Archive | September 2019

“Gumbaldia” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Graham Falk

After multiple viewings, I still grapple with my feelings towards Gumbaldia. As the penultimate episode to the series, it certainly builds up for what’s to come in its climax. Though, that’s exactly the issue. More obvious in retrospect than during a first viewing, Gumbaldia was clearly executed as an opportunity for the staff to have much, much more material down the line. I opine that, had the show continued from this point on, we would have certainly moved into a miniseries revolving around the Gum War and the reunion of various villains throughout Ooo. It seems like that was the obvious next move from this episode, but the sudden cancellation of the series kind of pushed the staff into a corner. They still followed up with the Gum War, but the “Candy Kingdom Haters” were sidelined almost entirely, for the respectable reason that, with all other loose ends that needed to be tied up, there just wasn’t room for them. That being said, judging Gumbaldia for what it is, rather than what it was intended to be is a difficult experience. I think a lot of the set pieces in this episode are fine, and the eerie atmosphere that encompasses its entirety really adds to the harshness of its themes, but ultimately, Gumbaldia… doesn’t really need to exist.

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I know that’s a cryptic and almost slanderous statement. In reality, there are plenty of Adventure Time episodes that could be pointed out and described as “inconsequential.” But, with Gumbaldia, it’s clear that its purpose is to develop story elements that carry through into the next episode. In this episode, Finn laments about the inevitability of war and embarks on a last ditch effort to resolve the tensions between two parties. In the next episode, Come Along With Me, he ends up following the same exact path, only (somewhat) succeeding the second time around. Gumbald is revealed to be paranoid in this episode, dealing with the same issues of inferiority that PB suffers from. This concept is explored in much more detail in the following episode, in a way that successfully paints a picture of Gumbald’s struggles, while this episode merely plays around with the idea of such anxiety until Gumbald decides to follow through with his plans anyway. Aunt Lolly is revealed to have a possible softer side, but again, that’s retconned by the end of the episode, and only further elaborated on in Come Along With Me.

I feel as though Gumbaldia consists of a lot of half-baked ideas that end up just being repeated in the following episode (for better or worse), and while that’s not really the episode’s fault, it does feel as if it’s entirely disposable upon revisiting. One could view this as an “establishing” piece, tossing around ideas that generally get fleshed out more in subsequent entries, but when it feels as though you still get the gist of everything even without it, it’s difficult to really discover the underlying purpose of it all. The only real points of heavy development are the initiation of the Gum War (which, again, could have just as easily been established without a definitive bit of exposition) and Peppermint Butler being reverted by dum-dum juice – though I’m not really certain that counts as development.  I’d throw in Aunt Lolly too, but honestly, her character growth is so perplexing that I feel as though her role in the following episode would be equally as confusing regardless.

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I’ve talked about this before, but this isn’t really a criticism I enjoy dishing out. I think the idea of something “not needing to exist” is such a facile jab that it’s almost quibbling. But, I think it’s important to discuss because Gumbaldia is clearly a product of its time. This was an episode produced when the staff had the mindset of continuing the series and each established storyline. The sudden closure of production put the staff in a place where they had to think most logically about what would be the most fitting conclusion to the series – not to Gumbaldia. Thus, this truly does feel like a collection of set pieces that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The ideas presented are either scrapped entirely or redistributed, making almost everything feel insignificant.

So, that large tangent aside, what do I think about the episode without the finale in mind? Well, I think it’s decent. Like I mentioned, I think it builds up the eerie atmosphere in a pretty successful way. I try to stay as far away from political discussions on this blog for two central reasons:

  1. My own naivety when it comes to world affairs. (I am a cartoon analyst after all… what did you expect?)
  2. The lack of necessity it brings to particular points.

Regardless, I do think this episode is interesting, given the time period it was released during. It was a period of time where the concept of war and international conflict was particularly stressful, and almost unavoidable. Gumbaldia came along right after that anxiety seemed to have peaked in the States, but it is intriguing to look back on Finn’s almost hopeless feelings of being trapped in a war that he doesn’t want to be apart of as sort of a display of empathy. Of course, this is clearly an episode that can be used to describe a variety of different conflicts and current affairs, and to elaborate on all of them would just be breaking my two golden rules. Especially that first one. Again, cartoon reviewer, guys. Ya can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

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On the subject of controversy, I think there is a lot of debate on whether Finn is portrayed in a light that’s true to his character or not. After all, this is a character that has stated that he “kills things all the time.” I suppose for a lot of people, this approach to pacifism has never been a part of Finn’s character; I’ll admit, it does seem much more like a development more suited for Steven Universe than Finn Mertens. But, regardless of this, I think the decision to have Finn choose a more peaceful route over his naturally inclined instinct to punch and kick everything that opposes him is something I do respect.

My main takeaway of Finn’s realization isn’t that he decided that fighting is wrong, but that some problems simply cannot be solved by violence. I don’t even personally think this is an entirely accurate belief; I’m against violence for the most part, but I do acknowledge that there are certain situations where brute force is a necessary option to consider when reason and logic prove ineffective. I’m not so sure that Finn is even written to be entirely in the right from the episode’s perspective – after all, his chances at making peace do fail by the end of it. There’s even that brief exchange at the beginning that kind of plays off Finn’s desires for peace as innocent and not fully realized. Despite being particularly unclear of the complexities of foreign conflict, I do think he is perhaps being the most logical out of both parties involved. I mean, it’s tough to say, because the subject at hand is pretty complex and probably more difficult to dissect than it appears to be from a surface level. But as Gumbaldia presents, both PB and Gumbald are coming from standpoints of paranoia fueled defensiveness. PB fears that Gumbald’s superior technology will destroy everything that she’s ever worked with, and Gumbald fears being micromanaged and essentially left lobotomized once more. Finn is operating from the perspective of what’s best for everyone (with probably a slight bit of selfishness when it comes to not wanting to be involved in warfare) instead of internalizing a quick and potentially fatal solution that may forever dismantle Ooo as they know it.

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Finn’s desire to make peace instead of solving issues with violence may stem from his previous encounter with Fern that permanently scarred the lad. After practically killing his alternate self, Finn was left with the idea that things didn’t have to end this way and that the two of them truly could have come to terms with their issues if Fern simply complied with talking it out. Finn tries the same approach this time as well, though to no avail. Fern is still unwilling to be reasoned with, believing that he’s apart of the same superiority complex that PB and Gumbald are competing for. Though, the episode does brilliantly explain in a visual sense that there is one thing Fern doesn’t have – a loving brother to back him up no matter what. Fern may feel the superiority of being physically enhanced through Gumbald’s experiments, though he still lacks the support system that truly helps for him to feel whole.

Once we get into the Gumbald stuff, the episode begins to feel a bit convoluted. I’m still not sure I really understand Aunt Lolly’s role. At the start of her appearance, it kind of seems like you’re supposed to sympathize with her because, unlike her hammy counterparts, she does understand the weight of her surroundings and connects with Finn for those reasons. Aunt Lolly did have the potential to make a comeback, because Gumbald was the one who ended up betraying her, not PB. But her development is made super confusing, because apparently her empathizing with Finn was an elaborate scheme the entire time. But then the following episode decides to continue with her development regardless, as if the ending of Gumbaldia never happened. So, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to get from her character. Gumbald’s scheming is equally as confusing – instead of just pretending to understand where Finn is coming from, he puts his own self in danger on the chance that Finn and Jake would absolutely come to his rescue in time. Um, isn’t this a bit insane? It’s somewhat convincing as a viewer to watch these events unfold, only for expectations to be subverted later on, but in-universe it’s a really, really stupid plan.

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The scenes to follow are all executed decently: the dinner scene in which Finn and Jake recall the events of Jake Suit was moderately fun, albeit that Gumbald’s investment in their lives never feels very convincing. Pepbut being dum-dummed upon their trip home was a huge bummer for me, especially considering my affinity for the character. I’m also not really sure why they decided to keep his character in this state, but I’ll lament more on that in our next discussion. The closing bits are unarguably bleak, with Finn’s plans for peace failing entirely, and the inevitability of war being at hand. Though I’m disappointed in their lack of a follow-up, it was cool to see all of these classic villains once more as kind of an initial feeling of suspense that shit really was about to go down. Of course, the staff didn’t really follow through with that suspense, but again, I’m not sure I can blame them for excluding elements that would make an already cluttered finale even more jam-packed.

So, with all of that said, Gumbaldia is still an episode that perplexes me when it comes to having a definitive opinion. There’s a lot of stuff that works in the moment, but doesn’t really work when you view the whole picture. And if I’m judging it strictly standalone from the rest of the series, I’m not really sure if it fully succeeds in what it’s trying to accomplish either. It’s an episode that really banks itself on its eerie atmosphere, but if you take the time to even think about if its story elements make sense, such as Aunt Lolly and Gumbald’s plans, it sort of falls apart. It’s filled to the brim with lots of ridiculous conveniences that aren’t especially believable in any sense. I still don’t really think it’s a bad episode, as Finn’s role carries Gumbaldia through pretty successfully. But still, I think Gumbaldia is undoubtedly a product of its time. It was clearly created to be a precursor for one story, and ended up being the precursor for an entirely different tale. I think there were definite hints here and there throughout the ninth season that the AT may not have had a huge heads up before the show’s cancellation, but looking back, Gumbaldia is definitive proof that adjustments were made last minute. Not even just in the sense of the old-school AT villains making their triumphant return, but all developments regarding the Gumbald family that failed to be fleshed out entirely in the way that they so desperately needed to be. In a perfect world, Gumbaldia could have been a fine setup to a whole batch of new episodes down the line. But, as is, it’s an example of the true and few amount of time that the AT crew had left.

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Being this far in the series is somewhat of a surreal feeling. I started this blog three years ago, joking to myself that I’d be on my death bed finishing up my review of the series finale. It’s odd to know that this journey is nearly complete, and I want to once again take a sappy moment to thank all you lovely people for supporting this blog, even as its gotten more inconsistent in its releases. Even if I’m not directly responding to everything I am sent on this blog, Reddit, and elsewhere, I cannot begin to express the joy I get from reading all of your interesting takes on individual episodes. It’s certainly bittersweet to begin entering the “wrap-up” phase, but I can ensure you all that there will be plenty of content to hold you over for the next few months. I do plan on shifting my attention onto bigger projects into the next year that have nothing to do with Adventure Time, but for now, I look forward to sharing a lot of my final hot takes on the series as a whole.

Instead of jumping into the finale next week, I’ll be taking on Diamonds & Lemons first, just because it would feel anti-climatic to finish off this episode review series with a Minecraft homage. In two weeks, I’ll be starting with the Come Along With Me reviews. My pals on the Reddit advised that it would be interesting to tackle this episode by separating it into parts and then analyzing it as a whole, similar to what I typically do with the miniseries. How I’ll execute this, I’m still unsure. I’ll probably release the first two parts in the same day, and the remaining two parts the following week. It honestly all depends on how much I have to say and  how much time I have in my schedule. Regardless, you can expect my opinions on the finale quite shortly, and thank you all once again for your continued support!

Favorite line: “You thought you had beaten me? Me?! Cool sword.”

“Temple of Mars” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Weirdly enough, both Hulu and the Final Seasons DVD set list Temple of Mars before Jake the Starchild. Wonder how much that ruined anyone’s experience that was going in blind. Also, this isn’t particularly noteworthy or even likely intentional, but Temple of Mars‘ acronym is T.O.M. Aside from the finale, this is Tom Herpich’s final episode. Heh.

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Way back in 2016, Tom Herpich wrote his sentiments about Adventure Time ending and what was left for the series in its next two years on air in a Tumblr post. In this post, he also mentions that he had recently wrapped up his final board with Steve, of which he deemed “one of his favorites.” I’m still unsure if this was referring to their section in Come Along With Me or Temple of Mars, buuuut I lean more towards the latter. In my own personal opinion, I like Temple of Mars, though it surprises me that Herpich would (allegedly) hold it so highly. It doesn’t really strike me as a culmination of his art house style, and considering that some of my favorite episodes in the series are Mars-centric episodes, I do feel as though this entry doesn’t quite live up to the hype of its predecessors. But, instead of complaining about this episode for what it’s not, I am generally satisfied with it for what it is.

Right off the bat, what Temple of Mars offers strength-wise is stellar character interactions. Having Jermaine return to the forefront is a decision I really appreciate, especially since the series draws so close to its climax. It is weird – there are clear signs that Adventure Time certainly wasn’t ready to come to a close, but there are other signs of it subtly wrapping up other individual aspects, like Marceline and Hunson’s relationship, Jake’s alien side, and Jermaine’s connection to his brothers. Of course, a lot of these characters and arcs aren’t really necessary to the grand scheme of things, but regardless, these are nice little additions that make me feel slightly less sour about the show being canned on such a short notice.

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More than anything, I appreciate that this episode takes time to explore Jermaine and Finn’s connection. In his eponymous first episode, Jermaine’s anger was mainly reflected towards Jake, while Finn mostly stood by as an accomplice. I get the feeling that Finn and Jermaine were never truly close – Jermaine was likely the responsible one, while Jake was the one that Finn would pal around with during his formative years. Before Finn had the chance to truly form a relationship with Jermaine during his transition into young adulthood, the two were practically separated. Jermaine likely regrets the years of being estranged from his youngest brother, and it’s sweet to see that he does remind Finn that he can count on him during stressful times. It’s also clear that Jermaine doesn’t necessarily understand Finn’s behavioral patterns. Finn’s actions are clearly inspired by his inability to allow any other tragedies to bestow his already mucked up mind, but I get the feeling that Jermaine simply excuses it to the observed position of Finn and Jake living entirely carefree lives. Hence why Jermaine refers to the Tree Fort as a “playhouse,” his judgement is still very much there. The included callbacks to Jermaine were welcomed, such as the face mug and the boys’ freezer, though they don’t really stick out in any metaphorical or ponderous way.

Jermaine’s added fear to the idea of going to Mars is both humorous and cute. For years, I’ve referred to Finn as the straight man in a world full of wacky characters, but I do feel as though Jermaine is a straight man’s straight man. As much as he is empathetic and easy to connect to, Finn still really isn’t the brightest bulb or the most “normal” at that (this is the boy that doesn’t blink twice on a wayward trip to Mars), so it’s cool to have a character that clearly represents the surface level elements of a grown adult. The goofy aspects aside, Jermaine does actually have a lot in common with Greg Universe in terms of their humanity. Tom Scharpling really was the perfect choice for ol’ Jerm.

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The reintroduction of Betty and Norm- er, King Man, is pretty delightful, though I kinda wish Finn’s anger towards Betty was spelled out over a longer period. I mean, everything ended up alright by the end of Elements, but it’s strange to me how quickly Finn goes from “fuck yourself,” to “come on this journey with me and my brother!” Perhaps he decided to show some of King Man’s inspired “empathy,” buuuut, I don’t know. In defense of the episode, I’m not really sure how a Betty-Finn conflict would’ve been crammed in to an already jam-packed episode, so I’ll let it slide. It was great to see King Man again, and I’m so glad the show has sought out to acknowledge that, magic-less or not, he’s still kind of a douche. I can’t think of a single way Betty’s punishment would actually help her, and it’s likely to send her into further insanity. King Man technically should be responsible for the state of Betty’s condition (though he’s not entirely at fault), but since he has a nice, cushion-y spot on Mars’ throne, he doesn’t really have anyone to tell him otherwise.

Once inside the temple, we’re treated to an interesting sequence featuring a group of frogs all taking on the appearance of Ice King, except for one stray frog resembling Fern. The Fern frog leaping at Finn, as Finn chooses to ignore it, seems to embody the idea that Finn no longer finds himself stuck thinking about Fern on an endless basis. Though his mind wants him to “remember” and stay in a stagnant state of pain and suffering. Betty, on the other hand, does not choose to move forward. She wants to stay and observe her passing thoughts, as if they hold the key to solving her every living problem, even though the answer isn’t found in her mind, but her ability to shift her attention onto something else. Not exactly sure why frogs were chosen to represent habitual thinking – frogs in dreams are said to represent spiritual and emotional transformation, but I’m not exactly sure that’s what Herpich was going for.

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It is interesting how Jermaine went through perhaps the most stress of his companions, and now he’s in the best shape possible. Granted, I think Jermaine, by his nature, is slightly neurotic and prone to chronic stress. Yet, he was able to find his peace of mind, while his brother continues to struggle with his own personal dilemmas. It just goes to show how far off Jermaine’s accusations are of Finn and Jake living totally carefree lives, even if they are legitimately privileged regardless. This section of the episode also marks the Ice Thing’s first appearance since Graybles 1000+. I can’t help but feel this inclusion was when the staff figured they would have more time to actually flesh out what the Ice Thing is and how Ice King would eventually transform into him, but considering that we’re only two episodes away from the finale, I don’t think that wish was ever fully fulfilled. This section does provide for a bit of fun analysis, in a very small, almost insignificant moment. Betty’s fascination with the Ice King masked frogs shows how truly encompassed her mind is with the Ice King, and how she doesn’t really put any foot forward to try and sway her mind or shift her focus. Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially when dealing with strong emotional trauma. However, Betty’s representation of her current approach at living is summed up quite nicely with her line of, “He’s… changing? Oh no.” This could imply one of two things: 1. Betty is adverse to changing her lifestyle because she is so set on figuring out how to fix Simon that changing her behavior isn’t really an option; 2. Betty is adverse to change in general, viewing it as an inherently bad thing. As seen in her lack of acceptance of Ice King in general, this makes sense as well.

This turmoil builds up to Betty’s confrontation of her past, which is admittedly quite a somber sequence. These last few seasons have done a great job at fleshing out Betty’s madness and sadness, and Temple of Mars is a particular highlight. The idea of choosing to focus on one’s self is additional advice that is easier said than done. It’s certainly what she needs, but she’s incapable of seeing how that’s even possible. Again, I think it ties in really well with the motif of both anxiety and grief – no matter how much you want to get better and shift your focus, occasionally the fixation of your energy is so strong that it’s impossible to even know where to start. Betty takes the first step forward (or, so it seems) into a better life by answering her test with a response of self-healing, rather than desperate manifesting.

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I do think the conclusion is way too hokey for my liking. I know there’s kind of a no-holds-barred atmosphere of the world of Adventure Time where literally anything can happen, but I fail to see how Finn, Jermaine, and Betty’s journey has ANYTHING to do with channeling Jake’s energy so that he would be transported into the temple. It seems like Tom and Steve had decided they wanted to explore the psyche of these various different characters and interactions, and then thought to themselves 10 minutes in that, “oh shit, we’d better bring Jake back.” I was even shocked by Jermaine’s quick acceptance of King Man’s explanation. He’s the straight man after all, it would make way more sense (and also be funnier) if he shot back with, “that’s a load of horseshit,” or something along those lines. The second conclusion, in which Betty realizes her true potential, is quite satisfying. In reality, Betty is way too far gone that it just wouldn’t make sense for her to turn her life around so quickly. It makes sense that she would take away some inspiration, but the wrong inspiration at that. I could’ve sworn that I was watching some bad DVR rip of the episode upon first viewing, because Temple of Mars‘ close takes AT‘s abrupt endings to a whole new level. But, it is a quick cut-off that I enjoy regardless. The entire concept of GOLB being brought back into things is something that’s purposely been left in the dark for quite sometime, and enough to leave a character like King Man speechless, who has spent his life devoted to finding the deity. It definitely had me hyped for the show’s conclusion no doubt, even if I ended up having mixed feelings about GOLB’s inclusion as a whole.

So, while Temple of Mars isn’t exactly the experimental nuttiness that I would expect from a Mars entry, it’s still quite enjoyable. It contains some of the best interaction material we’ve seen all season, and is definitely one of Betty’s best roles to date. Some of the visuals are quite nice, especially the return of the rust-filled void of Mars, and the temple itself. Nice moments of lore here and there, such as Betty’s mention of the Enchiridion, or the foreshadowed idea that Margles is still very much on King Man’s radar. There are some good gags here and there, but others that kind of fall flat. The big build up to Finn’s bald head was a joke I found quite unfunny as a whole, and somewhat of a cheap gag that doesn’t really add much. Regardless, it’s certainly a strong point for the season specifically for its inclusion of great character moments, namely Betty and Jermaine, who truly are the stars of Temple of Mars.

Favorite line: “If anyone else feels like solving any of these puzzles, just jump right in, you know?”

“Jake the Starchild” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

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

I think the thing that hurts the most about Jake the Starchild is the fact that, if the AT writing staff had a bit more of a heads up regarding the end of the series, I really think this episode could have worked. Imagine this scenario: Warren Ampersand swaps his essence with Jake successfully, and takes Jake’s place on Earth, without Finn immediately noticing the difference. Jake croaks in space, Finn later discovers that Warren Ampersand is NOT his brother, and joins Normal Man and Betty in their quest to rescue their loved ones from the clutches of GOLB. I really hate playing the part of “this episode/scene should have went this way, because that would satisfy myself, and if I’m satisfied, that’s all that matter.” It’s unfair to judge an episode based on my expectations and disappointment, but when you get an episode like Jake the Starchild that is so devoid of satisfaction, it’s hard not to long for what could have been. This is one of the big AT stinkers, but again, I’m not sure how fair it is to say that. Part of where its disappointment stems from is the fact that it comes so close to the finale, yet offers little of substance or build up leading up into the final events of the series, but in harmony of what I had said earlier, this isn’t the fault of the writing staff. And, in another attempt to play devil’s advocate, I had praised Blenanas in spite of it being an episode so close to the show’s conclusion. When it comes down to it, I think Jake the Starchild‘s failure isn’t that it wasn’t able to tie its story in with Come Along With Me, but the fact that its story is so hackneyed and uninspired that it just comes off as a bit of a sad whimper in the face of finality.

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Right off the bat, I don’t really like how the beginning starts out. Jake the Starchild begins with a bit of a recap from The First Investigation that’s unnecessarily long and it doesn’t really follow any realm of continuity. Like, it utilizes identical shots that were used in The First Investigation but with entirely different dialogue. I don’t really get this approach? It incorporates a lot more of AT‘s typical silliness, but it’s just jarring to imply that there wasn’t just additional dialogue between Jake and Warren during this convergence, it was actually just entirely different from what we saw in the previous episode. Come to think of it, why the fuck are we even wasting time with a recap? AT has already gone so off the rails with different storylines that I don’t think the common viewer is going to need a recap anyway. Or if they’re going to do one, just show a super condensed sequence of all the juicy stuff that we need to remember. Otherwise, it just feels like time wasted on an already compressed episode.

After that sequence, we mostly move into the stuff between Jake and Warren Ampersand. I don’t know if I’m just being overly cynical, but the name “Warren Ampersand” has to be one of the dumbest the staff could’ve came up with. It feels like a manatee joke that combines two silly sounding words for the sake of being silly sounding. His name is an accurate representation of his character, however, as Warren Ampersand is pretty uninteresting all around. Surprise, surprise, he’s another bad dad. I know this show has created somewhat of a motif when it comes to shitty parental figures, but Warren is just a reiteration of everything we’ve already seen from the series. He’s the charming, yet selfishly devious father that is more than willing to put their needs before their child’s. Similar to Hunson’s portrayal a few episodes earlier, I’ve grown tired of this character archetype. We got more than enough of this type of material from Martin, and it just simply doesn’t work with anyone else. Martin was interesting because he was one, big subversion from what anyone was expecting from him. He was initially built up as this legendary hero that bestowed his blessed genetics onto Finn, until everything came crashing down in his debut. Martin’s character was great because it made the audience effectively hate him (or love to hate him, in my case) and his impact on Finn was undeniable. Warren’s a bad, selfish dude who tricks Jake, but has little to no effect on Jake or the story overall. So, what are we sincerely supposed to take away from his character? Well, we kind of get to that later.

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I like this painting, but I’m not sure I get it. I’m pretty sure the implication is that Jake and Jermaine turned 5 in dog years, considering that Finn is still a baby. Buuut, that’s not how dog years work and in that case, how did Jake end up being considered 28-years-old at the beginning of the series?

The dynamic between Warren and Jake is pretty standard and not particularly meaty. I’m not gonna act like they butchered Jake’s character or anything here – it’s pretty difficult to fuck up a lax dude like Jake, unless he’s portrayed in some kind of self-centered light. His reactions to Warren’s kindness and revelations are mildly humorous, albeit nothing remarkable. I do like how some of his core character traits return, such as his absolute willingness to follow a destiny bestowed onto him (The New Frontier) or his inability to resist people-pleasing (The Limit). The various trials that Warren puts Jake through are pretty unmemorable – for all of the episodes that could get super creative with Jake’s stretchy abilities, I feel as though this one is a missed opportunity. Aside from some twists and turns, there isn’t much creativity that goes into the possibilities of his own abilities, aside from the pretty neat revelation that Warren’s own caliber allowed him to essentially create an entire planet, similar to how Jake was able to do so in Everything’s Jake.

The climax of the episode really just feels like a culmination of laziness. Jake’s bait-and-switch with swapping the belts is presented in such a way that feels almost like its cheating continuity once more. Typically in a moment like this, the camera would cut up to above Jake and Warren’s waists, but it stays at a medium shot almost the entire time to the point where it feels like a cheap twist. Warren’s lack of knowledge when it comes to Jake’s kids makes little to no sense, considering that Warren apparently stalks Jake on a somewhat regular basis. Jake sacrificing the well-being of himself for his own kids is a moment that’s played up as if it’s supposed to be this big revelation but… we know that. Jake can occasionally have selfish and somewhat spacious tendencies, but I don’t think there was ever a point in the series where I thought that he didn’t care about his children. It’s a nice inclusion, but I don’t really feel like it’s adding anything to Jake’s character that wasn’t already known. Jake mentions that Warren’s behavior as a bad dad reminded him of what being a good dad is like, but what are you even supposed to take away from that? Again, I don’t think that there’s many moments in the series that imply that Jake wouldn’t do anything for his children, even if he is particularly absent-minded.

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Jake the Starchild seems like it has no idea what it wants to say by the end of it, and I walked away from this episode learning very little about Jake, Warren, and the nature of Jake as a whole. It wouldn’t bother me as much if it was one of Adventure Time‘s smaller arcs, but this shit is BIG! Jake’s shapeshifting abilities are a major aspect of his character that have continued to be built up more and more as time has gone one, and the fact that the climax of this arc is a collection of everything that could have already been gathered with context clues is truly a disappointment. I learned way more about Jake and the hidden aspects of his life through Abstract, and I honestly would not care if there was little to no follow-up about Jake’s alien-side after the fact. But, since there is, it deserves to be presented in a much more satisfactory way.

Is there anything I liked about Jake the Starchild? As I mentioned, the Jake moments are perfectly acceptable. The backgrounds and general color scheme of this episode really pop. I love the radiant blues that fill out the entire course of Warren’s make-shift planet. And yeah, aside from those two aspects, that’s kind of it. I don’t even know if I can call Jake the Starchild truly bad. It definitely has moments and attributes that I could deem poor in quality, but at the end of the day, it’s just a truly unmemorable, nearly pointless entry. I’m noticing this as a pattern of season nine episodes that aren’t exactly of good quality. With a very mixed season like Season Six, even at its worst, it was trying something different and pushing the bar for what could be in a kid’s show at the time. Episodes like SeventeenMarcy & Hunson, and Jake the Starchild are simply bland entries that should be really grandiose and exciting, but instead choose the most cookie-cutter options of storytelling available. It shows clearly in Jake the Starchild, because what could have been an exciting conclusion to an individual character’s arc ended up being a showcase of repetitive character traits and pre-existing knowledge. I would have loved to see what the amazing and brilliant team behind Adventure Time could’ve brought to the table had the series continued, but man, with episodes like Jake the Starchild, the show’s end may have been for the best.

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Favorite line: “I’m dying… for a soft pretzel with mustard.”

Adventure Time Reviewed: Reader Feedback

Howdy, y’all! As we approach the last few episode reviews of the series, I want to open up for a chance at seeing what you would like to see from this blog before I close shop. I have lots of ideas for bonus reviews once I actually do finish up with the finale, including:

  • Top 10 Best and Worst Episodes
  • An analytical deep-dive into every major character.
  • Best Title Cards.
  • Best Moments.
  • 10 episodes that I think should have been made.

And more! I’d also like to plan something special, like a little wrap-up party on Discord or any other community server, so feel free to share if you’d be interested in this as well! I’m happy to consider any ideas presented to me. As is, the upcoming scheduled reviews should look something like this:

  • September 8: Jake the Starchild
  • September 15: Temple of Mars
  • September 22: Gumbaldia
  • September 29: Diamonds and Lemons (Bonus review)
  • October 13: Come Along With Me
  • October 20: Season Nine Review

Lots more content still in the works post-series, so be sure to let me know what you want to see!

– Eric

“Blenanas” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Pat McHale & Sam Alden

I talked a bit about the episodes that were generally regarded as “fan favorites” for season nine. While I enjoyed The Wild Hunt and The First Investigation, they surprisingly aren’t my personal picks for peak season nine material. Blenanas is an episode that seems to bring about polarizing thoughts and feelings. Judging by its placement in the season, I can see why people were a bit pissy with being dealt an episode that’s almost entirely filler right before the finale. Looking back, it makes sense, seeing as how there was no indication that Adventure Time‘s conclusion was a result of the network deciding to can the show, so Blenanas felt more like a poor choice from the writing staff at such a delicate time. But, looking at it for what it is, Blenanas is nothing short of top tier filler. It makes the most of a simple story by being humorous, character driven, and above all, charming.

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Part of where that charm comes from is the return of former creative director Pat McHale! McHale had been away from the series for five whole years, and he only ever worked as a storyboard writer and artist on The Enchiridion!. Yet, McHale really seems like the type of guy that AT comes naturally to. After all, he was Pen’s right hand man throughout Adventure Time‘s inception and had a key part in developing a handful of stories from season 1 through 5. Even with his time apart from the series in mind, his deep understanding of the characters and their individual dynamics has not faded. The episode starts out strong with a really nice back-and-forth between Finn and BMO. What I love about their interactions is that they’re primarily hostile, but that element of charisma is still very much alive. Finn disagrees with BMO about his joke, but mentions that he “loves” his little robot friend regardless. Finn storms off to prove BMO wrong, but the two playfully wave at each other before parting. This bit of sweetness is so irresistible in its lack of cynicism, which really ties into the nature of the show and its characters as a whole. Not to discount the enjoyable nature of Finn and BMO bickering, however. I love BMO’s blunt sassiness in accusing Finn of not being funny, and I always appreciate some aggressive dialogue for Jeremy Shada to put his all into. Also, the implication that Jake leaves BMO scandalous valentines is almost too bizarre to not find funny, or the brief moment where BMO makes a banana and Jake’s “B.R.B.” note passionately kiss. This is subtle AT weirdness that I’ve been longing for.

I get the feeling that Finn’s quest for validation is much more of a diversionary tactic than he puts on. I think in light of recent events with Fern, Finn may have numbed himself to the possibility of any other tragic occurrences in his life, and doesn’t want to humor the idea of his brother possibly being in danger. This is represented in a pretty obvious visual gag on the back of Ble magazine, which reads, “I miss my dog.” Finn has gotten better and better at finding different things to do during times of stress to get his mind off of the things that are worrying him, but that may have worked too well to the point where Finn is suppressing his worries by finding any little thing that can distract him. He may also be a bit scarred from the last time he lost Jake during Elements and resist falling into despair nonetheless.

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Regardless, I don’t think the boy’s confidence has been entirely in tact in a post-Fern world, and he’s focusing towards little things such as his sense of humor in an attempt to feel more confident and happy in his own skin. Only problem is that the people he asks aren’t much help either. I love McHale’s simple facial expressions for each character, but man, is it weird to see PB with nontraditional jagged teeth. Aside from McHale’s board, is this a feature that pops up every now and then? I feel like it’s equivalent to Finn being drawn with eye whites – it’s something that was done early on in the series, but then ditched for consistency. If any of y’all reading have more recent examples of this design feature, feel free to let me know! That visual analysis aside, I enjoy the continued goofiness that carries on through PB’s section. Her failure to understand the basic concept of humor reminded me a lot of something Pearl would say on Steven Universe, but it feels completely fitting with PB’s character regardless, especially in the midst of a detailed lockdown procedure. Even then, she still finds it appropriate to break into the library window with a bat instead of just simply walking in and grabbing the book she needed. In fact, why even was the exact book she was looking for just coincidentally sitting propped in the window? It’s another moment that’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but get into it. Speaking of things that I can’t help but get into, PB’s outfit is just adorable in this episode. It’s making me think more and more about what a missed opportunity it was for Cartoon Network to release a line of Marceline and PB dolls and figures with changeable outfits. It’d be a solid marketing decision for the female demographic, and for weird older guys like myself!

I’ve already praised him above, but Jeremy Shada puts on a terrific performance in this episode. The sections where Finn is chatting with himself have the potential to be awkward, but Shada brings on a very genuine charm that makes Finn’s conversation feel natural. I really hate the cliched analytic note of mentioning that a certain episode of Adventure Time “feels like season one,” because it’s such a broad analogy on its own and usually doesn’t particularly add any type of positive or negative connotation to the moments being described themselves. Yet, I really do feel like Finn having a conversation with himself regarding the fundamentals of humor really feels like AT at its most classic routes, even if the energy or zaniness isn’t all there. Throwing it back as well is the delightful reintroduction of Finn and Ice King’s dynamic.

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Now, Finn and Ice King have interacted plenty of times in the past few seasons, with Elements being the major example. But it’s been a long while since we’ve gotten to see these two characters interact without anyone else involved, and it’s delightful. I love how open-minded Finn has become to seeing Ice King as a legitimate comrade, even if his judgment of him hasn’t faded completely. Not that it really matters, because Finn’s exactly right – even if he does see Ice King as an equal, it doesn’t make him any less desperate for approval and love than he already is. This is also just kind of a really nice aspect of Ice King’s character in general, because as much as the show has proved time and time again that he is a sympathetic being, they really haven’t watered him down all that much. He’s certainly less aggressive and creepy than he was during his conception, but he’s every bit as crazy, desperate, and lacking of common sense. I like how they never went all out with forming this totally lovable, competent dude, and added in just enough to make it appear as progress has passed without really changing any of what made Ice King so enjoyable to begin with. And those elements alone are shown by his total disregard of understanding the intention of Finn’s joke and simply being drawn to the idea of “a cat with big teeth.” Yet, he still is able to come up with a subjectively funnier joke than Finn is! The complexities of Ice King’s character are just splendid.

But that progress that I mentioned prior is certainly welcomed, and I get a sweet kick out of Finn being so enthused by Ice King’s presence. Their combined interest in something creative is too nice, and you really do believe that this is something they’d be able to connect on without a problem. The lore built onto the Demonic Wishing Eye is also welcomed, especially the implication that such a hellish device would have such a cute, colorful host location. Though, I’m not sure how much Ice King actually has to worry about losing pieces of his soul. I’m sure the crown is doing most of the functioning anyway. The Pudding Troll that is introduced in Blenanas is another one of those crazily designed Adventure Time characters with a pretty standard personality, but I do enjoy his presence. I love his obscure design, with a speechless belly that shoots “ammo,” and his general lack of understanding of the purpose of his job. I like to imagine he just sits there for days on end without saying a single word or even moving.

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The Ble factory is certainly bleak, with dozens of skeletons inhabiting the vicinity. It’s interesting, because the skeletons appear to imply that the workers may have been human, but the Pudding Troll mentions having guarded the place for 500 years, and I don’t really know if contact between humans and mutants was ever mainstream during the fallout of the war. It’s also difficult to completely understand the implied disaster – what happened here that left a handful of workers dead without the Pudding Troll even noticing? Unless his application process was truly that he just submitted something a showed up one day, and that the humans working inside of Ble were killed by radiation fallout, or something. It’s food for thought, either way.

The production montage is tons of fun. It’s actually one of those sequences that I feel could be longer! Some of my favorite episodes of television are the ones that deal with behind-the-scenes production, particularly when it comes to animated series (Stimpy’s Cartoon Show from The Ren & Stimpy Show or Wacky Delly from Rocko’s Modern Life) and I’d love to see Adventure Time take on strenuous labor when working with Ble. Regardless, the finished product is funny, considering that Ice King, Finn, and the Pudding Troll aren’t exactly the most ideal content creators. But, Finn’s goals and desires are clearly spelled out in the last few minutes – he isn’t really looking to be funny, he’s simply looking for validation. It really makes sense why Ice King and Finn get along so well in this one, because they’re essentially both after the same sense of approval. Maybe Finn relies on Jake a bit too much to feel empowered. After all, Jake is pretty confident in himself and his own abilities, and the people we spend the most time with often shape our personalities. Without Jake, Finn may be susceptible to more feelings of inferiority and a lack of self-confidence. But, in the end, he does get what he was looking for, through an elaborately staged slapstick routine that’s right up BMO and NEPTR’s alley. Maybe Finn isn’t particularly funny, but he’s still able to feel good about himself through the affirmation of those he cares about most.

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I love Blenanas! It’s a light, silly romp with a decent amount of depth under the hood. This really is the show at it’s most simple, and it proves how much a simple idea can go a long way. Blenanas works as a competent story with added enjoyment in the smaller details; even the random inclusion of unusual transitions between scenes got a big smile out of me. It’s an episode that hits hard on the charm, and shows how crucial these characters are when it comes to the series succeeding. This last season may have picked up heftily on continuity, but at the end of the day, it’s the lovable, silly characters that carry Adventure Time through.

Favorite line: “I should show this to normal people, the common folk. The busy woman on the go. The regular Joe or Josephine.”