Tag Archive | Flame Princess

“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?”

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“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.”

“Hot to the Touch” Review

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Original Airdate: April 2, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez

Here we are, kids! Season four! As I’ve mentioned a couple times prior to this review, season four is a really big turning point for the series. Things get darker, edgier, and more impactful from hereon in, folks. Fresh off the batch is Hot to the Touch, a continuation from where season three’s cliffhanger left off. When the original synopsis for this episode was released, I had much different expectations for it. I generally didn’t expect for this one to pick right up where Incendium left off, as it typically wasn’t really something AT had done before, aside from the Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil two-parter. I thought there’d be a lot more of Finn just sort of observing Flame Princess from afar, and trying to learn little tidbits about her in the process. There is a little bit of that, but what we got as a whole was a pretty satisfying episode, though not without it’s issues.

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First off, I think Flame Princess’s character is crafted perfectly in this episode. I dunno, after this one, I think they kinda jumped the gun and made her a lot less interesting than this episode set her up to be. I like her curiosity, how uneducated of the world around her she is, and how her moral code is constantly put into question. With a few exceptions (and some cool development much later on) I think her character was sorta squandered down into just a straight good guy following Hot to the Touch. Not to say Flame Princess is an awful character after this episode, but it almost feels like day and night to watch her so recklessly destroy a kingdom in this one and then be all cute and bubbly the next. I just really think they had a lot of momentum going with her ambiguity and then sorta dropped it way too quickly. It’s not an actual issue with the episode, though, and is one of my very favorite appearances of FP’s character in general. Also, she frequently mentions that she’s an elemental! It’s cool to see this mentioned so early on, and makes me wonder how Flame Princess became so familiar with this label to begin with. Perhaps Flame King educated her on this matter? It’s really up for discussion.

Finn’s interest in Flame Princess is very cute; I love his instant infatuation with FP and how he’s quickly able to profess his love for her without even really knowing her. That’s a typical thirteen-year-old for you (or is he 14 now?). I love how honest he is right off the bat, completely contradicting his prior relationship with PB. It’s rewarding to see the little guy be so open regarding his feelings and to not hold back, learning from his mistakes the first time. In addition to that, there is an interesting bit of turmoil he experiences when he has to choose between being a hero or preserving the one he cares about. The decision seems simple at first, but it all becomes more difficult when we learn that putting out FP’s flames legitimately hurt her. All of us want Finn to choose the obvious route of being heroic, but also don’t want to see Flame Princess get injured in the process. As for his ending breakdown… we’ll get to that in a bit.

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Jake is the perfect everyman in this episode: completely supportive of his hormonal brother, but being very rational when handling the situation. I love how much he goes through just for his friend, from helping him pursue his new love interest to trying to protect the Goblin Kingdom in the process. And, as a result, Jake is actually the true hero of this episode! Yeah, he helps Finn get closer to Flame Princess AND saves everyone in the Goblin Kingdom. What did you do again, Finn? You’re slippin’, buddy.

There’s a lot of enjoyable moments in this one. I love Finn’s awkwardness when it comes to pursuing FP, right down to the fact that he’s basically being a giant stalker and even acknowledges himself in the act. There’s plenty of silly side characters, from the smoking bird (who, for some reason, speaks in rhymes) and the return of the quirky goblins! And hey, speaking of characters returning, my boi NEPTR’s back!! NEPTR is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s really delightful to see the little scamp once again. I love the fact that everyone just generally disregards everything he says, including his entire existence. It just seems like such an oddly cynical and sadistic turn for such loving characters, and I really like how different it is because of that. NEPTR will always be BMO-Light to the rest of the cast. Also, that rap was fucking dope!

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My one problem with this episode, which is actually kind of a major one, is Rebecca Sugar’s part of the episode. I think Cole Sanchez’s section is just fine, but Sugar’s work feels like it’s trying too hard to be really profound and emotional to me. This is a common criticism for a ton of the season six and seven episodes, but really, I think it comes out full-fledged here. Finn’s crying just didn’t hit home for me at all; Rebecca had some big obsession with wanting Finn to cry during her time on the show, and really, I’m not sure I get it. I think some of the most impactful and poignant moments on the show are done without any crying at all (Finn discovering Susan may not be human in Susan Strong, Simon’s video diaries in Holly Jolly Secrets, Finn being abandoned by his father in Escape from the Citadel, etc.). It’s something that carries over heavily into her own show Steven Universe, but really, I just don’t think it works here. And considering the ending is left so ambiguous and poetic, you’d think there’d be room for more development on how Flame Princess and Finn are in a somewhat “forbidden” romance, but it’s rarely even touched upon in the next episode FP is in, outside of the last half, and just feels like a cheap gimmick in order for me to feel something or be left with some lasting impression, but it just doesn’t work at all. Pendleton Ward had this brief bit of wisdom on the episode’s commentary:

“[in reference to writing kid characters] … you just think that they’re gonna skin their knees and cry a bunch, when it’s not fun to watch, I don’t think.”

Though he wasn’t speaking directly about that portion of the episode, it pretty much sums up my feelings. I criticized What Was Missing slightly in the past for Sugar’s style feeling off with AT’s aesthetics, but I think this is a prominent example of her writing failing to meet the emotional complexities of the characters, at least in my eyes. I think Cole gets it right from Finn’s monologue earlier on in the treehouse, that’s meant both to be funny and somewhat profound. That’s exactly what I was looking for throughout a majority of this episode.

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That being said, I do think it’s still a pretty decent season premiere. I think there’s still a lot of enjoyable moments, from the silly jokes, to the beautiful visuals (really nice blends of orange and yellow), to the general intrigue of the main conflict. The characters are written as perfectly as they should be; as I mentioned, this is one of my favorite appearances of Flame Princess to date. Even though I’m not crazy about the ending, it still leaves a ton of ambiguity and mystery that Incendium left off with, giving me enough motivation and anticipation to keep watching forward. And as long as I live, I will never get tired of Finn stretching out Jake’s face like silly putty.

Strap in, everyone! Season four is gonna be one hell of a ride!

Favorite line: “Listen, when I look at you, my brain goes all stupid, and I just wanna hug you, and sit on the couch and play BMO with you.” (the most accurate depiction of teenage feelings of all time)

“Incendium” Review

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One of my favorite title cards. Finn’s turmoil is so wonderfully represented.

Original Airdate: February 13, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

Incendium is significant because it was the point where I became completely and utterly invested in Adventure Time. There were points prior such as Mortal Recoil, Thank You, and Holly Jolly Secrets where I grew even fonder of the series, but Incendium was the episode where I decided there was absolutely no turning back. I was in it for the long haul from this point on, and prepared for where ever the series would take me next. As you can tell, this is one of my favorites. It’s not one of the funniest or even most dramatic episodes, but this is a direct transition into a new era of AT, and one that doesn’t hold back with its raw emotion, introduction of new characters, and growth from the past three seasons. This is it people: Finn’s most notable entrance into adolescence.

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The concept of this episode came from the writers no longer being able to incorporate Finn’s love interest for PB into compelling stories. Wizard Battle was an episode that proved this relationship to be a bit burnt out in its direction, and one that I was getting dreadfully bored of myself. The beginning of this episode wastes no time by displaying the truth behind how infatuations typically tend to start out as innocent and charming and eventually transition into creepy and desperate. Finn’s behavior can surely be seen as that, though without his intention to be so, and Bubblegum’s response is equally appropriate. It’s a moment that runs so quickly and contains little dialogue, but one that I think is especially well done. It doesn’t focus on making either character unlikable for the sake of the plot, and follows a realistic direction in which the situation was likely to follow. It’s a really impactful, driving moment for Finn to be straight up turned down, something we really haven’t gotten to see yet. It’s also a bit of the least teasing PB’s behavior has ever been; it seems her intentions to show Finn her new invention were strictly out of leisure and companionship, and her personal space being briefly invaded was what turned her off from what was genuinely supposed to be a simple picnic with friends.

That being said, it’s still one of the most emotional Goddamn scenes in the series to see Finn so drastically torn up. Sure, he’s still a child, and we all know those random teenage love interests never meant anything. But they still stung, dammit! This sequence is complete with one of my favorite Sugar songs, All Gummed Up Inside. Not only are the lyrics a perfect example of a character releasing his/her feelings through song, the combination between the pacing of BMO’s video game in the background and the ukulele chords are just beautiful. It’s really one of the most creatively timed tunes in the series, and one that I constantly find myself revisiting. In addition to the song, the visuals during it are equally as heartwrenching. Sugar outdoes herself with really somber depictions of AT’s characters, and the looks of hopelessness on Finn, Jake, and BMO’s faces are really terrifically drawn. It’s a very powerful moment that fits so much emotion into such a short sequence of time. Also love the callback to Finn clutching that wad of Bubblegum’s hair (although, I gotta wonder where he got those pictures of PB. It’s not even like it’s a picture of him and Peebles hanging out, it’s like, a fucking headshot. Did she just randomly give him a bunch of those?),

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A good remainder of the episode is kept mostly light with a really enjoyable and heartfelt story of Jake trying to find a new woman for his best friend. There’s a lot of really amusing moments from this point on: the reintroduction of Flambo, who, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of my favorite secondary characters in the series. I don’t know what it is about him, I just love his general demeanor and random Brooklyn accent. The interactions between him and Jake are really great; love the laidback way they’re able to just shoot the shit, followed by the always hilarious flame shield incantation (“I cast flame shield on ya’s… also I spat on ya’s!”).

Outside of Thank You, this is the first major appearance of the Fire Kingdom, and it looks dope. Love the various orange, red, yellow, and browns that make up the kingdom, and the contrast of Jake’s blue that really helps him to stick out among the crowds of Fire People and their surroundings. There’s also the introduction of another one of my favorite side characters, Flame King, and the entrance of a brand new major player herself, Flame Princess. This is probably Flame King’s strongest appearance in the series. His voice, provided by Keith David, hits all the right points of intimidation and dry wit. I love the way him and Jake work off of each other, and the various tasks Jake must go through that really are very pointless in hindsight. There’s also the crowd of Fire People that honestly crack me up. The way they just mindlessly repeat everything (a very satirical homage to other TV shows and movies that involve royalty) is always worth a dumb laugh or two from me. The way Jake reprises Finn’s song is really delightful; it’s not quite as catchy or powerful, but I love the way Jake is able to take something so heavy and emotional and reboot it into something more calming and delightful, typically showcasing his best abilities.

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It’s also a bit of a sad scene to watch Jake so disappointed of his failure as he softly apologizes to Finn’s hologram. It’s a moment that also displays another emotional strength of the series: the way the characters are able to so strongly empathize with each other. You can tell that Finn’s inability to reciprocate PB’s love is affecting Jake just as much, and that he’d do anything to help out his brother during his time of need. Which leads to one of the most confusing parts of the episode: Jake’s Finn mimic choking himself. I’m not sure if this was Jake getting way too in character, or if it was an elaborate plan by himself all along, but it just feels a bit aimless to me. Not sure how he knew it would work if it was the latter, and not sure why he would do it to begin with if it was the former.

The third act closes out with some of the strongest raw material of the episode, as Finn begins his fueled rampage and unleashes all of his negative inner feelings. It only last for a brief amount of time, and he’s able to step back once he notices the injured princess, allowing for some nice symbolism with Finn using a piece of Bubblegum to save Flame Princess, and then completely leaving that piece of PB behind. Flame Princess’s character isn’t that well-developed in this one, but the ending does leave a bit of intrigue that we haven’t seen from the show before: someone who is less emotionally mature than Finn. FP is completely bonkers when it comes to controlling her inner feelings, and for the longest time, Finn has had to combat his inferiority when it comes to those more mature than him. This may be where his immediate interest in the princess comes from, and it’s an interesting realization that disregards Finn’s entire romantic past up to this point. Everything changed when the fire nation attacked.

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So yeah, I love this one. It just has such an exciting feel to it, and despite it not having any big battles or giant cliffhangers like other season finales do, this one is simply an important transition into the later seasons of Adventure Time, leaving some old, worn out relationships in the past along with it. It’s a really fun exploration of Finn’s new potential love interest, and one that would forever change his life and future ahead of him. It’s a lovely bit of emotion mixed with amusing gags that I really never get tired of. Shoutout to Rebecca Sugar and Adam Muto for ending their board partnership together with a bang! Surely one of my all-time favorites.

That’s the end of season three, folks! Like always, I’d like to thank anyone who’s been keeping up with the blog and sharing your lovely thoughts with each new post. I really enjoy all the feedback I get with this blog, and it makes the entire experience more rewarding. The season three review should be out later this week, along with a bit of a surprise mini-review that I’m sure most of you weren’t expecting. But, besides that, I’ll be back with Hot to the Touch very shortly!

Favorite line: “If anyone tries to hurt Finn, I will kill them!”