Tag Archive | Derek Ballard

“Nemesis” Review

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Another awesome title card by Derek Ballard, this being his last one in the series. This episode is also his final role as a storyboard artist.

Original Airdate: August 7, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Derek Ballard

Ever since The Suitor, I’ve wanted to see an entire story based off of Peppermint Butler’s interest in the dark arts and how it connects to his character. I think all of us, at one point or another, assumed that Pepbut would take on some sort of antagonistic role and turn full-on evil, but the way this episode presents his character is very telling and interesting. Though he certainly isn’t a hero by any means, his duty first and foremost is to serve Princess Bubblegum, regardless of his interests in the dark arts. I also like how this episode once again ties into Princess Bubblegum being viewed as suspicious throughout the Candy Kingdom, in what is likely the most explicit example of her misusing her power up until The Cooler.

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First off, I really enjoy the Veritas Brigade (“veritas” is Latin for “truth”) and the collection of different people who gather for it. It really makes sense that Starchy would be the leader of this sort of thing, and the secretive nature of the group, along with how they practically speak in riddles, is really neat. The password itself to enter the organization, “to beelzebub with the brewer’s knave,” derives from the poem “The Romance Of Britomarte,” to which I have no clue what the connection is, so if you have any idea, let me know in the comments. The group slogan, “lux in tenebris,” translates to “light into darkness.” Love how much was put into establishing this society’s place in the Candy Kingdom, and the various interesting choices for members. Of course, Starchy is there because conspiracy theories are his one true passion in life, but what put people like Nurse Poundcake and Science in there? I like to think Starchy just brought Science there so it would appear as though he had more members. Also love the Banana Guard who wears a big plastic nose and fake mustache to avoid getting caught by PB. Though, that didn’t pan out too well, apparently.

Princess Bubblegum is once again shown spying on her people because, let’s face it, this is her source of entertainment. In her ever-stressful life, it’s almost impossible for her to relax, and her one method of escaping from the stressors of everyday life is to do so in the most “responsible” way possible: watch over her city, or in actuality, spy on others. Of course, she isn’t malicious about it. She doesn’t plan on punishing the citizens who rebel against her, nor does she plan on stopping their meetings. She’s simply being invasive and not respecting the privacy of others, though this is likely a more justified reason than most others. A secret society that bases itself off of Bubblegum’s wrongdoings could potentially get unorthodox or violent, and it makes sense that she would want to observe for the possibility of such an occurrence, even if it’s unlikely. Though, the donut man named Kenneth has apparently built a device that disrupts parallel dimensions, and it actually works, too! I do wonder who the shadow-y figure that Nurse Poundcake mentioned is supposed to represent: Peppermint Butler or Rattleballs? Pretty cool if the main concern from the group in this episode revolves around the intrigue of Rattleballs’ existence. Even though we don’t see him much, it’s cool that he is established to be guarding over the Candy Kingdom at night, where he cannot be seen. Also interesting is that the information that causes the Candy People to question PB’s behavior is actually protecting them from impending dangers. Though it’s also likely this shadow is referring to Peppermint Butler’s strange activities after dark.

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This is where Peace Master comes in: a delightfully hammy anti-hero who pretends to be a lot cooler in his head than he is in real life. He’s voiced by Rainn Wilson, which feels a bit distracting as it seems like including Rattleballs in this one was just an excuse not to find another voice actor for PM, though Wilson does a great job so I’m not complaining. Peace Master gives me major vibes of religious cult leaders who believe they are the savior over everything and that they are an all-powerful being, combined with elements of Batman. Though, PM isn’t the dark and tortured being he seems to portray. What makes Peace Master so interesting, however, is ironically the fact that he’s just a normal guy. Despite all of his abilities and his confidence in vanquishing all that is evil, he’s actually a father who is raising three kids. I love how much Nemesis builds this guy up, with his well-drawn dramatic faces and his menacing exterior, only for him to come off as a pretty lame dude when it comes down to it. Though I dunno, is it a little too mundane for anyone else that he just casually drives a minivan around? Who in the Candy Kingdom actually drives automotive vehicles? It seems too out of place for the setting, but I digress. I like how Peace Master even acknowledges to his children that he was pontificating, and just how much his children rebel against him. His children are essentially more down-to-earth than their father; Peacemaster dismisses the dark arts as nothing but monstrosities that deserve to be excluded from society, though someone like Peppermint Butler would prove that there is a balance between practicing such magic and also being a totally cool dude. Speaking of the peppermint man, his role in the episode is defined by PM’s defiance of such practices.

PB’s desire to shift the kingdom into full red alert mode is a lot of fun, namely the return of Colonel Candy Corn in a much more enjoyable appearance after his large role in Something Big. Something tells me that Jesse Moynihan just really likes this character for some reason. Regardless, his comments about his state of being and the nature of the Banana Guards were both hilarious, and it’s refreshing to see a member of the Candy Kingdom military who is actually relatively competent. Speaking of competence, PB calls upon the aforementioned Rattleballs after awkwardly avoiding the discussion revolving around him, in a pretty funny scene featuring an actual training session between Finn and himself! With Jake included, of course. The scene is pretty humorous in the fact that I have literally NO IDEA how such a skill is actually beneficial for Finn to use. It’s always fun to see Rattleballs, and it’s equally fun to see Finn and Jake by this point. I appreciate the direction that the show has taken to where they are able to focus on various different characters without the company of Finn and Jake, but their presence is still missed. It’s a lot different going back and watching these episodes now, where I can appreciate them more for what they are, rather than how they aired. Though I still enjoyed Nemesis upon airing, nearly a month of AT episodes had aired without Finn and Jake having a role, and I truly missed my boys by the time this one came along.

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It’s funny how I’m only now realizing that the true meat of the episode, which is Peppermint Butler’s conflict with Peace Master, only comes into play about halfway through the episode. Yet, I think the beginning of the episode does a pretty solid job of creating a sense of urgency throughout the Candy Kingdom, which is just as important. The atmosphere which leads into Peppermint Butler’s experimenting is really what helps to create a justification for such behavior. And man, is Peppermint Butler’s transformation seminar just awesome! His spiritual avatar itself is nothing special, but the bit where the boxed walls are torn apart and transition into an A-HA inspired sketch sequence is just awesome! These past couple episodes (Ocarina, Crabapples, and Nemesis) have all incorporated unique animation and art sequences that derive from the show’s usual fare, and it’s awesome to see how ambitious the series is able to be with every single episode by this point. Really feels like season six as a whole has shown an effort to be completely different on all levels. The exchanges between Pepbut and Peace Master are pretty enticing, namely the camera angles and how each side has their own unique powers. That blade that Peppermint Butler pulls out of his shoe is especially gnarly, even if it is virtually ineffective. Though PM is liked by his acquaintances of Veritas Brigade, I enjoy how everyone virtually sides with Peppermint Butler for simply being a cool dude. It really goes to show how much Pepbut has masked his identity over the years; though a participant of the dark arts, Peppermint Butler is laidback, polite, and a total bro, which helps shape his identity where PB fails. Peppermint Butler is essentially just as shady as Bubblegum, though he has the people skills and the right demeanor to alleviate all suspicion from himself. The way Pepbut is saved through Kenneth’s machine is also a pretty awesome callback. I’d love to see more of this Kenneth fella.

After the two separate, PM and Pepbut meet back up at the always visually interesting Wizard Battle arena (complete with a beautiful sunrise) and the atmosphere is certainly tense. The way Peppermint Butler enters, as he’s carried by that awesomely bizarre brain creature, shows that he seems to have the upper hand. This is proven right when he goes as far as transforming Peace Master’s children into literal monsters. It’s certainly a disheartening experience, though I enjoy the way it’s presented. Peppermint Butler isn’t in the right, and the episode doesn’t go through any methods to prove as much. Peace Master is essentially the hero who wants nothing but to defeat all evil that faces him and to make the world safer for his children. What makes this “wrong” is that he’s threatening the state of the kingdom, and its main ambassadors, even though he isn’t inherently wrong in his mindset. What makes Peppermint Butler “right” is that he’s doing everything he can to protect the princess and the Candy Kingdom, even though he goes through extreme lengths to do so. It’s a really interesting scenario where the technical hero is presented as a villain and the technical villain is presented as a hero, and Nemesis presents this a hell of a lot better than the previous episode Princess Day attempted to. What stops it from becoming absolute tragedy, however, is that the children actually like their transformation, and Peace Master grows to accept dark magic and monstrosities because of it, making for a relatively touching close to his character. It’s still a completely unfortunate situation for himself, though it isn’t portrayed in the most horrific way possible. Also like how “eating dirt” is going too far for Peppermint Butler, but turning his children into monsters is not. Again, Nemesis does this much better than Princess Day.

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But of course, after the entire situation fizzles out, Pepbut returns to his quarters, with little evidence that he was ever involved. Not even Princess Bubblegum knows the full extent of Peppermint Butler’s dark interests, though his demeanor once again proves just the opposite. Peppermint Butler is a complex soul who keeps himself presentable in the most appropriate of ways, yet will do what he must to protect what he stands for. Letting anyone know of his involvement in such sorcery would only confuse and put off most people, and Peppermint Butler knows this. He simply keeps to himself, but uses his powers for all the right things. At least, in his perspective.

The best way to describe this one is “cool.” It has some cool ideas, new characters, new developments from pre-existing characters, atmosphere, animation sequences, and more. It’s not necessarily the most amazing tertiary character spotlight episode, but it executes a lot of elements pretty well. It’s just the kind of Peppermint Butler episode I wanted, and aside from The Suitor, this is likely his best role to date.

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Favorite line: “Sorry, I hate evil so much.”


“Breezy” Review

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Original Airdate: June 4, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Derek Ballard

Breezy is the episode that completely broke Adventure Time’s audience, and the show’s fandom was never the same again. Many fans have viewed this episode as a turning point for its failure to break the status quo, its somewhat pretentious nature, and its implications of horrible circumstances happening on Finn’s behalf. It only makes sense that an episode stirring up this much controversy would be written and storyboarded by Jesse Moynihan himself (with assistance from Derek Ballard, who would later assist Jesse with Nemesis). On his own Twitter, Moynihan described Breezy as “a deeply personal episode, based on things that have happened to me in my life. I hope people find transcendence and beauty in it.” Given that he practically had a visible mental breakdown on his account following the criticism directed at this episode, it can be concluded that Moynihan dug deep and threw all of his emotional scars into this one. And, after years of rewatching this episode countless times, I can’t say I don’t understand why people don’t like Breezy. It is uncomfortable and at times, creepy. And the years of build up that surrounded Finn losing his arm, only for it to regenerate a couple episodes after he lost it, is admittedly a major bummer. Yet, this is a very special episode to me, and one of my all-time favorites at that. When it originally aired, I had been at a very fragile state of mind after suffering from depression for almost an entire year. I was at a point in my life where I didn’t really know where my life was headed or what was in store for me ahead. Then Breezy came along, and I resonated with it entirely. By its end, this episode left me with a beautiful and empowering message that effectively propelled my life forward. I don’t want to say something as ridiculous as “an eleven minute episode of a cartoon cured my depression,” because mental illnesses are much more complicated than that, yet Breezy at the very least showed me something so personal and so beautiful, and unlike anything that I had ever seen on television, that it really helped shaped my view on life as a whole and helped lead me to a much brighter path. Adventure Time in general was an absolute savior during this period of time in my life, and I attribute Breezy as being the breaking point of that period. Yet, I’m not gonna lie, putting this episode into context and talking about it is gonna get pretty fucking weird. Strap yourselves in for this, I ain’t holding back.

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Where The Tower dealt mostly with Finn’s anger and aggression, Breezy focuses almost entirely on Finn’s sadness and lack of feeling. And while the previously couple episodes dealt with the trauma that followed Finn getting his arm torn off by his father, this one throws in the added bonus that he’s still not completely over his break-up with Flame Princess. Finn has lost a lot throughout the past few months, and it seems like he has finally come to a point where he can no longer cope with it. This is Finn’s absolute breaking point, and instead of being defined by a complete mental breakdown, it’s treated much, much sadder. Finn is simply numb to everything occurring around him. He no longer has the motivation and willpower to go about his day normally because he’s lost so many things that brought him joy, and is left only with sad truths about his present self. It seemed as though he was likely to reach this point from his break-up alone, though the dad and arm aspects only added to his pit of despair. A constant reminder of Finn’s sadness and deteriorating lifestyle is his wilting flower, yet Finn doesn’t even have the mental strength to keep it alive any longer. Finn has cared about so many things and people that have left him, so why should he care about this flower any longer? That’s his mindset, at least, and it doesn’t help that Dr. Princess offers nothing but nonsense in in return.

Instead of giving Finn legitimately helpful advice to cope with his unending sadness, she simply orders him to have fun, which shows how dangerous a message like that is. So often, people who suffer with depression will be told to “look on the bright side” or to “not be so serious,” yet these instructions only result in an increase of depressive feelings, as the sufferer is left only with false expectations and a feeling as if they can indeed control their feelings, and just simply are not trying hard enough.

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This transitions into a sad, yet simultaneously humorous music sequence where Finn sluggishly drags his body across a forest. “Lost in the Darkness” is one of my favorite songs in the series; it’s a melody quite beautifully carried across by Jeremy Shada’s vocalization, and that of Ashly Burch, who voices Breezy. Breezy is one of my one-off characters; being an adorable creep, Breezy is given life through Burch’s terrific voice acting. Ashly Burch herself joined the story writing team of Adventure Time during the show’s seventh season, and this was a terrific introduction to her presence in the series. Anywho, Breezy’s attraction to Finn’s flower comes across as often obsessive and somewhat disturbed, though I think it can easily be connected to Finn’s previous infatuation for Princess Bubblegum, which also had its darker elements involved. Breezy’s hypersexual behavior comes from her ultimate desires as, well, a bee, though with any desires that a being may possess, there’s often attachment that comes along with it, and Breezy experiences first hand what that means.

As a result of his former break-up, Finn does not want to deal with the emotional weight of a relationship in the slightest, and simply wants to makeout with princesses (a kidified version of having sex with multiple women) and wants nothing to do with them afterward. As Finn acknowledges that he didn’t feel much from making out with Crab Princess, he then concludes that making out with many different princesses must be the solution to his lack of emotion. This is where Breezy assists in Finn’s pursuits: as a wingman (or woman) who helps to set up these makeouts. The connection between Finn and Breezy is certainly dysfunctional. Breezy does not know Finn’s current state of mind, nor does she understand his emotional fragility, so she simply helps him as best as she can to try and get closer to the thing she desires most, to deflower him of sorts. And though her motivations are undeniably manipulative, she is helping Finn in his endeavors, in a misconception that if she helps Finn, he in return will meet her needs. Breezy feels entitled to Finn, or at least his flower, and puts herself in a self-destructive position because of it. Where Breezy’s affection for Finn generally grows throughout the episode’s run, Finn remains entirely centered on fixing his own issues at hand. As he should, as he really isn’t obligated to respond to Breezy’s feelings that he probably isn’t even fully aware of. Finn continuously attempts to fulfill his own needs by kissing other princesses, including Lizard Princess, Muscle Princess, and eventually Frozen Yogurt Princess.

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Though, Finn’s efforts are a failure. He masks his feelings of overarching sadness by using random one night stands (I’m just gonna go all out with the sexual metaphors here; we all know what Jesse and Derek’s intentions were) as a means of getting over his old love interests, but this backfires when FYP comes into the mix, and Jake notes that her appearance is reminiscent of Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum. Though Finn’s hang-up on FP is obviously, I think it’s really interesting that they still went the extra mile to display that Finn isn’t over his original crush either. Infatuation for someone rarely ever goes away completely, especially someone you’re in regular contact with everyday. Finn’s love for Flame Princess was enough to alleviate his feelings for Princess Bubblegum during his relationship, but once that relationship ended, his former feelings began resurfacing. It’s likely that Jake still doesn’t know the full extent to Finn’s pain. Finn is able to talk about his issues to Jake, but likely knows that he won’t fully understand his depression, or even is afraid to tell Jake that he’s experiencing such feelings. Thus, Finn blows up at Jake for bringing up his own insecurities, a rarity in terms of Finn’s behavior. It’s nice that the show was able to squeeze some “teen angst” in down the line, and even nicer that it’s only a smaller moment in the grand scheme of things.

Still in denial about his feelings, Finn looks for validation and advice from Breezy. As the two bond, Finn contemplates letting his flower die after his prior failures. Finn declares that he’s only trying to have fun, probably implying that he sees relationships only as more opportunities for drama and heartache, and that casual, meaningless sexual relationships are the only means to a prosperous life. Breezy combats this by mentioning her status as a virgin queen bee (I still can’t believe Cartoon Network allowed this without some form of alternative) and that once she drinks of her royal jelly to become a queen bee, she will essentially “lose her virginity” and her life as a free spirit will finally be over. Finn views this as a “bummer,” and that Breezy should stay as she is so she can be with as many different people she wants instead of settling for the responsibility of adulthood and maturity. Take the royal jelly metaphor for what you want, but I’m pretty positive that drinking it just translates to finding a mate in bee logic (which is why this behavior is frowned upon later on). Breezy’s one fatal flaw is that, in her casual behavior in simply trying to acquire her desires through Finn’s flower, she in turn begins to have feelings for Finn. The strength of these feelings is questionable; I’m not entirely sure that Breezy actually loves Finn, though she’s certainly convinced herself of it. Often times sexual feelings can be confused with emotional connections, and it could be concluded that, during Breezy’s time with Finn, this confliction became stronger and less decipherable.

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The budding friendship between Breezy and Finn comes to a halt when a gang of hillbilly bumblebees discover the two and describe their relationship as “disgusting.” Once again, I believe that Finn is mistaken to be Breezy’s mate, which is a nice bigoted viewpoint to throw into this episode that’s already full of misconstrued views on relationships. During Finn’s pummeling, Breezy drinks a bottle of royal jelly, committing to the idea that Finn (or at least, his flower) is the one that she wants to mate with for the rest of her lifespan. Breezy was lost in her desires and came to a conclusion without even ever speaking to the other party about it. Breezy simply bases her decisions off of her emotions and feelings, which is another red flag within the budding of sexuality that can often be lost in translation. During a terrific Sailor Moon-esque transformation, Breezy officially becomes a queen bee, and offers a life of commitment and love to Finn. Finn, however, is understandably taken back by the offer. Finn was not looking for love, he was looking for gratification of his own needs, which he believed to be Breezy’s thought process as well. While Breezy thought she was looking for that same gratification, she found infatuation in the process, and ultimately squandered her own potential in doing so. As she sadly remarks, “but I royal jellied for you…” it’s easy to conclude that Breezy essentially gave up her virginity for Finn, and was expecting more in return, where Finn saw this as a casual relationship in contrast. This moment cleverly avoids making Finn look like an absolute asshole, because he technically didn’t do anything to Breezy to blow her off. Breezy simply gave herself up to Finn, even without his input or approval. Regardless, Breezy leaves heartbroken, knowing that she gave up everything for someone who doesn’t even feel any love for her. As she flies off, Finn quietly remarks, “I’m lost in the darkness, Breezy,” mirroring his tune earlier, and showing the extent to which Finn’s sadness is affecting him. Finn wants to feel love and affection as he believes that Breezy felt for him, but is simply unable to do so because of everything he’s been through. He doesn’t want to go around casually having sexual experiences, but feels as though he has no other choice as a result of his circumstances. Breezy leaving was only another blow to Finn’s confidence and enthusiasm: yet another person left him, and he once again feels as though it was his undeniable fault. Finn feels as though he has very little left at this point.

And, in his ultimate lowest point of existence, Finn travels into the woods to spend the night with Lumpy Space Princess. Given how heavily this topic of conversation has been elaborated on, I’m going to try and be as respectful and diligent in talking about it, since I disagree almost entirely with what was implied. After a brief makeout session, Finn is ready to back out, yet LSP pulls him in, claiming that she didn’t involve herself in such an activity to simply kiss and leave, and leans back in before a quick fade-to-black. Many, many people have called this moment out as being an implication that Lumpy Space Princess raped Finn, and while I can totally see that and sympathize with anyone who was negatively affected or triggered by the scene itself, I really don’t think that’s what they wanted people to get out of this moment. To me, it was, again, supposed to show Finn at his absolute lowest. The scene that follows shows that Finn’s flower wilts a bit more (another allegory that people have compared to Finn being “deflowered”, which I can somewhat buy, though kissing is already an allegory for sex as it is, so that theory doesn’t really hold up for myself) as he immediately places the thought in his vault. I don’t think that Finn felt as though he was violated or attacked by the scenario. Granted, he isn’t in the greatest state of mind as it is, but I think if the pressure was actually there, he would deny such favors from LSP. But, given his situation, he’s willing to go through with it in an attempt to make himself feel better. Only, it fails. Did LSP pressure him into doing something he didn’t want to do? Possibly, it’s up for debate. I totally get the mindset behind this, and understand why people are upset, but I really just don’t think such a dark implication is something Jesse and the staff wanted to get across. It was just as a means of showing Finn’s debilitating mental health, not to antagonize LSP more than she already has been throughout the past six seasons.

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The climax of this episode is really where we find the most audience criticisms. Lumpy Space Princess’s naughty deed is the first one, though the next scene is certainly the one that takes the controversial cake. In a sequence I’d describe as absolutely stunning, Breezy shows up in the forest and she declares her loves to Finn and his flower through song, as Finn begins to imagine her as Princess Bubblegum in his sleepy state. Breezy’s connection to Finn has reminded himself of his past love for Princess Bubblegum. Finn recalls what it feels like to be absolutely head over heels for someone and to literally feel high in a lover’s presence. Through Finn understanding Breezy’s feelings for him, he identifies that his feelings for Bubblegum, and presumably Flame Princess in a sense, saw him at his absolute happiest. This is where dream Bubblegum’s line comes in, as she holds the never-before-seen Finn sword in her hands: “My hero arise, let love be your guide.” Finn now recalls what it is to love, and realizes that casual hooking up does not involve any of those feelings. Finn has been cheating himself by cutting off his strongest emotion: his ability to love and to care for others. Finn thought that shutting off his feelings of love would only lead to more beneficial results in the long run, though he now realizes that he’s only forbidding himself to be, well, himself. And Finn acknowledges that loving and caring for others, as well as himself, helps him gain a part of himself that he lost after being betrayed by his dad in the Citadel. That part of himself that Finn gains back is represented by his arm. Cue the fandom of Adventure Time going into flames.

While I never found myself absolutely “mad” at this scene, I cannot lie, I understand completely why people can see this as a turning point for the series, but I look at it in a way that most people probably do not. I see Finn gaining his arm back in this episode as a flaw with the series as a whole, and not as a flaw of the episode. Because, the way it is presented in the episode works entirely for the metaphorical and allegorical purposes it set out to achieve. The entire arm arc itself was supposed to represent Finn’s feelings and emotions, not just as a means to give him a cool robotic arm. It’s supposed to represent Finn’s journey as a hero and his experience as a human being, and all throughout this season, we continue to get allusions to said journey through the state of his arm and its upholding.

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Yet, from a series perspective, it was absolutely a mistake to promise something so dire through years of foreshadowing, only to return to the status quo episodes later. Whether this was a network decision, a crew decision, or merely a decision on Jesse Moynihan’s part is still unknown to this day, even though many feel as though they know the exact answer. Regardless, it really shows how uncommitted Adventure Time can be in carrying out its most promising plot points. I’m glad the staff realized the errors of their ways and committed to actually having Finn lose the arm entirely, and whether or not this was all planned down the line, it still does not change the levels of disappointment felt by everyone and the lack of excitement when he lost it a second time. I’m still happy with everything that happened following Finn’s re-limbing process; the grass arm arc that eventually leads to the creation of an entirely new character and Finn finally getting that coveted robot arm are both terrific directions that the show took that almost justify the arm returning. However, I, like everyone else, acknowledge that the arm growing back was ultimately a disappointing moment for the show as a whole, as it felt as though the show would never be able to leave its cherished comfort zone. I’m so glad all of us were wrong, but the bad taste still remains a bit to this day.

Back to the actual episode, the arm sequence itself is beautiful. With a large, lengthy tree growing out of Finn’s arm that bursts into a gooey, honey-ish substance. Yeah, yeah, you can make all the honey-jaculation jokes you want, but I still think this is a gorgeously executed scene in its visuals, music, and lush night-time colors. As we actually see the arm, there is a small thorn sticking out of it, reminding Finn that, while he gained a part of himself back, he still has a scar to remind him of all that he’s been through. Regardless, Finn happily celebrates this moment, and stands before Breezy in awe that through all of her help, whether it was intentional or not, she showed him the light. These last few moments are remarkable, as Finn utters “Breezy…” and watches his former flower float onto Breezy’s head. Breezy kisses the flower, and it’s a lasting humorous moment that further shows Breezy’s misconceptions. Once Breezy receives Finn’s flower, she’s able to realize that it’s all she’s ever wanted. She certainly cares about Finn and likes him, but once she is able to separate the flower from Finn (separating sex from the person) she’s able to have a more rounded perspective and realize that she didn’t lose her one, true mate. Now she’s able to take on her responsibilities, gratified with her desires that are met. And she can be thankful for the lasting impressions that she left Finn with, as he once again can return to living life a little bit happier.

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Woof. There’s a ton to take in with this one, you guys. And I totally get why people are left so angered, or even just confused by the episode’s end. But really, this is one of Adventure Time’s most unique and personal endeavors. I love how unapologetic it is with showing some of the harsher and darker sides of sexuality, and some of the darker sides of humanity as a whole. Breezy and Finn are two flawed beings trying to get their needs met in one way or another, and fall into the common circumstances that so many others experience when trying to meet these same needs. It also shows the dangers of choosing certain paths in life as means of finding happiness, and how trying to protect one’s self from getting hurt is essentially a paradox. I know this one is certainly one that feels more aimed at adults, but I think there’s a good amount of decent lessons that the kiddies can follow along with this one too. I know they probably won’t follow each allegory completely through till the end, but they’ll at least acknowledge that Finn was trying to get with multiple girls to fix his sadness, which ultimately did not work. And of course, through its dark nature, this episode manages to give off a convincing beautiful message about the importance of love and affection. Again, it’s not enough to just force one’s self to love in order to effectively “cure” depression, but I think it’s pretty clear that the implication isn’t that love cures sadness, but that love is the way to finding one’s self. Through loving yourself and loving others, you’ll be able to make the most rational and beneficial decisions, and be able to find yourself in a much happier and rewarding place in the end, rather than trying to make it on your own and resist falling into a genuinely helpful emotion. Breezy may not have the greatest reception overall, but it’s one that I always find quite enlightening on a personal note, and I think that’s just the way that most AT episodes go. Of course, there’s the episodes created that everyone is capable of enjoying equally, but the more personal episodes will chime with some and won’t for others. And that’s the real beauty of this show: having it see you through in some of life’s toughest dilemmas. You didn’t know you wanted it, you didn’t know your were looking for it, but God damn, Adventure Time will always be there to drop the shit that you absolutely need. I love this weird, manic series.

Favorite line: “But I’ve been pounding pickle juice like I was preggos!”

“Betty” Review

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

Original Airdate: February 24, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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