Tag Archive | Cole Sanchez

“On the Lam” Review

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Original Airdate: June 4, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone, Seo Kim & Cole Sanchez

I was somewhat nervous for this episode when it was first announced, because I really figured that an entire episode devoted to Martin would try and portray the character in some sort of tragic light. While the later episode Min & Marty managed to do so with great success, I was unsure about how much sympathy I actually wanted to feel for Martin’s character, and really liked how refreshingly committed this season has been in showcasing Martin’s awful attributes. Thus, On the Lam is just the kind of episode I wanted Martin to be the star of. It’s primarily a really fun, adventure-packed episode that capitalizes on how Martin charms and manipulates his way to success, with little remorse in the slightest of the people of whom he hurts in the process.

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It’s nice to get not only one, but two alien societies in the course of two episodes! This one isn’t as ambitious or unique as the one we saw in Orgalorg, but it does features a wide variety of some neat looking aliens. I especially like the koala people, mostly for their cuteness factor. This one does a really great job of defining just how Martin is able to survive through countless planets, worlds, and galaxies. The way I see it, he has two main skill sets:

  1. He’s quick on his feet and easily able to work instinctively off of his survival skills, rather than logic or the fear of being prosecuted.
  2. He’s able to charm the pants off of literally any community that is unknowing of his shitty nature.

The second is the aspect that plays the biggest part in this one, as Martin tricks the koala-like alien society into thinking that he’s practically a God. Or at least, he believes that they think so. Even with the idea in mind that Martin literally abandoned his son and cares little about that aspect, he still manages to be surprising in just how shitty he is. After tricking his alien allies into thinking that he is on their side, Martin immediately sells the moth that has been nurturing the alien society and presumably keeping them alive. And even after bonding with his new little friend, Martin 2, Martin eventually ditches the little guy after the two are faced with certain dangers.

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The connection between Martin and Martin 2 was a nice touch to carry through the episode as kind of a misleading story that would often lead to a sweet ending for any other character, but this is Martin we’re talking about. The parallels between Martin and Finn’s relationship and the connection between Martin 1 and 2 are what really adds to said story. I even like how Martin explains that “if I’m going to heroically save your life, I’m going to need to take drastic action!” Despite the fact that Martin describes his past life as a “pile of mush” earlier in the episode, he clearly remembers how he did have one moment of heroism back in the day when he saved his son from certain death. Of course, the same logic does not apply now, because even though Martin tries relive the same heroic actions he embarked on in the past, they’re quickly squandered by the fact that he flees the second he has an opportunity to do so. I do wonder what compelled his decision to at least try to initially save Martin 2. I get the feeling that it was either because Martin wanted to convince himself that he’s a hero for his own selfish gains, or because he simply doesn’t care if he lives or dies. It could very likely be the latter; no matter where Martin runs off to, he keeps running into himself and is unable to truly keep moving forward when he is constantly turning the world against himself. I get the feeling that Martin acknowledges and accepts that, sooner or later, he’s not going to have any place left to run to. And while he does have that in mind, he’ll still take any opportunity he can to keep going and to spoil himself with all the riches that he can obtain, while simultaneously ruining everything and everyone he comes into contact with in the process. Poor Martin 2.

This one is packed with lots of fun moments. A lot of the humor does derive from just how relentlessly awful and charismatic Martin is as a character. Other funny moments include the bartender who took an awfully long time to piece together that Martin was a criminal, and the hauling turtle that casually delivers expository dialogue before he hauls garbage. I think the only real annoyance I had with this one is the fact that Martin 2 was randomly revealed to be super old in the last leg of the episode. It always bothers me when shows pull sight gags like these; why weren’t the wrinkles and liver spots on Martin 2 visible throughout the episode? These twists always feel somewhat lazy to me, though I think Martin 2 being the actual rebel leader was a genuinely good one, just without the added attributes that didn’t even really need to be a part of the episode.

So, On the Lam doesn’t aim at developing or touching on the history of Martin’s character, but instead chooses to have fun with him, which is just as rewarding. It’s admittedly a bit shallow, because the general gist of the story and the humor in general predominately revolve around Martin’s shittiness, but I enjoy Martin and he’s tons of fun to be with, so I don’t mind it as much. Definitely gets a pass in my book.


Favorite line: “I hate this city, and I love hauling! I should probably go do something…”


“Friends Forever” Review

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Original Airdate: April 16, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

Friends Forever brings up an interesting question: is Ice King really worth saving? And I mean that in the sense that Ice King has become his own developed and lovable character over the course of six seasons that completely differs from Simon. Of course, Ice King is depressed and deeply troubled, and Simon lost his sanity to the crown, so for that reason, it almost makes sense to reverse the effects of the crown and thus to save Simon. Though, Ice King makes it very clear in this episode that he doesn’t want to be “fixed” and doesn’t want the help from the likes of others. Some parts of Simon’s personality and the personality of Urgence Evergreen that was embedded in the crown (there’s a nice little homage to Evergreen in this one when Ice King scolds, “Gunther, no!”) are what make up Ice King’s identity, and while he is far from the most conscientious being, he still has free will and is very much a conscious entity. So would bringing Simon back effectively destroy the Ice King as a person without his approval?

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The concept is presented in a challenging way, which is also appreciated. As Friends Forever continues to remind us, Ice King is still clearly insane. He manipulates the Life Giving Magus into bringing his furniture to life in the hopes that they can become his best friends, instead of simply reaching out to Magus to fill that void. In addition to that, it seems that Ice King’s comradery with Abracadaniel was only temporary, as Ice King quickly got sick of him and decided to keep him frozen within the ice cave. In a sense, this is a way to help reinforce his imperfect nature. This is the Ice King we know, and the episode doesn’t try manipulate the audience into feeling more sympathetic by making him seem completely innocent and totally naive. Though, the sympathy does come through in regards to his general demeanor.

Magus’s powers turn IK’s furniture into pretentious and stuffy beings, who want nothing to do with Ice King and his obscure personality. Ice King’s belongings merely want to berate him by bringing up his flaws and insecurities and deeming them as unorthodox. Even the lamp, who is likely the nicest out of all of Ice King’s newly found friends, only offers advice that urges Ice King to conform, rather than to continue to be his nutty self. There are some aspects about Ice King that certainly deserve some fine-tuning, such as his desire to kidnap princesses (of which he hasn’t even been seen doing since Betty) and his failure to be rational when things do not go his way, but the factors that Ice King’s belongings target him with are, at best, petty. Ice King crying into diapers and having burritos stuck in his beard are nothing that he even needs to have an explanation for, and again, his “friends” simply want to fix him because his unusual ways of living do no conform to their expectations. Ice King’s drum even says “we don’t like you, but we’re here for you!” Ice King has proven to be most successful when he has the right support by his side, as seen when he gets closer to other characters like Marceline, Princess Bubblegum, and BMO.

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It’s kind of a good analogy to show the dangers of keeping toxic friends in your life. Toxic friends are the ones who say they’re there for you and that they’re looking out for your best interests, but they merely want to shape you into what they think you should be like. Ice King identifies with this, and his choice to push away the help that lies in front of him shows that he doesn’t really want to be helped to begin with. I wouldn’t say Ice King is really happy, but he’s at least content with his being because he knows it’s the only way he understands how to live. That isn’t to say that Ice King might not need help at all, but if he does receive such support, it should be from people who genuinely care for him and those who are looking out for his best interests. This is the first of many episodes that got me thinking about Ice King’s nature in general and whether it actually makes sense for him to be reverted back into his natural form as Simon. This show has made me care so deeply for Ice King throughout the past six seasons and further that I think it would be a genuine bummer if the crown was altered in some sort of way to return Simon to “normal” when it comes to the endgame. Sure, it’d be nice to see Simon safe, sound, and happy again, but if that means killing Ice King, then I really don’t know. Friends Forever effectively separates the two entities in head scratching way that makes me very perplexed on how this arc could realistically end in a satisfying way. It would be sad if Simon was unable to regain his humanity, but even sadder if it meant getting rid of Ice King. He has just as much of a role in the lives of the main characters as Simon does, if not more so. And if Ice King doesn’t want to change himself or the way he lives, he should be entitled to his own state of free will and consciousness.

So with all those interesting ideologies, this must be a really good episode, right? Actually, I think it’s just decent. Sure, I can invest my time in analyzing all of the deeper elements of Ice King’s character and how his furniture treats him, but I don’t know how much I really enjoyed this one. This is an Ristaino-Sanchez duo episode that is surprisingly low on laughs. I only really laughed at the improv joke, the “Nihilistic Funnies”, and the random words lighting up gag. Besides that, it’s kind of dry regarding anything of entertainment value. Ice King’s belongings in general aren’t very likable or memorable, and aside from some funny designs, like the Hi-Hat on Ice King’s drums, every belonging is limited to the standard dotted eyes feature and aren’t really presented as unique in any way. The lamp I think has an especially hideous design that kills any kind of likability they were going for with her. There’s something especially unsettling about those wide eyes and that fat upper lip that just kind of rubs me the wrong way. In addition to that, the setting is relatively dull. Aside from some party lights that illuminate the setting in a pretty neat way, this episode takes place entirely in the Ice Castle, and it seems a lot more monotonous when so many previous episodes have had their own distinct setting. So yeah, this isn’t one I like a whole lot, but it does at least provide me with good material for discussions. It’s an interesting Ice King outing that does raise plenty of different questions regarding his state of being, but is a bit lacking on the entertainment value.

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Favorite line: “I like this guy, though. He’s a real ignoramus!”

“The Cooler” Review

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Original Airdate: December 4, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

I had actually started to miss Flame Princess’s character during this point in season six. I definitely don’t love Flame Princess by any means, but I had grown fond of her over the course of season four and five, and knew that it was inevitable that she wouldn’t be appearing as much. It is nice to see, however, that her star appearance in this episode has absolutely nothing to do with Finn, which is exactly the type of spotlight I wanted for her character. And it doesn’t disappoint, developing on the already established dynamic between FP and Princess Bubblegum.

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The cooling of the Fire Kingdom provides for some pretty funny interactions between its citizens, which is a given, as no Cole Sanchez/Andy Ristaino episode is without its laughs. Among of the funniest of these citizens is the guy who can no longer fit in his pants and the two brothers who tragically merged bodies with each other. The cooled down kingdom in general looks pretty awesome; we’re so used to seeing the Fire Kingdom engulfed in red, orange, and yellow, but The Cooler provides for a more subdued landscape, shadowed with gray and blue color schemes. It’s a nice shift from what’s expected from this location and helps set the mood for the rest of the episode.

One of the most noticeable changes in Flame Princess’s character is how she’s drawn to look more mature and adultlike. Of course, this is more-or-less a complement of Cole Sanchez’s storyboards, as Andy Ristaino resorts to a squishier, more rounded depiction of the character in the second half of the episode, but Sanchez’s efforts still pull through as effective. I like seeing her more competent and comfortable in her role as a ruler, and it’s the first time we truly get to see her from a political viewpoint. In fact, the entire conflict in the episode could be interpreted as a political standpoint, and while I previously mentioned back in Ocarina that I thought AT should never incorporate politics, I think it’s handled in this one relatively open-ended. Politics can be especially tricky with any show aimed at children, just because any topic that leans one way or another can easily come off as propaganda and fail to be challenging in the slightest. OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is another great series currently airing on Cartoon Network, but one of its episodes suffered from the reasons aforementioned. The Cooler cleverly presents the conflict based on how each character featured would act in a situation that could possibly imply war, and feels much more in touch with Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum’s behavior rather than trying to force a direct message that seems out of character.

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It’s also pretty cool to see Flame Princess’s family back again! They had previously made a brief appearance in Jake Suit, but they get a true chance to shine in this one. I really love all of their quirky personalities; Aunt Agnes and Randy are two likable dimwits, and Flint is enjoyable in his hot-headed personality. Flint somewhat represents the side of society that simply thinks destroying/invading other bodies of land is the easiest solution in times of crisis, though it is pretty cool to see that this idea is not immediately turned down as completely irrational. Of course, Flint is hot-headed and beyond reason, but Flame Princess states that she’s prepared for any type of action if it means protecting her kingdom, which I thought was actually kind of nice to see that violence isn’t immediately shut down. FP hasn’t been opposed to violence in the past, and it makes sense that she wouldn’t be opposed to it in the present either. Yet, she has grown to be more intelligent, and knows how helpful Princess Bubblegum could be as an ally. Her desire to do what is best for her kingdom also helps to connect her character to Princess Bubblegum later on, showing that the two aren’t so different in motivations. Really adds depth to her character. Contradicting intelligence, however, is Cinnamon Bun, who seems to be back to being slightly incompetent in this episode. It’s strange, because I guess you could attribute this to the cooling process, but later episodes have showcased CB outside of the Fire Kingdom and he still retains his newfound intellectual abilities. I’ll let it go for now, though, because it at least makes sense in the present moment.

The connection between Flame Princess and Bubblegum is presented quite interestingly in this one. Keeping in touch with Flame Princess’s flat-out honesty, I enjoy how she tells PB upfront that she genuinely does not consider her a friend and that she merely wants to keep things professional and non-personal. And who could blame her? Though FP originally went along with PB’s experimentation in Earth & Water, she later discovered how untrustworthy PB can be and quite “devious” at that. Princess Bubblegum doesn’t really do anything to disprove this theory during her meeting with Flame Princess, as she uses manipulation and the promise of friendship as a means of trying to get FP to let her guard down. Of course, this fails, though PB would later use this manipulative behavior in a different way once the two come across the Sleeping Fire Giants.

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The backstory of the Fire Kingdom is briefly explained through Flame Princess’s very first song, A Kingdom from a Spark. It’s all cool stuff, and adds significance, as well as great power, to the identity of the Sleeping Fire Giants… I only wish the song had been a bit less awkward. Yeah, I’m not really a fan of it. Jessica DiCicco’s singing voice isn’t awful by any means, though the tune of the song itself isn’t really presented in a catchy or interesting way, and the lyrics just feel like a jumble of mismatched sentences that don’t even really deserve to be in a song sequence. I think I would’ve liked this bit better as spoken word, as it would make for a less uncomfortable experience overall. Though the song is there primarily to distract FP from Bubblegum’s tinkering in the background.

I think Bubblegum’s fears and paranoia of Flame Princess possibly using the Fire Giants to blow up the kingdom are very much well-defined and reasonable, even though she is clearly wrong and beyond her boundaries. Though, isn’t that kind of cool as well? Bubblegum is obviously shown in the wrong for dismantling a weapon that could potentially destroy the Candy Kingdom. Again, the episode does its damnedest to spread across a message that exemplifies the importance of trust, rather than the disregard for potential violence. Flame Princess would likely never consider the destruction of the Candy Kingdom because of her ties to Princess Bubblegum, and even taking into consideration the feelings of Cinnamon Bun and his relations to the Kingdom. PB put herself and her kingdom in an even further state of jeopardy by simply not allowing her fears to subside. Though again, this isn’t really totally despicable for PB herself. She cares for her kingdom and wants to make sure it is in the greatest state possible, even if it means that her methods of protection become self-destructive.

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What brings this episode down a slight notch is the entirely stupid way the Sleeping Fire Giants are disposed of. Like, there’s the somewhat believable way it’s carried out when Princess Bubblegum uses her shield to block FP’s shots, but there’s moments where Flame Princess COMPLETELY misses PB and knocks two Fire Giants out instead. I get that she lost control of her anger, but this form of recklessness just made her seem completely oblivious. I have trouble that Flame Princess would be careless enough to destroy the one thing that she went on and on about its importance.

Bringing it back down to the more rational side of things, Bubblegum finally comes clean and reveals that she was the one behind the cooling process, which upsets FP. For the longest time, Princess Bubblegum has looked at her tendency to spy on others and her manipulative attributes as mere quirks and nothing more, though this is the first time someone is directly calling her out on being a shitty person. PB likely has acknowledged in the past that she may be going too far with her invasiveness, though she always had the reassurance that everything she did was for her Kingdom. Only now is she realizing that the consequences of her actions not only cut off potential allies, but potential friends as well. FP was willing to give Princess Bubblegum the benefit of the doubt and to trust her, but PB has become so disconnected and out of touch with people that she couldn’t even manage to be respectful and trustworthy. It’s this realization that causes PB to allow one Sleeping Fire Giant to remain, in hopes that Flame Princess will understand where Princess Bubblegum is coming from. Honestly, I think PB is let off a bit too easily, and I think it would have been slightly more effective if Flame Princess just passively let Bubblegum go, leaving her with her own fears and anxieties of the future, but without direct validation of safety. Granted, I think Flame Princess’s more understanding side is used to her advantage, as she finally reveals her first name: Phoebe. It mirrors Bubblegum’s question earlier in the episode, and shows that Flame Princess is willing to consider Bubblegum her friend, if she merely chooses an honest path over one of deceit and shadiness. And look at that, she got Ice King in on the whole thing too! Thought that was a pretty hilarious reveal, by the way. Though would Ice King logically be able to produce frost in the heated atmosphere of the Fire Kingdom? It’s up for debate.

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The episode does leave off centering around PB’s lingering feeling of discomfort, and it finally has her coming to terms with her invasive nature. She cuts the line completely to her security system, with a promise of never returning to her spying nature. I think it’s a pretty effective moment in PB’s developmental path, and it really doesn’t come across as too irrational for her character. It doesn’t downplay the importance of general surveillance, but shows that PB is starting to realize that she doesn’t need to keep an eye on every individual member of her kingdom at all times. Finn and Jake are free to serenade each other with the Food Chain song as much as they like, without PB watching their every move. It’s a huge jump for her character, and though she chooses to make the right decision, the latter half of the season would prove that this choice may have been too little, too late. Even if Peebs is willing to change, it will take a lot for her Kingdom to notice and accept these changes.

The Cooler isn’t perfect, but it’s thoroughly entertaining and capitalizes on a truly interesting dynamic. Again, I didn’t think this episode tried to preach anything too heavy on the political side, as it focused more on showcasing how its two lead characters treat honesty and respect. This would be Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum’s last episode interacting with each other, though it’s a perfect time for their characters to separate, as Bubblegum becomes consumed with her own identity crisis. Flame Princess is the most brutally honest character to face off with Bubblegum’s shady nature, and The Cooler uses this conflict to its advantage. It’s Flame Princess’s only star role in season six, and though that’s somewhat of a sad thought, I think her presence is used in the best way possible, and helps her to develop by diverting her attention away from Finn.

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Favorite line: “I’m PB! I spy on everybody. No big D!”

“Ghost Fly” Review

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Original Airdate: October 28, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Cole Sanchez

Ghost Fly is essentially a “Halloween” episode that was used to fill the gap between Joshua and Margaret Investigations and Everything’s Jake, which aired roughly three months between each other. This was the longest gap between AT episodes for a while, and I truly mark this period of time as AT’s downfall in terms of popularity and treatment on the network. More month to two month long gaps became frequent, individual promos started to vanish, and it became apparent that, for whatever reason, Cartoon Network just didn’t care for the show as they once did. But I’m going off on a tangent; Ghost Fly is a refreshing return to form after so many episodes of Finn and Jake hanging on the sidelines. Granted, it suffers a bit from a weak premise, but it still decent fun regardless.

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One thing I like about the beginning of the episode is the fact that it starts out raining, though has no actual role in the story. I know that sounds like a weird bit of information to mention, but I always like environments and backgrounds that are casually presented and don’t necessarily have any effect on the actual world. Often rain is only used in animation to set the mood or have some sort of purpose in the overall story, but I enjoy how Adventure Time is able to have these subtle moments without rhyme or reason. As I mentioned, it is quite refreshing just to see the boys hanging out and enjoying each others company. It’s almost as if we’re paying a visit to them and seeing how their lives have been going since their last adventure. Finn’s reading up on his fanboy-ish interests, BMO’s continuing to practice his martial arts abilities, and Jake is suffering from a nasty case of restless leg syndrome. Jake is generally presented as the star of this one, and I enjoy seeing him in a bad/funky mood for a change. From Joshua and Margaret Investigations to Jake the Brick is one big bomb of Jake episodes that feel insightful on so many levels of Jake’s character. It’s almost as if the staff realized how much attention Finn was getting the last season, and wanted to continue to flesh out Jake’s character as well. Of course, we don’t get anything too heady; Jake isn’t the type of character that needs to be really dramatic or introspective, but the show finds great ways of continuing to develop his character without necessarily making him have Finn-level psychological issues.

Here, Jake deals with stress and moodiness, but in a way that’s both humorous and fun for his character. Seeing him so frustrated for seemingly no reason is quite enjoyable, and shows that even a relatively carefree, happy dude like Jake is susceptible to his own moments of contempt. Only contributing to these feeling is the fly who descends to a Limbo-style plane after being killed by Jake, which drives the main plot of the episode. The concept of a ghost fly chasing Finn, Jake, and BMO around the Tree Fort is another pretty simplistic idea at the hands of Graham Falk that doesn’t lead to a ton of great comedic opportunities, but one that certainly doesn’t reach the lows of Sad Face either. Ghost Fly does, at the very least, star a cast of characters I can get behind and enjoy unconditionally. In addition to that, it’s also notable that this is the first Graham Falk episode in which he had help from a partner, that being Cole Sanchez. While upon rewatching, Sanchez’s drawings are pretty noticeable in terms of style differences from Falk’s (Falk tends to mimic the season one models of both Finn and Jake more so than other storyboard artists), though the writing and humor styles of both writers seem to blend quite cohesively. And there certainly are a fair share of funny concepts and ideas in this one, but none that hit the mark especially hard.

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I think the main premise in general is especially unremarkable. The ghost fly itself doesn’t benefit from an interesting character motivation, voice, or design (though the ghost sheet he sports is pretty cute). The character of the ghost fly is exactly as one would expect, and though it can be silly how much BMO and Jake hype up the threatening nature of this creature (apparently ghost flies cause polio?), I don’t think the ghost fly itself is an inherently interesting foe. The tiny scythe it carries around makes it a formidable threat, though I’m not sure I fully get behind that aspect of its character. I mean, in the Adventure Time world, are ghosts able to inflict actual pain onto living beings? It seems like that is contradicted in Ghost Princess, as well as even in the earlier stages of this episode, where the fly casually phases in and out of Jake’s body. I can even get behind his possession of Finn, though I have trouble believing that the fly would actually be a legitimate threat after all the rules the show managed to set up around the nature of ghosts. I think it would have made more sense, as well as opened up more humorous opportunities for the episode, if the ghost fly simply tortured the boys by buzzing back and forth, unable to be touched/killed. This would have also tied into Jake’s stressful angst, which barely has a part in the remainder of the episode.

Granted, this one isn’t without humor. I actually think the scene with Peppermint Butler is a really great addition as both moody and absolutely hilarious. It’s nice to see Pepbut back in his element after his star role in Nemesis, and even more funny that a dark, twisted being like himself has his limits. Without his bag of mystic objects, he almost immediately flees and throws himself out the window, a hysterical response that even shows a bit of his humanity. It’s also cool to see him being utilized by the other main characters for such deeds; Finn and Jake, who were previous uneducated on Peppermint Butler’s true nature, now seem to both acknowledge it and kind of adopt it into their own lifestyles, and allow Pepbut to be so open and laidback about such a topic.

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There’s also that bit of Graham Falk weirdness that doesn’t always translate to good humor, but is interesting, as well as mildly confusing. After years of watching this one, I still have no idea what the hell the joke is supposed to be when Finn accidentally turns his circle into the shape of a woman. I guess it’s mildly funny in terms of obscurity, though I’m more perplexed than amused by it on each viewing.

I think the best part of Ghost Fly is the connection made between the ghost fly and its desire to fulfill unfinished business. It’s cool to see this element of the Dead World brought back once again, and Jake briefly being killed by BMO to visit the ghost fly’s plane of existence is a ton of fun. It’s pretty sweet in its visual quality, as everything is engulfed in a light blue transparency, and the tension does feel relatively high, since the ghost fly proves to be a decent threat within his own plane. Though the true icing on the cake is when, after the fly receives said unfinished business, he is immediately squashed by Jake. Which really raises the question: where do ghosts go if they’re killed by other ghosts? Do the go to a NEW plane of existence, or are they disposed of all together? In that case, I feel bad for that table that was reaped by the ghost fly. Rest in pieces.

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The way the episode ends is truly the highlight, however, as BMO’s overconfidence in his own martial arts abilities failed to save Jake, and he had to be revived at the hands of Dr. Princess. It’s hilariously dark to think that Jake could have legitimately DIED over such an instance, and adds to list of the many different ways that Jake has nearly ceased to exist over the course of the series.

This one is decent fun. It’s certainly unremarkable; out of all the season six episodes, this one usually comes to mind the least. It isn’t bad by any means, but there’s not much that helps it excel either. As is, it’s a simple breather episode that acts as an opportunity to revisit the lives of our main heroes. It might not be particularly great, but it’s refreshing regardless.

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Favorite line: “They carry diseases, such as tuberculosis, polio, dysentery. They leave those little fly doodies on your soul!”

“Joshua and Margaret Investigations” Review

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Original Airdate: August 14, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

It’s actually quite funny; in the handful of instances we’ve seen Joshua and Margaret in flashbacks or pre-recorded messages, Memories of Boom Boom Mountain was the only instance in where we actually saw them together, even with how brief it may have been. It is heartening, however, to see that we get to see an entire episode based around the time before Finn, Jake, or Jermaine were in the picture. And Joshua and Margaret Investigations may just be the funniest example of world-building to date.

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The way the story is presented through Jake’s birthday celebration is just great. The birthday dance and chant among Finn, Jake, and BMO is a celebration that’s only goofy enough for the Tree Fort boys themselves. I also like how inexplicable the birthday celebration is, with a singular candle since not even Jake likely knows how old he is by this point. The use of Jake’s birthday as a framing device is also a fun idea, especially how the device itself is revealed to be a complete mislead by the episode’s end. And that mislead is completely okay, because it allows for more flashback type episodes in the future that don’t necessarily rely on the perspective of other characters to tell said story.

From the start of the flashback, it’s already pretty easy to get a feel for the type of relationship that Joshua and Margaret share: they’re stereotypes of the classic American family, complete with old-school values and 1940’s Mid-Atlantic accents. Though even then, I think they stray from that formula a bit. They’re far from the dynamic of Ralph and Alice Kramden from The Honeymooners; Joshua is still shown to have some asshole-ish tendencies, but is a genuinely mild-mannered and a very caring husband, so much so that he doesn’t want Margaret to be in any sort of stressful activity during her pregnancy. Margaret also does not play the role of subservient housewife. She’s very much involved with the investigation business and is as determined as her husband to solve crimes, so much so that she’s willing to put herself in a possibly dangerous situation to prove she’s still got it. But aside from their main characteristics, it’s important to note that Joshua and Margaret are just fun in nature. Their dialogue is very catchy and energetic, and their relationship feels very believable. They aren’t overly schmaltzy or, adversely, temperamental. It really just feels like they know each other, and they have each other’s back in any given situation. Not a second goes by where their love feels unbelievable, yet they don’t need to consistently pronounce said love for it to feel authentic.

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A lot that goes into Joshua and Margaret’s characters can also be owed to their voice actors, Kent Osborne and Maria Bamford (respectively, of course). Bamford is obviously renowned for her terrific voice talents in and out of the series, though I think Osborne is generally less known in the voice acting department and deserves recognition as well. Osborne really nails not only the accent, but the charm and witty exterior of Joshua’s character. He knows exactly how to give Joshua life, to the point where nearly everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, even when it’s not intended to be. Of course, it helps that Andy Ristaino and Cole Sanchez crafted some terrific dialogue for this episode, to which really goes hand-in-hand with Bamford and Osborne’s performances.

Part of the fun with this one is just observing what Ooo was like 15 years earlier. It’s not quite like the gaps in time we’ve seen with episodes such as The Vault or Simon & Marcy; this one allows us to see what has changed in that period of time, as well as what hasn’t much at all. Of course, it’s never mentioned that this flashback takes place 15 years earlier, but anyone who has been watching for some time is able to draw their own conclusions based on several factors. There’s that nice reference to “a fire goblin burning through the Candy Kingdom” which is obviously referencing Flame Princess’s experience as a baby, as well as Marceline harassing sheep and cattle in the Grass Lands, possibly signaling that this was the point in which lived in the Tree Fort. There’s all kinds of neat touches like that and they continue once Joshua and Margaret head over to Tree Trunks house.

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I love how Tree Trunks is still noticeably ancient, having little to no changes to her overall appearance or voice. Though, I wouldn’t really expect a character of her nature to change in stature over the course of a decade-and-a-half. What was different, however, was Tree Trunks’ relationship status, as she painfully suffered through Wyatt’s neediness. Wyatt, once again, is a delightfully pathetic character who only cares for his own satisfaction, and is constantly craving his wife’s “pie.” The double entendre alone shows what a selfish and desperate character Wyatt is, only emphasized by his hilarious mention that it’s “the only good part of his day.” What a sad little loser Wyatt is. There’s also the subtle mentioning of “Lieutenant Candy Corn,” showing that Colonel Candy Corn didn’t always hold such a rank. Nice detail.

The conflict really arises when the currently unnamed Warren Ampersand appears and faces off with Joshua and Margaret. Joshua’s infliction from the shapeshifter provides for some of those asshole tendencies I mentioned earlier to arise. He is pretty quick to blame Margaret for his issue, and melodramatically accepts his death without even considering the possibility of surviving. I appreciate how this is a consistent aspect of Joshua’s character; he’s a terrific husband and (future) father, though his values and belief systems are often viewed as flawed, such as his interest in hunting demons or his belief that his boys should be “tough” and never cry. It’s fun to revisit this part of his character, and to see that it wasn’t forgotten over the course of a couple seasons. Though, in his state of pain, Margaret gets a true chance to shine. This is after she finds a viable serum to cure Joshua’s infliction in a book she’s reading, which I’m going to leave here, because the page is absolutely hilarious.

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After this, we’re treated to a delightful “suiting up” sequence, where we’re able to see Joshua and Margaret’s sweet artillery room. There’s some gems in there, like the reappearance of the Demon Blood Sword, and even a PokeBall! Suppose demons weren’t the only thing that Joshua hunted? Regardless, it’s nice to see Margaret in this kind of solo role. Aside from Jake the Dad, this is really this only instance of Margaret having such a role on her own, and it’s nice to see that she’s equally as badass as Joshua. Granted, she has some restrictions and is a bit more reserved, but she isn’t afraid to put herself in danger, or even throw a few punches or two. And it’s exactly that which confronts her with the shapeshifter, who is easily thwarted by her fake sympathy. Though the retaliation from Margaret was likely not what the shapeshifter was expecting, his goal is already in motion. My guess is that the serum would not be able to prevent the creation of Jake regardless, and that what was set into effect by the shapeshifter was inevitable. The shapeshifter returns to his dimension to simply sit back and let the future set in.

Speaking of the inevitable birth, the scene where Margaret reconvenes with Joshua is legitimately suspenseful on both accounts. The way Joshua is drawn, with pulsating blue veins running through his body, is off-putting in all the right ways and really gives you a sense of the pain he’s going through. Likewise, I’ll never know what it’s like to be pregnant, but I can nearly feel Margaret’s pain in said situation. This agony builds up to Jake being birthed from Joshua’s head, in a mildly humorous sequence where Jake serenades his parents. Granted, I think this is a bit too goofy and doesn’t make a lot of sense with consistency. In Dad’s Dungeon, Jake isn’t even able to speak, and in Jake the Dad, his voice is obviously different as a child. I know it was strictly for gag purposes, but it’s a bit too distracting for me to get entirely behind, no matter how funny it is. But it is Jake after all, so I’ll let it slide. I do like how it connects all the way back to The Witch’s Garden, in which Jake mentions that he got his stretchy powers from a mud puddle. Here, he’s born in a puddle, which didn’t give him those powers, though it’s the first time he can ever remember having them. Another small detail that goes a long way in terms of world-building.

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So the dog parents essentially both give birth to an individual baby: Jake and Jermaine. The ending successfully ties together a lot, and feels like a very satisfying introduction to Jake’s backstory. Though it’s brought back later on in another interesting fashion, I was willing to assume that the events of this episode weren’t going to be addressed again, which I was always content with. Joshua and Margaret Investigations sets up an opportunity for more to come from this development, but also ties it up in a satisfying way regardless with Joshua deciding to never tell Jake of his true nature. It’s another flaw on Joshua’s part, as it causes some legitimate issues within Jake’s own identity later on, though knowing what type of an effect such obscure information would have on him, Joshua would likely rather keep it a secret. Regardless of these actions, Jake remains content on his birthday, blissfully unaware of the true basis of his powers or how they will effect him in the future.

This episode is just jam-packed fun. It takes two already established characters and just adds so much more to their lives in an entertaining way. It also effectively carries out Jake’s backstory, which is unique in the fact that, while it isn’t the most uncomplicated tale, it isn’t deep or dark either. Regardless of the circumstances of his birth, Jake is still born into a family that cares and loves for him unconditionally. All that is added is just a really cool element of history regarding the nature of his stretchy powers, and that’s all I could ask for. Joshua and Margaret Investigations builds on the Land of Ooo quite successfully, while managing to carry across a pure feeling of fun all the way through.

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This might be AT at its most quotable, so I have several favorite lines this time around.

Favorite line(s): 

“These steaks are tough and stringy. Like you!”

“He takes a punch, you zig when you should’ve zagged, and oops! Junior takes a knock to the noodle, comes out with the shiner the size of a grapefruit.”

“Well, those tracks are as phony as a three dollar bill.”

“Do your worst, you masher.”

“The only monster here was this man’s appetite for his wife’s pie.”

“You’re about as fine as a canary in a cat mine!”

“I’ll show that peepsie the pepper!”

“Hey, where’s the fire, kiddo?”


“Furniture & Meat” Review

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Original Airdate: June 19, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

Of all the episodes from season six that received attention for either their quality of their controversy, I think Furniture & Meat is an overlooked romp that focuses mostly on being funny. Only after rewatching the series have I realized just how funny Cole Sanchez and Andy Ristaino’s team efforts are, and Furniture & Meat is no exception. It’s a simple, yet enjoyable episode that cleverly focuses on the dynamic between the Tree Fort bros. and how differently they go about their moral ethics.

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As if the cute late night hangout session between BMO and NEPTR in Sad Face wasn’t enough, this episode features the two boys playing Robin Hood, or, in this case “Robbing-Hood” with each other. It’s really nice to see a minor character like NEPTR being utilized more (even though this is sadly his LAST speaking role in season six) and it’s even cooler to see BMO warming up to him to the point where they can play and hang out together, even if it means that BMO is a bit controlling and continuously picks on NEPTR.

The main premise of this one is interesting, yet somewhat questionable. Finn and Jake realize they have too much money to know what to do with, and decide that it’s best if they spend it all or give it away, even though they’ve NEVER spent any money before. So, how do Finn and Jake acquire food and other basic house supplies? I always guessed that they’re treated like royalty within Ooo, and as long as they’re serving Princess Bubblegum, they’re given free commodities. Which is made up for when PB makes her monthly stop to the Tree Fort for tax collection. And I guess it all lines up with the rest of the series: the only time I can think of when Finn and Jake actually needed to buy anything was when Finn purchased the grass sword back in Blade of Grass, though Jake is the only one who directly mentions that he’s never spent his cash before. Definitely a weird concept that I’d like a bit more context to, but one that I feel like is still consistent with the rest of the series.

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So, after collecting their dosh via Jake pick-up truck (as they bid farewell to the now “chilling” Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant) the boys head over to the new and improved Wildberry Kingdom. Wildberry Kingdom is definitely one of the weaker settings in terms of visuals, as it’s pretty bland looking, with scattered trees and forestry spread everywhere, almost akin to something you’d see within the Grassy Wizard’s domain. Yet, it still feel true to its first appearance in Jake vs. Me-Mow, and I’m glad they didn’t completely renovate it to the point where it became unrecognizable. The inhabitants of Wildberry Kingdom are a lot of fun, especially the easily persuaded guard and the upper-middle class children who seem completely unfazed by everything going on around them.

During their trip to the kingdom, Jake is haunted a bit by his past history as a master criminal while discussing his attitude towards money, and while he certainly has a different attitude on how he can use money in this one, it’s equally as misguided. It only makes sense that, after years of either stealing or hoarding skrilla, Jake would not be competent with his use of money in the slightest.

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Instead, Jake uses this money to allow himself to do whatever he wants, entertain himself, and to embarrass others. Jake isn’t necessarily transformed into a monster, he’s simply understanding what it is to actually have power over people with money. His actions are malicious, but his endgame revolves around enjoyment more than anything, and he’s correct in that he isn’t forcing anyone to do anything. Jake simply wants to use this newfound power to have some fun and laugh at other people’s expenses, but feels as though he can’t feel bad because he is giving people large quantities of money, and also only doing so because people will actually do anything for money. It presents us with two interesting sides: Jake’s manipulative behavior of using bribery to fulfill his own selfish needs, and those who will put themselves through humiliating and foolhardy deeds to simply get their mitts on cold, hard cash.

Jake’s demands are certainly unique, however. I found them pretty hilarious in just how mundane they are, yet I still kind of questioned why he wanted to actually see such a thing. I mean, I get that watching people eat gold pieces and lick dust off of furniture may exude some sadistic entertainment, though I’m still unsure of why Jake would want that one sleep apnea induced husband and his wife to sleep on opposite sides of the bed. Perhaps it was simply to reinforce that the couple would do absolutely anything for cash, and Jake wanted to believe he had some sort of a validation for his doings. Otherwise, I’m concerned about what exactly Jake wanted to watch that couple “do” within their own bedroom. Yeesh.

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Finn properly tries to keep Jake in line by understanding the weight of his wrongdoings, and tries to make things right through some hilarious misunderstandings. Finn actually thought that approaching a back alley of homeless people would be a suitable way for him to be charitable, though, as he learns, some homeless people are much more greedy and demanding than he could have expected. This leads to an all-out brawl, where Finn covers himself in berry juice (presumably the wildberry equivalent of blood) and ends up with even less success than his brother. Though, Jake cracks a final ultimate plan to spend the rest of their dosh.

This is where the “Money” song comes in, which is an absolutely delightful and simplistic song that just features Jake uttering the word “m-m-m-money” over and over to the same exact rap inspired beat. It’s certainly one of the more shallow songs in the series, but one that still proves to be pretty catchy and earworm inspired regardless. As Jake reaches Wildberry Princess’s room, where she lies in a tub of meat, (I will never understand the Wildberry Kingdom’s fascination with meat) he offers all of their money to WBP if he can simply sit on her head. The idea is absolutely ludicrous, and I have no idea if it’s supposed to be taken as some sort of sexual deed, something that is mocking WBP, or just some sort of lifelong ambition that Jake has had. Regardless, it pisses Wildberry off, and she sentences the two boys to be executed.

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I don’t know how I feel about Wildberry Princess suddenly being super vengeful and aggressive, but I kind of like it. Again, it sort of just feels like such a random, out of nowhere character transition that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but one that’s fun to watch regardless. It also makes for a very enjoyable climax, as she nearly melts the two boys in molten gold (this is one of those moments that really makes me questions why Jake doesn’t just use his stretchy powers) before BMO and NEPTR come to save the day! It’s a lovely moment and an awesome callback to the beginning of the episode that helps to kick off this episode into a satisfying conclusion, as the boys return home nearly penniless. And Wildberry Princess even calms herself down enough to declare that she’d simply accept a written apology from the two boys. Would you believe this is her last speaking role in the entire series?? Outside of a single line in the season nine episode Slime Central, Wildberry’s voice is never heard again. Her general presence in the series decreases almost entirely following this episode, most likely because of Ice King’s dwindling interest in capturing princesses.

So yeah, it’s definitely not gonna make any top 5 list, but Furniture & Meat is still tons of fun regardless. I like how the conflict of greed is presented through Jake in one of his most malicious appearances, and money can truly turn anyone into a blubbering idiot. It’s one that is pretty straightforward, but enjoyable and funny enough to really stand out as a pretty humorous episode within the mostly ambitious sixth season.

Favorite line: “En guard!” “On Blitzen!”

“Wake Up” Review

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Original Airdate: April 21, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

After Finn was dramatically left with the information that his human father is still very much alive, I expected the next episode to get into visiting his dad almost immediately. And while it technically does, Wake Up primarily works as setup for the next episode, yet in the best possible way. It’s a funny, enjoyable, and energetic first parter to prepare for the drama and intensity ahead.

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The episode begins with yet another revelation surrounding one of our main characters… that character being Jake, and that his past absences have been attributed to his late night partying at Prismo’s place. The cosmic party is a ton of fun, and it’s a great opportunity to reintroduce us to all the deities that embody this world. Outside of their worldly duties, Glob, Cosmic Owl, Death, and Prismo are just a couple of bros trying to live life as anybody else would. It’s also nice to see the return of Prismo and Jake’s friendship. Prismo is such a sweet character, and I’m glad his lifespan as a character wasn’t limited only to Finn the Human and Jake the Dog.

Also returning for the first time since the season five premiere is the Lich, who is still as haunting and menacing as ever. I truly enjoy the way Prismo analyzes his presence within the timeroom, as he compares the Lich to a “machine without a purpose.” This concept makes the Lich even more one-dimensional, but even more frightening in that regard. The Lich really only exists to kill and destroy all life; he has no motivation and he has no deeper plan of ruling the world. He simply wants everything to die and is unable to function when he cannot do so. Quite unnerving really (aside from the fact that Glob is taking selfies on the Lich, of course. I really don’t know how I feel about the term “selfie” being used in an Adventure Time episode), as we, the audience, patiently awake for the Lich to suddenly strike over the course of this 11 minutes. We all knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when.

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But even more troubling is Finn’s solemn state as he reveals to Jake that his human dad is alive. The interactions that follow are very mature and heartwarming from the brothers’ perspectives. The two think out the possible cons of actually actually meeting Dad the Human, but acknowledge all the pros that come with it as well. Jake clearly identifies that it might be risky for Finn to do so, but it seems as though he also realizes that it’s important for Finn regardless. Doing so could lead to some positive closure for Finn’s abandonment issues, and help him develop out of any lingering insecurities regarding his place in the universe. Finn also responds with a facade, saying that he merely wants to meet his father to see what he would look like as an adult. This visit clearly means a lot to Finn, and though he’s terrified by the thought of meeting someone he literally has no knowledge about, it’s something that he feels as though he needs for the same reasons that Jake presumably wants him to do so.

The scenes that follow return to Prismo’s time room, where the Cosmic Owl is still shown to be as clingy as ever, and Prismo warns the boys of the Citadel’s nature. Love the montage of random monsters who do end up in the Citadel, one of which is a headless beast who sucks the heads off of other lifeforms, another zaps apart a planet in equal quadrants, and one simply stamps a form while emitting gross fluids. Finn naively remarks, “my dad must be the warden there,” showing how automatically he accepts that his father must be a hero or a guardian of some sorts. Jake later admits that the thought of Finn’s dad being a bad dude did cross his mind, though he refrains from mentioning this to Finn, likely to avoid tarnishing Finn’s optimism. Jake wants to do anything to help Finn accomplish his goals, even if it means bringing along the somewhat useless Shelby to get the boys to the Citadel, which may just be my favorite moment from this episode. I just love Shelby so damn much you guys, and I love the ludicrous idea that his apparent girlfriend has been hounding him for a pony. Is his girlfriend also a worm? If so, how would she even take care of a pony? The idea of it is so ridiculous, I love it.

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Though Prismo comes up with the idea of committing a cosmic crime, which sends Finn and Jake out on an epic space quest to rescue an old, sleeping man. The backgrounds throughout the outer realm of the time room are pretty simplistic in their color scheme and surroundings, though I do enjoy how everything in the background is constantly moving. It makes for a pretty swell visual treat, and once the boys actually enter the house on the duck-shaped rock (after the hilarious scene featuring Jake loudly knocking on the old man’s door) we’re treated to some sweet designs of the old man’s night terrors. They appear as a more menacing version of Prismo, though I also like their flattened, shadow-y nature and how they just generally shift across the background. It almost reminds me of something out of Samurai Jack in that regard. And the awesome way in which Finn and Jake actually defeat these beats, with the power of Jake’s supernova equipped flashlight, is terrific cap to the tense atmosphere surrounding the old man’s conscious state.

As Prismo reveals that the old man is actually the human incarnate of himself, it really is a moment that helps us grow even fonder of Prismo than before. Prismo is perhaps the most humble and courtesy character in the entire series, going as far as to sacrifice his own self for someone he doesn’t even know that well. Prismo realizes that being stuck in his time room all day probably doesn’t open up many opportunities for purpose beyond his state as a wishmaster, so it’s pretty cool that he’s actively trying to avoid being identical to the Lich. Prismo doesn’t want to only exist to be a functioning deity, but to go beyond his cosmic duties and to reach out to the people around him. So it only makes sense that he’d want to do something as noble as essentially killing himself for the (assumed) greater good.

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Only his plan backfires, and the Lich seizes the helm by waking Old Man Prismo up. This last minute is nothing but pure intensity, as the Lich threateningly stares down the old man, kills him with one menacing breath, and is taken to the Citadel.Aside from Jake being at his absolute most heartbroken and PISSED, Finn no longer only has to deal with the uncertainty of meeting his father, but also the power of the deadliest being in the entire universe.

Wake Up is a terrific first parter that sets up the next episode quite nicely, but also exists as its own entertaining episode. It’s a fun return to form as Finn and Jake embark on an entirely new adventure filled with laughs, awesome visuals, and an overall dire vibe. First parters in this show often end up being pale in comparison to their successors, like Holly Jolly Secrets – Part 1, Play Date, or Finn the Human, but Wake Up proves successful outside of just being connected to its sister episode, and properly prepares me for the intensity the next episode has to offer.

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Favorite line: “Man, I’ve gotten a lot hairier, but also balder? Tell me how that makes any sense!”

“Rattleballs” Review

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Original Airdate: January 27, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

If there’s anything to gather from the beginning few scenes of Rattleballs, it’s that Finn is quite lonely. After his break-up with Flame Princess, Finn has found coping mechanisms, fun distractions, and the overall comfort of his best friend, though as The Pit proved, he’s still very much in love with Flame Princess. One of Finn’s biggest mistakes since his break-up is his desire to recreate the past and try to once again get closer to Princess Bubblegum. This blew up in his face in Too Old, but Rattleballs shows that Finn hasn’t completely learned his lesson, and still wants to use his time to devote to another woman. In other words: Finn is bored. This is only a mere few minutes of focus within the episode, though I do like how this story arc continues to embed its way into almost the entirety of the second half of season five. 

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Finn’s desire to assist PB and be her knight definitely amplifies his stupidity, though I don’t think it’s as sinister as his actions in Too Old. Here, he simply acts foolhardy and wants to put all of his time and energy into being someone’s knight. His role as Flame Princess’s boyfriend certainly gave him a role of importance, and I have no doubt that he’s trying to once again recreate these feelings and boost up his own self-esteem. Yet, he doesn’t really realize that he’s being entirely clingy. I’m glad this episode takes a more light-hearted approach to Finn’s own desperation; he’s still not smart or logical in his actions, but you can’t really get mad at him for just acting mildly stupid. His stupidity would will later be amped up to 100% in the next episode and give me a reason to argue against his portrayal, though we’ll cross that road when we get to it. I do like Finn and PB’s interactions in the first half, and how PB herself doesn’t respond maliciously or vice-versa and try to coddle Finn. PB most likely understands what Finn is doing, and doesn’t want to enable his actions, but also doesn’t want to upset him either. I think she handles his behavior in a very mature and responsible way, and it shows how far she has come from her constant teasing of the idea of a romance in the earlier seasons. As of Burning Low, she’s realized what an effect she has on Finn, and doesn’t want to do anything to kickstart that turmoil once more. And if we didn’t already know, Finn is still in love with Bubblegum. It’s something that never truly died, and was only alleviated once Finn had another female in his life to focus on. Finn still deeply cares for PB, and is even willing to throw Peppermint Butler off a balcony for her (he’s kidding, but not really).

As Finn treks on and continues to try and emulate his role as a knight in the Ooo Junkyard, he begins to practice using his badass new blade once more. Love the Ooo Junkyard; it’s riddled with post-apocalyptic goodies, and gives the entire episode a bit of a grunge feeling, with the toned down colors and general background details. This is where we’re introduced to the episode’s titular character, Rattleballs. Rattleballs is right up there with Root Beer Guy as my favorite character introduced from this season. Both hilarious and somewhat solemn, Rattleballs is given life by his intriguing character story, as well as his voice. Rainn Wilson provides the voice for Ree-Bee-Zee, and what a spectacular job he does. The lack of emotion and strictly robotic inflections he gives to this character can make for some really funny line deliveries, as well as some very haunting ones. It’s especially effective, seeing how Rattleballs never really changes the tone of his voice throughout the course of the episode, which makes it all the more impressive and effective.

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I also really enjoy the connection he makes with Finn! His initial introduction where he threatens to pluck out Finn’s eyeballs and then congratulates him for his warrior’s heart is quite endearing, and shows us firsthand how Rattleballs has conquered his desire for needless violence. The included “sad backstory” where he describes his experience horseback riding is also a terrifically funny edition to the episode. I don’t know when or why Rattleballs would decide to go horse riding back in the day, but I guess maybe it was a routine wholesome activity for the robots? No idea, but it’s funny regardless of the reasoning.

I love the training montage as well, and how it subverts our expectations by showing the typical cliches of a training montage, yet none of them seem to actually be helping in Finn learning how to use his sword. Going through obstacle course, sitting on heated rocks, and being hit with eggs seems more like a test of endurance, and I’m sure Rattleballs had his reasons, but I just love how ludicrously useless it seems. A lot of people wanted to see Finn being trained by Rattleballs after this episode, but I dunno, I think the parody of training elements is far more enjoyable than the actual thing. I especially like how, by the end of it, Finn hasn’t really learned anything. The one special technique that Rattleballs teaches him isn’t even achievable unless he practices for ten years and gains a robot body. That logic puts a funny spin on the typical “work hard and you can do it” message that so many of these stories put out. Though, it would be really neat if Finn was able to perform this swift strike in the series finale. Doubt it would be brought back, but it’d be a nice little touch to show that Finn had been practicing ever since (and he kinda has a robot body!).

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The second half of the episode shifts gears to delve into Rattleballs backstory and, I have to say, this is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. I mean it, you guys. I think the episode itself is pretty great on its own, but this flashback sequence in particular is spectacularly done. Again, the narration by Rattleballs alone gives the entire sequence a bit of a wistful tone, and drives a very compelling story about the past history of the Candy Kingdom. The stand out moment in particular to me is the scene where Bubblegum asks one section of the Rattleball boys to turn their backs, while the others are crushed into oblivion. The reading of Rattleballs’ line “we were judged too dangerous to stay operational, and sentenced to death” sends straight shivers down my spine, and I’m willing to say this is one of the most fucked up things we’ve ever seen PB do. Obviously it’s easy to see things from her standpoint, however; the Rattleballs are robots, so it’s probably clear to assume that they don’t have emotions or identities of their own. Whether or not this is true for all Rattleballs, or the one that we’ve spent time with is just an exception, the idea of making a group of them look away as their brethren are killed is entirely morbid. All while PB has a smile across her face. It’s a beautifully presented scene, as it comes off as almost entirely messed up, but doesn’t make PB seem like an absolute monster either. Aside from her assumption about the Rattleballs willingness to emote, she probably feared that their violent attitudes of anarchy could lead to her own demise, and wanted to put an end to them before they began their own uprising. Most of PB’s fears and anxieties revolve around the loss of her power, but most importantly, the loss of her Kingdom. In her eyes, only she can properly run the Candy Kingdom (which she probably isn’t entirely wrong by thinking) and any threat to her role is a threat to the Kingdom as a whole. It’s a well-defined backstory that sees both sides of the stories, and is accomplished so successfully in tone, execution, music, performances, and so on.

Of course, Rattleballs warns Finn not to tell Princess Bubblegum about his existence, though Finn fails to do so, given his honorable stance as PB’s knight. On the one hand, it’s kind of a dick move for Finn to sell out Rattleballs after he assisted in Finn’s sword training. However, I do think Finn’s decision is consistent with his dedication to the Princess that was shown early on, and I think his blissful ignorance to PB’s more cold hearted nature is apparent. When they convene in the junkyard, Finn simply thinks that the two will just “talk it out” and come to a level of agreement, though I don’t think he fully understands how PB responds to possible threats. She’s not really the “let’s talk it out” type, and would rather alleviate her own paranoia by getting rid of the threat as soon as possible. With the help of Commander Root Beer Guy, of course!

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As tensions increase during the confrontation, Rattleballs proves himself by showing that he can change his behavior and that he’s not limited to what he was designed for. This is turned onto PB in a poignant display, where Rattleballs states, “I hope time has made you less bloodthirsty.” It’s effective in showing that, despite the fact that Ree-Bee-Z is a robot designed for violence, he isn’t entirely different from PB. Through deciding that the Rattleball boys are nothing but dangerous entities who deserve to be destroyed, PB is showing her own form of robotic violence and instigating what she set out to prevent.

It’s even more heart wrenching when we see PB toss what is assumed to be the destroyed Rattleballs in front of the bruised Banana Guards, until it is revealed that it was a farce. Despite her ability to change her ways to look upon Rattleballs with empathy, she still does not want anyone to think that she has let her guard down or “gone soft.” PB’s identity in the Kingdom is important to her, and during this particular period, she wants the respect of her citizens, and a bit of fear in the process. This slight altercation in her behavior, where she is able to allow Rattleballs to protect the kingdom in the shadows, shows that she is willing to change her behavior a bit at a time, and is a clear reveal of her true intents.

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Overall, this one is pretty awesome! I forgot how good it actually is, so this revisit was a true delight. It stars a terrific new character, some great new insights into the past of the Candy Kingdom, lots of funny moments, a nice tense atmosphere throughout, and a huge plot shift halfway through the episode that feels quite natural. I love how only the last few minutes are actually dedicated to showing more into the shady side of Princess Bubblegum, but it’s all cleverly tied back into Finn’s perspective and how he views her as a person. Throughout the entirety of PB’s struggle with her own morality, Finn remains nonjudgmental and by her side. Of course, it’s a bit more selfish and catering to his own needs, but as Finn becomes more encased in his own issues, the more he becomes ignorant of Bubblegum’s issues. It’s a terrific episode for analysis overall, and really capitalizes on the changing behaviors of two of the show’s main characters.

The Red Throne review will be posted on Friday, as I return to posting on a weekly basis. We’re nearing the end of Season Five, folks!

Favorite line: “I don’t eat muffins. I am a robot.”


“James” Review

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Original Airdate: November 25, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

Lotsa problems with this one, folks.

It’s funny, because I think James is the type of episode that could have worked if certain decisions were executed differently. Some choices that were made in this one still baffle me quite a bit, and it seems like an episode that was purely going for shock value rather than actually trying to make sense with the universe.

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The beginning scene is partially funny. The staged drama surrounding Finn and Jake, and their melancholic exchanges with each other are somber, but delivered in such a way that evokes a bit of humor, namely Jake’s insistence to stay in the dark room for several months. My main problem with this scene is that it doesn’t really make contextual sense with how the rest of the episode plays out. When we eventually realize how Finn and Jake feel about James, it doesn’t really seem like this overemotional response is especially warranted. In fact, by the episode’s end, it doesn’t even really accurately tie back into this scene. During the final scene, Finn and Jake are mostly just concerned and uncertain about the events at hand. It doesn’t seem like their trauma lasted particularly long, in that case. And that’s kind of what forms this episode’s biggest, though not its only, problem: characters can act wildly dissonant for the main reason that it serves the plot of the episode, rather than feeling like a natural reaction from the characters based on the circumstances around them. Thus, this beginning scene feels like the only real reason it’s included in is to draw the viewer into the story, which is somewhat effective on a first viewing, but really just falls flat by the time this episode reaches its climax.

Now let’s get to the title character himself: James. First of all, not to the fault of the episode, but the fact that there are two characters named “James” within the AT universe is incredibly dumb to me. There’s a handful of other generic male names in the world, why couldn’t James have been called “Michael” or “Chris” or something along those lines? Naming him “James” despite the fact that James Baxter is an already existing character seem incredibly silly to me. But forget about his name, how is he as a character? Well, quite annoying, actually. Andy Merrill, most notable for his role as Brak from Space Ghost Coast to Coast and its spin-offs, provides the voice of James, though his talent doesn’t really offer much because he isn’t really given much to work with. James’ character practically centers around the fact that he’s unintelligent and slightly hyperactive, and by this point in the series, we’ve seen many, many Candy People who take on this identity. James lacks any form of charm or endearing qualities that should make me care about him over the course of 11 minutes. Again, he is simply there to be a foil within the plot of the episode.

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The story itself is almost as equally devoid of charm and intrigue. I do enjoy the beginning trek through the Desert of Wonders in PB’s spider-like transporter, but once the gang actually lands in the pit and attention mostly focuses within the ship, most of that interest is lost. This is one that is particularly weak in the animation department, and the drawings in general. Andy Ristaino and Cole Sanchez co-boarded the episode, and normally their drawings are pretty solid, especially Ristaino’s, though a large majority of this one features some wonky dynamic shots and disproportionate character modeling. The characters will constantly go off model; there are some parts where Finn will look incredibly smaller and chunkier than usual, or Jake will look huge in comparison to the people around him, or PB’s head will range from the size of raise to an actual oval. I’m all for cartoons going off-model, and AT was not afraid to do so in its earliest seasons, though the tone of the show has changed in terms of not only its story, but its look. So any inconsistencies in actual design of the characters feels more like a wonky doodle rather than an intentional choice on the storyboard artist’s part. This is also primarily a “box episode” that takes place almost exclusively in one area, though this would be a bit more justifiable if the setting was a bit more visually interesting, but it’s pretty much just your general spacecraft filled with light and dark grays.

And the episode’s story is pretty thin as well. I think the story does have some comedic opportunities, though it mostly feels like, from a viewer perspective, that we’re just simply waiting for certain moments to happen. We know James is going to be an idiot, we know he’s going to continuously get blamed for his actions, we know it’s not actually going to be his doing by the end of the episode, etc. It just really feels like we’re going through classic storytelling notions until the episode eventually makes some form of a development, though, in this one, the development doesn’t even feel warranted.

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The big “twist” in this one is that it was PB sabotaging all of Finn and Jake’s plans and ends up knocking out the boys in order to sacrifice James and save F&J. And boy, do I think this is just absolutely ridiculous on every single level. First of all, the way it is explained by PB sounds extremely contrived and honestly just kind of paints her to be legitimately sociopathic. Despite her “conniving” nature being more emphasized by this point in the series, I have a hard time believing that she’d actually perform something so stupid. Instead of wasting time sabotaging the plans Finn and Jake were coming up with, why did she not simply use that time explain her idea to Finn and Jake? Or, even if she hadn’t thought of it at the time, why wouldn’t she just at least take a minute to try and convince Finn and Jake to go through with the plan before she ended up just doing it anyway? If she was so concerned about preserving Finn’s life, then why would she  knock him unconscious with a fucking wrench? I get that PB doesn’t always think using common sense, but c’mon, this is legitimately extreme and slightly moronic even for her. And the excuse of why she sabotaged F&J’s plans feels like genuinely poor writing. She “calculated” that Finn and Jake’s plans wouldn’t work? How? How would she have actually hypothesized that these attempts would absolutely fail without even a slight chance of succeeding? It doesn’t even seem like she knows a ton about the Oozers; she mentions them as “creatures from another time,” though she doesn’t seem to recognize them as a species she actually has any knowledge of. And how was there any possibility that she knew her plan with James would absolutely succeed? What if the Oozers ignored James and started running after PB and friends? The way it is explained just feels so contrived; I feel as though the episode did not stress enough how limited the gang’s options were. Exploring two possible ideas and then deciding that there’s absolutely no way out does not feel like a rational conclusion. I usually don’t bring this up, but it’s really the one time I wish they could’ve explained why Jake couldn’t just grow giant and stretch out of the situation. I get that the Oozers could’ve easily had mutagenic effects onto him, but it just makes me scratch my head and ask “why” because it’d devoid of an actual explanation for this solution. 

And of course, since I don’t care much for James, his “death” ends up feeling pretty ineffective. I’m not much of a Cinnamon Bun guy either, but if he were to take James place in this episode, it would at least feature an already established character who the audience has some emotional investment in. It feels like James was introduced only so he could die, which again adds to the number of moments that feel like they were only included to have a “shockingly edgy” effect on the audience. And it’s all capped off by a cliffhanger featuring the Oozers heading straight for Ooo. It all just feels way too manipulative.

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So yeah, I really teared into this one, but is there anything I like about it? Well, the atmosphere isn’t bad. Despite it being generally laugh free, I do enjoy how the episode at least attempts to make the situation at hand feel dire and uneasy. It isn’t really executed well, but it does paint more of a stressful edge to the entire situation regardless. I also like the scenes where PB drags Finn and Jake out of the pit as James gets ambushed. It’s all staged really dramatically, and is pretty heavy to stomach despite my lack of investment in James. PB’s explanation of how she can clone other Candy People but not Finn is also quite profound, even though it follows a pretty lame explanation on her part.

But overall, I really just don’t like this one. I think the entire episode feels like it’s trying really hard to suck me in, but doesn’t know the basic fundamentals of its story well enough to tell them effectively. It also has some of the dumbest character writing for PB to date, and one of the most forgettable star characters overall. I think it’s a very disjointed mess, and one that has very few redeeming qualities at that. Thankfully, however, the next episode makes up for it with a much more interesting breakout character.

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Favorite line: “This is my cuckoo face!”

“We Fixed a Truck” Review

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Original Airdate: October 21, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

An episode like We Fixed a Truck doesn’t reach the absolute hilariousness of its past comedic predecessors, but it’s overall just a really fun and enjoyable episode that focuses more on individual character moments and pure absurdity rather than a linear story, and even manages to be strangely beautiful in the process. It’s also a nice breakout moment for the returning character Banana Man, who previously appeared in The New Frontier, and has what is probably his best appearance in this episode.

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The title card alone is enough to get me into this one. I know I don’t talk about this aspect of the show enough, but I don’t know a single show that has more beautifully crafted title cards than Adventure Time. I’m not gonna say that every single one hits a mark, but this episode’s card in particular poses a form of beauty in its simplicity. What could’ve been a simple painted image of the truck, or Hot Daniel as the boys call it, is instead an apparent discovery that Finn made while taking a walk one day. Of course, this show is already scattered with post-apocalyptic references in almost every episode, so I’m willing to bet this car stuck in a tree was up there for quite some time, and is only being rediscovered now. Add a beautiful sunrise filled with purple, yellow, and orange in the background and this single image actually becomes quite whimsical and even a little somber. It’s amazing what the series is able to do with these lovely paintings, and can really help set the mood for an episode as a whole.

Down to the actual episode itself, I actually kind of like how there’s no real conflict in this one. I previously mentioned that as an issue in Box Prince, though this one much more efficiently creates an atmosphere that simply involves these likable characters all in one area, so it’s much less noticeable. The main focus of this is that Finn and Jake just want to fix up a truck for shits and gigs. Though Ice King isn’t able to help them (is he wearing a dress shirt when he appears? Dunno, but he actually kind of looks handsome) the boys do have their friendly neighbor Banana Man to help them out!

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Banana Man is a really enjoyable loser. AT has had plenty of these types of characters, but I personally think Banana Man is one that is written in a way that makes him both really amusing and quite charming. A lot of that derives from his voice actor Weird Al Yankovic, who gives him a bit of a quirky inflection, but doesn’t really overdo it either. He’s able to have his goofier moments, like the beginning where he demonstrates how the cylinder head works and demonstrates it through nonexistent visuals. I’m usually not a huge fan of AT’s self-aware jokes, though I think this one works because it can easily be applied to Banana Man’s own delusions. And it’s actually somewhat educational! I don’t know jackshit when it comes to cars, but I actually found this slightly informative in the best way possible. I also enjoy how Banana Man isn’t really deceptive or manipulative in his actions. There’s already one character in this show – Ice King – that is constantly trying to trick or trap the boys into becoming better friends with him, but Banana Man is very genuine and caring. Though he does hope for the end result to leave him better friends with Finn and Jake, he simply helps them because he’s a nice guy who enjoys hanging out with other people. And it’s cool to see a civilian of Ooo who doesn’t necessarily worship the boys as heroes, but just views them as potential buddies to hangout with.

And he portrays these feelings in “Hanging Out Forever,” a song that is mostly cheesy and not necessarily catchy, but one that is deeply hilarious at its core. I was disappointed that The New Frontier didn’t utilize Weird Al to his fullest potential by having him sing, so I’m glad this episode picked up on that opportunity. Banana Man fantasizes about having fantastic times with Finn, Jake, and BMO like “best friend pillow fights” or “board game Friday nights.” What a lovable dork.

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This sequence leads to a bit of a diversion as BMO begins some late night work on the truck. This features one of my favorite visual gags ever, which is BMO brilliantly changing her batteries by taking the old ones out and landing on the new ones. We also get a listen into Starchy’s radio show “Graveyard Shift”, and I’m a sucker for wacky conspiracy theories, so I really got into this little bit. And it’s not entirely pointless either; it ingeniously ties into the climax, again, based on pure ludicrousy. Banana Man creepily enters back into the scene to offer some sincerity and exposition into his life. This bit is probably my favorite in the episode. I think BMO and Banana Man actually work off of each other well and make for some cute interactions, and I think this is where Banana Man becomes well-defined and humanized. His line of, “I don’t wanna be alone, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it,” is actually something I can relate to in some degree. For a long period of time I had been away from the dating scene, and had become so comfortable with getting invested in my own personal projects that it became out of the question to go beyond it. The writers often use Ice King as a way to capture their loneliness with honesty and use it as a means to cope, and Banana Man seems no different. This show is so good at humanizing “loser” characters and showing that they aren’t simply one-dimensional dorks that it really isn’t hard to empathize with anyone, no matter how wacky or unique.

Following the lovely bonding session between BMO and Banana Man, we get to see a glimpse of the gang finishing up the truck. Also an awesome montage sequence, that’s complete with the “Manlorette Party” music from When Wedding Bells Thaw. While not my favorite bit of score that Tim Kiefer has ever produced, it is likable enough to deserve a second inclusion. And it follows the montage quite nicely. The visuals that go along with it are great as well. I love how the gang quite aggressively breaks into the Breakfast Kingdom, as Finn assaults a French Toast Man instead of simply asking for syrup. It’s always nice of AT to include that bit of unexpected darkness in even its brightest of episodes.

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And the rest of the episode is just focused on having as much fun as possible. The Treehouse boys try and set up Banana Man on a date with a nice female Banana Guard. Though I like this concept, I have a bit of a gripe with it, simply because where have all the female Banana Guards been up to this point? It becomes even more distracting as the later episode The Thin Yellow Line shows that there are dozens of female Banana Guards. But I’m willing to let this little detail slide, because it’s cute. And it leads up to the even more bizarre storyline where it’s revealed that Princess Bubblegum actually has been replaced by a giant lizard. The revelation is terrific; no build up, just a quick series of gags that eventually lead to the lizard imposter grabbing a bug with its tongue and transforming into a beast. The scenes that follow are awesome in the visual department. Some really solid animation all around that make for a terrifically fun action sequence. I might as well point out that Andy Ristaino’s drawings in this one are really great. Ristaino started out as the lead character designer for the series, and as of Love Games, became a recurring storyboard artist paired with Cole Sanchez. I really enjoy Ristaino’s drawings, that make for some really cute and stretchy expressions from each character. As the episode wraps up and Banana Man is sent to jail for public indecency (though he got the lady of his dreams! For now, at least…) Finn, Jake, and BMO mourn the loss of Hot Daniel. RIP, you beautiful hunk of junk.

This one is just great; all around fun with hints of beauty here and there. I love the character interactions, the animation, the drawings, the backgrounds, the atmosphere, and pretty much everything else it has to offer. This is often one I overlook for fluff episodes I consider to be “funnier” but it’s hard to deny that this episode practically does everything it wants to do just perfectly. The only other gripe I have with it is that Cinnamon Bun appears at the end, and though he appears in Apple Wedding later on, it’s at least explained in the promo art and made somewhat believable. This instance feels more like Tree Trunks appearance in Evicted! Though it’s a minor background detail and I think everything else this episode offers is more than enough to justify a simple mistake. Season 5.2 has been on a roll with funnier, more laidback episodes, and I think this episode works somewhat as a finale for the lighter and sillier episodes and enters into some of the darker and more story based episodes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as we’ve got some really enticing episodes to come.

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Favorite line: “Not a car guy—too confusing. Got better things to do with my life.”