Tag Archive | Fionna and Cake

“Fionna and Cake and Fionna” Review

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Original Airdate: July 19, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Hanna K. Nyström

I don’t think a single episode of Adventure Time strikes me as more bizarre than Fionna and Cake and Fionna. A bold statement to say the least, but it’s not because the episode is filled with weird gags and non-sequiturs, akin to King Worm. This is the type of episode that really makes me wonder, “who thought this was a good idea?” With all of the controversial misfires that AT dished out over the years, such as Finn gaining his arm back and Betty’s introduction being quickly glossed over, I’ve been able to accept everything for what it was even if it wasn’t perfect, or good, at the very least. However, the decision to build on the lore behind Fionna and Cake is one that I typically ignore all together just because of how ridiculous and pointless it is.

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The big revelation within this episode is that Fionna and Cake were apparently apart of some super old television show before the Mushroom War. So, all of this time, the Land of Ooo has comprised of coincidental duplicates of the entire Fionna and Cake cast? How… does that make any sense? It’s absolutely jarring information that (nearly) ruins the fabric of the AT world itself. Even worse is that it’s treated so casually, almost as if this is information isn’t Earth shattering in the slightest, and just a simple piece of expository dialogue to drive the episode home with. I’m guessing that this information was going to be utilized for later Fionna and Cake entries, but the show got cancelled and then nothing else ever came from this story at all. I don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse, really, because as much as I feel like this plot point needs further explanation, I just don’t care in the slightest about Fionna and Cake or their role in this world at all anymore. The concept started out as a fun crackpipe idea that Natasha Allegri came up with, but has gotten so lost in the weeds that it doesn’t even know what it wants to be anymore. The world of Fionna and Cake simply isn’t that interesting – it’s just a watered-down and less characterized version of Ooo. The first two F&C episodes were satirical but loving jabs at the nature of fanfiction in general, the third and fourth entries seemed so straightforward and less committed to being parodies that there really wasn’t anything of substance within either, and this one feels like a desperate attempt to keep Fionna and Cake relevant in the world of Adventure Time through the most convoluted way possible. It’s pretty apparent that the staff really doesn’t know what to do with these characters anymore, but they clearly feel obligated to keep churning out an annual entry.

It doesn’t help that the episode is pretty boring on its own. My favorite bits of this episode are at the beginning – I love Finn, Jake, and BMO’s raft ride! After some of the craziest adventures they’ve ever been through, it’s really neat to see the boys back to having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Ice King’s book reading is similarly enjoyable, just for the fact that he actually had a decent turnout of people interested in listening to his stories. I really disliked that Bad Little Boy uncharacteristically portrayed Ice King’s writing as incoherent, because it’s actually one of his strong suits. As goofy as the subject matter is, he actually manages to churn out semi-decent tales with a committed story structure, and it’s nice to see that the folks of Ooo are captivated by these stories. The ol’ coot deserves it! As for the good stuff, the list pretty much ends there. Once the Fionna impersonator introduces herself, the episode slows down entirely while feeling like it’s accomplishing nothing at the same time. The Fionna impersonator really isn’t that interesting… you know from the beginning that she isn’t actually Fionna, so it ends up being a game of waiting for the revelation to come to the forefront. That element alone isn’t always poorly executed, but again, the fact that fake Fionna has little to no character at all makes it a pretty drab experience. I don’t know why they didn’t choose the more fun route of turning her into an obsession stalker, since it would’ve been cool to see Ice King work off of that type of personality. Speaking of which, Ice King isn’t at his A-game in this one. They don’t really give him any humorous material to work with; the closest moment he gets to being funny is when he incorrectly comes to the conclusion that the fake Fionna must be a mummy, but even then, it doesn’t do much for me. After coming off of the heels of Elements, this is probably the weakest IK episode in a long, long time.

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The actual Fionna and Cake segments are equally as pointless. Cake remains to be the only likable character in the F&C world, as Fionna continues to feel like a hollow and lifeless version of her counterpart. The story meanders for a good while, until the eventual twist that the mummy was actually the Queen of Ooo, which is a slightly obscure cameo, but it’s a pretty lame climax. The joke is essentially, “here’s this character all of you know, except as a lady!” which feels incredibly cheap and repetitive. A lot of Fionna and Cake stories are boring and forgettable, but this is definitely the most unremarkable of the five.

This episode tries to make up for being pretty joyless by leaving the audience with a few things to chew on, mainly the concept of Fionna and Cake being real that I had mentioned, and the fact that ideas for Fionna and Cake are beamed into Ice King’s head at night. I guess this could possibly mean that Ice King’s crown somehow picks up the signal of past Fionna and Cake episodes, or vice versa, with his mind projecting the ideas out to Ooo’s television signals, but again, I just could care less. I know that’s kind of an arrogant thing to say, mainly because I write this blog with the intention of putting as much care and passion in as possible, but I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve realized that Fionna and Cake really add nothing to the series beyond their initial episode. As I’ve mentioned, it was a enjoyably bizarre idea for the first entry, but it’s not a concept that lends itself to multiple different independent episodes centered around the idea. This episode would be atrocious for completely disregarding what made Fionna and Cake unique to begin with, but I’m not angry at it for the main reason that I’m not invested in this concept at all to begin with. Fionna and Cake outlived their usefulness long ago, and I’m eternally grateful that this is the last F&C episode ever produced.

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Favorite line: “Yes, let’s never do anything boring ever ag… Time for Ice King’s boring book reading!”

“Five Short Tables” Review

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Original Airdate: May 26, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kris Mukai & Aleks Sennwald

Within the past 10 or so episodes, Adventure Time has been consistently churning out some really big and profound episodes. With that in mind, the obligatory Graybles/Fionna & Cake episodes likely feel more like a chore to the staff than a passion project by this point in time, which makes sense, since they chose to combine them. Both series are pretty hit-or-miss; while the Graybles episodes tend to get better, or at least more innovative as they go along, the F&C episodes only seems to get more lackluster and less fun as they go along. I can firmly state that Five Short Tables is nowhere near as awful as The Prince Who Wanted Everything turned out to be, though this one still fails to offer anything new or interesting to the series, and mostly just plays out as a dull, inoffensive use of 11 minutes.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but there just really isn’t a very strong presence among the F&C cast. They’re all essentially carbon copies of their counterparts with diminished charisma and character traits. After Bad Little Boy, Fionna essentially just began to take on the role of “token nice girl” and she doesn’t really offer anything else beyond that. Cake is really the only character who stands on her own as a unique adaptation of Jake, though I often wonder if I’d even think this way if it wasn’t for Roz Ryan portraying her. I will tell you with utter honesty, there’s nothing quite as soothing as hearing Ryan utter the word “flapjack” again. I have trouble believing that this wasn’t an intentional move on the staff’s part. I also think Cake’s interest in expressive pancake art is charmingly silly, though not really enough to keep me captivated throughout the episode’s run.

I will say that the one character who did at least become a trifle more interesting is Gumball. While he sadly isn’t portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris in this episode (though Keith Ferguson at least gave it his all), we actually see a decent amount into Gumball’s psyche as Butterscotch Butler, the butterscotch Scottish butler, mentally eviscerates him using his fears against him. Not only does it give us an interesting look into Gumball’s insecurities and fears, but these can be easily seen as aspects of PB’s mentality as well, of which I have no doubt came into play because Ice King was snooping on her diary. How else would he know these dirty deeds?

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The next few entries are pretty blah. I’m pretty sure a lot of people enjoy the scenes between Turtle Prince and Flame Prince for the added Yaoi, but aside from that, there’s really nothing there that’s particularly entertaining. I remember a whole bunch of people were upset that Flame Prince wasn’t voiced by Dante Basco (which was the headcanon at the time), but holy shit, I had no idea he was voiced by Hannibal Buress until I looked it up! I’m a big fan of The Eric Andre Show. In the next table, we’re treated to a story in which Marshall Lee attempts to feed Lumpy Space Prince his medicine. It’s pretty unfunny, it doesn’t really have an interesting narrative at the helm, and I just don’t really care about the antics between these two pretty non-compelling characters. There are two things worth mentioning: it’s pretty obvious that this is the third board that Kris Mukai worked on for this season when looking at Marshall Lee’s demon-wolf hybrid. I have to say that Mukai’s boarding is a big strength for the episode; Fionna and Cake is big on allusions to anime, and I think Mukai’s drawings and expressions (along with her board partner Aleks Sennwald) really help to carry those allusions forward. The other thing worth noting is that LSP is not voiced by Peter Serafinowicz in this episode, of which isn’t too much of a distraction, because I feel like it effectively distinguishes the authoring styles of both Ice King and Lumpy Space Princess.

The final story starts out pretty creatively, as we’re literally treated to a fanfiction, within a fanfiction, within a fanfiction, within a fanfiction. It’s an idea so ludicrous that only AT could pull it off, and is truly one of the few highlights of this episode that is both pretty funny and legitimately complex. It was cool to hear Grey DeLisle reprise her role as Ice Queen once more, though again, Ice Queen doesn’t offer too much to the actual story and her segment stops almost as quickly as it starts. It is a silly idea that Ice King is the initial creator of the Graybles, and the ending with the distressed Cuber got a legitimate laugh out of me. It’s sad to think that this is actually Cuber’s last episode in the series. While the Graybles episodes were never some of my favorites (aside from the thoroughly ambitious Graybles 1000+), Cuber was always the strongest and most delightful part of any Graybles episode, thanks to Emo Philips, who really brought his character to life.

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Five Short Tables is pretty forgettable. I obviously don’t know what goes on inside the AT writing room, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the F&C episodes come simply out of the pressure of audience expectations and are never entirely what the crew wants to spend their time working on. I can’t say for certain, but I’ll at least say that Aleks Sennwald and Kris Mukai put enough effort into the visual and creative appeal of this episode that I can’t really get mad at it for being lazy, because there’s clear effort put into this one. The truth of the matter is that Fionna and Cake just don’t really have a ton to work with outside of their first appearance and the Graybles stories never fully land. It’s a crossover of two concepts that work together fine, but don’t really standout as anything slightly remarkable.

Thank you for joining me this week for the AT review bomb! With only 50 episodes left, we’re nearing the end. Be on the lookout for The Music Hole later this week, followed by the usual weekly Friday reviews, and then we resume with daily reviews as we move into the winter.

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Favorite line: “The purple thing had a tablespoon of syrup.”

 

“The Prince Who Wanted Everything” Review

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Original Airdate: June 26, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto, Emily Partridge, Kent Osborne & Bert Youn

Blecch. The Prince Who Wanted Everything is the first stinker of the Fionna & Cake series, and a pretty blatant example of how these experimental episodes don’t really have much of a reason to keep being produced aside from a feeling of obligation based on fan reactions. The first was done strictly as a surreal passion project; I don’t think anyone on the AT crew knew how popular it would be, but as Fionna & Cake was met with practically universal praise, it only made sense for another F&C episode to be created. Two seasons later came Bad Little Boy, which was also well-received and a mostly solid outing, but kind of showcases the problem with Fionna and Cake episodes in general: the characters are basically carbon copies. Fionna has some interesting insecurities that were touched on in her first episode, but every episode that follows has her simply take on the role of Finn-Lite. She’s a good-hearted, laidback hero, and that’s about it. And the other characters, Gumball, Marshall Lee, Flame Prince, and so on are never given enough attention outside of their star episodes to actually have any selection of interesting character traits besides being slightly modified from their counterparts. Cake, on the other hand, is the only character who actually has a stand out presence in all of these entries, yet she’s often only given a small amount of screen time so the “Character of the Week” can hog all of the attention. And this episode’s star character is Lumpy Space Prince: a deeply unfunny gender-swapped version of Lumpy Space Princess that does absolutely nothing insightful or interesting, aside from being another chance to reinforce LSP’s vanity once more, as if that wasn’t already emphasized enough. Cut Rebecca Sugar – who was practically the mom of Fionna and Cake – out of the mix and you don’t really have a competent entry.

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This episode notably starts up with Ice King tied up. Why is it notable? Because it’s freaking Ice King, you guys! We haven’t seen him in what feels like forever, and it’s a shame, because I feel as though he gets the least amount of screentime in season six. It makes sense, as this entire season mostly steps away from the main cast to delve into the lives of some of the lesser known citizens of Ooo, though Ice King doesn’t even get a fair chance to have an actual role in this episode. He’s simply a blank slate at the hands of his kidnapper, Lumpy Space Princess, and isn’t really given anything interesting to do aside from obliging to read LSP’s passion project. Could’ve been a much more enjoyable scenario if Ice King was argumentative about the way LSP wrote for his characters, or that he didn’t agree with where the story went, but he uncharacteristically goes along with it without saying a thing. Pretty lame.

The story itself poses an interesting concept, at least from my initial impressions. Lumpy Space Prince’s tale of running away from his parents and stumbling into Aaa (or Ooo… whatever is cannon at this point in time) could perhaps reference LSPrincess’s first experiences in Ooo and how she came across Finn and Jake, albeit highly exaggerated. Though, the way it’s executed is simply done in a way that we’ve seen so many times in other LSP episodes. Most of this episode just seems to retread the general idea that Gotcha! revolved around, which is that both Lumpy Space Princess and Prince misunderstand the type of people Finn/Fionna and Jake/Cake are and come to respect their simplicity and approaches to life by the end of the episode. The entire episode basically revolves around Lumpy Space Prince trying to understand how to live as a peasant but is constantly blindsided by his own pretentiousness. And God, how many times have we all seen the story of a rich snob who is enlightened by the simplicity of middle-class charm? It’s so overdone, and it isn’t carried out any more interestingly here.

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Lumpy Space Prince’s voice actor (at the Princess’s request, of course), Peter Serafinowicz, certainly boasts a competent performance, but again, I don’t think he’s really given much to work with. Lumpy Space Prince is at his funniest through his expressions; his anime influenced “Handsome Face” is pretty amusing, even if it is a bit overused by the episode’s end. Regardless, it provides for some welcomed diversity among the typically expressive dotted eyes in the AT world. But again, Lumpy Space Prince’s primary character trait is his vanity, and it simply isn’t fun or interesting to watch him. He also has the displeasure of singing one of the show’s worst songs, period. “That’s All I Need” has a pretty awful melody, terrible lyrics, and a less-than-satisfactory performance from Serafinowicz. Feel bad making such a superficial comment about his singing voice, but some actors are simply not meant for said performance. And if the song was actually catchy, funny, or added something to the plot, I could forgive it, yet it does none of those things. Aside from some cool cameos of characters we haven’t seen before in this universe (namely Magic Ma’am), it just feels like it’s there to take up time.

Fionna and Cake are simply in this episode to be observers. Cake has some funny one-liners, as she constantly breaks the fourth wall, but Fionna really just does not do ANYTHING. Aside from giving an unintentional piece of advice to Lumpy Space Prince, Fionna just stands there and occasionally has a line or two. Sad to see she’s given such a boring role after her emotive and passionate presence in the past two F&C episodes. The one cool thing is that she actually is using the Wish Star Sword that she acquired within the Fionna & Cake comic series. Pretty awesome to see that something in the comics was actually adapted into the series, and it’s pretty much just there as a subtle Easter egg for any readers of said series. Also, Fionna’s model got updated to where it seems as though she’s matured more in her stance and body weight, and it looks somewhat off-putting to me. I dunno, the more realistic her anatomy gets, the more awkward and stiff it looks when you pair it with her really simplistic dotted eyes and lack of nose. Just looks kind of wonky to me.

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I guess the ending where Lumpy Space Prince discovers that his indifference to his parents’ disapproval of his behavior is a bit of an introspective moment for LSPrincess, but it only makes me wonder what the point an episode like The Monster has in the grand scheme of things if LSP never truly grows as a character. I understand if the writing staff just wanted to keep her stagnant in her developmental process and never learn or grow as all of the other main characters do, but if you have an episode like The Monster where it seems as though she actually DOES learn something, than the episode merely feels like discontinuity. I can understand if her decision to move back into the woods was based on her stubbornness and belief that she can make it on her own, but it seems as though she merely goes back to thinking her parents are monsters who simply want the worst for herself. Nice to see she’s embracing herself and her own behavior, but silly that she’d view her parents this way after realizing how much they care for her in the past.

And, as the story ends, the book reveals itself as a simple method for LSP to find a man who is exactly like her. Yes, Lumpy Space Princess loves herself and thinks she is the greatest person imaginable. We get it. LSP is at her best in episodes like Bad Timing or the upcoming Be Sweet, where her self-obsessed behavior is shown to be a mere facade that covers up her insanity based insecurities. Episodes like The Prince Who Wanted Everything feel like a rehash of everything we’ve already seen and know about the character. It’s like one of the lesser SpongeBob SquarePants episodes that focuses entirely on Mr. Krab’s absolute greed. We get that he’s greedy, it’s literally his archetype. We don’t need entire episodes centered around this one-note joke about a character’s personality. It makes them seem less two-dimensional and entirely more shallow. Lumpy Space Princess may perhaps be the most one-dimensional of the main cast, though she at least proves herself to be at her most interesting when her narcissism plays a role in her absolute mental instability, or the rare example where she’s actually able to benefit others through her repugnant attitude (such as the Elements miniseries). Yet, this episode doesn’t do justice to her character or the Fionna and Cake series in general. With a whopping four writers at the helm of this one, I’d expect more of a successful outing.

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Favorite line: “Y’all seeing those big floaty faces?”

“Bad Little Boy” Review

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Original Airdate: February 18, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Bad Little Boy is perhaps the last enjoyable episode in the Fionna and Cake saga. That’s not to say the later episodes don’t have their redeemable moments, but I think this is the last one I’d consider to be legitimately “good,” or at least enjoyable. Not to say that this one isn’t without it’s problems, though.

I really enjoy the silly beginning with Ice King’s purposely terrible Fionna and Cake vs. Dr. Prince escapade, though I really am not sure if this works with the overall continuity of Ice King as the author of Fionna and Cake. I mean, it seems like something Ice King would write, yet the story told in Fionna and Cake was a legitimately captivating and well-written story, ludicrous ending aside. And then you have Five Short Tables where, enjoyability factor aside, was also a very well-written, coherent story from the Ice King. So I’m not really sure I’m fully behind the idea of the IK being a shitty writer, because again, it’s been contradicted both in the past and the future. But bitching aside, this was a fun beginning, and I do really love how Ice King is just casually reading to a group of captured princesses. Honestly, rewatching these episodes, I’ve really never realized how fucking bad Wildberry Princess has it. I mean, I think she’s gotta be the most frequently captured princess in the entire series. And Ice King doesn’t even like her that much! Poor chick has to deal with silver fox trauma almost everyday.

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The reactions to Ice King’s awful tale is where Marceline comes in, and I think it’s really cute that she was just chillin’ around the castle and spying on him. This is the first post-I Remember You interaction between the two, and it’s heartening to know that she already is comfortable enough with being around him that she doesn’t mind dropping by every now and then. And I appreciate how this episode is just them hanging out without any mention of their past history together. It’s nice to just see them shoot the shit for once.

Once Marceline’s story starts, it is nice to once again see Fionna, Cake, and Prince Gumball. Despite my feelings on the F&C episodes as a whole, I do appreciate these characters and the dynamic they share with each other. For instance, I like how Fionna is actually the one who’s kind of fed up with Gumball. The first episode established her as a strong female character WHO DON’T NEED NO MAN, and I’m glad this episode followed up with also showing off her general annoyance with Gumball’s prissiness. Also, this is sadly the last time we get to hear that lovely Neil Patrick Harris voice portray Gumball. This is why celebrity guest voices never work for recurring characters (looking at you, Lena Dunham.)

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Speaking of celebrity voice actors, Donald Glover portrays Marshall Lee in this episode, and man, is it spot on! I recall back to that terrific fan-animated video featuring Marshall Lee and I remember thinking, “I hope the actual Marshall Lee sounds like that.” And I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but Glover captures that exact tone and deliverance perfectly, while also adding a bit of experience and flare to his performance. Lee as a character is very enjoyable as well; he’s basically Marceline as a playful douche, but one that’s a lot of fun in that regard. I enjoy his carefree dickishness (“I know you’re gonna say yes to me, so let’s just go.”) and I think it makes a lot of sense that Marceline would portray herself as a carefree badass. Obviously she’s a lot more caring and sensitive than she puts on, but we’re still at a point in the series where she hasn’t completely sacrificed her laidback facade.

Good Little Girl/Bad Little Boy are sadly Rebecca Sugar’s last original songs during her time on the show (yeah, yeah, I know we still have Everything Stays, but that was long after she left the series) and it definitely hits on all that Sugar charm that makes her tunes so catchy and enjoyable. I’m not one of those people who thinks that Sugar leaving the show was some catastrophic event that ruined the series, but damn, did the show suffer song wise after her departure. I can count on one hand all of the AT songs I enjoy post season 5.2, while I can count all the songs I don’t like on one hand from the first five seasons. A shame, really.  Nevertheless, Good Little Girl is an enjoyable vocal and visual entry. I like all the genderbent characters that attend the concert, including new visitors, such as Ms. Pig and the female Marauaders. I also crack up at the fact that Lumpy Space Prince’s voice is identical to his female counterpart, which is later acknowledged, but I think it works best here. Also, I can’t get enough of Cake shaking her rump and singing about her hot potatoes. That was priceless.

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The dynamic between Fionna, Marshall, and Cake works great as well. Again, I think Fionna is a little more mature and level-headed than our boy Finn, so it’s cool to see her fuck around with Marshall and not really fall for any of his bullshit, whereas Marceline usually leaves Finn hopelessly confused. Even strengthening her maturity is the idea that Fionna will allow Marshall to mess with her as much as possible, but once he messes with Cake, she don’t fuck around. This then transitions into the next song, where Marshall captures Cake and lays down some hardcore bars with his skeleton bros in a graveyard. This song isn’t quite as enjoyable or memorable as Good Little Girl, but it is nice for the show to utilize Glover to his fullest potential by giving him a chance to rap at all. And a pretty solid one, at that! Weird Al Yankovic still has yet to put out anything tolerably enjoyable during his time as Banana Man.

This conflict leads to some pretty gruesome shit where Marshall gets stabbed, which, even though it’s fake, is still pretty explicit for the show to feature. I do appreciate how the big emotional scene is just kind of treated as total bullshit and Fionna once again has the upper hand on the maturity scale, but it is kind of weird to see this coming from Marceline’s perspective. I love the idea that Marshall thinks Fionna is, “the realest person [he] has ever met,” which could easily be attributed toward Marcy’s perception of Finn, though the idea that Marshall Lee kinda puts on this attitude that Fionna is infatuated with him is… kind of strange, right? I assume Marceline doesn’t think this way about Finn, but why would she insert a quasi-romance between the two if it didn’t even cross her mind? Probably reading way too far into it, but it just is somewhat odd writing that I’m not sure I can ever really understand fully. I actually think I would’ve liked it better if the entire story was from Ice King’s perspective and it turns out he was reading to Marceline the entire time.

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However, the story ends, and Ice King is visibly disappointed with the turnout. Again, not sure I understand why, as it seems almost completely identical to the first F&C story, but I’ll let it slide. I do enjoy him kicking everyone out and taking time to praise his Fionna and Cake ice shrines, even if I still believe this one would’ve made more sense before Mystery Dungeon.

Overall though, I think this one is decent. I think there’s some definite lulls; as much as I enjoy the beginning scene with the IK, it makes the actual F&C story seem a lot more frantically paced. I mean, the actual story doesn’t start till about three and a half minutes in, and while it does contain plenty of enjoyable moments, it just feels like it’s on fast forward. I do genuinely enjoy Marshall Lee and his interactions with Fionna and Cake, so a bit more time and focus on the actual story would’ve been much appreciated. This is a particularly nice looking episode, however. The backgrounds are great! Love the lighting in the concert sequence, the eeriness of the graveyard, and the sunrise that befalls Marshall, Fionna, and Cake. It all visually looks really impressive. Aside from the visuals, interactions, and a good chunk of funny moments, this episode doesn’t really live up to its predecessor, and the entire F&C saga kinda dies after this one. Sad to see that such  highly regarded element of the series only has two good episodes out of five, but Fionna and Cake is simply a concept that doesn’t have a ton of room to grow outside of the first episode. But, for now, I’ll enjoy the tasty remnants of this one, and prepare for the bad taste that The Prince Who Wanted Everything will eventually leave me with.

Favorite line: “Wildberry, don’t pretend; I know you like the silver foxes.”

“Fionna and Cake” Review

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Original Airdate: September 5, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

A bit of background for this episode: the characters of Fionna and Cake were created by storyboard revisionist Natasha Allegri (as I’m writing this, it’s actually her birthday. Happy birthday, Natasha!). Allegri put the characters in several different humorous comic strips, and Pendleton Ward liked ‘em so much he said, “fuck it, why not make a whole episode around these two characters?”

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That’s where Fionna and Cake comes in, the show’s first big experimental challenge. The thing about Fionna and Cake as characters is that it would’ve been so easy to just make them carbon copies of Finn and Jake. Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar took it one step beyond that. Fionna and Cake become fully defined characters in the course of 11 minutes, and the Land of Aaa feels like its own entirely realized world, despite it being fictitious. That’s what works so greatly about Fionna and Cake; it is just like fanfiction, and can take characters, relationships, areas, and so on wherever it pleases. This episode is pure, illuminating enticement, from brilliantly using characters we all know and love and slightly altering them to giving us a legitimately well devised plot that would work entirely in a standard episode of the show.

As I mentioned, Fionna and Cake themselves are gender swaps of Finn and Jake that take on almost entirely different roles, but still retain attributes of the boys that inspired their creation. Fionna is very independent and even more mature than Finn, but maintains her love of adventure and excitement. This also works with her gender swap as well: she’s much less interested in what society stereotypes in terms of how women should be portrayed and more interested in what she loves to do, that being swinging swords and fighting bad guys. In addition, Cake’s possibly the most defined of the Fionna and Cake cast, and the most different from her male counterpart. Cake’s loyalty to Fionna and her relationship advice pose similarities to Jake, but she’s much more outspoken, sassy, and spunky. When it comes to others, there are minor differences, Gumball’s very proper demeanor and Ice Queen’s downright villainous persona, but part of the fun is just the way the two main leads work off of these characters. This episode captures pretty much all the AT typicalities: Fionna’s crush on Gumball, Ice Queen’s desire to marry Gumball, Cake and Lord Monochromicorn’s interest in each other (there’s an exclusive vinyl of the two that I’d give anything to have, but alas, I am a broke college student), and so on.

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What really works beyond anything else in this episode is just how naturally it flows. A lot of the time with experimental episodes of television, I find myself in a brief moment of disbelief, no matter how good said episode might be, of whether it connects to the world of the series enough or has a chance of succeeding by pushing the boundaries so drastically. Right off the bat, Fionna and Cake takes you right into the action. It doesn’t take the time to introduce individually to everyone because, as I continuously mention, we already know these characters in a way. The idea that we’re able to so easily adjust to something that’s so wildly different, yet exactly the same, from the standard episode of Adventure Time is so delightfully pleasurable and only helps the viewer enjoy every bit of the journey a little bit more.

Aside from that, it’s just generally a really fun episode. There’s plenty of great jokes, primarily from Cake (love the bit with her and Monochromicorn out of breath). The song Gumball sings to Fionna is a catchy and sweet homage to Aladdin that gives the entire episode a big, sweeping cinematic feel. And, as I mentioned, just the general interactions between the characters. I really love the honesty of Fionna during her time with Gumball (“dude, that was like, the stupidest thing ever”) and just the fun of seeing all of the various gender swaps. A character like Marshall Lee, who became so popular off of less than five seconds of screen time, shows how enjoyable it is to be able to see pre-existing characters who you still don’t know a single thing about. They can be anything you want them to be in that sense, and you’re able to allow the mind to create whatever canon you please. Although, I think Lady Cinnamon Bun deserves more love. Was her inaudible dialogue with Gumball simply not enough? Also fitting is the addition of Gingerbread Rebecca taking Gingerbread Muto’s spot in the opening theme, especially considering the two worked together on the episode. Even little things, like the lack of change for BMO and Ice Queen’s penguins, are really nice touches that are so subtle that they may be overlooked.

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The scene when faux Gumball brings her to his room is straight out of a horror movie, even dealing with the uncertainty of Fionna when it comes to intimacy. Finn is awkward and hesitant when it comes to his relationship with the Princess, but I always believe his reaction would be slightly different in this scenario. Maybe I’m just reading way too much into a brief moment, but I really think that Finn would look at this instance with shyness, but acceptance, whereas Fionna expresses briefly that she’s most likely uncomfortable.

Of course, she’s made even more uncomfortable when Gumball is revealed to be the Ice Queen. This whole sequence is some of the best animation in the entire series. It’s a thrilling battle between good and evil, equipped with just the right balance between the two that Ice Queen actually comes across as a threatening villain. It’s slick, smooth, and flowing, right down to the moment when Fionna smashes Ice Queen’s head in with her frozen hands. Once defeated, the scene when Cake runs in and attacks Gumball when she see’s Fionna’s ripped dress is another moment of significance. I could totally see Jake walking in and acting like Finn’s weird uncle and just giving him a simple thumbs up or a wink, but the gender swap allows for some interesting views of cultural differences that apply to our real world as well.

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Finally, the ending reveal that the entire episode was a mere story from Ice King’s fanfiction. This pissed a lot of people off, but honestly, that makes it all the more interesting to me. Not only that Ice King wrote a surprisingly coherent piece of work outside of the ending, but it’s just really fascinating to view the entire story from Ice King’s perspective. His depictions of the characters are especially intriguing, right down to the fact that he wrote Ice Queen as a straight up villain. It almost makes you wonder if he believes this of himself, and Fionna’s line of “be careful! You might catch her crazy!” makes me question if deep down, Ice King subconsciously does know truths about himself that he wouldn’t consciously realize otherwise. There’s also the really creepy notion that Fionna is kissing Ice King in the cover, so I don’t know what to make of that, besides the more endearing version that Ice King simply likes the idea of Finn and Jake worshiping himself, rather than resenting him. That’s the fun part with future Fionna and Cake episodes. They are all told from a certain person’s perception (albeit the most recent one) and it leaves more room for analysis and allows us to unintentionally explore the author’s psyche.

All in all, I really love this one. It takes full advantage of the opportunity at hand, and goes one step beyond by giving us one of the most beautifully crafted episodes to date. This is truly my favorite of the Fionna and Cake saga. There are a couple of other goodies, but I think this one particularly crafted so much from so little. It’s an episode I never truly get tired of watching. Terrific character explorations, nice animation, terrific writing, lovely music (all thanks to a sweet hammered dulcimer), and genuine fun: it’s simply Adventure Time in its truest, most passionate format.

Favorite line: “Why are y’all breathless if we’re the ones running?”