Original Airdate: November 16, 2015
Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Hanna K. Nyström
I was a bit nervous that Stakes would be limited to merely laying out the backstory of Marceline over the course of 8 episodes, and boy am I glad that it isn’t. While I’m always interested in finding out new details within Marceline’s past, I can’t think of anything more boring than having her entire past history explored and leaving nothing up to interpretation. Thankfully, the deepest dive we get into Marceline’s backstory is within Everything Stays, and it provides the audience with bits and pieces relating to Marceline’s past, without putting all of the pieces together. Thus, we’re provided with new information, but our imagination is still capable of doing a lot of the work. It’s also really nice to get an episode that’s devoted to exploring Earth after the Mushroom War, and how it affected the psyche and wellbeing of our fellow humans, as well as that of Marceline.
Pretty basic to say, but I really adore that beginning scene between Marceline and her mother. Of course, I had already seen this bit about 50 times before the episode aired because it was shown at San Diego Comic-Con in 2015, but regardless, it makes for one of the most poignant moments in the series. While we haven’t received any actual information regarding Marceline’s mother up until this point, it’s so nice that her only appearance in the series features her being as loving and caring as possible. I myself haven’t come up with a completely solid and well-thought out theory regarding what happened to Marcy’s mom, or even how she ended up getting married to a shyster like Hunson, but regardless, I’m very interested in creating those answers after seeing how close the two were. Rebecca Sugar does a splendid job in her first role as a voice actor. I somewhat thought this casting choice was odd at first, because it was hard for me to separate the voice actor from the voice, but I gradually grew fond of her performance. Sugar has this really passionate, genuine, caring voice and attitude that captures Marcy’s mom perfectly. And of course, the song is perfect as well, which was also written by Sugar. A terrific representation of youth, growing, and the series itself that never seems to wear on me. It was great to see Sugar actually sing outside of a demo version, and the visuals that go along with the tune really tug at the heart strings. Marceline gently gripping her mom tighter as the song goes along is a small detail that gets me every time.
Cutting to something as equally sad, we’re treated to an actual revelation of how Ice King ended up leaving Marceline. I mentioned in the last review about how this miniseries could tend to be riddled with awkward funny moments that often tarnish the emotional weight of the individual moments it presents, but Ice King is typically the type of character to subvert that method. I think Ice King filming the tape (that Finn and Jake watch in Holly Jolly Secrets – Part II) and then immediately shouting, “okay, bye!!” is pretty hilarious, while still remaining tragic. Part of Simon is still very much there and functioning as he mutters all that he can remember about his own life and Betty, though Ice King pretty much reigns supreme at this point. We don’t know what drove Simon overboard to the point where he decided to leave, but if anything is certain, the general gist of his decision is in clear eye: he’s a danger to Marceline. I think this scene is nicely executed, but it’s probably the only bit in the episode that I feel as though I could have gone without seeing. All of the information dished out is stuff that we already kind of knew about or could have gathered from the context clues in I Remember You. I guess I always pictured Marceline and Simon departing each other as especially devastating, while this bit just came across as mildly sad. That was probably the fault of my own headcanon at the time, but as I mentioned, this bit is handled fine and I don’t really have any big gripes with it. It just mostly feels like I’m reliving my feelings towards Simon & Marcy once more.
Cutting to the next flashback is some new information that the series, or even any spin-off material, hasn’t really touched on up until this point: Marceline’s teen years. I wanna reiterate how cool it is that the writing staff chose to explore a story regarding Marceline’s character that has never been explored before. While I’m sure a ton of people (including myself) were wondering how exactly Marceline became a vampire, I don’t think many people were especially curious about her teen years, given that there was sooo much established within her childhood, and her later years of which she spent with Princess Bubblegum. But, Everything Stays takes a much more challenging route, by dishing out some really nice new information regarding Marcy’s character and her past. I’m not really into Marceline’s Mohawk-mullet combo, but I think it totally suits her teen-angsty self. I also love The Fool’s small role in this episode; I don’t know if I’d really call The Fool my favorite of the vampires, just because they’re all so unique and interesting in their own individual ways, but The Fool is certainly the funniest of the bunch, with some terrific voice acting from Ron Funches. Adventure Time‘s tendency towards juvenile humor is typically met with decent results, but Funches excels with it. He really gets me with even the dumbest of lines, such as, “I look like a buuuutt.” And how neat is it that Marceline actually utilizes the soul sucking abilities that she does possess? Even if she rarely acknowledges the fact that she is half-demon, it is cool to see that it isn’t just a random attribute of her character and that it actually does come into play in regards to how she obtains her various different abilities.
Moving forward, I really enjoy how paranoid the humans are portrayed to be in reference to any possible threat that faces them. After the literal apocalypse that led to dozens of different creatures being unleashed into the world, it makes sense as to why human beings would have such little trust or the ability to understand anyone outside of their species. You feel bad for Marcy, because it seems like she’s the only outsider in this world that actually wants to preserve the greater good for humans, but also understand why these humans want to avoid potential dangers as it is. The return of the animal hats was a nice touch, and it’s cool to see that they actually have a purpose and method of safety beyond just looking silly and/or hiding gils. The established human characters are fun; I think it’s especially sweet that Two Bread Tom is voiced by Tom Kenny, as it seems like a nice tribute to the talented VA whether it was intentional or not. I also think that the Bunny Girl (who is later named Jo in the Islands graphic novel) is a nice additional as well, and provides for some genuinely cute moments. Kind of cool how the Bunny Girl is voiced by Ava Acres, who also voices young Marcy. I get the feeling that Marceline sees a lot of her younger self within the little girl, which is alluded to especially with the voice acting. The way that the Mr. Belvedere theme song is clearly not as tragic as the Cheers theme song’s usage in Simon & Marcy, nor does it try to be, but it’s still enjoyable regardless. Pretty funny that Two Bread Tom wants to keep the stories of olden times relevant by singing the theme song of a corny sitcom from the 80’s. Also loved Schwabl’s small role in this one, just because that dog doesn’t get enough damn attention in this show.
One thing that’s really been consistently great about Stakes so far is its visual flare, and this episode is no exception. The backgrounds are especially nice and never stagnant, as almost every scene within Everything Stays has some sort of shift in the color scheme in one way or another. Something as simple as changing how the sky reflects the shading of the characters is a really nice touch that keeps the episode feeling fresh throughout its entire course. The animation also picks up during Marceline’s fight sequence with the vampires who oppose her, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I thought Marceline and Two Bread Tom’s exchanges on the boat felt truly bittersweet, as the episode sought to accomplish. TBT’s fear of all the threats that face humanity (including “hungry-looking rainbows”; very nice touch/callback!) on this continent kind of puts into perspective on how massive the Earth is beyond Ooo. While I have no doubt that the entire Earth was forever changed by the Mushroom War, it is cool to think that there are possibilities for places within the world of Adventure Time where magic and crazy characters aren’t especially prominent. Of course, this would be elaborated on more in the next miniseries, but this is a great starting point. It is sad to think that Marceline could’ve been offered a home of comfort and solace away from all of the troubles of her past if she had chosen to go with Two Bread Tom and the other crew of humans before the vampires attacked. Though, since the island is later proven to be an area that is relatively close-minded among its population, things may have not fared well for Marceline in her path to acceptance.
The eventual fight between Marceline and Hierophant (another one of my favorite vamps) is very enticing, and provides for some really fun banter in between. I mentioned in my review of Marceline the Vampire Queen that Marcy’s quirkier moments come off a little more awkwardly than any other character in the series, but man, Olivia Olsen’s reading of, “blaaaah, I don’t care!” was truly hilarious. Marceline’s humorous side benefits almost entirely from her passion towards mockery. It’s also cool to explore what exactly Hierophant’s powers provide for him; I almost disregarded Marceline’s usage of shapeshifting in Varmints as a continuity error, though I feel like this episode justifies it from seeing how many opportunities that Hierophant has in that department.
The episode leaves off on a great note, as the flashback sequence comes to an end, while building tension and anticipation regarding the identity of the Vampire King. I was excited to see what would happen in the next entry, as Marceline is left with the fact that her vampirism seems to be cured, and that the vampires she once faced are revived as a result. Jake’s face at the end really sums it all up.
Everything Stays is great. It’s a lore-heavy episode that focuses entirely on dishing out new information, rather than leaning too heavily on what we already know about Marceline. This one also has a pretty solid atmosphere; there’s a real feeling of longing and melancholy throughout, as we explore Marceline’s confusing teen years and what’s left of humanity as we know it. It’s storytelling at it’s absolute finest, focusing on entertainment and what is important for the audience to know, without feeling too cluttered by exposition. It’s also a great debut for Swedish storyboard artist Hanna K. Nyström, who would go on to work on some truly great episodes (and some not so great ones) along the way.
Everything Stays resulted in a lot of great opportunities regarding spin-off material. The life of Jo (the bunny girl), Two Bread Tom, and the other humans is expanded upon in the Islands graphic novel (which I may eventually review on this blog) and the 2015 Adventure Time Spoooktacular elaborates on Marceline’s battle with The Moon. The 2015 Spoooktacular was also illustrated and written by Nyström. Check ’em both out if you haven’t, they’re great!