Has anyone realized yet that I always start the season reviews with a picture of Finn and Jake and sometimes other people hugging? Seriously, look at every other season review. Even the miniseries reviews had ’em. I’ve worked really hard on finding these hugging pics guys. I honestly think that shit ties this entire blog together. It’s my true magnum opus.
Anywho, season nine! Season nine is probably the weakest Adventure Time season to date. There has been a couple of seasons that I didn’t really connect with on a greater scale. Season 5.1 kind of strikes me as slightly hit-or-miss with not many episodes that truly stood out. If we’re taking Cartoon Network’s rebrand into consideration (of which I’m really starting to regret not following, I feel like I’ve ultimately dated this blog for future readings) Season 7 wasn’t too hot either. I think Season 9 stands out more than others on a quality front because:
- It is the last season of the series, after all.
- It’s shorter than every other season to date.
The second aspect is interesting, because I don’t necessarily think a smaller quantity equals a lesser quality – in fact, it’s usually the opposite. But in this case, it’s noticeable because Season 9 mainly spends its time focusing on a more serialized story arc, rather than following the show’s previous attempts at being episodic. Considering that I think the Gumbald arc sort of falls apart by the finale (though it was never especially interesting to begin with) it makes the season feel more wasted, even if I do appreciate that it was giving fans what they wanted after so long: a continuing story, not weighed down by filler.
I have a weird relationship with Adventure Time‘s attempts at serialization. I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea, but this is a series that was kind of built on the foundation of having little-to-no continuing story. That’s not to say it can’t change – Steven Universe was also kind of in the same boat in its first season (and in some respects, the seasons that followed it) until committing to a more ongoing storyline. Part of what makes Adventure Time so unique, however, is that it can kind of do whatever it wants whenever it wants with very little limitations at hand. A serialized story, while more rewarding in a sense, actually makes Adventure Time‘s individual entries standout less. I remember Always BMO Closing less as a fun BMO and Ice King adventure and more as a dull continuation of Gumbald’s story. Marcy & Hunson isn’t allowed to just focus on the already tumultuous relationship between Marceline and her father, but it also has to shoehorn in a secondary forced conflict with Princess Bubblegum’s cousin Chicle. Then again, Adventure Time ‘s eight season was almost exclusively bigger, serialized stories with very few standalone entries, and it proved to be one of the show’s best. So does it just boil down to poor quality in general?
I think it’s easy to kind of jump on the idea that Season Nine COULD HAVE been better had the series not ceased production so early or if there were more episodes in general. But I think there’s also the possibility that AT may have just run its course. Not saying that it’s the obvious answer (we’ll see how Distant Lands fairs) but I think there’s a definite chance that the series, seven years old by this point and 260 episodes in, just wasn’t able to delight and surprise as it once did. Don’t get me wrong, Season Nine had some goodies. Blenanas was just the kind of standalone madness that I had been craving from AT by the time it aired. The Wild Hunt boasted some of the show’s slickest animation and storyboarding yet. Ring of Fire, despite the criticism facing it, was a delightfully horny Tree Trunks entry. But, even then, the entries that are great or good don’t really even rank among a top 10 or anything. Likewise, the episodes that are bad aren’t horrendously bad, but they’re also a special kind of mediocre that I’m not really used to seeing from the series.
Jake the Starchild was this really big culmination of a lot of elements that were built up throughout the series and it kind of just ended with these elements going absolutely no where. I know one could argue that Adventure Time is no stranger to holding the status quo oh-so-dear, but at this point in the series, I’d like to see some actual punches thrown. It doesn’t even really have to be a gamechanger by any means necessarily, but just do SOMETHING new with this story element that quite honestly wrapped up perfectly fine in Abstract, even without lasting consequences. While The Wild Hunt boasted some of the best animation in the series, Seventeen exhibited some of the worst, feeling like a mish-mash of storyboards that just felt super unpolished. Hunson & Marcy, aside from bits of forced conflict, brought back a long-running antagonist only to basically execute an exact repeat of all of his spotlight episodes thus far. Comparing it to the previous season once more, I feel like Season Eight seemed to address the show’s longstanding complaints by closing doors and offering more immediate satisfaction and overarching stories. Season Nine, while keeping in the spirit of what Season Eight wanted to accomplish, feels like one step back in its execution of these events.
The actual story arcs weren’t particularly strong either. I’ve gone on and on about how Gumbald’s arc fell flat in previous reviews, so I wouldn’t be adding much by elaborating on it here. At the very least, I will say that the Gumbald stuff isn’t awful, nor does it ruin any aspect of the series for me. It just isn’t very good and kind of squanders the potential of the last handful of episodes, but it’s executed in a quick and painless way and at least provides for some (relatively) interesting bits of PB’s past. I said “story arcs” above, but truthfully, that’s pretty much it. Fern gets some flack throughout, and while I don’t think his ending was particularly strong, I think his recurring role in the series probably makes for some of Season Nine’s strongest points, namely his battle with Finn in Gumbaldia. Otherwise, that’s kind of it for ongoing arcs. There’s a few episodes with Jake and his dad that go nowhere, as well as setup for GOLB, but most of that is dealt with in the finale.
It’s difficult to talk about the success of boarding teams this season since there’s so few episodes. Per usual, Sam Alden hopped around from partner to partner, and almost always did great wherever he landed. Current and old AT staff members hopped on board to assist every now and then, which was a treat. Adam Muto chimed in for Marcy & Hunson, and I’m kinda sad in realizing that a lot of the Muto-boarded episodes after season three… aren’t very good. I mean, he’s had some gems, such as Everything Stays, Little Brother, and Varmints. But he’s also had The Prince Who Wanted Everything, Dark Purple, and Marcy & Hunson. Yeeesh. Still love the direction that he took the series in, but I can’t really say he’s been the strongest when it comes to the boarding front these past few years. Erik Fountain joined Sam Alden for The Wild Hunt and proved that he’s one of the most skilled storyboarders on the staff. Pat McHale returned after years apart from the series for Blenanas, making for the best episode of the season. And Kent Osborne lent a hand for some BMO-Ice King goofiness in Always BMO Closing. For all of the praise I focused towards Seo and Somvilay last season, I really didn’t like a single episode they churned out during Season Nine. Their chunk of the finale was probably the weakest, and I think Son of Rap Bear ranks upon one of AT‘s worst efforts. Tom and Steve’s work was enjoyable, though not necessarily up to par with what I typically expect from them. I completely acknowledge that I sound like a self-righteous douche saying that, but I mean that in the most complimentary way. They’ve been one of the strongest teams throughout this show’s run, but nothing in Season Nine struck a chord with me in a particularly strong way. I kept thinking that Temple of Mars should have been the greatest episode ever, but it just wasn’t. Hanna K. and Aleks Sennwald dished out a good amount of hit-or-miss material, with the mixed bag of Bonnibel Bubblegum, the mostly delightful The First Investigation, and the painfully bland Jake the Starchild. Per usual, Graham Falk hopped around as well, in mostly decent-to-meh boarding efforts. It’s funny to me that Falk ended up boarding the last chunk of AT material to date. I have mixed feelings on his episodes overall, though I do recognize his talent. Still, he’s one of the last storyboard artists I would have expected to finish out the series entirely. I guess his role in the final calls is also up for debate, however.
Top 5 Best Episodes
5. Temple of Mars – A pretty neat continuation of Betty’s story, along with some cool psychological trials along the way.
4. The First Investigation – A fun time-skip episode interlaced with really sweet moments between Finn, Jake, and their late parents.
3. Ring of Fire – The journey of life told from a horny elephant’s perspective. I’m sold!
2. The Wild Hunt – An action-packed, high stakes episode with stellar animation to boot. A really nice exploration of Finn’s psyche as well.
1. Blenanas – All-in-all, a super fun, endearing, lighthearted, and funny entry that is as simple as the series can possibly get. And, as proved time and time again, that can sometimes be enough.
5. Always BMO Closing – A mish mash of silly ideas and forced serialization that never truly complement each other.
4. Seventeen – The animation and poses in this episode are super awkward and stilted, and the plot itself isn’t entirely compelling.
3. Jake the Starchild – Just a really lame, pointless story that kind of goes no where and has nothing new to say.
2. Marcy & Hunson – A rehash of every Hunson entry in the series so far, interlaced with pandering moments for Bubbline fans.
1. Son of Rap Bear – A truly insignificant way to wrap up Flame Princess’s character, mixed with poor story elements, weak character moments, and even somewhat of a desire to be “hip with the kids,” which I never thought I’d say about Adventure Time.
Season Nine is likely the weakest season to date. Outside of time limits, the episodes we got just weren’t very good in my eyes. There certainly is much more of a higher expectation for this season than previously seasons, however. Considering that this is the final batch of episodes for such a longrunning series, there’s more immediate satisfaction desired. Episodes in the past with some of the biggest sins, such as Breezy, are now more overlooked since episodes like Reboot came along to repent. Episodes such as Jake the Starchild and Son of Rap Bear aren’t as easily overlooked, considering that there’s no longer a cushion to make up for their squandered story elements. But as I’ve said above, this season wasn’t necessarily awful. It never had me shaking my fist in anger or denouncing the series. It was just kind of a let down for a series that has been going on for so long and has consistently sought to improve itself. But, considering that we now have more Adventure Time material on the way, maybe this will be the staff’s opportunity to truly get their final say in. Or maybe it will tease seven seasons worth of Adventure Time material down the line. It’ll probably be the latter.
That about wraps it up for the routine material – now we get to the fun stuff! Tune in next week for the Best and Worst of Adventure Time episodes!