Original Airdate: October 15, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez
“There’s so much that exists outside of show because it’s a post-apocalyptic future, which means that the present exists in the reality of this show. You have to extend this whole world back into the past and every that’s happening in it is real, and there’s so much that you didn’t see that’s implied to have happened, and that becomes real, but it also becomes something that you invent. So you have a personal ownership over everything that created Ooo, and it really does feel like your imagination because it’s asking you to imagine so much of it and connect all these dots.”
An eloquently put statement from Rebecca Sugar about Adventure Time’s success that can really be applied to this episode in particular. Ah, I Remember You. Where do I even start with this episode that’s considered damn-near perfect by nearly everyone who has ever seen it? Well, for starters, I actually don’t think it’s entirely perfect. There’s definitely some parts that drag, some parts that don’t seem to add anything, and even Ice King can grate on being borderline annoying at times. But even that said, there’s no denying the passion, the raw emotion, and the beautiful connection that was created between two of the show’s most tragic characters make it difficult even for me to deny this as one of AT’s greatest efforts.
I think it’s been somewhat evident this season that the Cole Sanchez-Rebecca Sugar duo is, at worst, a bit dissonant from each other. They’ve created some of the best episodes this season had to offer, but also just felt much more separated in tone than the Muto-Sugar duo combination. It’s not to say Sanchez suffers from poor writing himself, but always seemed to dabble more in Adventure Time’s sillier side. There’s nothing wrong with this, but, as is, it can be quite a contrast in even just the simple squishy and stretchy expressions of Finn and Jake to the endless amounts of detail Sugar adds when drawing them, sometimes making it feel like a jarring experience.Here, it works to the duo’s advantage.
Here, in the very first scene, we open to Ice King singing a very poor adaptation of Marceline’s “Fry Song” which is just the kind of silly opening that’s warranted with the emotional rollercoaster that’s on the way, and evident why we need a scene like this. We don’t only care about Ice King because he’s a sad soul who lost his former self, but because he’s zany and enjoyable to be around. And that’s not to say it’s even a distinction in writing style; it’s not like Rebecca Sugar isn’t one to dabble in Ice King’s antics and purely sees him as a completely tragic character. It’s common sense among the AT staff that, to care about these characters when issues arise and life hits hard, we first must be able to laugh at them, have fun with them, and genuinely enjoy being around them. And Ice King is pretty much the epitome of that archetype, literally revolving on all ends of the spectrum: funny, nonsensical, endearing, sad, lonely, and sympathetic.
There’s plenty of fun gags at the start, namely Gunter’s adorable pet-like behavior, the umpteenth mention of J.T. Doggzone in two episodes, and the humorous exchange between Finn and Jake. I think the boys are really used as point to showcase the significance in Ice King’s transition from creepy villain to incompetent ally. There’s very few times after this episode where Finn and Jake legitimately go as far as to spy on him (though, it’ll take a lot longer for them to actually warm up to him) and it’s blown up in their own faces when they realize, at heart, Ice King is just an eccentric goofball. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone or destroy all of Ooo, but instead desires faithful companions to be at his side.
It’s when Marceline enters the scene (sporting a tucked in anti-smoking shirt, which is surprisingly one of my favorite Marcy outfits, mainly for it’s simplicity) that the tension begins to heat up. The first interaction between Marcy and the IK harkens back to Sugar’s statement, as Marceline claims “I told you never to come here again,” implying this has happened several times in the past, which is only further emphasized in Marceline’s Nuts song. The reason Marceline has moved around so frequently is either partially or directly related to Ice King continuously coming to visit her or spy on her, something that was used as just a quirky character trait of hers way back in season one, but now comes full circle as a result of her deteriorating friend she can no longer stand to be around. One can only imagine the types of interactions they’ve had before; it’s debatable what kind of relationship they have had before this, but it’s clear that Ice King does have some form of admiration for the Vampire Queen, which may be because he does subconsciously remember her a slight bit. Even more devastating, you can draw the parallels that perhaps Ice King has always seen her as a potential royal stereotype that he has attempted to kidnap before. No matter what the likelihood of any of these theories are, it does allow the viewer to put the pieces together however they like, and for me, it’s one that, no matter what context, is always tragic.
From this point, the episode practically becomes one big musical. While I did enjoy What Was Missing quite fondly, you may recall in my review that I mentioned Sugar’s style of writing, especially in terms of musical score, pretty much dominated the episode and felt more like an episode of Steven Universe than Adventure Time. I think these songs are all perfectly crafted and all serve a clear purpose in terms of character perspective and development. Yes, they do feel like the Sugar-iest scenes that have ever played out on the show, and while I’ve made that seem like a bad thing in the past, it’s really not. I think it’s only a problem when it poses somewhat of a distracting issue in terms of story or pacing, but honestly, it works perfectly here. An episode could be riddled with Somvilayisms or be filled with Moynihan-type trippiness, but if it’s hilarious or thought-provoking, I don’t mind in the slightest. And here, the characters act as dramatically and passionately open about their emotions as they ever have (well, namely Marceline), but it’s so beautifully and captivatingly done that I couldn’t see this story done any other way.
It all begins with Oh Bubblegum, Ice King’s ballad to Princess Bubblegum, which is actually my favorite song in the episode. Ice King’s singing voice is clearly terrible on purpose, but it’s oozing with emotion and so blatantly has Ice King reveal his inner thoughts and self-esteem issues. He demandingly questions why, after all this time, he still doesn’t have anyone to love or a princess to call his own, which he sees as pure evidence that there’s something completely wrong with him. It’s a song that basically embodies everything I mentioned the Ice King is: silly and quirky, but also sad and lonely. Every song is accompanied by the hum of an omnichord, and it both emphasizes the whimsical and cutesy nature that each song has to offer, but also provides an ominously off-putting tone as well, which really hits home in the more uncomfortable parts of each musical number. Also, I’m gonna put to bed the idea that Marceline’s look of concern toward Ice King during his song has absolutely anything to do with her feelings revolving around PB. Absolutely no fucking way in hell I believe that look of sympathy was for anything besides Ice King’s depressing nature. There’s a ton of shipping fuel I buy into between Marceline and Bubblegum, but this isn’t one of them. Though, I’m not sure how many people even believe this theory anymore.
When Marcy attempts to stop Ice King’s insanity, it’s a portion that I think halts the episode for a brief moment. I think Ice King’s shame for pushing Marceline feels a little melodramatic and tonally dissonant from the rest of the episode, but it’s this irritability that transitions in Marceline’s solo-song Nuts, which has her open up about her own insanity and mental exhaustion that the Ice King has caused her over the years. There’s plenty of Alzheimer’s connection you can make within the story of I Remember You, and the connection between Marceline and Ice King in general, and I think Marcy’s frustration and own helplessness are brought out full force in this ditty. It’s pretty easy to sense that she knows she can’t fix the Ice King and that, whatever has happened to him, he’s already too far gone to return to his former self. Marceline acknowledges that she wants to hangout with him and help him however she can, but it’s clear that the man she once knew and loved is gone and it’s really just painfully unfortunate that she has to accept what he has become.
Ice King’s sweeter and more empathetic side is brought out by Nuts, but also immediately becomes void when he attempts to kiss Marceline. This is really the most uncomfortable scene in the episode, as someone who was once a father figure to Marceline makes sexual advances onto her. It’s a writing choice that Sugar herself felt hesitant about, but one that Pendleton Ward really, really wanted in, and man does it pack a punch. Obviously it’s a somewhat harmless activity on Ice King’s part, given his ignorant nature when it comes to human relationships (though it was pretty creepy how he used a mere hug as a segue into first base), but you can only imagine the trauma or disgust that Marceline is feeling with him. It’s here Marceline blows up, and refers to the Ice King as his former alias, “Simon.” I get the feeling that Marceline has never actually tried to make Ice King remember who he is before, as she was either too hurt or confused to understand what had happened to him, but it becomes clear that she’s fed up with his jogged memory and wants simply to have her caretaker back again. She uses pictures (complete with Simon holding the Enchiridion, oh, the lore!), notes, and former writings of the old antiquarian, but nothing seems to work. Again, another great parallel to Alzheimer’s in the sense that, however much proof or evidence you show someone suffering with the terrible, terrible illness, nothing seems to work as an effective target to help jump the mind.
Marceline then discovers a note written by Simon, which can be translated into a poem or tune to sing, to which Ice King takes as immediate inspiration into his next song. Remember You is the dramatic pinnacle of the entire episode. It’s here Marceline realizes that, no matter what has happened, Simon does love her and did what he could to make sure she survived. He never wanted to watch Marceline suffer, and admittedly probably never expected that she’d even live long enough to watch him become the villain, but had to do what he did to survive. No matter how selfless a person is, any mentally healthy person is likely to not welcome death with open arms, and Simon wanted to preserve his scholarly mind for as long humanly possible. There’s no possible chance that Marceline could ever think that Simon didn’t care for her or want the best for her after reading the note, and she can both emotionally react to it and acknowledge that the best thing she can do for Simon in return is accepting Ice King for who he is. No matter how annoying or distorted, Ice King is still Marceline’s old friend deep down inside, and the only aspect of Simon that remains in tact. The two bask in their new bond: Ice King, realizing he has a new friend to jam with, and Marceline, who sees the beauty and the sorrow in what is likely Simon’s last remaining form of communication he wrote to her, that he was probably too insane at that point to give to her in person. The episode closes with a flashback to the Great Mushroom War, and what is probably the first overt piece of visual evidence of the actual apocalypse. Marceline and Ice King’s soft voices lull the last scene powerfully through (some honest-to-Glob tearjerk worthy inflections from Tom Kenny) as an already transformed Simon hands a young Marcy a stuffed animal to comfort her, which eventually becomes her most prized possession, Hambo. A perfect heartwarming ending that gets me near-misty eyed every time I watch.
Everything this episode embodies is masterful, from creating a beautiful connection between the only characters who lived through the Mushroom War, to allowing them to powerfully emote through the art of music. This episode is essentially a “box episode” in the sense that it takes place almost entirely in Marceline’s house and focuses solely on the interactions between two lead characters. It’s almost like a stage play (with some musical elements) and really works as a captivating piece of character development and the reason why this show is more than just a silly cartoon for kids. It’s passionate, it’s creative, it’s honest, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s philosophical, it’s so many things that really just knock it out of the ballpark. There’s that bit of a lull, and some parts that don’t work. Like, what was the point of including Finn and Jake spying on the Ice King in the last few minutes? Did they really think Marcy wouldn’t be able to take care of herself? I understand they may have been concerned with Ice King’s behavior, but really, c’mon. Marcy herself asked them to leave. But, any minor problems aside, this episode is just too damn good. It’s cliche at this point to endlessly praise it, but I’m not going to lie when I think something is really good. It emphasizes everything that makes Adventure Time beautiful and admirable, and still amazes me by how well crafted and inherently sad I Remember You is to this day.
Favorite line: “Your constant harassment of the female gender makes me siiick.”