“The Real You” Review

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Original Airdate: February 14, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Finn’s crush on PB is certainly endearing, but it isn’t one of the stronger points of the series. It is a crucial part of the first few seasons and it does lead to terrific tension and development as the series progresses, but the concept of the “younger boy liking an older girl” or unrequited love in general is very common in most animated series like Gravity Falls or Foster’s Home, heck, even live action shows use this trope. That’s not to say the show uses them badly, but it’s just sort of treads similar waters. The aspect that makes it a bit more interesting is that it brings out one of Finn’s major character flaws: his social awkwardness and willingness to risk anything for Bubblegum.

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I’m also not one to insinuate that a character flaw is necessarily a bad thing; it can be, but in a majority of situations, it makes the main protagonist appear more interesting. Having a character that is flawed and imperfect helps the audience to better identify with the characters and its world, and using a pre-pubescent Finn’s crush on PB is a perfect example of that. It’s easy to empathize with Finn’s deep feelings of infatuation for Bubblegum and pinpoint it as a developmentally appropriate stage of life.

That being said, Finn’s desire to become smarter to impress the princess is very enjoyable and almost works as a trip through memory lane for anyone who is Finn’s age or remembers being an awkward and quirky preteen. We’re treated to some delightfully silly gags along the way: the school of worms, Finn and Jake studying while making a beat out of their blinking, Jake shrinking down small but still drawing a face on his finger, and the return of Choose Goose! Hearing Jeff Bennett’s Hanna Barbera-esque voice as CG is always a treat, and never fails to make me laugh.

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First ever appearance of the giant crater within Earth. Awesome!

Speaking of voice acting, Jeremy Shada gives a terrific performance of Finn in this episode. He hilariously pulls off the “mad with power” inflections and overtones, and really puts everything into making his character feel as authentic as possible. It shows how great Shada is as a voice actor, and just how well he is able to follow Finn’s progressions of age and altercations. My only complaint is that we don’t get to spend more time with “smart” Finn. Finn doesn’t actually put the glasses on till about 7 minutes in, so it feels like we don’t get to enjoy his presence nearly enough. The scene with the class of worms was humorous, but it could’ve easily been substituted for some more crazy Finn.

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This episode also marks the end to one of the most recurring possessions thus far: Finn’s golden sword (a.k.a. Scarlett). Scarlett is one of the most identifiable objects in the entire series, and pretty much any promo you’ll ever see for the show has Finn wielding his golden sword. It’s only appropriate that the sword is sacrificed in this episode, however. This is the beginning of Finn’s upcoming entrance into his teenager years, and signifies the end of an era for himself. The sacrifice also showcases the honesty and truth behind Finn’s feelings for PB: he’s willing to give up one of his most prized possessions for her love. Of course, it was unintentional, but hey, smart Finn had it planned all along! Soon he will be entering more dangerous and difficult challenges, as well as further awkwardness between himself and Bubblegum.

Favorite line: “I can’t help it, man! I’m all about stupid!!”

“The Silent King” Review

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Original Airdate: February 7, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Jesse Moynihan

The Silent King starts off by bringing the audience directly into the action without establishing characters or plot. In any other show I’d probably call it out for its lack of context, but it’s one of the many charms of Adventure Time: it can start and end on any given confusing absurdity and still feel fitting with the world and the characters in it.

And there’s no better villain to showcase this quick introduction than Xergiok, the goblin king. Right off the bat, the episode does a great job by showcasing his ludicrousy in both his actions and rapidly changing design. Seriously, Adventure Time is, for the most part, on-model in terms of character design, but Xergiok’s appearance shifts are straight out of Ren & Stimpy!

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At the center of this episode, however, is the characterization of Finn’s role as a hero. As shown through the treatment of the goblin people, Finn is certainly not a utopian ruler that allows all of his loyal subjects to wait on him. Rather, Finn just likes kicking evil’s ass and doing what he believes is morally right inside. In any other show, Finn most likely would’ve gotten power hungry and would transform into a dictator that is no better than Xergiok by the end of it, but AT has a great deal of consistency with how its characters are portrayed and what seems most in character for them. Finn’s actions just seem to come so naturally, and it’s entertaining to see him getting legitimately frustrated over Gummy trying to help him, yet only being a giant annoyance.

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The full upscale battle between Finn and Jake ala Jakesuit (its very first appearance!) vs. Xergiok and the Earclops is the type of battle we haven’t quite seen from the show until this point, and it’s extremely rewarding. It’s a fast-paced, jumpy experience with some terrifically creative means of defeating the Earclops, which are also hilariously designed, by the way. I really wish that we could get more Jakesuit battles throughout the series, because if this episode proved anything, it’s worthy of many more exciting battles.

I previously mentioned in my review of Crystals Have Power that Jesse Moynihan’s drawings looked a bit messy and flat, but the floppiness of his drawings is definitely toned down significantly in this episode and are much more similar to those you’d see in a typical episode of AT. It definitely took Moynihan some time to get into the groove of drawing the characters, but his work and learning definitely shows in this episode.

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It’s also appropriate that Finn doesn’t try to aim toward changing the perspective of the goblin people in order to fit his vision, as he’s fully willing to accept his role as a helpless king. The fact that the goblin people don’t change by the end of the episode but are still able to live in a happy environment with a non abusive ruler was very endearing and happy. Finn chooses a decision that benefits everyone involved, including himself, and is able to go on living his life as a hero: what he was truly meant to be.

I wonder what Whisper Dan is up to these days. I feel as though him and Box Prince would get along just swimmingly.

Favorite line: “I’m not gonna spank your hams!”

“The Pods” Review

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Original Airdate: January 31, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

I’ve never really liked the fact that people refer to Adventure Time episodes as filler. The series follows a nonlinear storyline, and aside from the miniseries(s) and some lingering story arcs, it’s a show that consistently has a lot of “filler” episodes. I mean that in the nicest way possible too, as some of the episodes that are labeled as unimportant in regards to the continuing story are also some of the best (Thank You, All the Little People, Hall of Egress, etc.) Despite that, there are episodes that fit the description of filler that just aren’t bizarre, funny, or experimental enough to stand out on their own. The Pods fits that description.

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Again, not to say that this is an awful episode, as there’s nothing that it actually fails horribly at in a writing or animation aspect. The plot is just so simple that I could see any modern day cartoon such as Chowder or The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack tackling it with their own characters and little would change. Adventure Time’s willingness to be different from every show on television is really what sets it apart from every other animated series, so choosing a simplistic plot and not really bringing anything new to the table is a bit disappointing.

While the idea of the three magical beans is simplistic, it does lend itself to some intriguing possibilities, but unfortunately, the episode doesn’t really take advantage of it. For instance, do we actually ever find out whether the pigs are evil or the wands are evil? I know the pigs were involved in destroying a town, but how do we know that the wands weren’t having some kind of influence on their behavior? Even though it’s never revealed, the show doesn’t treat this as a possibility. We’re just supposed to assume it’s the pigs. I could picture an alternate scenario within this episode where Finn and Jake have to decide whether to reprimand the pigs or destroy the wands. The actual reveal doesn’t occur until there’s only two minutes left in the episode, so the timing could’ve been used much more efficiently to flesh out that idea. Or, I dunno, maybe the ice cream is evil? It is high in cholesterol.

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Besides fantastical alternate plot ideas in my head, the episode just doesn’t lend itself to many great jokes or depictions of the characters. I really feel like they could’ve went all out and just had Finn going completely insane trying to figure out which of the pods was evil and which was not. Even having Jake run off to the ice cream contest while Finn ends up going crazy watching the pods lends itself to some really funny and interesting concepts. Or somehow tying Jake’s desire to win the ice cream eating contest into the story could’ve strengthened it.

So yeah, this is a pretty mundane one, and one of the weaker season two episodes. I gotta say though, I’m a sucker for those pigs in silly costumes. They’re adorable!

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Favorite line: “Actually, I’m a Gnome Knight who was magically transformed into a frog. And then I decided to continue being a knight.”

“The Other Tarts” Review

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Original Airdate: January 3, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Ako Castuera

This cosmic dance of bursting decadence and withheld permissions twists all our arms collectively, but if sweetness can win, and it can, then I’ll still be here tomorrow to high-five you yesterday, my friend. Peace.”

This monologue is what spawned Adventure Time’s first bit of philosophy within the series. In general, it’s one of my all time favorite moments, because it combines everything I love so dearly about this show: the weirdness, passion, and beauty of the AT world and its characters. There have been plenty of different analyses and breakdowns of this bit of dialogue, primarily the concept of the social pressures of life and how they can restrict our moral compass and own desires from doing what we truly want. For me, it’s just a bit of beautiful nonsense, but that doesn’t undermine how terrifically it’s written, visualized, and acted. That’s Stephen Root playing the part of the crazy Tart Toter, and he’d later go on to voice Finn’s deadbeat dad, but that’s far down the road.

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As for the episode itself, it’s a delightful little Finn and Jake adventure. Of course, the plot follows a predictable direction: a character tells the main protagonists not to fuck up or something bad will happen, the main protagonists fuck up, nothing bad happens. Of course, with any show, a predictable plot can be executed with just how well it’s written and the strength of the characters in focus. Finn’s determination to complete their job in regards to impressing Bubblegum is both sweet and unique. It adds an extra layer to how far Finn will go for her at this point in this series, as well as showing his desire for everything to go exactly as planned. His paranoia behind the success of his mission really shows how much he cares for PB from both a romantic and heroic standpoint. While Jake just simply is along to crack jokes and keep the atmosphere light for his friend.

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Cinnamon Bun begins to take on a bigger role in the series as of this episode (this is actually this first time he’s referred to as “half-baked”) and he’s admittedly one of the weaker secondary characters in my eyes. He’s very much in the same vein as LSP; works well in small doses, but is really only there to be dimwitted and loud. That being said, his depiction in this episode works greatly with the plot. He’s only on screen for a brief bit, and actually succeeds with his task. I really don’t like characters that are written so stupidly that they drag down the plot and only make situations worse for other characters, so it’s rewarding and somewhat endearing that Finn and Jake’s original distrust in CB had them proven wrong.

This is just simply a charming episode; lovely characterizations of Finn, Jake, PB, among others and all of their quirky flaws that make them so interesting. Not to mention the classic bizarre side characters each episode has to offer, such as the hostile butterfly and JJ the robot (apparently Tom Herpich has some weird fascination with the letter “j”). The Tart Toter himself is beautifully drawn and so well acted that he feels like such a large presence on the show itself, despite it being his only speaking appearance. I love the random details of his design, from the oozing icing in his mouth to the birds quite randomly strapped to his limbs. Of course, I could listen to the Tart Toter’s monologue all day long. It’s a brief 30 seconds of everything that makes Adventure Time so special.

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Favorite line: ^ See above.

 

“Chamber of Frozen Blades” Review

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Original Airdate: January 17, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Gunther the penguin is arguably one of Adventure Time’s strangest secondary characters. He’s either shown as a nonchalant penguin or some sort of deity and bastardization of creation. He balances between the two in this episode and it’s a hilarious introduction to the love/hate relationship he shares with Ice King.

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The episode struggles a bit to find a focus; there’s a long sequence of Finn and Jake discussing plans to ambush the Ice King as the hideout in his castle, followed by some cool scenes of the duo practicing ice-ninja moves, but also Ice King taking Gunther to the hospital, and finally, Ice King capturing doctor princess and having a brief battle with the boys. All of these smaller stories seem like they’d work perfectly fine as their own plot, so it’s rather disappointing that none of them could find enough focus.

Despite the ninja subplot sort of feeling like a “hey, what do kids like these days? Ninjas! We’ll have Finn and Jake be ninjas!” kind of plot, it succeeds in having Finn and Jake discover some pretty creative ice powers, and it’s one of the first times we see someone use ice powers that isn’t related to the power of the crown. I’m sure it has something to do with the elemental power of ice, and I really wish this was brought back and harped on later, but sadly it isn’t.

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This episode continues developing the ever-changing relationship between Finn, Jake and the Ice King, and while he’s still by definition considered an antagonist in the series, it’s rewarding to see an scenario where Finn and Jake betray the Ice King’s trust. We already had a bit of this in What Have You Done? And it’s done just as well here.

Two of my favorite tertiary characters are introduced in this episode: Doctor Princess and Flambo. Flambo is a character that never seems to get enough attention from the actual show, but I can’t get enough of him and his odd Brooklyn accent. Also, I’d love to see an entire backstory dedicated to Doctor Princess. Her entire life is a lie.

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If anything, I would have really enjoyed if this episode focused mostly on the subplot with Ice King and Gunther at the hospital. The promos for this episode way back in 2011 suggested that it was what the entire episode would be about, and I was really looking forward to that. Not that the ninja stuff wasn’t relatively cool, but Ice King trying to act cool and pick up ladies at the hospital while Gunther tries to get medical attention just seems so much more rewarding.
Also, I’m holding out for the endgame villain of Adventure Time to be Gunther’s unusual baby.

Favorite line: “It turns out Gunther here, was preggers!”

“To Cut a Woman’s Hair” Review

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Original Airdate: January 10, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

One thing that Adventure Time does best is completely defying the viewer’s expectations and constantly keeping them on their toes. It’s not necessarily the shock humor you’d find on show like Family Guy, where it’s constantly trying to be in your face with over-the-top characters and situations, but it always has an element of surprise that you could have never predicted to see. Great examples of these are Magic Man’s reveal in Freak City or the Whywolves in Donny. This episode is the very first time we see Finn’s hair, and it isn’t treated like a big, significant reveal by the staff, network, or even the episode itself. It’s something that comes entirely out of the blue, and it’s hilarious, beautiful, and epic.

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When Finn does finally reveal his hair, the characters and visuals do treat it as if it’s a big deal, because it honestly is. The introduction of Finn’s hair and the fact that it’s immediately shaved off introduces something that isn’t regularly mentioned within the nature and world of the show: a clear timeline. We’re able to gather just how quickly or slowly time has passed by examining how long Finn’s hair has grown over a period of time. Considering we only get a legitimate mention of his age three times after season two, it’s rewarding to have this bit of continuity for fans to pick up on the changing times within the world, and it’s awesome to feel as though you’re in a world that’s constantly moving and growing. Again, the series manages to do this so ingeniously with something as simple as the length of Finn’s hair.

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Besides that, there’s a bit of world building for the other characters in this episode as well. We’re introduced to LSP living in the woods, which is a recurring home for her throughout the entirety of the series. This is also one of LSP’s better appearances in general. I really love the bulky and detailed way Somvilay draws her, and it adds a lot of oomf and personality to all of her dialogue. In addition, the scenes with Finn and Princess Bubblegum are especially cute, and she bestows upon Finn one of his most treasured possessions: a lock of her hair. Of course, this was specifically to serve the plot in this episode, but it would later become a source of affection, as well as obsession, for our hero.

The tree witch is a terrifically crafted antagonist, as she proves to be mildly likable despite her lunacy. Her voice is provided by Thurop Van Orman, the creator of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and the voice of its titular character. Van Orman has such a distinct and unique voice, yet he can alter it to fit any type of role without it feeling like he’s doing the same voice. Same goes for his performance as Gideon Gleeful in Gravity Falls; he really can add flair to any of these characters without drastically changing his range.

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To Cut a Woman’s Hair is great because it works as a completely self contained episode but also increases on the expansion of the world of AT and the characters within it. I always figured that Finn’s hair would grow back fully by the next episode we saw it, if we ever saw it again, but the writers took in the account of Finn’s aging process and the growing of his character, and one of the greatest ways they took on that is through the length of his hair. Also, this is an episode that has Jake being tortured while Finn has to rescue him. What a change of pace!

Favorite line: “Girl, if I didn’t already have a G.F., I’d be on you like butter on toast!”

“Her Parents” Review

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Original Airdate: January 24, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Tom Herpich

Oddly enough, this is the third episode in a row that Finn undergoes some type of suffering while Jake isn’t able to protect or help him. It’s unusual that this has become such a consistent recurring theme, but interesting that it’s been done in a completely different perspective each time. In Power Animal, Jake couldn’t focus on saving Finn, in Crystals Have Power, Jake didn’t want to use brute force to save Finn, and in this episode, Jake has two choose between the two people he cares about most: his best friend and his girlfriend.

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An interesting bit of lore is added to the world of AT in this episode with the 1,000 year Rainicorn-Dog Wars. It’s one of those little bits of information that was most likely included as a throwaway joke, but has since then been used in future episodes to be expanded upon. A Rainicorn-Dog War is silly enough, but almost seems to make no sense that it lasted 1,000 years until you realize it’s most likely cleverly from a “dog years” perspective (or even a Rainicorn years perspective; we know how quickly they age). Also, Rainicorns ate humans! It’s another interesting bit of apocalyptic world building that is honestly kind of dark when you think about our species dying off due to many of these colorful rainbow creatures.

I’m actually not a big fan of the premise of this episode; the idea of having the nervous boyfriend scared of meeting his girlfriend’s parents and having to pull off a giant facade just seems very 90’s sitcom to me. Of course, Adventure Time adds that extra punch of absurdity to make this stray from becoming too generic. Like the past few episodes, I really feel bad for Finn, but I can’t help but laugh at the horrible pain Bob and Ethel put him through in this episode. It sounds so sadistic of me, but I get a kick out of every time I see Finn get launched into those glass bottles.

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Bob and Ethel are actually really great as the quirky parents too. Of course, they try to eat our main protagonist at one point, but hey, different cultures, man. I also like how, even though this is literally the third time in a row Jake has indirectly allowed his friend to be in certain danger, he still doesn’t come off as unlikable. It’s all for his girlfriend who he cares about so deeply, but isn’t afraid to put his foot down when her parents take it too far with his best friend.

There’s also some really nice imagery in this episode. The colors are so vibrant and nice, even more so than usual. There’s a scene at the beginning of the episode with Finn, Jake, and BMO eating breakfast, and it just look gorgeous! Nick Jennings helped with a lot of the artwork in the episode, and added some great touches, such as the dust particles in the window and the shadows on Jake.

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I recently picked up Adventure Time: The Official Cookbook and there’s a recipe for Soy Human in it. I’m going to feel very dirty if I do, but I may have to try it myself… Details to follow…

Favorite line: “JJ flip! What the zip?”