Tag Archive | Ako Castuera

“Broke His Crown” Review

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Original Airdate: March 26, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Hanna K. Nyström

For all of you who do not know, I will be covering the remaining episodes in the way that they were originally intended to be consumed by the show’s staff. I.E. Broke His CrownReboot will be considered season seven, Two Swords-Three Buckets will be considered season eight, and The Wild Hunt-Come Along With Me will be season nine. To avoid confusion, I will eventually be adding two separate sub-tabs under the seasonal archives tab: one for Cartoon Network’s Rebrand and one for the staff’s original production order. This is simply just to avoid confusion in the long run, and I feel as though that it’s in everyone’s best interest that I cover the remaining seasons as they were intended.

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So, with that said, let’s get to Broke His Crown! Essentially being a sequel episode to King’s Ransom, this episode revolves around the changes Betty made to Ice King’s crown and how exactly they affect him. It’s also an opportunity to further develop Bubblegum, Marceline, and Ice King’s relationships with one another, while also sliding in a heavy dose of lore on the side. Upon airing, and to this day, I feel as though opinions of this episode are very mixed. I know a lot of people who love Broke His Crown and see it as one of the strong points of season 7 (or 8. Whatever!) while other people dismiss it as  rushed with serious pacing problems. I’m a little bit in the middle, but more towards the former. I personally think some bits are a little fast-paced and downright contrived, but I actually really dig what this one set out to do. Essentially, it’s the one time in the series that Betty and Simon are permitted a happy ending together. It’s satisfying and dissatisfying in all the right ways, but feels like a truly appropriate way to wrap up their relationship without actually affecting their characters in the slightest. In general, Broke His Crown is also a great exploration of the inner-workings of the crown and what truly becomes of those who wear it. It’s visually appealing and a lot of fun, creating a unique and complex environment with some unique, yet familiar, characters.

Marceline and PB are straight up lovers in this episode. I could totally get the “oh, they’re just really close friends” argument before this episode aired, but nah, you could not convince me otherwise that this is not the direct intention of the episode. Of course, I’m sure it was frustrating for the hardcore Bubbline fans who wanted an outright confirmation from the series by this point in time, but after this episode, I just fully accepted that their romantic involvement with each other was 100% canon. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. And, as far as their relationship goes, it’s cute! I’ve said outright before that I’m not a huge fan of Bubbline. That is to say that, while I enjoy their relationship, a lot of viewers and comic writers are under the impression that their romantic involvement with each other is the single most important aspect of the show, when it really isn’t and never was. So my opinion has soured more because of oversaturation within the fanbase and the expanded universe, but overall, I don’t dislike the way they’re presented within the series. Hanna K. Nyström has a strength in portraying the girls in a really likable way; while other writers like Jesse Moynihan and Ako Castuera have kind of struggled to make their relationship seems compassionate in the past, Nyström knows how to write their relationship with a healthy balance of charisma and snark. And hey, this is actually the last episode in the series that features Castuera as a storyboard artist, and she seems to have gotten a lot stronger when working with this dynamic as well!

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Love dem freeze-frame bonuses.

While PB and Marcy have risked being either too schmaltzy or awkward in the past, you can tell they care for each other in a very genuine and realistic way. You can sense the love between the two, but they aren’t constantly professing their feelings for one another. This is in part because the staff was probably pressured by the network to keep their relationship subtle, but also pays off in other ways. I enjoy how they spend most of the episode arguing, but it isn’t presented in an unlikable or unpleasant way. PB’s combative attitude in particular is just terrific. Not only is she hilarious to watch, but her abrasiveness actually serves a purpose. While we explored her shift in behavior towards the Banana Guards in the previous episode, we now are treated to her shifting behavior toward Ice King. The conflict between PB and Ice King is probably the most heated out of any of the main characters, as one would expect. Ice King has violated Princess Bubblegum’s privacy on several occasions, so you really don’t blame her for being so opposed to the idea of getting along with him. At the same time, however, you also understand things from Marcy’s perspective. Of course she’s going to be more forgiving towards Ice King, because 1. he represents someone she loves and cares for. 2. Ice King is probably cooler with and more respectful of Marcy than anyone else he knows. So her request to Bubblegum is honest and understandable, but so is Bonnie’s hostile behavior. And might I just say that those mamas are looking GREAT in this episode. While Marcy hasn’t gotten as much exposure to different wardrobe changes this season, season seven might just be the best collection of PB’s different outfits, to the point where I was genuinely disappointed that she returned to her standard pink dress in the very next episode.

As for Ice King, he’s his usual terrific blend of being a sweetheart, kind of a dick, and a quirky dude simultaneously, and while he’s not in this one a ton (as IK, at least) his performance really shines through in the first few minutes. I love how much he absolutely lights up when he realizes that Marcy and PB actually want to spend time with him, and how he’s so conditioned to being rejected by ladies that he thinks that he has to actually bribe people to hangout with him. That was both incredibly sweet and sad, with a touch of hilariousness when he does inevitably take the gift back for himself. While I think he provides for some of the episode’s strongest moments, I also think he offers some of the weakest, mostly because of the malfunctioning crown. I dunno, I feel like the way Ice King freaks out and behaves weirdly isn’t really that interesting… when I heard about the synopsis for this one, I expected Ice King’s “uncanny behavior” to involve flashes between himself and Simon, or just a full blown meltdown of some sorts. Ice King smashing plates over his head and rolling around on the ground just aren’t intriguing ways to hammer forward that he needs help, and it doesn’t really feel dire. I wish a little bit more was done for this aspect to make it more dramatic and/or intriguing, because the way it was executed just didn’t grip me at all. I also feel like the initial plot device of Marceline not believing Bubblegum was somewhat unneeded and a waste of time. Sure, it does provide for PB to actually grow concerned for the IK and even refer to him as “Simon,” but this episode already feels a bit tight as it is. So while I liked a good portion of the beginning, I felt that some bits could’ve been better executed, and at worst, taken out for the sake of time.

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When the girls take it upon themselves to help their icy friend, they enter the surface of the crown through virtual reality equipment. The crown’s labyrinth just looks spectacular. It’s essentially a village-type corn maze, where everything is shaded in the exact same colors as the crown, with the exception of plant life. This is exactly what I would expect the world of the crown to look like, with a heavy focus on a wildlife theme, while also keeping things technological. The labyrinth in general is interesting when I think deeply about it, and I’m not really sure how I feel about the idea overall. Granted, this entire simulation is VR, and it’s open to interpretation regarding how much of it is actually real, but I feel like it’s a little convoluted that everyone who ever wore the crown just lives in this little crown town where they’ve presumably existed for thousands or millions of years. Like, what do they even do up there? Do they need to eat? Do they socialize with one another? Do they go to the bathroom? How has Simon not lost his sanity completely? It’s generally a lot of weird concepts that never get fully explained because of time restraints, and it’s something that I have trouble wrapping my head around in a coherent way. Some of it feels like it doesn’t really make sense; Gunther’s been leaving within the crown for millions of years, and is still talking about Master Evergreen? How can he even remember who that is? I don’t fully get behind it, but it’s also something that doesn’t actively bother me because it’s genuinely awesome to visit all of the people who once were enslaved by the crown.

As I just mentioned, Gunther’s back in this one, and man, is it good to see the little guy! I loved Gunther in Evergreen, and while I was ultimately satisfied with his unfortunate demise, it is pretty nice to see him back in action in this one. I really would have never expected to have seen him ever again, so this was a true treat. It isn’t just a cameo either, he actually has a pretty active role in the story, and it’s really nice! How cool is it that we get to see the first person who ever wore the crown interact with the most recent bearer? His relationship with the girls is also really sweet, and it’s cool to see Marceline’s absolute awe at the sight of a dinosaur. Even after 1,000 years of living, it’s cool to see a species that is still relatively foreign to her. Not to mentioned the other inhabitants of the crown; let’s address the elephant in the room: Santa was the Ice King at one point. Fucking Santa Claus is canonically apart of the show’s lore. That is both hysterical and kind of fascinating in terms of a mythos. I mean, you have this legendary folklore character of whom was assumed to be magic, and it turns out that it was just some guy who ended up wearing a magical crown that consumed his sanity. That is simply wild. We also have Sven, who apparently only wore the crown once, but was still consumed by it. This kind of ties into my own headcanon that, the younger you are, the more susceptible you are to the crown’s power. We saw how easily Farmworld Finn was taken over by the crown in only a matter of minutes, and it seems the same thing happened to Sven. I’m guessing the emotional and physical maturity of the wearer really matters in terms of the crown’s influence, and it’s kind of cool that we got this bit of information that seems to imply as much.

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But of course, the real star of the show is Simon, of whom picked up on the crown’s wack behavior. It’s once again nice to see Marcy and Simon work off of each other as characters, and it’s even better to see him and Bonnie meet. Even without the crown taking him over, Simon still manages to get under PB’s skin from ignorance, though once again, can you blame the girl? She’s a scientific mastermind. While this episode is very fast-moving, it actually does make up for some of the sins of the formerly jam-packed episode Betty, in which Simon and Marcy really didn’t get a chance to interact at all. Here, Simon lovingly apologizes for not being able to spend time with her, and it doubles as both a sweet moment and somewhat of a nice “sorry ’bout that” from the staff. I also love how Simon is just a bona fide dork and is a bit socially awkward when it comes to talking to the teen-ified Marceline that he never really had a chance to meet before. The first thing he asks Marceline after he apologizes is if she has a boyfriend, and he truly feels like the most “real” character on the show. Aside from Finn, Martin, and Betty(ish), Simon is the only human character, and so I like that they make him mostly just a normal guy, but also kind of quirky. He truly is “best dad.” Of course, there’s also the great dramatic irony that Simon wishes he could go back and punch Ash, even though he already did so in Betty. Such a great running joke.

After their brief travels, they finally do run into the glitchified Betty, which mostly just makes me sad because, once again, you can tell Lena Dunham is merely there for the paycheck and could not sound less interested in what’s going on. This is her last role as the character, of which could have to do with her performance, or just other unrelated incidents, but I’m glad that this is the last we hear from her, because she really wasn’t adding anything to the character or the series by this point. Simon and Betty’s interactions with each other are actually really cute though; again, Simon and Betty’s love doesn’t feel schmaltzy and hollow and actually feels like a real relationship. Simon’s story is so mundane and simple, but truly adds to the idea that they were just two simple people who were madly in love with each other. Of course, it’s a bit different now, considering that this Betty is merely software, but it still feels authentic and ties into what I was saying earlier about how it’s a partially a satisfying conclusion to their relationship. While there’s still much, much more to be explored between Ice King and Magic Betty, this is essentially the strongest resolution they’re treated to up to this point (without giving too much away to y’all who are watching along with this blog) and nice that they’re able to have some form of a relationship while it’s out of the question. Of course, it’s all tied up a bit too quickly and neatly by the end of it, with Simon once again not being able to give Marcy a proper farewell. Regardless, it does end up with a nice wrap up of sweet moments between all of the characters involved.

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And “sweet” describes a lot of this episode by its end: Gunther met some new cool gals, Simon and Betty are able to share somewhat of a happy life together, Marceline was able to connect with Simon once more, and to really understand the relationship between him and Betty, while PB gained some empathy for Simon, and Ice King, in general. Of course, Betty isn’t truly real and Marceline won’t get to see the human version of her close friend for what seems like forever, but Broke His Crown manages to be satisfying and dissatisfying in all the right ways, as I mentioned prior. It provides from some really nice, welcomed developments, and other moments that just make sense for each character’s journey.

And Broke His Crown is just that: a thoroughly satisfying exploration of a group of characters in a really neat setting. It has its problems in pacing, logic, and execution, but manages to be really entertaining regardless to the point where I don’t really mind its problems. It’s another season seven entry that both adds to the lore of the world of Adventure Time and delves deeper into the identities of its inhabitants, of whom are continuing to grow and develop with each passing episode at this point in time.

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Favorite line: “GOODBYE, FREAKS!”

“Checkmate” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Checkmate is likely my least favorite episode of the Stakes miniseries. I don’t think the story behind it is completely awful; I actually like the Vampire King’s decision to de-vamp himself because he strictly wants to change up the status quo of the world and alter the destiny that has been predetermined for him. He even gives a neat little speech about it, which reeks of Moynihan headiness. But by God, so much of Checkmate feels like mere plodding. About 3/4ths of the episode revolves around the main characters deciding on whether or not they should stake the Vampire King, even though he is clearly surrendering himself and does not want to fight. It would be alright if this was presented as an actual thought-provoking dilemma: whether or not a person can change, or if they should even be allowed to change. But Checkmate would rather focus on the gang being as goofy and comically useless as possible.

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My criticisms and compliments towards each episode in this miniseries are becoming a bit redundant by this point, so I’ll sum up what I’ve already talked about in the past couple reviews relatively quickly and then get into the newer stuff:

Peppermint Butler continues to be the best aspect of these episodes, as his absolute adoration for the Vampire King is both kind of cute and also hilariously disturbing. I love his little back-and-forth with himself on whether or not he should actually be so excited to see a person of the Vampire King’s nature, and his absolute psychological freakout when he finally does encounter the VK is priceless. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I will never get tired of Steve Little’s up-pitched voice.

Finn and Jake continue to be useless in this episode, and this is probably the worst example thus far. Finn getting in the middle of Marceline and Vampire King’s fight was more random and goofy than anything. Because, ya know, that book that Finn mentions that he never even read must have come in handy for advice a good three years after it was demolished completely. Also, this is likely the boys at their most incompetent. I enjoyed Finn thinking that his grass thorn would activate by a simple battle cry (though, the thorn senses that he isn’t actually in any danger), but him really thinking that lightly kicking VK in the groin would hurt him and shouting “stake you!” makes him seem like he’s not even really trying. You had the past two episodes, where the threats felt legitimate and taxing on the main characters involved, and here it feels like there aren’t any stakes at all. No pun intended. In addition to that, we had the painfully unfunny “fart code” sequence which once again feels like a half-assed attempt at understanding the silliness between Finn and Jake’s relationship between each other, but fails pretty badly. Moynihan went from writing Finn at his most mature to being the writer that portrays him at his absolute most childish. And hey, since you kids at home loved the “bacon pancakes” song so much a few years back, Finn sings his own version “makin’ stake-a’s” in this episode!! Seriously, I hate any instances that feel as though the show is directly pandering to the AT audience of whom only know or care about “bacon pancakes”, the buff baby song, or Bubbline.

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Going back to my earlier complaints, I think the VK’s issue could have been way more well-represented if he wasn’t interrupted by people trying to stake him every five seconds. Nearly every attempt at humor in this episode is just the various wacky ways the characters are trying to stake the VK while he remains completely unwilling to fight. It gets old really fast and puts me in a mood where I just want everyone to shut the fuck up and to hear the guy out. He has legitimately insightful stuff to throw down, but he’s only able to get a word in after everyone around him stops trying to attack or stake him. I mean, PB’s technology was able to resist Empress from moving in the previous episode, couldn’t she have just restrained the VK and then interrogated him that way? I don’t think the characters are necessarily wrong for not trusting him, but it gets frustrating when it’s pretty obvious to the audience that he’s being truthful, while the typically rational characters that we love come off as bigger annoyances than the guy who is supposed to be the villain. And even then, VK suffers from his own quirky moments that seem completely out of place. I was really getting into his speech, and then he loses entirely me when he’s portrayed to be a complete baby who pouts in his underwear, and is left to be nothing but a comedic foil for the rest of the episode. It’s a shame, because I feel like the Vampire King ends up being my least favorite of the vampires, simply because he ends up being the most complex, yet the most shallow vamp at the same time. This episode elaborates on his desire to change the world around him and the pathway that is presented to him… but that’s kind of it. He’s supposed to be presented as this big important figure, but they kind of neglected to give me a reason to actually be interested or invested in him as a person. All of the other vamps are equipped with strong personalities and charisma, while Vampire King exhibits practically none of that in his one star episode.

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Annnd, after everything that happens with the Vampire King, we’re left with a mere transition into the next episode, as the “vamp juice” explodes into epic proportions and forms into a cloud monster seeking destruction. VK turning into a lion was… interesting, I suppose? It’s an idea that I still kind of struggle to wrap my head around completely… like, how did the vampire essence within him cause himself to mutate and become humanized so intensely? It doesn’t really make sense to me, but I usually just end up brushing it off.

But yeah, Checkmate is a pretty low point for me in this miniseries. It really emphasizes a lot of overarching issues, and introduces some new ones as well. A concept and character that should have been really interesting and significant ends up feeling like an unfunny slump. It isn’t entirely without its moments; I liked Jake’s brief exchange with Pepbut at the beginning and Marcy’s first meal in forever was a nice little bit. And, as I said, parts of Vampire King’s speech were really neat. But other than that, Checkmate is mostly just frustrating.

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Favorite line: “I am a king, not a hamster. My path runs straight into the void, on a sick, flaming chariot!”

“Take Her Back” Review

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Original Airdate: November 18, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

The Moon is likely my second favorite of the vamps, behind Hierophant. She doesn’t benefit from a particularly strong personality, but her design, intimidating nature, and her unique abilities are really what help her to create a strong presence. And, like the other vampires, a lot of the success of Take Her Back comes from the atmosphere and tension built around her presence. It’s also the first episode of the miniseries that incorporates PB’s slow transition into regaining her kingdom back once more, which a lot of people weren’t a fan of, but I thought was quite nice. It’s cool how PB’s desire to stick by Marcy’s side and to put someone else before herself and her kingdom directly ties back into her development when it comes to being a more caring and courteous ruler overall. The only part I didn’t like about this transition was that we get to see less of the King of Ooo, though we at least get to enjoy some more of him in this episode before his time is up.

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The dream sequence in the beginning is pretty poignant and features a nice melody to carry it through. I think the dream itself pretty apparently focuses on what Marceline’s life would be like if there had been no Mushroom War and if the crown had never come into Simon and Betty’s lives. It is sad to think that this is likely Marceline’s idea of true bliss, even though she herself has never even experienced this type of reality. It’s a nice moment that highlights Marceline’s subconscious desires and what represents her concept of perfection. Of course, it’s all ruined by the burp bros: Finn & Jake. Take Her Back marks a sad transformation for Finn and Jake from two side characters who didn’t do much (aside from Jake’s role in the past episode) to actual annoyances within the Stakes miniseries. I’m not gonna pretentiously act as if fart and burp humor is the absolute worse thing to grace this Earth, because this is far from the first time Adventure Time would dabble in these types of gags. But the next three episode REALLY seem to emphasize that Finn and Jake are two goofy guys who love to fart and burp and to be as gross as possible. The way its incorporated in the story doesn’t even make sense. Finn and Jake burp on Marceline to help cure her because that’s what Joshua and Margaret would do when they were babies? But then Bubblegum tells them that their parents were just being assholes, so there you have it. Joshua and Margaret were shitty parents who enjoyed burping on their kids for their own benefit. Don’tcha just love these bits of lore into Finn and Jake’s backstory? The burps that emit from their body are especially gross as well. It’s pretty obvious to me that these are stock burp sound effects, but some of the audio clips that are used are especially off-putting and kind of disgusting.

So, that goes on for a bit, until PB mentions hubris to the clueless boys (even though Finn literally uses the word himself in The Other Tarts) as she begins to get emotional over the fact that her de-vamping machine ended up causing all sorts of nearly unfixable issues. The emotional moments in general don’t really hit home for me at all, but I was really amused by LSP berating the fuck out of Bubblegum. Something about LSP’s comedic timing in the past two episodes has been really on point, and once again, I enjoy how she actually wants to continue helping even after everyone separates. It’s nice to see her strive to be proactive for once, even if her help isn’t necessary to the grand scheme of things. I also liked Peppermint Butler’s mention of how he poisons himself on purpose for research, as he continues to be the best part of this miniseries, and only reinforces my belief by the end of this episode.

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It is funny to rewatch this episode and listen closely to PB’s words, which clearly can be interpreted as “stake her back,” and provides for a really amusing thematic gag throughout the episode. I enjoyed F&J a bit more as they embarked on their journey to stake The Moon, and it was really neat getting a closer look at her various powers. It did lead for some intrigue regarding how she would actually be defeated in the end, which seems like a relatively impossible feat. But, in Finn’s head, staking her different ways for several hours might just do the trick.

On the other side of things, the King of Ooo hanging Crunchy up on his mantle was hilarious. I love Crunchy’s blank, sad glance as he’s being restrained against his will. Not only does KOO get funnier, but also even more sadistic with each appearance. It’s also a pretty nice “fuck yeah” moment for PB as she kicks her adversary to the ground while shouting “monarchies are not democracies!” and it seems apparent that the Banana Guards have literally no idea what voting KOO into office actually meant. It was amusing how they asked her permission on whether they should arrest her or not, as it’s clear that they still obey her over anyone.

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The visual appeal of this miniseries returns once again with a gorgeous conversion from sunset into nighttime, as F&J deal with the worst possible scenario when finally realizing what PB actually meant. The chase scene is a lot of fun, and nice to see that even though Jake previously faced his fear of vamps in the past episode, he isn’t completely past his phobia of bloodsuckers. Again, The Moon proves to be frightening in just how ambiguous her motivation and nature is. The reveal of her demonic voice and detailed facial features only added to her uncanny state of being. The implication that she gathers power from the actual moon was a helpful sentiment in showing how she goes from a calm, non-active vamp to an absolute terror. Jake’s reactions were pretty hilarious as well, which can be attributed to John DiMaggio’s terrific inflections.

I thought Peppermint Butler’s method of healing Marceline was just a bit underwhelming, considering that Pepbut in general always has something really bizarre up his sleeve in terms of black magic, and we never get to see if this healing ritual even has any effect. So it kind of feels like padding more than anything, especially with moments like the Banana Guards’ back and forth about a yoga video (game). I did think that the moment between the Banana Guards and PB was sweet, coming back to the idea that they probably never realized that they would lose their mom all together to begin with.

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The Moon’s power of paralyzing her victims came off a bit odd to me, just because of the fact that Marceline herself has never possessed such a power, but I suppose it could be interpreted as a unique ability that The Moon is able to possess through lunar power. We’re then treated to another dream sequence which revolves around an older Marceline spending time with Bubblegum in the far future, as PB herself remains the same age, though Marcy is left as an old, nearly-deaf woman. This one represents her fears of eventually dying off before her friends, which she has yet to experience in her entire lifespan. Despite her desire to change, the thought of being outlived by her best friend likely never dawned on Marceline, until it was explored within her subconscious. Thus we have the first dream, which revolves around Marceline’s concept of what could have been, and then the second dream, which focuses on what could be in the future. Both dreams touch heavily on Marceline’s feelings of loss and desperation and are nice additions to her virtually empty role in the episode.

Probably the most energetic moment for myself in this episode is when Peppermint Butler gets his grand moment of victory by literally “staking her (The Moon’s) back.” Again, it’s so nice for Pepbut to possess such a major role in the story and be something more than just a subservient side character. Which is more than I could say for our boys, who ended up once again being on the back-burner. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

But in the end, Take Her Back is pretty good one. Like some of the other Stakes entries, the best aspect of this episode is its atmosphere surrounding the vamp of the week. The Moon is a really badass villain with a creepy voice, nice design, and equally threatening abilities. There’s more than a few flaws in this one that once again tie back into some of the overarching issues I have with Stakes in general, but the episode provides enough delightful energy in its frantically paced story and tense dilemma that I still leave Take Her Back feeling mostly positive regardless.

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Favorite line: “Don’t believe in yourself so much then, dum-dum!”

 

“Marceline the Vampire Queen” Review

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Original Airdate: November 16, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Stakes time, baby! Just as a heads up for y’all, I will not be analyzing the entire miniseries as a whole until I cover each individual episode of Stakes. Though they all follow a linear story, each episode of Stakes has its own identity and purpose, and I think it’s important that they’re discussed separately. Hell, that’s one of the main reason I started up this blog; I grew very sick and tired of seeing reviews that only discussed the actual quality of the miniseries as a whole without looking at what each episode (which were all worked on by different writers and storyboard artists) had to offer. So, let’s get started with Marceline the Vampire Queen!

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This one’s mostly set-up, as one would and should expect from a series of connected episodes as such. As far as set-up goes, I think it accomplishes much of what the miniseries would later expand upon, including the nature of vampirism, how it affects Marceline, and what conflicts face our main heroes as they embark on their journey. Granted, I think this one holds up a bit less on its own than when I first watched it. Considering that the terrific Everything Stays follows it, most of my positive feelings that reflected that half-hour seem to be in regards to the latter half. That’s not to say that Marceline the Vampire Queen is without its moments. There are some especially funny moments, along with a decent portion of nicely drawn and well-animated sequences. My issue with this one is that it seems a bit tonally dissonant in some areas; one of my main critiques of the miniseries as a whole is that it can try to be a bit too jokey and quirky in some areas where it isn’t really warranted. I feel as though many of these episodes are constantly trying to throw out jokes every five seconds, and it usually results in a mixed bag of really funny moments, and a handful of unfunny bits. Marceline the Vampire Queen is very much similar, in that it wants to be taken seriously, but also wants to entertain its audience, which is a trademark of Adventure Time in general. But it partially feels a bit forced in some areas, and I’ll try to explain what I mean as much as possible.

First, I do like how the beginning of this episode plays out. Marceline struggling to reach her umbrella as she seeks refuge under a shady tree is a great way of framing Marcy’s pain and struggling in her current state. I initially thought the premise of the miniseries in general was kind of weird, considering that we never really saw Marceline struggle with any in depth, personal issues regarding her curse, but I think Marceline the Vampire Queen does a pretty decent job of explaining it. I quite enjoy Marcy’s interactions with Bubblegum, and how she describes her vampirism as a constant reminder of her messed up past and how she’s unable to completely move on from it. Though her inability to expose herself to the sun is primarily what kickstarts these feelings, it’s nice that Marcy describes an underlying and deeper source to her issues that has been plaguing her for some time. After 1,000+ years of being a vampire, the stagnation weighing down Marcy’s life seems like it would surely take a toll on her mental health, considering that no matter what she has done before, she can never move on from the disability that constantly surrounds her. While it’s hard to relate to actual vampirism, it can easily be substituted for any other mental illness in the book, and how many people feel that same bit of stagnation through the threatening mindgames they face each day.

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The interactions between PB and Marcy when it comes to the operation sequence are mildly funny in how they subvert pandering to any diehard Bubbline fans, but again, I thought PB’s apathetic nature did kind of squander the importance of the procedure. Granted, I love PB’s moments of not understanding how to interact emotionally with other characters, but this is the one time I would actually like for the two gals to have an honest and direct conversation with each other. It’s funny, because Ako Castuera returned to the writing staff for this episode, and I think her method of writing for Marceline and PB suffers from the same issues that Castuera’s previous Marcy-PB centric episode, Sky Witch, had. While Castuera seems to have no problem writing for Princess Bubblegum individually, I think the way she depicts the relationship between the two girls is especially hollow to the point where it seems like PB doesn’t given a fuck about anything going on around her. I don’t think the gals need to be lovey-dovey and kiss up to each other all the time, but I feel as though such a moment deserves for something a bit more earnest and compassionate.

While I mostly like Finn and Jake’s roles in the episode, I feel like Jake suffers from being way too over-the-top in the beginning. I don’t even hate his role as bad cop, but I think it’s somewhat squandered by the fact that Jake quickly gives up this role and ends up being just as caring and supporting as Finn in the blink of an eye. Obviously he wanted to help his friend in her time of need, but I felt the shift from “let’s go arrest Marceline right this minute because she’s obviously guilty” to “let’s help out our friend Marceline because she’s having personal problems” was way too abrupt. That being said, I did like the interactions between Marceline and Finn, and how Marcy herself isn’t even sure of what may have happened to herself or others.

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There’s a big presence with side characters in this one, mainly the fat villagers and their leader Cloud Dance. Cloud Dance has a few funny lines revolving around his cows and how they were affected by the vampire bites, though I think the character in general is slightly unremarkable in his voice, personality, and design. He’s portrayed by Kyle Kinane, who I actually had never heard of prior to this episode, though is apparently a voice actor and a comedian. While I’ve never seen Kinane’s work elsewhere, Cloud Dance isn’t really provided humorous dialogue as it is, aside from the moment I mentioned earlier. His character is pretty insignificant, and one I usually tend to forget.

The following nighttime scenes are probably my favorite bits of the episode. Though I’m not really a fan of Marceline’s “arthritis dance” (any attempt to make Marceline a quirky or silly character never really comes off as convincing) the moments Finn and Jake share are both funny and somewhat tense. I love Jake’s ignorant fear of vampires coming into fruition once more, as John DiMaggio puts absolutely all of his energy into Jake’s character. The shots within the cave are eerie and off-putting in the best way possible, with tons of different grotesque and nicely detailed animals scattered throughout. It is strange to see a whole assortment of random, non-speaking animals (has there ever been a normal dog in the series before this point?) but I’m willing to forgive it because every creature depicted looks fantastic.

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The episode comes to a pretty enticing conclusion; clearly we know Marceline isn’t going to explode, but the way it’s framed, as Finn tries to literally beat the sunrise, is really cool and builds a good amount of hype for the next episode.

Marceline the Vampire Queen does everything it should to set-up for the next handful of episodes, but I think my main problem is just with the tonal shifts and dialogue. Adventure Time has always been good at balancing out drama and comedy, but I almost feel as though this one is trying to forcibly be humorous every chance it gets, even when it means getting in the way of having genuine character moments. This is actually a problem I would end up having with the miniseries and several other episodes within it as a whole, but as is, it is a decently fun start to a mostly fun miniseries.

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Favorite line: “That’s cool, you guys, but clean this mess also, you bums!”

“Billy’s Bucket List” Review

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Original Airdate: March 17, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

We’ve seen Finn at his absolute lowest during this particular half-season, and the little guy has certainly been through a lot. He not only lost his girlfriend of whom he deeply cared for, but also battled quite heavily with his own identity, to the point where he begins to lose himself in his own insecurities a bit, as shown in episodes like Rattleballs and The Red Throne. It’s clear that Finn has regained a bit of his happiness and self-confidence in Billy’s Bucket List, however. He’s rapping away with his admirable rival Rap Bear, and has the support of his friends and his acquaintances behind him. The ending of this episode, however, opens up an entirely new wound that would send Finn into an new state of depression and existentialism when he’s faced with the one person he likely never expected to meet: his human father.

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I enjoy the silliness of this episode’s introduction; I’m never really a huge fan of when AT incorporates rap into their melodies, because it often comes off slightly awkward and never actually catchy (Regular Show was able to do rap episodes much better), but this instance is goofy enough to be enjoyable. And again, it’s nice to see Finn back being proactive and entertaining. Steve Wolfhard once mentioned that the previous episode, Lemonhope, saw Finn at his absolute dumbest (spurting loud noises and referring to cupcakes as “cup cups”) and while I don’t think it was to that episode’s detriment, it is nice to see the more competent and standard version of Finn that we haven’t seen much of throughout the past handful of episodes.

Finn’s happiness is slowly brought to a halt when Party Pat somewhat uncomfortably brings up Billy, who last was revealed to be dead in the episode Finn the Human. It was nice to bring Billy and the Lich back into the mix of things after an entire season of barely even mentioning the two. It’s also nice to get a bit of a flashback sequence that shows Billy and Finn hanging out with each other, partaking in adventurous activities. Though it was implied that they had hung out following the episode His Hero, it is at least nice to see some visual evidence that they did set aside time for cool quest shit before Billy’s inevitable death in The Lich. Makes the weight of his death feel much more impactful from Finn’s perspective.

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It’s a surprising and somewhat surreal experience to hear these characters talk about Billy’s death so earnestly. Adventure Time characters who die very rarely stay dead; up to this point in the series, the only characters who died and actually stay dead are Billy and the King of Mars, and to my knowledge, only one other character’s death is solidified following this episode. Everyone else who perishes in the AT universe is either revived or reincarnated, so it is somewhat refreshing to have these characters so solemnly discuss the death of a loved one. It all feels very honest and in good taste, which really helps this episode soar beyond its main premise. Even Jake himself is dealing with a bad case of being in denial about the whole thing.

One character that helps really add mood and substance to the episode is Billy’s ex-girlfriend, Canyon. Canyon is a side character I quite enjoy, again, mostly relating to her earnesty in her past relationship with Billy. She doesn’t have a huge presence on her own, but I think her relationship with Billy and wistfully zen behavior are enough. I enjoy how her connection to Billy is kept really mature and realistic; there was no ultimate drama or intensity that led to their break-up, Canyon simply felt stagnant in her path and decided to let Billy go because of it, though you can tell there was still a heavy feeling of love that stuck with them even following their break-up.

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In addition to that connection, I really love the way Canyon and Finn work off of each other. It’s a simple mutual connection that really goes a long way in regard to how much respect the two show for each other. It really just feels like two mature people naturally relating to each other, and honestly, I think the episode is really underrated on that aspect. The atmosphere with which the premise is carried out is truly terrific, and even though only half of the episode is dedicated to mourning Billy’s loss, it’s still treated better than I could’ve expected. Canyon’s identity is also formed through some strong voicework by Ako Castuera, and it’s even more fitting that this was initially her last episode as a storyboard artist for Adventure Time. Ako and Jesse certainly put their all into this one, and while I enjoy the direction Jesse’s writing style takes in the following season, the two certainly made for one of the best boarding teams in the duration of the series. Ako’s presence will be missed.

And as mentioned before, Finn’s portrayal in this episode is much needed and refreshing. I enjoy the degree to which he understands Billy’s flaws and issues as Canyon lists them off, to which Finn responds “even heroes have slumps, bro.” After an entire season of making countless mistakes, Finn realizes that heroes, like anyone else, are still “human”. Despite the fact that Finn and Billy are regarded as two of the most legendary heroes within Ooo, they are still flawed and imperfect beings, and Finn is beginning to understand that he can be hero, but still fuck up from time to time.

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Following Finn’s desire to finish Billy’s bucket list, he discovers that the final unmarked option (aside from telling Finn “that thing”) is to lay on his back in the ocean. It’s also a sign of Finn’s growth, that instead of automatically deciding that he can’t face his fear, he at least wants to attempt to do so. Finn has experienced fears and traumas during his entrance in adolescence whether he likes them or not, and he’s now more willing to put himself into uncomfortable situations because, hey, he made it out alright the first time, right? Though he isn’t without adversity, as the Fear Feaster returns once more to extract torture onto his host body. It’s nice to hear Mark Hamill’s voice again after being gone so long from the show, and his inflections continue to hit on both menacing and humorous notions.

While he’s unconscious in the ocean (or is he?) we’re treated to a delightfully trippy sequence in which Finn’s hat is taken from his head and sizes up to giant levels, while shades of bright purples, yellows, and pinks make up the sea floor. I’ve seen a lot of interpretations of this scene, mainly that the loss of Finn’s hat symbolizes the loss of his youth, though I’m much more inclined to believe that it’s just an entertaining visual experience. I’m not opposed to the idea that it has some sort of deeper meaning, but I’m perfectly fine with it being surface level enjoyment as well. The colors, the backgrounds, and the music are all wonderfully executed, making it for equally entertaining experimental experience (pulled that alliteration out of my ass) after coming off the heels of Lemonhope.

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When awakening and resurfacing, Finn is still afraid while being confronted with the Fear Feaster. Though, his instinctual terrors and anxieties in relation to his eternal grass sword curse take over, and Finn’s grass sword effectively disperses of his fears and adversaries, which is attempt to make the grass sword’s owner content and safe in his own experience. This is a nice set up to the long running saga of the grass sword having a brain of its own, and it’s nice to see Finn’s confusion and lack of understanding when it comes to the grass sword’s power over his own body, and his own actions.

Though, the grass sword ultimately worked in Finn’s best interests, as he finally is able to experience the ocean without a care in the world. It’s here that Billy presents himself to Finn within the stars, and suggests that Finn go to the Citadel, where he will meet his human father. It’s a huge moment in Finn’s developmental path, and one can only wonder what is going through Finn’s head as he repeatedly hears Billy’s voice over and over again. Finn likely didn’t question the existence of his human parents much before, as I’m sure it was something he locked away within his vault because he simply didn’t want to deal with the emotional weight of the issue. Now he’s confronted with the existence of his biological father whether he likes it or not. Does Finn even want to meet his father? Why did Finn’s father abandon him as a baby? Why is he in the Citadel to begin with? These are all questions that are likely running through Finn’s head nonstop, and questions that we as viewers are inclined the wonder ourselves.

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Though the biggest question remains: knowing what we know now in the series, why would Billy want Finn to meet his father in the first place? Some have speculated that it was actually the Lich projecting himself as Billy, though I don’t really buy into this one at all. I simply think that Billy knew it was an important part of Finn’s journey that he did meet his father at some point. It would lead to much suffering for Finn, though it would overall lead to the growth of Finn’s character and his developmental as a smart, young man. Regardless of whether Billy telling Finn was a good choice or not, Finn will have a ton to chew on in the future, as he experiences one of the toughest hardships in his life.

This episode is definitely one that gets overlooked a lot, and I think it deserves more attention. The atmosphere is terrific, the characters featured are just swell, and it’s nice to have a crucial solo journey for Finn that really shows us as an audience that he hasn’t transformed into a complete idiot manchild. And all with a big, dramatic cliffhanger to boot the longest season to date.

And that’s it for season five! Again, thank you to everyone who has kept up with the blog to this point, I honestly can’t believe I’ve made it this far in such short time. The season five review will be out later this week, followed by the secret bonus review, and some updates about how season six will be covered are soon to come. Big stuff is on the way folks, and I look forward to everything that’s ahead!

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Favorite line: “Well, that’s gonna bother me forever.”

“Betty” Review

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This title card was designed by Derek Ballard, who has created some of the trippiest and most artistically interestingly title cards throughout the fifth and sixth season.

Original Airdate: February 24, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Betty was originally intended to be a full 22 minute episode, but switched to the standard 11 minutes in favor of the Lemonhope two-parter. As a result, Betty has an absolute ton going on within its brief runtime that would almost seem impossible to pull off in a satisfying way. Yet, this is Adventure Time we’re talking about, and while this episode certainly isn’t without its problems, it somehow manages to execute this story in an enticing and somewhat powerful way.

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The decision to include and also effectively resolve the story arc involving the secretive Wizard Society in this one is certainly an interesting choice, and one that I think works relatively well. I always expected this to be some big plot point that result in some sort of Wizard war with Ooo, so I was quite surprised how little the Bella Noche plan came into effect following this episode. Yet, I’m perfectly fine with it, because it did lead to some big effective changes within the story that I can appreciate. And hey, that beginning scene is a lot of fun. It’s always nice to see this group of wizards, and I think they work off of their general disdain for Ice King pretty well.  One of my favorite funny/”oh shit” lines in this episode is when Laser Wizard declares “your life is my problem.” I’d love to see more of Laser Wizard; despite the fact that Tom Kenny voices about a zillion characters on this show as it is, he still gives Laser Wizard a convincingly devious tone in voice that is menacingly cool. And of course, there’s the other classics as well; it’s nice to have Maurice LaMarche back in his final role as the Grand Master Prix (still have no idea if he actually did voice GMP in Wizards Only, Fools, but his inflections in this one have reverted back to how he sounded in Wizard Battle). Forest Wizard also has his fair share of funny moments, namely in his passions that cause him restless leg syndrome. Bella Noche isn’t an especially memorable foe, but the episode never really makes him/her a main focus. It’s more about the effect he/she has on the Ice King when it comes to Bella Noche’s pure essence of anti-magic. Interestingly, Bella Noche means “beautiful night” in Spanish, and is based off of a barista who Jesse Moynihan used to frequently see at his local coffee shop.

What this episode does best, however, is really giving Simon a defined chance to shine. We only got to see a mere glimpse into his history in Holly Jolly Secrets, and Simon & Marcy fluctuated between his normal state and some odd quirkiness that I’m not really sure if it was supposed to be him or his transformed self. Here, Simon isn’t portrayed as this super interesting or unique dude, but he’s… normal, as he states himself. And from the lack of humans we actually get to see from the series, it is nice to see him as an utter straight-man, with some likable qualities, as well as flaws. On the likable side, you can really tell how kind, genuine, and intelligent he is and was. When looking towards his flaws, you can kind of tell there is a bit of a pretentious side to Simon. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a critical way, as it is interesting to look at his from a different perspective than just “that amazing guy that Marceline loved.” It seems like he has a bit of an ego, whether it be his lame poetry to Betty, “what am I? What am us?” or the fact that he kind of dickishly sent off Betty while talking to her through the time portal. His line “I forgive you for leaving me,” shows that he even blames Betty to a degree for him losing his sanity to the crown. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily his fault either, but it seems like he’s more sorry for himself than the fact that Betty lost her fiance to the crown. Again, I don’t think any of these aspects make Simon seem like an actual dick, but help to make him appear more human. He’s still a super compassionate guy, as shown in his interactions with Marceline, which received possibly the most criticism within this episode.

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Marceline’s interactions with Simon are… brief, to say the least, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it dampens the moment. While it definitely sucks that Marceline and Simon aren’t allowed more time to interact and catch up with each other, I will say: as a viewer, this is exactly what I wanted to see. Simon and Marceline lovingly reunite, they briefly have some humorous back-and-forths, before realizing that Simon is dying and he won’t be able to go on without the power of the crown, which means that the focus has to change for the episode to progress. I guess I’m kind of wondering what exactly people wanted from this; I think the main complaint that I can kind of see is that Marceline just seems passive to everything that’s going on, leading up to the point where she gives up Hambo to Simon with little hesitation. Again, I disagree with the criticism in the sense that the episode isn’t trying to make Marceline seem selfish and overly emotional. Obviously she’s going to want to do anything she can possibly do to help Simon, he’s the main reason she even survived during the aftermath of the Great Mushroom War, and it seems silly that one would expect her to be anything more than exceptionally giving to her old friend. Most would think it contradicts her behavior shown back in Sky Witch, where she literally stops at nothing to get back her beloved teddy bear. But it really isn’t Hambo that she longs for, it’s the emotional connection she has to Hambo that was brought to her through Simon. Love calls for sacrifice, and it’s hard to imagine that Marceline’s love for an inanimate is more for her all-time closest friend. There’s even a brief moment of quietness as Marceline looks at Hambo, kisses it, and sadly obliges. It’s clear she doesn’t want to give Hambo up, but what the fuck is she going to do otherwise? Marceline’s exterior is hard, but she also isn’t entirely selfish.

And this is where we’re finally introduced to an on-screen appearance of the aforementioned fiance. Betty also works in the same way the Simon operates; she’s slightly more quirky, but much more in-tune with the human side of herself. She’d later join in on the insanity as her character becomes more and more tormented from this point on, but we’ll get to that later. In a sense, however, I actually enjoy how one-note they make her character in this episode and from this point on. If you think about it, how much do we actually know about Betty besides her undying drive to cure and help Simon? Yet, it’s that same drive that makes her continuously more interesting and tragic. I never felt like I needed to know who Betty was as a person, it seems very clear. She’s much like Simon: intelligent, slightly quirky, and loving. Yet, it’s these qualities that make it all the more somber when she does get consumed by her loss and is unable to function or focus on anything that isn’t curing the love of her life. It’s all quite well done. Betty is voiced by Lena Dunham, and while I most commonly associate Betty with the Dunham voice more than anything, it’s kind of disappointing because I feel as though Dunham is kind of phoning in the lines in all of her appearances. It’s not necessarily an awful performance, but I always feel like Dunham is never completely engulfed or even understands what is going on in the story. And as much as I absolutely and dearly love the staff of this show, it was an absolutely awful decision to cast a celebrity as busy as Dunham to voice a new potential recurring character. This would later backfire, as Dunham was replaced with a different voice actor (whether based on availability or Dunham’s… questionable behavior… I still don’t know) and I’m glad they were able to get someone who seemed more committed to the show and the character as a whole.

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But that little detour aside, I do like the interesting ways that Betty is incorporated into the story. Mainly the fact that her entrance through the time portal is what caused her to completely disappear from her old life with Simon. It’s a paradoxical event that makes me wonder… if Betty had stayed, would she be able to fix the crown and save her fiance? I guess it’s impossible to say now, but I’m sure that, no matter what the scenario was, it possibly could have been better for Betty and Simon individually if she had just stayed within her timeline. Even if she couldn’t save him in the past, the future has only led to pain and suffering for the both of them… for now, at least. Once Betty enters the current timeline, the episode seems to be running on speed from this point on, and again, drew a lot of criticism for the portrayal of Betty and some arguable pacing issues: why is Betty so laidback about the post-apocalyptic world she entered into? How is she so easily able to operate a magic carpet when she came from a world where magic was virtually rare? How is she so easily able to take down Bella Noche without even struggling to do so? Well, for the first two, I’ll at least say that the episode is so fast-paced, hectic, and dire, that it really doesn’t give me any time to question if anything that is going on makes sense. And that’s the best way to describe this episode as a whole: tense and dire. It doesn’t always work off of logic or reasoning behind its choices or the way the plot progresses, but I’ll be damned if isn’t a compelling, stressful adventure. It very much works like the future episode Reboot in a sense; it isn’t exactly the most terrific episode when it comes to writing or story, but it certainly makes up for it by how well it captures you in the moment.

And Simon’s deteriorating state feels legitimately crucial. Regardless of the fact that we know that Ice King isn’t simply going to die, it is still difficult to see Simon in what is possibly his lowest state of being, and in a legitimately suicidal state of mind. Simon would much rather perish than to have to live one more day being the Ice King again, which also contributes to his vague memories during his periods of insanity. Simon doesn’t know much about what it is to be the Ice King, but he knows that it’s a person that does not embody who he is or who he wants to be. Death even appears in this one to emphasize how close to dying the Ice King really is. And, during the instance where Ice King gains his powers back, he solemnly states “you lose.” Living is not the prize for Simon, dying is. Whether he believes there is a cure for himself or not, he regrets every waking second that he has to go on as the Ice King. And as long as the crown has power over him, it’s tough to say how he’ll be able to regain his past identity.

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As for Betty’s takedown of Bella Noche, I actually do enjoy how it took a non-magic user to simply and effectively take the being of anti-magic down. It seems pretty obvious that all of these skilled wizards wouldn’t be able to beat Bella Noche because, duh, magic, so it is fitting that Betty would effectively have no trouble kicking the shit out of this being without any hesitation. And it’s a triumphant victory as she restores magic to all Wizards in Wizard City… that is, except for the one person she was not able to save: Simon. One of the most poignant pieces of the episode is the ending, as Betty sadly watches her loved one get beaten to death by a princess that he kidnapped, as he can hardly even remember who she is. Betty sadly flies off in hopes for a cure for her fiance, but things have arguably never felt more grim and hopeless for her and the future.

The music in this one is particularly great. Tim Kiefer composes a lot of tunes similar to the ones heard in Holly Jolly Secrets during Ice King’s secret tapes, and it gives the episode a bit of an off-putting, yet whimsical feel.

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So yeah, I think this one is pretty solid. I’m not going to say that people are necessarily wrong when they address how much is going on with this one, it’s A LOT. But a lot isn’t always a bad thing, and I think this episode still effectively blends everything it wants to do in an enticing, jam-packed 11 minutes. I much prefer an episode like this, that is really intoxicating and potentially crazy, than an episode like Simon & Marcy which was much slower and didn’t really give me any new information that was worth swallowing. Betty leaves me with a ton of impressions, some good and some bad, but overall always makes me excited for that really energetic, nonstop journey. It’s one that I totally understand why people don’t like it, though personally, I think everything was executed the absolute best way it possibly could have been in the course of 11 minutes. Would it have been even better as a 22 minute episode? Maybe, it’s impossible to say. But Jesse and Ako still put all that they could’ve put into 11 minutes, and I commend them for making this totally insane story actually pay off quite successfully.

Favorite line: “I don’t want to be the Ice King again. It’s like living with eternal diaper butt.”

“The Pit” Review

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Original Airdate: November 18, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

The Pit certainly provides more entertainment value than Play Date did. It isn’t really as epic or dark as the ending of Play Date seemed to imply it would be, but it’s a thoroughly fun adventure that highlights some terrific character interactions and gags.

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First off, I LOVE the broken dimension that Kee-Oth brings Jake to. It makes the entire episode feel like a trippy, visual treat. The interactions between Kee-Oth and Jake in general are a lot of fun. Per usual, I love Jake’s absolute laid back attitude when it comes to stressful situations. Instead of freaking out, he just kicks back, knowing that Finn will probably end up saving him anyway. And can you blame him? He did end up coming by the end.

Kee-Oth is pretty fun antagonist. He didn’t really have much going for him in his first two appearances, but I think he’s given some stellar lines to work with (“You’re causing tension in my neck and shoulders. I’m gonna go stretch it out. You stay here and suffer.”) and his voice actor, Noah Nelson, provides for some funny deliveries.

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There’s plenty of other enjoyable moments within Kee-Oth dimension. The “little buddy” that arises after 12 years of sleep and then immediately dies is a terrific addition to AT’s line of exceptionally dark jokes. I also enjoy the character of Samantha. She doesn’t have many defining character traits, as her story is mostly surrounded by a group of enigmas, but her voice work by Marina Sirtis gives Samantha more of a standout performance. Also, Jake nearly reveals himself as J.T. Doggzone. And that is the last time J.T. is ever mentioned in the series.

On the other side of things, Finn and Lady work together to rescue Jake from Kee-Oth’s dimension. It’s pretty clear that Finn and Lady haven’t hung out much since My Two Favorite People, as Finn comically doesn’t even know what Lady’s relationship with Jake is. I also like how this becomes a running gag for Finn, and even somewhat reflects the audience’s perspective. By the time it’s brought up again in Bonnie & Neddy, I actually said to myself, “oh shit, Lady and Jake still aren’t married!” Their time together is met with comedic results, mainly centering around the contents of the videos they watch. I enjoy the steps Finn takes after Jake is captured as well; he calls the second most important person in Jake’s life and then meditates till she arrives. It’s a calm and effective moment, showing one way that Finn has taught himself to deal with stressors and anxiety in his life.

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I always enjoy getting new scenes focusing on Joshua, just because we continue to get a better understanding of how much of an asshole he actually was when it comes to demon hunting. It seems like Kee-Oth didn’t actually do anything wrong, and Joshua chained him up specifically to fuck with him. His “protection” of drinking holy water is equally hilarious; Joshua really fits the stereotype of “1950’s father” quite perfectly.

The interludes between each video are also a lot of fun. I think it’s pretty obvious by this point that Lady and Jake are hella freaky when it comes to sexual deeds, and it’s even weirder that Jake taped over his father’s videos specifically to film a sex tape for Lady. My guess is that he just grabbed the first tape he could find without actually questioning what was on it. And the filming of Heat Signature 2 was a thing of brilliance. It’s always nice to see Shelby, and even better that he’s apparently an actual ordained minister. Check please!

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I enjoy the clever way the climax is tied together, as the blessed Demon Grape Sword is too much for Kee-Oth to handle. Upon returning, I enjoy the casual banter between Lady and Jake over whether Jake actually fell in love with Samantha or not. Jake and Lady are far too comfortable with each other to ever get involved in any real drama, so it’s reassuring that an actual “fight” between them is kept light and enjoyable. They’re much too adorable for any of that nonsense. Also a bit of a melancholic inclusion, Finn is still in love with Flame Princess. It’s good to see that there’s no clear episode or plot thread that is going to wrap this up completely; Finn may have used the dungeon train to help cope with his issues, but that didn’t alleviate the problem entirely. Finn is still in love with Flame Princess, and it will take much, much time before he’s able to work out this burning sensation.

Overall, this one is fun. There’s not really a ton I can say about it, as it’s mostly surface level enjoyment, but there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that. It’s full of fun and enjoyable gags, some nice character interactions, and the inclusion of enjoyable minor characters, such as Joshua and Shelby. Definitely isn’t a strong point of season five, but one I enjoy rewatching regardless.

As an added bonus, here are some title card concepts of The Pit illustrated by Michael DeForge.

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Favorite line: “Yeah, your hubby – your boyfriend or whatever.”

“Red Starved” Review

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Original Airdate: October 14, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Red Starved primarily attempts to capture the magic of AT’s earliest seasons by bringing back a dynamic we haven’t seen in quite some time: the potential conflict between Jake and Marceline. It’s primarily based around a survival of the fittest story that I think could’ve been a lot stronger, but for what we got, I think it holds up okay.

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First off, the premise definitely receives a warm welcoming from me. Jake, Marceline, and Finn going on a casual adventure in a really neat sand dungeon for PB feels like a classic set up on its own. Though Finn and Marcy don’t really hang out much anymore by this point in the show (which is incredibly sad to say, seeing how we’re only halfway through the series) it is just nice to see the three of them chillin’ and going on adventures together. It’s good fun!

Though I think the beginning is dampened a bit because I don’t find Jake’s bits particularly that funny. I do like his flesh drill that ends up being painful as fuck, but I think his shtick of accidentally getting everyone trapped within the sand city and then just carelessly being an asshole about it comes off as slightly more annoying than actually amusing or cute to me. I think after that initial set up however, I warm up to his presence much more.

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I think the segments between him and Marceline are good fun. As I mentioned, it mostly turns into a survival of the fittest story that pits Jake and Marceline against each other, though I can’t help but feel the story could’ve been expanded on a bit more. I mean, it is called Red Starved, but it seems like the story just calls for Marceline and Jake just being “hungry” rather than progressively going insane and being driven to wanting to eat each other. Though, the episode does provide some form of reasoning for it; Marcy is a vampire, so I can’t really determine how she operates when needing to feast, and I am glad that the episode does address that she is still somewhat of a threat. Marceline has settled far too easily into just “laidback friend” territory the past few seasons, but this episode does acknowledge that Marceline is still quite dangerous, regardless of the friendships she has made throughout the years. I also like how this is emphasized by her very grotesque changing expressions, which are drawn to be really terrifying and even a little bit gross. At the same time as well, I never really know if she’s just fucking with Jake for eating her erasers, or if she’s legitimately considering sucking the color from his organs. If I had to speculate, I’d say the former, but it is nice how the episode kind of leaves it to your interpretation.

In addition to that, I like how Jake’s mindset isn’t really that he’s so hungry that he wants to eat Marceline, but rather that he just wants to do so in order to avoid getting eaten. I even like how the line “I’m operating on my lowest survival brain function right now,” is included not to show that Jake is thinking logically, but simply that he’s doing what he has to do to potentially survive.

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So the main plot works fine, but I actually quite enjoy the subplot following Finn’s solo mission. I think the stuff he comes across is cool, mainly the people who were turned into sand people at the hands of a ruby (er, emerald) and the Crab Demon who zoned out for 500 straight years. I also like Finn’s brief little bits of him talking to himself; they aren’t particularly funny lines that he utters, but it’s just strangely charming bits of dialogue that really get me invested in his journey. For the past half-season focusing on a lot of Finn’s vices and issues, it’s nice to have one where he simply comes off as likable and amusing, and there’s not really any inner demons he has to face as a result of it.

The ending scene with PB definitely had shippers everywhere going wild, and I think it’s cute that the spoon of prosperity was actually a direct fix to PB’s issue at the moment. I also love her ending line, “Peeps will never starve in my eternal empire.” That momma is goin’ wild.

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Though, this episode probably has the absolute DUMBEST joke out of any Adventure Time episode: Finn’s color-blindness. First of all, I feel like the fact that it was merely used as a gag and never brought up again really goes against Finn’s character and the series as a whole; these are not gag characters, and we’re supposed to treat everything they do, possess, and say as completely factual aspects of each character. So the idea that the show wanted to introduce Finn as color-blind, with absolutely no intention of ever mentioning it again, just feels like an absolute complete cheater moment for Jesse and Ako to write in. I know it’s a single moment that is included for laughs, but think of all the small moments that end up incorporating their way into the show as consistent aspects: Finn’s favorite food is meatloaf, PB legitimately dated Mr. Cream Puff at one point, Finn eventually gains immunity to electricity and has it for the rest of the series, etc. I just think it’s incredibly dumb to try and add an aspect of Finn’s character that was never hinted at and never ends up having relevance again. Also, second, if Finn see’s green things as red, wouldn’t he think his backpack is green and just let Marcy suck the color out of it? Third, is that really how color-blindness works?

That major gripe aside, I think this one is okay. It has its moments here and there, I like what they included with Marceline’s character, some of the landscape is nice, but overall, it’s a somewhat underwhelming effort. If I had to describe where it stands with me I’d just simply say that it’s not nearly as bad as the ever-boring Box Prince but also not as good as the mostly solid Dungeon Train. It doesn’t really do much for me, but it isn’t one I actively dislike either. Besides the bit with Finn not being able to see green. Some bullshit I tell ya.

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I forgot to mention last review, but we’re at the halfway mark, folks! 143 episodes down, 141 to go! Episode reviews will resume at their regular pace after this one with a weekly release, but I’m happy to say that this blog is exactly where I want it to be right now. Obviously I love writing for it, but this definitely isn’t something I want to be doing forever, so I’m glad I was able to bang out at least half of the series in only a little over a year. Here’s hoping by next year I’ll be up to the same speed as I have been! And always, thank you all for reading!

Favorite line: “Don’t go in the light. Go like this. Around it. Next time, you guys.”

“The Vault” Review

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Another one of my favorite title cards, this one designed by Michael DeForge. Season Five has really been on a role in the title card department.

Original Airdate: September 16, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

The Vault expands the world of Adventure Time in so many different ways that it really is amazing all of this was packed into 11 satisfying minutes. It harps on so many past plot points and tidbits that other episodes had already set up, and creates a vividly sad story about a newly introduced and very interesting character. Of all the questions Adventure Time had raised by this point, the mystery behind the Ghost Lady in The Creeps made me more curious than any other aspect of the series. A lot of people speculated that the Ghost Lady was Finn’s mother, and I’d being lying if I didn’t believe the same thing at one point or another. Though, I’m glad that instead, I was treated to a story that was very different from my initial expectations.

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First off, the scenes building up to the actual flashback are just great. Just some classic bits of Finn and Jake working off of each other exceedingly well; Finn’s failure to acknowledge that suppressing memories is harmful, Finn punching himself in the face, Jake calling out his bro for continuously wrecking the kitchen, Finn completely ignoring Jake to acknowledge a cricket that is chirping in the room, etc. Though there’s always one aspect of this episode and some future episodes that just completely baffles me… Are Finn’s pajamas supposed to be different in this one? I was always uncertain if this was an animation error or not, and I’m still not positive. They reappear again in Ocarina (though the storyboard for that episode suggests it may have been intentional), and I’m pretty positive they never appear again after that. I’m not sure what the reason would be for changing them, because they look way more awkward than Finn’s classic pair of red pajamas. But I digress.

The episode really picks up when we are introduced to Finn’s past lives, which, before Shoko is introduced, we see a comet, a butterfly, and “a thing.”

  • Up to this point, only butterflies have played a significant role in the series. In the episode Still, it’s shown that butterflies represent Finn’s astral beast. Also, the original pitch of Mortal Recoil called for Finn to float down on a butterfly after working with Ice King to freeze Princess Bubblegum. This was directly intended to initiate the butterfly as Finn’s spirit animal, as mentioned by Jesse Moynihan.
  • The comet portion of Finn’s history has yet to be touched on, but we’ll get to that awesomeness in season six.
  • “The thing” appears to be a part of the mother gum that was seen in Simon & Marcy. This part of Finn’s past life is never touched on in the show, and, to my knowledge, never examined further in any of the comics or expanded universe of the series.

It is most interesting to me that Finn’s past history consists mostly of objects and non-sentient beings, rather than an array of heroic counterparts that further hype up the idea of Finn being a Glob-sent being.

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And when we are introduced to the humanoid being that is closest to Finn’s current self, it is nice to know that she does share some striking similarities, as well as many differences to Finn’s mainly heroic self. I really, really love Shoko’s design. Her cat-like eyes, detailed outfit, and bare arm (I actually enjoy how Shoko doesn’t have any mods until later. Unlike Finn’s other alternate versions, Shoko just walks around with a little stub, and I think that’s pretty cool) all make for a pretty unique design, and the fact that she rides around on a giant, white tiger is even more awesome. Jesse Moynihan stated that the tiger is actually a past life of Jake, which I think is somewhat unnecessary. I just thought it was genuinely kind of cool that she had her own separate animal buddy, and it doesn’t really make a difference to me if it was supposed to be Jake or not. But again, I digress. This bond between girl and tiger in general feels very anime-ish (people have noted the connections between this and Princess Monoke) and just feels like it builds a bigger sense of fantasy for the world of AT overall. This feels less silly and just more straight-up mythological.

The Bath Boys are another delightful gang of dastardly bastards introduced in the series, and it is worth noting that the mansion they live in is practically identical to the one seen in The Creeps. It’s a nice connection that does build a bridge between the episodes so that it doesn’t seem too unrelated. It’s also worth noting that the Destiny Gang’s hideout in Finn the Human looks pretty identical to both of these buildings, so I’m wondering if the mansion in general is just a place of swindlers and bullies to take refuge across all dimensions. That’s pretty neat, honestly. The Bath Boys aren’t as well-defined as, say, the Destiny Gang, but the leader himself has a couple of funny lines here and there. I think it’s also pretty nice that it seems like the relationship between Shoko and the Bath Boys is mostly abusive; she’s forced to do work for them because she has no other way of getting by, and if she doesn’t comply with them, she’s as good as dead.

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Shoko’s mission takes her to a very early version of the Candy Kingdom, where toxic ooze still surrounds many aspects of Ooo, and many Candy People are in their early developmental stages. The most hilarious being that the Banana Guards are still green. That is just priceless. We also see Princess Bubblegum, who again, does not look any different from her current appearance. This episode finally puts to bed the question of “how old is PB?” and just settles for the concept that she is, like, a zillion years old. How this never came up in conversation with Finn, I have no idea, but here it is, plain and simple. Bubblegum is really, really, really old you guys.

The bond between Bubblegum and Shoko really carries the episode through, along with some nice little bits of continuity we’re treated to, like Young Mr. Cream Puff, who is “like PB’s boyfriend.” This harkens back all the way to Slumber Party Panic, when PB briefly mentions that she and Old Mr. Cream Puff used to date. There are really no boundaries with the attention to detail AT is able to accomplish. Every single moment that happens in this world is solidified and factual, and there is absolutely nothing glanced over or treated as a mere gag. It really shows how much care and dedication is taken into the writing process for Adventure Time.

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We’re also treated to a more in depth look at Shoko’s character as she interacts with Bubblegum. Aside from the missing arm, Shoko also has the unfortunate similarity of having some shitty parental issues, namely that her parents legitimately sold her arm for a computer. And it’s sad to see that we’d be treated to Finn’s parental figure being the reason he lost his arm in the near future. Shoko seems quite disconnected from all feeling and her emotions because of it, and instead chooses to live a life where she works more for herself rather than the people around her. Though her story is left purposely ambiguous, I do wish we were left more time to really get a grip on who Shoko is and dive deeper into her own psychological issues. But what we get is perfectly serviceable.

As she works more closely with Princess Bubblegum, Shoko is able to acquire the one thing she has never had in her life: a close acquaintance. Someone to chat with, share personal stories to, and even be a little bit goofy with at times (love the bit where she hands Princess Bubblegum the duck to engineer with). But ultimately, even after sitting through a tremendous exercise like building the Gumball Guardians, Shoko is still only there to steal from Princess Bubblegum and to make money for herself. It isn’t until Shoko receives the modded arm from PB that she realizes the weight of her actions; for the first time, Shoko acknowledges that somebody cares for her, and it goes beyond simply wanting her limbs for technological advancements. Bubblegum has given Shoko an arm, but more importantly, a close friend. Yet, Shoko realizes that she still has to go through with it. Despite the kindness that PB has shown her, she is still alone in the world and will have no one if the Bath Boys get to her first. The tragedy in this is that all Shoko had to do was tell PB the circumstances of her actions; the Princess could’ve easily taken care of the Bath Boys with her new technology, and also could’ve given Shoko a new home. Yet, Shoko’s fear of her own happiness and comfortable safe space in a world with no loved ones drove her to betray her one and only friend instead. Even if it means using her new “plug n’ play” to do so.

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It’s a pretty heavy decision Shoko makes, but one that is slightly made lighter by the fact that the Gumball Guardians are at their all-time funniest. Their desire to protect the Princess beyond anything else is just great, and I almost wish they would show this dedication and how powerful they really are in the rest of the series. Shoko does end up stealing the amulet, but to no avail. She quickly finds herself in a vat of ooze, with no way of being rescued or getting out safely. It’s a sad moment for PB, and she and the tiger look on at each other quietly. I get the feeling that PB really did care for Shoko, and that she would’ve welcomed her into the kingdom happily. With Marceline gone, PB really didn’t really have anyone to relate to or to even talk to at the time besides her Candy children, and now she, like Shoko, is left how she was when the flashback sequence first started: alone.

This is where the flashback sequence ends, as Finn discovers that Shoko ended up dying on his own stomping grounds, where she also ended up gaining a new arm in the process (yeah, that’s right, Finn gaining his arm back was foreshadowed too!) It’s also where the episode is met with a quiet conclusion, as Finn returns PB’s amulet to her once more… what the point of this moment was, I’m not really sure. The amulet never plays a part in the series ever again, so they might as well have never included Finn giving it back to PB to begin with. Would’ve been awesome to see what kind of power it was able to possess.

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But yeah, this one is pretty solid. I think my main complaint is simply that Shoko is never mentioned or seen again after this episode, and it’s a shame, because she’s a really interesting character that I would like to see a bit more in depth. But that aside, it builds on AT’s lore tremendously well, and answers some much needed questions that left me satisfied for quite some time. It’s an experiment that I think goes over really well, and I definitely wish we got more episodes like this in the future.

Issue 50 of the Adventure Time comics focuses more on the story of Shoko and Finn’s other past lives, and it’s quite excellent! It’s one of the few strips I really would like to see adapted into a full length episode, so check it out if you get a chance!

Edit: Just realized I had already plugged Issue 50 in my review of Davey. I guess you can tell how fond I am of it.

Favorite line: “I thought we could do some two-arm stuff, but… uh, it’s cool!”

“Sky Witch” Review

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Original Airdate: July 29, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

If there’s one thing I always like to make clear in regards to Bubbline is that it is not, nor was it ever, the most important or crucial story that Adventure Time has ever tried to tell. That idea alone seems like common sense, but there seems to be a handful of people that hold the belief that Bubbline is the sole arc of importance in the entire series. For me personally, I enjoy the relationship between the two, for the most part. I think they have a nice, charismatic dynamic, and a decent history that’s both believable and quite poignant. Though, like any other character, story arc, or plot point in the series, I’m not going to act like it’s sheer and utter perfection. And I think this episode, while not bad by any means, shows that the two working off of each other isn’t always especially raw or endearing, and in fact, I think it’s a little clunky in execution. I bring this up simply because, as these reviews go on, I’m not really going to aimlessly praise every scene featuring Bubbline as an undeniable masterpiece. At best, I think they can provide for a likable connection between two opposites. At worst, I think their chemistry with each other can somewhat fluctuate and/or feel slightly forced.

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I think the main issue with the way the two are portrayed in this one is that I’m never completely emotionally invested in the two. I think the writing is a bit schizophrenic and never really lets the moments that are supposed to be a bit more powerful and effective come across that way. PB talking down Hambo to Marceline should’ve been a pretty harsh and heart-wrenching speech, though it’s glanced over pretty quickly and isn’t really given enough time to explore. Whereas the ending, where PB suddenly decides that she isn’t leaving without Hambo and heroically rescues Marceline’s stuffed animal comes across as a bit rushed to me. I mean, it’s obvious that PB does care about Marceline and doesn’t want to hurt her at the end of the day, but I thought her transition from “Hambo’s fucking stupid, let’s leave” to “AW, HELL NAW, AM I LEAVING WITHOUT HAMBO” feels slightly bipolar. This is one of those instances where PB’s detachment feels kind of detrimental to some of the more challenging aspects of the episode; we want to see PB be charismatic and care for Marceline, though she’s written so apathetically that I never feel like I know what I’m supposed to feel. The parts that are supposed to be more emotional and build on the connection between the two just feel… lacking.

But, what this one lacks in emotion, it makes up for with some pretty humorous interactions between the two gals. PB’s bitchiness is amped-up in this one, and boy, is it tons of fun to watch. I love her passiveness towards something that means so much to Marceline, considering PB probably doesn’t have much of an emotional connection to her material possessions as others would. I also love her brutal roast of Raggedy Princess, it comes so out of left field. This is really when PB’s “cold-hearted” behavior starts to come out in full force, and I think it’s a pretty gradual transition at that.

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Marceline, on the other hand, is characterized just alright. Jesse Moynihan once said that he struggles to write for Marceline the most, and I think it kind of shows. Not to say she’s written poorly, but I don’t she’s portrayed as very interesting either. I do enjoy the way she seems to struggle when first asking PB to spend some quality time with her, as it’s pretty clear that she hasn’t completely warmed up to the idea of being close to PB again, and that it’s somewhat of a pain to try and connect with her. Again, these are moments that I wish were emphasized a tad more. I think some of those moments are brought down by some pretty awkwardly written moments for Marcy. Her emphasis of how important it is to rescue Hambo goes on a bit too long for my liking, and her insistence of bopping PB on the head seems a bit too… goofy for her. I mean, Marceline does have her silly moments, though not to the degree that the other characters are able to. She’s more deadpan and snarky than straightforward zany.

I think this is one where the settings are pretty dope; where the typical AT forest is usually bright and colorful, this one features a darker, more desolate forest that I think is actually a nice touch for a change. In addition to that, Maja’s mansion is pretty dope. Aside from the cool anti-gravitational landscape, I like all the small details, like the fact that Maja is a clear collector/hoarder. There’s also a portrait of the ghost lady from The Creeps that I’m not sure how it ended up in Maja’s possession, but I’m assuming she just wandered across it while casually traveling around in Ooo one day.

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Maja herself is good fun; she’s voiced by Jill Talley, who is actually Tom Kenny’s wife and the voice of Karen on SpongeBob SquarePants. Talley, per usual, offers great talent to the character of Maja, that’s only added to by the demonic double voice she delivers under her regular voice. Reminds me of HIM from The Powerpuff Girls. Maja’s Crabbit is an interesting concept as well, though again, I think his presence in the episode could’ve been a little more interesting. I kinda wish he did return with Maja later on in the series, as I would’ve liked to continue to see him as her buttmonkey companion.

What this one boils down to is a mildly fun adventure focused episode. I think it could’ve been stronger, considering we only get so many Marcy and Bubblegum interaction episodes until season 7, but otherwise, I think it’s fine. In terms of what Bubbline shippers like to see, I don’t even think there’s a ton you can analyze or look deeper into. There’s the completely odd moment at the beginning where PB inhales the shit out of Marceline’s shirt, but I think that just kind of comes off as awkward and ill-fitting than charming or likable. It’s a light and fun quest that serves as some tasty fluff to prepare for when things go completely off the walls in the next episode.

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Favorite line: “My googoomamameter is going babies!”