Tag Archive | Flame Princess

“The Cooler” Review

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Original Airdate: December 4, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Red Throne” Review

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Original Airdate: February 10, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

The Red Throne is perhaps Finn at his most unlikable. While he’s had his noticeable fuck-ups in episodes like Frost & Fire and Too Old, The Red Throne views Finn as a complete, pathetic mess. And by God, Somvilay and Seo Kim did not hold back with this portrayal, to the absolute detriment of the episode. While I thought episodes like Frost & Fire and Too Old were great introspective episodes into some of the darker aspects of Finn’s character, The Red Throne simply focuses on his utter stupidity, and ends up making him seem like a complete and absolute piece of shit. This is the one time in the series I can honestly say that Finn simply did not feel like the character he was made to be. It’s one thing to give him a set of flaws that he struggles with, but another to just make him completely off the walls in order to prove a point. That’s called flanderization.

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The great tragedy of this one is that I actually like the premise of it. Flame Princess being usurped from her kingdom and having no one else to turn to except for Finn, as he still isn’t completely over her, is a pretty great idea. It could even go down the same path where Finn is still trying to make things work, but realizing by the end of the trip that it simply isn’t going to happen. But man, they make Finn as stupid and as creepy as possible, to the point where he seems like a legitimate sociopath. In Too Old, Finn tries to push a relationship with Princess Bubblegum in a rather creepy and manipulative way, but he’s given a reality check by the end of it and doesn’t attempt to continually pursue her from that point on in the episode. Even in Rattleballs, where he isn’t necessarily trying to force a romantic relationship, but comes off a bit obsessive and clingy, he still listens to everything that Bubblegum tells him. Here, Flame Princess tells Finn within the first few seconds of her being in the Treehouse that “this doesn’t mean we’re getting back together,” yet Finn is CONSTANTLY trying to pursue it throughout the entire episode. This isn’t a quirky little mistake or fuck-up on Finn’s point, this is borderline harassment. The point when he puts his hand on FP’s shoulder as she shakes him off, and then he scoots closer to her two seconds later is just awful. And I get the point of him acting like a idiot is so an actual idiot like Cinnamon Bun can look smarter in comparison, but the way it’s executed just leaves me with less sympathy for Finn in his actual life crisis. We’re supposed to want him to patch things up with Flame Princess, and even if he fails and is an awkward doofus about it, we can at least feel bad for him. But by the end of it, I just end up angry with Finn. This episode gives me no reason to feel for him; there’s no tragedy in the situation, or at least it feels like there’s no tragedy. It just feels like a sequence of events to show off how much of a douche Finn has become, and it’s somewhat disheartening. It doesn’t even feel like he’s attempting to be a decent person. I’d get if he was trying to be really pushy with how nice he is to Flame Princess, or if he was just a nervous dork the entire time, but having him be so forceful and unwilling to recognize boundaries makes him seem so despicable.

The funny part about the Finn aspect is that it isn’t even the worst part of the episode. The pacing is Ignition Point levels of bad, and it really shows in the scenes featuring Flame King and Don Jon. Don Jon himself is a character who is entirely insignificant; the only thing I ever remember about him is his design, though I remember thinking it was cool in Wizard Battle far before this episode even came into fruition. Don Jon’s character is dull and uninspired, with very few actual character traits and interesting abilities. Even Keith David, who usually pulls off some standout performances as Flame King, isn’t really given much to work with. And by God, do I fucking hate that overly long fight sequence between the two. Yeah, yeah, I get that it’s supposed to be a reference to the incredibly slow fight sequence between Keith David and Roddy Piper (the voice of Don Jon) in the film They Live, but when has Adventure Time ever relied completely on referential humor for laughs and entertainment? Having Roddy Piper voice Don Jon in general is enough of a satisfying homage, I don’t get why they needed to add in the fight sequence which arguably just slows down an already awkwardly paced episode. And it certainly does not translate into the animation process in a visually interesting or smooth way.

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Even the bits of the episode I liked more than others were weighed down by some clunky writing. Cinnamon Bun’s transition into Flame Princess’s noble knight is a decision I overall enjoyed for his character, though I feel as though this shift from an idiot to almost entirely competent seems… unconvincing. After all, it was only three episodes ago that we saw Cinnamon Bun as stupid as ever in Apple Wedding, so I feel like watching him be this really devoted knight out of nowhere would be better presented with proper setup. Apple Wedding would have to sacrifice some of his funnier moments, though it would have been nice if he at least had some signs of growing intelligence. I do, however, like the analogy of how he was “fully baked” after being hit with a bout of fire; it’s a nice little touch for all of those paying attention when PB mentioned Cinnamon Bun to be “half-baked” in The Other Tarts. I think it definitely would’ve made more sense with the episode if CB suddenly became more intelligent after the actual baking sequence, though again, this episode really wants to emphasize that CB is being more emotionally mature than Finn. Though, I have to question, when looking at where the series is now and comparing it back to this episode, would Cinnamon Bun’s baking process actually be the reason that he’s so blubbering and stupid? It seems like all Candy Kingdom citizens are made to be inherently stupid, so I’m wondering if the “solution” to CB’s stupidity still makes sense in the grand scheme of things. But I digress.

It’s sad that Flame Princess is given a major role in this episode, because she isn’t really given a ton to work with either. Flame Princess is practically a blank slate in this one that is just simply there to react to everything going on and to continuously turn down Finn. Again, it damages the episode because it makes Flame Princess feel like an extension of Finn’s character; she’s given pretty simplistic dialogue to correspond with the events surrounding her, and the circumstances surrounding her aren’t really explored in an interesting way. This doesn’t need to be this really big, emotional episode for Flame Princess, but I just wish she felt like more than just the source of Finn’s affection. It’s quite sad, but I’m glad The Cooler explored her new position without Finn being involved.

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Is there anything I like about this one? Few very moments come to mind, though I can think of a couple. Well, it’s nice to see the Fire Kingdom again, for one. As usual, it looks really nice, and I like the use of Cinnamon Bun’s flame shielded color pattern to contrast from the darker oranges, reds, and browns that the backgrounds have to offer. Really helps him pop. I like Cinnamon Bun’s new character role as I mentioned, but I would enjoy it if it felt more natural and less forced by the episode. Also, the moment when Flame Princess enters and Finn immediately lets her know that Jake is staying at Lady Rainicorn’s house is pretty funny. Though it also contributes to his horny douchebaggery, I feel like it’s an appropriate and pretty funny concept for him to immediately mention that he has the Treehouse to himself as Flame Princess spontaneously bursts through the window. Without any context, I’m not surprised that it’s the first thing that came to Finn’s mind.

As a whole, this one is a pretty big stinker. If it was done with more care and compassion for the characters, it could’ve succeeded, but instead we got a series of cheap character gags that feel hollow and heartless. The exploration of Finn’s character in regard to his break-up with Flame Princess has been intriguingly insightful thus far, so it’s quite a shame that this episode put a bit of a damper on this arc. This is one of the few times when I can honestly say I just straight-up don’t like Finn’s portrayal, and that his behavior just simply did not seem completely true to his character.

Lots of exciting episode reviews coming within the next month! These next five episodes, which I have deemed AT’s Renaissance, are some of the most enticing episodes the show has to offer. While not all of them are personal favorites of mine, they all offer something entirely different that defines what makes Adventure Time such an astounding show overall.

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Favorite line: “Girls’ bathroom is over there. Also, it’s the boys’ bathroom.”

“Earth & Water” Review

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Original Airdate: September 2, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

I have some time off next week, kids! I’m trying to get some of the lighter episodes in this bunch done since I have the available time, so I’ll most likely be covering from Time Sandwich to Red Starved. So expect somewhat daily reviews within the next week. Until then, we have Earth & Water! An episode that takes a breather from Finn’s perspective of the break-up to focus some much needed time on Flame Princess’s perspective, and we get some interesting insights, but a lot of it feels more like plot setup rather than interesting character study.

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First off, I do enjoy how this episode kind of establishes Finn and FP’s break up as AT’s first truly serialized arc. These past three episodes have focused heavily on the fallout of the relationship between Finn and Flame Princess, and the motif of Finn’s guilt and sadness would carry over heavily throughout the the second half of season five, and even into season six. Overall, I think it works pretty successfully; I know a lot people would go on to complain about how Adventure Time became too focused on “relationship bullshit,” but I don’t mind it because it’s not presented badly. The relationship drama of these characters never feels like the focal point, the focal point is always how the break up has affected themselves and their individual identities. And here, Finn is clearly still sad, and I’m glad his sadness isn’t glanced over so quickly. Of course, the next two episodes don’t touch on these issues at all; they’re about an ultimate sandwich and Finn’s past lives respectively. Yet, the sadness shown by Finn works as an in depth look at how he deals with these issues. When he’s sitting around idly as Jake continues to beat him in video games, he’s more prone to fall into depressive territory. As he gets distracted later on by battling snow-a-constrictors, he acknowledges that it helped him get his mind off of his worries. So whether it’s fighting snow beasts, helping his friend rescue his perfect sandwich, or discovering a part of himself he never knew existed, Finn is able to cope with his problems when he’s faced with something that consumes his time. When he isn’t, he’s destined to face his sorrow and continue to feel bad for himself, which consistently happens in Earth & Water when he’s faced with the fact that he hasn’t yet come to terms with his errors. Enter Ice King.

Ice King’s moments are brief and thin, but are still a lot of fun. This also establishes Ice King’s big move into Finn and Jake’s Treehouse, which is a shamefully under-focused subplot, though it does lead to to some fun comedic opportunities in the future.

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The main focus of the episode, as I mentioned, is how FP is dealing with the break-up, with bits and pieces of PB goodness sprinkled throughout the episode. Starting off by talking about the relationship between the two seems most appropriate, as the budding conflict between PB and FP is actually one of my favorite dynamics in the series. The butting of heads between PB and Marcy is clearly the more mainstream and popular conflict, but I enjoy how PB and FP’s issues with each other stems from an entirely different basis. PB simply cares for her kingdom and the wellbeing of her people; she’s terrified of the idea of Flame Princess because of her unbalanced nature. So much so that she legitimately considers cutting off FP’s emotions entirely just to assure protection of her kingdom. Though, it doesn’t come off completely cruel or irrational. Bonnie likely realizes that Flame Princess isn’t only a threat to the Candy Kingdom, but also to herself. FP’s instability nearly led to her burning out in Burning Low, and as it does show in some portions of the episode, PB certainly does care about Flame Princess to an extent. Second, PB’s disconnection from her own emotions has proven quasi-effective for herself; though it’s helped her to focus on her own work, she doesn’t yet realize the damaging effect it also has on her own identity. So it’s quite likely that she simply believes that FP being cut off from her emotions could prove to be beneficial for both of them.

FP’s depiction in this one is poignant; I don’t think her turmoil is explored as well as it could have been, as this is really the only episode that actually focuses on how she feels in regards to her break-up with Finn, and it’s only elaborated on for a brief span of six minutes, if that. Yet, I do like what we get. I enjoy how she’s totally willing to just eliminate her emotions completely, it really shows how big of an impact Finn’s douchery had on FP, and that his lack of an apology early on has likely led to much stress and dismay for her in the long run. And of course, the main issue at hand that I think is really valid and understandable: Flame Princess is sick of being lied to and deceived. After dealing with Finn’s secretive desires, PB’s plotting and shady experimenting, and the long running Shakespeare-ish and deceptive nature of the Fire Kingdom, her pain is well-defined, and made even stronger by the flashback sequence of her early years.

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The flashback works great as a brief bit of exposition that gives just the right amount of Flame Princess’s past history. I enjoy how the tone of it is mostly kept light as well; plenty of AT’s main cast have a tragic backstory they carry with them, and while FP’s definitely borders on tragedy, it’s told with a humorous edge that mostly focuses on the absurdity of Flame King’s mindset and just how destructive an infant FP could be. It’s a shame because, with a better father, Flame Princess may have been able to control her elemental nature, though FK never got to take the time to know or educate his daughter. He casted off his daughter based on some nonsensical prophecy (which then became self-fulfilled) and chose his own selfish deceit over everything. The flashback sequence is filled with great tidbits; I love the random Messenger from the Fire Kingdom who gets really attached to baby FP, that was both hilarious and also kind of sad. There’s also the inclusion of PB that shows a much kinder side to help round out her questionable behavior in scenes prior. We already learned that PB was the reason behind Flame Princess being kept in captivity, but here, it’s much more reasonable and rational. Bubblegum didn’t “have her locked up,” as it was simply a result of Flame King choosing to be a poor father figure. I’m glad this was included as a way of showing that PB does care to some extent (she’s probably known Flame Princess longer than she’s known Finn, which is also an interesting tidbit), and also works as another way of making the viewer ask “just how old is this bitch?!” Assuming Finn and Flame Princess are around the same age, it’s also pretty cool to see that Finn is around 15-years-old at this point. From Mystery Train to The Comet, we never get a clear timeline of Finn’s age, so it’s nice that little bits like these are included so that it does give us a good idea about how much time has passed.

My disdain for Cinnamon Bun aside, I actually do like his inclusion as FP’s pal in this episode. They actually work off of each other pretty well; CB himself is genuinely pretty cute and nice as opposed to being loud and obnoxious, and this initiates his new role as Flame Princess’s knight that I think really adds to his character. I’ll take competent, badass Cinnamon Bun over braindead, pain-in-the-butt CB any day.

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By the episode’s end, Finn finally does get to apologize to Flame Princess – or, in this case, the new Fire King – and she accepts it, though she does not take Finn back as her boyfriend. Although, she still wants to be friends, as long as Finn is completely honest with her from now on. Finn obliges, though it’s made much clearer later on that Finn was not ready to make such a promise. It’ll take him some time to learn that simply saying something and acting on it are two different things, and it will be long before he finally does commit to being completely honest with his ex-girlfriend.

As is, this episode is decent. I think it has some really good bits, especially the flashback sequence, but as I mentioned, it feels much more like setup than interesting plot exploration. We’re introduced to Ice King moving in with the boys, Flame Princess ruling over the Fire Kingdom, and Cinnamon Bun departing his comfortable home in the Candy Kingdom. All are interesting in their own right, but as mentioned, I would have liked a bit more focus into Flame Princess’s psyche. The past two episodes have been terrific when it has come to diving deeper into the depths of Finn’s character, and this conclusion to the Finn/FP break-up trilogy is just somewhat standard. Also, there’s some bits that don’t really work. Finn and PB attempting to get into the Fire Kingdom using brute force doesn’t really add anything to the episode. It’s mildly amusing, but just sort of meanders from the legitimately intriguing parts that we visited earlier. Overall, a decent contribution to the ongoing saga of Finn and Flame Princess’s fallout, but there are plenty more interesting episodes that focus on this issue to come!

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On a final note, this is the first episode co-boarded and written by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim. While Kim in particular isn’t one of my favorite staff members, I attribute a lot of praise to her because I feel as though she really helps round out Somvilay Xayaphone’s writing style throughout the remainder of the series, and Xayaphone’s episodes get gradually better from this point on. Emphasis on gradually, however.

Favorite line: “Sorry, I’m on edge ’cause I’m worried that Jerry here will find out I’m dating his sister.”

 

“Frost & Fire” Review

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Original Airdate: August 5, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Luke Pearson & Somvilay Xayaphone

Frost & Fire, in my opinion, is the episode that forever changed Adventure Time. The show, from this point on, has almost an entirely different feel from the first four and a half seasons. As most people know, at some point during the second half of the fifth season, Pendleton Ward stepped down from his showrunner position. An announcement that was met with fear and sorrow for most of the fanbase, including myself, as many wondered if the show would be able to keep up its quality and continue to be as innovative and successful as before. However, Adam Muto, who was selected to take over Ward’s role as showrunner, cleverly chose not to try and emulate what made the show so successful in the past, but instead chose to take the show in a completely new direction that is unarguably pretty ballsy. Whether you like the direction the series takes from this point on completely comes down to personal preference; I personally was always on board for these darker and more uncomfortable stories, though it totally makes sense to me why a lot of people turned their back on the series. It does become somewhat of a completely different show, but whether or not you like it, it is really admirable to see the risks that the staff decided to take. Some of them worked, while others failed, but still, you can’t argue that they weren’t trying to keep the series as fresh as possible. And it all starts with Frost & Fire.

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We’ve (partially) spent the last two seasons exploring the relationship between Flame Princess and Finn. In that time, we’ve seen what types of hardships could befall the two, mainly on Flame Princess’s side. FP, while developing some form of emotional maturity overtime, has a long string of anger issues that hark back to her days in captivity in the Fire Kingdom. Her anger and inability to control her powers has caused innocents to get hurt in the process, something that highly contrasts from Finn’s motivations to help everyone. In addition to her inability to control her powers comes her instability in regards to her powers. FP is physically unstable by natural circumstances, and feelings of extreme passion, such as romance, are quite hard for her to handle. Given that she’s unable to engage in extremely romantic situations, she isn’t even able to kiss or touch Finn without potentially hurting him. And with all of that said, there’s even the fact that she’s been constantly referred to as straight-up “evil.” Though this theory was somewhat debunked over time in-universe, it’s still left with uncertainty given the past history of FP’s family tree, and how she would come to claim her own identity in the process. With all this working against her, you’d think that Finn and Flame Princess’s break-up would relate back to a number of these problems. However, Frost & Fire works as a cautionary as well as heartbreaking tale that, even with FP’s problems at hand, nothing compares to hardship of Finn simply not being honest with her.

Despite the fact that Finn’s actions in this episode are incredibly nasty to the point where it causes others to get hurt, it’s still an incredibly well written learning lesson for him, and I’d much rather watch him go through instances like this than to see him be a perfect hero throughout the run of the series. Finn is only 15 at this point. He has years of life experience before he could consider himself emotionally or sexually mature. And, as any male who once experienced hormonal urgencies during puberty would acknowledge, keeping a lid on sexual desires is an incredibly challenging and confusing process, that many still struggle with even late into adulthood. I mention this because this episode provides one of the most sexually explicit visuals that the show has ever put out: Finn blatantly receiving a “blowjob” from Flame Princess. How this concept got past the Standards and Practices department of Cartoon Network, I’ll never know, though I still think that young children are able to make the connection even without the sexual implications. They know that Finn enjoys the dream, even though they might not know why, and he wants it to continue to happen again. That’s really all there is to it for any inexperienced viewer, and I’m glad that the presentation allows from pretty much anyone to watch and enjoy, rather than being aimed specifically at adults.

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Yet, I think the implications that are included in terms of Finn’s wet dream are quite brilliant. They really show how twisted and misleading sexual desires can become if you aren’t careful, and show how a nice, considerate guy can turn into a needy, selfish man-child. Finn’s faint imagination where he’s transformed into a hairy baby helps strengthen the former comparison, and is complete with the “wah wah wah” speak utilized in All the Little People. Besides mostly being used to emphasize that nothing Finn says can fix the issue at hand, it also hints back at Finn’s manipulative side in All the Little People that led up to these circumstances. Despite Finn finding an easy solution to help the little people reach a happy conclusion back in that episode, he doesn’t quite realize that he isn’t playing with toys here. He’s playing with the emotional fragility of people, and there isn’t really a quick fix for psychological pain. His last words really emphasize that he doesn’t realize exactly what he has done wrong. “I said I was sorry,” he remarks, as if a five letter word can completely solve a completely complicated issue. This is Finn’s first really big life lesson that, despite the fact that he may feel bad for what he’s done, it doesn’t mean his actions don’t have consequences. And as he stands there defeated, all he knows is that he fucking blew it, man.

Finn is completely at fault in this one, though some would argue otherwise. The inclusion of Jake has really driven people to blame him for the way the episode escalates, and while I’m sure it wouldn’t have ended up exactly how it did without Jake’s involvement, I’m willing to believe Finn would have caused them to fight even without Jake yelling at him. Jake never knew the extent of Finn’s dream, nor did he know that Finn even had them fight in the first place. The only thing Jake knew was that the Cosmic Owl was involved, something that Jake is constantly passionate about regardless of the topic. Jake never knew the weight of the situation; for all he knew, Finn could’ve been in grave danger, or was driven to follow some sort of epic life destiny. What Jake didn’t know was that the Cosmic Owl was trying to warn him the entire time, but before Finn can realize the Cosmic Owl’s purpose, it’s too late. So while Jake does instigate the conflict a bit further, Finn had already caused them to fight once, completely at his own decision. My guess is that Finn, distraught with the second outcome of his dream, would’ve simply gone back to try and manipulate the fantasy into being pleasurable again.

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A lot of this sounds uncomfortable for Finn’s character, and it really is. A good portion of the next two seasons features some really uneasy depictions of our main heroine, and while he isn’t always entirely sympathetic, his character arc is always compelling. Again, I’d rather see him struggle with his morality and own identity than to watch him simply become a stronger and more successful hero as the show goes along. Not that the latter aspect is bad, as we do get that to a degree later on, but it’s most important to show that our hero has flaws and goes through ruts than just to watch him be a specimen of perfection throughout the show’s run.

Through all of the pain Flame Princess experiences in this one, she’s mostly somewhat of a blank slate. Not to say that’s a bad thing; the main focus of the episode is mostly through Finn’s perspective. She reacts just how we would expect her to, and while it’s not entirely strong characterization in my eyes, we do get a ton of that in Earth & Water that I think really strengthens FP’s character from that point on. Ice King, however, does get some terrific sympathetic moments in this one. Besides his initial jab at FP, IK is thoroughly portrayed as an innocent bystander that gets wrapped up in the mess of it all. We feel bad for him, and it’s nice to fully show how Finn can be cruel to IK even when he isn’t doing anything wrong. That last line where Ice King utters, “ya blew it, man!” really hits home when you realize who it’s coming from.

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But despite all the dark elements in this one, Frost & Fire also has a pretty great sense of humor. There’s actually some pretty nice Somvilayisms in this one, such as when Finn smashes his body into the oven and knocks over a bunch of pots and pans, or when Finn has like, 20 glasses of milked poured and only drinks two. Somvilay’s drawings in general actually work pretty well. There’s a couple of nice expressions Finn has throughout the episode, namely in the dream sequence where he’s experiencing pure euphoria. Finn wiggling his tongue around and taking in the moment really adds to the stimulation he’s experiencing. And Luke Pearson, as always, has some really swell drawings. Pearson disappears from storyboarding for two whole seasons after this one, and it’s sad, because I really enjoy his work. Aside from the fight sequence looking pretty sweet in general, there’s some really terrific jokes laced into his bits. Flame Princess’s “inferno…. Shot!” follows by IK’s “Ice…. King!” really cracks me up. IK in general is pretty damn hilarious in this one. The scene where he painfully requests for Finn to save Gunther and then insists, “…. I meant after you save me,” is priceless. Ice King is never written as entirely sympathetic; there’s always some added aspect to his sympathy that just makes him seem like a jerk, which I love about his character.

The backgrounds and the music in this one really add to the tone of the overall episode. When the Ice Kingdom is on fire, everything turns very gray and orange, which really makes the rest of the episode feel more somber and weighty. While the music cues are mostly recycled from past episodes, they still attribute greatly to the overall mood. One cue in particular that was introduced in this one, in the scene where Jake frantically urges Finn to force IK and FP to fight, is one of my favorites. It’s been used several times following this episode, which only shows how effectively it can be utilized in scenes of frenzy and stress.

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So yeah, I don’t know if I’d call this one a personal favorite of mine, but I think it’s a pretty fantastic transition episode regardless. It’s one of the most challenging episodes of the show up to this point, and it has evoked tons of different feelings down the line. There’s some people who love it, and some people who hate it. But that fact alone contributes to its importance; an episode that has such contradictory opinions is arguably more significant than one everybody universally likes, say, Fionna & Cake. Frost & Fire successfully captures the not-so-heroic side of Finn the Human, and opens up for some tremendous explorations of his character in the long run. My opinions of Finn’s portrayal following this episode fluctuate greatly, but the good news is I’ll have tons to talk about in the upcoming bunch. So stay tuned y’all, we’re in for one hell of a ride from this point on.

Also, these title card concepts for Frost & Fire were released in the past week on Tumblr. I think they’re pretty dope, and especially like the third one. Though my assumption was that many people thought it was “too dark” and went with a more ambiguous choice.

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Favorite line: “Why does anyone do anything?” “… Why do they?”

“Vault of Bones” Review

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Original Airdate: February 25, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

This may just be my favorite episode centering around Finn and Flame Princess. FP herself has kinda gotten the shaft in all of the episodes centering around her: Incendium was mostly focused on Jake, Hot to the Touch was most focused on Finn, Burning Low centered around the connection between PB and Finn entirely, and she may as well have never appeared in Ignition PointVault of Bones brings the couple to centerstage, in a dungeon crawl that’s both a ton of fun and pretty adorable.

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Right off the bat, this episode starts off with some really funny moments. I love the two second cameo of Flame King, especially because it meant that Keith David literally came into the recording both to utter two lines and that was it. What an easy paycheck that must have been. Jake doesn’t have much of a part in the overall story, but he really adds some terrific comedic prowess in the first minute or so. I love his general intrusiveness towards the two kids and how he ignorantly misunderstands everything Flame Princess was intending to say. Love me some silly Jakey. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the beginning was that weird hyperactive sniff thing Finn was doing to FP. I’m willing to bet $1,000 that scene was included for the sole fact that it could be used as a misleading promo piece.

A good chunk of the episode is really just watching how Finn and Flame Princess interact with the surrounding dungeon, as well as with each other, and I think this is probably the best attempt to develop Flame Princess at this point in the series. I’ve never not liked her before, but I think this was the first episode I found myself acknowledging that I really do like her presence in the series! I genuinely enjoy her standoffish behavior when it comes to her not really enjoying the dungeon, and I actually found her to be even more identifiable than Finn in this one. Her behavior throughout the episode is totally justified; the method of dungeon exploration at the helm of Finn does sound unbearably boring (though it is a nice homage to the Zelda games), and you do want to see her complete the dungeon in her own way, but also the right way.

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I think the graphic novel Playing with Fire definitely stressed Flame Princess’s inner turmoil a lot more than this episode does, but I think that this episode does a decent enough job at showing her own self-consciousness and desire to be the kind of person that Finn is. The truth is that Vault of Bones isn’t some dark character study; it shows that Flame Princess knows who she is and knows who she wants to be, but is continuously reminded of her own family’s heritage. Only now, she’s learned to keep a leveled head, and not to let her anger and rage get in the way of her stride to be good. Also, she’s just plain cute in this one. I love her flabbergasted reaction to Finn asking her to burn the rope, as well as her crowning moment when she does eventually save Finn. The moment when she refers to Finn as her boyfriend really just fuckin’ melted my icy heart. And I do like how there is some intrigue at the end on whether she is completely stable or not. I mean, obviously it never really goes anywhere for clear reasons, but it is nice that this episode works as a resolution piece, as well as opening up a possible direction for Flame Princess’s identity crisis in the future. If there’s one thing I don’t like about her appearance in this episode, is well, her appearance. Yeah, I don’t really dig her design all too much, she looks waaay too young and cutesy for her age. And for some reason, this is the design that’s featured in a ton of different games, novels, and promotional art. No idea why!

Though Flame Princess is the one I found myself empathizing with more, I have to say, this really is some of the best writing for Finn I can think of in recent history. I mean, I can’t think of a time in the past where he’s written badly, but by God, he’s just portrayed as so darn likable in this one. I love how he’s a total fanboy-nerd when it comes to dungeons and how he can pretty much decipher his way through the entire quest without even questioning his surroundings. His enthusiasm is a ton of fun to watch, (“we don’t have to go back, we GET to!”) and I really just love watching him teach Flame Princess the ways of adventuring. Also really nice is how accepting he is with Flame Princess throughout the episode’s entirety. When she says she isn’t having any fun, he doesn’t get defensive or argumentative, he simply allows Flame Princess to have it her way and apologizes for taking too much of a lead. In addition, despite his concerns when Flame Princess goes absolutely berserk, he supports her no matter what, even during his periods of terror. What a good suitor that FTH is… for now, at least.

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I mentioned in Mystery Dungeon that the dungeon wasn’t particularly anything special, but man, this one is dope. Besides being riddled with nice orange and brown-ish colors that really help drive through that dungeon-y feel, it’s also riddled with really unique and diverse looking skeleton foes. I love the wimpy one in the beginning that is totally understanding about everything, including giving Finn a second to talk to his lady and simply giving into Finn because he won’t stop screaming at him. That’s the definition of a good gag character. I also love the goo skulls that face off against Flame Princess. Not only do they have an interesting and also somewhat disgusting form of ability (I don’t even wanna know what that one was doing flicking the other’s goo) they also have various forms of weapons attached to them. The one that picked up Finn had fucking chainsaws strapped to its body! Much like the ogre from The Enchiridion, it’s a detail that’s totally irrelevant and pointless, but it just really adds a factor of surrealism and intrigue to the character.

As I mentioned, the humor is really spot on in this entry. This episode reunites Kent Osborne and Somvilay together, and while they haven’t been my favorite pairing in the past, they definitely gave this one their all with some really great interactive humor. I love every single exchange from Flame Princess and Finn, some of the visual gags are nice, and just the overall tone of the episode is fun, vibrant, and exciting. And that green, hairy butt that was contained in the chest was just the bit of AT bizarreness that should’ve closed off this episode.

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So yeah, this is one I really like. It’s such an enjoyable direction to take the Flame Princess and Finn dynamic, and I finally feel like FP has gone through some significant development and is a much more rounded and versatile character because of it. It would’ve been so easy for this episode to take the obvious route of having Finn and FP fight over which way is right and which way is wrong, but I’m glad they took a fun route over the more formulaic choice. Unfortunately, this would be her last main appearance in the series before the eventual demise of her relationship. We’re almost at the turning point of the series, folks.

Favorite line: “I’ve been acting an uncouth lout, m’lady.”

“Playing with Fire” Review

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Release Date: May 15, 2013

Written by: Danielle Corsetto

Illustrated by: Zachary Sterling

As far as the expanded universe goes for AT, I’m slightly two-sided on how I feel about the comic and graphic novel portion. I’m pretty much on the same boat with everyone else as far as the main comic series goes: it was fun and well-written for the first 30 issues or so, and now it’s pretty poor both visually and in terms of story. There’s other stuff that’s great, like the Adventure Time Comics series and the Ice King six-parter, but not much really draws me outside of those. I could care less about the Fionna & Cake series or the pretty pitiful Adventure Time/Regular Show crossover comics, while everything else has just somewhat fallen under my radar. However, what I’d consider the best of the comic series in terms of quality, art-style, and story is the Playing with Fire graphic novel.

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For anyone who hasn’t read it, I’ll give a brief synopsis. While attending a carnival in the Carnival Kingdom, Finn begins realizing that Flame Princess may not be in control of her emotions (no duh). Flame Princess does simmer down when she enters a fortune teller’s booth, where the fortune teller herself places a curse on Finn that makes him tiny and apathetic. FP, enraged, teams up with Jake to get through the Fortune Teller’s puzzle quest. Jake wants to do things the traditional way and figure out the dungeon’s riddles, but FP’s rage and anger causes her to burn her way through. It’s then that she has a vision involving her father, who promises her a hierarchy of villainy and evil, to which FP decides she should finish the puzzle in the traditional way as Finn would. FP rescues Finn, only for the Fortune Teller to be so touched by the princess’s devotion to her man that she grants them one wish, to which Flame Princess, at first reluctant, decides all the stolen souls should return to their host bodies. Flame Princess finally feels like a hero, but is still haunted by the fact that she is from the Fire Kingdom, and is concerned with the future identity of herself. Annnnnd, it’s never touched on again because Finn and FP break up. Oh well!

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Even if it isn’t acknowledged in universe, I think this graphic novel tells a really compelling story that I would’ve liked to see this as an actual episode. Not only does it pose an interesting look at Flame Princess as she continues to battle with her own identity, but it’s just simply a lot of fun as well. I really like the idea of Jake and Flame Princess teaming up, and the drastic differences between the two. Jake’s very different, in the sense that he’s laidback, cool, and tends to be a traditionalist when it comes to adventuring, while Flame Princess is hot-headed, easily revved up, and does things primarily her way. I mean, when it boils down to it, it really is just Vault of Bones with Jake in Finn’s place, but it covers this story so well (and maybe even a little more in depth than said episode) that I really don’t mind it at all. The characters are a lot more vocal with their emotions, mainly that Finn begins to raise concern over FP’s anger and FP herself does not know who she truly is. Is she a villain, destined for a future of following in her father’s footsteps, or someone who deserves to be recognized as pure of heart? The novel constantly battles around with those ideas, and there is some legitimate intrigue as to what Flame Princess’s future holds.

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It also is nice, for any of the AT comics in general, that their stories tend to incorporate more side and recurring character from the Land of Ooo. We get a fun little bit of NEPTR being a giant loser, a character who only appeared once in season five, which is the time period when the actual novel came out. There’s also a fun scene using Choose Goose that doesn’t even address him by name but helps further the story, and it’s just nice to see a character like him, who really does not appear that often in the actual show.

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You know it’s a sign of good writing when I can read the entire novel in each respective character’s voice and never glance over something that feels out of character for someone to say. The art style also really matches perfectly with the tone and atmosphere it’s going for. Zachary Sterling, who illustrates the second-era of AT comics, actually did a really bang-up job with this one. I’m not really a fan of the visuals of the recent comics, but the expressions and drawings of the characters look really pleasing and sometimes quite humorous.

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So overall, it’s a good read. I’d say if you’re a fan of Flame Princess, and her character arc in general, this is definitely a must-read. Don’t expect to get any new information that will someday be important in the actual series (though I’m sure people don’t expect that at this point) but expect good writing and characterizations of our favorite heroes in Ooo.

“Ignition Point” Review

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn & Somvilay Xayaphone

Ignition Point is once again an episode that involves Flame Princess, yet does not put her at centerstage. I think at this point, I was yearning a bit for a more of an in depth look at FP as her own character, but, like Princess Bubblegum, that’s gonna take some time down the line. As for the episode itself, I think it starts off wonderfully, in the cutest and silliest AT-style representation of a young couple. The music is great as well, stripped from the You Made Me score. It’s somewhat disappointingly my favorite part of the episode, and while the main story contains some laughs, it never really delivers what could’ve been a pretty interesting journey that both Finn and FP could’ve went on.

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It’s always enjoyable to visit the Fire Kingdom and its inhabitants, and we do get a bit of new information regarding how their people, as well as their government system as a whole, work. It’s intriguing to watch the people of the Fire Kingdom interact and work off of each other, because they’re pretty much exactly like the Candy People. Dimwitted, unusual, and seemingly harmless, the Fire People don’t seem to reflect Flame King’s statement that everyone in the Fire Kingdom is inherently evil by birth. I’ve never been as into the alignment system as I know y’all are, so I won’t get into too much detail about that, but I think it’s just very interesting on a lore-level. Flame King’s statement that everyone in the Fire Kingdom is evil is not completely false or unbelievable, as what we learn down the line about elementals is their inherent nature based on their specific element. As is, fire elementals generally are born with sinister feelings and emotional dissonance, though the less they are consumed by their own elemental nature, the more they’re able to form their own destiny and choose their own path. It’s an interesting look at identity among the people of the Fire Kingdom including Flame Princess and her dad, and definitely holds a lot to interpret among who FP is herself and how she can gain control of her own identity.

Sadly, I think a lot of that is squandered by a good chunk of meandering filler. There are definitely some enjoyable jokes to be had; I love the painting joke for the main reason that the Fire People are just inexplicably walking backwards for no reason. It looks really funny, and is one that I actually didn’t even notice the first couple times I saw this episode. As usual, I do enjoy a lot of the exchanges between Finn and Jake, namely in the scene where Jake neglects to catch Finn or when Jake accidentally insults Flame Princess. Though, this scene always has confused me. Why would Jake call, who is presumably both he and Finn’s grandma, “my grandma?” Finn has never once referred to Joshua and Margaret as “Jake’s dad and mom,” so why would their grandma be any different? It just seems like a strange bit of wording that makes it feel like discontinuity.

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As I mentioned though, this is another one of Somvilay and Bert’s that just feels incredibly slow. There’s a lot of crawling through the vents of the Fire Kingdom and interacting with the surroundings that just don’t seem to add anything, and aren’t particularly funny either. I just feel like a lot of it is plodding through, when there’s tons of interesting turns this story could’ve taken. We honestly never really get to see Finn’s side of how he feels in regards to the information Flame King shared with him, and honestly, I really would’ve liked to see that. Later on, we only ever get to see Flame Princess’s inner turmoil with this information, but I feel like Finn, being the hero that he is, should’ve at least had a bit of contemplation in regards to this topic, instead of just glancing over it and barely interacting with the idea at all. I can’t blame this episode for Finn barely acknowledging it at all, but at the same time, I think Ignition Point could’ve benefitted from having a lot more meat. Again, not every single episode needs to be analytical and revolve around the deep inner turmoil between the characters, but the fact that the episode offers such an intriguing idea like that makes me disappointed it wasted those ideas on such subpar gags.

The Hamlet homage is certainly an interesting and fun bit (especially the “naked babies” portion), but again, I don’t feel like I’m watching anything that entertainingly satirical. AT is a series that typically doesn’t rely on pop cultural references in terms of its story or humor, so when it does, I’m not entirely into it or blown away. I think the concept of the Flame King’s nephews trying to usurp him still works as a plot device, but I don’t think the references are that significant or poetic on their own.

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This is an episode Tom Herpich originally pitched at the writer’s retreat, and I really think it could’ve benefitted from having him behind the helms. Herpich was most interested in focusing on the corrupted government aspect of this episode, and if Princess Cookie and You Made Me are evidence of anything, he’s pretty damn skilled at writing these types of stories. Somvilay and Bert are more about focusing on the sillier aspects of the series (unless we’re talking about Princess Monster Wife) and it works here to a certain degree, but not in the most beneficial way in terms of story. I’m not sure if my bitching is warranted, because I’m discussing what the episode should’ve been instead of accepting it at a surface level, but honestly, there’s just not much that draws me into this one otherwise. I come back for some of the silly jokes and the interesting ideas you could draw from the environment of the Fire Kingdom, but the story is pretty drawn out and forgettable and I don’t feel like I’ve gained much at all from watching it that couldn’t be summed up by the last minute. It is always nice to see Flame King, though. That Keith David voice never wears on me.

It’s a shame that the concept of Flame Princess being inherently evil never comes into full fruition. It’s elaborated on a good deal in an enjoyable upcoming episode, but never really goes anywhere despite that. The most interesting piece of information on this topic actually comes from AT literature, which I will be exploring once this season commences.

Get ready for a double post next week, kids! In honor of the 100th episode (even though this technically was the 100th in airing order), I’ll being posting The Hard Easy and Reign of Gunthers on the same Friday. That way we’ll get to the real meat with I Remember You even faster.

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Favorite line: “It’s just the air smells bad from your magic tricks, and now I feel sad.”