“Nemesis” Review

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Another awesome title card by Derek Ballard, this being his last one in the series. This episode is also his final role as a storyboard artist.

Original Airdate: August 7, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Derek Ballard

Ever since The Suitor, I’ve wanted to see an entire story based off of Peppermint Butler’s interest in the dark arts and how it connects to his character. I think all of us, at one point or another, assumed that Pepbut would take on some sort of antagonistic role and turn full-on evil, but the way this episode presents his character is very telling and interesting. Though he certainly isn’t a hero by any means, his duty first and foremost is to serve Princess Bubblegum, regardless of his interests in the dark arts. I also like how this episode once again ties into Princess Bubblegum being viewed as suspicious throughout the Candy Kingdom, in what is likely the most explicit example of her misusing her power up until The Cooler.

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First off, I really enjoy the Veritas Brigade (“veritas” is Latin for “truth”) and the collection of different people who gather for it. It really makes sense that Starchy would be the leader of this sort of thing, and the secretive nature of the group, along with how they practically speak in riddles, is really neat. The password itself to enter the organization, “to beelzebub with the brewer’s knave,” derives from the poem “The Romance Of Britomarte,” to which I have no clue what the connection is, so if you have any idea, let me know in the comments. The group slogan, “lux in tenebris,” translates to “light into darkness.” Love how much was put into establishing this society’s place in the Candy Kingdom, and the various interesting choices for members. Of course, Starchy is there because conspiracy theories are his one true passion in life, but what put people like Nurse Poundcake and Science in there? I like to think Starchy just brought Science there so it would appear as though he had more members. Also love the Banana Guard who wears a big plastic nose and fake mustache to avoid getting caught by PB. Though, that didn’t pan out too well, apparently.

Princess Bubblegum is once again shown spying on her people because, let’s face it, this is her source of entertainment. In her ever-stressful life, it’s almost impossible for her to relax, and her one method of escaping from the stressors of everyday life is to do so in the most “responsible” way possible: watch over her city, or in actuality, spy on others. Of course, she isn’t malicious about it. She doesn’t plan on punishing the citizens who rebel against her, nor does she plan on stopping their meetings. She’s simply being invasive and not respecting the privacy of others, though this is likely a more justified reason than most others. A secret society that bases itself off of Bubblegum’s wrongdoings could potentially get unorthodox or violent, and it makes sense that she would want to observe for the possibility of such an occurrence, even if it’s unlikely. Though, the donut man named Kenneth has apparently built a device that disrupts parallel dimensions, and it actually works, too! I do wonder who the shadow-y figure that Nurse Poundcake mentioned is supposed to represent: Peppermint Butler or Rattleballs? Pretty cool if the main concern from the group in this episode revolves around the intrigue of Rattleballs’ existence. Even though we don’t see him much, it’s cool that he is established to be guarding over the Candy Kingdom at night, where he cannot be seen. Also interesting is that the information that causes the Candy People to question PB’s behavior is actually protecting them from impending dangers. Though it’s also likely this shadow is referring to Peppermint Butler’s strange activities after dark.

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This is where Peace Master comes in: a delightfully hammy anti-hero who pretends to be a lot cooler in his head than he is in real life. He’s voiced by Rainn Wilson, which feels a bit distracting as it seems like including Rattleballs in this one was just an excuse not to find another voice actor for PM, though Wilson does a great job so I’m not complaining. Peace Master gives me major vibes of religious cult leaders who believe they are the savior over everything and that they are an all-powerful being, combined with elements of Batman. Though, PM isn’t the dark and tortured being he seems to portray. What makes Peace Master so interesting, however, is ironically the fact that he’s just a normal guy. Despite all of his abilities and his confidence in vanquishing all that is evil, he’s actually a father who is raising three kids. I love how much Nemesis builds this guy up, with his well-drawn dramatic faces and his menacing exterior, only for him to come off as a pretty lame dude when it comes down to it. Though I dunno, is it a little too mundane for anyone else that he just casually drives a minivan around? Who in the Candy Kingdom actually drives automotive vehicles? It seems too out of place for the setting, but I digress. I like how Peace Master even acknowledges to his children that he was pontificating, and just how much his children rebel against him. His children are essentially more down-to-earth than their father; Peacemaster dismisses the dark arts as nothing but monstrosities that deserve to be excluded from society, though someone like Peppermint Butler would prove that there is a balance between practicing such magic and also being a totally cool dude. Speaking of the peppermint man, his role in the episode is defined by PM’s defiance of such practices.

PB’s desire to shift the kingdom into full red alert mode is a lot of fun, namely the return of Colonel Candy Corn in a much more enjoyable appearance after his large role in Something Big. Something tells me that Jesse Moynihan just really likes this character for some reason. Regardless, his comments about his state of being and the nature of the Banana Guards were both hilarious, and it’s refreshing to see a member of the Candy Kingdom military who is actually relatively competent. Speaking of competence, PB calls upon the aforementioned Rattleballs after awkwardly avoiding the discussion revolving around him, in a pretty funny scene featuring an actual training session between Finn and himself! With Jake included, of course. The scene is pretty humorous in the fact that I have literally NO IDEA how such a skill is actually beneficial for Finn to use. It’s always fun to see Rattleballs, and it’s equally fun to see Finn and Jake by this point. I appreciate the direction that the show has taken to where they are able to focus on various different characters without the company of Finn and Jake, but their presence is still missed. It’s a lot different going back and watching these episodes now, where I can appreciate them more for what they are, rather than how they aired. Though I still enjoyed Nemesis upon airing, nearly a month of AT episodes had aired without Finn and Jake having a role, and I truly missed my boys by the time this one came along.

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It’s funny how I’m only now realizing that the true meat of the episode, which is Peppermint Butler’s conflict with Peace Master, only comes into play about halfway through the episode. Yet, I think the beginning of the episode does a pretty solid job of creating a sense of urgency throughout the Candy Kingdom, which is just as important. The atmosphere which leads into Peppermint Butler’s experimenting is really what helps to create a justification for such behavior. And man, is Peppermint Butler’s transformation seminar just awesome! His spiritual avatar itself is nothing special, but the bit where the boxed walls are torn apart and transition into an A-HA inspired sketch sequence is just awesome! These past couple episodes (Ocarina, Crabapples, and Nemesis) have all incorporated unique animation and art sequences that derive from the show’s usual fare, and it’s awesome to see how ambitious the series is able to be with every single episode by this point. Really feels like season six as a whole has shown an effort to be completely different on all levels. The exchanges between Pepbut and Peace Master are pretty enticing, namely the camera angles and how each side has their own unique powers. That blade that Peppermint Butler pulls out of his shoe is especially gnarly, even if it is virtually ineffective. Though PM is liked by his acquaintances of Veritas Brigade, I enjoy how everyone virtually sides with Peppermint Butler for simply being a cool dude. It really goes to show how much Pepbut has masked his identity over the years; though a participant of the dark arts, Peppermint Butler is laidback, polite, and a total bro, which helps shape his identity where PB fails. Peppermint Butler is essentially just as shady as Bubblegum, though he has the people skills and the right demeanor to alleviate all suspicion from himself. The way Pepbut is saved through Kenneth’s machine is also a pretty awesome callback. I’d love to see more of this Kenneth fella.

After the two separate, PM and Pepbut meet back up at the always visually interesting Wizard Battle arena (complete with a beautiful sunrise) and the atmosphere is certainly tense. The way Peppermint Butler enters, as he’s carried by that awesomely bizarre brain creature, shows that he seems to have the upper hand. This is proven right when he goes as far as transforming Peace Master’s children into literal monsters. It’s certainly a disheartening experience, though I enjoy the way it’s presented. Peppermint Butler isn’t in the right, and the episode doesn’t go through any methods to prove as much. Peace Master is essentially the hero who wants nothing but to defeat all evil that faces him and to make the world safer for his children. What makes this “wrong” is that he’s threatening the state of the kingdom, and its main ambassadors, even though he isn’t inherently wrong in his mindset. What makes Peppermint Butler “right” is that he’s doing everything he can to protect the princess and the Candy Kingdom, even though he goes through extreme lengths to do so. It’s a really interesting scenario where the technical hero is presented as a villain and the technical villain is presented as a hero, and Nemesis presents this a hell of a lot better than the previous episode Princess Day attempted to. What stops it from becoming absolute tragedy, however, is that the children actually like their transformation, and Peace Master grows to accept dark magic and monstrosities because of it, making for a relatively touching close to his character. It’s still a completely unfortunate situation for himself, though it isn’t portrayed in the most horrific way possible. Also like how “eating dirt” is going too far for Peppermint Butler, but turning his children into monsters is not. Again, Nemesis does this much better than Princess Day.

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But of course, after the entire situation fizzles out, Pepbut returns to his quarters, with little evidence that he was ever involved. Not even Princess Bubblegum knows the full extent of Peppermint Butler’s dark interests, though his demeanor once again proves just the opposite. Peppermint Butler is a complex soul who keeps himself presentable in the most appropriate of ways, yet will do what he must to protect what he stands for. Letting anyone know of his involvement in such sorcery would only confuse and put off most people, and Peppermint Butler knows this. He simply keeps to himself, but uses his powers for all the right things. At least, in his perspective.

The best way to describe this one is “cool.” It has some cool ideas, new characters, new developments from pre-existing characters, atmosphere, animation sequences, and more. It’s not necessarily the most amazing tertiary character spotlight episode, but it executes a lot of elements pretty well. It’s just the kind of Peppermint Butler episode I wanted, and aside from The Suitor, this is likely his best role to date.

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Favorite line: “Sorry, I hate evil so much.”

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“Princess Day” Review

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Original Airdate: July 31, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Princess Day was a pretty big deal when it first came out. It not only had its own DVD release, but even released on said DVD two days before its original airdate, which is a first for the series in general. It was also advertised like CRAZY; promos for both the episode and the DVD ran rampant during every commercial break at the time, and had a special sneak preview at San Diego Comic Con. I have no idea where the hype for this episode came from, because the end result is pretty underwhelming and is far from a significant Adventure Time entry. There was also a similarly huge marketing campaign for Frost & Fire, though that at least made sense because it was a huge turning point for the series. It’s even more interesting to see that the last episode, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe! went mostly unadvertised and drew in more viewers than this episode. Wonder if Princess Day links back to the reason that Cartoon Network has some kind of burning vengeance with the series. Aside from that bit of history, Princess Day fairs at a slightly better LSP characterization than I’m used to (I’ve had trouble trying to get a feel for Seo Kim’s influence on the series in the past, but I’m starting to realize that she actually works pretty well with Lumpy Space Princess’s character), though it suffers from many other issues in return.

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I think a lot the issues with this one stem from the story. I’m… not really sure how this one would have worked. The idea of all the princesses coming together to celebrate a “princess day” sounds like a cute idea, but one that doesn’t really seem as though it has many story options outside of an idea that sounds almost like fanfiction. In addition to that, I think it’s kind of lame that the meeting of princesses only contains a handful of princesses we’ve already seen before. It could’ve been a cool opportunity to meet some new princesses, or at least allow some of the lesser known ones to have their chance to shine. Hell, Jungle Princess and Purple Princess have been in this series since the beginning and have never been given a single line! Breakfast Princess even mentions a never-before-seen Business Princess, though she’s not even shown! Of course, it was strictly for gag purposes, but it just felt somewhat lazy given that the entire conference room is shown and there’s no sign of such a princess even being there. It was nice to see Grey DeLisle back as the ever petty Breakfast Princess and the newly vocalized Strudel Princess, whose voice I swore I recognized, and then I realized it’s because her voice actor, Melany Ochoa, voiced one of the kid characters from Gold Stars. While we’re on the subject, though, what the fuck happened to Toast Princess?? There’s something strangely uncanny about Strudel Princess, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some disturbing shit went on there.

I actually like what the beginning of the episode accomplishes. Putting LSP in such a role where she’s surrounded by materialistic people with an even more arrogant attitude instantly makes her more likable and sympathetic. It’s almost like a high school setting, where LSP is a person that we don’t really inherently love, yet she’s at least honest and less synthetic than the rest of the crowd. Her rebellious nature works in a sympathetic way, and does make me legitimately care for her. Breakfast Princess was layin’ down some harsh shit, after all. It’s LSP’s connection with another main character that causes the story to suffer.

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I might as well start off by saying that I think it’s absolutely ridiculous how they phoned in Marceline avoiding the sun in this one. There’s the inclusion of a sunscreen bottle in the title card and at the beginning of the episode, but… I’m pretty sure that’s not how vampirism works?? I don’t think simply using sunscreen is a creative way to get around this issue, and the implication of it just makes no sense. Why wouldn’t Marceline just use sunscreen at all times then, aside from the fashion aspect? I really hated this element of the episode and it makes vampirism seem less like an actual disability for Marceline and more like a slight inconvenience. Moving on from that, the friendship between Lumpy Space Princess and Marceline certainly isn’t inherently bad; I think it’s actually kind of sweet that Marceline is into LSP’s behavior, and that she is able to relate to her on some level. It’s pretty cool to see Lumpy Space Princess with her first legitimate friend, because while she’s been shown to be semi-close with Finn and Jake, I think their kinship has kind of fizzled out by this point in the series (I’m only now realizing how little Lumpy Space Princess and Finn actually interact throughout the latter half of the series). And though Marceline has PB, it’s pretty obviously shown in this episode that Bubblegum can sometimes be a buzzkill in terms of Marcy’s rebellious streak. Thus, the friendship feels like a genuinely made development, but what writers Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim do with said connection in this one is… odd.

The two plan on getting back at Breakfast Princess by breaking into her room and taking her belongings, so along the way they do so by injuring two innocent guards (or Maple Men, which are much less funny versions of the Banana Guards), nearly killing another, stealing Breakfast Princess’s car, hitting her with it, holding her hostage, and then accidentally destroying the car… okay. These are all semi-harsh things for the two gals to participate for, even given their streak of misdemeanors, though I think it’s the explanation of said behavior that really proves how misguided this episode is.

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As LSP feels regret over their behavior, Marceline justifies it by saying, “I don’t think there are bad people. I think good people do bad stuff sometimes, and, oh, that’s bad. But only if you do it once, it’s just a mistake, and…that’s not bad. I think.” I guess it could be interpreted that Marceline’s explanation is purposely misguided, but man, it just makes her look somewhat stupid. I mean, how could any of their behavior be interpreted as mistakes? They continuously cause mayhem throughout the kingdom and do things that likely should’ve put them both in jail. I still can’t believe how genuinely calm Breakfast Princess was over this whole ordeal. And it’s weird, because I usually don’t think about this kind of stuff, but what kind of message is this sending out to the younger viewers? That doing bad things is okay as long as you acknowledge that they are mistakes after you commit them? To top it all off, Marceline mentions that she feels bad about stealing the CD. Uhhh, you feel bad about stealing a CD but not nearly killing four people? Princess Day really dumbs Marceline down to pretty extreme levels, and I can honestly say this is probably one of her worst appearances to date. After developing her moral conscience in great lengths throughout the series, this is what we’re shown that she has learned over the years?

The episode is pretty dry on humor as well. A majority of it focuses mostly on Marcy and LSP pulling their shenanigans, though these scenes are mostly just kind of… mean. I don’t really have a problem with mean-spirited humor, as long as it’s presented in a humorous light, but the way these Maple Men react to being attacked is more sad than actually amusing. It really paints Marceline and Lumpy Space Princess as genuinely shitty people in the process, so it’s hard to laugh along with this one on most levels, and hard to sympathize with the two even more when it comes down to their soul-searching.

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From a technical aspect, Princess Day is decent. The backgrounds are pretty great in this one; I always love visiting Breakfast Kingdom and the various creative possibilities for its surroundings. This episode also utilizes quite a bit of CGI, and it blends quite nicely, especially during Marcy and LSP’s song sequence and the door that slooowly opens while LSP tries to come up with a distraction. It’s funny, however, that the 2-D aspect is lacking in quite a few scenes. There’s some clunky bits of animation throughout, mainly within Breakfast Princess’s room. There’s a scene where Marceline slaps all of BP’s CDs off of a desk and onto her bed, and it’s missing a few frames there. It’s depicted as if the pile just magically hops onto the bed with little mess being made.

So yeah, is there anything storywise I like about this episode? Very few moments come to mind; Strudel Princess taking over the Princess Day meeting was cute, though underdeveloped. I would have liked if this was branched out as an actual subplot, rather than just left for the end of the episode. And surprisingly… that’s it. I really can’t say this was an utter disappointment, because I didn’t really have high expectations for this one in general. Though it was advertised out the wazoo, I kind of figured that Princess Day would be overhyped. Regardless, I didn’t realize it’d be this bad either. Even the developments with LSP and Marceline’s friendship felt meaningless, as they’d only be shown as chums in two other episodes after this one, and it’s almost entirely sidelined when Bubbline begins to develop further. Princess Day is season six at presumably it’s absolute lowest, providing a story that’s utterly pointless in how mean-spirited it is and offering very little of substance in return.

Favorite line: “I can’t just pop out eggs on command! I’m an artisan!”

“Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe!” Review

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Original Airdate: July 24, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe! is a silly enough name on its own, and it makes for a pretty silly episode focusing on the C-List group of wizards (or at least magical beings, in Little Dude’s case) and their field trip to Big Butt Rock. But even with that said, it’s not as goofy as one would expect regarding an Ice King and Abracadaniel buddy-buddy comedy. Like most other season six episodes, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe! has its moments that focus on being poetic scattered throughout, though I think the humor in all other parts is a bit lacking. Not to say that a lot of jokes fail, it just doesn’t really feel like it’s especially trying to be funny most of the time. A lot of Somvilay’s episodes this season, and from this point on in the series, somewhat feel like he’s attempting to cut back on his diverse sense of anti-humor and mostly just wants to tell a straightforward story. I dunno, maybe it’s that his sense of anti-humor has just gotten slightly less stilted and noticeable that it doesn’t really come off as huge issue for me, but I can’t think of any moments from his portion (or Seo Kim’s, for that matter) that I particularly hated. It just so happens that a good portion of it felt slightly insignificant, though it has its fair share of laughs and enjoyable moments.

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The premise in this one is actually quite good. I like that all these lovable wizards from past episodes come back, along with Ice King, for the purpose of spending a dorky time with each other and feeling like they’re part of something greater. It’s really sweet to see them all working off of each other, and even sweeter to see Ice King spend time with ACTUAL friends who enjoy his company. Totally seems to be boosting the dude’s morale; he’s pretty tame in terms of his behavior in this one, and it really shows how much he benefits from having positive reinforcement around him. It’s also fun to see the obscure little side characters joining the trip such as the mostly enigmatic Beau, Leaf Man (who gets a lot more attention in the Ice King comic series), and Giuseppe, whose importance grows throughout the duration of the episode. Also awesome to see a little cameo appearance of the Old Lady Village while Abracadaniel drives the bus! I love how old ladies are officially a race within the AT universe at this point.

Finn and Jake’s roles in this episode are fairly brief, though I think it’s pretty great. I love how judgmental they are and how much they believe they are above hanging out with Ice King and friends, only to give in and actually be disappointed when they drive off with babes. This season does a great job showcasing the various lives of different characters within Ooo, and it’s nice to see that, while Finn and Jake are the stars of the show, they aren’t the stars of Ooo. Life and adventures go on without them, and Ice King doesn’t even think twice when leaving them behind. Shows how he has grown as a character by some degree.

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As I mentioned, on the humor and entertainment front, this one can be a bit dry. It kind of derives from most scenes feeling slightly long-winded, with only one or two jokes in each segment really hitting. Abracadaniel trying to hit on the Water Nymphs and asking them to join their bus trip isn’t inherently funny, though it has that one bit with Ron James’ enticing eyes, which is humorously depicted through a slightly cute, slightly off-putting drawing. The couple of minutes dedicated to the bus losing gas, as Abracadaniel uses Ice King’s crown to create a road path isn’t particularly fun either, though the gimmick where the bus slides slowly slides off as he tosses the crabapples to Ice King is pretty funny. It’s just kind of an episode that trails by for the most part, with incremental bits of humor along the way.

While we’re on the topic of Giuseppe, however, I think his presence in general adds a lot to the episode. After he’s left behind at the crabapple tree, Ice King reads Giuseppe’s poem that he left behind on his roll of TP. It reads as follows:

“These are not my teardrops, daughter dear,

but just a sheen of dew that lingers here,

past other fields where other fathers lie,

who kept their daughters better far than I.”

A simple, yet melancholic poem that is executed greatly through the use of beautiful paintings. I like the ambiguity of the poem as well; it could be interpreted that it’s just a random tale of a man who failed to save his daughter from dying, though by the color scheme of the man interpreted in the image, one may conclude that this is Giuseppe, which adds to the weight of the poem itself. But regardless of how “deep” it is, I like how there’s a bit of underlying humor involved in the presentation of Giuseppe’s character in general. I enjoy how touched the other wizards are by his writings, and how he’s generally treated as a prophet throughout the entire episode. There’s something really funny about this old, decrepit, gassy man being looked upon as something of a God, that’s made even better through the fact that Giuseppe doesn’t speak at all throughout this entire episode’s run. You never really know what he’s thinking; Giuseppe could have had the entire trip planned out from the start as a means of helping his fellow magic users to bond with each other. Or, he could just be this random old guy who ended up unintentionally having a huge effect on the gang. The presentation leaves a lot that’s up for debate.

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Following Giuseppe’s poem, the episode really picks up once the bus gets stuck within a swamp. I love the water nymphs bailing almost immediately after failing to pick up the bus (they don’t even attempt to help anyone), the screaming bus brought to life by the Life Giving Magis that can’t swim, and man, the gag with Ron James’s head switching potion is just hilarious. Tree Trunks appearing on Ron James body, as Ron James ends up in TT’s house, where he is being groomed by Mr. Pig using a prosthetic arm is a hysterical “what the fuck” moment that really plays off of shock value. The expression on Mr. Pig’s face during the activity is really what sells it. Ice King trying to use that potion to escape, only to switch heads with the Magis next to him, is also a deeply funny bit that works so well in regards to expectation and the speed with which the jokes is carried out.

And, in a relatively solid twist, Giuseppe comes back to save the day! It’s a pretty cool moment that makes for a visual spectacle, as Giuseppe descends into the air and illuminates the swamp. Adventure Time once again succeeds in building off of the life of a one-off character by making their presence seem increasingly important in the lives of the other characters. Whether funny or profound, I enjoy just how much Giuseppe impacted this society of wizards to have their own identity based off of a singular spontaneous incident. That brief moment at the end where Magis and Abracadaniel exchange thumbs up, as Ice King quietly mutters “Giuseppe…” in the background (which is a truly funny delivery) shows what a memorable experience it was for these characters, which makes it appear as a memorable moment for the audience in general.

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But aside from those bits and some decent jokes scattered throughout, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe! is mostly forgettable. Reiterating what I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing even bad about it, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about it until about two-thirds of the way through. The group of wizards in general are funny on their own in their individual episodes, though as a group, they mostly come off as your typical loser gang. Ice King in particular isn’t even really that funny in this one, and he’s mostly just there to be the everyman of the group. The scenery is okay, the writing is okay, and the characters are okay; everything about this one just feels “alright.” The Giuseppe moments certainly justify its existence on either a profound or humorous level, but otherwise, it’s mostly passable in a season of some really memorable entries.

Favorite line: “At sundown, we’ll gather on the Cheek’s Peak, and using the ah-has, deep feels, and woo-woos we score from the journey, we will chant a totally original spell, thus forming an entirely new school of magic.”

“Ocarina” Review

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Original Airdate: July 17, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

We haven’t seen much of Jake’s children after their debut episode a season earlier, aside from recurring appearances of Jake Jr., a brief scene with TV, and a cameo of all the kids at Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s wedding. Ocarina brings the attention back to all of the pups, with specific focus on Kim Kil Whan. This episode goes through great lengths to showcase how negligent Jake can be as a father, though not through his own intentions. Jake does love and care for his pups, he simply has trouble reaching out to his children because he doesn’t understand fatherly expectations. Jake likely doesn’t understand how to help his kids, and has insecurities whether they actually need him or if he’d be intruding on their lives. It’s a bit of a difficult situation that clearly makes Jake look like a deadbeat in the eyes of some, namely Jake Jr. and especially Kim Kil Whan. I really expected Jake to be presented as unlikable in this one, though I think Kim Kil Whan comes off as much more of a jerk. He’s pretty relentless in his treatment of Jake, and even if Jake was as bad of a father as he suggests, his actions are still pretty vengeful and harsh regardless. Despite this, I think the conflict is still interesting in how it takes both Jake and Kil Whan’s perspectives into account, and presents likely the most complicated relationship among Jake and his pups.

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The pups all hanging out together on their birthday was a delightful treat, especially because it is the sole opportunity in the ENTIRE series for them to actually interact! Yeah, aside from their debut episode, this is the only time in the series we actually see the kids interacting with each other, and while I wish we could have had more scenes like this, it’s good fun regardless. It’s cool to see a character like Viola, who hasn’t had any chances to develop in the past, deliver a couple of lines. And it’s cool to see how all of them view their father; Jake Jr. has spent the most time with him, and while she respects him, she understands that he isn’t the best father. T.V. downright resents him, while Viola dramatically glorifies his existence. Charlie is the only one without defined feelings about her father, and she wouldn’t even have a speaking role of her own for another whole season.

Kim Kil Whan perhaps has the strongest feelings of angst toward his father, as he doesn’t downright hate him, but believes that he is not a model citizen and is without goals and aspirations. Kil Whan views him as an absolute loafer who doesn’t possess quality values because of his carefree lifestyle. The truth of the matter is that Kim Kil Whan knows as little about his father as Jake knows of him. Kim Kil Whan is simply going off of his basic knowledge based on the amount of time he’s actually spent with his father, and has automatically deemed Jake as an irresponsible person. What Kim Kil Whan fails to realize is that Jake’s irresponsibility certainly makes up a part of his personality, though, not all of it. Jake struggles to understand responsibility because he’s never been in a situation that has required him to be entirely responsible. His one main stance of authority throughout the years is his role as Finn’s guardian, though that even comes with its fair share of brotherly nonsense.

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Kim Kil Whan’s ultimate procedure to help Jake get off of his lazy ass is selling the Tree Fort to various renters, after buying the deed from Marceline (in her first appearance this season). The idea of stealing Jake’s house is cruel on its own, but giving him and Finn the worst possible spot in the fort is exceptionally malicious. I think Kim Kil Whan’s sympathy is kind of killed by just how extreme and mean his actions are. Pressuring Jake into adopting a more traditional adult lifestyle is one thing, but literally forcing him out of his own home to do so seems entirely apathetic. I don’t necessarily bring this up as an actual flaw of the episode, but I think it’s certainly hard to like Kim Kil Whan as a character through all of the cruelty he puts Jake through. Jake, with all of his flaws, is still sympathetic and likable because we know that he cares about his children, he simply does not know how to express that love. Kim Kil Whan only wants what’s best for himself, and completely disregards the happiness and quality of life of his father in the process. Kind of hard to like the guy, because he’s not even especially fun in his dickish-ness, but again, I think his situation in relation to Jake is still pretty well-defined. I like how far he’s trying to go to change Jake into a better version of himself, but simply does not understand how Jake functions as a person.

While sharing the Tree Fort, Finn and Jake must deal with the absolute insanity of having roommates, who are, for the most part, newly designed background characters. Pretty cool to see a whole bunch of unique characters we’ve never seen before, when the episode could have so easily recycled random Candy Kingdom citizens to fill these spaces. But, per usual, Adventure Time takes that extra effort even when it’s not even necessary in terms of the story. These quirky one-offs are all pretty cool, namely Mr. F and Mr. B, who have increasingly large feet and buttcheeks respectively. And nothing could have prepared Finn and Jake for their incarceration after simply using soap in (what was) their own home. This is the type of episode where I really wonder what BMO was up to, but I’m probably overthinking it. Perhaps he was on a camping trip with Air that weekend.

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Finn’s certainly dumbed down in this one, but in a way that I actually find more humorous than distracting. Herpich can often write him in a manic way where his goofiness either comes off as somewhat out of place or downright hilarious, and this one falls more into the latter. Finn really isn’t the brightest bulb in the shed, and he doesn’t really have people around him to teach him about how the real world works. Thus, he has no idea what a deed is or what it means to possess ownership of property. This failure to understand the world is slightly improved, once Jake tells Finn a tale about how rule making actually came about. The sequence is competently animated, and sums up quite fascinatingly how rules were only created to essentially help people in power, and everyone else was doomed only because of their circumstances of not being on the “right” side. It’s a message that has come off as controversial for some, and even I think it’s a bit too political for Adventure Time to tackle, but I think it’s more so a product of Jake’s perception, and was intended to be subjected to debate. I still think it’s a little weird coming from Jake, as this episode emphasizes just how much he cruises through life, but it still makes sense regardless. Jake really has never had a sense of power in any sort, so he likely feels inferior to those more powerful than him that oppose him. AKA, Kim Kil Whan.

The feud continues as KKW consistently combats Jake’s efforts to get out of his sticky situation. As F&J strategize how they’re going to get out of said situation, Finn suggests that maybe the boys should actually consider getting jobs. It’s one of three moments where Finn considers taking on a more adult form of labor; he considered actually becoming a cop in Candy Streets, wonders if he should take on a paid opportunity in this episode, and later ponders taking on his parents’ company in The First Investigation. Though Finn hasn’t made any significant steps forward in this development, it is a sign of his maturity regardless that he does ponder such a scenario, it just so happens that he’s already committed to protecting Ooo. Perhaps the series will end with Finn getting an actual job, which would be a fitting conclusion to this ongoing motif.

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As their plans continue to backfire, Jake falls into the brink of despair as he fails to understand why exactly KKW resents him. This is where Jake’s failures as a father are most apparent: he is unable to pick up on social cues between his children. Jake does not understand what exactly he’s done wrong because he’s unable to completely understand his children. Granted, KKW isn’t exactly an open book, but Jake very rarely senses emotional turmoil unless it is completely out in the open. KKW’s more secretive emotional state has left Jake with very little to work with or understand what exactly Kim Kil Whan wants from him. I wouldn’t be surprised if, this entire time, Jake legitimately believes this is based on a financial disagreement. It isn’t until Finn puts the idea in Jake’s head that KKW may have some unexplained issues that Jake begins to realize the possibility of such a dilemma.

During their convening at KKW’s house, Jake’s attempt to comfort his son is done in the most “Jake” way possible: he humorously dances over to his son and presents him with an ocarina, as he repeatedly says “I love you” over and over again. The gift is once again a failure on Jake’s part to understand his son, though it surprisingly works. Kim Kil Whan doesn’t accept the gift as actual incentive, but realizes the heart and novelty that was put into said present. As Jake mentions he never even looked for a job, Kim Kil Whan begins to understand and accept that his father’s behavior is just a product of his personality, and his lack of a professional lifestyle is what makes Jake so vulnerable to be caring and lovable. Though KKW is disappointed with his father’s failure to take on responsibilities, he at least realizes that he is loving. This is KKW’s biggest and most important takeaway from his father thus far. And as they bid goodbye during that entirely poignant and muted shot, theytwo are left with a different level of respect for each other: Jake respects his son for accepting his gift and giving him his house back and KKW respects his father for being a genuine person. Inside his house, Kim Kil Whan confides in his wife that his plans simply did not work out, to which his wife responds with sympathy. KKW’s wife likely thinks Jake is a deadbeat as well, though, as Kim Kil Whan got to know Jake on more than just a surface level, as the audience of Adventure Time was able to do throughout the years, he realizes what a kind-hearted soul his father is, despite his flaws.

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The ending was originally much sadder, as stated by Steve Wolfhard. KKW mourns over how childish his father’s behavior is, and as his daughter Bronwyn asks who he is speaking of, KKW simply responds with “nobody.” I think this would have definitely been profound and impactful, but it’s best that the show does acknowledge that, while Jake is far from the best father, he at least tries. In the Adventure Time world, there are so many fathers who just don’t give a shit, and while Jake has had numerous different reasons for not being the most competent dad, he’s proved that having a genuine attitude can sometimes be enough. Kim Kil Whan knows that Jake will never be able to be the most earnest or competent father as himself, but he’s left knowing that, even through his lack of provision, Jake is still filled with love. Which is why the positive outcome of this episode is so appropriate. I still think Kim Kil Whan’s actions are a bit too harsh for me to actually grow any kind of affection for the character, but the issues presented in this episode are quite interesting. I like how much the episode battles back and forth with Jake’s quality as a father, and almost leaves you wondering if he is a good dad by the episode’s end. Many will say yes, and many will say no. Regardless of what you think, the episode presents a lot of different parental issues that are well-explored and insightful, leaving us with scattered information to draw our own conclusions about Jake’s most complex relationship.

Favorite line: “I love Dad and everything, but he’s only ever met me twice.”

“Little Brother” Review

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Original Airdate: July 10, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Madeleine Flores

Little Brother is, perhaps, Adventure Time at its absolute sweetest. Never would I expect such a heartwarming endeavor revolving around the snarky and wise-cracking Shelby, though it really, really works. What sounds like a completely silly idea on paper actually makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience, showing how limitless AT can be with obscurely satisfying stories.

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The episode begins in a fun way, as Shelby throws a bug party within the space of Jake’s viola. This is the first time we actually get to see what Shelby’s living space looks like, and it’s a pretty rad setting. Colorful characters like the dancing bug and Simon from Power Animal return, and the only thing that would’ve made this party even cooler is if the snail was invited. How sweet would it be if Shelby and the snail were secretly bros? Anywho, the festivities take a turn when Shelby accidentally slices his body in half and mutters “I’m so dumb” which is actually based on a real life experience that Pendleton Ward and storyboard artist Madeleine Flores experienced at a party, where a man sliced off the tip of his finger and uttered the same expression. This is Flores first and only storyboarding role in the series; I never quite understood why some storyboard artists are only brought on for the sake of one or two episodes (unless the was at the artist’s request) but regardless, I think it’s always nice to have these guest spots to offer a bit of fresh air, and season six certainly brings aboard a ton of different guest opportunities. Among other work Flores has involved herself in is Star Vs. the Forces of Evil and the Help Us! Great Warrior comic series.

Upon awakening, Shelby is greeted by his new brother “Butty Butterson,” or “Kent” for short (likely a homage to Kent Osborne), a humorous take on the urban legend that separating a worm will bring life to its other half. Kent is voiced by Thurop Van Orman, the creator of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and the voice of the Sky Witch from To Cut a Woman’s Hair. Kent is a charming little critter, and I think Van Orman’s sped-up Flapjack voice adds a lot to his character. The relationship between Shelby and Kent is cute, and I like how Shelby doesn’t really know anything about being a big brother, so he turns to Jake for advice. Of course, Jake means well, but doesn’t really understand brotherhood outside of his own connection to Finn. I mean, how many other brothers in Ooo are there? The Lemongrabs? The Flying Lettuce Brothers? Doesn’t seem like there’s many other positive role models in that category, so Jake simply goes with what has worked best for Finn and himself, which actually kind of works out for Kent.

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Shelby gives Kent a little martini sword and sends him on his way, and the rest of the episode is basically just the adventures of Kent in the bowels of the Tree Fort and his endeavors in Drewpia. Drewpia actually derives from the scrapped season one episode Brothers in Insomnia, and Kent’s journey generally follows the plot for that episode as well. Drewpia is a pretty awesome setting, as is the entire tree village in this episode. They really went for this unique, fantasy surrounding that feels equivalent to something out of The Secret of Nimh. Maybe it’s just the villainous rats that makes that connection feel so viable, but I digress. Part of what makes Kent so likable is that he’s also really funny; his interactions with Leaf Beard (great name, by the way) and the blacksmith are hysterical. This episode manages to make pretty juvenile humor quite amusing, like Kent’s mentioning that he was born from his brother’s butt, or Leaf Beard’s insistent connection that Kent’s sword is in “butts” condition. All got a guilty giggle out of me.

As Kent moves onward, he’s faced with several different challenges, all presented by Tom Kenny voiced rats. It’s yet another example of just how versatile Kenny is; obviously you know it’s him, but he gives such a distinct performance to each foe that any common viewer wouldn’t even guess that they’re played by the same person. Also endearing is just how little Kent cares about the propositions offered to himself. Even Finn, a noble and good-hearted hero, would either be somewhat intrigued by the offers, or at least realize that he’s being tricked. Kent doesn’t recognize that the offers are merely schemes to trick him into a false sense of comfort, he simply is not interested in them because he wants to fight bad guys and be a hero. Also humorous is his rebuttal about eternal life: he was just born earlier that day so he doesn’t really have to be concerned about his own mortality. Kent’s naivete and one-note desires are what make him so gosh darn likable. He doesn’t give a shit about his legacy or his stance as an absolute hero, he just wants to punch bad guys in the face! What kid doesn’t?

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As Kent gains materials for his sword (named “Punch Party”) he then is ready to face off with the Rat King, a devious creature voiced by James Urbaniak (who also voices Leaf Beard). The Rat King is an awesomely designed villain, and appropriately named, as a “rat king” refers to a pack of rats connected together. The Rat King is both menacing and seductive in his tone, and again offers Kent a promising role as a co-king of the rats, though Kent once again declines in his determined journey to simply defeat all that is evil and save the people that he loves. His naive exterior shows up once again as he admits “I’m making this up as I go along!” when responding to the Rat King’s skepticism.

The battle climaxes, and we return to a saddened Shelby back at the Tree Fort. The song that follows, “Little Brothers,” isn’t particularly strong in its lyrics or medley, but by God is it just adorable. I love how the depressed Shelby admits that he really doesn’t know what he’s doing and that he’s not sure if he made the right decision to send Kent on his way. Shelby isn’t exactly the most emotion driven character, though he has a good heart, and cared for Kent regardless of their short time span together. Shelby’s enlightened, however, when Kent returns from the tree to share a duet with his bro. The bits with Kent and Shelby singing together are too damn cute; I love how much this episode was able to make me care for this brotherly connection in the course of minutes, and it’s one that I still think is strong even though Kent never appears again following this episode. It’s just simply well presented, and I love how much genuine affection was put into their relationship. This episode could have so easily been about Shelby’s frustrations with having a new annoying little brother around, though Adventure Time is much more genuine and telling of its characters to pull such a move. Shelby and Kent loved each other despite how unorthodox their meeting came about, and still love and support each other till the very end.

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The final bit with Shelby narrating Kent’s tale is just great. It’s quite poignant in its visuals and its music, and I enjoy how vague Kent’s story is left. We don’t really know why Kent returned to Dewpia, whether it be for infinite riches, or simply to live out a more laidback lifestyle, but regardless, it’s cool to imagine where his journeys took him from there. Though Kent’s heroic efforts weren’t meaningless; the Rat King’s defeat meant that the willow tree on the Tree Fort would bloom for the first time in many years. D’aw.

Little Brother is one of those episodes that could’ve so easily been passed off as casual filler, but it’s one that is just so good in everything it does. It stars a cute and hilarious one-off character, is filled with terrific backgrounds and settings, has a straightforward, yet compelling adventurous plot, some truly well-crafted designs, a killer song, and has a huge, undeniable heart at the center. I would have never guessed that an episode starring Shelby would have been about his rear end gaining sentience, but a show as unique as Adventure Time works with that manic story in the best possible way and creates something that feels genuine and telling. It’s a fine example of what this series is best at, and that is telling compelling stories centered around sincere characters.

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Favorite line: “So go fight some bad guys. Or girls. Don’t discriminate.”

“Something Big” Review

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One of my absolute favorite title cards in the series. Designed by Michael DeForge and painted by Teri Shikasho.

Original Airdate: July 3, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan

As Jesse Moynihan stated, about half of Something Big derives from the scrapped 45 minute Adventure Time TV movie. A bit of background about this TV movie for anyone who isn’t in the know: the 45 minute special was created about midway through season five, but its parts were so dissonant from each other and it didn’t have a cohesive ending, so it was scrapped entirely. Jesse suggested that they try and cannibalize said parts into individual episodes, which is where Something Big came from. I’m really hoping that storyboarded segments of the scrapped special are posted online by the staff eventually, I’d love to see what it was like regardless of quality. But anyway, Something Big gives us a look at how colossally huge, and colossally messy this story could have been. Seriously, some of the set pieces in this episode are terrific, but it unfortunately feels like one big disjointed mess.

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The episode begins with the Candy Kingdom in full-out war, a revolt led by none other than Maja the Sky Witch (who now has eye-whites for some strange visual reason). And, one of the first developments in the plot we get is that Captain Root Beer Guy sacrificed himself after setting up the force field to contain Maja and Darren, the Ancient Sleeper. Well, okaaay then. That’s one way to start off an episode! In all honesty, I think this was a pretty mediocre way to kill-off such a likable side character, but it’s not even really his death that bothers me. RBG had his star appearance in Root Beer Guy, and while I enjoyed that episode and his character thoroughly, I felt like I didn’t really need to see more of said character outside of his debut episode. Yet, the reason for his death is incredibly stupid to me. According to Jack Pendarvis, Root Beer Guy was killed off in an attempt to make the Banana Guards’ incompetency more believable. Just… what? Just because Root Beer Guy is an intelligent commander doesn’t mean that the Banana Guards have to be more educated as a result. It could’ve actually lead to more comedic opportunities if RBG tried to influence the Banana Guards, but to no avail. The reason Pendarvis gave just kind of comes off as a lazy excuse. Furthermore, the Banana Guard Academy comic series, which was written by Kent Osborne, tries to explain Root Beer Guy’s (nearly) permanent death, as PB states that “sometimes, Candy People are so special that you cannot bring them back.” I know it isn’t canon, but that reason is even more ridiculous! Only non-special Candy People are brought back? So PB cloned James 22 times simply because he was un-special enough to go through said treatment? How the fuck does Cherry Cream Soda feel that Bubblegum has all the technology in the world to bring her dead husband back to life, and still doesn’t? A load of bologna, I tell ya!

Enough about that, let’s get back to the actual episode. After Crunchy explodes from absolute fear (a nice callback to the rarely mentioned plot point from Slumber Party Panic), we’re treated to a flashback sequence where Maja summons Darren, and it’s pretty spectacular. Darren’s an awesome character; his design really reminds me of the similarly awesome beasts from The Suitor, and his lack of knowledge regarding the current state of the world is both humorous and kind of mythological. I like how Darren knows only life and death, and I really wonder if his existence dates back to before time even existed, where, as the Lich mentions in a later episode, there were nothing but monsters. It’s quite likely, and pretty cool to see that Darren is mostly an anti-hero rather than an absolute source of evil. He doesn’t have any motivation to want to destroy the Candy Kingdom, he simply goes off of instinct. And his instinct is to cause destruction and, likewise, success for himself. It’s pretty funny to see Darren and Maja work off of each other as well; Darren is dramatic and foreboding, while Maja is more playful and bratty. Maja doesn’t want to take over the world or travel across different dimensions. For whatever reason, she simply wants to conquer the Candy Kingdom, though Darren can’t seem to wrap his mind around such a simplistic and motive-driven act. Aside from a character and writing aspect, the scene is a visual treat. It’s lit terrifically, the angles are great, Darren’s size and scope are really felt through his absolutely massive structure, and there’s cool little details, such as how everything begins to move in slow motion when Maja summons Darren. Of course, I get immediate Gravity Falls vibes during said sequence, though I’m sure this was unintentional.

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The next few scenes focus strictly on the war aspect of the episode, as Darren calls upon these somewhat generic looking pink beasts that come out of a portal in eggsacks. Colonel Candy Corn also mourns over the death of his wife and how chicks his age aren’t into dating. It’s alriiight, but it also kind of slows down the overall intensity of the episode. I do enjoy PB’s distant attitude toward his sorrows, and how Peppermint Butler actually tries to help him out a bit. Pebut might be a dark dude, but he’s pretty nice guy when it comes to his fellow candy brethren.

The purely action-based sequences are decent, with some moments really shining, and others that are just subpar. Of course, Adventure Time isn’t an action show, so I don’t really expect top-of-the-line fight sequences. The bits where Darren’s minions are blown up by candy material are nothing special, though, Colonel Candy Corn’s jump into action is pretty awesome. It features some good dynamic shots, some nice sword slicing, and the old veteran in probably his coolest appearance.

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Of course, the Candy Kingdom can’t hold off Darren for long, as he nearly destroys PB, until Finn, Jake, and the Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant come to the rescue! It was cool to see Elie get a prominent appearance after his return in Furniture & Meat, and it makes sense that Finn and Jake would conjure up the idea to utilize him after only recently remembering his existence. I think it’s pretty cool that Darren and Elie know each other, and how they both can’t seem to grasp how the current state of the world actually works. Both are beasts from a different time period, and can’t wrap their heads around basic concepts such as feelings, purpose, and free will. As the two face off against each other, they prove to be equal opponents in power as well. It isn’t till Finn is launched into Darren’s brain stem (through another solidly animated and framed sequence) that he’s able to defeat the ancient beast. Darren quickly utters “thank you” before his ultimate demise. It’s a bit of a profound moment, showing that Darren would much rather cease to exist than to live in a world he doesn’t understand or comprehend. In a way, Darren is able to adapt to the current universe paradoxically; though he feels like he is not able to survive in a world where he cannot go off of his basic instincts, he expresses gratitude through experiencing death, showing that he is capable of feeling and showing emotion on some level.

So the day is saved, the Candy Kingdom is returned to its former state (with the exception of the deceased RBG) and everything is resolved. Buuuut, there’s nearly four more minutes left in the episode. At this point, the episode’s tone shifts almost entirely, and completely cuts out any war or action elements to focus on the inner struggles of the Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant. This is where Moynihan’s tweaking really shows… it almost feels like a transition into an entirely different episode. While the motif of purpose and meaning that Darren pondered is carried across into Elie’s struggles, I still feel like it’s a bit too disconnected in the way its executed to really work coherently. Darren’s issues were kept subtle and mostly humorous in the background of an all-out war, so this transition into Moynihan’s more poetic and philosophical just feels… odd.

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That being said, I think Elie’s story is generally interesting regardless. APTWE doesn’t even have the same pleasures that Darren has; Darren is able to base his decisions of destruction off of his own instincts, while APTWE isn’t able to bring himself to do just about anything without being ordered to do so. He doesn’t understand purpose or will on any level, he simply wants to be commanded to fight, as that is all he was created to do – or so he thinks. As he views the world around him, he observes the lives of an ant and birds, two creatures who also do not necessarily have free will, but still make decisions based off of their instinct and intrinsic purpose regardless. He then observes the sun, who drops this bit of enlightenment.

“I’m more ancient than you. Someday, I will engulf the solar system. What was and what will be are meaningless. Meanwhile, you should wonder: are you just a two-headed pile of meat on a crash course with the cosmic dump? Or do you contain the soul memory of a million dead stars? How do you light a candle without a match?”

Essentially, APTWE is wondering if he was simply born to die, or if he has greater purpose during his existence on Earth. Without said match, the candle has no purpose. APTWE wants to find a create meaning in his life, but does not understand what to do with this newfound purpose yet. This is where he recruits Maja, of whom he may team up with to destroy the Candy Kingdom, though he hasn’t decided yet. As APTWE mentions, he must be the match and the candle, meaning he has to decide what is best to do with the gift of life before he makes a hasty or wrongful decision. Maja’s less than enthusiastic, as the two fly off together and cause a sentient leaf to fall to the ground, where a caterpillar crawls over to eat him up, as a means of showing the caterpillar’s instinctive purpose in contrast to the leaf. The leaf didn’t plan for such a path in his life, though life often takes us in unexpected directions. APTWE, a creature who was originally designed for only one purpose, is able to discover a new sense of self-worth through his experiences and adapt to a new way of life. Shoutout to this story arc for only returning once in a brief throwaway joke! Seriously, I liked the angle they took on APTWE’s character in this story, but it just feels so incomplete without a proper payoff. Of course, there’s still a possibility that the two characters will return in the hour long finale, though I guess we’re just going to have to wait another three years to find out.

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This episode’s frenetic pacing makes it a bit difficult for me to praise it as a unit. You’ve got high-stakes battle scenes, mythological flashback sequences, some distracting lighter sequences like Colonel Candy Corn’s melodramatic life story, and the out-of-nowhere Elie subplot thrown in at the last minute. This one feels like what people criticized Betty for; where Betty was fast-paced and didn’t really have a chance to breathe, I still think it managed to tell its tale in the best way possible. Something Big feels like three or four different stories that are battling each other for attention. Yet, I still enjoyed most of this episode. I think it had its weaker moments, but it kept my attention throughout, and offered some genuinely insightful and unique elements along the way. I’d rather have a clusterfuck of an episode that’s enjoyable than an episode with one solid story that’s a complete snorefest. Something Big is frenetic and probably doesn’t work as a coherent story overall, but it has some pretty great bits, namely anything with Darren and Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant. And as miffed as I was when Root Beer Guy died, I’d be even more miffed when he was eventually revived one season later…

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Favorite line: “Yo, leave me out of it!”

“The Prince Who Wanted Everything” Review

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Original Airdate: June 26, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto, Emily Partridge, Kent Osborne & Bert Youn

Blecch. The Prince Who Wanted Everything is the first stinker of the Fionna & Cake series, and a pretty blatant example of how these experimental episodes don’t really have much of a reason to keep being produced aside from a feeling of obligation based on fan reactions. The first was done strictly as a surreal passion project; I don’t think anyone on the AT crew knew how popular it would be, but as Fionna & Cake was met with practically universal praise, it only made sense for another F&C episode to be created. Two seasons later came Bad Little Boy, which was also well-received and a mostly solid outing, but kind of showcases the problem with Fionna and Cake episodes in general: the characters are basically carbon copies. Fionna has some interesting insecurities that were touched on in her first episode, but every episode that follows has her simply take on the role of Finn-Lite. She’s a good-hearted, laidback hero, and that’s about it. And the other characters, Gumball, Marshall Lee, Flame Prince, and so on are never given enough attention outside of their star episodes to actually have any selection of interesting character traits besides being slightly modified from their counterparts. Cake, on the other hand, is the only character who actually has a stand out presence in all of these entries, yet she’s often only given a small amount of screen time so the “Character of the Week” can hog all of the attention. And this episode’s star character is Lumpy Space Prince: a deeply unfunny gender-swapped version of Lumpy Space Princess that does absolutely nothing insightful or interesting, aside from being another chance to reinforce LSP’s vanity once more, as if that wasn’t already emphasized enough. Cut Rebecca Sugar – who was practically the mom of Fionna and Cake – out of the mix and you don’t really have a competent entry.

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This episode notably starts up with Ice King tied up. Why is it notable? Because it’s freaking Ice King, you guys! We haven’t seen him in what feels like forever, and it’s a shame, because I feel as though he gets the least amount of screentime in season six. It makes sense, as this entire season mostly steps away from the main cast to delve into the lives of some of the lesser known citizens of Ooo, though Ice King doesn’t even get a fair chance to have an actual role in this episode. He’s simply a blank slate at the hands of his kidnapper, Lumpy Space Princess, and isn’t really given anything interesting to do aside from obliging to read LSP’s passion project. Could’ve been a much more enjoyable scenario if Ice King was argumentative about the way LSP wrote for his characters, or that he didn’t agree with where the story went, but he uncharacteristically goes along with it without saying a thing. Pretty lame.

The story itself poses an interesting concept, at least from my initial impressions. Lumpy Space Prince’s tale of running away from his parents and stumbling into Aaa (or Ooo… whatever is cannon at this point in time) could perhaps reference LSPrincess’s first experiences in Ooo and how she came across Finn and Jake, albeit highly exaggerated. Though, the way it’s executed is simply done in a way that we’ve seen so many times in other LSP episodes. Most of this episode just seems to retread the general idea that Gotcha! revolved around, which is that both Lumpy Space Princess and Prince misunderstand the type of people Finn/Fionna and Jake/Cake are and come to respect their simplicity and approaches to life by the end of the episode. The entire episode basically revolves around Lumpy Space Prince trying to understand how to live as a peasant but is constantly blindsided by his own pretentiousness. And God, how many times have we all seen the story of a rich snob who is enlightened by the simplicity of middle-class charm? It’s so overdone, and it isn’t carried out any more interestingly here.

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Lumpy Space Prince’s voice actor (at the Princess’s request, of course), Peter Serafinowicz, certainly boasts a competent performance, but again, I don’t think he’s really given much to work with. Lumpy Space Prince is at his funniest through his expressions; his anime influenced “Handsome Face” is pretty amusing, even if it is a bit overused by the episode’s end. Regardless, it provides for some welcomed diversity among the typically expressive dotted eyes in the AT world. But again, Lumpy Space Prince’s primary character trait is his vanity, and it simply isn’t fun or interesting to watch him. He also has the displeasure of singing one of the show’s worst songs, period. “That’s All I Need” has a pretty awful melody, terrible lyrics, and a less-than-satisfactory performance from Serafinowicz. Feel bad making such a superficial comment about his singing voice, but some actors are simply not meant for said performance. And if the song was actually catchy, funny, or added something to the plot, I could forgive it, yet it does none of those things. Aside from some cool cameos of characters we haven’t seen before in this universe (namely Magic Ma’am), it just feels like it’s there to take up time.

Fionna and Cake are simply in this episode to be observers. Cake has some funny one-liners, as she constantly breaks the fourth wall, but Fionna really just does not do ANYTHING. Aside from giving an unintentional piece of advice to Lumpy Space Prince, Fionna just stands there and occasionally has a line or two. Sad to see she’s given such a boring role after her emotive and passionate presence in the past two F&C episodes. The one cool thing is that she actually is using the Wish Star Sword that she acquired within the Fionna & Cake comic series. Pretty awesome to see that something in the comics was actually adapted into the series, and it’s pretty much just there as a subtle Easter egg for any readers of said series. Also, Fionna’s model got updated to where it seems as though she’s matured more in her stance and body weight, and it looks somewhat off-putting to me. I dunno, the more realistic her anatomy gets, the more awkward and stiff it looks when you pair it with her really simplistic dotted eyes and lack of nose. Just looks kind of wonky to me.

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I guess the ending where Lumpy Space Prince discovers that his indifference to his parents’ disapproval of his behavior is a bit of an introspective moment for LSPrincess, but it only makes me wonder what the point an episode like The Monster has in the grand scheme of things if LSP never truly grows as a character. I understand if the writing staff just wanted to keep her stagnant in her developmental process and never learn or grow as all of the other main characters do, but if you have an episode like The Monster where it seems as though she actually DOES learn something, than the episode merely feels like discontinuity. I can understand if her decision to move back into the woods was based on her stubbornness and belief that she can make it on her own, but it seems as though she merely goes back to thinking her parents are monsters who simply want the worst for herself. Nice to see she’s embracing herself and her own behavior, but silly that she’d view her parents this way after realizing how much they care for her in the past.

And, as the story ends, the book reveals itself as a simple method for LSP to find a man who is exactly like her. Yes, Lumpy Space Princess loves herself and thinks she is the greatest person imaginable. We get it. LSP is at her best in episodes like Bad Timing or the upcoming Be Sweet, where her self-obsessed behavior is shown to be a mere facade that covers up her insanity based insecurities. Episodes like The Prince Who Wanted Everything feel like a rehash of everything we’ve already seen and know about the character. It’s like one of the lesser SpongeBob SquarePants episodes that focuses entirely on Mr. Krab’s absolute greed. We get that he’s greedy, it’s literally his archetype. We don’t need entire episodes centered around this one-note joke about a character’s personality. It makes them seem less two-dimensional and entirely more shallow. Lumpy Space Princess may perhaps be the most one-dimensional of the main cast, though she at least proves herself to be at her most interesting when her narcissism plays a role in her absolute mental instability, or the rare example where she’s actually able to benefit others through her repugnant attitude (such as the Elements miniseries). Yet, this episode doesn’t do justice to her character or the Fionna and Cake series in general. With a whopping four writers at the helm of this one, I’d expect more of a successful outing.

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Favorite line: “Y’all seeing those big floaty faces?”