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“Come Along With Me” (Part 1) Review

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Not a single rip or tear. *sniff*

Original Airdate: September 3, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

And so begins our four week trip through Adventure Time‘s big climax! Going into Come Along With Me was a surreal experience. Adventure Time was this huge, juggernaut series that once seemed undefeatable – it was essentially Cartoon Network’s SpongeBob for a good chunk of the 2010s (until Teen Titans Go! started picking up steam). The idea of a series finale for such a massive show was almost unreal to me, not to mention a show that has sold itself on having many, many, many, MANY hanging threads. When I sat down to watch the long-awaited finale, I went in with a sense of excitement, but also a sense of dread. Adventure Time was, and still is, my favorite series out there, and the idea of its finale not landing was exceptionally stressful for myself. Luckily, upon a first viewing experience, I was very much enamored with its sense of closure and the general care and passion that the crew clearly put in. Upon reevaluation, I still think a lot of what worked on a first watch still succeeded… while other aspects, unfortunately, did not. But before we tackle the contents of the episode, let’s first dive into the intro that precedes it.

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Come Along With Me begins in the distant future that was elaborated upon in Graybles 1000+. Steve Wolfhard clearly had a ball boarding for this sequence, and you can really see just how much of his love for the fallen Ooo really shines through. A lot of the concepts he kickstarted feel fully fleshed out, or at the very least, semi-fleshed out. All elementals are accounted for, including the battling fire and slime beings named X and O respectively, the ice dome that still holds Patience St. Pim, and a bit of a mystery regarding the Candy Elemental. Within the Ice Thingdom, there are pink hands that can be clearly seen behind bars, but there’s also the hooded character watching over the land that has been theorized to be PB. I like how the 1000+ world works in a way that doesn’t reveal too much in terms of what happened to our major characters from the past – they might all be rotting in the ground, or some of them might very well still be kicking. I like the subtlety of playing around with the idea, rather than having it fully spelled out like the Season 11 comics attempted to do. It’s much more intriguing this way. There’s other neat touches, like the rise of the “Pup Kingdom” and the idea that Charlie’s future son rules over it. Again, a lot of stuff that Wolfhard clearly fleshed out in one way or another, which also makes the episode at hand more interesting and quite charming.

Then we’re introduced to Shermy and Beth, the duo that essentially work to capture the essence of Finn and Jake’s bond and heroism. There was never really a ton that went into Shermy’s history or past, but Beth is riddled with a hidden baggage that Wolfhard conducted off-screen. Beth, as revealed in the intro, is the “pup princess,” though her role as a leader didn’t last, as she was exiled and became a fugitive of the Pup Kingdom. She also has the gnarly ability to warp things through her belly-button, carrying on the legacy of her alien ancestor, Jake. Shermy and Beth are both fun and likable. There’s a simplistic charm to their characters that is very (successfully) reminiscent of their adventurous counterparts. Though, I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that they are reincarnations of Finn and Jake. Obviously Beth is related to Jake in some way, but I don’t really think Shermy is supposed to be a future version of Finn. Or at least, that’s not what I took from his character. Heroes, like Finn and Jake, die off eventually, but there will always be a righteous duo in the world that proceeds them. Despite their ancestry, I like to believe that Shermy and Beth are just two cool peeps that don’t have any kind of heroic blood or vital force inside that connects to our former duo, they’re just two close companions that help to lighten up the world through their connectedness and desires for good (even if it involves being a bit rambunctious). Since the series has concluded, I’ve seen a handful of people pitch the idea of an entire show revolving around Shermy and Beth, buuuut I’m not sure if I’d be especially interested in that concept. They’re fun placeholder characters, but I don’t think their creation intends for them to be filled to the brim with depth.

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The further fleshed out version of the 1000+ world remains intriguing in its blend of macabre and goofy developments. It’s definitely bleak, with more muted colors and a sense of degradation, but a lot of its inhabitants are endearing in a way that would even make them suitable inhabitants of the pre-post-post (that’s a doozy) apocalyptic world. Princess Zip exists to show that interaction with extra-terrestrial life has increased after the events of High Strangeness, but also as an example that things have changed drastically, yet not very much, in the thousand years since Finn and Jake roamed Ooo. A barely intelligence alien princess is odd, but in actuality, is it any more odd than a rainbow unicorn fluent in Korean? It feels very real in not changing so much that it’s unrecognizable, but changing enough that clear transitions have occurred over a long period of time.

It’s super silly, but I feel like I can totally get behind BMO being the only character whose status is confirmed in the 1000+ world. This isn’t to say that BMO doesn’t have depth, but he surely is the most static of the main cast. While any other character would probably go through some drastic, grittier appearance change, BMO remains virtually the same with very little physical altercations. I also like the idea that, in a world where technology is constantly evolving, a little robot boy that is likely considered primitive by the standards of the 1000+ is still standing. Of course, it is slightly questionable from a believability standpoint. BMO has been prone to more life-threatening obstacles than any of his other friends in the main cast, and it is somewhat difficult to grasp that the little robot has made it this far. There’s the possibility that he’s always had someone to look after him and upgrade his software over the years, but the independent BMO that we see before us does raise some questions. Like, what if his batteries end up dying? Is he just dead there forever with anyone to put him back together? I’m probably way over-thinking it, but I think almost anything in this type of futuristic dystopian could be subject to skepticism.

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I also love the idea that BMO, er, the King of Ooo, is regarded among Ooo civilians as some kind of legend or urban myth, when really, it just seems like another case of BMO playing dress-up. I was fully prepared to see the self-proclaimed King of Ooo in this episode, as Wolfhard had already pitched around the idea of KOO existing in the far future once before. BMO’s abode (atop the iconic Mount Cragdor) is riddled with various easter eggs from the course of the series. Mentioning each and every one of them would be redundant – they’re all listed out on the wiki page, and I really only identified all of them through this complete comprehensive list. I will comment on the few I find most interesting, however.

  • There’s several items that really make me wonder how BMO even acquired them in the first place: Finn’s discarded grass arm from Escape From the Citadel, the maid from Crossover, Melissa’s license plate from Trouble in Lumpy Space, etc. I’m sure the thought process behind these small cameos was not necessarily to make complete sense, but rather to sprinkle in as many tiny references for the audience to recognize as possible. Though, I think a couple of these may be too ambitious for their own good.
  • Apparently BMO has multiple remnants of his dead friends? Beth picks up Mr. Fox’s skull and apparently the dead Fionna and Cake Omnibus is in there too, haha, holy shit. Not to mention AMO’s empty shell lying about as well.
  • I thought it was super sweet how one of the cards from Shh! was actually framed. BMO considers it a true relic.
  • I kind of wonder if some of the items spotted were not even intended to be easter eggs, like the basketball from Simon & Marcy or a block from The Tower. I wanna believe that they were, but I also think it’s funny to see just how deeply people dug into analyzing even the tiniest of references.

These easter eggs are fun, though perhaps a bit too overwhelming. I mean, BMO has lived 1,000 years after the passing of Finn and Jake, I’d like to think that there would be more unusual or unknown artifacts from years passing that don’t connect to anything that we’ve seen in the series. But of course, I’m being cynical. This made for a fun little game of I Spy that’s main purpose was to engage with fans, and I can’t say I blame it for doing that. I much more bothered by Shermy singing Tropical Island, a song that was sung ONCE in the entire series and never documented in any way. That was a bit too fanservice-y for my liking.

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BMO coming across Finn’s discarded robot arm was both really sad and somewhat humorous. I do wonder what happened to BMO that he isn’t able to remember Finn’s name. I mean, half of the shit BMO owns is connected to Finn in some way. The little guy may have gotten that much dreaded memory wipe that was first referenced in Be More, but I’m not sure if he would be able to recall anything in that case. But, regardless, this moment where BMO can’t fully recollect his former best friend and owner is super saddening, though comforting in the very least that he remembers the history of “Phil” regardless.

As we trek into the actual story of the Great Gum War, I love the immediate sense of conclusiveness as our first scene of past (or present) Ooo is Finn’s spirit animal, a butterfly. In general, butterflies carry a great meaning of hope and endurance, and never have those traits been stronger in Finn than on the brink of war. Even though it doesn’t commit fully, the first act of Come Along With Me feels very dark and desolate, but also very massive. Prominent characters like King Man, Betty, and Maja all converging, as a legion of heroes congregate below, does make the weight of Come Along With Me much more apparent. I mean, the God damned Duke of Nuts is there, for crying out loud! The dude hasn’t shown up in eight whole years. I like all of these big royal figures being there, but honestly, I think they could’ve went one step beyond. It would’ve made my heart happy if literally every princess that has ever appeared was apart of PB’s union, but I can understand that they mostly just wanted to focus on the big dogs. Though, I’m not even sure I fully get behind all of these big political figures standing very clearly at the center of a war. Maybe I’m just politically naïve, but this isn’t traditionally how wars work, right? A president or world leader hasn’t just stood erect on a battlefield in front of their entire army, correct? I can’t really get behind the logic in that. How is Lemongrab gonna be helpful during a full-scale war?

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I do like the continued establishment of each character dealing with the concept of war in their own unique way. I wish it had been a bit more emotive and raw, but Marceline, being the only character present that has consciously survived through The Great Mushroom War, has a nice reflective moment of both understanding the notion of history repeating itself, yet not wanting to relive such a tragedy again. That brief cut to a young Marcy standing before the destruction of the world around her is actually one of my favorites from the entire episode, as a visual representation of Marcy’s true depth of anxiety. PB is clearly fully detached emotionally and isn’t prepared to let her feelings for those around her compromise what she ultimately believes to be right. I kind of thought that maybe she was a bit too detached to Marceline, but then I realized that her comment, “let’s talk when this is all over,” is probably Bubblegum’s most sincerest form of saying “everything will be alright” without actually saying that. Jake, in typical Jake fashion, doesn’t blow things out of proportion with his belief on the outcome of the war, and feels optimistic that maybe everything will be quick and painless. But Finn clearly opines that things don’t have to be this way, and that there must be another way out. I think those involved in the war are clearly either working on PB’s same level of paranoia, a sense of pride for Ooo, or just as a simple allegiance to the Candy Kingdom. Finn, however, while probably slightly selfish in wanting things to remain stagnant, seeks out an alternate opportunity for what he sees is the only way to save those around him, in a paranoia almost opposite to PB’s. Cue the nightmare juice.

I will say, Act I really succeeds on the humor front. Those first few scenes on the actual battlefield are hilarious – even Gumbald whips out some funny lines here and there! I don’t know why they tried to make Gumbald this super serious and intimidating character, Fred Melamed seems more in tune with comedic timing than actually carrying out legitimately threatening dialogue. Gumbald’s whole deal with taunting Bubblegum using a lemon was funny enough, but Lemongrab writing down “un-make me” was the icing on the cake (no pun intended). I also really loved Pendleton Ward’s delivery of LSP’s opening line, “here we go,” as she embraces the war occurring in front of her. It’s super interesting to me that PB’s decision to reconsider was reinforced by her ability to reminisce about her connection to Shoko. Shoko was someone PB cared about during the initial inception of the Candy Kingdom, and she unfortunately lost her before they could become close. She finally had the opportunity to befriend a young pupil when Finn came along, and doesn’t want to risk similar consequences of war befalling him. Her honest emotions outside of her deeper anxieties begin to set in, as she starts to reconsider. It doesn’t last long, however. A back-and-forth with Uncle G. sets her right back into her primitive desires of survival, which triggers our transition into the next act, where 3/5ths of our main cast are officially dead.

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Finn and Gumbald’s poses… Yikes.

The first act of Come Along With Me does a pretty stellar job of establishing the finale’s story, with a well-developed look into the future and genuine tension as the conflict of war finally arises, along with a few good laughs along the way. I think it’s a little disappointing for me personally that Herpich and Wolfhard had a big part in the setup, but not the execution of the episode. At the same time, though, the stuff with Shermy, Beth, and the 1000+ world really is Wolfhard’s baby, and I’m glad he got a chance to see it through to the end. There’s also plenty of terrific visual moments, namely the establishing of opposing sides on the battlefield as dawn breaks. I’m still not positive if, in its execution, Come Along With Me was as big as it was hyped up to be. But this first part does, at the very least, commit to making things feel as large as possible.

Favorite line: “Have fun on the other side of this door!”

“Diamonds and Lemons” Review

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Original Airdate: July 20, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Anna Syvertsson

Diamonds and Lemons is a very… different Adventure Time special, in more ways than one. While Adventure Time is no stranger to having shorts and specials outside of its production schedule (The WandGraybles Allsorts, and Frog Seasons) it has never had a fully realized 11 minute episode not assigned to any one season. It’s also the last Adventure Time episode ever produced, originally intended to be aired after the series finale. I’m kinda glad that didn’t happen, because I feel as though my sense of finality with the show, along with many other’s, would be harmed in the process. I feel as though it’s the primary reason Cartoon Network held off on Come Along With Me for so long – to get this considerably less conclusive episode out first.

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I’d also argue that this is Adventure Time‘s first, and only, real crossover episode. The world of Adventure Time has always felt very self-contained and devoid of the possibility of crossing realms with other pre-existing properties. Pendleton Ward himself stated that he had no intention of ever doing any crossovers, and the show remained that way for quite some time.¹ It is quite interesting that a world as limitless as Adventure Time would have such a restriction, but it does make sense from several viewpoints. While crossovers are fun, they can also be gimmicky. While they explore more possibilities within the property’s universe, they also can defy the laws of its world that make it so unique to begin with. For these reasons, I was pretty opposed to the idea of Adventure Time combining its style with other properties, and wasn’t especially happy when I heard about the concept of Diamonds and Lemons. Though not the traditional idea of a crossover episode, Adventure Time taking on the world of Minecraft felt like a pretty clear cash grab that didn’t initially seem to stem from a loving motivation by the production team. But, as more came out about it, I started to become pretty fascinated by Diamonds and Lemons. Not only did its general design fascinate me (I was really expecting Diamonds and Lemons to be a blatant exploration of the Adventure Time Minecraft map) but the passion and attention-to-detail really began to seem apparent. Adam Muto even sweetly stated that the episode was more of a selfish opportunity for him to work with the AT team one last time, which makes me appreciate it so much more. So, I’ve gone on long enough about the backstory of Diamonds and Lemons – what do I actually think about the episode? Well, it’s good! … I think.

The most difficult part about enjoying Diamonds and Lemons to the fullest is that I’ve never played Minecraft a day in my life, and I sort of feel as if the episode is a bit exclusive when dealing with inside jokes and elements from the game. I have no idea what “griefing” is or even the basis of Enderman; I feel as though the episode doesn’t really over-complicate these features, but it is probably more appreciated by people who are actually into Minecraft itself. I wouldn’t expect a Minecraft episode of anything to be entirely suitable for a general audience – even South Park‘s spoof from five years earlier, Informative Murder Porn, had me feeling slightly left out of the action. Some Minecraft elements do work, purely in the realm of absurdity. I’m assuming that pig-riding is a prominent element of Minecraft, and even without that prior knowledge, it is funny to see Mr. Pig being so submissive to the request.

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Speaking of Mr. Pig – he’s in this! I know that’s not an inherently shocking statement, but the sheer amount of tertiary characters that received special Minecraft style models is really impressive. So many of these characters aren’t even necessary for the story, yet it shows the surprising amount of effort and care that went into this bizarre crossover. Hell, the Life Giving Magus is in it! A character that practically nobody cares about, but one that they still worked in regardless. It’s really nice.

“Nice” and “effort” are words that sum up a good majority about Diamonds and Lemons. What makes this episode seem like less of a cash grab is the amount of care that went into its production. Diamonds and Lemons actually has a really nice atmosphere; many sequences within its run-time are focused on characters just going about their lives silently as beautiful skies change around them. Even though I mentioned that many of the characters included aren’t particularly necessary for the story, almost everyone has an individual arc that is concluded. Marcy and PB build a windmill, Lemongrab ends up actually creating something (even if it isn’t a lemon), Tree Trunks finally gets her apples, Ice King successfully “griefs” Finn, etc. A lot of these individual character moments are really fun and likable – I even think Marcy is a lot more lively here than she’s been in quite a while.

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In typical Adventure Time fashion, an episode as disposable as this one does present a story with a decent amount under the surface to chew on. The episode tackles the concept of money quite nicely, and the pressures that come with actually possessing it. There is, of course, the social pressure of wanting to have nice things like those around you as a sense of validation for your own being, but there’s also the conflict of having disposable income with no idea what to use it for. I think it’s kind of a common idea that people feel that they NEED to spend their money on nice things for it to actually have value. But shiny and valuable objects don’t actually fulfill any kind of human need, which leaves us with a “fleeting sensation of beauty and its false sense of purpose.” Hell, I believe this, and I still fall into the habit of collecting junk for the false sense of value. Just look at all of the nice looking Adventure Time crap that I’ve accumulated over the years! Jake’s careless disposal of diamonds seems illogical at first, but it quickly becomes clear that Finn’s purchases are essentially just a more glamorous version of wasting money. As Finn states:

“Beauty is in the hard work itself and the – oftentimes false – sense of purpose we feel when doing it. It’s a fleeting sensation that drives us to repeat our actions in order to capture it again.”

Essentially, the things we can do with money don’t really matter (given that we’re able to provide for ourselves and fulfill basic human needs), but the work we engage that actually does give us a sense of purpose, even if it isn’t matching our full potential. Again, I have no idea if this analysis actually applies itself to the nature of diamonds in the Minecraft universe, but it helps me to have a bit more fun with Diamonds and Lemons regardless.

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I never thought I’d say it, but Adventure Time‘s Minecraft episode is surprisingly enjoyable. It boasts charming character designs, lovely backgrounds and colors, fun character moments, and a nice central theme to tie it together. I don’t really think Diamonds and Lemons is great, by any means. While it makes for a pleasant and fun viewing, it isn’t exactly strong story-wise, and it’s hard to fully invest yourself unless you’re a fan of both franchises. But, for what it is, I’m amazed that it actually manages to be as decent as it is. For an idea that really came across as an apparent cash grab, it really shows that this was a project built on community, giving the AT crew one last hurrah before closing up shop.

Diamonds and Lemons also features a pretty awesome pixelated intro, animated by artists Paul Robertson and Ivan Dixon. You can check it out on their YouTube channel here!

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¹ Pendleton Ward stated at some point during AT‘s SDCC panel in 2013 that he wasn’t interested in the possibility of crossovers. Though, this was specifically in response to a fan’s question about a My Little PonyAdventure Time crossover.

Favorite line: Does this guy even have toes? Are those his toes? I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a toe, come to think of it.”

Adventure Time Reviewed: Send Your Questions In!

Hi all! The Diamonds and Lemons review should be coming out either later tonight or tomorrow – apologies for the delay.

Before we get to covering the finale, I wanted to collect a lot of the inquiries I’ve gotten over the years for a Q&A post that will release later this weekend. I also wanted to open this up as an opportunity for any viewers to ask questions they may have for me. No real contingencies or rules for this, just try to stick to AT related questions and stray away from any ideas that are too inappropriate (I’m not going to answer which AT character I would bang – we already know that it would be Jungle Princess). Feel free to send away, I’ll try to answer them all, if possible!

“Gumbaldia” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Graham Falk

After multiple viewings, I still grapple with my feelings towards Gumbaldia. As the penultimate episode to the series, it certainly builds up for what’s to come in its climax. Though, that’s exactly the issue. More obvious in retrospect than during a first viewing, Gumbaldia was clearly executed as an opportunity for the staff to have much, much more material down the line. I opine that, had the show continued from this point on, we would have certainly moved into a miniseries revolving around the Gum War and the reunion of various villains throughout Ooo. It seems like that was the obvious next move from this episode, but the sudden cancellation of the series kind of pushed the staff into a corner. They still followed up with the Gum War, but the “Candy Kingdom Haters” were sidelined almost entirely, for the respectable reason that, with all other loose ends that needed to be tied up, there just wasn’t room for them. That being said, judging Gumbaldia for what it is, rather than what it was intended to be is a difficult experience. I think a lot of the set pieces in this episode are fine, and the eerie atmosphere that encompasses its entirety really adds to the harshness of its themes, but ultimately, Gumbaldia… doesn’t really need to exist.

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I know that’s a cryptic and almost slanderous statement. In reality, there are plenty of Adventure Time episodes that could be pointed out and described as “inconsequential.” But, with Gumbaldia, it’s clear that its purpose is to develop story elements that carry through into the next episode. In this episode, Finn laments about the inevitability of war and embarks on a last ditch effort to resolve the tensions between two parties. In the next episode, Come Along With Me, he ends up following the same exact path, only (somewhat) succeeding the second time around. Gumbald is revealed to be paranoid in this episode, dealing with the same issues of inferiority that PB suffers from. This concept is explored in much more detail in the following episode, in a way that successfully paints a picture of Gumbald’s struggles, while this episode merely plays around with the idea of such anxiety until Gumbald decides to follow through with his plans anyway. Aunt Lolly is revealed to have a possible softer side, but again, that’s retconned by the end of the episode, and only further elaborated on in Come Along With Me.

I feel as though Gumbaldia consists of a lot of half-baked ideas that end up just being repeated in the following episode (for better or worse), and while that’s not really the episode’s fault, it does feel as if it’s entirely disposable upon revisiting. One could view this as an “establishing” piece, tossing around ideas that generally get fleshed out more in subsequent entries, but when it feels as though you still get the gist of everything even without it, it’s difficult to really discover the underlying purpose of it all. The only real points of heavy development are the initiation of the Gum War (which, again, could have just as easily been established without a definitive bit of exposition) and Peppermint Butler being reverted by dum-dum juice – though I’m not really certain that counts as development.  I’d throw in Aunt Lolly too, but honestly, her character growth is so perplexing that I feel as though her role in the following episode would be equally as confusing regardless.

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I’ve talked about this before, but this isn’t really a criticism I enjoy dishing out. I think the idea of something “not needing to exist” is such a facile jab that it’s almost quibbling. But, I think it’s important to discuss because Gumbaldia is clearly a product of its time. This was an episode produced when the staff had the mindset of continuing the series and each established storyline. The sudden closure of production put the staff in a place where they had to think most logically about what would be the most fitting conclusion to the series – not to Gumbaldia. Thus, this truly does feel like a collection of set pieces that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The ideas presented are either scrapped entirely or redistributed, making almost everything feel insignificant.

So, that large tangent aside, what do I think about the episode without the finale in mind? Well, I think it’s decent. Like I mentioned, I think it builds up the eerie atmosphere in a pretty successful way. I try to stay as far away from political discussions on this blog for two central reasons:

  1. My own naivety when it comes to world affairs. (I am a cartoon analyst after all… what did you expect?)
  2. The lack of necessity it brings to particular points.

Regardless, I do think this episode is interesting, given the time period it was released during. It was a period of time where the concept of war and international conflict was particularly stressful, and almost unavoidable. Gumbaldia came along right after that anxiety seemed to have peaked in the States, but it is intriguing to look back on Finn’s almost hopeless feelings of being trapped in a war that he doesn’t want to be apart of as sort of a display of empathy. Of course, this is clearly an episode that can be used to describe a variety of different conflicts and current affairs, and to elaborate on all of them would just be breaking my two golden rules. Especially that first one. Again, cartoon reviewer, guys. Ya can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

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On the subject of controversy, I think there is a lot of debate on whether Finn is portrayed in a light that’s true to his character or not. After all, this is a character that has stated that he “kills things all the time.” I suppose for a lot of people, this approach to pacifism has never been a part of Finn’s character; I’ll admit, it does seem much more like a development more suited for Steven Universe than Finn Mertens. But, regardless of this, I think the decision to have Finn choose a more peaceful route over his naturally inclined instinct to punch and kick everything that opposes him is something I do respect.

My main takeaway of Finn’s realization isn’t that he decided that fighting is wrong, but that some problems simply cannot be solved by violence. I don’t even personally think this is an entirely accurate belief; I’m against violence for the most part, but I do acknowledge that there are certain situations where brute force is a necessary option to consider when reason and logic prove ineffective. I’m not so sure that Finn is even written to be entirely in the right from the episode’s perspective – after all, his chances at making peace do fail by the end of it. There’s even that brief exchange at the beginning that kind of plays off Finn’s desires for peace as innocent and not fully realized. Despite being particularly unclear of the complexities of foreign conflict, I do think he is perhaps being the most logical out of both parties involved. I mean, it’s tough to say, because the subject at hand is pretty complex and probably more difficult to dissect than it appears to be from a surface level. But as Gumbaldia presents, both PB and Gumbald are coming from standpoints of paranoia fueled defensiveness. PB fears that Gumbald’s superior technology will destroy everything that she’s ever worked with, and Gumbald fears being micromanaged and essentially left lobotomized once more. Finn is operating from the perspective of what’s best for everyone (with probably a slight bit of selfishness when it comes to not wanting to be involved in warfare) instead of internalizing a quick and potentially fatal solution that may forever dismantle Ooo as they know it.

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Finn’s desire to make peace instead of solving issues with violence may stem from his previous encounter with Fern that permanently scarred the lad. After practically killing his alternate self, Finn was left with the idea that things didn’t have to end this way and that the two of them truly could have come to terms with their issues if Fern simply complied with talking it out. Finn tries the same approach this time as well, though to no avail. Fern is still unwilling to be reasoned with, believing that he’s apart of the same superiority complex that PB and Gumbald are competing for. Though, the episode does brilliantly explain in a visual sense that there is one thing Fern doesn’t have – a loving brother to back him up no matter what. Fern may feel the superiority of being physically enhanced through Gumbald’s experiments, though he still lacks the support system that truly helps for him to feel whole.

Once we get into the Gumbald stuff, the episode begins to feel a bit convoluted. I’m still not sure I really understand Aunt Lolly’s role. At the start of her appearance, it kind of seems like you’re supposed to sympathize with her because, unlike her hammy counterparts, she does understand the weight of her surroundings and connects with Finn for those reasons. Aunt Lolly did have the potential to make a comeback, because Gumbald was the one who ended up betraying her, not PB. But her development is made super confusing, because apparently her empathizing with Finn was an elaborate scheme the entire time. But then the following episode decides to continue with her development regardless, as if the ending of Gumbaldia never happened. So, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to get from her character. Gumbald’s scheming is equally as confusing – instead of just pretending to understand where Finn is coming from, he puts his own self in danger on the chance that Finn and Jake would absolutely come to his rescue in time. Um, isn’t this a bit insane? It’s somewhat convincing as a viewer to watch these events unfold, only for expectations to be subverted later on, but in-universe it’s a really, really stupid plan.

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The scenes to follow are all executed decently: the dinner scene in which Finn and Jake recall the events of Jake Suit was moderately fun, albeit that Gumbald’s investment in their lives never feels very convincing. Pepbut being dum-dummed upon their trip home was a huge bummer for me, especially considering my affinity for the character. I’m also not really sure why they decided to keep his character in this state, but I’ll lament more on that in our next discussion. The closing bits are unarguably bleak, with Finn’s plans for peace failing entirely, and the inevitability of war being at hand. Though I’m disappointed in their lack of a follow-up, it was cool to see all of these classic villains once more as kind of an initial feeling of suspense that shit really was about to go down. Of course, the staff didn’t really follow through with that suspense, but again, I’m not sure I can blame them for excluding elements that would make an already cluttered finale even more jam-packed.

So, with all of that said, Gumbaldia is still an episode that perplexes me when it comes to having a definitive opinion. There’s a lot of stuff that works in the moment, but doesn’t really work when you view the whole picture. And if I’m judging it strictly standalone from the rest of the series, I’m not really sure if it fully succeeds in what it’s trying to accomplish either. It’s an episode that really banks itself on its eerie atmosphere, but if you take the time to even think about if its story elements make sense, such as Aunt Lolly and Gumbald’s plans, it sort of falls apart. It’s filled to the brim with lots of ridiculous conveniences that aren’t especially believable in any sense. I still don’t really think it’s a bad episode, as Finn’s role carries Gumbaldia through pretty successfully. But still, I think Gumbaldia is undoubtedly a product of its time. It was clearly created to be a precursor for one story, and ended up being the precursor for an entirely different tale. I think there were definite hints here and there throughout the ninth season that the AT may not have had a huge heads up before the show’s cancellation, but looking back, Gumbaldia is definitive proof that adjustments were made last minute. Not even just in the sense of the old-school AT villains making their triumphant return, but all developments regarding the Gumbald family that failed to be fleshed out entirely in the way that they so desperately needed to be. In a perfect world, Gumbaldia could have been a fine setup to a whole batch of new episodes down the line. But, as is, it’s an example of the true and few amount of time that the AT crew had left.

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Being this far in the series is somewhat of a surreal feeling. I started this blog three years ago, joking to myself that I’d be on my death bed finishing up my review of the series finale. It’s odd to know that this journey is nearly complete, and I want to once again take a sappy moment to thank all you lovely people for supporting this blog, even as its gotten more inconsistent in its releases. Even if I’m not directly responding to everything I am sent on this blog, Reddit, and elsewhere, I cannot begin to express the joy I get from reading all of your interesting takes on individual episodes. It’s certainly bittersweet to begin entering the “wrap-up” phase, but I can ensure you all that there will be plenty of content to hold you over for the next few months. I do plan on shifting my attention onto bigger projects into the next year that have nothing to do with Adventure Time, but for now, I look forward to sharing a lot of my final hot takes on the series as a whole.

Instead of jumping into the finale next week, I’ll be taking on Diamonds & Lemons first, just because it would feel anti-climatic to finish off this episode review series with a Minecraft homage. In two weeks, I’ll be starting with the Come Along With Me reviews. My pals on the Reddit advised that it would be interesting to tackle this episode by separating it into parts and then analyzing it as a whole, similar to what I typically do with the miniseries. How I’ll execute this, I’m still unsure. I’ll probably release the first two parts in the same day, and the remaining two parts the following week. It honestly all depends on how much I have to say and  how much time I have in my schedule. Regardless, you can expect my opinions on the finale quite shortly, and thank you all once again for your continued support!

Favorite line: “You thought you had beaten me? Me?! Cool sword.”

“Temple of Mars” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Weirdly enough, both Hulu and the Final Seasons DVD set list Temple of Mars before Jake the Starchild. Wonder how much that ruined anyone’s experience that was going in blind. Also, this isn’t particularly noteworthy or even likely intentional, but Temple of Mars‘ acronym is T.O.M. Aside from the finale, this is Tom Herpich’s final episode. Heh.

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Way back in 2016, Tom Herpich wrote his sentiments about Adventure Time ending and what was left for the series in its next two years on air in a Tumblr post. In this post, he also mentions that he had recently wrapped up his final board with Steve, of which he deemed “one of his favorites.” I’m still unsure if this was referring to their section in Come Along With Me or Temple of Mars, buuuut I lean more towards the latter. In my own personal opinion, I like Temple of Mars, though it surprises me that Herpich would (allegedly) hold it so highly. It doesn’t really strike me as a culmination of his art house style, and considering that some of my favorite episodes in the series are Mars-centric episodes, I do feel as though this entry doesn’t quite live up to the hype of its predecessors. But, instead of complaining about this episode for what it’s not, I am generally satisfied with it for what it is.

Right off the bat, what Temple of Mars offers strength-wise is stellar character interactions. Having Jermaine return to the forefront is a decision I really appreciate, especially since the series draws so close to its climax. It is weird – there are clear signs that Adventure Time certainly wasn’t ready to come to a close, but there are other signs of it subtly wrapping up other individual aspects, like Marceline and Hunson’s relationship, Jake’s alien side, and Jermaine’s connection to his brothers. Of course, a lot of these characters and arcs aren’t really necessary to the grand scheme of things, but regardless, these are nice little additions that make me feel slightly less sour about the show being canned on such a short notice.

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More than anything, I appreciate that this episode takes time to explore Jermaine and Finn’s connection. In his eponymous first episode, Jermaine’s anger was mainly reflected towards Jake, while Finn mostly stood by as an accomplice. I get the feeling that Finn and Jermaine were never truly close – Jermaine was likely the responsible one, while Jake was the one that Finn would pal around with during his formative years. Before Finn had the chance to truly form a relationship with Jermaine during his transition into young adulthood, the two were practically separated. Jermaine likely regrets the years of being estranged from his youngest brother, and it’s sweet to see that he does remind Finn that he can count on him during stressful times. It’s also clear that Jermaine doesn’t necessarily understand Finn’s behavioral patterns. Finn’s actions are clearly inspired by his inability to allow any other tragedies to bestow his already mucked up mind, but I get the feeling that Jermaine simply excuses it to the observed position of Finn and Jake living entirely carefree lives. Hence why Jermaine refers to the Tree Fort as a “playhouse,” his judgement is still very much there. The included callbacks to Jermaine were welcomed, such as the face mug and the boys’ freezer, though they don’t really stick out in any metaphorical or ponderous way.

Jermaine’s added fear to the idea of going to Mars is both humorous and cute. For years, I’ve referred to Finn as the straight man in a world full of wacky characters, but I do feel as though Jermaine is a straight man’s straight man. As much as he is empathetic and easy to connect to, Finn still really isn’t the brightest bulb or the most “normal” at that (this is the boy that doesn’t blink twice on a wayward trip to Mars), so it’s cool to have a character that clearly represents the surface level elements of a grown adult. The goofy aspects aside, Jermaine does actually have a lot in common with Greg Universe in terms of their humanity. Tom Scharpling really was the perfect choice for ol’ Jerm.

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The reintroduction of Betty and Norm- er, King Man, is pretty delightful, though I kinda wish Finn’s anger towards Betty was spelled out over a longer period. I mean, everything ended up alright by the end of Elements, but it’s strange to me how quickly Finn goes from “fuck yourself,” to “come on this journey with me and my brother!” Perhaps he decided to show some of King Man’s inspired “empathy,” buuuut, I don’t know. In defense of the episode, I’m not really sure how a Betty-Finn conflict would’ve been crammed in to an already jam-packed episode, so I’ll let it slide. It was great to see King Man again, and I’m so glad the show has sought out to acknowledge that, magic-less or not, he’s still kind of a douche. I can’t think of a single way Betty’s punishment would actually help her, and it’s likely to send her into further insanity. King Man technically should be responsible for the state of Betty’s condition (though he’s not entirely at fault), but since he has a nice, cushion-y spot on Mars’ throne, he doesn’t really have anyone to tell him otherwise.

Once inside the temple, we’re treated to an interesting sequence featuring a group of frogs all taking on the appearance of Ice King, except for one stray frog resembling Fern. The Fern frog leaping at Finn, as Finn chooses to ignore it, seems to embody the idea that Finn no longer finds himself stuck thinking about Fern on an endless basis. Though his mind wants him to “remember” and stay in a stagnant state of pain and suffering. Betty, on the other hand, does not choose to move forward. She wants to stay and observe her passing thoughts, as if they hold the key to solving her every living problem, even though the answer isn’t found in her mind, but her ability to shift her attention onto something else. Not exactly sure why frogs were chosen to represent habitual thinking – frogs in dreams are said to represent spiritual and emotional transformation, but I’m not exactly sure that’s what Herpich was going for.

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It is interesting how Jermaine went through perhaps the most stress of his companions, and now he’s in the best shape possible. Granted, I think Jermaine, by his nature, is slightly neurotic and prone to chronic stress. Yet, he was able to find his peace of mind, while his brother continues to struggle with his own personal dilemmas. It just goes to show how far off Jermaine’s accusations are of Finn and Jake living totally carefree lives, even if they are legitimately privileged regardless. This section of the episode also marks the Ice Thing’s first appearance since Graybles 1000+. I can’t help but feel this inclusion was when the staff figured they would have more time to actually flesh out what the Ice Thing is and how Ice King would eventually transform into him, but considering that we’re only two episodes away from the finale, I don’t think that wish was ever fully fulfilled. This section does provide for a bit of fun analysis, in a very small, almost insignificant moment. Betty’s fascination with the Ice King masked frogs shows how truly encompassed her mind is with the Ice King, and how she doesn’t really put any foot forward to try and sway her mind or shift her focus. Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially when dealing with strong emotional trauma. However, Betty’s representation of her current approach at living is summed up quite nicely with her line of, “He’s… changing? Oh no.” This could imply one of two things: 1. Betty is adverse to changing her lifestyle because she is so set on figuring out how to fix Simon that changing her behavior isn’t really an option; 2. Betty is adverse to change in general, viewing it as an inherently bad thing. As seen in her lack of acceptance of Ice King in general, this makes sense as well.

This turmoil builds up to Betty’s confrontation of her past, which is admittedly quite a somber sequence. These last few seasons have done a great job at fleshing out Betty’s madness and sadness, and Temple of Mars is a particular highlight. The idea of choosing to focus on one’s self is additional advice that is easier said than done. It’s certainly what she needs, but she’s incapable of seeing how that’s even possible. Again, I think it ties in really well with the motif of both anxiety and grief – no matter how much you want to get better and shift your focus, occasionally the fixation of your energy is so strong that it’s impossible to even know where to start. Betty takes the first step forward (or, so it seems) into a better life by answering her test with a response of self-healing, rather than desperate manifesting.

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I do think the conclusion is way too hokey for my liking. I know there’s kind of a no-holds-barred atmosphere of the world of Adventure Time where literally anything can happen, but I fail to see how Finn, Jermaine, and Betty’s journey has ANYTHING to do with channeling Jake’s energy so that he would be transported into the temple. It seems like Tom and Steve had decided they wanted to explore the psyche of these various different characters and interactions, and then thought to themselves 10 minutes in that, “oh shit, we’d better bring Jake back.” I was even shocked by Jermaine’s quick acceptance of King Man’s explanation. He’s the straight man after all, it would make way more sense (and also be funnier) if he shot back with, “that’s a load of horseshit,” or something along those lines. The second conclusion, in which Betty realizes her true potential, is quite satisfying. In reality, Betty is way too far gone that it just wouldn’t make sense for her to turn her life around so quickly. It makes sense that she would take away some inspiration, but the wrong inspiration at that. I could’ve sworn that I was watching some bad DVR rip of the episode upon first viewing, because Temple of Mars‘ close takes AT‘s abrupt endings to a whole new level. But, it is a quick cut-off that I enjoy regardless. The entire concept of GOLB being brought back into things is something that’s purposely been left in the dark for quite sometime, and enough to leave a character like King Man speechless, who has spent his life devoted to finding the deity. It definitely had me hyped for the show’s conclusion no doubt, even if I ended up having mixed feelings about GOLB’s inclusion as a whole.

So, while Temple of Mars isn’t exactly the experimental nuttiness that I would expect from a Mars entry, it’s still quite enjoyable. It contains some of the best interaction material we’ve seen all season, and is definitely one of Betty’s best roles to date. Some of the visuals are quite nice, especially the return of the rust-filled void of Mars, and the temple itself. Nice moments of lore here and there, such as Betty’s mention of the Enchiridion, or the foreshadowed idea that Margles is still very much on King Man’s radar. There are some good gags here and there, but others that kind of fall flat. The big build up to Finn’s bald head was a joke I found quite unfunny as a whole, and somewhat of a cheap gag that doesn’t really add much. Regardless, it’s certainly a strong point for the season specifically for its inclusion of great character moments, namely Betty and Jermaine, who truly are the stars of Temple of Mars.

Favorite line: “If anyone else feels like solving any of these puzzles, just jump right in, you know?”

“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.”

“Blenanas” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Pat McHale & Sam Alden

I talked a bit about the episodes that were generally regarded as “fan favorites” for season nine. While I enjoyed The Wild Hunt and The First Investigation, they surprisingly aren’t my personal picks for peak season nine material. Blenanas is an episode that seems to bring about polarizing thoughts and feelings. Judging by its placement in the season, I can see why people were a bit pissy with being dealt an episode that’s almost entirely filler right before the finale. Looking back, it makes sense, seeing as how there was no indication that Adventure Time‘s conclusion was a result of the network deciding to can the show, so Blenanas felt more like a poor choice from the writing staff at such a delicate time. But, looking at it for what it is, Blenanas is nothing short of top tier filler. It makes the most of a simple story by being humorous, character driven, and above all, charming.

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Part of where that charm comes from is the return of former creative director Pat McHale! McHale had been away from the series for five whole years, and he only ever worked as a storyboard writer and artist on The Enchiridion!. Yet, McHale really seems like the type of guy that AT comes naturally to. After all, he was Pen’s right hand man throughout Adventure Time‘s inception and had a key part in developing a handful of stories from season 1 through 5. Even with his time apart from the series in mind, his deep understanding of the characters and their individual dynamics has not faded. The episode starts out strong with a really nice back-and-forth between Finn and BMO. What I love about their interactions is that they’re primarily hostile, but that element of charisma is still very much alive. Finn disagrees with BMO about his joke, but mentions that he “loves” his little robot friend regardless. Finn storms off to prove BMO wrong, but the two playfully wave at each other before parting. This bit of sweetness is so irresistible in its lack of cynicism, which really ties into the nature of the show and its characters as a whole. Not to discount the enjoyable nature of Finn and BMO bickering, however. I love BMO’s blunt sassiness in accusing Finn of not being funny, and I always appreciate some aggressive dialogue for Jeremy Shada to put his all into. Also, the implication that Jake leaves BMO scandalous valentines is almost too bizarre to not find funny, or the brief moment where BMO makes a banana and Jake’s “B.R.B.” note passionately kiss. This is subtle AT weirdness that I’ve been longing for.

I get the feeling that Finn’s quest for validation is much more of a diversionary tactic than he puts on. I think in light of recent events with Fern, Finn may have numbed himself to the possibility of any other tragic occurrences in his life, and doesn’t want to humor the idea of his brother possibly being in danger. This is represented in a pretty obvious visual gag on the back of Ble magazine, which reads, “I miss my dog.” Finn has gotten better and better at finding different things to do during times of stress to get his mind off of the things that are worrying him, but that may have worked too well to the point where Finn is suppressing his worries by finding any little thing that can distract him. He may also be a bit scarred from the last time he lost Jake during Elements and resist falling into despair nonetheless.

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Regardless, I don’t think the boy’s confidence has been entirely in tact in a post-Fern world, and he’s focusing towards little things such as his sense of humor in an attempt to feel more confident and happy in his own skin. Only problem is that the people he asks aren’t much help either. I love McHale’s simple facial expressions for each character, but man, is it weird to see PB with nontraditional jagged teeth. Aside from McHale’s board, is this a feature that pops up every now and then? I feel like it’s equivalent to Finn being drawn with eye whites – it’s something that was done early on in the series, but then ditched for consistency. If any of y’all reading have more recent examples of this design feature, feel free to let me know! That visual analysis aside, I enjoy the continued goofiness that carries on through PB’s section. Her failure to understand the basic concept of humor reminded me a lot of something Pearl would say on Steven Universe, but it feels completely fitting with PB’s character regardless, especially in the midst of a detailed lockdown procedure. Even then, she still finds it appropriate to break into the library window with a bat instead of just simply walking in and grabbing the book she needed. In fact, why even was the exact book she was looking for just coincidentally sitting propped in the window? It’s another moment that’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but get into it. Speaking of things that I can’t help but get into, PB’s outfit is just adorable in this episode. It’s making me think more and more about what a missed opportunity it was for Cartoon Network to release a line of Marceline and PB dolls and figures with changeable outfits. It’d be a solid marketing decision for the female demographic, and for weird older guys like myself!

I’ve already praised him above, but Jeremy Shada puts on a terrific performance in this episode. The sections where Finn is chatting with himself have the potential to be awkward, but Shada brings on a very genuine charm that makes Finn’s conversation feel natural. I really hate the cliched analytic note of mentioning that a certain episode of Adventure Time “feels like season one,” because it’s such a broad analogy on its own and usually doesn’t particularly add any type of positive or negative connotation to the moments being described themselves. Yet, I really do feel like Finn having a conversation with himself regarding the fundamentals of humor really feels like AT at its most classic routes, even if the energy or zaniness isn’t all there. Throwing it back as well is the delightful reintroduction of Finn and Ice King’s dynamic.

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Now, Finn and Ice King have interacted plenty of times in the past few seasons, with Elements being the major example. But it’s been a long while since we’ve gotten to see these two characters interact without anyone else involved, and it’s delightful. I love how open-minded Finn has become to seeing Ice King as a legitimate comrade, even if his judgment of him hasn’t faded completely. Not that it really matters, because Finn’s exactly right – even if he does see Ice King as an equal, it doesn’t make him any less desperate for approval and love than he already is. This is also just kind of a really nice aspect of Ice King’s character in general, because as much as the show has proved time and time again that he is a sympathetic being, they really haven’t watered him down all that much. He’s certainly less aggressive and creepy than he was during his conception, but he’s every bit as crazy, desperate, and lacking of common sense. I like how they never went all out with forming this totally lovable, competent dude, and added in just enough to make it appear as progress has passed without really changing any of what made Ice King so enjoyable to begin with. And those elements alone are shown by his total disregard of understanding the intention of Finn’s joke and simply being drawn to the idea of “a cat with big teeth.” Yet, he still is able to come up with a subjectively funnier joke than Finn is! The complexities of Ice King’s character are just splendid.

But that progress that I mentioned prior is certainly welcomed, and I get a sweet kick out of Finn being so enthused by Ice King’s presence. Their combined interest in something creative is too nice, and you really do believe that this is something they’d be able to connect on without a problem. The lore built onto the Demonic Wishing Eye is also welcomed, especially the implication that such a hellish device would have such a cute, colorful host location. Though, I’m not sure how much Ice King actually has to worry about losing pieces of his soul. I’m sure the crown is doing most of the functioning anyway. The Pudding Troll that is introduced in Blenanas is another one of those crazily designed Adventure Time characters with a pretty standard personality, but I do enjoy his presence. I love his obscure design, with a speechless belly that shoots “ammo,” and his general lack of understanding of the purpose of his job. I like to imagine he just sits there for days on end without saying a single word or even moving.

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The Ble factory is certainly bleak, with dozens of skeletons inhabiting the vicinity. It’s interesting, because the skeletons appear to imply that the workers may have been human, but the Pudding Troll mentions having guarded the place for 500 years, and I don’t really know if contact between humans and mutants was ever mainstream during the fallout of the war. It’s also difficult to completely understand the implied disaster – what happened here that left a handful of workers dead without the Pudding Troll even noticing? Unless his application process was truly that he just submitted something a showed up one day, and that the humans working inside of Ble were killed by radiation fallout, or something. It’s food for thought, either way.

The production montage is tons of fun. It’s actually one of those sequences that I feel could be longer! Some of my favorite episodes of television are the ones that deal with behind-the-scenes production, particularly when it comes to animated series (Stimpy’s Cartoon Show from The Ren & Stimpy Show or Wacky Delly from Rocko’s Modern Life) and I’d love to see Adventure Time take on strenuous labor when working with Ble. Regardless, the finished product is funny, considering that Ice King, Finn, and the Pudding Troll aren’t exactly the most ideal content creators. But, Finn’s goals and desires are clearly spelled out in the last few minutes – he isn’t really looking to be funny, he’s simply looking for validation. It really makes sense why Ice King and Finn get along so well in this one, because they’re essentially both after the same sense of approval. Maybe Finn relies on Jake a bit too much to feel empowered. After all, Jake is pretty confident in himself and his own abilities, and the people we spend the most time with often shape our personalities. Without Jake, Finn may be susceptible to more feelings of inferiority and a lack of self-confidence. But, in the end, he does get what he was looking for, through an elaborately staged slapstick routine that’s right up BMO and NEPTR’s alley. Maybe Finn isn’t particularly funny, but he’s still able to feel good about himself through the affirmation of those he cares about most.

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I love Blenanas! It’s a light, silly romp with a decent amount of depth under the hood. This really is the show at it’s most simple, and it proves how much a simple idea can go a long way. Blenanas works as a competent story with added enjoyment in the smaller details; even the random inclusion of unusual transitions between scenes got a big smile out of me. It’s an episode that hits hard on the charm, and shows how crucial these characters are when it comes to the series succeeding. This last season may have picked up heftily on continuity, but at the end of the day, it’s the lovable, silly characters that carry Adventure Time through.

Favorite line: “I should show this to normal people, the common folk. The busy woman on the go. The regular Joe or Josephine.”

“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…”

“Marcy & Hunson” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Adam Muto

Alrighty guys, let me take a quick moment to break down all of the Hunson Abadeer centric episodes for you consideration:

  • It Came From the Nightosphere – Hunson Abadeer’s introduction. Marceline resents him for being a shitty guy, but comes to terms with him by the end of it when he shows that he does care.
  • Daddy’s Little Monster – Hunson controls Marceline to be more in his image, but Marceline breaks free and continues to resent him. She comes to terms with him by the end of it, however, when he shows that he does care.
  • Marcy & Hunson – Hunson returns to Ooo to visit a less-than-excited Marceline, who still resents him. However, she comes to terms with him by the end of it when he shows that he does care.

… Does… does any of this sound familiar? I get the whole point of Hunson’s character is essentially that he is a shitty person who’s trying to maintain a relationship with his morally conscious daughter, but I’m kind of just amazed at the fact that, on his third episode, after years and years of being absent, nothing new was done with his character. And this isn’t a knock at the past entries that focused on Hunson’s neglect – It Came From the Nightosphere is a largely groundbreaking entry that introduced a lot of the modern day storytelling that made Adventure Time such a success and Daddy’s Little Monster was a successful follow-up to Hunson’s battle between being intrinsically evil and just a half-decent dad. Marcy & Hunson is a reiteration of both of these stories without adding anything new, and in fact, removing a lot of what made Hunson unique in the first place.

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I do like the opening of this episode, primarily due to Peppermint Butler’s sweet inclusion. Though I find it somewhat odd – I guess I always pictured Peppermint Butler and Hunson as tight friends, but it’s treated as if PepBut more or less is just an acquaintance somehow. I’m not really sure I get a strong understanding of their connection either way. I always enjoy how fully committed and controlled Peppermint Butler is in terms of his experimenting with the dark arts. His fascination and involvement with anything less kosher almost never impedes on his ultimate good-natured self and loyalty. I’m not even lying when I say that the show has really built him up to be one of the most complex they’ve ever churned out. I know he’s primarily a side character, but I really love how arguably one of the darkest characters in the series is also one of the most genuine and caring towards our main cast. In this opening scene, we’re also introduced to Finn’s newest sword, the Nightmare Sword, which never really gets a chance to shine as the series draws closer to an ending. We also get to see Finn so shocked with Hunson Abadeer’s return, that he regenerates his right arm for a quick second! I guess being shocking and growing back an arm is potentially better than being horny and growing back an arm.

Following Gumbald’s big reveal back in Seventeen, this episode features a major role for Chicle. Chicle is probably the least “important” of the Bubblegum family, but he is probably the most entertaining, sporting some decent one-liners here and there. Though, I ultimately don’t really think his presence is particularly necessary in this episode. The events that go down probably could have still occurred even without his inclusion. And even then, he kind of just stirs the pot instead of actually seeming like a threat. Sure, he encourages the ghosts to go after Marceline and Hunson, but were they actually going to straight up kill them? Doubtful. Then he throws a peanut at Peppermint Butler, which has way more of an effect on Pepbut than it logically should. Overall though, Chicle’s goofiness tops the overly hammy repertoire of Gumbald and the perplexing nature of Aunt Lolly.

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I think it says something about the quality of Marcy & Hunson when Hunson is kind of the worst part of it. I’d even argue that his character is relatively butchered in this entry. What made Hunson so great in It Came From the Nightosphere and, to a lesser extent, Daddy’s Little Monster is that he was genuinely intimidating. He was animated humorously and had his campier moments, but he could and would snap in an instance into a cold-blooded demon. Here, he’s just a big fuckin’ goofball that likes to get up in Marceline’s business and blatantly disregards her own well-being. The whole bit where he decides he’s going to sleep in Marceline’s bed and that she can take the air mattress is a total Martin move. This entire episode feels like Graham Falk and Adam Muto want to be writing for Martin, but are writing for Hunson instead. In his first three featured episodes, and even in the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, you get the idea that Hunson is this really dignified and classy dude, and that there’s a reason he’s head honcho in the Nightosphere. Marcy & Hunson throws all of that out the window and just chooses the easier option of making him as pathetic as possible.

But hey, if you didn’t come for the connection between Hunson and Marceline, that’s okay, because there’s a shit-ton of Bubbline moments to hold you over!!! Marceline wearing Bubblegum’s sweater from Stakes?? Finn not knowing how to answer Hunson’s question about whether Marceline is in a relationship?? Marceline singing a song called Slow Dance With You with Hyden Walch providing the background vocals?? OH MAN, THIS IS WHAT WE CAME FOR, FOLKS!

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In actuality, these moments are fine and I don’t want to sound pessimistic about a relationship that clearly means a lot to a mass of people who watch Adventure Time. BUT, it really does bum me out how Bubbline has practically become the only draw for Marceline’s character at this point. From Stakes onward, there isn’t a single episode focusing on Marceline that doesn’t somehow shoehorn in her relationship with Bubblegum for the sake of fanservice. And I’m not saying that these moments are necessarily poorly done, but Marcy just feels so hollow and reliant on other characters that I feel like I barely know who she is anymore. She used to be this really cool, fun character, but now she feels like a puppet being used solely for the purpose of giving fans what they want. Which is fine, but not when those moments completely overshadow everything else in the episode. I mean, does anyone actually talk about the connection between Marceline and her father in Marcy & Hunson? No! The only time I ever hear people discussing this episode is regarding Slow Dance With You which, I’m gonna be honest, is not very good. Of course, this all comes down to personal taste, but I think people are way more into the implication and meaning behind the tune than they are the actual rhythm and performance.

Probably gonna get a lot of flack for that rant, and if I’m being honest, the attention these Bubbline moments received is likely just because there’s very little of substance in Marcy & Hunson to begin with. Going back to my original point, this episode concludes with the same way literally every Hunson episode has – that Hunson is a shitty dude, but he cares about his daughter. I know the staff had probably no clue that the show was going to be canned before this episode, but you would think after so many years, with so much time having passed that they would consider taking a different direction with this character that probably would never appear again anyway.

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Is there anything good about Marcy & Hunson? A few moments come to mind, mainly when it comes to humor. The flashback sequence featuring Hunson’s introduction to Marceline got a big laugh out of me, and both Jake and Chicle have their fair share of funny lines. The return of the Spirit Waves stage from Ghost Princess is a welcomed treat, and I dig the spooky atmosphere overall. But, Marcy & Hunson is mostly a flop. It’s sad, because I think the pieces are all there that would make for a great episode. Hunson wanting to be a good father, but struggling with his intrinsic desire to unleash evil, is something that the series never tackled head on, and could make for both a funny a intriguing entry. However, we’re left with a relatively lazy alternative that doesn’t offer anything new or interesting in one of AT‘s longest running story arcs.

Favorite line: “I have a nice laugh.”

“Ring of Fire” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Though it’s been nearly a year since Adventure Time has ended, I still feel like there’s a ton of divisiveness around the nature of the show’s climax to where I’m not really sure what the truth is. A lot of people have batted around the idea that the execs at Cartoon Network Studios had given the AT staff 16 episodes to wrap the series up, while others have mentioned that, after the completion of Gumbaldia, the crew was given four final episodes to tie up all loose ends. Then of course, there’s the crowd that still believes that Adventure Time wasn’t cancelled and simply “ended on its own terms,” which is simply not true. I get that it’s wishful thinking, but Adam Muto has outright said that he and the staff would have continued working on the series, had Cartoon Network decided to keep it going.¹ Regardless, it is interesting to ponder just how much was planned ahead to definitively wrap things up. A good chunk of this final batch of episodes feels as if they were created without an end in mind, though the one that surprising wraps up an individual character arc the best is Ring of Fire. I’ve seen a handful of mixed opinions towards this one, but I can honestly say it’s the first entry since The Wild Hunt that I’ve pretty much liked all the way through. Adventure Time has largely served as a metaphor for growing up – mostly in allusion to its main character, though other characters have similarly dealt with the grievance of aging, such as Jake, Marceline, and even the world renowned Nurse Betsy Poundcake. In the span of 11 minutes, the life of an entire character is visited, and it really brings up some introspective ideas about relationships, individuality, and what’s most important in life.

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We were bound to get an episode dedicated to Tree Trunks’ relationships with her past lovers ever since they were introduced in Apple WeddingRing of Fire gives a little bit of a taste into each one of them, and essentially uses them as a way to show gradually how Tree Trunks became the person that she is. I’ll never know what it’s like to be ol’ geezer until I actually do, but the general story of Tree Trunks’ life (save for Adventure Time‘s addition of typical absurdity) essentially embodies every story from any female baby boomer I’ve been acquainted with. The freedom of youth, the need for something greater, and the ultimate compliance of settling down. Tree Trunks has clearly lived a very full existence, as demonstrated throughout the episode, and the poignancy of her walk through life is really set by her opening conversation with Sweet P. TT tearing up thinking about her past and present is bittersweet – it’s likely that these emotions come from her feelings of fulfillment in her role as a mother and a wife, but also probably connect to the sadness of her most carefree days being long behind her. It’s both a wonderful feeling and kind of a downer that everything you’ve worked for has finally been accomplished, but there isn’t much room for discovery anymore. Regardless, it’s clear that Tree Trunks’ maturity spans beyond just her past and throughout the series as well. Just a few seasons ago, this same vivacious elephant nearly called off her marriage after only months of being together, and here, we’re treated to a much more grounded Tree Trunks that is even hesitant to get together with her past boyfriend in the sense of jeopardizing what she has currently. That’s where the sweetness comes in of Tree Trunks’ previous emotional moment – that she truly does love and cherish everything that is in her life currently, and is far beyond the idea of jumping ships to whatever else is exciting. I should also bring up the existence of the “Tiny Mammal Kingdom,” which might just be the cutest concept for a kingdom that AT has ever come up with.

Her relationship with her first significant other, Randy (on a side note, GOD are there way too many “Randy”s in Adventure Time. I can’t think of a single more common name in this series than that), is a typical first love scenario. As an 18-year-old, Tree Trunks doesn’t want to tie herself down to anyone, but similarly only knows and is comfortable with the idea of her S.O.. In a much similar sense, Randy is waaay into the idea that his first love is his only love and that, once more, it’s all he really knows. The marriage between the two is hilariously short-lived, as Tree Trunks decides on the wedding day itself that she simply isn’t ready to settle. It’s essentially young love boiled down to its bare essentials; Randy, at 18, already believes that he knows just what he wants for the rest of his life, but Tree Trunks couldn’t even commit to getting past the Honey Moon. It’s primarily a time of discovery and self-actualization, and it very much depicts two people who have entirely different ideas about what they want for their future, which is usually how first serious relationships go. I’m also not sure if it’s incredibly lazy or comical, but in her teen years, Tree Trunks had the same exact old, Polly Lou Livingston voice. It really makes me wonder if she’s actually waaay younger than she appears to be. Reverse PB Syndrome, that is.

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Before it aired, Steve Wolfhard had mentioned on his Twitter that Ring of Fire was “the most sex-mad thing [he] ever boarded for AT.” I think that’s what got people most intrigued by it, but only Tree Trunks’ relationship with Danny ever borders on the line of being overly provocative. Danny is essentially a vessel for Tree Trunks to live out the vivacious section of her life that craves hormonal enticement. Danny’s alluring in a physical sense, but Tree Trunks never acknowledges her need for full intimacy and is attracted to Danny only because he represents the wild/crazy lifestyle that she’s looking for. But, the party life begins to lose its appeal after time, and the need for security becomes more prominent. Tree Trunks was never able to achieve full intimacy with Danny, simply because her needs changed beyond what she thought she ever would desire, and that Danny’s personality proved to be truly ugly on the inside.

I do have to say, the Danny section is probably the most problematic of the episode for myself, and others alike. I don’t really feel like the sauciness promised ever pushes in the direction of being either as hilarious or interesting as it was hyped up to be. Ring of Fire has its scandalous moments, but nothing that tops AT‘s other most sexually driven episodes, such as All the Little PeopleFrost & Fire, or Breezy. The more extreme stuff that we do get to see is just kind of uncomfortable – I could have gone without Tree Trunks harassing her shipmates into bending over for her. Adventure Time has this weird consistency with including harassment towards its male cast that always kind of just feels unlikable or unnecessary (Barb in Web Weirdos, Lumpy Space Princess in Breezy). This section also garnered criticism for including the pirates that were seen helping Martin in the promo art for Min & Marty. I think a lot of people were expecting Martin to show up because of this, but I don’t know if I can really blame the episode for it. I’m assuming Ring of Fire was in production by the time that Min & Marty actually aired, and I’m also assuming that the promo art is not done that far in advance. When making it, Sam Alden may have just included these pirates based on the concept art from Ring of Fire, as a bit of an Easter egg for later on.

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This section of the episode also kind of rewrites Tree Trunks’ backstory in a way. Her debut episode Tree Trunks features her inability to grasp the lifestyle of being an adventurer, but it seems like she knows a hell of a lot from her past experiences. She blew up a friggin’ boat! Of course, I can’t really blame an episode produced seven years prior for that, especially since Tree Trunks was supposed to be dead by the end of it. So I have to turn some of the fault on Ring of Fire as a result. There’s also this weird technical moment when Danny first arrives – his color coding changes twice as if it were sunset, but once Tree Trunks convenes with him, the coding returns to daylight. I’m not sure if this was done for aesthetic purposes, but it’s just kind of distracting for me.

That long tangent aside, the next segment features Tree Trunks’ most frequently mentioned past husband: Wyatt. Wyatt is a pretty pathetic loser, and his star episode Apple Wedding really didn’t hold back with showing that. Still, it’s kind of clear as to why Tree Trunks fell for him, in the sense that he fills that exact sense of security for her that she had decided that she wanted. The love from Wyatt was essentially a given – he’s a really desperate dude and Tree Trunks would probably never have to worry about him deceiving or backstabbing her. Still, while that promise of forever-love is tempting, it comes with its problems when you’re dealt a man like Wyatt. He’s completely dependent on that love for any kind of self-fulfillment, and keeps wanting more and more until he completely drains Tree Trunks of having any individuality herself. He just can’t resist the sweet taste of her delicious pies. Yanno, I use this blog as a writing sample when I apply to jobs. I’m really wondering if my dissection of a children’s cartoon that features an overly-horny elephant is benefiting or hurting my potential future. Food for thought.

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Anywho, that leads us to the climax of Tree Trunks’ martial life with Mr. Pig. Mr. Pig is likely Tree Trunks’ least defined husband. He really doesn’t have much of a personality, and is practically described by his monotonous nature. Regardless, he does represent a little bit of everything Tree Trunks has sought out in the past, at the expense of being slightly underwhelming. With those shortcomings in mind, the culmination of this episode really adds up to Tree Trunks’ acceptance of stagnancy in her own life by finding a comfortable, while not always exciting, alternative.

Ring of Fire presents some narrative issues in its middle section, but I overall really appreciate this one. The message by the end of it is quite obvious: that the simplicities of life can often be the greatest adventure of all. But I do enjoy how it shows that it can take even a lifetime to discover that as well. Often life can seem like a constant battle for significance and deeper meaning, but sometimes the best answers to fulfillment are those simpler elements. Granted, I don’t doubt that Tree Trunks enjoyed her life in her wild and crazy days, and I don’t think this mindset should discourage anyone from living a vigorous lifestyle, but every adventure does come to an end, and ultimately settling into a comfortable position can be a reward on its own. Mr. Pig is the answer to Tree Trunks’ long, confusing life of promiscuity, giving her not what she’s always wanted, but what she’s always needed.

¹ Can’t find the exact quote from Muto where he discusses this process, though he alludes to it here.

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Favorite line: “Hey-hey! Somebody kiss me now!” Oh K.O.O., you delightful dog, you.