Tag Archive | Graham Falk

“Come Along With Me” Consensus

CAWM C 1

Before checking out this review, be sure you read the segmented analyses of each part of Come Along With Me.

It’s been a while, friends! Hope everyone had a terrific holiday season and a great start to their new year! Following the release of the final Come Along With Me individual review, I was definitely feeling burnt out and needed space from the series and this blog for a bit to rekindle my energy. My enthusiasm for discussing AT has happily renewed, and I’ll be wrapping up the first wave of this blog throughout the next few weeks with some bonus content. Since I’m just getting back into the swing of things, I don’t want to promise any form of heavily stressed deadlines, though this is the order of content you can expect for the next few weeks:

  • Season 9 Review.
  • The Best and Worst of Adventure Time Episodes.
  • Top 10 Adventure Time Moments.
  • Adventure Time Character Analysis.

I’ve batted around a few more ideas for bonus content before, and those ideas are still on the table, but I’d like to focus on the stuff I really want to tackle before possibly over-promising anything too elaborate.

A reminder that my giving campaign is still up and running! If you feel like you got one dollar’s worth of entertainment reading this blog in the past or present, or if you want to support the future of this blog, feel free to throw some cashola my way in you have the extra money!

SUPPORT ADVENTURE TIME REVIEWED!

With that said, let’s take a look at Come Along With Me as a whole! Ever since the release of the finale, I’ve seen nothing but overwhelmingly positive responses about Come Along With Me. Review sites like The A.V. Club and IGN awarded the finale with an absolute perfect score, while several longtime fans and fans who jumped back on board to see how the series ended were pretty amazed. I was pretty much in the same boat, but as time has passed, and I’ve looked at the finale with clear eyes not clouded by hype of everything…

It’s a’ight.

I think there’s a lot to like about Come Along With Me. In many respects, it is a completely inoffensive, loving, and dedicated finale. This certainly isn’t a Game of Thrones situation where the finale is so bad that it hurts both rewatch value and the overall quality of the series, but it is a finale that I find somewhat underwhelming. On a thematic level, Come Along With Me succeeds in following the main mission statement of the series that “the fun will never end,” by portraying the optimistic viewpoint that life and existence still continue regardless of impending doom that so often afflicts humanity (and Ooo-manity, of course). But, when looking at it from a surface or story level, I think there’s still a good amount to be desired.

CAWM C 2

Let’s start with the good stuff. The expansion of the 1000+ world that was introduced in Graybles 1000+ is quite impressive. I was initially a bit miffed that this futuristic element was being crammed in, seeing as how the finale was already so jam-packed as is, but I think it really adds a lot to what the episode sets out to say. Shermy and Beth are quite likable, albeit not particularly remarkable. I think they fill the shoes of “two wide-eyed scamps set out to do good,” really nicely. BMO’s presence in the future is also similarly endearing. I think he’s really the only character from the main cast that I would actually like to see this far into the future. Every other character is tied to some form of baggage that would probably devolve them into a gritty, worn-out version of their old self, but BMO is just BMO. His stagnant personality is a perfect fit 1000+ years later. The general layout of the 1000+ world is pretty gnarly. It does a great job at setting itself apart from the past version of Ooo, while still retaining its likable nature. I’ve seen a lot of comments about future Ooo being depressing, though I can’t really can’t behind that. There’s a definitely a more muted color scheme, but its spirit still feels light and playful. And considering that there’s a giant heroic Sweet P. traveling the land, it also still retains its large sense of heroism. After all, the whole point of the finale, as well as BMO’s story, is that there really is no end to anything. Ooo is different from what it once was, and Finn and Jake are no longer roaming around, but their spirit and energy lives on in other brave souls and environments. Like I said, the thematic elements of the episode are quite strong.

Come Along With Me feels very dedicated in its fanservice. Some moments feel like a little bit of a stretch for me, (Shermy singing “On a Tropical Island” was a bit too on-the-nose for my liking) but I think it is quite enjoyable for that reason. BMO’s treasure trove of items from the show’s history is so wide that I’m sure there are some elements that haven’t even been discovered yet. There’s plenty of cool character callbacks, some of which return just for the sense of wrapping up their individual arcs, like Maja and APTWE. The ending montage, in particular, is chock full of characters from the show’s history, as well as important character moments. I’ll throw in the entire montage as one of the great elements of this finale, partly because I never get sick of hearing “Come Along With Me,” and because there’s a couple bits that even got me misty-eyed. BMO sending Moe’s memories into space was a perfect epilogue to Moe’s story that ended in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know, Prismo not being able to bring back Betty was a super clever way of turning the tables on Simon’s tale, and Magic Man coming to terms with Margles’ absence was undeniably sweet. I also really can’t think of a better note to leave Finn’s character on than his mother and the humans finally arriving in Ooo. I still hold close that it would’ve been cool to see Finn and Jake take on their parents’ old job as a way to fulfill their desires of adventuring in a more stable environment, but I think this was a solid way to leave off his story in a relatively ambiguous, yet hopeful, way.

The finale also does have moments that legitimately do grab me in terms of excitement. The third part of Come Along With Me is probably my favorite, mainly because it is this fun, fast-paced, action-packed battle that never really takes a second to breathe or think. This is kind of what I was expecting for most of the finale, and I’m glad it delivered on some level. It gives you an idea of how tense and real the stakes are, even if everything ends up okay, for the most part. I think there’s three moments in the finale that really echo that somewhat hopeless feeling: Jake realizing the destruction after he arises before battling GOLB’s beasts, BMO’s face being smashed up, and the animals watching on as GOLB sucks up everything. There’s a true sense of finality that I do think boosts Come Along With Me into feeling like this big, grand entry. The song “Time Adventure” assists with that, which is a song that I love, though not particularly in how it’s executed within that actual episode. The studio recording of “Time Adventure” is a tune that I genuinely love and one that truly does make me feel something, but the way it’s included in the episode feels a little hollow. I still like everyone joining together in harmony in an attempt to defeat GOLB, but I would’ve like it if we got to hear the song the way it was intended (i.e. with Jake singing the final line to Finn).

There’s also Marceline and Bubblegum’s scene, which explicitly shows that they are involved romantically. Thought this was a super nice treat for people who had been invested in their relationship for so long, and somewhat of a big step forward in LGBTQ+ representation within children’s media. Like I said prior, Steven Universe had beaten AT to the punch YEARS before they had pulled this off forreal, but I think it still feels impactful. Steven Universe always kind of had the excuse that the gems were “genderless” in order to fly by the censors. This is an instance where two female characters are quite clearly portrayed as sexual counterparts, and I don’t think there’s really explanation around it either way.

CAWM C 3

Now onto the bad/mediocre material. Surprisingly, I think Come Along With Me is really weak from a character standpoint. All of the main characters, in my opinion, are weighed down either by a story element, or the fact that there’s just too much going on at once, with the exception of BMO. Finn gets severely shafted in the third and fourth parts, being essentially a fly on the wall while all of this cool shit goes on around him, and his main character motivation in the first half is handled poorly. Bubblegum’s story of empathy has a pretty lousy payoff, considering that she really doesn’t end up changing the behavior that got her into such a circumstance to begin with. Jake’s presence is fun, but a bit too distracting in terms of tone at points, and he really isn’t given any kind of overarching role aside from being a bystander. Marceline is once again weighed down by her character only revolving around Bubblegum and Simon and not really getting a chance to do anything independently. As for Ice King, I think it works in everyone’s best interest (or at least a majority of the fan base) that he got the resolution that has been built up for so long, but I still have a couple qualms about how Simon’s return essentially means the end of Ice King, even if Gunter’s role attempts at subverting that.

A lot of these issues tie into the fact that there really is just too much going on in Come Along With Me, as to be expected with a series that’s been on this long and that has so many lingering mysteries. Even the elements that are given a good bit of attention, such as Fern’s redemption, feel all too rushed along for myself to truly get behind. Couple that with the fact that the story, or stories, themselves are not very strong.

The first half hour of the special is dedicated to the Great Gum War. This storyline had already felt kind of clunky throughout the course of season nine, but it really ends up going nowhere in its climax. While the dream sequence is interesting in some aspects, namely the scenes where PB and Gumbald experience life inside each other’s shoes, it feels wasted with the conclusion we get. I’m not even sure what the takeaway of Gumbald’s entire story was. It was originally supposed to tie in to PB’s overall insecurity of being a corrupt ruler, and it seemed like that’s where this episode wanted to take it, but it basically just ends up exactly where she started, trapping her family members in a barren vessel because she doesn’t want to deal with the real issue at hand. Except for Aunt Lolly, who apparently is super sympathetic towards PB for… some reason? Even though the last episode clearly showed that it was all a ruse? Her character is painted with little to no depth and it really shows. Not to mention that her role in the episode makes the entire first chunk of the finale moot, since Finn’s choice to Nightmare Juice PB and Gumbald had no effect on Aunt Lolly’s decision. Yet, the episode acts like Finn was the holy savior even after the fact when his choice only benefited Fern and not the overall war. I don’t get it, man. I could go on and on about how the way Gumbald’s betrayal at the end of Part 2 is written in a very sloppy way, but I think I could forgive the conclusion itself if we actually got something interesting from the war element. Since the development between Gumbald and PB ended up being scrapped, I would’ve at least liked to see some of the excitement that the past two episodes have so desperately built up to. I know its in typical AT fashion to subvert expectations, but c’mon, it’s the series finale. Go big with it! I wanna see Pete Sassafras murder someone.

CAWM C 4

The GOLB twist provides for that surface level excitement I had been longing for, but I don’t think it’s especially strong either, which mostly has to do with GOLB as a character. The build up to GOLB’s presence was super mysterious and kind of suspenseful, but when he actually shows up, he’s kind of lame. He mainly just acts as a plot device for absolute destruction. The thing is, I’m not really sure how to make GOLB more interesting. I think it’d be silly if he had a speaking voice or some kind of evil plan, but I feel like another element should’ve been added to make him appear more intimidating. The animation shift to a more sketchy style during his demise was rad as hell, I wouldn’t mind if his entire appear called for some kind of animation shift. Or even just in shading – Come Along With Me is also plagued by really dull colors.

Simon’s story is wrapped up within the last chunk, and ehhh. I can’t really put blame on the staff for deciding that the only decision that made sense was curing Simon after years of build up, and to be fair, the way it’s executed isn’t bad by any means. I just think that Ice King’s character became way too elaborate for its own good to the point where I really didn’t want Simon to come back at all. Ice King is a character that has been shown to grow and develop on his own, so why should he get the shaft? I know that he technically still lives on through Gunter’s wish, but I dunno, it seems like a more complicated issue that was glossed over all too fast for the purpose of a quick conclusion. I do think Betty’s sacrifice was genuinely quite potent, and made for a nice role reversal in Simon and Betty’s never-ending saga.

Fern’s arc also gets a grand conclusion, which is bumpy, but still relatively satisfying. I think Part 2’s redemption story for Fern is way too obvious and unchallenged in how it handles his quick decision to cooperate with Finn, but I ultimately find his death to be quite poignant and a nice sentiment of Finn bidding farewell to his childhood and a part of himself.

Parts Ranked

  1. Part 3 – Just a ton of fun, and the one chunk of the finale that actually had me super invested in everything going on.
  2. Part 1 – A nice exploration of the 1000+ world, and a genuinely suspenseful build in to the faux war that never actually comes into fruition.
  3. Part 4 – A little clunky and awkward in how it tries to quickly wrap everything up as fast a possible, but still provides for a nice ending.
  4. Part 2 – The only part of the finale that I’d say is just straight up bad. Makes the entire storyline of the season feel partially wasted and it just isn’t all that interesting either.

Final Consensus

Come Along With Me is a safe, inoffensive finale, and that’s not necessarily a huge downfall. I think, in its core, it is a finale that had a lot of passion and love put into it. Like I said, there’s really nothing in here that could ruin the series for anyone or is even that deplorable, but I don’t really think that makes it especially good either. It still is very underwhelming in parts, and clearly comes from a staff that really had no idea how they were going to tie everything together. In my eyes, the series has already churned out some episodes that could make for great finales. Faults aside, The Comet did feel like a culmination of everything that Finn had learned up to that point, and a nice conclusion of himself finally finding peace. Islands also wrapped up a lot of long-standing questions, and offered fans an essential answer to who Finn truly is. Not necessarily saying that these episodes should have been finales – I think it would probably drive people insane if The Comet was the series finale. But those are both examples of episodes that set out to tell interesting stories first without the pressure of having every lingering detail figured out. Come Along With Me feels like a hodgepodge of ideas that want to offer ultimate satisfaction, but never really just focus on being entertaining first. Overall, I think it does get a pass for trying its damnedest to make everyone as satisfied as they possibly can be. But for me personally, it’s far from one of AT‘s strongest entries.

“Come Along With Me” (Part 4) Review

Cawm 4 8.png

Original Airdate: September 3, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Graham Falk

Before we start, I want to let y’all know that there will be another giving campaign for this blog as I’m wrapping up the first wave of reviews. Some good reasons (I think) to give are:

  • Supporting future reviews for Distant Lands buy helping me acquire a subscription to HBO Max, complete with high qual screengrabs.
  • Supporting for reviews in the past.

I always feel super guilty asking for money from you guys – it’s not like I need it to put food on the table or anything. But this gig is, and has been, a lot of work, and I’ve never really figured out a good way to monetize it despite the decent traffic it brings in. Considering that there is still work to do, with more content on the way, it does feel more like a juggling act in my work and personal life which is already super jam-packed. If y’all are feeling generous and that you got $1’s worth of entertainment or enjoyment from this blog in the past, feel free to support me using the link below (the goal is listed as $1, though I mostly just put that as a placeholder because I didn’t have a specific goal in mind). This is in no way determining the future of the blog, I still plan on reviewing Distant Lands regardless. If you don’t donate, it doesn’t make you any less of a fan of the series or this site. If you feel as if there’s anything deceitful about me asking for donations, or if you just don’t feel like the blog itself is worth any monetary value, there is no pressure on you either. This is simply for anyone out there that is interested in supporting the past and future of Adventure Time Reviewed, and to help assist in motivating me forward.

SUPPORT ADVENTURE TIME REVIEWED

I’m partially filled with a warm bittersweet sensation as I tackle my final episode review. I say partial, because it turns out we have waaay more content coming along with Distant Lands, so there’s no use in really getting wishy-washy here. I’ll probably save these warm feelings for my reviews of Distant Lands, only to hold off once again because there will probably be a billion more reboots and revivals in the future. I’m gonna be 80-years-old trying to achieve closure for this series that obviously is never going to die. But still, it took a long way to get here and it’s surreal that I’ve finally gotten to the end of the original run. The final act of Come Along With Me has a lot to jumble, essentially trying to wrap up nearly every loose end up to this point, and from the finale alone. These last 11 minutes feel super rushed, and I really didn’t expect any less. With all of the mysteries that Adventure Time has held onto overtime, it didn’t seem realistic in the slightest that everything would be pulled off in the most satisfying way. But still, even with that in mind, there’s plenty of sweet moments that help this final chunk to land.

Cawm 4 1.png

During Adventure Time‘s finale panel at 2018’s San Diego Comic Con, John DiMaggio shed more than just a couple of tears at the idea of the show’s conclusion. That being said, you can really tell how much passion he’s putting into his performance as Jake. That beginning scene where Jake laments the destruction of his sanctuary is both super saddening and humorous in just how over-the-top it is. I mentioned this in my last review, but the idea of the Tree Fort being destroyed in general is immensely depressing. That’s not to say that its demise was necessarily a bad choice – I think it works as a unique tie-in with the theme that this episode revolves around, that being that some things end, but they also don’t really. I could’ve been cliche and said “everything stays, but it still changes,” but I held myself back. While the Tree Fort is no longer standing, the memories and what it represents (family) are still very much in tact. Or, at least, somewhat. That initial shot of BMO’s face is probably as sad as this finale gets; obviously we know the little guy isn’t going to die or anything, but his simple silence, as he stares down sadly at his caretaker, speaks so much louder than words. Adventure Time has always tried to emphasize the importance of silence as opposed to outward emotions, and I think this is a really great example of how well it can work. No tears, no outbursts, just the sad acceptance of what is already done. It’s amazing what AT manages to do with two dots and a line when it comes to reading visual emotions.

And even through all of that sadness, BMO manages to comfort Jake for all that he’s done to protect the members of his household. I’ll admit, I was a bit taken back when BMO ended up being the one singing “Time Adventure.” When Rebecca Sugar debuted the song months before the finale’s release, I assumed it would feature Finn and Jake singing it to each other, or some variation. It initially felt a little too silly for my liking, especially given that the scene essentially shows everyone in Ooo accepting that they’re probably going to die. But I’ve warmed up to the idea, and “Time Adventure” has become one of my favorite songs in the series. I will say that the officially released soundtrack version is waaay better than what we got in the actual episode. I cannot begin to express how bummed I am that Jake’s ending solo got cut out. It’s so beautifully chilling and touching that I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to put Simon and Betty banter over top of it. Still, I think both versions have their perks. The soundtrack version really feels like the harmony it was made out to be, where each character involved (Flame Princess, Magic Man, Slime Princess) can clearly be heard vocalizing. On the other hand, the episode’s version actually really emphasizes on Pendleton Ward’s voice, which I thought was super sweet. I do wonder – did other members of the staff join in? Can Muto’s voice be heard somewhere in this collaboration? I have no clue, but I thought it was nice that Pen had such a strong role in singing his creation off.

Cawm 4 2.png

Another strong moment from this section of the finale comes from Simon and Finn’s brief exchange as they anticipate decimation in the pits of GOLB. Simon’s delivery of, “no one gets to choose how it happens,” is genuinely impactful, especially so coming from him. Honestly, Simon’s been through so much at this point that I’m sure he just wants to die and get it over with – hell, that’s exactly what he wanted to do in Betty. I’m slightly more disappointed with Finn’s role, because again, I really feel like he’s a bystander to everything that’s going on around him. His line, “I always thought I’d go out saving someone,” just made me wonder, “why isn’t Finn saving someone right this second? Why was he written to be such a spec on the wall while everyone is included in all of this cool shit going on around them?” I’ve seen the argument that, since Finn has saved everyone countless times, this is an opportunity for everyone to save him, buuuut I don’t really buy into that. One, because it just doesn’t feel like it was written to be played out in such a way – the episode seems convinced that Finn effectively put a stop to the Great Gum War when that’s not really what happened at all. Second, there’s a way of carrying out the “now it’s our turn to save you,” story without making the hero ineffective or sidelined. I overall think that pairing Finn with Betty and Simon was a poor decision. He doesn’t really add anything to their dynamic, and is easily overshadowed by their arc.

I personally do think that Simon and Betty’s arc is wrapped up in a pretty satisfying way, as well as tragic. I like how Betty’s codependence never really dissolved, and it’s ultimately what ended up consuming her in her very last moments. Even when trying to move past her ultimate hidden desires, they resurface when she realizes that sacrificing herself is the only way for Simon to truly be free. It’s probably the least happy ending that occurs during this finale, but one that feels fittingly somber. As time went on, Simon and Betty’s relationship was being portrayed as more and more unhealthy from both parties, and I think the end result being that, no matter how much they love each other, they’ll never be able to be happy together, leading to the culmination of the general unhappiness that has consumed them for so long. A quick “fuck you” to the Simon & Marcy comic series for effectively undoing every sacrifice that occurred in this finale by giving Simon and Betty a totally normal, happy ending. This is much more potent.

Cawm 4 3.png

Pretty much every Cartoon Network finale in the past 5 years or so allows for like, 20 seconds of an animation boost of some sort. Regular Show and Steven Universe recruited the likes of James Baxter for a brief segment of animation; it’s a shame he couldn’t come back once more to assist with AT‘s finale, but we do get a cool, sketchy sequence ala Take On Me when GOLB unhinges. I always love these big “fabric of the universe disintegrating” moments in animation, and this one does not disappoint. Though, I am so unnecessarily bothered by the fact that the crew neglected to pitch-shift Shelby’s voice. Come on, guys! This could have been a great final appearance of the little guy if one of his key features wasn’t removed entirely. Now it’s just super distracting.

I dunno what the general consensus is on the GOLBetty design, but I think it’s pretty rad. Steve Wolfhard did the initial concept design, and while aspects of his take on the deity remained, the overall anatomy shifted and I think it looks way better as is. Props to Tom Kenny for obviously being one of the most versatile voice actors out there, as Simon’s disbelief at the sight of Betty feels so real and raw. Then we get to Gunther, who effectively brings Ice King back through the power of the crown. I dunno, man. I guess I’m fine with this? There’s the somewhat uncanny aspect of it all; this transformation was written in such a way that makes it seem like Ice King is back and nobody should worry about it… but like, is it really Ice King? The goofy, stilted dialogue that Gunther utters once he shifts feels like a pet’s perspective of their human owner, but everyone reacts like it’s okay and they shouldn’t think twice about it. It’s tough because I like the idea of Simon being saved by Betty, only for her to end up in a mind prison for all of eternity, but I really don’t like how easily Ice King gets the shaft in the process. This was clearly a timing issue, as there was only five minutes left in the finale by this point in time and the crew probably just decided it was something that could be handled quickly in the quirky manner. But I’ll reiterate once more, the Ice King-Simon story had gotten way too complex and intricate for it to ever have a fully satisfying conclusion. Personally, I think I would have been more happy with the idea that Ice King remains, while Simon is gone forever. I think more people would have been upset with this concept, and it would have been another example of Adventure Time being afraid to shatter the status quo, but man, I can’t help but feel Ice King got did something dirty. I like him so much more than that nerd, Simon. It’s disappointing that, no matter how much effort Ice King put into his own personal growth, it essentially didn’t matter because he’s reduced to a facsimile of his former self.

Cawm 4 4.png

One character death certainly isn’t taken for granted, however. Fern’s withering away is not only a poignant farewell for his character, but a nice way to tie-in to Finn saying goodbye to his childhood and a part of him in the process. The idea that he plants it where the Tree Fort once stood represents the idea that a piece of him will always be there, and the growing tree emphasizes the legacy that Finn has built and left behind in the process. Farewell, Fern! Truly one of my favorite secondary characters and probably my favorite aspect of these last two seasons. It’s just a shame that your redemption arc couldn’t have been much stronger than it was.

My gripes with the overuse of Finn’s girlish scream in later seasons aside, I do find the joke that he’s outgrown as his voice has deepened to be quite funny. I’d enjoy the sight gag of Finn being taller to be more enjoyable, had their been some consistency with his character model throughout the episode. I don’t really mind its inconsistency during the course of the series, but it feels just a bit too cheap only being included for this one moment.

Cawm 4 5.png

I like the notion that BMO’s story to Shermy and Beth was kind of an allusion to the crew telling the tale of the “end of Ooo” to AT‘s audience. I think many people were expecting this finale to be the end of all things, essentially. Hell, I think you could even argue that half of the fanbase was expecting Jake to be dead by the end of this episode. But that’s really not the story that the staff wanted to tell, and I don’t think that’s the story I necessarily wanted to see either. Don’t get me wrong, I find a good chunk of the finale to be somewhat underwhelming. However, I do appreciate the staff’s commitment to the idea that these characters don’t really have an “end” in mind. Just as Adventure Time has had plenty of moments throughout its run that have signified closure for its characters, such as Mortal Recoil or The Comet, there have also been plenty of new challenges and moments of growth since those instances that have further elaborated on the sinuous nature of our heroes. Even though Finn and Jake are dead by the time BMO is narrating this story, their spirit still lives on in the hearts of Shermy and Beth. Heroes die, but others arise. Even in Sweet P.’s case, an eternity of evil can become an eternity of righteousness. I keep writing myself into a corner that forces me to say “everything stays, but it still changes.” But it does! Adventure Time‘s central theme carries all the way into its final moments, hitting on the specific note that the opening theme reminds us each and every episode: the fun will never end. Even when we’re rotting in the ground!

Another great way to tie that theme together is bringing back Music Hole, a character who has lived through countless centuries, and has watched countless endings and beginnings at that. Even sweeter is the inclusion of Ashley Erikkson as Music Hole, who has very quietly been with the series through the very beginning. She sings the titular song we had all been waiting for, and it makes for a really nice epilogue.

Cawm 4 6.png

The montage aims at either wrapping up specific character arcs or just works as a way of showing what their lives held for them in the future. Discussing this speedy wrap-up in cohesive paragraphs seems somewhat impossible, so for your consider, I’m going to go ahead and bullet point each clip in chronological order:

  • The snail can be seen for the final time on the growing Fern tree. I’m not especially invested in this Easter egg, but I think it would have been more fitting if the snail appeared in the final scene with Shermy and Beth, waving goodbye. It’s a sweet and suitable idea that would possess the deepest lore of the snail’s immortal nature.
  • Jake and Lady flying together was nice, but it’s a bit of a shame that Lady’s “closure” is just that she kept dating Jake. Lady’s always been somewhat of the black sheep of the main characters that really doesn’t have a particular arc outside of her relationship with Jake, but I still think the staff could’ve came up with something a bit stronger. Hell, it could even be related to her connection to Jake. Have those lovebirds get married! (Every time I suggest this, some guy on the subreddit yells at me.) Even seeing Lady and Jake snuggling up in the Crystal Dimension would’ve been a nicer sentiment.
  • LSP becoming LSQ was super sweet. Even through all of her vanity, it feels genuinely rewarding to see her have a moment of triumph and receive actual respect from the other princesses of Ooo. Even Breakfast Princess, for crying out loud! I guess this is solid proof that the hierarchy of princesses only applies to Ooo, as queen seems to obviously be the highest position of royalty in Lumpy Space.
  • Haha, Ice Gunther marrying Turtle Princess was too bizarre to resist. It is funny that all Ice King had to do to claim a bride was find someone in Ooo as lonely as he is, as Turtle P is the perfect fill-in for that role. Also nice was the addition of a small, reconstructed King of Ooo in the background of their wedding. They actually managed to make the coniving shyster look adorable.
  • It was sweet to see that the reconstructed Rattleballs is finally able to hang out with other Candy Kingdom personnel in public. Though, his cameo in Jake the Brick ended up being an entire waste. I always thought that Rattleballs rebuilding his bros meant we were in store for a huge army of RBs to help seize the day in the finale. Unfortunately, it amounted to nothing. Seeing a war-starved and depressed Colonel Candy Corn was quite amusing.
  • Possibly the most obscure and easy to miss cameos during the montage is Carroll, who is back to her liquid form and content at that! I really just assumed this was a new model for a Water Nymph that the staff decided to draw up upon initial viewing. Such a thoughtful and nice addition, even including her interest of drawing elves that was mentioned in Winter Light.
  • T.V. moving into Margaret and Joshua’s old office feels a bit cheap to me. Before the series got canned, artist George Mager was commissioned to storyboard for a noir themed episode featuring T.V. in an investigative role. This was scrapped before it was finished, but it would have added a little bit more context to this moment that seems unwarranted to anyone not in-the-know. T.V.’s last appearance in Lady Rainicorn of the Crystal Dimension had him acting as selfishly as possible, and now he gets this gnarly character development out of no where? It would have been more revealing than necessary, but Finn and Jake running their parents’ old office would have been much, much more fitting than what we got.
  • Sweet P.’s graduation was nice. It would have been cool too if other known child characters were featured in the ceremony as well, such as the Pup Gang or the Marshmallow Kids.
  • Bubblegum and Lolly serenading Neddy is nice, I suppose. So, did Lolly ever bring up the fact that she tried to essentially kill her niece one day prior? We just gonna go ahead ignore that fact? Alright.
  • One of my favorite clips in the montage is Prismo’s inability to bring Betty back, only possessing the ability to whip up the waste basket that was previously seen in You Forgot Your Floaties. I like that Come Along With Me takes the time to show that not everyone receives an inherently happy ending. Despite Simon regaining consciousness, he still loses out on the one person he cares about most, continuing the codependence of their relationship by Simon dedicating his life to bringing her back.
  • Jermaine painting a new, more simplistic mural for Lemongrab was sweet, but the icing on the cake is actually see Lemongrab with a genuine smile on his face. The neurotic lemon-man has finally achieved his moment of peace.
  • I became pretty misty-eyed at BMO sending Moe’s memories into space, per his request in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. That episode in particular is one of my very favorites and has a special place in my heart, so seeing BMO fulfill his loving creator’s final wish was just splendid.
  • Flame Princess and NEPTR rapping together is just sad to me. Like, this is what Flame Princess’s character amounted to? That she’s good at rapping? Not anything relating to her elemental nature being inherently chaotic and learning to become a positive force to those around her despite it all? What would have been a fine solo NEPTR moment is weighed down by the fact that Flame Princess’s “conclusion” is inherently meaningless. What a lame climax for a character who started off with such intrigue.
  • Cyber Tiffany 2.0! I get the feeling that the staff was super bummed out that they never got to follow up with the Dr. Gross arc. I do wonder if this will somehow factor into the Distant Lands specials, considering that it is one of the major loose ends that never really was followed up on.
  • The fully grown up Jiggler is probably the funniest cameo of all. It’s the kind of absurdist return that I’d want to see from such a rarely seen character.
  • The Jiggler’s scene is followed by the equally absurd return of the Crabbit from Something Big. It’s cute (Donny is also seen in the audience) but it doesn’t really grab me and feels like a stretch for cameos that felt absolutely necessary in the sequence. It’s like, did anyone really care about the Crabbit enough for him to get his own dedicated moment in the show’s final montage? I’m harping too much on a small moment, but when you consider that other major players, such as Shelby, Cinnamon Bun, Hunson, and Flame King don’t even get a designated appearance in this montage, it feels a bit like wasted space.
  • It was super cool to see Kara and Frieda again, with a Lemonhope cameo smushed in between. Again, similar to what I said about Simon, it’s kind of interesting to see that Lemonhope seems completely lost in life in this one small appearance. His initial appearance kind of set out to prove that he really had no idea what he was doing, and his sad expression here shows that he probably still doesn’t have a clue. Poor little Lemonhope.
  • The Candy citizens clinking their glasses just frustrates me. Again, it’s kind of unfortunate that Chicle isn’t even permitted a second chance, even though his demise was Gumbald’s fault and not his own. Even Gumbald staying in Punchy’s body feels super offensive. It would have been a way nicer sentiment if Gumbald had reverted back to himself by the end of it, showing that PB did learn a lesson in empathy along the way. Something as simple as Gumbald waking up alone by Butterscotch lake, discovering a fishing pole in front of him, and choosing to solemnly relax instead of scheme while PB is seen confident in her decision from afar. Or Gumbald being locked up and PB choosing to stand by outside his cell in an attempt to connect. Anything that doesn’t paint PB out to be somewhat heartless.
  • Tree Trunks is still bangin’ aliens. Niiice.
  • Magic Man’s mission to save Margles never really ends up coming into play in Come Along With Me, and the montage sweetly shows that he’s accepted her passing on, but will always hold memories of her dearly. I especially love that this scene occurs at the verse, “I’ll be here for you always.”
  • The shot of the princesses (and Marceline) in their fashionable wardrobes is actually a reference to a the cover of Adventure Time #51 by Mia Schwartz, whose art you can check out here! Though it wasn’t included on the original cover, I think Flame Princess’s getup is my favorite. Her bangs are too cute.
  • Huntress Wizard meditating is whatever, I suppose. It’s a shame that her character only truly started developing this season, only for her inclusion to be cut short. It really wouldn’t have made sense if she had a bigger role in this finale – there was already so much going on.
  • I do like the next scene a lot, mainly because it shows that, even if Simon is back in the picture, Marcy and PB still chose to actively hangout with him and continue being his friend. It’s super sweet. Though young Pepbut is cute, I DON’T GET WHY PB LEFT HIM LIKE THIS. WHAT THE HELL, MAN? I guess the implication with both Peppermint Butler and Gumbald is that there was no cure, but like, that hasn’t been implied until up to this point. PB’s reasoning for not bringing Gumbald and friends back in Seventeen was that, “[they] were happier this way,” not that there was no known cure. I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit in terms of continuity.
  • Perhaps the sweetest sentiment of all is the closing scene, in which a now homeless Finn and Jake are greeted by the final arrival of the humans from Founders Island. The staff actively wanted to avoid “wrapping up” Finn and Jake’s characters by showing where they ended up in the far future, so instead they offer a bit of a glimmer of hope among big changes occurring in their lives. It’s a really nice note to end on for our heroes, even if the next chapter is right around the corner.

Adventure Time as a series ends exactly how it began – with two heroes standing triumphantly at the forefront, showing that even 1,000 years in the future, some things never change. The Ooo that we knew is no longer intact, but the spirit and the foundation of what it was continue on regardless.

SUPPORT ADVENTURE TIME REVIEWED

So that’s it, everyone! All 284 episodes of Adventure Time reviewed! I won’t waste my time getting sentimental here – there’s a couple more weeks of stuff I want to get out, and then the eventual release of Distant Lands, presumably around mid-summer. Here’s a quick glimpse at what’s coming the next few weeks:

  • Come Along With Me consensus.
  • Season Nine review.
  • The Best and Worst Episodes of Adventure Time.
  • Adventure Time Character Analysis.
  • Series Overview and (Kind of) Final Words.
  • Top 10 Adventure Time Moments.

There will likely be more to come from there before Distant Lands, but I do want to focus on these six above, as they’re the ones I’ve been most excited to tackle/chat about. As I mentioned above, if you’re feeling generous, feel free to send a dollar bill my way. Otherwise, stay tuned for more AT content!

Cawm 4 7.png

Favorite line: “I wrote this for my son, Jake!”

“Gumbaldia” Review

G 1.png

Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Graham Falk

After multiple viewings, I still grapple with my feelings towards Gumbaldia. As the penultimate episode to the series, it certainly builds up for what’s to come in its climax. Though, that’s exactly the issue. More obvious in retrospect than during a first viewing, Gumbaldia was clearly executed as an opportunity for the staff to have much, much more material down the line. I opine that, had the show continued from this point on, we would have certainly moved into a miniseries revolving around the Gum War and the reunion of various villains throughout Ooo. It seems like that was the obvious next move from this episode, but the sudden cancellation of the series kind of pushed the staff into a corner. They still followed up with the Gum War, but the “Candy Kingdom Haters” were sidelined almost entirely, for the respectable reason that, with all other loose ends that needed to be tied up, there just wasn’t room for them. That being said, judging Gumbaldia for what it is, rather than what it was intended to be is a difficult experience. I think a lot of the set pieces in this episode are fine, and the eerie atmosphere that encompasses its entirety really adds to the harshness of its themes, but ultimately, Gumbaldia… doesn’t really need to exist.

G 2.png

I know that’s a cryptic and almost slanderous statement. In reality, there are plenty of Adventure Time episodes that could be pointed out and described as “inconsequential.” But, with Gumbaldia, it’s clear that its purpose is to develop story elements that carry through into the next episode. In this episode, Finn laments about the inevitability of war and embarks on a last ditch effort to resolve the tensions between two parties. In the next episode, Come Along With Me, he ends up following the same exact path, only (somewhat) succeeding the second time around. Gumbald is revealed to be paranoid in this episode, dealing with the same issues of inferiority that PB suffers from. This concept is explored in much more detail in the following episode, in a way that successfully paints a picture of Gumbald’s struggles, while this episode merely plays around with the idea of such anxiety until Gumbald decides to follow through with his plans anyway. Aunt Lolly is revealed to have a possible softer side, but again, that’s retconned by the end of the episode, and only further elaborated on in Come Along With Me.

I feel as though Gumbaldia consists of a lot of half-baked ideas that end up just being repeated in the following episode (for better or worse), and while that’s not really the episode’s fault, it does feel as if it’s entirely disposable upon revisiting. One could view this as an “establishing” piece, tossing around ideas that generally get fleshed out more in subsequent entries, but when it feels as though you still get the gist of everything even without it, it’s difficult to really discover the underlying purpose of it all. The only real points of heavy development are the initiation of the Gum War (which, again, could have just as easily been established without a definitive bit of exposition) and Peppermint Butler being reverted by dum-dum juice – though I’m not really certain that counts as development.  I’d throw in Aunt Lolly too, but honestly, her character growth is so perplexing that I feel as though her role in the following episode would be equally as confusing regardless.

G 3.png

I’ve talked about this before, but this isn’t really a criticism I enjoy dishing out. I think the idea of something “not needing to exist” is such a facile jab that it’s almost quibbling. But, I think it’s important to discuss because Gumbaldia is clearly a product of its time. This was an episode produced when the staff had the mindset of continuing the series and each established storyline. The sudden closure of production put the staff in a place where they had to think most logically about what would be the most fitting conclusion to the series – not to Gumbaldia. Thus, this truly does feel like a collection of set pieces that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The ideas presented are either scrapped entirely or redistributed, making almost everything feel insignificant.

So, that large tangent aside, what do I think about the episode without the finale in mind? Well, I think it’s decent. Like I mentioned, I think it builds up the eerie atmosphere in a pretty successful way. I try to stay as far away from political discussions on this blog for two central reasons:

  1. My own naivety when it comes to world affairs. (I am a cartoon analyst after all… what did you expect?)
  2. The lack of necessity it brings to particular points.

Regardless, I do think this episode is interesting, given the time period it was released during. It was a period of time where the concept of war and international conflict was particularly stressful, and almost unavoidable. Gumbaldia came along right after that anxiety seemed to have peaked in the States, but it is intriguing to look back on Finn’s almost hopeless feelings of being trapped in a war that he doesn’t want to be apart of as sort of a display of empathy. Of course, this is clearly an episode that can be used to describe a variety of different conflicts and current affairs, and to elaborate on all of them would just be breaking my two golden rules. Especially that first one. Again, cartoon reviewer, guys. Ya can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

G 4.png

On the subject of controversy, I think there is a lot of debate on whether Finn is portrayed in a light that’s true to his character or not. After all, this is a character that has stated that he “kills things all the time.” I suppose for a lot of people, this approach to pacifism has never been a part of Finn’s character; I’ll admit, it does seem much more like a development more suited for Steven Universe than Finn Mertens. But, regardless of this, I think the decision to have Finn choose a more peaceful route over his naturally inclined instinct to punch and kick everything that opposes him is something I do respect.

My main takeaway of Finn’s realization isn’t that he decided that fighting is wrong, but that some problems simply cannot be solved by violence. I don’t even personally think this is an entirely accurate belief; I’m against violence for the most part, but I do acknowledge that there are certain situations where brute force is a necessary option to consider when reason and logic prove ineffective. I’m not so sure that Finn is even written to be entirely in the right from the episode’s perspective – after all, his chances at making peace do fail by the end of it. There’s even that brief exchange at the beginning that kind of plays off Finn’s desires for peace as innocent and not fully realized. Despite being particularly unclear of the complexities of foreign conflict, I do think he is perhaps being the most logical out of both parties involved. I mean, it’s tough to say, because the subject at hand is pretty complex and probably more difficult to dissect than it appears to be from a surface level. But as Gumbaldia presents, both PB and Gumbald are coming from standpoints of paranoia fueled defensiveness. PB fears that Gumbald’s superior technology will destroy everything that she’s ever worked with, and Gumbald fears being micromanaged and essentially left lobotomized once more. Finn is operating from the perspective of what’s best for everyone (with probably a slight bit of selfishness when it comes to not wanting to be involved in warfare) instead of internalizing a quick and potentially fatal solution that may forever dismantle Ooo as they know it.

G 5.png

Finn’s desire to make peace instead of solving issues with violence may stem from his previous encounter with Fern that permanently scarred the lad. After practically killing his alternate self, Finn was left with the idea that things didn’t have to end this way and that the two of them truly could have come to terms with their issues if Fern simply complied with talking it out. Finn tries the same approach this time as well, though to no avail. Fern is still unwilling to be reasoned with, believing that he’s apart of the same superiority complex that PB and Gumbald are competing for. Though, the episode does brilliantly explain in a visual sense that there is one thing Fern doesn’t have – a loving brother to back him up no matter what. Fern may feel the superiority of being physically enhanced through Gumbald’s experiments, though he still lacks the support system that truly helps for him to feel whole.

Once we get into the Gumbald stuff, the episode begins to feel a bit convoluted. I’m still not sure I really understand Aunt Lolly’s role. At the start of her appearance, it kind of seems like you’re supposed to sympathize with her because, unlike her hammy counterparts, she does understand the weight of her surroundings and connects with Finn for those reasons. Aunt Lolly did have the potential to make a comeback, because Gumbald was the one who ended up betraying her, not PB. But her development is made super confusing, because apparently her empathizing with Finn was an elaborate scheme the entire time. But then the following episode decides to continue with her development regardless, as if the ending of Gumbaldia never happened. So, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to get from her character. Gumbald’s scheming is equally as confusing – instead of just pretending to understand where Finn is coming from, he puts his own self in danger on the chance that Finn and Jake would absolutely come to his rescue in time. Um, isn’t this a bit insane? It’s somewhat convincing as a viewer to watch these events unfold, only for expectations to be subverted later on, but in-universe it’s a really, really stupid plan.

G 6.png

The scenes to follow are all executed decently: the dinner scene in which Finn and Jake recall the events of Jake Suit was moderately fun, albeit that Gumbald’s investment in their lives never feels very convincing. Pepbut being dum-dummed upon their trip home was a huge bummer for me, especially considering my affinity for the character. I’m also not really sure why they decided to keep his character in this state, but I’ll lament more on that in our next discussion. The closing bits are unarguably bleak, with Finn’s plans for peace failing entirely, and the inevitability of war being at hand. Though I’m disappointed in their lack of a follow-up, it was cool to see all of these classic villains once more as kind of an initial feeling of suspense that shit really was about to go down. Of course, the staff didn’t really follow through with that suspense, but again, I’m not sure I can blame them for excluding elements that would make an already cluttered finale even more jam-packed.

So, with all of that said, Gumbaldia is still an episode that perplexes me when it comes to having a definitive opinion. There’s a lot of stuff that works in the moment, but doesn’t really work when you view the whole picture. And if I’m judging it strictly standalone from the rest of the series, I’m not really sure if it fully succeeds in what it’s trying to accomplish either. It’s an episode that really banks itself on its eerie atmosphere, but if you take the time to even think about if its story elements make sense, such as Aunt Lolly and Gumbald’s plans, it sort of falls apart. It’s filled to the brim with lots of ridiculous conveniences that aren’t especially believable in any sense. I still don’t really think it’s a bad episode, as Finn’s role carries Gumbaldia through pretty successfully. But still, I think Gumbaldia is undoubtedly a product of its time. It was clearly created to be a precursor for one story, and ended up being the precursor for an entirely different tale. I think there were definite hints here and there throughout the ninth season that the AT may not have had a huge heads up before the show’s cancellation, but looking back, Gumbaldia is definitive proof that adjustments were made last minute. Not even just in the sense of the old-school AT villains making their triumphant return, but all developments regarding the Gumbald family that failed to be fleshed out entirely in the way that they so desperately needed to be. In a perfect world, Gumbaldia could have been a fine setup to a whole batch of new episodes down the line. But, as is, it’s an example of the true and few amount of time that the AT crew had left.

G 7.png

Being this far in the series is somewhat of a surreal feeling. I started this blog three years ago, joking to myself that I’d be on my death bed finishing up my review of the series finale. It’s odd to know that this journey is nearly complete, and I want to once again take a sappy moment to thank all you lovely people for supporting this blog, even as its gotten more inconsistent in its releases. Even if I’m not directly responding to everything I am sent on this blog, Reddit, and elsewhere, I cannot begin to express the joy I get from reading all of your interesting takes on individual episodes. It’s certainly bittersweet to begin entering the “wrap-up” phase, but I can ensure you all that there will be plenty of content to hold you over for the next few months. I do plan on shifting my attention onto bigger projects into the next year that have nothing to do with Adventure Time, but for now, I look forward to sharing a lot of my final hot takes on the series as a whole.

Instead of jumping into the finale next week, I’ll be taking on Diamonds & Lemons first, just because it would feel anti-climatic to finish off this episode review series with a Minecraft homage. In two weeks, I’ll be starting with the Come Along With Me reviews. My pals on the Reddit advised that it would be interesting to tackle this episode by separating it into parts and then analyzing it as a whole, similar to what I typically do with the miniseries. How I’ll execute this, I’m still unsure. I’ll probably release the first two parts in the same day, and the remaining two parts the following week. It honestly all depends on how much I have to say and  how much time I have in my schedule. Regardless, you can expect my opinions on the finale quite shortly, and thank you all once again for your continued support!

Favorite line: “You thought you had beaten me? Me?! Cool sword.”

“Marcy & Hunson” Review

M & H 1.png

Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Adam Muto

Alrighty guys, let me take a quick moment to break down all of the Hunson Abadeer centric episodes for you consideration:

  • It Came From the Nightosphere – Hunson Abadeer’s introduction. Marceline resents him for being a shitty guy, but comes to terms with him by the end of it when he shows that he does care.
  • Daddy’s Little Monster – Hunson controls Marceline to be more in his image, but Marceline breaks free and continues to resent him. She comes to terms with him by the end of it, however, when he shows that he does care.
  • Marcy & Hunson – Hunson returns to Ooo to visit a less-than-excited Marceline, who still resents him. However, she comes to terms with him by the end of it when he shows that he does care.

… Does… does any of this sound familiar? I get the whole point of Hunson’s character is essentially that he is a shitty person who’s trying to maintain a relationship with his morally conscious daughter, but I’m kind of just amazed at the fact that, on his third episode, after years and years of being absent, nothing new was done with his character. And this isn’t a knock at the past entries that focused on Hunson’s neglect – It Came From the Nightosphere is a largely groundbreaking entry that introduced a lot of the modern day storytelling that made Adventure Time such a success and Daddy’s Little Monster was a successful follow-up to Hunson’s battle between being intrinsically evil and just a half-decent dad. Marcy & Hunson is a reiteration of both of these stories without adding anything new, and in fact, removing a lot of what made Hunson unique in the first place.

M & H 2.png

I do like the opening of this episode, primarily due to Peppermint Butler’s sweet inclusion. Though I find it somewhat odd – I guess I always pictured Peppermint Butler and Hunson as tight friends, but it’s treated as if PepBut more or less is just an acquaintance somehow. I’m not really sure I get a strong understanding of their connection either way. I always enjoy how fully committed and controlled Peppermint Butler is in terms of his experimenting with the dark arts. His fascination and involvement with anything less kosher almost never impedes on his ultimate good-natured self and loyalty. I’m not even lying when I say that the show has really built him up to be one of the most complex they’ve ever churned out. I know he’s primarily a side character, but I really love how arguably one of the darkest characters in the series is also one of the most genuine and caring towards our main cast. In this opening scene, we’re also introduced to Finn’s newest sword, the Nightmare Sword, which never really gets a chance to shine as the series draws closer to an ending. We also get to see Finn so shocked with Hunson Abadeer’s return, that he regenerates his right arm for a quick second! I guess being shocking and growing back an arm is potentially better than being horny and growing back an arm.

Following Gumbald’s big reveal back in Seventeen, this episode features a major role for Chicle. Chicle is probably the least “important” of the Bubblegum family, but he is probably the most entertaining, sporting some decent one-liners here and there. Though, I ultimately don’t really think his presence is particularly necessary in this episode. The events that go down probably could have still occurred even without his inclusion. And even then, he kind of just stirs the pot instead of actually seeming like a threat. Sure, he encourages the ghosts to go after Marceline and Hunson, but were they actually going to straight up kill them? Doubtful. Then he throws a peanut at Peppermint Butler, which has way more of an effect on Pepbut than it logically should. Overall though, Chicle’s goofiness tops the overly hammy repertoire of Gumbald and the perplexing nature of Aunt Lolly.

M & H 3.png

I think it says something about the quality of Marcy & Hunson when Hunson is kind of the worst part of it. I’d even argue that his character is relatively butchered in this entry. What made Hunson so great in It Came From the Nightosphere and, to a lesser extent, Daddy’s Little Monster is that he was genuinely intimidating. He was animated humorously and had his campier moments, but he could and would snap in an instance into a cold-blooded demon. Here, he’s just a big fuckin’ goofball that likes to get up in Marceline’s business and blatantly disregards her own well-being. The whole bit where he decides he’s going to sleep in Marceline’s bed and that she can take the air mattress is a total Martin move. This entire episode feels like Graham Falk and Adam Muto want to be writing for Martin, but are writing for Hunson instead. In his first three featured episodes, and even in the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, you get the idea that Hunson is this really dignified and classy dude, and that there’s a reason he’s head honcho in the Nightosphere. Marcy & Hunson throws all of that out the window and just chooses the easier option of making him as pathetic as possible.

But hey, if you didn’t come for the connection between Hunson and Marceline, that’s okay, because there’s a shit-ton of Bubbline moments to hold you over!!! Marceline wearing Bubblegum’s sweater from Stakes?? Finn not knowing how to answer Hunson’s question about whether Marceline is in a relationship?? Marceline singing a song called Slow Dance With You with Hyden Walch providing the background vocals?? OH MAN, THIS IS WHAT WE CAME FOR, FOLKS!

M & H 4.png

In actuality, these moments are fine and I don’t want to sound pessimistic about a relationship that clearly means a lot to a mass of people who watch Adventure Time. BUT, it really does bum me out how Bubbline has practically become the only draw for Marceline’s character at this point. From Stakes onward, there isn’t a single episode focusing on Marceline that doesn’t somehow shoehorn in her relationship with Bubblegum for the sake of fanservice. And I’m not saying that these moments are necessarily poorly done, but Marcy just feels so hollow and reliant on other characters that I feel like I barely know who she is anymore. She used to be this really cool, fun character, but now she feels like a puppet being used solely for the purpose of giving fans what they want. Which is fine, but not when those moments completely overshadow everything else in the episode. I mean, does anyone actually talk about the connection between Marceline and her father in Marcy & Hunson? No! The only time I ever hear people discussing this episode is regarding Slow Dance With You which, I’m gonna be honest, is not very good. Of course, this all comes down to personal taste, but I think people are way more into the implication and meaning behind the tune than they are the actual rhythm and performance.

Probably gonna get a lot of flack for that rant, and if I’m being honest, the attention these Bubbline moments received is likely just because there’s very little of substance in Marcy & Hunson to begin with. Going back to my original point, this episode concludes with the same way literally every Hunson episode has – that Hunson is a shitty dude, but he cares about his daughter. I know the staff had probably no clue that the show was going to be canned before this episode, but you would think after so many years, with so much time having passed that they would consider taking a different direction with this character that probably would never appear again anyway.

M & H 5.png

Is there anything good about Marcy & Hunson? A few moments come to mind, mainly when it comes to humor. The flashback sequence featuring Hunson’s introduction to Marceline got a big laugh out of me, and both Jake and Chicle have their fair share of funny lines. The return of the Spirit Waves stage from Ghost Princess is a welcomed treat, and I dig the spooky atmosphere overall. But, Marcy & Hunson is mostly a flop. It’s sad, because I think the pieces are all there that would make for a great episode. Hunson wanting to be a good father, but struggling with his intrinsic desire to unleash evil, is something that the series never tackled head on, and could make for both a funny a intriguing entry. However, we’re left with a relatively lazy alternative that doesn’t offer anything new or interesting in one of AT‘s longest running story arcs.

Favorite line: “I have a nice laugh.”

“Always BMO Closing” Review

ABC 1.png

Usually not a fan of referential AT titles to begin with, but this one feels especially lazy to me.

Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Graham Falk

I’ve mentioned this plenty of times on the blog, but Season Nine’s quality is certainly divisive among the fandom. I’ve seen a lot of people defend it for being more serialized and focused on an ongoing story than the previous seasons have been. There’s really no denying this fact: Adventure Time is way more committed to a story arc in its ninth season than it ever has been before. Though, I can’t really say if that’s a good thing or not. Consistent “plot” centric episodes are something that fans have been wanting from the series as early as Season Four, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in that same boat as well. But, as time went on, I really got less focused on wanting a consistent storyline from Adventure Time and just simply wanted to focus on its individual attempts at storytelling, in addition to whether they succeeded or not. After all, a good amount of my favorite episodes are “filler”; Time SandwichLittle BrotherThe EyesJake the Brick – all excellent examples of storytelling at its finest, along with great scripts. The reason I bring this up is because I feel as if an ongoing story somewhat squanders Adventure Time‘s ability to tell really great individual tales. Always BMO Closing starts out as a silly BMO and Ice King adventure, but ends up devolving into an opportunity to continue Uncle Gumbald’s arc. It’s usually kind of cool when Adventure Time‘s “filler” episodes end up being surprisingly important, but this is one example that just kind of feels like the staff didn’t have enough confidence in the original premise to fully flesh it and let it stand alone. And to be fair, they were kind of right. It’s a middling entry that isn’t really remembered for its wacky premise, but instead for the brief instances Gumbald does have a role, without actually furthering the story a ton. Feels like a bit of a cheater entry, with that in mind.

ABC 2.png

BMO and Ice King’s story just isn’t that fun. Outside of the seemingly ridiculous (yet sweet) premise, there isn’t a ton that’s done with this idea that makes for a humorous episode. I know I mentioned how sweet Ice King and BMO’s connection was in President Porpoise is Missing!, but it doesn’t quite offer a ton of substance here. Ice King is usually great when working off of characters that are his opposite, such as Finn, Jake, or Princess Bubblegum, but the childlike nature of both BMO and Ice King doesn’t really allow for him to have many funny moments when BMO is almost always on board with his antics. Granted, there are subtle moments of IK’s growth that I do get behind; I love that Ice King knows that selling Finn’s baby teeth is clearly a breach of privacy, which is amazing when you realize who we’re talking about. I similarly like how Finn and Jake are much more open to the idea of Ice King casually hanging out with BMO, especially Jake! This is probably the most definitive moment in the series where Jake finally accepts Ice King for who he is, and it’s great. On BMO’s side of things, I don’t really think he provides for many funny moments. Aside from his general lack of knowledge when it comes to how people actually talk (“can you believe this weather?” “how are your children?”) his adventures aren’t nearly as funny as they would seem on paper. I think the comedy just kind of falls flat – they approach Tree Trunks with a very bullshit offer and she happily acquiesces nonetheless. It obviously plays into Tree Trunks’ character, but the conflict within this story is so nonexistent that there aren’t many comedic opportunities to come from it.

Once we get to the Uncle Gumbald stuff, I’ll admit, it’s not half bad. Gumbald’s absolute hamminess as a villain is usually what bumps his character down a notch, but I think he’s kind of well-portrayed here. His foreboding nature is played off really well, especially his introduction where he just silently prepares to smash BMO’s head in with an axe. Fred Melamed also does a great job at carrying out some of the more hushed aspects of Gumbald’s dialogue, though I do feel like his motivations of harming Finn before Princess Bubblegum are… odd to say the least. Finn being built up as the sole savior of PB is something that really doesn’t hold a lot of weight anymore in the series. Maybe if this aspect was executed in Season Two, I would understand it more, but PB kind of has her shit together when it comes to her own protection at this point. In fact, this element doesn’t really play ANY part when this story culminates. Gumbald still plans to destroy the Candy Kingdom even with Finn in the picture. Also, I still have a bit of a problem with BMO selling Finn’s baby teeth. I don’t think it’s an action that’s out of character for BMO, but the episode plays it off way too sadly in how Finn reacts to everything that it just makes me feel sorry for Finn and mad at BMO. It’s kind of similar to another BMO episode, BMO Lost. Jake pops Bubble, which was totally not intended to be mean on Jake’s part, but the way BMO reacts just makes me super pissed at Jake. It’s all about how said emotions are executed. If Finn was just weirded out by BMO snooping into his personal belongings, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But because Finn’s response is so damned somber, I can’t help but be a little miffed.

ABC 3.png

In general, Finn and Jake have some pretty solid individual moments, per usual: their warming up to Ice King, the way they encourage BMO’s imagination, Jake’s sympathy for Finn after he discovers his lost baby teeth, and their brief moments having breakfast together at the beginning. Though, the breakfast scene was slightly distracting because it reminded me of the similar, and much funnier, library scene from The Real You. The baby Finn teeth creatures provide for humorous absurdity at first, but when it gets down to it, the entire scene is kind of just awkward. The teeth show up, hurt Finn, and then are destroyed a minute later after BMO pulls out hammers from his trench coat that were never even referenced earlier on. As I mentioned, this is a pretty weak conflict that’s carried out by a seemingly even weaker conclusion. Aside from Gumbald’s chalice that later becomes important, I feel as though this episode didn’t actually further much in the story, making Gumbald’s appearance feel shoehorned at the end of the day.

Always BMO Closing is considerably weak. It doesn’t have enough confidence in its A plot that it chooses to focus more on overarching story elements that don’t really even amount to anything. Thus, both stories end up suffering as a result. This episode has its fair share of redeeming qualities, namely Ice King’s development, Gumbald’s portrayal, the cool exploration of his ziggurat, and some of Graham Falk’s drawings are particularly funny. There’s also some neat bits of foreshadowing, like Crunchy’s “Missing” poster outside of Tree Trunks house, or the missing bombs within the field that Finn and Fern explored (which, again, doesn’t really amount to anything). Regardless, Always BMO Closing is an experiment that never feels like it knows what it wants to be. Though, as the next episode will show, some entries can be entirely bad even when they know what they want to be. Woof.

ABC 4.png

Favorite line: “Until tomorrow.” “Yeah, you’re not doing this tomorrow.”

“Abstract” Review

abstract 6

Original Airdate: July 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Laura Knetzger

From a cast of emotionally-fueled characters, Jake is certainly an outsider on Adventure Time. We’ve seen him time and time again ignore significant changes in his life and as he attempts to treat drastic shifts as if they are easily manageable and barely noticeable. This has always been a consistent trait of Jake’s character, even in the earlier seasons and more comedic centered episodes. Trouble in Lumpy Space features Jake largely downplaying a potentially crucial life change, while Chips & Ice Cream has him ignoring a physical change almost completely. On the surface, it looks like Jake is accepting change exceptionally well, though it’s clearly more so the denial that any change has occurred to begin with. Abstract exaggerates said denial to extreme lengths in the best way possible. As we witnessed recently in Cloudy, Jake struggles to be open about his fears and inner conflict, and Abstract takes it a bit further by showing his resistance to any form of transition around him, good or bad. It isn’t necessarily change itself that Jake fears, however. Over the course of the show, we’ve seen Jake go through several transitions, namely becoming a father. He’s always found comfort in the fact that those around him, including his brother and loved ones, have looked at him as the same person he was before. Now, with changes noticeably happening around him, Jake is terrified that such changes may result in a total change of his character, and his life.

ABSTRACT 1

Jake’s denial of such changes really shine through in the first few minutes, and it’s really interesting to see how each character acts in response to his new form. BMO is a child at heart, and is understandably the least accepting to such changes. We’ve already seen in The More You Moe, the Moe You Know that BMO perceives change as something Earth shattering, rather than a natural part of life, so it’s no wonder that he’s so opposed to such jarring shift. Finn is a bit more open to the new alien-like Jake, though not by much. He struggles to even look his brother in the face and bats around the topic rather tackling it head on, which is similarly understandable. Jake gets defensive after Finn only brings up the obvious, thus Finn tries to be as supportive as he possibly can, while still being the slightest bit freaked out by his brother’s transformation.

On the even more supportive side, I love how kind and caring Lady is toward her S.O. She never passes judgment against him and shoots the dirtiest of looks towards Dirt Beer Guy (in his final appearance) for invalidating her boyfriend. It just goes to show how sweet she really is, having Jake’s back no matter what he looks like or does, as long as he is content with himself. This is practically one of Lady’s only standout roles in season eight, and I’m glad we do get an opportunity to revisit the kind-natured character every so often. I also love the subtlety in her moments with Jake… as she says she loves Jake, he responds with, “I love me too!” referencing his desire to stay the same forever.

Things quickly go astray when Jake begins experiencing strange shared dreams with Jermaine, which aren’t as prophetic or metaphorical as most AT dream sequences go, but are just as bizarre. Something that is immediately noticeable within this episode is that the backgrounds standout more than usual, and that is a result of former AT artist ghostshrimp returning to the team! Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great background artists following his departure, but I don’t think anyone has quite matched ghostshrimp’s legacy since. The amount of detail he puts into every single aspect of the screen is incredible; when I think of AT backgrounds in general, I think of soaking in every individual piece that I can analyze for further implications. Ghostshrimp gets this better than anyone, and really puts his all into making scenery look as bizarre and unique as possible. And what better way to do that than with an episode entitled Abstract?

ABSTRACT 2

The episode title, of course, also connects to a more literal meaning. Jake perceives Jermaine’s painting of abstract portraits as out of character and concludes that something must be wrong with him, which quite clearly connects to Jake’s mindset that if he chooses to change, it may lead to dire consequences for himself. Finn helping out Jake is sweet and brings up an adorably childish side of his character, in which he draws out his weird dreams using crayons. I’d love to see what he whipped up based on his dream experiences in Frost & Fire. It’s also funny to note that Finn continues to avoid making eye contact with Jake during this experience, likely because it’s frankly strange to view his brother, of whom he’s known since birth, as a five-eyed, blue, alien-like creature. The crayon therapy proves to be ineffective for Jake, as he acknowledges that changing isn’t in Jermaine’s “nature.” This similarly applies to Jake’s thought process about his own being; in Cloudy, Jake mentions that being the responsible caregiver means that he isn’t supposed to talk about his stress and anxieties to Finn. Thus, he also believes that Jermaine isn’t supposed to express himself through abstract art because it doesn’t represent the Jermaine that he once knew. Jake also dismisses the abstract art that he draws himself, calling it out as “just squiggles.” Abstract art later becomes a metaphor for personal change, to which the previous moment adds to, as Jake views change as something insignificant.

Though, through his soul-searching, Jake does decide to set out to find Jermaine (equipped with his blue pack! With all of the disappearing props throughout AT‘s eight years on air, I’m glad that Jake’s trademark backpack has still remained a consistent element). During his travels, he runs into James, a character of whom I’m not very fond of, but I was still happy to see. He even gets a few laughs out of me this time around – I typically never found James’ “WHA?” catchphrase to be particularly funny, but there’s something about him using it a third time around that gets a kick out of me. I can’t really explain why, humor’s just weird like that. I will say that I think the middle section of the episode is a bit weak. A lot of it feels like it’s just plodding until Jake finally reaches Jermaine. I didn’t find the wall of water that funny, nor did I with Bryce, whose interactions with Jake felt particularly purposeless. It’s even more distracting that Bryce’s voice actor, Jon Wurster, also portrays the wall of water, who appears directly before Bryce. Wurster’s voice really isn’t that difficult to identify.

ABSTRACT 3

It’s very nice to see Jermaine again, who seems noticeably happier. I dug the stick-in-the-mud Jermaine we saw in his debut episode, but seeing him much more relaxed and compassionate towards Jake is just as rewarding. Though he is compassionate, he doesn’t bullshit, and he’s probably the only one to be so straightforward to Jake thus far. He says it like it is – Jake has changed and despite his denial and ignorance to it, he can’t remain stagnant. His personal changes come from several different factors: 1. He’s more open and honest about his emotions, as Cloudy proved. 2. He’s getting older and wiser, and even more mature as a result, but also retains his sense of fun and loving nature despite everything. With all of these changes at hand, Jake does worry that he’ll no longer be able to be the fun-loving guy that he once was, but Jermaine reassures him that he can still remain the same person while changing regardless. Jermaine’s interactions with his bro are irresistibly sweet, especially with lines like, “He [Joshua] told me to be supportive, but I would’ve done that anyway.” Jermaine painted a picture of a jealous person who resented his brother for all that he doesn’t have, but Abstract proves how much Jermaine truly loves his brother despite their differences.

In an effort to understand his brother’s artwork, Jake examines Jermaine’s paintings in a trippy, peaceful sequence.

“The shapes are always changing. Changing is their normal state, like us. Even if we’re not changing on the outside, we’re changing on the inside constantly. There’s some stuff about me that I’ve been ignoring for a long time. I’m afraid of that stuff. But it’s part of who I am. As long as I know the shape of my soul, I’ll be all right.”

ABSTRACT 4

Change is a core theme of Adventure Time, and this is yet another beautiful sentiment. It’s a reminder that, whether you like it or not, change will happen and is ALWAYS happening. Despite all of it, however, one’s soul and values do not change. Learning to trust one’s self is much more vital than trusting the finite structure of the ever-changing world, and Jake recognizes that. His ability to acknowledge that, whatever changes do happen, he’ll still be the same Jake that he recognizes to be good. This is another one of those Adventure Time moments that is pretty divisive among the fanbase. This is an example of AT kind of batting around the status quo to ensure that everything remains familiar. I’ve mentioned before that I was mixed with Finn’s arm coming back in Breezy; on the one hand (no pun intended), it was an incredibly dumb decision to return his arm to normal only episodes after he had lost it, while on the other hand, it still really worked with the theme that the episode set to accomplish, and I feel the same here. Jake’s appearance changes only after he discovers that his entire soul doesn’t have to change even if he does, which visually leaves us with the yellow stretchy dog that we’ve come to love. I’ll even say that I don’t think it was a dumb decision to bring back yellow Jake at all – the shapeshifter design is a bit… wonky. It’s fine for what they set out to accomplish within this episode, but I don’t really think I’d want Jake to look like this for the rest of the series. I think when fans complain about this type of situation, it helps to wonder if they truly want the change in the first place, or if they just don’t want any type of change to be retconned. The latter’s understandable, but I really do question the former. Jake returns home and finally recognizes that he’s returned to normal, knowing that he’s changed, but is still the same on the inside. Everything stays, mothafuckas!

Abstract is a pretty solid entry. It has it weaker and more controversial moments, but at its core, it’s a solid developmental episode for both Jake and Jermaine. After so much mystery and ambiguity about Jake’s character, season eight has really done a great job of showing us subtle glimpses into Jake’s psyche. It isn’t much, but then again, Jake’s baggage isn’t really his strong point to begin with. He’s a fun, comical, and loving character, and as Abstract has shown, its a title he chooses to defend and represent above everything.

Also, fun fact: all of the abstract paintings in the episode were created by Laura Knetzger, who co-boarded this episode. This is Knetzger’s last episode working on the show. Thanks for the fun, Laura!

ABSTRACT 5

Favorite line: “Funny, though, I can kind of taste the toast’s emotions or something.”

“Cloudy” Review

C 1

Original Airdate: April 25, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Graham Falk

I sometimes question myself about why Adventure Time is my all-time favorite series at the moment. I could name a couple of reasons off of the top of my head, but I think the simplest reason that has always kept me coming back no matter what is the earnestness of Finn and Jake’s relationship. Even the best of friendships in animation (and television in general) can often feel so tacked on or situational. Most shows feature friendships that are highly interchangeable given the conflict of the episode; characters like SpongeBob and Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants or Stan and Kyle from South Park can be as close as possible in one episode and be at each other’s necks in the next. Other cartoons often rely heavily on the “opposites attracting” formula by creating relationships that feel potentially phony or heartless (Regular ShowFoster’s HomeRick & Morty). This isn’t a personal attack on any of these dynamics or programs, as a handful of them succeed specifically because of the uniqueness of each relationship. However, it’s refreshingly revolutionary that Adventure Time has crafted a friendship so genuine and undoubting. Finn and Jake might be the least cynical best friends I’ve ever witnessed. That’s not to say that they don’t have their differences, but it’s their deep understanding and acceptance of those differences that makes them so lovable. Cloudy is a way to explore those obstacles in their relationship while reinforcing how it strengthens their bond as a whole. It’s an episode that former creative director Patrick McHale initially came up with seven years earlier during the first season, where Finn and Jake would “get stuck up in the sky and just talk for the whole episode; relationships, Finn’s past, Jake’s dog side, where their lives will lead, singing songs, etc.” Elements finally allows for that story to see the light of day, and it makes for one of the most delightful viewing experiences I’ve ever had with Adventure Time.

C 2

As a result of their restless adventuring, Finn is understandably wired. The little guy wants to do anything and everything he can to support his friends in the process of saving Ooo, likely as a result of a deeper feeling of guilt that he has been experiencing since he returned home. His efforts to help are admirable even if they are slightly obnoxious… I can’t help but feel so sorry for the little guy as he tries his hardest to be as generous as possible when explaining the science of page turning to Betty. Betty, in general, has a lot of really great comedic moments within this episode, courtesy of Felicia Day actually putting effort into her performance. Finn’s curiosity about graduate school was similarly hilarious, and you can’t really blame the kid for thinking about what’s on all of our minds. Jake, like the good big brother he is, identifies Finn’s need for unwinding, and carefully handles the situation. It’s adorably sweet that Jake putting Finn to bed is accompanied by the tune of their mother’s music box. It’s a terrific symbolic piece regarding how the positions within the dog family have changed; Margaret was, of course, the primary caretaker of the family, but now Jake has circumstantially taken over in ensuring his brother’s uttermost safety and peace of mind. I love how motherly Jake is in his actions, as he doesn’t even ask Finn if he needs to rest, he just knows that he does and sweetly aides his comfort.

Pat McHale was credited as a story editor for Cloudy, but I’m somewhat surprised that he wasn’t acknowledged as a straight up storyboard artist. The first few minutes of Finn and Jake being lost are nearly completely identical to McHale’s initial notes and boards for the planned season one episode. Though a lot has changed over the years, it’s amazing to me how well these moments work seven years later. While Finn and Jake have gone through many personal transitions, one aspect remains unchanged: the silliness and love for fun that the two so passionately bond over. The gliding is sweet fun even if it entirely contradicts Finn’s valid point of “No planes! Never planes!” in Normal Man. Even the pee joke, which could commonly be seen as a lazy attempt at potty humor, is just so charmingly silly. I love how an impatient Finn still respects Jake’s privacy enough to allow him to do his business even in their time crunch. Though, as that patience quickly resurfaces, Jake realizes he needs to dig deeper into his caretaker role. Finn has been mostly independent throughout the past few years, dealing with issues that Jake personally does not understand. Jake has always been there for proper comfort, but over the past few weeks, he’s experienced Finn’s stressors head-on, and see’s it as an opportunity to allow the lad to learn the importance of self-care. And nothing says self-care like a haircut!

C 3

The haircut therapy is great; not only do I love the implication that Jake used to cut his brother’s hair as a child, but that it also allowed a younger Finn to let his feelings and emotions out in a calm and relaxed environment. The barber banter is too likable, and the best part is that it actually does work. Finn’s melancholy over his departure is deeply sympathetic. We’ve been shown on several occasions now just how hard Finn can be on himself in episodes like Don’t Look and Do No Harm, and this is another example of Finn weaving a narrative that simply does not exist. It’s a strongly profound statement for Finn to wonder if he purposely wanted Fern to fail in appointing him as Ooo’s protector, but that clearly is not true. Finn deserved to be selfish in choosing to visit Founder’s Island, as it gave him a better understanding of himself and his past history. Yet, it’s easy to see how he could believe that he’s ultimately at fault for what happened, even if it’s clear that one person could not have prevented an entire environmental shift. The haircut therapy allows for Finn to get these feelings out in the open, but ultimately doesn’t prevent himself from feeling any less responsible for fixing Ooo’s current state. His resistance to allowing himself to relax is ultimately what breaks Jake, in another role reversal that allows for Finn to take care of his brother for once.

Never have we gotten a moment where Jake is as open as he is in Cloudy, and it’s awesome and perfectly fitting for his character. It’s easy to look upon Jake as non-caring because of his upbeat and lax personality, but it’s these traits in particular that prove just how caring and responsible he is. In nearly all of his relationships, Jake feels responsible for being the one to keep things light and positive so that others are not negatively affected by his own or their own anxieties. It’s once more very easy to look at him from a parental role, as he feels that he needs to be this way, instead of wanting to be this way. It makes me really admire past episodes like Dungeon Train, where we have those smaller moments of Jake pondering his own life that really put into perspective how much he gives and puts other people before himself, namely Finn.

C 4

It’s also just incredibly sad to wonder how many and which worries Jake keeps hidden completely. It’s easy to see how these feelings could reflect his own insecurities as a father, again, making an episode like Ocarina more understandable from Jake’s perspective. Jake isn’t dumb – he probably knows that Kim Kil Whan resented him for his lack of knowledge on parental abilities, but didn’t want to fully confront that fact and keep things light and amiable between the two. This episode proves, without a doubt, that Jake is much better at parenting than one could ever guess. Through caring for Finn, Jake has taken on a position of responsibility that he himself may not even recognize, and it’s incredibly sweet to see just how much he loves Finn and cares for his own well-being. What this episode also cleverly explores is how, at a certain point, caretakers need care too. It’s obvious that Finn deeply cares for his brother, but Jake’s revelation opened up a side of him that was completely foreign to Finn. Finn’s new understanding is represented beautifully through the reversal haircut therapy, which shows that he can take on his brother’s role quite nicely. If all of this wasn’t precious enough, the two reenact the intro as Jake climbs up Finn’s body to properly pay him for his haircut. This episode could essentially be named “Finn & Jake” for how perfectly it embodies the heart of their friendship.

Even the song, which isn’t technically a good song, is just so likable and charming that I couldn’t help but have a dumb smile on my face throughout its entirety. Rewatching it almost brings me to tears! With Adventure Time‘s finale being six months old by now, Cloudy really has me longing for the simplistic loveliness of Finn and Jake’s bond. Their song is so irresistibly sweet and likable that I don’t even mind that it doesn’t match the lyrical genius of some of AT‘s past entries. This is another one of those episodes where nearly every line of dialogue is perfect in its subtleties. Jake’s line of “it happens sooner than you think,” when Finn mentions being 35 is so utterly poignant. It’s a brief tie-in to Jake’s rapid aging, but also a great allusion to how a life of peace and positivity can often move so fast beyond our control. It’s even a bit of a sweet sentiment for viewers of the series as well. I started Adventure Time as a young, energetic 12-year-old, and now I’m here writing about as a 21-year-old with so, so much that has happened in between. My balls hadn’t even dropped yet when I started! Life moves fast, y’all! And, just for a random bit of appraisal, I love Jake’s impression of stereotypical Italian man. It’s such an out of nowhere gag that just works wonderfully.

C 5

The climax of the episode is a ton of fun; I love how, even after we’re shown how loving the brothers are, they still get to engage in some likable and light banter, particularly with Finn’s jabs at Jake being smelly. The Cloud Lard was a nice edition to the ongoing lard species, and they add plenty of AT‘s bizarreness to his character, like his eventual ability to speak. While returning back, F&J seek comfort in the fact that, despite everything that has happened, they still have a chance to fix things. It’s a beautiful conclusive piece to their struggles, as they expressed them, learned to accept them, and now work to fix them. Ice King gets a small role in the episode, but it’s pretty fun and delightful at that. I love how Tom Kenny’s inflections can give Ice King the most random instances of humanity, like his small “ew” when the angler lard attempts to eat him. And of course, the haircut line was just the kind of hilariously corny joke to wrap up such an endearing episode.

Cloudy‘s brilliant. Not only does it carry across an atmosphere of what makes the series so lovable in the first place, but it’s one big love letter to the heart and soul of Adventure Time in general. This is an episode I’ve wanted to see since I first read about it in The Art of Ooo, and it did not disappoint. If I had to criticize any aspect of this episode, it’d probably be a technical aspect: I thought Jake’s facial expressions while blowing up could’ve been stronger. Graham Falk is usually great with silly and cartoony expressions, but dramatic faces are certainly not his forte. Otherwise, Cloudy is nearly perfect. While Elements is great in general, it’s most surprising that it’s greatest entry is almost entirely self-contained. It really shows how strong any episode can be when it puts our two lovable heroes at the forefront.

C 6

Favorite line: “Talcum?” “Enough calm!”

“The Light Cloud” Review

TLC 1

Original Airdate: February 2, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald, Graham Falk & Adam Muto

The Light Cloud certainly isn’t the weakest of the Islands bunch, but I think it comes the closest to being problematic. Many fans have previously brought up that they thought Islands was way too rushed, which allegedly shows most predominantly in the last two episodes. I have been pretty satisfied with Islands up to this point, and even in its most “pointless” entries (i.e. Whipple and Imaginary Resources) it still offered rich emotional moments and great character interactions. For the most part, The Light Cloud is the same. It gives us a mostly satisfying conclusion with some really great character interactions between Finn and his mother, Susan and Frieda, and the other AT players. What it suffers from, however, is a somewhat rushed and mildly sloppy conflict revolving around the idea of safety vs. exploration.

TLC 2

Adventure Time usually paints debates in a pretty even way, such as magic vs. science in Wizards Only, Fools or war vs. peace in The Cooler, but I feel like we really haven’t gotten a chance to see a fair angle from the point of view of the humans throughout this miniseries. Through the conclusion of this episode, the humans of Founder’s Island are essentially shown to be naive and undaring in their approach to life, which I think is actually kind of unfair. I personally agree with what Finn has to say about living life through experiencing both pain and happiness, but I think it’s undermining the real possibilities that there are when it comes to the potential dangers that humans could experience once arriving in Ooo. Ooo isn’t exactly the safest place for anyone to live, and the humans themselves don’t really have the benefit of being made of candy to where they can be easily rebuilt. The truth of the matter is that there are real dangers that the humans could run into, considering that they’re nearly extinct to begin with and a large aspect of that has to do with the mutagenic creatures that surrounded them. But I think this real, likely consequence is glanced over in attempt to simply show us how unreasonable Minerva and the other humans are being in their attempts to latch onto the Island.

Minerva is a character that I wish was a lot smarter in her approach to trying to “help” others. I think she has somewhat of a strong point as to why she doesn’t want anyone to leave the island; she lost her son long ago, and the people she cares for have easily become her family over time and she doesn’t want the same to befall them. Despite this, there isn’t really an emotional core to her actions and I feel like she’s dumbed down a tad bit. The episode jokes around with the fact that the Guardian causes more damage than good, and if the writers and characters themselves realize the irony in the Guardian’s creation, then how does the deeply intelligent Minerva not recognize this factor as well? My only excuse for this is that Minnie herself may not all be there… again, it’s been established that Minerva’s experience in uploading her brain map may have left her more robotic than she’d like to admit. In general, I don’t think her actions are necessarily unlikable; as the sole helper on Founder’s Island, she feels that it’s her civic duty to protect the people she has sought out to care for. I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of her common sense.

TLC 3

In addition, I previously agreed with Finn’s sentiment about allowing fear and danger into one’s life, but I’m not really sure it’s his place to decide what’s best for the people of Founder’s Island. He’s one human, raised among Ooo natives, and can’t really speak what’s best for an entire species. Like I said, I feel as though there are unmentioned dangers that clearly should be addressed, but I think the episode is so caught up with its moral that it doesn’t really want to deal with the other side of things. This, out of any episode in the miniseries, probably would’ve benefited from a second part. I just would have really liked to see this conflict fleshed out from both sides to where it felt as if Minerva and the other humans have a legitimate reason for wanting to stay grounded. What the episode is trying to say is “overprotective is counterproductive” but it ends up feeling more like “safety is meaningless” for me, personally.

With all of that aside, most of this episode is enjoyable for what it wanted to do. Though I feel like Finn’s preaching was a little more pushy than I would’ve liked for it to be, I do think it’s a really nice example of his growth overtime. He no longer desires a life where he is constantly in comfort from the bad things that haunt him. Instead, he’s more into the idea of having those problems and working through them with everything that he’s learned and everything that he enjoys doing. I especially love his inclusion of the fact that not only is life good or bad from time to time, but boring as well. It’s just really refreshing to hear life being explained as “boring” for once instead of limiting it to one big, exciting journey. Like Finn said, life is never just one thing. Most of the episode feels like one big love letter to Finn’s adventures in Ooo in general. We’re first treated to a series of flashbacks that help to emphasize the darkness within Finn’s homeland, followed by a sequence that brings light to how Finn manages to get through those darker times by helping and assisting others. I also adore the description of “kingdoms made of candy, beautiful dragons, fire-breathing princesses, incredibly sad wizards.” That could absolutely be on a postcard for Ooo. While I thought Minerva’s actions were a bit hasty at times, I do appreciate how much fun she is in this episode. She isn’t unlikable or harsh in her actions, as she remains upbeat and quirky throughout the entire experience which makes it much more tolerable in the long run. Finn and his mother’s dynamic is quite sweet, despite Finn’s initial objections. I think it is kind of cool to see how defiant Finn is towards his mother. Had this been a couple years earlier, I would bet that Finn would most certainly sacrifice his humanity for Martin. Now, feeling much more confident in who he is and what he wants from life, he isn’t going to listen to just anyone, even if they are his parent.

TLC 4

Frieda and Susan come to a resolution, which is also very sweet. Truthfully, I felt like this is another arc that could benefit from a few more moments of focus, namely allowing Frieda to actually release the anger and frustration that she was initially hiding from Kara. It’s pretty interesting to see that not only does rehabilitation change the way hiders view the island, but also how they view emotions and vulnerability in general. It pretty much suppresses every part of a person. Regardless, I do dig the way that Susan’s arc was finally resolved. She gets a happy ending with her friend, but ultimately allows Frieda to make that choice for herself. Susan doesn’t do anything to persuade her, but merely channels the aspects of Frieda’s personality that internalize her to successfully help her friend move forward. It’s a really nice sentiment, and I especially love how Susan ultimately chooses to keep her Ooo name rather than the name she was given. “Kara” represents a girl who was never allowed individuality beyond the system, while “Susan” represents somebody who found her own way, and was able to develop and grow because of it. Islands is definitely the most I’ve ever cared for Susan.

There are a couple more pacing issues within this episode. I like to think that Finn and Jake spent at least a couple weeks or a month on Founder’s Island before leaving, but the way it’s framed, it seems like it’s only been a couple hours. Minerva says to Finn, “you can’t teach a fish to dance overnight,” so does that mean it’s really only been one night? The initial The Light Cloud storyboard included that Finn and Jake had stayed for three months after Finn offered to hang out for a while, which makes it even stranger given the context of the following scenes. I still like to think the boys stayed for a portion of their time, but otherwise, it could’ve used stronger implications. What really drives this one home is the emotional goodbye that Finn bids to his mother via VR. Once more, the elephant in the room is addressed as Finn questions Minerva’s true identity after she uploaded her brain map. He’s left with the unfortunate truth that Minnie herself doesn’t really know, but she at least thinks that she is. For Finn that might just be enough. And for myself, it definitely is.

TLC 5

The Light Cloud parallels The Dark Cloud in showcasing an extreme version of safety as opposed to an extreme version of danger. I only wish that this concept could have been a bit more challenging in its execution. This episode presents a solution without really showing the possible cons and ends up feeling a bit rushed by the end of it. But, like all seven episodes before it, The Light Cloud offers up terrific character moments and satisfying emotional resolutions to make up for it, bringing this miniseries to an (almost) entirely satisfying conclusion.

Thank you for tuning in to my coverage of Islands! The full miniseries review will be out next week, as I prepare to tackle an entirely new miniseries a couple weeks later. This is definitely the most haywire period of reviewing the series in general, but I’m certainly having a lot of fun with it. So, here’s to more great content along the way!

TLC 6

Favorite line: “Hope you didn’t come to get the soup!”

“Imaginary Resources” Review

IR 1.png

Original Airdate: January 31, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Pendleton Ward & Graham Falk

Schedule’s a little wonky currently, but I’ll have enough time to churn out at least two of these a week, for now. Expect Hide and Seek by the end of this week.

Imaginary Resources is definitely the weirdest episode of the Islands bunch. Aside from being one big, trippy journey through virtual reality, the humor within this one is absurd from beginning to end, possibly even more so than the previous High Strangeness. That should come as no surprise, considering that Pendleton Ward returned once again for his final storyboard in the series. It’s sad to see that Ward didn’t offer his talents to any of the final entries that the series put out, though he at least stays on the development team to contribute whatever he can. As is, Ward and Graham Falk’s successful dynamic (I truly think this pairing was a match made in heaven) makes for a pretty fun episode, albeit not as strong as most of its sister episodes. It’s probably the least consequential of the bunch, but it’s still memorable in its visuals and general antics.

IR 2.png

Finn and Jake’s shenanigans in the beginning are purely delightful. Again, it really is Ward’s sense of humor at its purest and most unfiltered. What I love about Ward’s writing style is that, even at its worst, it’s at the very least still likable. I’ve gone on about how Somvilay’s slow paced humor and often less than complimentary drawings can really weigh down an episode, but even with a beginning that plods a bit in its leisurely pacing like Imaginary Resources, it’s still charming and sweet, mostly because Finn and Jake are just so darn enjoyable. With everything going on in their lives, it’s been a while since the two boys have been able to be goofballs with one another, and even in their somewhat stressful state, Finn and Jake still seek to have some fun together. I love Jake’s method of communicating through “mouth pops” rather than just telling Finn, felt very unique to the boys and a lot less cheap and groan-worthy than their previous attempts at morse code in Checkmate. I similarly love Finn’s silly way of switching the first letter of BMO and Susan’s name, along with his desire to work his legs into a split every time he lands on the ground. Jake playing with the bird’s egg within his stretchiness was also delightful. You can really tell that Ward simply wants to have as much fun as possible when working on each storyboard, to the point where he doesn’t really care if each moment makes sense in execution. As long as he’s having fun with it, he expects to audience to do so as well, and it mostly works out.

The first few minutes are just filled to the brim with funny moments; Jake smashing through the window of the store, even though Finn just simply walked inside, and Finn’s high-pitched scream when calling out BMO’s name gets a big laugh out of me. See, was it that hard to have Jeremy record a new, high-pitched shriek for the show? What makes this episode so memorable, however, is when Finn and Jake do travel to the virtual reality realm. The backgrounds, which were designed entirely by Jesse Balmer, look awesome! Each landscape is filled with nebulous silhouettes and unknown doohickeys, which really sets it apart from the typical cyberspace subgenre. Where cyberspace is usually limited to shades of green and black, this episode stands out with subdued purple and blue colors that make it “objectively interesting” as Finn so eloquently states. In addition to that aspect, the lines of each piece of the background are hardly uniform, and feel sketchier, almost in the same way Beyond the Grotto was executed. It looks as if they were outlined with a pencil rather than pen, to really help carry across the uncanny nature of the “Better Reality.”

IR 3.png

In addition to that, the designs of the VR users are GREAT. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many different and bizarre character designs within one episode of AT. I really dig them all, especially the ant with a transparent face, the farting rainbow baby that emits from a wand, and of course, the buff, mannish body that BMO possesses, along with his creepily pitched down voice. Finn and Jake’s designs are similarly charming, in a “purposely ugly” kind of way. Even the designs that aren’t that unique are kind of endearing; I really like the simple attributes that the staff gave Vinny. Vinny is a gag character I really enjoy – he’s so God damn annoying, but in a very humorous way that I can’t truly describe why. It’s somewhat similar to Lemongrab, where even though he’s obnoxious, you kind of admire how much effort and emphasis the voice actor added to his character to make him that obnoxious. The behavior among the virtual reality users is quite enjoyable. I feel like an old man when processing gamer lingo, so I might not be completely picking up on everything, but the parts that I did, I enjoyed. Even with that aside, there’s just something quite funny about the one user repeatedly pelting Finn over and over with cups for no apparent reason.

What makes this episode really interesting is how it treats the difference between reality and virtual reality, and how it doesn’t really say which is necessarily better. Well, it certainly leans a bit more on the virtual reality side, but in general, that is refreshing considering how many people are somewhat shamed into thinking that their way of life is wrong. I kind of see both sides of the situation; on the one hand, I understand Finn and Jake’s point-of-view. The zombie-like, lazy remains of humanity live entirely within this fantasy world, never needing to worry about material possessions or anything stressful. This behavior, by nature, is inhuman. But, on the other hand, the humans themselves are happy and content, and the beings that take care of them are similarly happy with their roles. Before the VR experience, these humans were likely still struggling to gather actual resources in the late aftermath of the war and were constantly faced with adversity each and everyday. I’m not sure how “Better Reality” came about, but it’s obvious that its namesake is quite accurate in how humans perceive it. It gives them the chance to essentially be anything they want to be, while never worrying about war, turmoil, surviving, or anything related.

IR 4.png

The same could be said for the way BMO treats the VR world. While he always played the part of second banana within Finn and Jake’s adventures, he finally has an opportunity where everybody can listen to and respect him equally. He usually has to pry for the attention of others, but here, everybody is automatically inclined to respect him because of his mod status. BMO also has a point when he goes into his lengthy monologue about how the sky is actually black. When looking at it from that perspective, what is real? People often emphasize the importance of real connections over the ones that are strictly virtual, but what truly makes an authentic connection? I’ve heard from tons of people who personally value their online connections better because they were surrounded by ingenuous people in reality. From my own perspective, I think there’s always a sweet spot between balancing reality and non-reality, but I do commend this episode for playing around with and respecting the idea that escapist activities aren’t inherently damaging.

The episode does defend reality a bit, as BMO realizes that he cannot truly replace his friends of whom he cares for so deeply (even if he attempted so by making horrifying duplicates). The ending of Imaginary Resources is sweet, as Jake apologizes to BMO for his own hastiness and BMO cries into his arms. I always love when Finn and Jake get onto BMO’s level and go along with whatever he’s feeling. Even if they know they can easily convince him to come back with them, Finn and Jake still treat BMO’s turmoil as if it were real and care for him appropriately. The little guy really has become like a son to Finn and Jake, and their relationship has become especially strong because of it.

Imaginary Resources is good fun! It doesn’t necessarily match the dramatic tone of some of the other Islands episodes, nor does it try to. It’s simply a very funny episode with a cool environment, interesting story, and a big heart at the center regarding BMO’s connection to Finn and Jake. Here’s to you, Mr. Ward! The 10 episodes that you did storyboard were mostly awesome, and allowed for myself, and AT‘s audience in general, to get a glimpse at how you view these characters and their environment on a personal level. It’s certainly wacky, to say the least, but in a way that only the creator of Adventure Time could truly pull off.

IR 5.png

Favorite line: “You want me to lie to him?” “Yes! He’s our son!” 

“Wheels” Review

W 2.png

Original Airdate: January 24, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Charmaine Verhagen

Wheels is… an interesting episode. One that I think is neither good nor bad… but… interesting. In the grand scheme of things, there’s only about 40 episodes of AT left by this point, and this is sort of the last episode focused on Jake and his kin. With that in mind, this episode focuses less on the relationship between Jake and his son, Kim Kil Whan, and more on Jake and the relationship between KKW and his daughter Bronwyn, a rebellious skater girl. That aspect of Bronwyn’s personality alone seems a bit sitcom-y, and it even plays out mostly in stereotypical sitcom fashion, though by the end of it, Jake hasn’t really learned anything about himself or his behavior to those around him. I’m not saying any of these aspects are really bad things either; the story treads similar waters to the “rebellious kids and dorky elders” trope, but isn’t painful or cringe-worthy in any fashion, and while Jake doesn’t treat his granddaughter in the nicest fashion, it’s mostly in line with his character. However, looking at in hindsight, I’m not really sure this is the story or the conclusion that I really want to see at this point in the show’s run.

W 1.png

One decision that I am thankful for is that Kim Kil Whan is a hell of a lot nicer and more reasonable in this episode than he was in Ocarina. The interactions between Jake and KKW at the beginning of Wheels are genuinely nice and charming. It honestly works somewhat against the episode that KKW is presented this way, however. By the end of the episode, you kind of end up sympathizing with Kim Kil Whan much more than one would with Jake, and while that’s impressive on its own, I’m not really sure I should be meant to feel such a way. Like, Kim Kil Whan was pretty much an utter asshole in Ocarina, and even though he had reasons for behaving the way that he did, it was much easier to feel for Jake because of how sweet and lovable he is. Here, the situation is kind of flipped (though Jake is way more tolerable than KKW was in the former episode) and it’s a shame that this episode more-or-less paints KKW in the right for thinking his father is essentially a deadbeat. The growth in KKW’s behavior can obviously be seen, as he doesn’t absolutely retaliate against Jake as he previously did, though we don’t really ever get to see Jake “win” in this arc. Ocarina ended with Kim Kil Whan feeling a bit better overall after seeing that Jake at least meant well in his behavior, though Jake himself never really got an opportune chance to prove himself as a father figure or as a person in general. Here… he doesn’t really get to either. The entire arc between these two characters then feels somewhat unsatisfying. I always figured that the series would end on Jake’s status as a responsible father still being highly questionable, but sheesh, Wheels really doesn’t hold back on the fact that Jake hasn’t learned absolutely anything by the end of it.

While we’re on the topic, I’ll repeat myself once more: I don’t think Jake’s role in this episode is necessarily bad or out of character. His desire to be cool likely stems from the fact that Jake probably didn’t really have a true chance to be a teenager. After all, he’s essentially 16 in actuality, and probably didn’t get the full experience to “be cool” and impress the other kids around him. We actually know very little of these formative years in Jake’s life, so I think it’s easy to assume that this could be true and tie into his fear of aging as a whole. Jake also has the laidback, rebellious, somewhat competitive side of a teenager, which also helps to show how he fits into the crowd. Tying back to what I was saying before, it just so happens that I feel this is the exact wrong story and wrong time in the series to have him behave this way. I get that Jake is the one character that kind of stays himself while everyone around him goes through their own personal epiphanies, but I would have liked to see him have a bit of remorse and responsibility towards his treatment of Bronwyn. I do like the moments where he’s legitimately concerned about how the kids view her and tries to help her out, but that kindness quickly shifts into his competitive nature, which is fun, but not really the type of experience that I feel was necessary for his character in any which way. I think this story would have been executed a lot better in general had it just been a group of random teenagers that Jake was challenging, rather than someone from his immediate family. Just felt like they were pushing the envelope a bit too much with how careless Jake can be.

W 3.png

Bronwyn is somewhat of a cult character among fans. Granted, her fanbase isn’t exceptionally huge, but I have seen a lot of artwork of her character on tumblr, deviantart, and other spaces of the internet (don’t take that the wrong way). Her character is… fine, I guess. I’m not really sure where her appeal comes from, to be honest. I mean, she has a cool design and gnarly powers (love the lightning abilities) but otherwise, there’s not much to her. She’s kind of just a generic teenage rebel character. She isn’t particularly funny, tragic, or intriguing, and I’m not sure the episode really means for her to be, but man, I am surprised at how much people get into her character. I guess it is her design, which is admittedly well-crafted, but otherwise, I think she’s mostly forgettable.

I keep mentioning the “story” of this one, but truthfully, outside of Bronwyn and Jake’s dynamic which is mostly funny, I feel as though the plot of Wheels is somewhat paper thin. A lot of it is just Bronwyn’s group of friends switching back and forth on whether they think Jake or Bronwyn are cool or not. It quickly gets repetitive until we actually get to the final sequence: a big skateboard race between Jake and Bronwyn. Part of what makes this aspect work so well is board supervisor Erik Fountain’s assistance with the skateboarding scenes, which turned out really fluid and delightfully complex in the final cut. It’s a really enjoyable sequence that I initially expected to be dreadful, but it turned out quite nice in its execution. Combine those scenes with some scattered funny lines and enjoyable moments, like Finn’s sleep-fluting (which even summoned his former flame, Huntress Wizard) or Jake’s delirious rambling after face-planting, and we’re left with a half-decent episode.

I dunno, I’m divisive with Wheels. I like parts of it, and even the parts I don’t really like, I acknowledge that they aren’t especially bad or detrimental, but I feel as though it just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. If there was ever an episode that left me feeling as though Jake was a flat out poor parental figure, I think this would be the one. I still believe that Jake as a character is a loving and caring person, but I’m not really sure what exactly this episode sought to accomplish. Was it to show that Jake simply can’t grow beyond his childish and immature demeanor? Was it an apology letter to those who thought Kim Kil Whan was too harsh in the previous episode? Whatever it ended up being, I really can’t grab for a clear, concise reason for this episode. Not that every episode really needs to have a reason or a purpose, but when we’re so far down the line with only so many episodes left, I’d expect an episode centering around Jake and his family to be a bit more potent. Sadly, things end in a bit of a whimper, and it’s a little bit disheartening that this was the culmination of everything that Jake has tried to achieve as a father. We get more moments later on revolving around his relationships with the pups, though, it’s mostly reiterating what we already knew. Wheels tries something new, but in my humble opinion, it’s information that we didn’t really need to begin with.

W 4.png

Favorite line: “Not the swan, that’s where the pups came from!”