“Finn the Human” Review

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Original Airdate: November 12, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Jesse Moynihan

The season premiere starts off much like how the last season premiere began: right where the finale left off. The Lich ended with a fast-paced, hectic journey into the multiverse, and the stakes never seemed higher. What was in store for AT’s audience was completely unknown, and the fanbase sat patiently as we endured a long, three week break (yeah, remember when three weeks was the longest period of time we waited for new episodes?). So we all sat down, got ready for the thrilling follow up to the previous episode, annnnd… were mostly met with middling and underwhelming results. Well, at least I was.

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I think the root of the main problem for the episode is simply that the Farmworld just isn’t very interesting. The idea of a world without magic seems so promising and intriguing, yet it just doesn’t seem to have an identity outside of the fact that society has seemingly regressed into a more medieval period because of the creation of an ice age. I would’ve much more enjoyed the possibility of a corrupted future where its civilians ignore the existence of magic and beckon it off as something that should not be discussed, but instead we’re dealt with the typical story of a country boy who has to sacrifice for his family.

Farmworld Finn himself isn’t really a compelling protagonist and I genuinely didn’t really enjoy watching him. He’s a blander, less charismatic version of Finn, and unlike the actual Finn, I really just don’t care about what happens to his pet mule Bartram or the inhabitants of his family. I know this is actually Finn we’re supposed to be caring about and identifying with, but it just doesn’t feel like Finn. This Finn seems almost completely apathetic to what’s going on until the end (something that I think can unfortunately plague Herpich’s writing of the actual character as well) and has no issue with stealing from an older, crabbier Marceline. I know he figured she was crazy, but still, I think the action was somewhat crueler than it had to be. I think if Farmworld Finn simply found the crown and Marceline saw him leaving with it and then pursued him, it would be a bit more of an understandable clause. I get the idea that Farmworld Finn is supposed to be written as a more mundane, modern child character, but there’s just very little that makes me actually care for him. He’s supposed to be Finn, but he’s just… not. The one notable piece of exposition that serves his character well is the reveal of his full name, Finn Mertens. It’s a pretty significant information drop that opens the question on whether or not this is really Finn’s full name, which Finn actually learns subconsciously later on. I’m guessing Farmworld Finn’s self-awareness of his full title was something Finn somehow picked up on his own.

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The inclusion of Marceline made for an interesting tale. I enjoy the detail that, because of the second ice age, she was never bitten, and remains as a decrepit old demon. It really raises the question of, “how long will Marcy actually live for?” to which I honestly have no idea what the answer is. I’m sure demons can live for a long period of time and then die off, but exactly how long? It’s something that continuously has me wondering. Also, her devotion to Simon, as well as protection of the crown, is really sweet. It seems that she’s unable to leave in fear of being ridiculed as a freak by society for her demon-like appearance, so she’s lived in isolation for years, making sure nobody enters the same fate as her beloved father figure. It also leads to one of the most somber, as well as hilarious, interactions in the entire episode, where Simon demands that Marceline should return the crown to him. It could be all in Marceline’s head, or a product of the crown still possessing Simon’s body and thoughts, but either way, it’s really sad to see that, after all these years, Simon’s voice still plays as clear as day in Marceline’s head, but also humorous because it’s Ice King’s inflections and tone.

The biggest highlight of this episode is the Destiny Gang, a group of really generic looking and speaking bullies that just crack me up, given their almost sociopathic nature. Their leader, Big Destiny, actually offers interesting insight that’s both somewhat insane and slightly thought-provoking. The Destiny Gang themselves are practically equivalent to a cult, believing that everyone has a specific destiny in store for them, and if someone crosses them, their fate will be as awful as one could imagine. It’s a pretty tyrannical concept, highlighting a group of bullies as prophetic figures who decide the fate of others, but also hilarious given the fact that, they really are just bullies who love torturing people for their own sadistic kicks. Funny bullies, but bullies nonetheless. It really is a terrific mix-match of both threatening and silly, and showcases a group of some of the most threatening villains yet, who are human by nature. Scary.

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There’s a few other nice details, including Finn’s robot arm, which is always a fun part of his alternate selves, as well as the similarities between Farmworld Finn’s mother and father to his later introduced biological parents. Besides those two positive tidbits, I actually have quite a few nitpicks on side details that really frustrate me as any of the bigger elements would. First of all, why does everyone in Farmworld have eye whites and noses? I know that was the design choice to make the Farmworld feel more “human,” but c’mon, it makes no sense with the world already established and doesn’t connect to the other visual examples of humans in the series. We’ve seen humans several times before this episode and several times after (Heat Signature, Susan Strong, Elemental, and Helpers are just some examples) and never has anyone been shown with eye whites, or to a lesser extent, noses. It’s just a frustrating detail that really throws off the authenticity of Finn as a human. It feels like something Pendleton Ward wanted to do, as he holds the belief that Finn is mutated due to his lack of nose and dotted eyes, but I still stand that it’s a pretty phony argument and has been retconned several times in the series. So why would a humanized incarnation of an already human Finn look like that? It just doesn’t work for me.

Another issue I have is how believable the world they’ve set up is. Like, why would Finn even own Jake as a pet? Jake’s parents are the ones who found Finn in the woods, and also the ones who originally named Jake, so how would Finn even gain possession of Jake, let alone give Jake the name that his talking dog parents gave him? Also, the inclusion of Choose Bruce seems confusingly dumb to me. Why would Choose Goose be a human? Wouldn’t he have mutated from an actual goose? Does this mean Choose Goose in the actual series was once human and was either transformed or mutated into being a Goose? I am reading way too far into this one guys, I know, but I just really do not understand the logic behind this wish-world and I can’t seem to wrap my finger around the absurdity of these two very uncanny reference points.

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Nitpicks aside, this episode is just entirely dull. It isn’t till the ending I actually began to care and get invested in the characters and situations, which made the entire episode feel retroactively meaningless. I know it’s just setting up for the events of the next episode, much like Holly Jolly Secrets – Part 1 did, but I’ve learned over time that “setup” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “uninteresting.” Wake Up, Preboot, or Lemonhope – Part 1 are all examples of episodes that build up to their typically bigger second parts, yet still manage to be very interesting and entertaining in their own right. Finn the Human fails to do any of that, and feels like a bland attempt at using exposition to make up for the fact that there’s nothing that funny, interesting, or enjoyable going on. The only bit of intrigue this one left me when the commercial break start was, “what’s going to happen to Finn as he wears the crown?” and “what’s going on with Jake while he remains in Prismo’s time room?” Both of those questions would be answered in the next episode, as I was surprisingly more excited to visit one of the newest additions to the AT cast, Prismo the Wishmaster, than to delve deeper into the Farmworld.

Favorite line: “How did I even get here, son?”

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“Playing with Fire” Review

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Release Date: May 15, 2013

Written by: Danielle Corsetto

Illustrated by: Zachary Sterling

As far as the expanded universe goes for AT, I’m slightly two-sided on how I feel about the comic and graphic novel portion. I’m pretty much on the same boat with everyone else as far as the main comic series goes: it was fun and well-written for the first 30 issues or so, and now it’s pretty poor both visually and in terms of story. There’s other stuff that’s great, like the Adventure Time Comics series and the Ice King six-parter, but not much really draws me outside of those. I could care less about the Fionna & Cake series or the pretty pitiful Adventure Time/Regular Show crossover comics, while everything else has just somewhat fallen under my radar. However, what I’d consider the best of the comic series in terms of quality, art-style, and story is the Playing with Fire graphic novel.

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For anyone who hasn’t read it, I’ll give a brief synopsis. While attending a carnival in the Carnival Kingdom, Finn begins realizing that Flame Princess may not be in control of her emotions (no duh). Flame Princess does simmer down when she enters a fortune teller’s booth, where the fortune teller herself places a curse on Finn that makes him tiny and apathetic. FP, enraged, teams up with Jake to get through the Fortune Teller’s puzzle quest. Jake wants to do things the traditional way and figure out the dungeon’s riddles, but FP’s rage and anger causes her to burn her way through. It’s then that she has a vision involving her father, who promises her a hierarchy of villainy and evil, to which FP decides she should finish the puzzle in the traditional way as Finn would. FP rescues Finn, only for the Fortune Teller to be so touched by the princess’s devotion to her man that she grants them one wish, to which Flame Princess, at first reluctant, decides all the stolen souls should return to their host bodies. Flame Princess finally feels like a hero, but is still haunted by the fact that she is from the Fire Kingdom, and is concerned with the future identity of herself. Annnnnd, it’s never touched on again because Finn and FP break up. Oh well!

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Even if it isn’t acknowledged in universe, I think this graphic novel tells a really compelling story that I would’ve liked to see this as an actual episode. Not only does it pose an interesting look at Flame Princess as she continues to battle with her own identity, but it’s just simply a lot of fun as well. I really like the idea of Jake and Flame Princess teaming up, and the drastic differences between the two. Jake’s very different, in the sense that he’s laidback, cool, and tends to be a traditionalist when it comes to adventuring, while Flame Princess is hot-headed, easily revved up, and does things primarily her way. I mean, when it boils down to it, it really is just Vault of Bones with Jake in Finn’s place, but it covers this story so well (and maybe even a little more in depth than said episode) that I really don’t mind it at all. The characters are a lot more vocal with their emotions, mainly that Finn begins to raise concern over FP’s anger and FP herself does not know who she truly is. Is she a villain, destined for a future of following in her father’s footsteps, or someone who deserves to be recognized as pure of heart? The novel constantly battles around with those ideas, and there is some legitimate intrigue as to what Flame Princess’s future holds.

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It also is nice, for any of the AT comics in general, that their stories tend to incorporate more side and recurring character from the Land of Ooo. We get a fun little bit of NEPTR being a giant loser, a character who only appeared once in season five, which is the time period when the actual novel came out. There’s also a fun scene using Choose Goose that doesn’t even address him by name but helps further the story, and it’s just nice to see a character like him, who really does not appear that often in the actual show.

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You know it’s a sign of good writing when I can read the entire novel in each respective character’s voice and never glance over something that feels out of character for someone to say. The art style also really matches perfectly with the tone and atmosphere it’s going for. Zachary Sterling, who illustrates the second-era of AT comics, actually did a really bang-up job with this one. I’m not really a fan of the visuals of the recent comics, but the expressions and drawings of the characters look really pleasing and sometimes quite humorous.

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So overall, it’s a good read. I’d say if you’re a fan of Flame Princess, and her character arc in general, this is definitely a must-read. Don’t expect to get any new information that will someday be important in the actual series (though I’m sure people don’t expect that at this point) but expect good writing and characterizations of our favorite heroes in Ooo.

Season Four Review

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My general philosophy is that I tend to believe that Adventure Time gets better with every season, and I still stick to that. That being said, I think Season Four arguably has the biggest set of “bad” or “meh” episodes out of the first four seasons. Dream of Love, Gotcha!, King Worm, and Ignition Point were all pretty poor episodes in my eyes, while episodes like In Your Footsteps and Web Weirdos really border on just “meh” for me. But even in a season of 6 or 7 bad or mediocre episodes, it really benefits from having 19 or 20 really good or fantastic episodes that are some of the best in the series, period. So, would I say that season four is technically better than season three? Well, no, because season three was practically perfect in terms of not having a single bad episode in its track record besides The Monster. However, season four continued to push boundaries and take AT in directions that I couldn’t have even imagined a season ago, so for that reason, I would say that season four answered the question of “what’s the best season of Adventure Time?” with “the next one.

It’s funny when I think about the humor from this season (no pun intended) because I feel like a good majority of the season just wasn’t really going for funny episodes most of the time. Sure, there were some really hilarious ones like Return to the Nightosphere and Card Wars, but when I think of Season Four, I don’t really think of “good humor,” I moreso think of “good stories.” And there are tons in that regard, especially in terms of character study. Princess Cookie, Sons of Mars, Burning Low, BMO Noire, and You Made Me specifically all had really spectacular stories involving in depth looks at some of our main characters and why they act the way that they do, something that AT delivers a lot of from this season onward.

Even episodes that don’t have great stories end up having really impressive emotional cores. I Remember You sticks out in particular as an episode that, when it comes down to it, is simply Ice King and Marceline hanging out and singing in a room for 11 minutes. But that’s why it’s so perfect. AT really diverts from traditional storytelling in this one for the better, which is something the series would only grow stronger at pulling off over time.

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One of the other experimentations that this season introduced was the Graybles themed episodes, which aren’t really my favorite and very few reach really high heights of quality, but are always welcomed regardless. They’re fun little stories which, like most of AT’s fun little stories, eventually grow deeper and darker as they go on.

As always, the teams were pretty solid, with Jesse and Ako actually coming out as my favorite pairing this season in terms of consistency as well as quality. They pulled off both Sons of Mars and Beyond this Earthly Realm, two of my very favorites from this season, which featured both trippy bits of mysticism as well as a lot of fun and excitement. Tom Herpich and Skyler Page were right behind, with mostly terrific laidback episodes, all excluding the epic finale they brilliantly concocted. This was Skyler’s first and only season on the show, and he fit right in with the other writers and artists when it came to grasping the tone and understanding of the actual series. I’ve already voiced my issues with the Rebecca and Cole pairing before, but really, how can I say anything when they dished out such emotionally powerful episodes like Burning Low, Lady & Peebles, and of course, I Remember You. As assumed, I’m gonna point to Somvilay and Bert as the weakest team this season. They did great with Princess Monster Wife and Card Wars, but besides that, nothing really grabbed me especially, and were plagued by some tedious pacing issues.

The characters continued to flourish greatly this season. Finn’s relationship issues took him in really interesting directions; for one, making his first crucial attempts at getting over PB, and somewhat becoming more interested in being “smart” with his love interests. Reign of Gunters took on his more dumb teen boy side by trying to pick up different skills and tactics in handling relationships, only to lead to more issues with him being distant towards his actual emotions and genuinely kind behavior later on. Jake continued to be entertaining in his ability to be the one character without any inner turmoil, but did knock up Lady at some point, so we’ll also be seeing dem babies later on (I’m beginning to notice “later on” as a keyword of this season review.) Marceline took a notable step back besides the great episodes tying back to her father as well as her father figure, while Ice King only continues to get sadder and sadder with each coming season. This season marked the main introduction to Flame Princess, but sadly, she hasn’t really done anything of interest so far. We really haven’t gotten to see anything from her perspective yet, and it isn’t really till season five that we start to trek through the interesting bits of her character. Everything interesting about her character is seen through Finn’s perspective entirely.

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And by God, PB stepped the fuck up this season! I’ve complained in the past three season reviews that she really did not do anything that made her as interesting or compelling as the other mains, but dear Lord, she has become the most captivating character very quickly. Easily the MVP of this season, showcasing her rocky connection to Finn, her complex relationship with Lemongrab, her inner strength and brilliant mind, her somewhat confusing actions when it comes to treating her people, and so much more. PB is certainly one of the most interesting and complex characters in the series, and this season is really what begins to support that fact.

Top 5 Best Episodes

5. Return to the Nightosphere – A hilarious episode revolving around the world and inhabitants of the Nightosphere, with a sense of mystery and quirkiness traveling throughout.

4. Princess Cookie – Debuting a very empathetic and likable main character, Princess Cookie revolves around an interesting dynamic between Bubblegum and Candy Person, while also highlighting one of the more complicated parts of Jake’s character.

3. Goliad – An episode that spotlights the adorably fucked up Goliad, and her unfortunate vulnerability toward corruption. The entire conflict is presented as intense and somewhat creepy, and also leaves some remaining questions about PB’s impressionable behavior in general.

2. Sons of Mars – Really battled back and forth about whether this should be 1 or 2, but I settled for 2. I just love this one. Lore, humor, adventure. Opening up the very wide arena of mythology and headiness within the world of AT, this one captures the mythical behavior of space gods and the meaning behind the apathetic nature of Magic Man, all while tying the friendship between Finn and Jake at the very center.

1. I Remember You – Yeah, I really don’t even have to explain this one. Wanted to put it at number 2, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I can’t deny that this is about as perfect as an AT episode can get.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. In Your Footsteps – Nothing really particularly bad, but nothing of notable substance either. Seems like its main purpose was to drive the Lich plot further and nothing else.

4. Gotcha! – Any attempt at making LSP a likable or entertaining protagonist usually ends up failing for me, though I have grown slightly more favorable towards it after hearing what others had to say in regards to her portrayal.

3. King Worm – Creative in terms of visuals, but somewhat of a drag to get through. Nothing I found especially funny or even that entertaining in regards to story.

2. Ignition Point – A completely slow experience that really squandered a chance to finally put Flame Princess in the limelight.

1. Dream of Love – Because everyone was just dying to see Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig bang for 11 minutes.

Final Consensus

As I’ve said above, Season Four isn’t the best season ever, but it continued to take Adventure Time in very interesting directions in terms of character relationships and how dark the series could actually get. It created some notable landmarks that opened plenty of new doors to take the series through, and those were doors I couldn’t wait to explore more in the future. The season finale left me satisfied with how the season went overall, and only more excited than I’ve ever been to continue watching in the future.

“The Lich” Review

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Original Airdate: October 22, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page

Part of what makes the Lich (character) so great is his lack of frequent on-screen appearances. While most would disagree, as a major complaint of the show has been the lack of Lich appearances over the years, I believe he’s a villain that’s so sinister and captivating that he can really only be used so sparingly as an effectively terrifying presence. The Lich returns the aforementioned character to the spotlight, after 52 episodes of absences (unless you count King Worm or In Your Footsteps), and you can tell this is one that writers Tom Herpich and Skyler Page had a ton of fun with. The entire episode is designed around an alarming and ominous atmosphere that is genuinely uncomfortable to sit through, but one that builds up so perfectly to the eventual reveal of Ooo’s greatest villain.

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The episode starts off with another unusual dream sequence, which is like, the third or fourth time AT has done so, and there’s only about fifteen more to come. Not to say this is a bad thing; AT nearly always outdoes itself with trippy and unusual dream sequences, and this one is no exception. It utilizes unconventional and somewhat startling visuals, including the blink-and-you’ll-miss appearance of the Lich as Billy, which of course works as foreshadowing, and also the bear, sporting a masquerade mask, uttering “dark times are coming.” There’s tons of conclusions you can draw by the beginning dream itself, namely that the Lich had killed Billy prior to this episode and disguised himself in Billy’s skin (I still can’t believe how gruesome that sounds/is) and that the Old Lady was presumably eaten by the bear, as we never see her again following this episode. This is where Finn awakes as we’re treated to a humorous dream story by Jake himself, which further implies his giant foot fetish. I dunno, I kinda wanna know how Jake handles this in his relationship with Lady. Like, she doesn’t actually have feet, does she?? She just has hooves, or stubs, or something. These are the types of thoughts that keep me up at night.

The scene to follow in Billy’s crack is a nice representation of the dynamic between Finn and Billy. Finn’s awkwardness typically only arises around his lady friends, but here we see Finn feeling a bit nervous and uncomfortable around Billy. Obviously his admiration for Billy has caused Finn to feel somewhat inferior around his hero, despite his own display of true heroism back in Season One. Finn still acknowledges Billy as someone he wants emulate and follow in his footsteps, which is why he does not know how to present himself and act like a professional hero. The entire scene in Billy’s crack feels… off to say the least, and that’s an atmosphere that carries throughout the run of the episode. I remember the promo for this episode really hyped up what Finn’s response would be to Billy when he asks him if he’s ready to save all of Ooo from the Lich, and somehow it was so much more impactful and uncomfortable to simply have Finn utter “… yes,” during the actual reveal. This is a moment Finn has been waiting for presumably years of his life, and he has no other way to express his feelings both excitedly and solemnly regarding the circumstances of the actual situation.

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The following montage is just lovely. For an episode that really banks itself on being entirely uneasy and subdued, the montage of stealing the jewels of royalty is really a ton of fun. I love it all, from Finn and Jake pranking Ice King by writing “I suck hamburgers” on his beard (how does one even vandalize someone’s beard?), to the gross juices that fly out from Emerald Princesses’s head after F&J squeeze out her jewel, to a very rare appearance of Embryo Princess with her legitimately sleeping inside what appears to be an embryo. Of course, there’s the even grosser sequence of Finn removing LSP’s jewel from her head, complete with what Pendleton Ward calls “dog food sounds” playing in the background. Yuck. The montage ends with Jake, Finn, and Billy riding off into the night, as Finn takes notes of Billy’s flowing mane and cool exterior. Finn finally feels like he’s on Billy’s level, and removes his hat to allow his own hair to flow smoothly. This is the biggest task Finn has ever taken on, and it’s both exciting and somewhat heartwarming for him to be able to work so closely with someone he admires so dearly.

The scene that follows begins to reveal some very perplexing yet humorously revealed exposition about the Enchiridion from a little man named Book-o. The most notable bit of information from this portion actually didn’t make the episode. There was going to be a first mention of the Crystal Citadel by Book-o, including the introduction of Finn’s father, a hero who protected the Citadel, as seen below in the posted storyboard images. By God, am I glad they removed this scene entirely. First of all, this is way too much information to be glossed over so quickly and hardly elaborated on given the actual plot of the episode itself. Second, there’s no way in hell Finn is that dumb that he didn’t already know he was adopted. I just don’t believe that in the slightest. And besides, didn’t he already know that he was abandoned in the forest as a child? A pretty giant continuity error that would’ve been completely unbelievable. Third, Finn’s dad being a hero who is the guardian of another dimension is such a boring concept. I really like the route they eventually take with Finn’s father being a selfish jackass, and it made for a much more compelling story overall. It’s such a small scene, but it really had potential to screw-up a lot of loose ends as well as future story arcs.

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The rest of the exposition exists in order to introduce Prismo and the time room, something heavily featured in the following episode that exists as a place to allegedly imprison the Lich. I think at this point in time, it’s pretty obvious that there’s something entirely sketchy and unnerving going on with Billy himself. The fact that he somehow acquired the Enchiridion from the bear, and his solemn, grotesque close-up are all key-components to Billy’s demise.

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Annnnnd then we get to the scene inside PB’s castle. I don’t even wanna know what the fuck she was doing to those poor little parasites whose limbs were being snipped off, but it was hilarious. Even more chortle-worthy was the fact that the parasites seem like they couldn’t give a shit the entire time. The one just exclaims, “hey” and continues to smile during the entire procedure. PB really can be one concerning momma sometimes. After that polarizing sequence, Finn bursts through the roof (no idea why he couldn’t just use the door, no time, I guess?) as he desperately tries to grab for PB’s jewel, only to accidentally be sliced by her scissors. It’s a very tense moment for both Finn and PB. After an entire season of Finn building up turmoil towards the princess and making an effort to try to get over her, I think this is really where Finn’s anger and agitation with Bubblegum reaches its pinnacle. This was a driving point that would cause issues in Finn and PB’s relationship for years to come, as they would calmly return to being friends after the episode, yet still have plenty of awkward and angsty interactions to come.

As Finn flees with the Enchiridion and the jewels combine with the ancient book (all except for LSP’s, which is both really funny and also builds lore in regards to her elemental prophecy), Princess Bubblegum blatantly reveals that Billy is merely being impersonated by the Lich, something that I feel like people read way too deeply into for a while. It makes you wonder how PB knew that Billy was the Lich, which people often theorized was a sign of PB’s tyranny, though I always just assumed it was something revealed to her by one of the Gumball Guardians. Whatever the reason, we do get a pretty gruesome reveal as half of Billy’s face is blown off, which unleashes the sinister creature.

The conversation between the Lich and Finn is not one of my favorite interactions between the two, but it’s every bit as chilling, uncomfortable, and dark as usual. The Lich makes some Emperor-type offers to Finn regarding promises of immortality and the secrets of existence, something which I do appreciate that the show has never really tackled head-on. Finn is someone who rarely ever battles with his morality, at least in his younger days, but someone who fights for justice based on everything he’s ever learned about being good. He never falls for the Lich’s negotiating and promises of something bigger than himself, as Finn never gambles with the idea that the Lich isn’t anything other than inherently evil. Of course, his desire for doing good is what causes Finn to unleash an emotional tirade of attempting to destroy the book, which is exactly what the Lich wanted. I’m not positive if the Lich knew destroying the book would open the portal to the time room, but it is the Lich, so I’m assuming he had every intention of playing with Finn’s emotional fragility in order to achieve his goal. This leads to a high-stakes travel sequence as Jake latches onto the Lich legs, with Finn following close behind. It’s a really intense scene that’s filled with anxiety that kept me on the edge of my seat on a first viewing. Even now, as I know what follows, I still appreciate the very hyperactive and intense atmosphere as the episode jumps from very subdued and lowkey to extremely urgent and vehement.

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The episode ends on one of AT’s most mysterious notes, as we’re treated to a more human-looking Finn complete with a nose and eye-whites, and a more dog-like Jake. We’ve entered the Farmworld, and, despite knowing practically nothing about it at the time, I think everyone figured that the normal, relaxed perception of the alternate reality of Ooo was soon in dire consequence of being obstructed. It’s one of the most mind-blowing endings in the entire series, and still one I hold close to me as a moment in the show that just completely caught me off guard. We’ll just have to wait until Season Five to explore Farmworld a bit more in detail.

And that’s the end of season four, folks! As always, thank you to the devoted readers for always coming back for more, and any readers who just joined in on the fun. Per usual, I’ll be covering the Season Four review next Friday, as well as a bonus review of the AT graphic novel Playing with Fire. Following next Friday, you can expect a Finn the Human/Jake the Dog double feature, so be prepared for lots of content in the next few weeks!

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Favorite line: “Guess I done  donked something up yet again.”

 

“I Remember You” Review

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Original Airdate: October 15, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez

“There’s so much that exists outside of show because it’s a post-apocalyptic future, which means that the present exists in the reality of this show. You have to extend this whole world back into the past and every that’s happening in it is real, and there’s so much that you didn’t see that’s implied to have happened, and that becomes real, but it also becomes something that you invent. So you have a personal ownership over everything that created Ooo, and it really does feel like your imagination because it’s asking you to imagine so much of it and connect all these dots.”

An eloquently put statement from Rebecca Sugar about Adventure Time’s success that can really be applied to this episode in particular. Ah, I Remember You. Where do I even start with this episode that’s considered damn-near perfect by nearly everyone who has ever seen it? Well, for starters, I actually don’t think it’s entirely perfect. There’s definitely some parts that drag, some parts that don’t seem to add anything, and even Ice King can grate on being borderline annoying at times. But even that said, there’s no denying the passion, the raw emotion, and the beautiful connection that was created between two of the show’s most tragic characters make it difficult even for me to deny this as one of AT’s greatest efforts.

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I think it’s been somewhat evident this season that the Cole Sanchez-Rebecca Sugar duo is, at worst, a bit dissonant from each other. They’ve created some of the best episodes this season had to offer, but also just felt much more separated in tone than the Muto-Sugar duo combination. It’s not to say Sanchez suffers from poor writing himself, but always seemed to dabble more in Adventure Time’s sillier side. There’s nothing wrong with this, but, as is, it can be quite a contrast in even just the simple squishy and stretchy expressions of Finn and Jake to the endless amounts of detail Sugar adds when drawing them, sometimes making it feel like a jarring experience.Here, it works to the duo’s advantage.

Here, in the very first scene, we open to Ice King singing a very poor adaptation of Marceline’s “Fry Song” which is just the kind of silly opening that’s warranted with the emotional rollercoaster that’s on the way, and evident why we need a scene like this. We don’t only care about Ice King because he’s a sad soul who lost his former self, but because he’s zany and enjoyable to be around. And that’s not to say it’s even a distinction in writing style; it’s not like Rebecca Sugar isn’t one to dabble in Ice King’s antics and purely sees him as a completely tragic character. It’s common sense among the AT staff that, to care about these characters when issues arise and life hits hard, we first must be able to laugh at them, have fun with them, and genuinely enjoy being around them. And Ice King is pretty much the epitome of that archetype, literally revolving on all ends of the spectrum: funny, nonsensical, endearing, sad, lonely, and sympathetic.

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There’s plenty of fun gags at the start, namely Gunter’s adorable pet-like behavior, the umpteenth mention of J.T. Doggzone in two episodes, and the humorous exchange between Finn and Jake. I think the boys are really used as point to showcase the significance in Ice King’s transition from creepy villain to incompetent ally. There’s very few times after this episode where Finn and Jake legitimately go as far as to spy on him (though, it’ll take a lot longer for them to actually warm up to him) and it’s blown up in their own faces when they realize, at heart, Ice King is just an eccentric goofball. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone or destroy all of Ooo, but instead desires faithful companions to be at his side.

It’s when Marceline enters the scene (sporting a tucked in anti-smoking shirt, which is surprisingly one of my favorite Marcy outfits, mainly for it’s simplicity) that the tension begins to heat up. The first interaction between Marcy and the IK harkens back to Sugar’s statement, as Marceline claims “I told you never to come here again,” implying this has happened several times in the past, which is only further emphasized in Marceline’s Nuts song. The reason Marceline has moved around so frequently is either partially or directly related to Ice King continuously coming to visit her or spy on her, something that was used as just a quirky character trait of hers way back in season one, but now comes full circle as a result of her deteriorating friend she can no longer stand to be around. One can only imagine the types of interactions they’ve had before; it’s debatable what kind of relationship they have had before this, but it’s clear that Ice King does have some form of admiration for the Vampire Queen, which may be because he does subconsciously remember her a slight bit. Even more devastating, you can draw the parallels that perhaps Ice King has always seen her as a potential royal stereotype that he has attempted to kidnap before. No matter what the likelihood of any of these theories are, it does allow the viewer to put the pieces together however they like, and for me, it’s one that, no matter what context, is always tragic.

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From this point, the episode practically becomes one big musical. While I did enjoy What Was Missing quite fondly, you may recall in my review that I mentioned Sugar’s style of writing, especially in terms of musical score, pretty much dominated the episode and felt more like an episode of Steven Universe than Adventure Time. I think these songs are all perfectly crafted and all serve a clear purpose in terms of character perspective and development. Yes, they do feel like the Sugar-iest scenes that have ever played out on the show, and while I’ve made that seem like a bad thing in the past, it’s really not. I think it’s only a problem when it poses somewhat of a distracting issue in terms of story or pacing, but honestly, it works perfectly here. An episode could be riddled with Somvilayisms or be filled with Moynihan-type trippiness, but if it’s hilarious or thought-provoking, I don’t mind in the slightest. And here, the characters act as dramatically and passionately open about their emotions as they ever have (well, namely Marceline), but it’s so beautifully and captivatingly done that I couldn’t see this story done any other way.

It all begins with Oh Bubblegum, Ice King’s ballad to Princess Bubblegum, which is actually my favorite song in the episode. Ice King’s singing voice is clearly terrible on purpose, but it’s oozing with emotion and so blatantly has Ice King reveal his inner thoughts and self-esteem issues. He demandingly questions why, after all this time, he still doesn’t have anyone to love or a princess to call his own, which he sees as pure evidence that there’s something completely wrong with him. It’s a song that basically embodies everything I mentioned the Ice King is: silly and quirky, but also sad and lonely. Every song is accompanied by the hum of an omnichord, and it both emphasizes the whimsical and cutesy nature that each song has to offer, but also provides an ominously off-putting tone as well, which really hits home in the more uncomfortable parts of each musical number. Also, I’m gonna put to bed the idea that Marceline’s look of concern toward Ice King during his song has absolutely anything to do with her feelings revolving around PB. Absolutely no fucking way in hell I believe that look of sympathy was for anything besides Ice King’s depressing nature. There’s a ton of shipping fuel I buy into between Marceline and Bubblegum, but this isn’t one of them. Though, I’m not sure how many people even believe this theory anymore.

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When Marcy attempts to stop Ice King’s insanity, it’s a portion that I think halts the episode for a brief moment. I think Ice King’s shame for pushing Marceline feels a little melodramatic and tonally dissonant from the rest of the episode, but it’s this irritability that transitions in Marceline’s solo-song Nuts, which has her open up about her own insanity and mental exhaustion that the Ice King has caused her over the years. There’s plenty of Alzheimer’s connection you can make within the story of I Remember You, and the connection between Marceline and Ice King in general, and I think Marcy’s frustration and own helplessness are brought out full force in this ditty. It’s pretty easy to sense that she knows she can’t fix the Ice King and that, whatever has happened to him, he’s already too far gone to return to his former self. Marceline acknowledges that she wants to hangout with him and help him however she can, but it’s clear that the man she once knew and loved is gone and it’s really just painfully unfortunate that she has to accept what he has become.

Ice King’s sweeter and more empathetic side is brought out by Nuts, but also immediately becomes void when he attempts to kiss Marceline. This is really the most uncomfortable scene in the episode, as someone who was once a father figure to Marceline makes sexual advances onto her. It’s a writing choice that Sugar herself felt hesitant about, but one that Pendleton Ward really, really wanted in, and man does it pack a punch. Obviously it’s a somewhat harmless activity on Ice King’s part, given his ignorant nature when it comes to human relationships (though it was pretty creepy how he used a mere hug as a segue into first base), but you can only imagine the trauma or disgust that Marceline is feeling with him. It’s here Marceline blows up, and refers to the Ice King as his former alias, “Simon.” I get the feeling that Marceline has never actually tried to make Ice King remember who he is before, as she was either too hurt or confused to understand what had happened to him, but it becomes clear that she’s fed up with his jogged memory and wants simply to have her caretaker back again. She uses pictures (complete with Simon holding the Enchiridion, oh, the lore!), notes, and former writings of the old antiquarian, but nothing seems to work. Again, another great parallel to Alzheimer’s in the sense that, however much proof or evidence you show someone suffering with the terrible, terrible illness, nothing seems to work as an effective target to help jump the mind.

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Marceline then discovers a note written by Simon, which can be translated into a poem or tune to sing, to which Ice King takes as immediate inspiration into his next song. Remember You is the dramatic pinnacle of the entire episode. It’s here Marceline realizes that, no matter what has happened, Simon does love her and did what he could to make sure she survived. He never wanted to watch Marceline suffer, and admittedly probably never expected that she’d even live long enough to watch him become the villain, but had to do what he did to survive. No matter how selfless a person is, any mentally healthy person is likely to not welcome death with open arms, and Simon wanted to preserve his scholarly mind for as long humanly possible. There’s no possible chance that Marceline could ever think that Simon didn’t care for her or want the best for her after reading the note, and she can both emotionally react to it and acknowledge that the best thing she can do for Simon in return is accepting Ice King for who he is. No matter how annoying or distorted, Ice King is still Marceline’s old friend deep down inside, and the only aspect of Simon that remains in tact. The two bask in their new bond: Ice King, realizing he has a new friend to jam with, and Marceline, who sees the beauty and the sorrow in what is likely Simon’s last remaining form of communication he wrote to her, that he was probably too insane at that point to give to her in person. The episode closes with a flashback to the Great Mushroom War, and what is probably the first overt piece of visual evidence of the actual apocalypse. Marceline and Ice King’s soft voices lull the last scene powerfully through (some honest-to-Glob tearjerk worthy inflections from Tom Kenny) as an already transformed Simon hands a young Marcy a stuffed animal to comfort her, which eventually becomes her most prized possession, Hambo. A perfect heartwarming ending that gets me near-misty eyed every time I watch.

Everything this episode embodies is masterful, from creating a beautiful connection between the only characters who lived through the Mushroom War, to allowing them to powerfully emote through the art of music. This episode is essentially a “box episode” in the sense that it takes place almost entirely in Marceline’s house and focuses solely on the interactions between two lead characters. It’s almost like a stage play (with some musical elements) and really works as a captivating piece of character development and the reason why this show is more than just a silly cartoon for kids. It’s passionate, it’s creative, it’s honest, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s philosophical, it’s so many things that really just knock it out of the ballpark. There’s that bit of a lull, and some parts that don’t work. Like, what was the point of including Finn and Jake spying on the Ice King in the last few minutes? Did they really think Marcy wouldn’t be able to take care of herself? I understand they may have been concerned with Ice King’s behavior, but really, c’mon. Marcy herself asked them to leave. But, any minor problems aside, this episode is just too damn good. It’s cliche at this point to endlessly praise it, but I’m not going to lie when I think something is really good. It emphasizes everything that makes Adventure Time beautiful and admirable, and still amazes me by how well crafted and inherently sad I Remember You is to this day.

Favorite line: “Your constant harassment of the female gender makes me siiick.”

 

“Reign of Gunters” Review

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Original Airdate: October 8, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Gunter has continually been shown as somewhat of an enigma up to this point. There’s been hints and foreshadowing of his inner darker side, most recently in King Worm, and this episode has as much fun as possible with how fucked up, while still incredibly cute and cuddly, the wide-eyed penguin is.

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It kinda goes without saying for this one that it’s somewhat all over the place. It’s essentially three different stories combined that don’t really blend together in a completely cohesive way. One is about, as the title states, a reign of Gunters attacking the Candy Kingdom. Another is about Finn’s impressionable status as a teenage that leads him heading in the direction of douchebaggery, while the third regards Ice King discovering the secret Wizard society. So yeah, none of these really have any connection at all, besides IK’s initial motivation towards heading into Wizard City, but I have to say, they are all pretty fun on their own. The battle of the Gunters provides for a lot of fun action and laughs, the detour into Finn’s adolescence reminds us that he is still in the early stages of his teenage years, and is prone to many changes in hormones, behavior, and identity when it comes to how he regards himself and his loved ones. The Ice King B-plot, while the weakest of the three, sets up a future endeavor regarding the secretive nature of Wizard City that will eventually have a bigger effect on the IK than he could ever imagine.

I guess it’s really only appropriate to talk about these stories in sequence. The initial plot begins with practically no set up, as the immediate first frame is Ice King shouting “Where the turds is my de-mon-ic wishing eye!?” It’s a very humorous beginning to emphasize the somewhat scattershot story we’re in store for, and really showcases the hilarity behind Ice King and Gunter’s father-son relationship. And by God, do I even need to bring up Ice King’s search history? Honestly, there’s very few times I’ve laughed as hard and long as I did at these freeze frame bonuses, so I almost feel obligated to include them as visual pieces.

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My personal favorites are “wizard chick pics, skinny knees” and “wiping my bum isn’t working right.” It feels less like an opportunity to get shit through the censors and just feels like something natural that you’d find when using Ice King’s search engine. I don’t even wanna know what other dirty secrets lie on that monitor.

It’s a bit of an interesting depiction for Gunter as well. I think we’re supposed to sympathize with him, but at the same time, we don’t really know what’s up with him. Does he just want love and affection? Or something much more than that? Whatever it is, it causes him to engage in complete fits of rage and doom, which leads to an eventual invasion into the Candy Kingdom. This is home to some really great interactions between Jake, PB, and Finn. They all work off of each other so well, once again showcasing PB’s somewhat goofier side (love how she just stops caring halfway through and plans on building bottles forever, I feel like she just didn’t have the effort or energy to put her time into actually defeating an army of penguins). Some terrific playful voicework by John DiMaggio in this one, where Jake doesn’t really have many funny lines on his own, but it’s one of those episodes where just the tone of DiMaggio’s delivery is enough to get a laugh out of me. And then there’s Finn, who is so confident in his own secret plans that he doesn’t really think through whether or not they’ll work out. It really is just a terrific showcase of these three distinct personalities, allowing their goofier, as well as their more prideful sides come out in full force. It’s also just an endearing hangout experience for them. From PB’s reaction, I think she sees this as a more opportune time to hangout with her boys than immediately get up in arms and weapons-heavy in regard to the Gunter invasion. She probably knows she can handle it, but would much rather just take it easy and do something silly with her close friends, which is why she acknowledges that her plan is awful. The stakes actually do feel pretty high during this one, despite the fact that, once again, we’re dealing with an army of Gunters. The scene with Gunter nearly cracking the Gumball Guardian is definitely wince-worthy, and actually somewhat had me concerned on where it was going next. Of course, the episode does ends with Ice King giving Gunter the “squirty-squirts” so any sinister motivations from Gunter just come off as mere “teen angst”… for now, at least.

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About halfway through the episode revolves around Finn’s excerpt about how he wants to be more secretive towards women in case anything with Flame Princess ends up failing. It makes sense that Finn would want to be more educated on how to handle relationships since he’s in his first committed one with FP, and makes even more sense that he wouldn’t want to go into another spiraling depression that’s equivalent to what he went through with Bubblegum. Of course, it makes Finn look more like a jackass that he’s subtly manipulating people for his own gain, but it’s a terrific segue into his eventual fuck-ups that are based off of hormonal needs and the teenage male perspective. I was never bothered by this side of Finn because I felt it was an honest, realistic, and interesting portrayal of his character that went beyond just simply portraying him as a stand-up kid with no moral issues. It’s an intriguing step up from what we’ve already seen from the innocent little guy, and even more interesting that he looks to outside media for advice regarding how to handle girls, something I think most teenage boys are also guilty of. This, in return, introduces us to Jay T. Doggzone, and I swear to God, if we don’t find out who the identity of this author is before the end of the series, I’m gonna be hella pissed. Jay T. Doggzone was a recurring element added in that continued appearing through the end of Season Four towards the end of Season Five, and it’s constantly implied that he’s Jake, yet never openly revealed. I feel as though the staff may have just scrapped following up on this idea, which I don’t really mind not knowing, but I feel like they added so much God damn build-up already towards the identity behind this character that it keeps me up at night wondering who this guy is. Is it Jake’s secret alter-ego? Why does Jake write “trash books” in secret? Who are you Jay T. Doggzone!? Honestly, the finale could leave me with as many open questions as possible, as long as I find out who this fucking author is, I can die in peace.

Ice King’s B-plot isn’t especially lengthy, but it does introduce us to Wizard City for the first time: a totally rad landscape where some choice wizards hangout. It’s also the first speaking appearance of Huntress Wizard, that I know Jesse Moynihan in particular was probably really, really hype about. Moynihan had already tried to incorporate Huntress Wizard into his AT episodes a couple of times, and this was the first successful pitch (aside from her non-speaking cameo in Wizard Battle). She’s good fun to watch; snarky, mysterious, and well-designed, her presence is always welcomed, especially when her personality battles Ice King’s. But IK doesn’t mind, since his Jay T. motherfucking Doggzone book told him otherwise. The secret society of wizards kickstarts that cool recurring story arc, and is definitely the biggest and most interesting takeaway from this episode. I didn’t really know what to expect from this combination of unique wizards, and felt that there were a ton of possibilities that could come from it, especially in regards to the division from Wizard-culture and Ooo-culture. And it’s a small moment towards the end, but I really enjoy Finn’s notable sympathy for Ice King and his physical injuries. They could’ve easily just pinned the entire Gunter incident on the IK, but I enjoy how Finn especially is more concerned with his well-being than why he wasn’t keeping a better eye on his pet penguin.

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I kinda went into this one feeling divided because of its scattershot nature, but I actually have to say that I do enjoy this one. Sure, the set pieces never really flow well together, but I still think it’s thoroughly enjoyable and fun all the way through, no matter what its focus is. It never feels so incoherent that it’s distracting, and still keeps my attention regardless. You could definitely argue that it’s unfocused, but take an episode like Ignition Point that’s a complete snore-fest, despite it’s solid main story. Reign of Gunters may not be the most cohesive episode, but it’s certainly a lot of fun. Great character interactions, jokes, lore, and a wildly silly conflict, everything that Adventure Time does right in one, flimsy package.

Favorite line: “Bubb, your plan… bunks.”

“The Hard Easy” Review

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Original Airdate: October 1, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page

Here we are, kids! The 100th episode (technically 101th) episode of the series. It’s crazy that I’ve gotten through these past one hundred in less than a year, and hopefully I can do the same with the next hundred more. As always, thanks to all of you who keep coming back to read and sharing your own input every single post. You guys rock, and make this job a lot easier and more exciting to me. So, without further ado, The Hard Easy!

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The Hard Easy starts out in a less-than-colorful landscape that isn’t found in your typical AT episode. It’s dull, gray, and groggy, and actually somewhat refreshing. I’m used to all the bright and vibrant hues that Adventure Time so masterfully showcases, but it is nice to get the other side of the spectrum for a change. It works with the relaxed, toned down vibe of the episode, and delivers as a perfect “rainy day” type of episode. I mentioned my feelings on the scene back in Who Would Win that focuses on Finn and Jake just hanging out, and this episode is practically the epitome of charming F&J interactions. The plot itself isn’t anything special, albeit somewhat weak, but it’s the connection between our two main boys, coupled with some really hilarious exchanges and gags, that make this episode a big success on the goofy scale.

I absolutely love the Mudscamps. Their very simplified and tiny designs are adorable, and I love the quirky and unorthodox way they communicate. Jonathan Katz voices the Village Elder, and honestly, that’s enough to make for a great character. Never watched a ton of Dr. Katz, but Katz’s voicework on Home Movies and his general approach to improvised comedy are terrific, and it really reflects Elder’s character. The conversation he insinuated between a mother and son was completely improvised, and made even funnier by Finn and Jake’s somewhat confused reaction to his bizarre behavior. It’s all together a really hilarious beginning, that sets up for even more zaniness down the line.

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What really carries the episode forward, once again, is the leisurely pacing of Finn and Jake’s adventure. I love the casual conversations between the two, as well as the typically silly AT dialogue to complement the exchanges. There’s tons of enjoyably entertainingly moments between the two, including Jake getting struck by lightning (twice), Finn and Jake trying to discover how making a fire works, and the boys dramatically fighting against what they think is the Mega Frog, but it’s only a tree. The wacky humor is really upped in this one, something I think Skyler Page has mastered during his time working on the show. Page and Herpich have just been a pretty solid pair up to this point; while I love when Wolfhard eventually joins the dynamic, Herpich nails the brotherly moments between the boys, while Page adds in a hint of AT’s boisterously silly charm, making for some delightfully enjoyable sets of episodes.

The climax is a moment that combines both beauty and humor. The scene of Finn agilely gliding through air and kissing the frog is glorious, but made even better with the brief scene of Finn jumping up and separating Jake’s buttcheeks with his feet. I used to have a gif of that saved on my phone and just watch it all day long. It’s a landmark in animation. The transformation scene itself is dope too, combining elements from Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and so on. The voice of Prince Huge itself is hilariously unfitting. I don’t know why they chose Brian Doyle-Murray to portray this character, but it’s so unusual and totally does not suit the character’s appearance that it’s actually really funny to me. It’s a bizarrely transcendent ending to cap an already very quirky episode.

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I don’t have much to say about this episode besides the fact that it’s fun. It’s a fun, endearing episode that brings AT back to its simplest and silliest routes, combining great interactions between our two main characters and some bizarre humor to coincide with them. It’s one I always enjoy watching, just knowing that I always leave feeling like I just experienced 11 minutes of pure amusement.

Favorite line: “You know, we – we secrete stink oil all day out our awful-sauce glands.”