Tag Archive | Aleks Sennwald

“Come Along With Me” Consensus

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Before checking out this review, be sure you read the segmented analyses of each part of Come Along With Me.

It’s been a while, friends! Hope everyone had a terrific holiday season and a great start to their new year! Following the release of the final Come Along With Me individual review, I was definitely feeling burnt out and needed space from the series and this blog for a bit to rekindle my energy. My enthusiasm for discussing AT has happily renewed, and I’ll be wrapping up the first wave of this blog throughout the next few weeks with some bonus content. Since I’m just getting back into the swing of things, I don’t want to promise any form of heavily stressed deadlines, though this is the order of content you can expect for the next few weeks:

  • Season 9 Review.
  • The Best and Worst of Adventure Time Episodes.
  • Top 10 Adventure Time Moments.
  • Adventure Time Character Analysis.

I’ve batted around a few more ideas for bonus content before, and those ideas are still on the table, but I’d like to focus on the stuff I really want to tackle before possibly over-promising anything too elaborate.

A reminder that my giving campaign is still up and running! If you feel like you got one dollar’s worth of entertainment reading this blog in the past or present, or if you want to support the future of this blog, feel free to throw some cashola my way in you have the extra money!

SUPPORT ADVENTURE TIME REVIEWED!

With that said, let’s take a look at Come Along With Me as a whole! Ever since the release of the finale, I’ve seen nothing but overwhelmingly positive responses about Come Along With Me. Review sites like The A.V. Club and IGN awarded the finale with an absolute perfect score, while several longtime fans and fans who jumped back on board to see how the series ended were pretty amazed. I was pretty much in the same boat, but as time has passed, and I’ve looked at the finale with clear eyes not clouded by hype of everything…

It’s a’ight.

I think there’s a lot to like about Come Along With Me. In many respects, it is a completely inoffensive, loving, and dedicated finale. This certainly isn’t a Game of Thrones situation where the finale is so bad that it hurts both rewatch value and the overall quality of the series, but it is a finale that I find somewhat underwhelming. On a thematic level, Come Along With Me succeeds in following the main mission statement of the series that “the fun will never end,” by portraying the optimistic viewpoint that life and existence still continue regardless of impending doom that so often afflicts humanity (and Ooo-manity, of course). But, when looking at it from a surface or story level, I think there’s still a good amount to be desired.

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Let’s start with the good stuff. The expansion of the 1000+ world that was introduced in Graybles 1000+ is quite impressive. I was initially a bit miffed that this futuristic element was being crammed in, seeing as how the finale was already so jam-packed as is, but I think it really adds a lot to what the episode sets out to say. Shermy and Beth are quite likable, albeit not particularly remarkable. I think they fill the shoes of “two wide-eyed scamps set out to do good,” really nicely. BMO’s presence in the future is also similarly endearing. I think he’s really the only character from the main cast that I would actually like to see this far into the future. Every other character is tied to some form of baggage that would probably devolve them into a gritty, worn-out version of their old self, but BMO is just BMO. His stagnant personality is a perfect fit 1000+ years later. The general layout of the 1000+ world is pretty gnarly. It does a great job at setting itself apart from the past version of Ooo, while still retaining its likable nature. I’ve seen a lot of comments about future Ooo being depressing, though I can’t really can’t behind that. There’s a definitely a more muted color scheme, but its spirit still feels light and playful. And considering that there’s a giant heroic Sweet P. traveling the land, it also still retains its large sense of heroism. After all, the whole point of the finale, as well as BMO’s story, is that there really is no end to anything. Ooo is different from what it once was, and Finn and Jake are no longer roaming around, but their spirit and energy lives on in other brave souls and environments. Like I said, the thematic elements of the episode are quite strong.

Come Along With Me feels very dedicated in its fanservice. Some moments feel like a little bit of a stretch for me, (Shermy singing “On a Tropical Island” was a bit too on-the-nose for my liking) but I think it is quite enjoyable for that reason. BMO’s treasure trove of items from the show’s history is so wide that I’m sure there are some elements that haven’t even been discovered yet. There’s plenty of cool character callbacks, some of which return just for the sense of wrapping up their individual arcs, like Maja and APTWE. The ending montage, in particular, is chock full of characters from the show’s history, as well as important character moments. I’ll throw in the entire montage as one of the great elements of this finale, partly because I never get sick of hearing “Come Along With Me,” and because there’s a couple bits that even got me misty-eyed. BMO sending Moe’s memories into space was a perfect epilogue to Moe’s story that ended in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know, Prismo not being able to bring back Betty was a super clever way of turning the tables on Simon’s tale, and Magic Man coming to terms with Margles’ absence was undeniably sweet. I also really can’t think of a better note to leave Finn’s character on than his mother and the humans finally arriving in Ooo. I still hold close that it would’ve been cool to see Finn and Jake take on their parents’ old job as a way to fulfill their desires of adventuring in a more stable environment, but I think this was a solid way to leave off his story in a relatively ambiguous, yet hopeful, way.

The finale also does have moments that legitimately do grab me in terms of excitement. The third part of Come Along With Me is probably my favorite, mainly because it is this fun, fast-paced, action-packed battle that never really takes a second to breathe or think. This is kind of what I was expecting for most of the finale, and I’m glad it delivered on some level. It gives you an idea of how tense and real the stakes are, even if everything ends up okay, for the most part. I think there’s three moments in the finale that really echo that somewhat hopeless feeling: Jake realizing the destruction after he arises before battling GOLB’s beasts, BMO’s face being smashed up, and the animals watching on as GOLB sucks up everything. There’s a true sense of finality that I do think boosts Come Along With Me into feeling like this big, grand entry. The song “Time Adventure” assists with that, which is a song that I love, though not particularly in how it’s executed within that actual episode. The studio recording of “Time Adventure” is a tune that I genuinely love and one that truly does make me feel something, but the way it’s included in the episode feels a little hollow. I still like everyone joining together in harmony in an attempt to defeat GOLB, but I would’ve like it if we got to hear the song the way it was intended (i.e. with Jake singing the final line to Finn).

There’s also Marceline and Bubblegum’s scene, which explicitly shows that they are involved romantically. Thought this was a super nice treat for people who had been invested in their relationship for so long, and somewhat of a big step forward in LGBTQ+ representation within children’s media. Like I said prior, Steven Universe had beaten AT to the punch YEARS before they had pulled this off forreal, but I think it still feels impactful. Steven Universe always kind of had the excuse that the gems were “genderless” in order to fly by the censors. This is an instance where two female characters are quite clearly portrayed as sexual counterparts, and I don’t think there’s really explanation around it either way.

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Now onto the bad/mediocre material. Surprisingly, I think Come Along With Me is really weak from a character standpoint. All of the main characters, in my opinion, are weighed down either by a story element, or the fact that there’s just too much going on at once, with the exception of BMO. Finn gets severely shafted in the third and fourth parts, being essentially a fly on the wall while all of this cool shit goes on around him, and his main character motivation in the first half is handled poorly. Bubblegum’s story of empathy has a pretty lousy payoff, considering that she really doesn’t end up changing the behavior that got her into such a circumstance to begin with. Jake’s presence is fun, but a bit too distracting in terms of tone at points, and he really isn’t given any kind of overarching role aside from being a bystander. Marceline is once again weighed down by her character only revolving around Bubblegum and Simon and not really getting a chance to do anything independently. As for Ice King, I think it works in everyone’s best interest (or at least a majority of the fan base) that he got the resolution that has been built up for so long, but I still have a couple qualms about how Simon’s return essentially means the end of Ice King, even if Gunter’s role attempts at subverting that.

A lot of these issues tie into the fact that there really is just too much going on in Come Along With Me, as to be expected with a series that’s been on this long and that has so many lingering mysteries. Even the elements that are given a good bit of attention, such as Fern’s redemption, feel all too rushed along for myself to truly get behind. Couple that with the fact that the story, or stories, themselves are not very strong.

The first half hour of the special is dedicated to the Great Gum War. This storyline had already felt kind of clunky throughout the course of season nine, but it really ends up going nowhere in its climax. While the dream sequence is interesting in some aspects, namely the scenes where PB and Gumbald experience life inside each other’s shoes, it feels wasted with the conclusion we get. I’m not even sure what the takeaway of Gumbald’s entire story was. It was originally supposed to tie in to PB’s overall insecurity of being a corrupt ruler, and it seemed like that’s where this episode wanted to take it, but it basically just ends up exactly where she started, trapping her family members in a barren vessel because she doesn’t want to deal with the real issue at hand. Except for Aunt Lolly, who apparently is super sympathetic towards PB for… some reason? Even though the last episode clearly showed that it was all a ruse? Her character is painted with little to no depth and it really shows. Not to mention that her role in the episode makes the entire first chunk of the finale moot, since Finn’s choice to Nightmare Juice PB and Gumbald had no effect on Aunt Lolly’s decision. Yet, the episode acts like Finn was the holy savior even after the fact when his choice only benefited Fern and not the overall war. I don’t get it, man. I could go on and on about how the way Gumbald’s betrayal at the end of Part 2 is written in a very sloppy way, but I think I could forgive the conclusion itself if we actually got something interesting from the war element. Since the development between Gumbald and PB ended up being scrapped, I would’ve at least liked to see some of the excitement that the past two episodes have so desperately built up to. I know its in typical AT fashion to subvert expectations, but c’mon, it’s the series finale. Go big with it! I wanna see Pete Sassafras murder someone.

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The GOLB twist provides for that surface level excitement I had been longing for, but I don’t think it’s especially strong either, which mostly has to do with GOLB as a character. The build up to GOLB’s presence was super mysterious and kind of suspenseful, but when he actually shows up, he’s kind of lame. He mainly just acts as a plot device for absolute destruction. The thing is, I’m not really sure how to make GOLB more interesting. I think it’d be silly if he had a speaking voice or some kind of evil plan, but I feel like another element should’ve been added to make him appear more intimidating. The animation shift to a more sketchy style during his demise was rad as hell, I wouldn’t mind if his entire appear called for some kind of animation shift. Or even just in shading – Come Along With Me is also plagued by really dull colors.

Simon’s story is wrapped up within the last chunk, and ehhh. I can’t really put blame on the staff for deciding that the only decision that made sense was curing Simon after years of build up, and to be fair, the way it’s executed isn’t bad by any means. I just think that Ice King’s character became way too elaborate for its own good to the point where I really didn’t want Simon to come back at all. Ice King is a character that has been shown to grow and develop on his own, so why should he get the shaft? I know that he technically still lives on through Gunter’s wish, but I dunno, it seems like a more complicated issue that was glossed over all too fast for the purpose of a quick conclusion. I do think Betty’s sacrifice was genuinely quite potent, and made for a nice role reversal in Simon and Betty’s never-ending saga.

Fern’s arc also gets a grand conclusion, which is bumpy, but still relatively satisfying. I think Part 2’s redemption story for Fern is way too obvious and unchallenged in how it handles his quick decision to cooperate with Finn, but I ultimately find his death to be quite poignant and a nice sentiment of Finn bidding farewell to his childhood and a part of himself.

Parts Ranked

  1. Part 3 – Just a ton of fun, and the one chunk of the finale that actually had me super invested in everything going on.
  2. Part 1 – A nice exploration of the 1000+ world, and a genuinely suspenseful build in to the faux war that never actually comes into fruition.
  3. Part 4 – A little clunky and awkward in how it tries to quickly wrap everything up as fast a possible, but still provides for a nice ending.
  4. Part 2 – The only part of the finale that I’d say is just straight up bad. Makes the entire storyline of the season feel partially wasted and it just isn’t all that interesting either.

Final Consensus

Come Along With Me is a safe, inoffensive finale, and that’s not necessarily a huge downfall. I think, in its core, it is a finale that had a lot of passion and love put into it. Like I said, there’s really nothing in here that could ruin the series for anyone or is even that deplorable, but I don’t really think that makes it especially good either. It still is very underwhelming in parts, and clearly comes from a staff that really had no idea how they were going to tie everything together. In my eyes, the series has already churned out some episodes that could make for great finales. Faults aside, The Comet did feel like a culmination of everything that Finn had learned up to that point, and a nice conclusion of himself finally finding peace. Islands also wrapped up a lot of long-standing questions, and offered fans an essential answer to who Finn truly is. Not necessarily saying that these episodes should have been finales – I think it would probably drive people insane if The Comet was the series finale. But those are both examples of episodes that set out to tell interesting stories first without the pressure of having every lingering detail figured out. Come Along With Me feels like a hodgepodge of ideas that want to offer ultimate satisfaction, but never really just focus on being entertaining first. Overall, I think it does get a pass for trying its damnedest to make everyone as satisfied as they possibly can be. But for me personally, it’s far from one of AT‘s strongest entries.

“Come Along With Me” (Part 3) Review

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Original Airdate: September 3, 2019

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Hanna K. Nyström

Enter GOLB. GOLB has been an element of curiosity ever since he debuted back in Puhoy, and for good reasons. Besides a bizarrely unique design, his true nature and role in the world of Adventure Time has only ever been alluded to – GOLB himself has never truly been put into action. Come Along With Me finally brings the enigmatic deity to centerstage in Act III, as a result of Magic Man, Betty, and Maja’s combined magic going haywire. As an antagonist, GOLB really isn’t all that unique or intriguing. He’s just kind of there as an ultimate beast to cause destruction throughout the Land of Ooo, but unlike a character such as the Lich, there really isn’t anything particularly intimidating about him beyond his gnarly design, as previously mentioned. He’s more of a plot device than anything. That being said, Part 3 of the finale is arguably the most entertaining. It’s a high-stakes, wild battle that never really takes a second to breathe. Every moment is filled to the brim with fights, carnage, and powerful character moments. It’s not necessarily that meaty or thought-provoking (though it has its moments) but it does provide enough excitement to take the bitter taste of the previous segment out of my mouth.

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Despite his failure to be a legitimately intimidating force on the Land of Ooo, I do enjoy the humor that encapsulates this first part, as everyone has their own unique perception on his arrival. Jake’s theory of GOLB being this big celebratory baby is another great example of him making the best out of a bad situation. Though this comedic instance alone does come with its own subtext – Jake mentions that they’re being congratulated because “they saved the day,” but again, the way the story actually played out doesn’t suggest that Finn and Jake were the ultimate saviors of the situation. Aunt Lolly just decided out of nowhere that she wanted to be on the side of the Candy Kingdom, and that’s what inevitably saved the day. I love my boys dearly, but it slightly angers me that this was written in such a way to glorify them instead of analyzing the actual events that went down prior. The following scenes do provide for less problematic entertainment, such as Fern’s little exchange with Flame Princess or Lumpy Space Princess’s selfie as the literal apocalypse occurs behind her. There’s even a nice little flashback that ties back into Simon’s fascination with ancient deities and the unknown. The more we learn about these interests of Simon’s, the more it shows how kind of unhealthy his obsessions truly were. His connection to the crown was initially played off as kind of an instant lack of control, but the passion he feels when talking about such subject material kind of suggests that he was partially willing to give up his sanity for the sake of exploration and discovery. The flashback is also hilarious as well. Betty full on chucks a glass jar at him. I can’t think of any normal person that would have done that. Those two are all kinds of crazy.

I mentioned the cool design and features of GOLB, and the other beasts that are featured in this episode are pretty neat in their own right. Backgrounder designer Jesse Balmer did most of the concept designs for the GOLB-fused beasts, and it really shows in how much raw detail their is in their designs. It is weird in the sense that I don’t really see GOLB as this beast who causes mayhem and ruin by the act of releasing beasts onto the world, more so in just erasing everything from existence. Buuut, in the same sense that it would be kind of boring if that was the case, so a few gnarly beasts along the way doesn’t really bother me much. This is actually the first time the Candy Kingdom Haters are seen on the battlefield and, as I harped on in Gumbaldia, they’re almost entirely useless. Not even a single one of them is given a designated voice role, but again, I’ve repeated myself a million times in saying that Gumbaldia‘s ending intended for more and that I can’t really blame the staff for excluding such an inconsequential subplot.

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As much of a shame that it is that Finn doesn’t really get any kind of ultimate heroic moment in the finale, it is nice that this part in the story shifts gears to focus more on Ice King’s role in the world. He’s pretty much the only major player that hasn’t gotten to do anything up to this point, and it’s both rewarding and kind of funny that the fate of the entire world rests in his hands. Whereas the first chunk of Act III mostly focuses on establishing the conflict with GOLB’s inclusion, the remaining half is chock full of a lot of stellar character moments that really make it feel like the grand finale it was hyped up to be. Some of the callbacks in Come Along With Me feel a bit too fanservice-y and contrived for my liking, but one of my favorites in this 44 minute chunk is Ice King singing “Oh Fionna” in order to get Betty’s attention. These last two seasons have really been knocking it out of the park when it comes to portraying Betty’s codependence. I love the day-and-night feel to Ice King singing this soft tune to lure Betty back into a state of comfort, only for that comfort to be swiftly pulled from under her as IK’s shrill vocals soil a genuinely touching moment. My favorite callback is also followed by one of, if not my ultimate favorite moment in the entire finale: Maja fucking exploding only seconds after she gains consciousness. I know there was a good chunk of people that were pissed about this, because this is Maja’s only actual appearance after the huge build up of Something Big, but it’s a grievance that I can ignore completely just because of how funny, absurd, and well-timed it is. It isn’t even acknowledged after the fact. I’m gonna be totally basic and reiterate what literally everyone has already said when referring to this moment, but – how’s that for poetic justice?

There’s plenty of other terrific callbacks on the battlefield – PB using her elemental abilities one final time (to no avail), Marceline channeling the power of the Vampire King that she gained in The Dark Cloud, and Jake’s eventual unleashing of his alien form. More characters do end up joining the battle, which feels… confusing? After Jake lands in an attempt to restrain the owls from the possessed Gumball Guardian, NEPTR is just suddenly on the battlefield out of scenic nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love NEPTR as much as the next guy, but how in the hell did he get involved in the battle? The episode cuts to him tossing pies not long after and it doesn’t even look like much is being done. I’m still not sure if it’s a continuity error that is bothersome or just surreally amusing. Like I said, though, it is nice to see the little guy getting a piece of the action. Everyone gets a chance to be in full hero mode – even Fern, with his badass line reading of, “I’ll defend Ooo down to my last blade.”

Buuuut, I’m just wasting time at this point. You all know what you’re waiting to hear me talk about. I’m sure half of you are hear specifically for this discussion. The kiss that took the world by storm…

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Lemongrab and Lumpy Space Princess! I love this hysterical callback to something that was clearly set up as a one-off joke in Normal Man. It’s awesome to finally see Lemongrab open to getting some with a girl who’s actually (?) into him. Hell, good for LSP too! Her love life hasn’t exactly been the most rewarding either. This feels like the only true satisfying conclusion for these dorks. This is truly a moment that fans have been waiting to see for years and years, and I’m glad the episode finally set things straight by showing their true feelings for each other. I hope you guys enjoyed that gag twist as much as I did in my head. 

But forreals, let’s get to the big shit. Come Along With Me finally comes out with (literally) the fact that Marceline and Princess Bubblegum are in a romantic relationship with each other. It’s been alluded to a million times, often in the most obnoxious of ways, but Come Along With Me throws all ambiguity out the window by having them full-on canoodle on screen. I’m gonna be 100% frank and say, with all of the cynical things I’ve said about their relationship in the past, I think this moment was handled in a really solid way. I even fanboyed a little the first time I watched, and I’m not even a Bubbline fan! As much as I get annoyed with how Marceline’s character has become dependent on her connection to Bubblegum, I do feel as though her transformation into the dark cloud following PB’s supposed “death” was quite touching. I do like how Marceline’s emotional outburst doesn’t only have to do with the fact that she lost PB, but that she’s always afraid of losing PB. Even after making up, they never truly resolved those underlying anxieties and fears that came with separating. The moments between Marceline and Bubblegum that I do enjoy are the ones that deal with their tumultuous past in an honest and convincing way, and don’t just boil them down to the lovey dovey duo. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about Bubbline essentially being “queer-bait,” though I don’t really think that’s essentially a fair judgement. We’re STILL in somewhat of a climate about kids’ entertainment tackling LGBTQ relationships, though it’s gotten considerably better, and I feel like the staff was simply doing what they could at the time while still forming a legitimate relationship between two characters. The past generation of animation was sooo involved in building up relationships between two friends that remained ambiguous for an extended period of time (Kim and Ron from Kim Possible, Danny and Sam from Danny Phantom, etc.) and this is a great subversion of the trope. So, essentially, the kiss is more build up from their long, hyped up connection, rather than it is a statement of “wokeness” (though I’m sure that played a part in it). Even if Steven Universe was making strides three years prior, I still feel like this development is somewhat of an accomplishment for LGBTQ media in children’s entertainment. There’s no longer the excuse of, “oh they’re just rocks they don’t have any gender lol,” this is flat out two female characters neckin’ each other. I don’t see it being queer-baiting as much as keeping fans on their toes for a romantic relationship that DID end up having its pay off in the end. This isn’t like The Legend of Korra, where the ending was left almost too ambiguous for it to even make sense; I do believe there is a genuine bit of satisfaction in this development. Even though I don’t consider myself a fan of Bubbline, I think the staff did a relatively solid job at helping their relationship to feel gripping and exciting for fans. Of course, I could take all of that back and complain about how Marceline’s only huge development in Come Along With Me is based around Bubblegum, and how she doesn’t really get to do anything else after this, but I’m getting ahead of myself. That is a discussion for another day in my character analysis.

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The other big development that Act III establishes is Simon finally regaining his sanity, as GOLB’s powers revert him back to his original state. This is both a huge achievement and kind of a disappointment; almost in the same vein as Bubbline, Simon regaining consciousness was a moment that needed to happen for how much it was built up over the years. But with all of the work that went into developing Ice King’s character as an individual, I can’t help but feel a bit dismissive about the fact that Ice King doesn’t really get his own moment of triumph for all that he’s accomplished over the years. This isn’t technically the end of Ice King, as we’ll discuss in the next episode, but IK, like Fern, is another character that was probably too well-written for his own good. Personally, I would’ve liked an ending where Ice King is fully accepted for who he is, as those who surround him come to terms with the idea that Simon is never coming back. But alas, I feel as though the staff felt almost obligated for this moment to happen because of how much fans wanted to see it happen. And I can’t blame ’em, I was pretty much in the same boat until Elements came along. The growth of Ice King’s identity as a character definitely complicated things for the long run, no matter how solid this growth was, and I’m not sure I can so much as criticize the choice as much as just to be disappointed by it. Though, I’m still kind of confused how GOLB works. Like, Simon is reverted to his past self, Betty just changes into to the turtleneck she wore in earlier episodes, and Finn isn’t affected at all. I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here and ask, shouldn’t GOLB’s powers have reverted Finn’s arm back to normal? Now, don’t get me wrong, I would’ve gauged my eyes out if that happened a second time, but in this one instance, wouldn’t it actually make sense if it did occur? The entire nature of GOLB feels kind of janky with this in mind.

Speaking of Finn, I think the biggest flaw within Act III of Come Along With Me is the lack of Finn that I mentioned earlier on. Well, it’s not so much a lack of Finn as it is just the entire cast of characters seemingly ignoring him. He nearly gets Stakes levels of neglect here, being ineffective in almost every situation and being treated by others as somewhat of a nuisance. I know that other character arcs and stories kind of required attention here too, but damn, everyone seems to get this big heroic moment in this part specifically, whereas Finn feels like a tiny spec in the grand scheme of things. It’s even sadder to look back and see how little he gets to do in terms of heroism during the finale as a whole. The most noble thing he does is helping Fern to see the light, though that was even partially aided by Jake’s help. Come Along With Me feels like a solid wrap up for most characters, though Finn isn’t necessarily one of them, and I think that’s what’s most disappointing of all.

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Act III does end in a genuinely solid and dramatic way, as a handful of our main players are left completely pummeled at the hands of GOLB’s beast – except for Jake, who has enough energy to put up a decent fight for a bit, only to be faced with absolute devastation when the Tree Fort is destroyed. This moment hit me hard, and I think the sharp commercial break immediately after provides for added shock value. One of Adventure Time‘s biggest staples is destroyed in the blink of an eye, and it feels just as tragic as it was made out to be.

Even with its flaws in mind, I think Part 3 is definitely the most entertaining aspect of Come Along With Me. That’s not even necessarily to say it’s the best, but it definitely was the segment that engaged me the most and had me on the edge of my seat. At least, from the perspective of a first viewing. Lots of really nice character moments, a genuine sense of tension, and some solid callbacks along the way. It does everything to make Come Along With Me feel like a true finale… if only Finn was able to join in on that fun, though.

We’re on the verge of the end, my friends! The review of Act IV will be releasing next week, followed by a consensus of the finale overall, and then further updates from there. I’ve kept quiet about Distant Lands and a lot of post content so far, but stay tuned! There is a plan in effect that will allow for plenty of new reviews, analyses, and discussions throughout the end of the year and 2020!

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Favorite line: “They’ll be talking about this fight for years! And by “they,” I mean BMO and Shelby.”

“Jake the Starchild” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Aleks Sennwald

I think the thing that hurts the most about Jake the Starchild is the fact that, if the AT writing staff had a bit more of a heads up regarding the end of the series, I really think this episode could have worked. Imagine this scenario: Warren Ampersand swaps his essence with Jake successfully, and takes Jake’s place on Earth, without Finn immediately noticing the difference. Jake croaks in space, Finn later discovers that Warren Ampersand is NOT his brother, and joins Normal Man and Betty in their quest to rescue their loved ones from the clutches of GOLB. I really hate playing the part of “this episode/scene should have went this way, because that would satisfy myself, and if I’m satisfied, that’s all that matter.” It’s unfair to judge an episode based on my expectations and disappointment, but when you get an episode like Jake the Starchild that is so devoid of satisfaction, it’s hard not to long for what could have been. This is one of the big AT stinkers, but again, I’m not sure how fair it is to say that. Part of where its disappointment stems from is the fact that it comes so close to the finale, yet offers little of substance or build up leading up into the final events of the series, but in harmony of what I had said earlier, this isn’t the fault of the writing staff. And, in another attempt to play devil’s advocate, I had praised Blenanas in spite of it being an episode so close to the show’s conclusion. When it comes down to it, I think Jake the Starchild‘s failure isn’t that it wasn’t able to tie its story in with Come Along With Me, but the fact that its story is so hackneyed and uninspired that it just comes off as a bit of a sad whimper in the face of finality.

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Right off the bat, I don’t really like how the beginning starts out. Jake the Starchild begins with a bit of a recap from The First Investigation that’s unnecessarily long and it doesn’t really follow any realm of continuity. Like, it utilizes identical shots that were used in The First Investigation but with entirely different dialogue. I don’t really get this approach? It incorporates a lot more of AT‘s typical silliness, but it’s just jarring to imply that there wasn’t just additional dialogue between Jake and Warren during this convergence, it was actually just entirely different from what we saw in the previous episode. Come to think of it, why the fuck are we even wasting time with a recap? AT has already gone so off the rails with different storylines that I don’t think the common viewer is going to need a recap anyway. Or if they’re going to do one, just show a super condensed sequence of all the juicy stuff that we need to remember. Otherwise, it just feels like time wasted on an already compressed episode.

After that sequence, we mostly move into the stuff between Jake and Warren Ampersand. I don’t know if I’m just being overly cynical, but the name “Warren Ampersand” has to be one of the dumbest the staff could’ve came up with. It feels like a manatee joke that combines two silly sounding words for the sake of being silly sounding. His name is an accurate representation of his character, however, as Warren Ampersand is pretty uninteresting all around. Surprise, surprise, he’s another bad dad. I know this show has created somewhat of a motif when it comes to shitty parental figures, but Warren is just a reiteration of everything we’ve already seen from the series. He’s the charming, yet selfishly devious father that is more than willing to put their needs before their child’s. Similar to Hunson’s portrayal a few episodes earlier, I’ve grown tired of this character archetype. We got more than enough of this type of material from Martin, and it just simply doesn’t work with anyone else. Martin was interesting because he was one, big subversion from what anyone was expecting from him. He was initially built up as this legendary hero that bestowed his blessed genetics onto Finn, until everything came crashing down in his debut. Martin’s character was great because it made the audience effectively hate him (or love to hate him, in my case) and his impact on Finn was undeniable. Warren’s a bad, selfish dude who tricks Jake, but has little to no effect on Jake or the story overall. So, what are we sincerely supposed to take away from his character? Well, we kind of get to that later.

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I like this painting, but I’m not sure I get it. I’m pretty sure the implication is that Jake and Jermaine turned 5 in dog years, considering that Finn is still a baby. Buuut, that’s not how dog years work and in that case, how did Jake end up being considered 28-years-old at the beginning of the series?

The dynamic between Warren and Jake is pretty standard and not particularly meaty. I’m not gonna act like they butchered Jake’s character or anything here – it’s pretty difficult to fuck up a lax dude like Jake, unless he’s portrayed in some kind of self-centered light. His reactions to Warren’s kindness and revelations are mildly humorous, albeit nothing remarkable. I do like how some of his core character traits return, such as his absolute willingness to follow a destiny bestowed onto him (The New Frontier) or his inability to resist people-pleasing (The Limit). The various trials that Warren puts Jake through are pretty unmemorable – for all of the episodes that could get super creative with Jake’s stretchy abilities, I feel as though this one is a missed opportunity. Aside from some twists and turns, there isn’t much creativity that goes into the possibilities of his own abilities, aside from the pretty neat revelation that Warren’s own caliber allowed him to essentially create an entire planet, similar to how Jake was able to do so in Everything’s Jake.

The climax of the episode really just feels like a culmination of laziness. Jake’s bait-and-switch with swapping the belts is presented in such a way that feels almost like its cheating continuity once more. Typically in a moment like this, the camera would cut up to above Jake and Warren’s waists, but it stays at a medium shot almost the entire time to the point where it feels like a cheap twist. Warren’s lack of knowledge when it comes to Jake’s kids makes little to no sense, considering that Warren apparently stalks Jake on a somewhat regular basis. Jake sacrificing the well-being of himself for his own kids is a moment that’s played up as if it’s supposed to be this big revelation but… we know that. Jake can occasionally have selfish and somewhat spacious tendencies, but I don’t think there was ever a point in the series where I thought that he didn’t care about his children. It’s a nice inclusion, but I don’t really feel like it’s adding anything to Jake’s character that wasn’t already known. Jake mentions that Warren’s behavior as a bad dad reminded him of what being a good dad is like, but what are you even supposed to take away from that? Again, I don’t think that there’s many moments in the series that imply that Jake wouldn’t do anything for his children, even if he is particularly absent-minded.

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Jake the Starchild seems like it has no idea what it wants to say by the end of it, and I walked away from this episode learning very little about Jake, Warren, and the nature of Jake as a whole. It wouldn’t bother me as much if it was one of Adventure Time‘s smaller arcs, but this shit is BIG! Jake’s shapeshifting abilities are a major aspect of his character that have continued to be built up more and more as time has gone one, and the fact that the climax of this arc is a collection of everything that could have already been gathered with context clues is truly a disappointment. I learned way more about Jake and the hidden aspects of his life through Abstract, and I honestly would not care if there was little to no follow-up about Jake’s alien-side after the fact. But, since there is, it deserves to be presented in a much more satisfactory way.

Is there anything I liked about Jake the Starchild? As I mentioned, the Jake moments are perfectly acceptable. The backgrounds and general color scheme of this episode really pop. I love the radiant blues that fill out the entire course of Warren’s make-shift planet. And yeah, aside from those two aspects, that’s kind of it. I don’t even know if I can call Jake the Starchild truly bad. It definitely has moments and attributes that I could deem poor in quality, but at the end of the day, it’s just a truly unmemorable, nearly pointless entry. I’m noticing this as a pattern of season nine episodes that aren’t exactly of good quality. With a very mixed season like Season Six, even at its worst, it was trying something different and pushing the bar for what could be in a kid’s show at the time. Episodes like SeventeenMarcy & Hunson, and Jake the Starchild are simply bland entries that should be really grandiose and exciting, but instead choose the most cookie-cutter options of storytelling available. It shows clearly in Jake the Starchild, because what could have been an exciting conclusion to an individual character’s arc ended up being a showcase of repetitive character traits and pre-existing knowledge. I would have loved to see what the amazing and brilliant team behind Adventure Time could’ve brought to the table had the series continued, but man, with episodes like Jake the Starchild, the show’s end may have been for the best.

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Favorite line: “I’m dying… for a soft pretzel with mustard.”

“The First Investigation” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Aleks Sennwald

I’ve seen a few people bat around their picks for the best Adventure Time episode of Season Nine. The Wild Hunt gets tossed around a bunch, Come Along With Me is the best, and only truly great entry, for many. I also have seen The First Investigation being held in great light, with some people regarding it as one of the best AT episodes out there. In assessing this praise, I sort of sat back, scratched my head, and thought to myself, “Really? This episode?” I know there’s probably a lot of cynicism radiated off of that comment, but I don’t really intend for it to be entirely negative. The First Investigation, though not mind blowing or my exact definition of peak AT, is a delightfully fun entry that plays around with the concept of time-skipping quite cleverly. It also has the perk of being one of the only season nine episodes to focus almost entirely on the relationship between Finn and Jake, and even better, their relationship with their parents.

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Speaking of parental relations, Kim Kil Whan returns for one last featured appearance. I was vocal about my dislike of his character in Ocarina, but these past two spotlight episodes for him have helped him to become instantly more likable. Of course, he doesn’t really do anything particularly noteworthy here – but his general trusting of Jake for such a big task, even after everything that happened with his daughter in the previous episode, is pretty sweet. I especially like his awkward, small “bye, dad,” before teleporting out. That’s probably KKW’s strongest foot forward into emotional sincerity. Like I mentioned prior, part of what’s so great about Finn and Jake’s role in this episode is the irresistible sweetness of their characters. Even more important than the goal of the mission is their desire to tell the possible ghosts of their parents that they love them dearly. The show has left Joshua and Margaret’s deaths pretty deep into the shadows, as I think they should, but the context of this seems to paint that their deaths were sudden and/or unexpected. That, or Finn and Jake simply wanted to use the opportunity for a bit of added closure. Either way, it’s incredibly heartwarming.

I have to say, The First Investigation teases me a bit too much. My idea of a pitch perfect ending for the boys was that they would move into Joshua and Margaret’s old office and start up a business investigating crimes and focusing on a bit of a more routine lifestyle than the sporadic nature of adventuring. Finn asking Jake, “how come we don’t live here?” got me a little too excited for what’s to come, so I was sadly disappointed at the idea of this just being a bit of passing conversation material instead of legitimate foreshadowing. However, the conversations that Jake and Finn do hold are really likable and feel genuine. I love the idea that Finn is almost pissed at his past self for putting Joshua and Margaret in the role of caretakers. He’s still too young to understand the pleasures of parenthood, which is why Jake humorously reminds him, “yeah, but they knew what they were getting into.”

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The First Investigation takes advantage of its time skipping premise really well – this is the kind of episode you likely have to watch multiple times before discovering all of the various different time gags that were included. The middle section alone is just a non-stop fun, frenzied journey through various different interlaced sections of time that all come together in a satisfyingly cohesive and clever way, like Finn traumatizing Jake with a wet willy, baby Finn seeing a “ghost,” and my favorite – Jake scaring the daylights out of Kim Kil Whan’s employee. Like I said, everything is so tightly packed and interconnected that it’s almost ingenious. It also leads to the (highly anticipated?) moment where Jake discovers the truth behind his unusual birth. I do like Jake’s absolute denial and dismay of the circumstances of his birth, though honestly, this setup up just brings back the bad taste of Jake the Starchild in my mouth once more. It’s certainly not The First Investigation‘s fault, but a byproduct of Starchild‘s failure nonetheless.

This episode also interestingly brings back Clock Bear from Preboot, to which I can theorize was a way of keeping Dr. Gross’s name still in the series. I strongly believe that, had the show kept going, Gross’s return would have indubitably occurred. Clock Bear’s an interesting prop character, because his debut appearance in Hoots certainly shows that he exists to foreshadow something, but I’m still not really sure what that is. Regardless, it is cool to see this plot point brought up again, if it’s not the slightest bit contrived. Clock Bear’s ability to control time seems way beyond what Dr. Gross was capable of, as she was more savvy from technological perspective than actually being able to bend reality. But, what do I know? The show never initially went too in depth with her character, so I don’t have much of an issue buying into it. It also, of course, makes the episode way more enjoyable and intriguing with this element included, with the icing on the cake being Finn communicating that he loves his parents through the ticker-tape. That was just adorable.

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The episode comes to a close with the aforementioned convergence of Jake and his alien father, as they take off for a trip into space together. It’s a conclusion that left for much anticipation involving how this would affect the ultimate climax of the series… sadly, it didn’t. But we’ll get to that shortly! I have surprisingly little to say about The First Investigation besides the notion that, well, I like it! It’s an enjoyable romp through time that is nicely woven together with simpler moment. It never fully explores the nature of time to the point where it can be taken as analytical, but it has a ton of fun with the concept regardless. There’s also some nice visual moments and gags as well, namely the broken mirror with the sticky note that says, “you look great!” and Jake’s panicked octopus form. I’m discovering more and more that I don’t really like the way Hanna K. draws Jake; I’m a sucker for the pointed out ears, but the gigantic eyes that she gives him are somewhat unappealing to me. Interested in how others feel about this personalized design. As I also mentioned, it’s just nice to have an episode primarily around Finn and Jake’s connection to each other and their past lives. It’s rare that season nine ever gets this intimate with the boys, so this was a nice surprise and a delightful treat.

Favorite line: “Okay, Finn, what ticks? Metronomes, bombs, pencils…”

“Bonnibel Bubblegum” Review

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Aleks Sennwald

Princess Bubblegum’s character probably gets the most dedicated exploration out of any other character in the series. Segments of Marceline’s life remain hidden, Finn and Jake’s early childhood into their adolescence are barely touched on, and Simon’s backstory is pretty limited to just before he actually came into contact with the crown. Granted, this isn’t a bad thing. I actually prefer not knowing a good amount of Marceline’s past history, among other characters. I do feel that it is warranted that we learn so much about PB’s backstory – she had a crucial role in developing the world of AT as we know it. Bonnibel Bubblegum is about just that: how the Candy Kingdom came into to fruition and how she took on the role of a leader. It also serves as a way of further fleshing out Uncle Gumbald’s character, and his past history with his essential “niece.” Bonnibel Bubblegum ends up being a decent bit of world-building, but it is one of those examples of an episode that’s probably too short to live up to its full potential.

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A chunk of the main characters hanging out at the beginning of the episode was purely delightful. I really love how this is one of those few moments in the show (at least in recent history) where the characters are able to hang out outside of a plot related scenario. I mean, yeah, the real reason Finn, Jake, and Marcy are there is to be a captive audience for Bubblegum’s story, but regardless, it’s always nice when the characters do feel like real friends outside of a writing perspective. They don’t really get to do much, but their few moments together provide for good fun. I continue to love Jake’s complete opposition to understanding the turmoil of others. He’s the only one of his friends entirely devoid of daddy issues… for now, at least. Such coaxing from her pals is what provokes PB to dive into her past, as we begin the flashback sequence with a solid minute of silence as we’re treated to visual splendor. This first minute is probably my favorite of the episode – the atmosphere is enjoyably eerie, made even better by a bizarre bit of score from Tim Kiefer that really sets the mood. I wouldn’t be the first to discuss the stellar background details within the gas station that PB explores, so I’ll briefly discuss my favorites.

  • The “Back soon! Please come back” text was probably one of the most heartbreaking easter eggs that Adventure Time has ever put out. I can only imagine the context of the words – I’d imagine this was a child writing to their guardian after said guardian walked into the remains of civilization after the war. God only knows what was even out there for humans to deal with at the time.
  • The writing “Love didn’t conquer al(l)” which could very well be from the same person who wrote out “please come back.” I’m assuming this is referring to the blief that compassion couldn’t quench the current warfare.
  • A newspaper with the headline “Time Has Come.” Again, assuming this was referring to the war.
  • A picture of the Mushroom Cloud with the words “never” written across it. I’m wondering if this is actual footage of the effects of the Mushroom War, or an image of what was presumed to result from it. Perhaps the words “never” are a denial from the inhabitants of the gas station that such a thing could ever happen.

PB’s entire design in this one is rad. I also wouldn’t be the first to say this, but it really reminds me of Rey’s get up from The Force Awakens. Honestly, that entire first scene does. It also helps that some nice visual tricks play a part in making it all the more stunning. I love AT‘s attention to detail with smaller occurrences, so I really love the way the dust particles are animated as sunlight beams through the window within the station. A similar bit of animation was included in Her Parents, and it looks great once more in here. Isabella Acres does not reprise her role as a younger PB, and is instead voiced by Livvy Stubenrauch, who previously voiced young Kara in Hide and Seek. But damn me if I even knew the difference, Stubenrauch does terrific! Every line that she carries out really feels like she is a younger version of PB. I know that’s in part thanks to the writing, but I really feel like Stubenrauch did her homework in capturing PB’s deliveries to a tee.

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The relationship between Neddy and PB is once again irresistibly sweet. I do like the fact that, while she loves her brother, PB does acknowledge that she needs people like herself to feel more whole. This is where she conjures up the idea to make a family from scratch. It’s important to remember that even though I enjoyed the first chunk of this episode, it’s a bit time consuming. By the time Gumbald, Chicle, and Aunt Lolly are all “invented”, the episode’s already five minutes in. The series of events that follow end up feeling quite rushed as a result.

I’m not really sure I follow Gumbald’s entire “arc” within this backstory. Well, let me rephrase – I understand the intention, but the execution feels incomplete. Bonnibel Bubblegum is supposed to show how PB’s micro-managing of Gumbald led him to feel restrained and held back from his own potential, thus following his rebellion. However, the pacing makes his conflict way too glanced over before he basically turns to full-on villainy and greed. In fact, his plans kind of just make him seem like a less charismatic King of Ooo. He wants to build an entire city, along with apartments, but does that really make sense given the time period this is taking place in? I mean, the beginning of the episode stresses heavily that there’s barely anyone in the surrounding area and Gumbald doesn’t understand the act of creating lifeforms until he notices the candy fish, so who did he suppose was going to actually live in this city and help him become more prosperous? Maybe the idea is purposefully nonsensical, given PB’s perplexed reaction, but I dunno, seems like a lazy way to give Gumbald a motivation beyond just wanting to be independent.

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I’ll reiterate that I don’t really dislike what this episode is going for – I get it, PB and Gumbald are similar in their ultimate desire to control others, stemming from their denial to be controlled by anyone else. But it ends up feeling so hollow because Gumbald never feels like a empathetic character with reasonable goals. This episode ends up making PB too likable to the point where Gumbald’s motivation doesn’t feel fleshed out in the slightest. It isn’t until the series finale where this idea is explored in more detail, but by that point it feels too little, too late. And I know we’re not supposed to like Gumbald, but I think we’re at least supposed to understand him, and I don’t think I left this episode feeling like I learned that much about him. It also doesn’t help that the inception of Aunt Lolly and Chicle further complaints things. They’re two characters created to be Gumbald’s cronies, but they never really get a chance to come into their own either, which makes me wonder why Gumbald wasn’t just introduced by himself.

I do think the subtleties on PB’s part are handled well, however. Like I said, she isn’t that much different from Gumbald aside from a stronger moral compass overall; one of PB’s main flaws throughout the entire series is her controlling nature, which really starts to come out once her “family” is no longer able to think for themselves. It also ties in with the implication that she likely used the dum dum juice when creating her citizens, in order to assure that nobody would ever overthrow her within her position. It’s a pretty fucked up mindset, and I really wonder if this is the motivation that drove PB forward. I do like to think that her child self was innocent enough to just believe, “hey, this juice makes people way happier and less evil, so why don’t I use it when creating new Candy People?” It does open for an interesting discussion regarding how much free will the Candy People truly have by their own nature, to which I even feel could spawn a greater discussion on this blog later on.

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Bonnibel Bubblegum is riddled with a few other treats – Mr. Cream Puff returns as PB’s “boyfriend” in reference to the long-standing gag from the beginning of the series. I still feel like the brief mention in The Vault was enough to satisfy me, but this instance works as well. I do like how The Punch Bowl, Crunchy, and Manfried end up being these really profound and important characters through the events of this episode after years of just being goofy background props. Crunchy’s identity was actually cleverly foreshadowed in the past two episodes, where a missing sign with his image was seen in the background.

Bonnibel Bubblegum works at adding context to PB’s relationship with her uncle, but I don’t think it reaches its full potential because the central conflict isn’t really fleshed out. Gumbald’s inner turmoil is rushed along at the expense of what could have been a really nice exploration of the darker aspects of PB’s character that led to some of her less than fonder moments, but as is, their portrayal ends up feeling quite black-and-white. I know we learn more about Gumbald later on and context is added to his own fears and shortcomings, but since this is the episode that essentially establishes his place within this world, it does a middling job at making me feel pretty much anything towards his character. And for a character that ends up playing such an important role in the story within this season, that’s a bit of an issue.

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Favorite line: “Dang, Chicle, thass cold.”

 

“Fionna and Cake and Fionna” Review

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Original Airdate: July 19, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Hanna K. Nyström

I don’t think a single episode of Adventure Time strikes me as more bizarre than Fionna and Cake and Fionna. A bold statement to say the least, but it’s not because the episode is filled with weird gags and non-sequiturs, akin to King Worm. This is the type of episode that really makes me wonder, “who thought this was a good idea?” With all of the controversial misfires that AT dished out over the years, such as Finn gaining his arm back and Betty’s introduction being quickly glossed over, I’ve been able to accept everything for what it was even if it wasn’t perfect, or good, at the very least. However, the decision to build on the lore behind Fionna and Cake is one that I typically ignore all together just because of how ridiculous and pointless it is.

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The big revelation within this episode is that Fionna and Cake were apparently apart of some super old television show before the Mushroom War. So, all of this time, the Land of Ooo has comprised of coincidental duplicates of the entire Fionna and Cake cast? How… does that make any sense? It’s absolutely jarring information that (nearly) ruins the fabric of the AT world itself. Even worse is that it’s treated so casually, almost as if this is information isn’t Earth shattering in the slightest, and just a simple piece of expository dialogue to drive the episode home with. I’m guessing that this information was going to be utilized for later Fionna and Cake entries, but the show got cancelled and then nothing else ever came from this story at all. I don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse, really, because as much as I feel like this plot point needs further explanation, I just don’t care in the slightest about Fionna and Cake or their role in this world at all anymore. The concept started out as a fun crackpipe idea that Natasha Allegri came up with, but has gotten so lost in the weeds that it doesn’t even know what it wants to be anymore. The world of Fionna and Cake simply isn’t that interesting – it’s just a watered-down and less characterized version of Ooo. The first two F&C episodes were satirical but loving jabs at the nature of fanfiction in general, the third and fourth entries seemed so straightforward and less committed to being parodies that there really wasn’t anything of substance within either, and this one feels like a desperate attempt to keep Fionna and Cake relevant in the world of Adventure Time through the most convoluted way possible. It’s pretty apparent that the staff really doesn’t know what to do with these characters anymore, but they clearly feel obligated to keep churning out an annual entry.

It doesn’t help that the episode is pretty boring on its own. My favorite bits of this episode are at the beginning – I love Finn, Jake, and BMO’s raft ride! After some of the craziest adventures they’ve ever been through, it’s really neat to see the boys back to having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Ice King’s book reading is similarly enjoyable, just for the fact that he actually had a decent turnout of people interested in listening to his stories. I really disliked that Bad Little Boy uncharacteristically portrayed Ice King’s writing as incoherent, because it’s actually one of his strong suits. As goofy as the subject matter is, he actually manages to churn out semi-decent tales with a committed story structure, and it’s nice to see that the folks of Ooo are captivated by these stories. The ol’ coot deserves it! As for the good stuff, the list pretty much ends there. Once the Fionna impersonator introduces herself, the episode slows down entirely while feeling like it’s accomplishing nothing at the same time. The Fionna impersonator really isn’t that interesting… you know from the beginning that she isn’t actually Fionna, so it ends up being a game of waiting for the revelation to come to the forefront. That element alone isn’t always poorly executed, but again, the fact that fake Fionna has little to no character at all makes it a pretty drab experience. I don’t know why they didn’t choose the more fun route of turning her into an obsession stalker, since it would’ve been cool to see Ice King work off of that type of personality. Speaking of which, Ice King isn’t at his A-game in this one. They don’t really give him any humorous material to work with; the closest moment he gets to being funny is when he incorrectly comes to the conclusion that the fake Fionna must be a mummy, but even then, it doesn’t do much for me. After coming off of the heels of Elements, this is probably the weakest IK episode in a long, long time.

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The actual Fionna and Cake segments are equally as pointless. Cake remains to be the only likable character in the F&C world, as Fionna continues to feel like a hollow and lifeless version of her counterpart. The story meanders for a good while, until the eventual twist that the mummy was actually the Queen of Ooo, which is a slightly obscure cameo, but it’s a pretty lame climax. The joke is essentially, “here’s this character all of you know, except as a lady!” which feels incredibly cheap and repetitive. A lot of Fionna and Cake stories are boring and forgettable, but this is definitely the most unremarkable of the five.

This episode tries to make up for being pretty joyless by leaving the audience with a few things to chew on, mainly the concept of Fionna and Cake being real that I had mentioned, and the fact that ideas for Fionna and Cake are beamed into Ice King’s head at night. I guess this could possibly mean that Ice King’s crown somehow picks up the signal of past Fionna and Cake episodes, or vice versa, with his mind projecting the ideas out to Ooo’s television signals, but again, I just could care less. I know that’s kind of an arrogant thing to say, mainly because I write this blog with the intention of putting as much care and passion in as possible, but I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve realized that Fionna and Cake really add nothing to the series beyond their initial episode. As I’ve mentioned, it was a enjoyably bizarre idea for the first entry, but it’s not a concept that lends itself to multiple different independent episodes centered around the idea. This episode would be atrocious for completely disregarding what made Fionna and Cake unique to begin with, but I’m not angry at it for the main reason that I’m not invested in this concept at all to begin with. Fionna and Cake outlived their usefulness long ago, and I’m eternally grateful that this is the last F&C episode ever produced.

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Favorite line: “Yes, let’s never do anything boring ever ag… Time for Ice King’s boring book reading!”

“Slime Central” Review

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Original Airdate: April 26, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Aleks Sennwald

Though it’s presented as one, continuous story, Elements could easily be separated into two parts, with its second half feeling different in its goals of storytelling. Slime Central introduces Lumpy Space Princess as a major player of this miniseries, and wow, it feels like forever since she’s gotten a chance to shine! I’ll be honest, I was a bit perplexed and somewhat put off by the idea of Elements turning into an LSP based developmental story, but time has treated these next few episodes exceptionally well. I genuinely dig her role in the miniseries, and think it may provide for her best role in the series to date.

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The warped Slime Kingdom can be best described as gorgeously ugly. So much detail was put into making it as phlegm-y and nauseating as possible. Slime Central cleverly doesn’t rely entirely on the grossness of its landscape, however, as a majority of the episode takes place within an illuminated roller skating rink, covered in lovely shades of aqua and green. As expected, it looks terrific, and really takes advantage in making beauty out of obscenity.

Tying in with each elemental theme, Slime Central also has fun with its atmosphere of vivaciousness by turning the episode into one, big party. I will say that this is probably the weakest of the environments explored on a tonal level. Candy is delightfully creepy, ice is irresistibly moody, fire plays around with the concept of self-control, while slime is limited to being a mildly fun romp. It may be just a touch overcrowded with character cameos as well; I loved seeing DJ Elder Plops in action, but Party Pat and Breakfast Princess are two characters of whom I don’t care much for that take up a good portion of the spotlight. Though, the dance sequences featuring them are pretty solidly choreographed and fun regardless, so it isn’t too much of a bother. The gimmicky names are once again enjoyable, with probably my favorite being “Spurtle Princess.” That just sounds all kinds of repulsive. Slime Princess’s design in general is a lot of fun, being adapted from a previous sketch created by Steve Wolfhard, and the idea of assimilation is another horrifyingly ludicrous concept to be added to the overall mayhem of the Elemental world. What happens when Slime Princess runs out of party folk, anyhow?

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LSP’s role within this episode is decently sympathetic. I like how her passion to join the boys is fueled by her ultimate failure to conform to the standards of others. It always proves to be sad to me when LSP is rejected not because of her behavior, but because she’s genuinely looked upon as a lesser person. It’s equally fitting that a slime version of the raccoon from Be Sweet is there, reinforcing Lumpy Space Princess’s negative self view and inferiority.

The dance battle is lots of fun; I can’t remember the last time Jake’s love for viola music has played a part in the actual story of an episode, so this was a delightful surprise. LSP and Finn’s dancing is equally enjoyable. Despite the fact that their relationship is most commonly associated with LSP practically raping the little guy, I always do find that bit of charm in their chemistry: I think Finn has evolved and changed to the point where he doesn’t really consider LSP to be one of his close friends anymore, but still considers her an acquaintance, while LSP still puts all of her raw passion and emotion into her relationship with him. This is clearly portrayed in their bombastic routine, which ultimately ends up backfiring, without directly inconveniencing our main heroes. Finn ends up getting exactly what he needs, but sadly cannot save Jake in the process. I mentioned how Cloudy was essentially a standalone episode that didn’t tie-in to the events of Elements all that much, but Finn losing Jake is certainly more devastating after following their reassurance that they would get through this situation together. Finn’s reaction hits hard, even after being separated from his bro several times in the series thus far, and makes for a thoroughly compelling arc that carries through the rest of the miniseries.

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Slime Central is admittedly a little bit bare bones. It’s fun and enjoyable, but there’s not a ton provided for me to feel as though it’s worth a deep analysis of character and story moments. It’s definitely one of the more forgettable Elements entries, though again, not for any specific negative reasons beyond the fact that it just isn’t as interesting as its sister episodes. A passable entry, but nothing too impactful or funny to chew on.

Favorite line: “The crowd-pleasing climax where the beautiful underdog gets the hunk. Rom-com style!”

 

“Orb” Review

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Original Airdate: April 21, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Adam Muto

Adventure Time is no stranger to utilizing dream sequences in order to help flesh out certain stories. Whether it be cryptic prophecies (The New FrontierFrost & Fire, and The Lich), signs of distress (Jermaine, Stakes, and I Am a Sword), self-realization (Crystals Have PowerLemonhope, and The Visitor), or even just plain silliness (Burning Low), AT‘s dream fetish is pretty apparent. So much so that entire episodes have been dedicated to the concept of dreaming and the implications and hidden messages within those dreams. King Worm was the first, which I personally didn’t get into. It’s pacing was uncomfortably awkward, which made the general array of jokes and gags feel progressively weak in their execution. Another was Hoots, which had some interesting dream implications, but was more focused on character exploration that truthfully wasn’t that interesting. Then there’s Orb, which might be my favorite of the bunch. It’s not saying much because I wasn’t crazy about either of its predecessors, but Orb manages to be a pretty thoroughly entertaining entry that not only has improved timing for its more humorous moments, but also has a lot more to chew on from an analytical sense.

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Being smack-dab between two miniseries, Orb is kind of a sweet spot for a post-Islands experience, as well as a pre-Elements experience. The events of this episode technically take place entirely on the boat returning to Ooo, and I think that’s pretty damn cool. For a show that managed to have its main characters be transformed back from being breakfast products entirely offscreen, it’s really cool to have this added transition that doesn’t even mention the events of Islands at all. It almost can be considered standalone for that matter. The goofiness of the boys in the first few minutes is much appreciated, and I love the overstock of bananas. It kind of reminds me of Football, which included an excessive amount of grapefruit for no clear reason.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the dream sequences, shall we? First off, Jake. It’s really nice to see Jermaine again, who has long been absent since his major debut two seasons earlier. I’m always surprised at how Tom Scharpling is able to distinguish Jermaine from Greg Universe without really even changing his voice at all. There’s simply a permanent sense of neurosis within Scharpling’s inflections that really help to make the character feel real every time he’s on screen. The main mission that Jake and Jermaine are given within the dream is a relatively unusual one; Joshua commands his two sons to dig a hole within the surface of their own kitchen. A lot of the fun of Orb comes from drawing conclusions throughout these ambiguous experiences, and I think there’s surely a lot to come from these few bits with Joshua. Digging a hole, within the realm of general dream meanings, signifies a sense of longing and searching for one’s purpose. I think this could be clearly represented through Jermaine ditching his old home to discover his own sense of self-actualization. On Jake’s side, it could be regarding his own curiosities of his magic nature, which was touched upon briefly two episodes earlier in Helpers. This is the definition meaning, but I have stronger implications and ideas from my own point-of-view.

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Considering that their digging proves to be pointless after it is replaced by an untouched circle, I think this dream sequence more prominently represents Jake and Jermaine’s own anxieties about letting their father down. While Jermaine ends up leaving the dream sequence after it gets progressively more taxing, it’s easy to see how this could be an allusion to Jermaine’s own decision to let his father’s home burn to the ground after he decided it wasn’t worth his own mental turmoil. Jermaine even leaves through one of his paintings, of which he decided to get invested in only after he let go of parental burdens. Jake, on the other hand, decides to stay and finish out the job, as he becomes progressively older and more burnt out throughout his experience (and also due to his encounter with his worst fear, The Moon). Jake and Joshua’s relationship is probably the most fascinating out of all of the Dog children. We know that Joshua had high expectations for Finn to be a strong and cunning warrior, while he wanted Jermaine to be the responsible type that would look after his own possessions. Joshua was likely the most fond of Jake, considering that Jake came from his own body, but we never really are given information regarding what expectations Joshua had for his most carefree son. Perhaps, it’s even an expectation that only Jake ruminates on himself. Perhaps it has to due with the fact that, while he was put in charge of taking after Finn, Jake is getting rapidly older day-by-day and isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to do so. Or, it could represent his inability to follow in Joshua’s footsteps for being the great father that he always wanted to be. There’s a lot of different concepts to chew on, but I honestly believe the Finn one is the most intriguing. They’re both getting older, but even then, I think that Jake still feels as though he needs to watch over Finn. It’s mostly an overprotective parent fear, but I get the feeling Jake worries that, if he isn’t around anymore, who will take care of his brother of whom he loves so dearly? There’s also the obvious implications of foreshadowing as well, that are triggered when we do see the Peeper, of whom briefly appears in the window. I’ve rambled a lot, but Jake’s dream is definitely the mostly expansive and interesting out of the three.

Finn’s is much shorter and more concise, but still relatively interesting. It is interesting to note that Finn has both of his arms within the dream sequence, which probably could imply a sense of longing, but I kind of get the feeling that parts of his subconscious haven’t even fully recognized the bionic arm yet. In general, Finn seems to accept it and use it as if it were his old arm, so maybe he just doesn’t really even recognize the difference anymore to the point where he feels whole. A lot of people took note of this being sad and tragic, but I don’t think it’s meant to be taken in a negative connotation. After all, Finn is seen to be flying throughout his dream sequence, denoting his feeling of free will in his choices, presumably after he chose to do what was right for himself after the events of Islands. However, it appears he still has some possibilities for anxiety and regret. When being faced with PB, he’s unable to fly and is held down by strands of grass. This felt like a statement in addressing Finn’s ties to Ooo as a whole. While Finn arguably made his own decision to go back home, I get the feeling that he also feels that he needs to go back home, or else terrible things will befall the people he loves and cares for. This is also represented by PB’s loss of teeth, a popular stress dream that implies a feeling of powerlessness in one’s surrounding. While Finn feels free and happy after his own self-journey, he possibly feels more out of control than ever when it comes to the safety of his other friends of whom he cares for.

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BMO’s dream is probably the simplest to get behind, but in an enjoyable way. It really feels like a childlike nightmare, in which the circumstances aren’t truly textbook levels of horrific, but still psychologically damaging from the perspective of a child. The play that BMO puts on revolves around the theme of Finn and Jake being sad and lonely when he is not around, showing that BMO does feel cared for and needed by his best friends, albeit in a slightly egocentric way. Love how BMO is under the somewhat selfish impression that Finn and Jake’s lives just completely suck without him, but again, it’s very childlike in that regard. Things take a turn, however, when AMO returns to the scene and hurts both Finn and Jake in the process. AMO is still referred to as “BMO”, which shows that BMO may still fear what lies inside of him in the sense that he may end up becoming bad, just like his sibling. In the same vein, BMO fears AMO becoming the “director” in the same way that he fears his programming for dictating his entire life path.

It’s to be expected that any dream episode will have some form of foreshadowing, namely Jake’s aging and the appearance of his biological parent, Ooo being element-ified, the Nightmare Sword, as well as the appearance of the Lich-faced AMO, possibly addressing that the Lich is still around and still very powerful. This episode is stellar for all of its attempts at mysticism and hidden details, but it’s also very funny as well. Aside from the often nonsensical dialogue, of which Orb is chock full of (namely in the beginning sitcom sequence with Jake and family), this is a great episode for visual gags. Not only do the facial expressions and the general anatomy of characters distort themselves at the turn of a dime, but the camera angles and the way characters interact with their environments are also played with for comedic effect. I love the random, almost pointless extreme close-ups within Jake and BMO’s dreams, as well as how Finn shuffles to the top of a hill without taking general perception into consideration. The backgrounds within Orb are similarly delightful, with something as simple as the red curtain on BMO’s stage looking exceptionally stunning with proper lighting and use of color.

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Orb also marks the debut of Nightmare Princess, of whom actually debuted in the game Secret of the Nameless Kingdom. Though, that Nightmare Princess was a completely different character than the one we see here. I get the feeling that the staff just really enjoyed this concept, and wanted to include this character in several steps along the way, but never did until now. As is, she has a pretty rad design. Of course, there’s not much of a character there, but it is in typical Adventure Time fashion that a character as menacing as herself would want something as trivial as a banana. The dimension she brings Finn and Jake to is similarly awesome, which ends up playing a part in the eventual debut of the nightmare induced Ooo. If I was to pinpoint one problem with this episode, it would be that the gag ending feels like the experience was kind of pointless and only existed to move the story along by providing Finn with the nightmare juice. It’s a silly conclusion, but it might be a little too silly for its own good. Like… what does Nightmare Princess even want with their bananas? Perhaps its ambiguity is what adds to the punchline, but it just isn’t really that shocking or even that funny. The ride to get to this conclusion was certainly fun, but the conclusion itself feels a bit lacking and meaningless.

Regardless, I dig Orb. It’s a fun and enjoyable exploration of our three main boys, with better comedic timing and more intriguing implications along the way. This was the only real break I get from the miniseries side of things, and while it was nice to cover a one-off for a change, I am excited to tackle the balls-to-the-wall nature of Elements, another one of AT‘s most grand and ambitious efforts to date!

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Favorite line: “The director’s right this way, director.”

“The Light Cloud” Review

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Original Airdate: February 2, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald, Graham Falk & Adam Muto

The Light Cloud certainly isn’t the weakest of the Islands bunch, but I think it comes the closest to being problematic. Many fans have previously brought up that they thought Islands was way too rushed, which allegedly shows most predominantly in the last two episodes. I have been pretty satisfied with Islands up to this point, and even in its most “pointless” entries (i.e. Whipple and Imaginary Resources) it still offered rich emotional moments and great character interactions. For the most part, The Light Cloud is the same. It gives us a mostly satisfying conclusion with some really great character interactions between Finn and his mother, Susan and Frieda, and the other AT players. What it suffers from, however, is a somewhat rushed and mildly sloppy conflict revolving around the idea of safety vs. exploration.

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Adventure Time usually paints debates in a pretty even way, such as magic vs. science in Wizards Only, Fools or war vs. peace in The Cooler, but I feel like we really haven’t gotten a chance to see a fair angle from the point of view of the humans throughout this miniseries. Through the conclusion of this episode, the humans of Founder’s Island are essentially shown to be naive and undaring in their approach to life, which I think is actually kind of unfair. I personally agree with what Finn has to say about living life through experiencing both pain and happiness, but I think it’s undermining the real possibilities that there are when it comes to the potential dangers that humans could experience once arriving in Ooo. Ooo isn’t exactly the safest place for anyone to live, and the humans themselves don’t really have the benefit of being made of candy to where they can be easily rebuilt. The truth of the matter is that there are real dangers that the humans could run into, considering that they’re nearly extinct to begin with and a large aspect of that has to do with the mutagenic creatures that surrounded them. But I think this real, likely consequence is glanced over in attempt to simply show us how unreasonable Minerva and the other humans are being in their attempts to latch onto the Island.

Minerva is a character that I wish was a lot smarter in her approach to trying to “help” others. I think she has somewhat of a strong point as to why she doesn’t want anyone to leave the island; she lost her son long ago, and the people she cares for have easily become her family over time and she doesn’t want the same to befall them. Despite this, there isn’t really an emotional core to her actions and I feel like she’s dumbed down a tad bit. The episode jokes around with the fact that the Guardian causes more damage than good, and if the writers and characters themselves realize the irony in the Guardian’s creation, then how does the deeply intelligent Minerva not recognize this factor as well? My only excuse for this is that Minnie herself may not all be there… again, it’s been established that Minerva’s experience in uploading her brain map may have left her more robotic than she’d like to admit. In general, I don’t think her actions are necessarily unlikable; as the sole helper on Founder’s Island, she feels that it’s her civic duty to protect the people she has sought out to care for. I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of her common sense.

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In addition, I previously agreed with Finn’s sentiment about allowing fear and danger into one’s life, but I’m not really sure it’s his place to decide what’s best for the people of Founder’s Island. He’s one human, raised among Ooo natives, and can’t really speak what’s best for an entire species. Like I said, I feel as though there are unmentioned dangers that clearly should be addressed, but I think the episode is so caught up with its moral that it doesn’t really want to deal with the other side of things. This, out of any episode in the miniseries, probably would’ve benefited from a second part. I just would have really liked to see this conflict fleshed out from both sides to where it felt as if Minerva and the other humans have a legitimate reason for wanting to stay grounded. What the episode is trying to say is “overprotective is counterproductive” but it ends up feeling more like “safety is meaningless” for me, personally.

With all of that aside, most of this episode is enjoyable for what it wanted to do. Though I feel like Finn’s preaching was a little more pushy than I would’ve liked for it to be, I do think it’s a really nice example of his growth overtime. He no longer desires a life where he is constantly in comfort from the bad things that haunt him. Instead, he’s more into the idea of having those problems and working through them with everything that he’s learned and everything that he enjoys doing. I especially love his inclusion of the fact that not only is life good or bad from time to time, but boring as well. It’s just really refreshing to hear life being explained as “boring” for once instead of limiting it to one big, exciting journey. Like Finn said, life is never just one thing. Most of the episode feels like one big love letter to Finn’s adventures in Ooo in general. We’re first treated to a series of flashbacks that help to emphasize the darkness within Finn’s homeland, followed by a sequence that brings light to how Finn manages to get through those darker times by helping and assisting others. I also adore the description of “kingdoms made of candy, beautiful dragons, fire-breathing princesses, incredibly sad wizards.” That could absolutely be on a postcard for Ooo. While I thought Minerva’s actions were a bit hasty at times, I do appreciate how much fun she is in this episode. She isn’t unlikable or harsh in her actions, as she remains upbeat and quirky throughout the entire experience which makes it much more tolerable in the long run. Finn and his mother’s dynamic is quite sweet, despite Finn’s initial objections. I think it is kind of cool to see how defiant Finn is towards his mother. Had this been a couple years earlier, I would bet that Finn would most certainly sacrifice his humanity for Martin. Now, feeling much more confident in who he is and what he wants from life, he isn’t going to listen to just anyone, even if they are his parent.

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Frieda and Susan come to a resolution, which is also very sweet. Truthfully, I felt like this is another arc that could benefit from a few more moments of focus, namely allowing Frieda to actually release the anger and frustration that she was initially hiding from Kara. It’s pretty interesting to see that not only does rehabilitation change the way hiders view the island, but also how they view emotions and vulnerability in general. It pretty much suppresses every part of a person. Regardless, I do dig the way that Susan’s arc was finally resolved. She gets a happy ending with her friend, but ultimately allows Frieda to make that choice for herself. Susan doesn’t do anything to persuade her, but merely channels the aspects of Frieda’s personality that internalize her to successfully help her friend move forward. It’s a really nice sentiment, and I especially love how Susan ultimately chooses to keep her Ooo name rather than the name she was given. “Kara” represents a girl who was never allowed individuality beyond the system, while “Susan” represents somebody who found her own way, and was able to develop and grow because of it. Islands is definitely the most I’ve ever cared for Susan.

There are a couple more pacing issues within this episode. I like to think that Finn and Jake spent at least a couple weeks or a month on Founder’s Island before leaving, but the way it’s framed, it seems like it’s only been a couple hours. Minerva says to Finn, “you can’t teach a fish to dance overnight,” so does that mean it’s really only been one night? The initial The Light Cloud storyboard included that Finn and Jake had stayed for three months after Finn offered to hang out for a while, which makes it even stranger given the context of the following scenes. I still like to think the boys stayed for a portion of their time, but otherwise, it could’ve used stronger implications. What really drives this one home is the emotional goodbye that Finn bids to his mother via VR. Once more, the elephant in the room is addressed as Finn questions Minerva’s true identity after she uploaded her brain map. He’s left with the unfortunate truth that Minnie herself doesn’t really know, but she at least thinks that she is. For Finn that might just be enough. And for myself, it definitely is.

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The Light Cloud parallels The Dark Cloud in showcasing an extreme version of safety as opposed to an extreme version of danger. I only wish that this concept could have been a bit more challenging in its execution. This episode presents a solution without really showing the possible cons and ends up feeling a bit rushed by the end of it. But, like all seven episodes before it, The Light Cloud offers up terrific character moments and satisfying emotional resolutions to make up for it, bringing this miniseries to an (almost) entirely satisfying conclusion.

Thank you for tuning in to my coverage of Islands! The full miniseries review will be out next week, as I prepare to tackle an entirely new miniseries a couple weeks later. This is definitely the most haywire period of reviewing the series in general, but I’m certainly having a lot of fun with it. So, here’s to more great content along the way!

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Favorite line: “Hope you didn’t come to get the soup!”

“Hide and Seek” Review

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Original Airdate: February 1, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Aleks Sennwald

Hide and Seek really kicks Islands into high gear by diving deep into Susan – er, Kara’s backstory and pretty much showing us everything we’ve ever needed to know about her character. This episode is pretty much one big exposition bomb regarding the policies and nature of Founder’s Island, but one that is tied to a truly tense and somber story in reference to how much freedom the humans actually have when dealing with the long term aftermath of the war. It’s interesting to see that, even among a world of totally civilized and very self-aware mutants, the humans still shelter themselves off in fear that they simply cannot survive. It’s a potentially overly cautious notion, but from the instinctively panicked eyes of a human, I feel like it totally makes sense. In the midst of all of the violence and terror within our own society, extensive security measures are pretty much a norm by this point in time. Not to say that extra attempts at safety are necessarily counterproductive, but the way Hide and Seek executes the dystopian policy feels very real and logical from a humanistic perspective. Of course, what Hide and Seek also plays around with is questioning “how much is too much?” as certain humans battle between safety and free will.

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Returning to the series once more is Dr. Gross, which was to be expected from her initial appearance in Preboot. I wasn’t entirely into Gross’s character in her debut, and thought that her descent into villainy felt somewhat confused at times, but here, she really gets a chance to shine. Dr. Gross is straight up wicked in this one, using manipulation and her own ideology of how humanity should be to strike against anyone that defies her. I truthfully like the way she’s designed here better than her design in Preboot , and I think her general appearance is interestingly symbolic when compared to the other humans who surround her. While she’s stated that she desires to bring the humans into a new golden age, she’s likely the least human person on Founder’s Island, both figuratively and literally. She wants everyone to preserve what remains of the human species, but in the process, everyone is becoming considerably less human themselves. The Founder’s Song not only paints a great picture of how humanity got to this point, but is also really, really catchy. This is one of my favorite post-Sugar songs without a doubt, and Lennon Parham’s voice quite tremendously carries it through. There are also plenty of other nice tidbits within the song sequence, such as how one of the blimps is clearly labeled “MoCo” and how it appears the gaping crater within the Earth is actually referenced to be a result of human error rather than the war itself. At least that’s what I’ve gathered, from Dr. Gross’s musical cues.

Kara’s backstory gives us a lot insight into her character, and it’s admittedly pretty sad. Throughout her entire life, Kara has never truly been able to choose a path for herself. While we’re all conditioned to think about and perceive the world in certain ways, most end up choosing whether they want to carry these values with them into their adulthood. Kara has been influenced to regard her surroundings as an absolute utopia, and before she even has a chance to question her own belief system, it’s too late. Dr. Gross already has complete control over her mind and actions, once more both literally and figuratively. After she eventually leaves Founder’s Island, she ends up in a completely primitive state where she must start over and only has the teachings of others to go off of. It really adds a sense of tragedy to her character, as she carries on through her life in a state of constant naivety. Her upbringing is very reminiscent of a cult, to where you can’t really help but feel bad for her, considering that she’s constantly faced with uncertainty on a morally conscious level. And this level of morality and fairness comes into question the most when she’s faced with the individual uncertainty of her best friend Frieda.

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The connection between Frieda and Kara is quite poignant. I don’t really think either of them are particularly strong characters (no pun intended), per se, but their interactions can best be described as entirely human. This a miniseries designed around the lives of humans, and even in the crazy, messed up world of Adventure Time, it’s really nice to watch a simple, down-to-earth friendship with some (relatively) down-to-earth drama. They play the part of friendly opposites quite well: Kara is a rule-abiding citizen that wants to do what’s right for her community, as well as others, while Frieda is the free-spirited wild child who is more interested in something beyond her own comprehension than what she’s dealt with at hand.

The conflict of the episode is very believable and empathetic, with neither side coming across as particularly unlikable. Kara is concerned for her friend and does not want her to be hurt by what lies beyond Founder’s Island, while Frieda wants to seek out a new life outside of the sanitation of her own community. As she states, “Maybe [I’ll get hurt], but maybe getting hurt isn’t the worst thing there is.” It’s a surprisingly mature and kind of heavy sentiment that emphasizes just how controlled Founder’s Island truly is; it doesn’t seem like its inhabitants are really able to grow and flourish, as they never actually experience pain or suffering outside of their little bubble. Not to say that they should suffer, but again, to be human is to suffer. A lot of the interactions between Frieda and Kara as the episode goes along are pretty heart-wrenching, especially Kara’s non-answer of “It’s gonna be okay!” after Frieda questions her loyalty. Again, Kara isn’t particularly wrong or unlikable in this situation – she cares about her friend, but she also cares about what is morally right to do.

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That cult aspect I mentioned before continues to play a part in Kara’s discussion with Dr. Gross. Anyone who has a different point-of-view from Gross or the knowledge of the Founders themselves is automatically seen as misguided and needs to be properly dealt with and “educated.” It’s a very controlling method of thinking, and only makes me wonder how many other innocents were harmed by their refusal towards the system. It’s made even more horrifying when we get to see how these “rebels” are dealt with, as Dr. Gross effectively manipulates Kara’s brain-chip to carry out her own bidding. I never could figure out if Dr. Gross just effectively picked up on Kara’s context clues, or if Kara herself had flat-out told her, but regardless, it’s pretty heartbreaking either way. There’s already a long, intellectual video that analyzes the meaning behind the slow motion shot of Frieda’s hat being removed, but I have my own two cents. I think Kara removing Frieda’s hat symbolically represents the hypocrisy of the Dr. Gross’s methods. She wants to follow the advice carried out by the Founders, which is to keep everyone unconditionally safe, yet the animal hats were used initially as the only “protection” for humanity during the aftermath of the war. Thus, Dr. Gross is effectively eliminating Frieda’s safety by trying to preserve it, and has become exactly what she sought out to fix. Whatever way people do see it, it’s an impactful moment that really helps to show the errors of humanity even beyond their own safe haven, and one that carries through the remainder of the miniseries even in Gross’s absence.

Hide and Seek features a sad story that succeeds entirely for its compelling story at the helm. That, and it’s also pretty visually stunning. Islands has really been hitting it out of the park with beautiful scenery and terrific landscapes. I have a couple minor nitpicks for this one: I’m not really into the super big heads they gave the children during Dr. Gross’s seminar – it felt more like chibified AT fanart than what I actually imagined human children would look like. There were a couple moments where I felt like Frieda’s VA could’ve done better during her emotional breakdown, but she did pretty well for the most part of the episode. The only other complaint I have is that I wish we saw more of Gross after this episode, but hey, can’t blame the series for that! I guarantee that if it continued, Gross would’ve had a bigger role down the line. Otherwise, it’s a lore-heavy entry that is packed with drama and sadness, and one that keeps me fully invested from beginning to end. The next episode is my favorite of the Islands miniseries, and I cannot wait to discuss it in more detail.

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Favorite line: “I think she’s, uh, getting ready to sleepwalk-sleep.”