“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 Stakes, Islands 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.
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.
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!