Original Airdate: April 23, 2016
Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan
Couple of announcements before we start: I’ll be gaining back some of my free-time as we approach the month of December, so expect semi-daily reviews to return shortly. In fact, next week I plan on covering four whole episodes: Bun Bun, Normal Man, Elemental, and Five Short Tables. Consider it my Thanksgiving Day treat!
Secondly, the application for the Animation Podcast I’m starting up is still open till mid-December. As I mentioned, I’ll be advertising the application on this blog sporadically throughout the next couple weeks. You can apply to be a co-host on the Podcast HERE.
Finally, you can expect the release schedule of the final 50 episodes to be posted on this blog within the next few weeks. The schedule will be strictly estimated; I may jump ahead or behind (unlikely) depending on what occurs in my life. Though I will try and follow it as closely as possible, and I will eventually open up a survey where all of you readers can suggest possible “top” lists and ideas for post-blog content. Alrighty, I’ve rambled on long enough, onto the review!
The concept of the Finn Sword has always been a curious one for myself: is the Finn inside of the Finn Sword the real Finn? Is the Finn within the Finn Sword a real, living entity, or some sort of a remnant of Finn’s memories? What is the true connection between Finn and the Finn Sword? Some of these questions are sort of answered in I Am a Sword and beyond, but other questions are left purposely vague. The connection with Finn and Finn Sword mostly exists on a metaphorical level, as their surface level relationship is not only difficult to understand as a viewer, but for those who surround Finn as well. Even those closest to Finn, like Jake, just dismiss it as borderline materialism. Though, the strong point of the episode is that it makes it apparent that this is a deeply personal issue for Finn, but we’re still willing to sympathize with him for those metaphorical reasons mentioned. I Am a Sword explores the connection between a boy and his sword quite interestingly, in ways that are as heady as Jesse Moynihan has ever been, with added bouts of hilarity from both Moynihan and Sam Alden.
The episode opens with one of my favorite shots in the series, as Finn and Jake roam the span of a wooden bridge as the sun sets in the background. This image is so impactful that 90% of all online new sources included it when announcing that Adventure Time was ending back in 2016. Even I’m guilty, heh. In general, the moment serves as a nice introduction to the main story at hand and sets things up for the remainder of the episode when Finn accidentally launches the Finn Sword into the unknown. While a bit of a foolish decision for him to make, Finn has never been the most… careful person. He’s constantly throwing himself into the face of danger, whether it be to save his former girlfriend from burning out, the fate of humanity from Orgalorg, or even just proving a point to his brother. This is one of Finn’s major characteristics, and it certainly doesn’t make him unlikable, but it’s worth some reevaluation in regards to how this behavior affects the people around him, or even himself. I do wonder how exactly the Finn within the Finn Sword operates logically, in the sense that the Finn Sword is very clearly disapproving of Finn’s behavior. Since the Finn Sword knew Finn’s last name was Mertens back in Dentist, I do wonder if the Finn within the sword operates more on Finn’s subconscious feelings and behavioral ticks more than anything. Perhaps part of Finn knows that he shouldn’t be partaking in such risky behavior, but is compelled more by his desires to have fun and live life in an adventurous sense instead, while the Finn Sword has no purpose beyond being an alternate version of Finn, so he’s merely there to guide himself into methods of a less stressful lifestyle. Obviously, that method ended up failing.
Finn’s feelings of guilt can easily be attributed to this neglect to care for himself and the people around him in a meaningful way, of which can be identified as a result of Finn’s trauma through his experiences with his father, that are mostly notable recently in Beyond the Grotto and Don’t Look. While Beyond the Grotto has Finn recognize that he was mistreating the Sea Lard, Don’t Look involves Finn’s ultimate guilt in not caring for those even closer to him. I Am a Sword takes it one step further by showing Finn’s guilt for mistreating perhaps the closest person to him: virtually, himself. The thing that Finn fears most is, like I’ve mentioned, treating others in a way that his father treated him. While I think that Finn is entirely too hard on himself with this comparison, it does bring up an interesting idea about Finn’s growth as he enters into his late-teen years: how much of himself does he have to sacrifice in order to be the person he wants to be? I’d be open to the argument that he doesn’t have to change anything about himself, but it’s really apparent with practically anyone that people do need to change in order to grow up, whether actively or on a subconscious level. Not necessarily in a drastic, persona shifting way, but in the sense of shaping your character and personality around the desires and moralistic attributes that one does possess. For years, we’ve watched Finn throw himself and the people around him into various different dangerous obstacles and trials, but only now is he discovering the possible consequences. While he’ll always be an adventurer at heart, his main desires and goals in present time are to be as morally astute as he can possibly be, and his recklessness is finally starting to cause major issues in his life. Of course, there’s a happy medium between the occasional thrill and being vigilant when doing so, but Finn first has to learn when to think and analyze before he seeks out such a sense of entertainment.
Finn’s moral dilemma within his own self can easily be elaborated on through Finn Sword’s experiences with Bandit Princess. Finn Sword is forced against his will to partake in illegal activities and even kill/harm other people as a result. Finn himself feels as if he’s forced to hurt other people in his actions because of the guilt that has overcome him in relation to his own personality. Finn fears that he’ll be compelled to hurt himself and more people in the future because of the way he is, as Finn Sword feels because he has no control over what he is: a sword.
May I also take this opportunity to shoutout what a terrific one-shot villain Bandit Princess is? Not only does she possess a fantastic design, but she’s voiced by none other than Amy Sedaris, of whom I adore from a comedic standpoint, and also for her voicework. What makes Bandit Princess a terrific villain is not only that she’s hilariously hammy and boasts a terrific design, but she’s also legitimately threatening in a way that a lot of Adventure Time villains aren’t. Bandit Princess is actually shown to kill people on-screen, which is primarily a rarity for the series. Of course, it’s handled in the most PG way possible, with Mayor Cameron’s (of whom I never expected to see again) body finding its way back to his head, but of course, there’s also the rich man and the guard of the bank, of whom we never see again and can only assumed to be dead. With a show that’s filled with threatening space gods and deities, it’s amazing that a character who is virtually powerless can be so menacing with the simple use of an item.
It’s one thing this episode specializes with in its theme: the power that items have over others. Bandit Princess achieves power from weapons, the spiky people achieve power from having money, and even a tertiary character like Spear Bear bases his entire identity around his sole possession. Of course, I could go into great detail about this overarching theme, but I’m gonna leave that topic for someone who does my job better than I ever could, Uncivilized Elk! This video hits it out of the park with everything that this theme aims to accomplish. Check it out if you haven’t! Also interesting to note: Bandit Princess was originally supposed to be portrayed by Penny from City of Thieves, as seen in this concept art. This is a callback that I’m actually glad we didn’t get, because I overall really enjoy Bandit Princess as a character, and feel as though Penny simply could not take on this role in an enjoyable fashion. It does make me wonder if Bandit Princess is the technical ruler of the City of Thieves, or if it’s a self-proclaimed title to begin with.
Speaking of callbacks, this episode is riddled with them, in the best way necessary. Not only does it help contribute to that overarching theme I had mentioned earlier, but it’s also refreshing to use pre-existing locations as a method of exploring the Land of Ooo. While it’s always nice to visit new territory and landscapes, it’s also cool to see that these tertiary locations are a legitimate part of Ooo, and that Finn and Jake are able to access them at any point. Though not intentional, I think it’s even cooler that Moynihan and Alden chose perhaps the two most disposable episodes (Gut Grinder and Box Prince) to revisit, which shows that even the most forgettable AT entries still exist and have importance within this world.
The moments of hilarity within this episode are too many to name. Right up there with Joshua & Margaret Investigations, this episode has a plethora of funny one-liners. Of my favorites are Jake listing off the various different things that give Finn nightmares (of which are too high in number by this point), Finn and Jake’s back-and-forth about what happens to decapitated chickens, and one line that I still find so hilarious that I’m just gonna leave it at the bottom of the page to (hopefully) leave you with a laugh after you’re done reading. It’s really amazing to me that heady writers like Jesse and even Sam are, without a doubt, the best comedy writers from this seasons. Flute Spell, I Am a Sword, and Normal Man all play around with some rather intricate stories, but are ultimately just as hilarious as they are thought-provoking. One thing Alden gets down pretty well is the smaller details; Finn helping BMO get a staple out from the stapler was just adorable, and the game Finn ends up playing is actually created by Charlie! Look at Jake, being a good dad and supporting his kids’ endeavors.
What the episode ultimately boils down to is Finn making the same mistake that he made at the beginning of the episode: trusting his impulses, rather than his methods of logical thinking. While he may see it as a choice of pride, Finn is enrolling himself in yet another reckless decision where he simply does not have the upperhand, and he actively refuses to let Jake help him out. Instead of confronting the issue at hand by addressing what went wrong, Finn thinks he’s doing right by making the situation his sole responsibility, but ignores what got him there to begin with. While I call bullshit on a golf club being his weapon of choice (he still has the root sword, and we even saw Nothung within his treasury!) it’s a great item that’s used to represent how he truly didn’t think this situation out to begin with, and had it not been for his grass sword, he likely would’ve been toast. But the grass sword can also be a key indicator of Finn’s lack of control, as it’s the finishing blow that destroys the Finn sword completely.
It’s funny, because I remember when this episode first aired, people were convinced that Finn would be in a coma until the Finn Sword was revived. While I was never under that impression, it is easy to see how affected Finn is by the death of his Finn Sword, and how he was always true in his efforts to inform others about the special connection. That connection was always legitimate, and Finn is now left with the terrible sadness of essentially “losing himself” by not being able to trust in his own actions. Season seven has been great with refusing to stray away from Finn’s own personal issues; while season six could easily be seen as a culmination of everything that Finn has learned so far in his life, season seven shows that, even with the potential for resolution, life continues to throw curve balls regardless. As BMO so eloquently states:
“You mean some people are just pure city sidewalk boom-boom from a rat donk and that’s all there is to it?”
The statement is there to show that there will always be shitty people who do shitty things to others, but Jake’s unsure response shows that there’s something even more threatening than not trusting others, and that’s of course the lack of trust in one’s self. Finn has been faced with shitty people for a majority of his life, and while he’s always been able to cope with that, he fails to cope with specific issues within himself. And the world will continue to be wooly-booly for himself, unless he’s able to regain that trust and self-control back. While Finn is stuck with repressing his issues for now, we’re left with one haunting image that shows how this issue is fair from over: a green glow emitting from the Finn Sword. Finn’s battle with his own identity has only just begun!
I Am a Sword is not only deeply hilarious, but also takes a look at the larger picture with how Finn is dealing with his own insecurities at this point in his maturity. This episode shows that, while he’s learned a lot, he still has a long way to go in his own personal growth, and that relates entirely to how he views himself and treats the people around him. It also does a terrific job of exploring one of the most complex relationships in the entire show, that will only continue to grow in complexity as time goes on.