Tag Archive | Gumbald

“Come Along With Me” (Part 2) Review

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Original Airdate: September 3, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

The dream realm has always been a big part of Adventure Time, and it only makes sense that the grand finale would also pay tribute to the show’s most notorious fetish. Part 2, boarded by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim, is possibly the most visually interesting of its sister pieces. Aside from a stellar array of Ghostshrimp backgrounds, this section of the episode also cleverly plays around with its imagery to stress the similarities between Gumbald and PB and also Finn and Fern. This is definitely the kind of trippiness I did want to see from the finale, and on some aspects, it does succeed. In its execution, however, I think it drives a problematic cause into the main story of this conclusion.

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I don’t know if the beginning of this section is subject to criticism or just legitimate questions, but how did Finn know what would happen after igniting the nightmare juice? There’s no way Nightmare Princess was of any help describing it, and it doesn’t look as if there was a description of any sorts. For all Finn knew, it could have nuked the fucking planet. I guess it played into the surprise element of not knowing what was coming next, buuut, a little bit of context would’ve made this feel a little less like a deus ex machina.

Though not primarily associated with dream themes, it is fitting that Somvilay’s last co-board revolves around the unconscious realm, seeing as how he had such a large part in Adventure Time‘s first full-length nightmare, King Worm. There are some fun, trippy bits right off the bat, like the singing poodle that helps to take weight off of the situation at hand or the chimney containing a presumably dead Jake, with a sign that reads, “laff it off!” There’s also quite a few awkwardly executed moments that don’t really work either. The exploding poodle that blinds everyone except Gumbald isn’t presented in a visual way that it actually feels blinding. The color and light stays stagnant and contained at the center of the screen, and it doesn’t convincing feel like it’s as bright as the characters react. I know this seems like a really small, insignificant aspect to harp on, but it is yet another example of the lack of direction that seems to be a staple of Somvilay’s boarding. Similar to the lifeless way Finn’s friends bang on a force field containing him in Seventeen, the gang covers their eyes for the purpose of Gumbald running away, and as he’s about to escape, they all cease covering their eyes, only to blankly stare at him while he delivers a speech about how he’s going to get the upper hand. I’m certainly being overly critical towards a moment like this, but in the finale of the series, and the final board of one of Adventure Time‘s longest-running storyboard artists, I’d also expect more.

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Fern being ditched by Uncle G. is definitely his own way of experiencing first hand how Finn felt when being ditched by his own maker, though I don’t really think it’s played off as the emotional moment it truly could’ve been. Fern’s pretty much lost everything by this point, and you think instead of comically transforming into a pterodactyl (which was admittedly awesome, thematic aspects aside), it would be built into some genuine turmoil. Though, the sweet grass boy does get a handful of nice one-liners here and there, such as, “I’m gonna fly around and wreck things until I feel better! Or at least until I tire myself out.” He really is just the emo equivalent of his counterpart, because that could also come straight out of Finn’s mouth as well.

Jake’s role in the episode is both funny, and somewhat frustrating. It’s frustrating because he exhibits Jake the Dog levels of neglect for his brother. Jake spends a large portion of the first half of the episode dicking around while his bro is in peril. What happened to the Jake a mere episode earlier that curb-stomped the fuck out of Fern for messing with his bro? It is made up for in that Jake helps deliver the solution to Finn’s problems, but the overly cheerful dog with Jermaine at the beginning of the episode goes a bit too far in demonstrating his clueless bliss. It is also justified partially from a humor perspective, I do really get a laugh out of Jake’s concern about getting fired from his imaginary job as Finn asks for help. Seeing as how PB and Gumbald later end up being altered by the dream realm, I suppose it could be argued that it had an effect on Jake’s psyche as well.

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In fact, we actually do get the most “deep” look into Jake’s inner fears with his nightmare-fueled children. The scenes with the pups denouncing Jake’s farts are mostly played for laughs, but I think there is something of substance under the gag itself. Jake values the respect of his children more than anything, and has many underlying anxieties about his role as a father. It’s silly, but also understandable why this triggers such a sensitive part of him. Along with the fact that his children are literally being cooked before him. Best visual gag of the episode officially goes to baby Kim Kil Whan in a hot dog bun. I should note that Jermaine does take on a secondary role in this section, though it’s pretty unremarkable. Not that it’s really even supposed to be the real Jermaine anyway, but a mere reflection of Jake’s subconscious. His presence did serve for one sweet moment – the revelation that balloon animals used to cheer Finn up when he was a child. It’s a small moment, but really adorable to dwell on, especially with Jake’s added look of nostalgia following the exchange.

Perhaps the most well-executed part of the episode is the most surprising: I thought the scenes featuring the swap between Gumbald and Bubblegum’s roles were really well done. I don’t necessarily think that these few minutes alone reconcile for an onslaught of really boring and unremarkable Gumbald moments, but they certainly provide for something to chew on in terms of his ultimate motivations. Bonnibel Bubblegum painted him to be this super uninteresting schemer whose main drive was greed above all, but Come Along With Me takes the previous episode’s intentions further and continues to drive home the underlying similarities between Gumbald and his niece. Although his initial motivation of building apartment buildings in the aftermath of a literal apocalypse was inconceivably stupid, it really is just one part of his vision, of which PB ultimately didn’t have right off the bat either. Gumbald wanted to create his own slice of home where he, and those around him, could live prosperously, which is exactly what Princess Bubblegum sought out for. His motivations to get what he wanted, while questionable, were in desperation to preserve his art and what he saw for the future. PB is no stranger to this practice either – she nearly destroyed an entire kingdom in The Cooler because of her own paranoia. PB also had the chance to properly contain Gumbald even after he was transformed into Punchy, but she chose for him to stay that way because, again, she didn’t want him to stand in the way of her vision. As the vision in the nightmare shows, Gumbald as “princess” could have resulted in an almost identical outcome to Bubblegum’s path, dealing with an ingenuous, yet morally corrupt ruler who is essentially the god amongst his people. Though, like PB once experienced, Gumbald’s role may have not been able to last forever, and it was a time when she surely needed others to depend on. But her O.G. family couldn’t truly support her in their current states, as demonstrated by the tiny Candy Person representation of PB, who can only smile and act goofy even with the pain occurring beneath her. It’s a delightfully fucked up sequence that really shows the equal amount of shittiness on PB’s part, even far beyond her metamorphosis.

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Finn and Fern end up going through a similar understanding of their shared torment, though I think it is a bit on the obvious side. The idea of the boys’ having shared traumas comes as a surprise to Fern, buuuut Fern’s whole deal is that he’s partly Finn. Should this really come as such a revelation to him? That the two have shared experiences that they can both relate to? I feel as if there should have been a bit more of an emotional confrontation. As self-destructive as he is, Fern does have legitimate reasons for going so far off of the deep end. His whole life was turned upside down and everyone that he has ever loved doesn’t really want to associate with him. I would have liked if his turmoil resulted in more of an eruption of pain which would lead to his eventual epiphany, but the resolution between him and Finn feels all too quick. There’s also the conclusion to the curse that lives within Fern, as he and Finn confront it head-on, which is just alright for me. I like the idea that Fern choosing to confront his issues is ultimately what set him free, but if nothing in the Nightmare Realm is actually real, I’m not sure how Finn and Fern were able to affect a real-life situation as a result. I also think Fern was written too well throughout season eight for his own good. Like I said, Fern has legitimate reasons to be ridden with anxiety and turmoil, and I feel as the idea that all of his sorrows being connected to some cursed squid demon is a lot less interesting than the turmoil itself. Though, it does provide for a relatively neat concept that Fern isn’t physically able to exist without issues – the part of himself that he eliminated in order to make him feel more human is ultimately what made his humanity fall to shreds. I’m probably putting too much thought into it, but it is a neat idea. The shared traumas between Finn and Fern are all pretty apparent – the death of their hero at the hands of the Lich, the guilt that comes with hurting friends such as Susan, and the sensitivity of abandonment and fear of being connected to one’s roots as seen with Martin. Though, I feel like it’s up for debate what PB’s role in the vault holds. I get the feeling that Finn is somewhat haunted by his feeling for Bubblegum, never being able to fully move past them and fearing that he may be controlled by his love for her forever, which results in him pushing his feelings way down where they can’t affect him. At least, from a surface level.

The conclusion to this segment of the episode is kind of where my main issues lie. While PB gains her own empathy for Gumbald, he apparently did not, as he was planning on juicing her, demonstrated by Aunt Lolly’s sabotage. I have problems with almost every aspect of this bit. The bigger, more encompassing reason is that I feel like you could deem a good chunk of the first 22 minutes of the finale, and Finn’s plan for peace, relatively pointless. Aside from Fern’s personal growth, nothing that occurred within the dream sequence between PB and Gumbald actually had an effect on anything. The conflict was ultimately resolved by Aunt Lolly, who had no idea what actually went on within their shared nightmare and doesn’t have a strong enough character arc for it to even make sense on her own. She appears to be convincingly against Gumbald’s plans in the previous episode, then we’re taken down a complete 180 as it shows that it was all an elaborate ruse all along. Now… she’s apparently good again? I don’t even understand what we’re supposed to gather from her character – why does she WANT to side with Princess Bubblegum? One might just argue that it boils down to the simplicity of morality, but the staff didn’t even take those simple steps to make her seem like a fully fleshed out character, or even relatively fleshed out at that. You could also argue that, while Gumbald didn’t learn anything in the nightmare world, PB did gain a higher sense of empathy, but does she really? The finale ends with both Gumbald and Chicle trapped inside empty-headed Candy People where they don’t really get any form of free will, and Chicle didn’t even get a second chance at that. Not saying Gumbald should just be free to roam around the Candy Kingdom, because he’s clearly dangerous, but he should be given SOME kind of freedom regardless. I can’t believe the nightmare sequences would highlight how fucked up it was for a somewhat conscious person to be trapped in the goofiness of a candy body, and then just leave them that way by the end of it. Empathy doesn’t really work if you only empathize with someone when do they exactly what you want them to do. The framing of Aunt Lolly tripping Gumbald doesn’t make a lick of sense either. Chances are he might have already had the juice on him when he actually walked down to confront PB, as there wasn’t a single moment after that he would have time to retrieve it. When he trips onto it, he’s not even holding the bottle, it’s just tucked within his robe. The episode plays it off like he was going to juice PB, but the way it’s executed makes it feel like it was just a freak accident. The Gumbald arc started in a way that I felt was relatively mediocre, and it ends in such a way where I feel like I’ve gained almost nothing at all.

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So, Part 2 had its moments on both a visual and story level, but I think it may ultimately be the finale’s biggest flop in terms of story execution. The way Gumbald’s arc was resolved was truly poor, showing hints of interest in the actual dream sequence, but squandering them in the grand conclusion of it all. I feel like Finn was treated as the savior of the situation by the end of it, but ultimately his plans for peace failed (almost) entirely without the episode actually acknowledging this factor. Fern had some decent moments, and I do like that saving him also resulted in sacrificing him later on, but I think his resolution itself was somewhat boring. Add this with some wonky visuals, confusing character moments, instances of stilted animation, and you have yourself a pretty lackluster second act. That being said, I do want to congratulate Seo Kim and Somvilay Xayaphone for managing to be the second longest running team in the show’s history. A lot of their episodes together are far from my favorites, but they always did seem like they had a genuine chemistry going on as collaborators. Hopefully Summer Camp Island is treating you both well.

Favorite line: “Why don’t you just fight me like a real butterfly!?”

“Gumbaldia” Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

“Bonnibel Bubblegum” Review

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

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

Princess Bubblegum’s character probably gets the most dedicated exploration out of any other character in the series. Segments of Marceline’s life remain hidden, Finn and Jake’s early childhood into their adolescence are barely touched on, and Simon’s backstory is pretty limited to just before he actually came into contact with the crown. Granted, this isn’t a bad thing. I actually prefer not knowing a good amount of Marceline’s past history, among other characters. I do feel that it is warranted that we learn so much about PB’s backstory – she had a crucial role in developing the world of AT as we know it. Bonnibel Bubblegum is about just that: how the Candy Kingdom came into to fruition and how she took on the role of a leader. It also serves as a way of further fleshing out Uncle Gumbald’s character, and his past history with his essential “niece.” Bonnibel Bubblegum ends up being a decent bit of world-building, but it is one of those examples of an episode that’s probably too short to live up to its full potential.

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A chunk of the main characters hanging out at the beginning of the episode was purely delightful. I really love how this is one of those few moments in the show (at least in recent history) where the characters are able to hang out outside of a plot related scenario. I mean, yeah, the real reason Finn, Jake, and Marcy are there is to be a captive audience for Bubblegum’s story, but regardless, it’s always nice when the characters do feel like real friends outside of a writing perspective. They don’t really get to do much, but their few moments together provide for good fun. I continue to love Jake’s complete opposition to understanding the turmoil of others. He’s the only one of his friends entirely devoid of daddy issues… for now, at least. Such coaxing from her pals is what provokes PB to dive into her past, as we begin the flashback sequence with a solid minute of silence as we’re treated to visual splendor. This first minute is probably my favorite of the episode – the atmosphere is enjoyably eerie, made even better by a bizarre bit of score from Tim Kiefer that really sets the mood. I wouldn’t be the first to discuss the stellar background details within the gas station that PB explores, so I’ll briefly discuss my favorites.

  • The “Back soon! Please come back” text was probably one of the most heartbreaking easter eggs that Adventure Time has ever put out. I can only imagine the context of the words – I’d imagine this was a child writing to their guardian after said guardian walked into the remains of civilization after the war. God only knows what was even out there for humans to deal with at the time.
  • The writing “Love didn’t conquer al(l)” which could very well be from the same person who wrote out “please come back.” I’m assuming this is referring to the blief that compassion couldn’t quench the current warfare.
  • A newspaper with the headline “Time Has Come.” Again, assuming this was referring to the war.
  • A picture of the Mushroom Cloud with the words “never” written across it. I’m wondering if this is actual footage of the effects of the Mushroom War, or an image of what was presumed to result from it. Perhaps the words “never” are a denial from the inhabitants of the gas station that such a thing could ever happen.

PB’s entire design in this one is rad. I also wouldn’t be the first to say this, but it really reminds me of Rey’s get up from The Force Awakens. Honestly, that entire first scene does. It also helps that some nice visual tricks play a part in making it all the more stunning. I love AT‘s attention to detail with smaller occurrences, so I really love the way the dust particles are animated as sunlight beams through the window within the station. A similar bit of animation was included in Her Parents, and it looks great once more in here. Isabella Acres does not reprise her role as a younger PB, and is instead voiced by Livvy Stubenrauch, who previously voiced young Kara in Hide and Seek. But damn me if I even knew the difference, Stubenrauch does terrific! Every line that she carries out really feels like she is a younger version of PB. I know that’s in part thanks to the writing, but I really feel like Stubenrauch did her homework in capturing PB’s deliveries to a tee.

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The relationship between Neddy and PB is once again irresistibly sweet. I do like the fact that, while she loves her brother, PB does acknowledge that she needs people like herself to feel more whole. This is where she conjures up the idea to make a family from scratch. It’s important to remember that even though I enjoyed the first chunk of this episode, it’s a bit time consuming. By the time Gumbald, Chicle, and Aunt Lolly are all “invented”, the episode’s already five minutes in. The series of events that follow end up feeling quite rushed as a result.

I’m not really sure I follow Gumbald’s entire “arc” within this backstory. Well, let me rephrase – I understand the intention, but the execution feels incomplete. Bonnibel Bubblegum is supposed to show how PB’s micro-managing of Gumbald led him to feel restrained and held back from his own potential, thus following his rebellion. However, the pacing makes his conflict way too glanced over before he basically turns to full-on villainy and greed. In fact, his plans kind of just make him seem like a less charismatic King of Ooo. He wants to build an entire city, along with apartments, but does that really make sense given the time period this is taking place in? I mean, the beginning of the episode stresses heavily that there’s barely anyone in the surrounding area and Gumbald doesn’t understand the act of creating lifeforms until he notices the candy fish, so who did he suppose was going to actually live in this city and help him become more prosperous? Maybe the idea is purposefully nonsensical, given PB’s perplexed reaction, but I dunno, seems like a lazy way to give Gumbald a motivation beyond just wanting to be independent.

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I’ll reiterate that I don’t really dislike what this episode is going for – I get it, PB and Gumbald are similar in their ultimate desire to control others, stemming from their denial to be controlled by anyone else. But it ends up feeling so hollow because Gumbald never feels like a empathetic character with reasonable goals. This episode ends up making PB too likable to the point where Gumbald’s motivation doesn’t feel fleshed out in the slightest. It isn’t until the series finale where this idea is explored in more detail, but by that point it feels too little, too late. And I know we’re not supposed to like Gumbald, but I think we’re at least supposed to understand him, and I don’t think I left this episode feeling like I learned that much about him. It also doesn’t help that the inception of Aunt Lolly and Chicle further complaints things. They’re two characters created to be Gumbald’s cronies, but they never really get a chance to come into their own either, which makes me wonder why Gumbald wasn’t just introduced by himself.

I do think the subtleties on PB’s part are handled well, however. Like I said, she isn’t that much different from Gumbald aside from a stronger moral compass overall; one of PB’s main flaws throughout the entire series is her controlling nature, which really starts to come out once her “family” is no longer able to think for themselves. It also ties in with the implication that she likely used the dum dum juice when creating her citizens, in order to assure that nobody would ever overthrow her within her position. It’s a pretty fucked up mindset, and I really wonder if this is the motivation that drove PB forward. I do like to think that her child self was innocent enough to just believe, “hey, this juice makes people way happier and less evil, so why don’t I use it when creating new Candy People?” It does open for an interesting discussion regarding how much free will the Candy People truly have by their own nature, to which I even feel could spawn a greater discussion on this blog later on.

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Bonnibel Bubblegum is riddled with a few other treats – Mr. Cream Puff returns as PB’s “boyfriend” in reference to the long-standing gag from the beginning of the series. I still feel like the brief mention in The Vault was enough to satisfy me, but this instance works as well. I do like how The Punch Bowl, Crunchy, and Manfried end up being these really profound and important characters through the events of this episode after years of just being goofy background props. Crunchy’s identity was actually cleverly foreshadowed in the past two episodes, where a missing sign with his image was seen in the background.

Bonnibel Bubblegum works at adding context to PB’s relationship with her uncle, but I don’t think it reaches its full potential because the central conflict isn’t really fleshed out. Gumbald’s inner turmoil is rushed along at the expense of what could have been a really nice exploration of the darker aspects of PB’s character that led to some of her less than fonder moments, but as is, their portrayal ends up feeling quite black-and-white. I know we learn more about Gumbald later on and context is added to his own fears and shortcomings, but since this is the episode that essentially establishes his place within this world, it does a middling job at making me feel pretty much anything towards his character. And for a character that ends up playing such an important role in the story within this season, that’s a bit of an issue.

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Favorite line: “Dang, Chicle, thass cold.”

 

“Always BMO Closing” Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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