Tag Archive | BMO

“BMO Noire” Review

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Original Airdate: August 6, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page

BMO Noire is the first true BMO-centric episode of the series, and it quite delightfully blends experimental themes of black and white crime films with a hint of BMO development added in. This episode is essentially working off of everything we’ve learned about BMO so far; despite his childlike wonder, BMO wishes only one thing: to have normal “living” emotions like Jake and Finn. And while BMO does experience feelings deep down similar to his close friends, he still is a robot on the outside, which has kickstarted a lot of inner turmoil that has caused him to be almost borderline sociopathic at times. No matter how cute BMO is, there’s not denying that a lot that goes through his head and his everyday actions are generally fucked up. BMO Noire is essentially the best kind of episode to showcase this aspect of his character; it’s a fun and sweet adventure on the surface, but underneath is a layer of BMO’s dark and tortured imagination.

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It’s probably appropriate to start off this review by mentioning that BMO was totally playing with himself at the beginning of this episode. There is just simply no other way around it. The episode wastes no time, however, by immediately setting up the somewhat trivial conflict that is taken completely seriously by our robot friend. The episode pulls off many noir-themed references and homages very humorously as well as effectively. The episode, of course, is completely in black-and-white (something that Pendleton Ward was really psyched about doing), there’s the bit where BMO steps on his controller cord as if it were a cigarette bud, and the dialogue between the characters (or, in this case, the characters BMO has created) is all very 1950’s. A lot of the exchanges between BMO and his imaginary friends, though very amusing, can also be taken completely straight as well. This episode is full of its funny moments, but honestly, I found myself laughing a lot less after watching it this time around. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. I just think anything noir-themed is pretty fucking cool, so I mostly enjoy this one out of admiration for its tone and style rather than believing it’s a straight-up hilarious parody of crime films, and I think that’s how most people feel as well. You can laugh at the fact that BMO is legitimately having a serious discussion about his past relationship with a chicken named Lorraine, but it’s played so dramatically by BMO that it still amazingly kind of works as a somewhat somber tale.

Of course, I also enjoy this one for the aforementioned development of BMO’s character. Throughout the episode, it’s filled with a lot of silly conversations between Ronnie the rat, Lorraine the chicken, Lieutenant Whiskers, and others that exist as talking figures in BMO’s imagination. They start out harmless and playful enough, but BMO’s dream sequence really sheds light to the questionable and histrionic elements of his actions. BMO concocted the entire scheme, meaning he stole from his friend, supposedly “killed” Bebe, put lipstick on F&J’s pet chicken, and knew the entire sequence was all in his imagination.

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It makes me question what exactly BMO’s motivation behind this elaborate plan was; was it to get attention from Finn and Jake and appear as a hero like the two of them do? Was it strictly for the cause of going on his own enjoyable investigation? Or, going off of the last reason, was it to ultimately feel more “human”? The dream sequence also suggests this aspect (boarded by Tom Herpich, who always does a standout job with dreams or hallucinations, but this is definitely an exceptional one) as BMO is briefly seen with a human face, the same human face seen in the title card for this episode. I think it once again stresses the fact at how BMO feels like a living creature and desires to be like any living creature, but simply cannot be one with the body he was given and the function he was, supposedly up to this point, made for. BMO will always be Finn and Jake’s cute, baby robot, but with any child, there are layers of hidden trauma and turmoil that I’m sure BMO himself isn’t completely cognizant about. The only thing he is aware of is that he has a conscious desire, without soundly too cliche, to “be more”. This is hinted during his exchange with NEPTR, leading to one of the funniest and most poignant lines of the episode, “no NEPTR, I am not like you.” It’s works as a laugh-worthy “fuck you” to Adventure Time’s most in-universally ignored character, but also as a glimpse into what BMO believes he truly is, and that’s something more than just a robot.

This heaviness is blended nicely with the fact that, once again, it is all in BMO’s imagination. I like all of his interactions with these characters, and how he’s able to effectively converse with Lorraine or Ronnie without them ever responding back. There’s a really great moment where Lieutenant Whiskers hands BMO a confession from Ronnie, and there’s just no way in the fucking world someone actually handed it to him. It just kinda sticks up out of nowhere, which harms the authenticity that all of this episode is just in BMO’s head, but it’s so hilarious that I don’t even really mind. There’s also moments reminding us that BMO is indeed still a robot, like the controller stomping I had mentioned and the bit where BMO splashes his face in water, only for his circuits to smoke a bit. I’m actually really glad Herpich got to work on this one. Not even for a writing reason, but I just feel like his really chunky and squishy drawings of the characters blend nicely with the black-and-white and old-timey feel of the episode. It was a nice stylized choice. Also, huge kudos to Niki Yang in this one. Ako Castuera refers to this one as a “Niki Yang voice acting extravaganza” in the commentary, and that’s pretty much the best way of putting it. Yang does an excellent job of pulling of different, distinct and silly voices for each of the newly introduced characters. 

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And after all the psychological issues he goes through, BMO is able to have a moment of victory and lightheartedness as Finn and Jake return home from Glob knows where. The staff would oddly elaborate on this subplot later in season five, but we’ll get to that when the time comes. The ending does hint that BMO does want to be more like Finn and Jake and go on adventures like the two of them, so it’s endearing that he’s able to have a brief moment of triumph at the fact that he saved the day, though it was secretly instigated by himself. We do get one final very small, yet effective scene at the end where BMO blushes at the thought at Lorraine, once again showing that he’s much more “human” than we were lead on to believe. Though he’s still a robot at the end of the day, BMO will always have his attributes that make him equivalent to any other lovable, yet troubled little boy.

I dig this one a ton. Like I said, it’s not one that I find particularly hilarious, but it’s filled with great atmosphere and interesting peeks into BMO’s character that I don’t mind at all. It’s silly, yet intense, and a perfect start to BMO’s descent into his own personal issues.

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Favorite line: “I feel like I got hit with a Dracula by King Kong.”

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“Holly Jolly Secrets (Part I & II)” Review

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Original Airdate: December 5, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Kent Osborne

Ice King has certainly gone through some major developmental stages during the past season. He’s almost completely transitioned from a villain to Finn and Jake’s creepy, annoying neighbor, and while that characterization has proven to be successful all season, it does risk a chance of being repetitive over time. Unless Ice King was at some point going to transform into a complete hero, it’d be awfully boring to just watch him attempt to capture princesses over and over again, or just endlessly try to be Finn and Jake’s best buddy. Holly Jolly Secrets is the one that changes everything. Everything we thought we knew about the Ice King up to this point was ultimately rendered moot, and an onslaught of new questions and mysteries arose. This introduction to Ice King’s backstory is also pretty much a turning point for the entire show: Adventure Time generally has become darker, more ambitious in its storytelling, and persistent in adding continuing bits of lore and mysticism in its ever-growing world.

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I guess I’ll kick-off this review by talking about its most crucial aspect: the videotape revealing the past life of Simon Petrikov. This portion of the episode is absolutely brilliant. It’s one of my top five favorite moments in the entire show, period, and I often forget how chillingly solemn and ominous it really is. There are so many nice little details, between the progression of time throughout each video journal to the brief existence of pre-Mushroom War propaganda. There’s a plane that flies by, which can honestly be taken as a sign of impending warfare (a later scene leads me to lean more towards this theory) and even the existence of a (presumably) Catholic Church. It really shows humanity and early society in the most explicit, uncut way that adds a bit of subtle lore to the existence of the post-apocalyptic world and how some aspects were generally lost in translation. I love all the subtle changes as Simon slowly becomes the Ice King; one aspect I really enjoy is how Simon’s first appearance in the video seems generally unaltered, yet his eyes are actually white and rounded much like the IK’s, rather than dotted and black like most human beings are shown to possess. It’s a nice bit that shows you just how doomed Simon was from the start, and how even before he lost his sanity, the crown had already claimed its victim. The exploration is fascinating; Simon’s transformation is often compared to Alzheimer’s, and while that correlation is quite accurate, it almost feels like a drug addiction in these video entries. Despite the way it’s destroying his life and pushing away the one he loves most, Simon continues to put on the crown, simply because of his failure to resist the feeling of power and strength it gives him. It’s some really tough stuff to get through, and the connection between his fiancee Betty and the Ice King’s desire to capture princesses is absolutely heartbreaking.

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Somvilay added this banner in to keep the viewer’s attention. A strange bit of meta-humor that AT typically strays away from.

The monologue was provided by Patrick McHale, who came up with the idea of Ice King’s tragic backstory. It really feels like a one-man play, but Pendleton Ward himself has compared it to the likes of a radio drama. The speech really shows what a fantastic voice actor Tom Kenny is; he’s so well-known for his portrayals of zany cartoon characters, but the dude can really pull off a legitimately serious and poignant role, and I think that’s a part of his abilities as an actor that’s sadly overlooked. The straight-forward fashion in which he reads these lines, without even slightly sounding phony or forced, is really impressive. It’s a very strong and powerful read through that really adds to this sequence being one of my favorite moments in the entire series. The monotone dialogue is surprisingly what keeps you so drawn to the screen.

However, with all that said, I honestly think the rest of the episode is just okay. The entirety of the episode is padded with quirky video diaries of the Ice King, and truthfully, they don’t do it for me. Like, at all. There’s a few funny lines readings, such as “good morning, you’re watching the evening news,” and IK’s hilarious rendition of Marceline’s Fry Song, (FORESHADOWING) but none of the other tapes do it for me in the slightest. I get it, the episode needed to be stretched out for the purpose of building up to the massive drama bomb, but I wish those tapes and time used at least incorporated more humor and entertainment. The tapes are purposefully boring, but end up slowing down the entire episode to the point where it feels like it takes an eternity to get to the actual meat. There’s an extended scene of BMO fastforwarding one of Ice King’s tapes, and it goes on for like, a solid minute. It’s another one of those episodes that showcases Somvilay’s odd approaches at anti-humor that just simply makes the experience a relatively dull one.

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The original pitch for this episode called for Finn and Jake to watch old Christmas specials, but Pen thought that the idea was awful in hindsight because it destroyed the fabric of the universe that the crew worked so hard at creating. While I can’t say that idea would’ve been better, I do think that the first 18 minutes of this two-parter should’ve been padded with something a little easier to chew on. I feel like it’s incredibly hard for me to think of anything noteworthy about Holly Jolly Secrets that isn’t the big reveal. The characterization of Finn and Jake isn’t that strong; they’re just sort of there to blankly observe until the ending. Even the Ice King isn’t that funny throughout this episode, and coming off the heals of great episodes like Still and Hitman, that’s no excuse.

After the video sequence does end, we do get some legitimately good moments as well. I love the IK’s delusional belief that the most significant thing about the tapes is the fact that he used to wear glasses. It’s a tonally appropriate moment to cap-off one of the heaviest scenes yet with a completely tasteful joke. Finn and Jake’s empathy for the IK is really great, too. It’s a nice moment for Finn to simply just give the Ice King back his tapes; I know people are always a bit annoyed that F&J don’t do more to help out Ice King, but really, what can they do? It’s completely out of their control and knowledge to be able to fix a pretty much unsolvable problem, so even showing him a bit of compassion and sincere appreciation is really sweet. Even though Ice King’s attempts at humor were considerably weak in these episodes, his characterization does come in strong when you realize that he actually hasn’t done anything wrong throughout. All he wanted to do was hang out with Finn and Jake, and when he completely forgets the fact that the two boys even watched his tapes, he rewards them with unusual gifts. It’s such a delightful view of his character that only makes the videos more effective and tragic. The second part ends on a perfect note, as all of the major and minor characters, including a booger and excluding Marceline (FORESHADOWING) sit together by a fire and essentially celebrate Ooo’s first Christmas.

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So yeah, I’m a bit half-and-half on this one. There’s some moments that are absolutely incredibly, yet others that are bafflingly mediocre. It’s safe to say that Simon’s backstory is more than enough to justify Holly Jolly Secrets’ existence, and that it still stands as a very crucial two-parter in the general expansion of the series. The Ice King only gets increasingly more interesting from this point on, and any story arc that was adapted from his backstory can be drawn back directly from this first episode. Holly Jolly Secrets isn’t a two-parter I happen to revisit as a whole a lot, but you can rest assured that I’ll continue coming back to Simon Petrikov’s story for years to come. It’s an emotionally scarring holiday special for the whole family!

Favorite line: “My alarm says it’s time for Finn’s bath. Finn, get naked.”

 

“The Creeps” Review

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Original Airdate: October 17, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

From the premise alone, you’d think The Creeps was a cheap imitation of the season two episode Mystery Train. However, The Creeps cleverly acknowledges its recycling and even pays homage to Mystery Train, in an execution that makes this episode stand out on top in my book. It’s much more diverse in its cast of characters, and even leaves us wanting a bit more by the end.

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The atmosphere in general in this one is much more desolate. Whereas Mystery Train was pretty much straightforward comedy, The Creeps adds a bit of a horror element to it, increasing the tension behind the murder mystery and the gang’s surroundings. There’s generally a lot of nightmare fuel within this episode as well, with PB melting, BMO’s face being ripped off, Cinnamon Bun’s eye drooping into BMO’s body… it’s all pretty nasty. It makes me really wonder why Jake goes through great lengths to potentially traumatize his younger brother. But hey, he’s thirteen. The kid can handle it.

I also like how the culprit of this episode isn’t really clear. The conductor of the mystery train was pretty obviously Jake to me, but here, I was kinda second guessing myself a lot. It bounces back from Finn, to Jake, to Finn, to some sort of outside force. It’s a twist that I really didn’t see coming, and the fast, thrilling pace of the episode leave little time for you to even have time to think about it. Jake puts on a damn good front as well. His blatant acknowledgement of the fact that they had already done a murder mystery before, his ability to get everyone else in on it, and even small details, like the fact that he was disappointed with his nickname “Randy Butternubs”. He was totally the one who picked out those names!

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In addition, I really love the cast of characters they chose for this episode. It’s an interesting choice of people, but they all work off of each other really well. Some great exchanges in this one, from CB trying to flirt with Lumpy Space Princess, LSP’s melodramatic monologue regarding her ex-boyfriend Brad, Finn’s infatuation for PB allowing him to remember something as insignificant as what he wrote on her birthday card two years prior, and the constant distrust Jake shares towards Finn a majority of the episode. It’s rare we ever get to see a group of characters like these interact with each other, and I really think that adds to the episode tremendously. This could’ve been a completely self-contained murder mystery, but the way each character attributes their own unique presence makes the entire experience much more enjoyable. There’s also one of my favorite BMO lines:

When bad things happen, I know you want to believe they are a joke. But sometimes, life is scary, and dark. That is why we must find the light.

The fun part about it is that it isn’t even supposed to be taken completely seriously based on the circumstances, as BMO was just looking around for a light switch. It works entirely as a beautifully out-of-nowhere bit of poignancy that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a mostly comedic episode. I do have one gripe with this scene in general though: isn’t BMO in on Jake’s plan? Why would the two of them be talking about something scary and dangerous happening if they know exactly what’s going on? Perhaps BMO wasn’t in on the plan till later on? I dunno, it’s pretty much just an afterthought.

This episode also introduces the ghost from the mansion, which will later have a much bigger role later on. For now, she’s simply locked in Finn’s vault, where he hides all of the traumatizing material he experiences. Maybe it makes sense that Finn’s so unaffected by his friends dying grotesquely around him. He can just simply lock it away anytime he wishes. I do really love the way they carry out the ghost scene by treating it as one little glimpse of information to chew on while the conclusion sets in. Finn’s experience of almost dying via train the last time Jake pulled this stunt was a scary thought, but even scarier for Finn is something he can’t entirely understand or even believe before his own eyes.

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A very minor thing, but I also really love the attention to detail with the outfits in this episode. Ako designed a majority of the masks and costumes, and it treats the characters like visual candy (as I frequently say on this blog, no pun intended) by diverting from the standard models. It’s rare we ever get to see Jake, LSP, or Cinnamon Bun fully clothes, and even more interesting is the fact that when Jake stretches, his clothes stretch with him. Not sure if I should consider that an error or a fun visual gag. It can be two things.

Overall, I like this one a lot. It really does a lot with the murder mystery story and uses it to its greatest advantage, something it’s predecessor, Mystery Train, did not. It’s jam packed full of fun jokes, including the false personas of each character (Duchess Gummybuns and Guy Farting being two of my favorites) and its creepy atmosphere keeps me coming back for more. This is certainly one that isn’t getting locked up in the vault anytime soon.

Favorite line: “난 제이크랑 항상 한 몸이 되는데. (Jake and I merge our bodies all the time.)”

“What Was Missing” Review

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Original Airdate: September 26, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

I’ve felt iffy about What Was Missing for a very, very long time. It’s arguably one of the most popular episodes to date, and while I’ve always thought that the episode was well crafted, I also sensed a feeling of tonal difference from the rest of the series. What I love about AT is that the characters’ feelings, motivations, and life paths are left most ambiguous and up for debate, and that notion has only increased throughout the run of the show. Rebecca Sugar, on the other hand, has her own specific style that is very different from everyone other staff member on the show, mostly because she has her own vision for the characters and precise ways of writing for them. Sugar’s style is evident on a show like Steven Universe, where all of the characters are very honest and genuine about their emotions and feelings, and almost every episode works towards some sort of conflict resolution or developmental change. AT, as I said, is very different in its approach. It’s more about drawing your own conclusions about what the characters are feeling, and continuously opening new doors (no pun intended) within the Land of Ooo. These are two very different mediums that collide especially in later seasons when Sugar’s style becomes more evident, this episode included. I could even see this working as an SU episode, with Steven, Pearl, and Amethyst filling the shoes of Finn, PB, and Marceline respectively.

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So what point am I trying to make by this? Well, frankly, for a while I was less enthusiastic about What Was Missing than everyone else was. I really just thought it was too big of a tonal shift for the show to take on, and the characters acting this open and honest with each other felt a bit… out of place. However, after rewatching this episode and the commentary for it specifically for the review, I do have a bit more of an appreciation of it. I realize that this is just a very big passion project that involved Sugar pouring every little bit of her heart into it (not ignoring the fact that it’s also Adam’s episode, but let’s face it, this is pretty much Rebecca’s baby).

The songs she wrote for this episode, I’m Not Your Problem and What Am I to You? are some of the best written songs in the entire series, and derive from very personal place in Sugar’s heart. I’m Not Your Problem not only addresses the subtle, long term conflict between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, but channels an experience Rebecca had while trying to impress a roommate she once had, but failing in that regard. Some of the strongest songs in the series come from personal experiences that help the tune feel more raw and passionate (All Gummed Up Inside, Lost in the Darkness) and this is another great example. It’s an aggressive and intense experience, and pretty much gives us everything we need to know about Marceline and PB’s past history without ever giving us any flashbacks or long bits of exposition. It shows the flaws between both characters: Bubblegum’s unintentional ego and Marceline’s feeling of inadequacy. It’s a very well done conflict that I think a lot of people can identify with, and it’s done in such a unique and entertaining way.

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What Am I to You? is in the same vein. Dealing with Finn’s inferiority complex towards Bubblegum and Marceline is something that feels a bit overlooked and undermined through time, but it’s done in such a catchy and sweet way that it’s hard not to instantly be able to empathize with Finn as a viewer and immediately see things through his perspective. The inspiration behind this song is actually something that admittedly had me tearing up a bit while listening to the commentary (or someone in my house was just coincidentally chopping onions. I like to think the latter). Sugar wrote this song based on her experience with the Adventure Time crew, and how she finally felt accepted in her position and no longer saw her job as work, but rather something she genuinely enjoyed doing with people she loved. It’s a very endearing, loving message that honestly makes the episode itself even more heartwarming, and for that reason, it’s really hard for me not to get drawn into this episode. It puts every bit of care and compassion into it from the crew who love working on this show so much.

Besides that bit, I like the little in-between bits as well. Jake pretending to be the jerk of the band is funny enough, and even gets better when he alters his entire appearance. Finn’s little song about pasta is cute, and I just really love seeing all of these characters together at once. It’s rare that we even get to see Finn, Jake, and Marceline hangout from this point on, so it’s very nice to see Bubblegum and BMO included on this friendship train. It highlights some of the most important flaws of each character and focuses on them in great detail: Finn’s awkward and sometimes creepy interest in Bubblegum, Marceline’s inferiority towards her old friend, PB’s intelligence that can often come off as condescending, and Jake’s inability to take anything seriously. I even like the Door Lord as well, voiced by Steve Agee. His design leads me to believe he’s some sort of relative or distant cousin of Key-per, and it honestly cracks me up everytime he speaks in his hummed speech. Apparently the storyboard has legitimate translations for what he’s saying, but you can pretty much gather the gist of it without even needing to know.

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In the end, it actually is an episode that warrants the characters being so open about their feelings. In fact, it’s basically the whole point. Though I do like the ambiguity that each character possesses in their emotions and personal struggles later on, it’s nice to watch them finally get what is bothering them off their chest, and it’s a pretty good message to show that the truth will set you free a majority of the time. Finn got to open up about his feelings towards Bubblegum to Jake recently in Wizard Battle, and while he isn’t that explicit this time, it’s nice to see that he does acknowledge how he feels about her in a way, and that he’s able to earn a newfound respect in return. In addition, Marceline’s able to do so by accepting the way that she feels towards her ex-BFF. By not getting angry at herself for wanting to reconnect with Bonnie, Marceline allows a possible chance for forgiveness and new beginnings, something she couldn’t envision with her bitterness blinding her beforehand. It also shows PB’s side of things by showing her brief admiration for Marcy by having deep sentimental value in the shirt that she gave her, which was really just icing on the cake. My only problem with this episode is most likely your only problem with this episode: why the hell wasn’t BMO mentioned in the song?! She’s sitting right there, Finn! How couldja forget her like that?

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And I guess I should acknowledge the brief controversy surrounding this episode. On an AT oriented YouTube channel called Mathematical, which was started up by Frederator Studios, there was a video that gave a brief recap of What Was Missing and analyzed it further by addressing the implied homosexual relationship between PB and Marceline, equipped with fanart of the two in a romantic scenario. The entire channel was shut down, and the mastermind behind it, Dan Rickmers, was fired. To be honest, this is just some dumb bullshit that went down. I get that a couple of years have passed since then and animation and television in general have become considerably more LGBTQ positive recently, but c’mon, PB and Marceline are basically openly lesbian at this point in the series. Whether you interpret them as best friends or an actual couple, the show and the staff seem to be doing everything they can to stress the pairing of them in a romantic sense, so really, was there any point in making such a big deal over allegations if said allegations would later just become practically true without anyone even batting an eye? It was a dumb bit of controversy from the start and only seems more absurd with the current state the show is in.

Getting back to the actual episode, I definitely have grown more positive towards What Was Missing as time goes on. I still don’t know if I’d call it one of my personal favorites, but it’s just so charming and likable that it’s hard for me not to get sucked into what many people consider one of the all time best episodes. It just goes to show that whenever you want the show to be as sweet as can be, ya just add a little Sugar!

Favorite line: “I’ll get your kid back, toy!”

“Conquest of Cuteness” Review

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Original Airdate: July 11, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Tom Herpich

Season premieres of AT typically take place following a cliffhanger set up in the prior season’s finale. The only exceptions are the first three seasons, but even then, season one and two had a much bigger scale in terms of their introductory episodes. Season one’s premiere obviously existed to introduce us to the Land of Ooo and the colorful characters within, while season two’s premiere (going off airing order for this example) introduced a new element of emotional sincerity within the characters, as well as a brand new villain. Season three disregards this formula completely and provides a simple, self-contained story. Nevertheless, Conquest of Cuteness is a very, very funny episode, and one that really kicks off the season on a high note.

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This is Tom Herpich and Ako Castuera’s last episode working together as a team. As I had  mentioned before, Castuera claimed that the two had trouble getting along as partners, but they still managed to put together some very well-written and creatively crafted episodes. It seems as though their styles blended together especially well for one final time, as there’s tons of terrific little gags and character moments throughout. I love the stuff with the now infamous Everything Burrito, the dysfunctional little cute people, Jake thinking a blanket is a dead goat, and just the general dilemma of the episode. Even tiny little bits, like how Jake’s burrito has a metal clang as he wraps it together. There’s no way it’s edible! For anyone who’s been watching the show religiously up to this point, it really feels like an episode for viewers to just appreciate the characters they’ve come to know so well and have grown so fondly of.

That being said, there’s some really nice atmosphere in this episode as well. There’s a sweet and subtle connection between Finn and Jake, as they bond over their appreciation for their mother. This is also somewhat of a changing point for the relationship between the duo, as they definitely begin to act more like brothers rather than best friends beyond this episode. It’s always endearing and somewhat poignant when the show takes a step back to allow these characters to breathe and just enjoy each other’s company, and this episode really takes advantage of those quieter moments. Also, we get to see Jake’s kickass sword again!

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The more subdued atmosphere also allows for some horror elements to play out. Obviously the episode never commits fully to this theme, as the cute people are generally ineffective, but it’s actually a pretty interesting concept to watch Finn and Jake be messed with psychologically rather than physically. It’s almost something I wish was pushed a little further. It’s fun to watch villains who aren’t capable of doing anything, but let’s face it, that’s somewhat of a running theme in AT. We’ve never really gotten to see a villain who completely messes with Finn and Jake’s mental health, and this might have been a good chance to showcase that further.

Despite that claim, however, I do generally enjoy the direction for the remainder of the episode. I really like how stoked Finn gets to help the cute people win, and he does so in the most humorous way possible. I especially love how Finn mentions recruiting all of his friends to join him, and it ends up being LSP, Cinnamon Bun, BMO, and a duck. I can totally picture him calling PB or Marceline up and the two of them being all, “nah, fuck it, I’ll sit this one out.” I don’t really love the Cute King character that much. He’s okay I suppose, but at the same time, it’s easy to sympathize with him. The little guy just wants to raise hell, but his friends can’t stop falling apart and/or blowing up. It ends on a relatively sweet note though, and almost works as a good moral for the youngins. It seems like it’s sort of leaning towards “if you keep failing at something, just give up,” but also I could see it being analyzed as “there’s plenty of other talents you possess, even if one fails you.”

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Whether it is or not, I just really enjoy this episode. It’s a premiere that doesn’t pile up big reveals or secrets to shove in your face, but it’s filled with so many gags and constant laughs that it’s hard to resist. It’s a wonderful return to watching the characters we love so much. From the minute Finn and Jake began to beatbox at the beginning, I knew I was in for a treat. Conquest of Cuteness sets the bar for a season that’s filled with many, many funny episodes, as some interlaced drama in between. 

Favorite line: This is the voice of your moooom… I’ve come back to tell you how dumb you always are!

“Video Makers” Review

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Original Airdate: April 18, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne, Somvilay Xayaphone & David C. Smith

Pendleton Ward mentions in the commentary of this episode that he hates pitting Finn and Jake against each other. Simple reason: it’s just not fun. I completely concur with this notion, as with pretty much any series, watching two characters bicker for a majority episode just simply isn’t enjoyable or interesting enough to watch. Finn and Jake have a very close relationship, which means they’re prone to fight every now and then and get into disagreements. I personally think the episode Who Would Win? did a pretty decent job of that while still keeping the episode fun and enjoyable. How does this episode fare? Well, let’s check it out.

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It’s interesting to note that this is actually the first time the Great Mushroom War gets named dropped, and it’s done so in a relatively humorous way. I really like how seriously Finn and Jake take the Federal Warning, and it works perfectly as a conflict driver. I like how the literal apocalypse can be used for such a simple plot point like this one.

The scenes that follow are pretty humorous. I like that this is an episode that really uses most of the main and recurring AT characters to its advantage, and even giving some others a bit more screentime. For instance, this is really the first time Mr. Cupcake gets a chance to shine, and one of the first he’s pitted against Jake. Jake’s jealousy of him is pretty enjoyable, and I love how this is actually the start of a long term rivalry between the two of them. In addition, Shelby, one of my favorite side characters, gets some well deserved spotlight in this episode. Shelby’s general snarky attitude and diverse personality from the rest of the mostly optimistic AT characters is actually pretty refreshing, and the “check pleeeeease” line is definitely something I’ve considered putting on my graduation cap on more than one occasion. There’s also some other little fun gags at the beginning, like Finn’s magic cup that pours everyone’s preferred juice and oh-my-god-whatever-the-fuck PB was drinking. I seriously don’t know what to make of that.

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Aside from that, there’s simply not much to this one for me. Finn and Jake’s bitching at each other is tiresome, and it’s a bit ridiculously over-the-top for them to be angry at each other for such a dumb reason as picking a genre for their movie. I think it would’ve been way more interesting if they just went with the “two characters try to make a movie and it turns out terribly” plot, but instead they choose and obvious route that brings down the entire episode. It’s a shame really, because had they chose the former, they were headed in the right direction. There’s some other funny scenes like the one where Slime Princess jumps right into the crocodile pit and when Finn attempts to make it look like PB is riding the frog chariot, and if they just stuck with those ideas in mind, I think it would’ve turned out a much better product. Luckily BMO’s song (written by David C. Smith) is sweet enough to end the episode on a very endearing note, but otherwise, it’s a pretty weak entry from the second season.

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Favorite line: “Check pleeeeease!”

“Guardians of Sunshine” Review

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Original Airdate: February 21, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich and Ako Castuera

Adventure Time has such an expansive and absurd world that a change in style can still necessarily fit with the general tone of the world on one condition: as long as the characters and environment still feel as though they are a part of the Land of Ooo. That’s why some of the upcoming guest animated episodes end up failing. While they keep the style and tone unique, the characters and environment don’t feel equivalent to the ones we’ve invested so much time and care into.

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It isn’t necessarily a traditional guest animated episode (it was actually animated in house by Jacky Ke Jiang; be sure to check out some of his other stuff, it’s terrific!), but Guardians of Sunshine takes our main duo through new dimensions and animation style while still staying true to the essence of Adventure Time. It helps that, while it is animated differently, it’s still written by series regulars Tom Herpich and Ako Castuera. Upcoming episodes like A Glitch is a Glitch and Water Park Prank feel like they’re written by people who are trying to understand the show, but just can’t quite get their grasp on it. This episode blends new styles with consistency to detail in terms of characters, giving it a better chance to succeed.

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And boy, is this one fun. Not only does it feel like a blend between vintage Atari and something of the late 90’s variety, but it captures the spirit of video games so well and so hilariously. The great little touches like the choppiness of Finn and Jake’s arms and legs, Finn’s face playing Pong, and Jake’s randomly pointy head are just so irresistibly silly. The general movement and design of the villains is so fluid and visually interesting; I especially like the way Busybee floats so smoothly and vibrantly, yet still has a blank, happy expression on its face. It makes me chuckle every time.

Adam Muto mentions in the commentary for this episode that he believes this is the first time in the series where the stakes feel high, and I could agree with that statement. Never before have Finn and Jake risked actually dying, and the tension of using up the few lives that they actually do have makes it a bit of a nail-biter. Of course, we know our heroes aren’t going to actually die, but there’s something compelling about putting characters in legitimate danger that simulates the notion that something bad really will happen. Adventure Time has pulled off that notion time and time again, but this was the first time it felt real.

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This is undeniably one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season. Plenty of terrific gags, a blend of CG to mix things up a bit, and a compelling adventure to send our two main protagonists on. If there’s one thing that brings down this episode, it’s BMO’s treatment. Man, do I feel bad for the little guy! It legitimately pains me to see all of the villains break through the side of him like that. It’s actually sort of interesting that we get to see the little console as the “only sane man” of the group. Typically BMO is prominent for his childlike innocence, but I almost sort of like seeing him in this light for a brief amount of time. I just wish Finn and Jake would feel a little sorry for what they put him through, but it’s okay. BMO’s sending their asses back to the video game world, cheat code style! 

Favorite line: “Easy-peasy, livin’ greasy!”