Tag Archive | Islands

“Islands” (Graphic Novel) Review

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Release Date: December 6, 2016

Written by: Ashly Burch

Illustrated by: Diigii Daguna

Islands serves as a precursor to the miniseries of the same name, but to be honest, there isn’t a ton within the book that actually makes it necessary to read for contextual reasons. The Islands miniseries still makes complete sense without it, and there really isn’t anything within the graphic novel that couldn’t already be presumed through miniseries itself. Regardless, as a standalone story, it’s pretty solid and does a great job at hammering in the theme of safety vs. fulfillment. In fact, I think it even executes this motif better in some areas than the miniseries accomplishes.

For y’all who haven’t read it, the book primarily centers around Jo, the bunny-hatted girl who was first seen during Stakes. Jo is constantly afraid of her surroundings, and after a near death experience, her fellow humans (including Two Bread Tom) struggle to ensure the safety of their well-being. Things do change when the human tribe comes across an entirely different human tribe, of whom have no issues dealing with vampires on their island. Regardless, they aren’t completely free of mutants, as Jo is kidnapped by a giant bird and taken far from her familiar surroundings. Jo is initially paralyzed by fear, but is able to get by through imagining what Marceline would do in any given situation. Jo is able to see the world for what it really is by exploring, and discovers that it isn’t as dangerous as she once thought it to be. Upon finally returning home, Jo discovers that Two Bread Tom and the other humans had built a giant robotic being, called the Guardian, to protect anything that would threaten their lives on the island. Jo rebels against the idea as she sees it an interference to living life properly, and leaves her tribe behind, along with her protective hat.

First off, I really like Jo’s role as the hero. It’s interesting to see how much her fear paralyzes her not because of her experiences, but likely because of the adults around her instilling it naturally. What bothered me about the way The Light Cloud panned out is that Finn, who has no previous knowledge or understanding of the economy of Founder’s Island, tries to persuade the citizens that their way of thinking is wrong. Here, it’s much more warranted that someone within the community is the one to decide that their way of living is bogus, only after experiencing the delights and pleasures of the outside world.

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What I do like about this setup up is the other humans are clearly not presented as stupid or manipulative in their approach to life. Two Bread Tom in particular gets a lot of focus, an is portrayed as a charismatic, yet overbearing anti-hero. He acts irrationally at times and perhaps sacrifices too much when it comes to the well-being of his people, but as I’ve said several times during my Islands review, can you blame ‘im? People look to him as a leader and an influence for the preservation of their entire species, and their methods of survival in general seem increasingly difficult. That’s why he feels the needs to take such precaution, even though he is inadvertently deteriorating the integrity of his fellow humans as a whole. After all, he mentions the tribe as “helpless” without Marceline, even though Marceline really just started out as a normal chick who vowed to defeat vampires for a living. It also makes me wonder – what happened to Marceline after the Vampire King bit her? Did she distance herself from the humans in a sense of shame and defeat, or did the humans themselves become distant in a state of fear that she would turn on them? Both theories are super interesting, and I’d be willing to believe either.

Ashly Burch, who is a story editor for Adventure Time, wrote this novel. I’m all for different writers and illustrators working with the comics and novels, but it feels especially special when someone from the actual staff has a part in producing a piece in the expanded universe. Such has happened before with Luke Pearson, Emily Partridge, and Kent Osborne. The novel was illustrated by Diigii Daguna, who has created artwork for Adventure Time comics and books prior. Daguna’s art work is simple, yet lovable. The action itself isn’t presented in a particularly compelling way, but the simple colors and cute facial expressions give Islands an irresistible identity. There’s a couple technical errors, like some of the word bubbles look particularly wonky, and an extended series of panels features Jo wrapping herself in a sleeping bag, only to show her up and about in the very next scene. It doesn’t really seem like any passage of time had passed either.

Regardless of those small issues, Islands is a delightful treat that offers a bit of lore and delicious drama to foreshadow the events of Islands. As far as graphic novels and comics go for Adventure Time, it’s one of the better ones. Right up there with Playing with Fire and Beginning of the End.

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Season Eight Review

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Following the huge backlash regarding the tone and execution of Season Six of Adventure Time, Season Seven was, in turn, somewhat of a return to form of less heady and complicated stories that focused more on our main heroes. Season Eight takes that notion one step further by feeling as if it is catered to please the Adventure Time fandom in general, offering more resolutions to ongoing storylines, less filler episodes, and more of a central focus on Finn’s character and role in the series. As a result, it really pays off and makes for, in my opinion, probably the most satisfying and enticing Adventure Time season to date.

Season Eight is practically the most exclusive Adventure Time season to date, and what I mean by that is that there really isn’t single episode within this packaged bunch that any common viewer would be able to watch without having some trouble following. There’s a few entries at the beginning of the season that are a bit more inclusive, namely WheelsHigh Strangeness, and Horse and Ball, but those still feature characters and situations that are better enjoyed with previous knowledge and information regarding the series. This is also probably why Cartoon Network practically shunned it from the network and aired episodes completely unadvertised throughout the course of the entire season. It’s a strategy that caused a lot of uproar at the time, but I think I kind of understand where the network was coming from. I mean, they had already cancelled the series, and with the new season being targeted almost entirely towards longtime fans, the network would kind of be wasting money on advertising a show to children unfamiliar with its history. Anybody who actually wanted to watch the show obviously kept up with social media more than television advertising. After all, up to 20 million people in the US got rid of cable in 2017, which is a fuck-ton. I don’t blame the big boys at CN for thinking that this was the best way to go about things. Just makes me slightly sad we weren’t able to get ant really rad previews like this anymore.

Regardless of that tangent, it is really satisfying to feel as if every episode being dished out this season is important. I’m all for filler episodes of the series, but inconsistent airdates from the network can often result in deteriorating interest. Season Six was the first season to have inconsistencies in its airing schedule, and considering that the season was filled to the brim with wildly different stories that often didn’t connect in any particular way, it often left me a bit dissonant. Season Eight’s episodes actually aired in four different pairs, essentially. The first six episodes were aired in bomb format in the course of a week, Islands and Elements were released digitally all at once, both of which I watched straight through in one sitting, and the last five episodes of Season Eight were all dropped on the app at the same time. I’m all for the practice of watching episodes week-by-week, but at the expense of Cartoon Network’s insane schedule changes, I’m glad we were always left with satisfying bunches in return.

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“Satisfying” is a term I throw around a lot when describing this season, and I think most of the credit is due to the fact that this season had not one, but two miniseries(es)! Islands and Elements are easily two of the greatest accomplishments that Adventure Time has ever pulled off, and showing just how successful the show can be when telling a dedicated and ongoing story. Stakes was the first attempt at practicing this method, though I like how Islands and Elements are way more incorporated into the main story, while Stakes was (for the most part) standalone. Also, unlike StakesIslands and Elements are actually good. I’m anticipating many, many death threats for that statement. I could talk about Islands and Elements more here, but it’d be less redundant if y’all just checked out my individual reviews of both of them if you haven’t already!

It is weird talking about this season without including the miniseries(es), but there is one, main ongoing story outside of these individual arcs: Fern’s inception. As I’ve mentioned before, Fern is one of my favorites. I think his stellar design and portrayal, coupled with his compellingly tragic story, really makes for one of Adventure Time‘s strongest secondary contenders. Even though he was only fleshed out in the course of four separate episodes (with some minor bits of characterization in both Islands and Elements) it’s really easy to get behind his story because of how recognizable he is. He’s essentially Finn if things went horribly, horribly wrong everyday of his life. It’s even more fittingly appropriate that (originally) Season Eight begins with Fern’s arc in Two Swords and closes out his role as a unlikely hero in Three Buckets. Thankfully, we’ll see more of the little weirdo later on in Season Nine!

Finn is the primary star of this season, with both of the miniseries centering mainly around him and his story. Both of them feature some of the most emotionally charged tales featuring our main hero to date, namely his origins and his loving connection to his brother. Though Finn steals the spotlight most of the time (rightfully so) everybody gets a chance to shine in their own compelling way. Princess Bubblegum continues to battle with her own identity and individual power in both High Strangeness and Jelly Beans Have Power, Jake struggles to cope with the changes and stress in his life in Cloudy and Abstract, Marceline comes to terms with her own repressed emotions in Ketchup, BMO learns to appreciate his real-life connections above all in Imaginary Resources, Susan’s arc FINALLY is restored as of Islands, while Elements features LSP’s unlikable personality actually benefiting the world for once, Ice King experiencing a sense of self-actualization, and Betty going bonkers. The only characters within the main crew that don’t really get to do much are Flame Princess and Lady Rainicorn. Flame Princess gets a big role in Happy Warrior, but she doesn’t really get a chance to shine in full form since she’s altered by the elemental effects. Lady Rainicorn had her swan song in the self-entitled Season Seven episode, though she has some nice moments in The Invitation and Abstract. Even though half of the season is encompassed by Elements and Islands, the other lovely citizens of Ooo still get a great chance to shine in the other 16 episodes.

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The teams this season were pretty stellar all around, but I have to give special props to Sam Alden. He worked with a total of THREE different storyboard artists throughout the run of this season, and his work always stands out as top notch. Alden started out being easily glanced over during his time with the incredibly out-there Jesse Moynihan, but he’s really come into his own the past two seasons by having an recognizable style, a strong focus on passionate characterization, and a heavy emphasis on studying the works and tactics of his peers. Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard dish out their usual atmospheric treats, with slightly less classics than previous seasons. Seo Kim and Somvilay Xayaphone don’t have a single bad entry this season! Granted, they worked on some of the weaker miniseries episodes, but they also spearheaded one of the best – Bespoken For! Hanna and Aleks worked on episodes that were mostly good, with a heavy emphasis on mostly. And per usual, uncle Graham Falk stopped by on occasion to offer his delightful zaniness. There’s definitely less of a focus on new staff members, with a couple exceptions, namely Laura Knetzger, Polly Guo, and Charmaine Verhagen. It really helps to nail the notion of stronger character portrayals and longterm story arcs by having mostly veterans take the helm this time around.

Top 5 Best Episodes

5. High Strangeness – Bizarre and potent, this one is the best Tree Trunks episode to date, and another compelling look at PB’s inner doubt.

4. Bespoken For – A brilliant tease for lore that ends up being a hilarious day in the life of Ice King, and also a very depressing day in the life of Betty Grof.

3. Do No Harm – A terrific back-to-back exploration of both Finn and Fern’s characters, and one that’s both beautiful in the art and sound department.

2. Cloudy – A beautiful celebration of Finn and Jake’s relationship.

1. Min & Marty – AT‘s storytelling at its absolute best, giving us one of the most compassionate, and most heartwrenching, tales of Finn’s past to date.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. Slime Central – Man, this one isn’t even bad! I just didn’t know what else to put at the fifth spot. I guess it’s just kind of surface level entertainment, but in the same sense, it is entertainment.

4. Hero Heart – Again, I guess it’s a little slow, but ehhh, I still enjoyed it??

3. The Light Cloud – I think its message is slightly problematic, but again, it has some really great moments! I actually enjoyed this one more than the previous two, but since I have clear problems with it, I ranked it slightly higher.

2. Wheels – In the risk of sounding redundant, I did enjoy this one! It has a lot of funny moments and competently animated scenes. Buuuut, it also features Jake at his absolute worst on the parental front, and considering that this is the last “Jake and his kids” episode to date, that rubs me slightly the wrong way.

1. Fionna and Cake and Fionna – The only actual bad episode this season, and booooy is it bad. A completely pointless and joyless entry that messes with the fabric of Adventure Time‘s world as a whole.

Final Consensus

If my “Top 5 Worst” list was any indication of the quality of this season, it should show why it’s personally the best in my opinion. It really feels like a huge passion project from the AT crew to try and give fans exactly what they want without it feeling gimmicky or unwarranted. Season Eight is fanservice in the best way necessary, focusing on closing doors that have been open for far too long, while also opening new ones along the way. It’s some of the best storytelling the series has ever told, and certainly the peak for the show in general. Not to say Season Nine is bad, but it’s an… interesting beast. And I look forward to tackling it head on shortly!

“Islands” Miniseries Review

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Islands is the second miniseries that Adventure Time had put out, and I think it’s arguably the best of the three. Honestly, it’s been a while since I watched Elements as a whole, so my opinion may change, but I still feel as though Islands was, at its core, the most satisfying story that Adventure Time has told up to this point. For years, myself and fans alike have been looking for definitive answers regarding Finn’s past and have really only gotten hints and teasers into his history. Islands finally offers answers, and not just answers that are dished out for the mere sake of shutting fans up once and for all. Islands intricately combines everything that we’ve ever known about Finn and the history of humanity in general and creates a whole new layer of lore that truly encapsulates the heart, as well as the sadness, of Adventure Time in general.

The opening of Islands is interestingly my least favorite of the of individual miniseries’ intros. It’s not bad by any means; per usual, it’s guest-animated by Science SARU, and they always do a stand-out job. In the same regard, I think it’s the least visually interesting, as it’s mostly limited to a long pan through oceanic scenes and backgrounds. It’s spiced up a bit through the transitions of day and night, but otherwise, it doesn’t really compare to the dark and foreboding tone that the Stakes intro accomplished or the absolute insanity that Elements was able to pull off. I also thought Jeremy Shada’s singing is strangely unappealing for reasons I can’t really put my finger on. The opening titles for Stakes and Elements always felt like big, grand musical overtures, while this intro kind of feels like Jeremy Shada came in and sang it once, and then they just went with the first take. It’s nice, but nothing particularly stellar. The best part about the intro, however, is the hilarious subversion when Jake and Finn bump fists. I’m so glad they took the time to recreate this iconic scene by choosing to exploit the clear passage in time for the funniest result possible. This bit also remained in the Elements intro, but it got the biggest kick out of me here.

Islands is probably the most tonally different from its sister miniseries(es). Nearly every episode in Islands feels different in what it wants to accomplish, ranging from a variety of different genres and themes to make it feel as though each entry is something new and fresh. While I gradually grew tired of pretty much reinstating my thoughts of Stakes in each individual episode review, the episodes within Islands always felt like their own thing and never felt stale or tedious. Even in their individuality, they still were tied to main story of Finn finding a tribe of humans and discovering himself along the way. Some entries were sillier than others; Whipple the Happy Dragon and Imaginary Resources certainly distanced themselves from the weight and heaviness of other episodes like Min and Marty and Hide and Seek, and while that is a turn-off for some, this is Adventure Time we’re talking about. I’m glad it can still tell a big, grand, and successful story without feeling too pressured to be entirely committed to drama along the way. Even within the miniseries format, some episodes still mange to be really successful standalone entries. This is most obvious with Imaginary Resources – an episode that still touched heavily on the whereabouts of humanity, as well as smaller arcs established within Islands, but one that impressed general audiences enough to snag an Emmy for Individual Achievement in Animation.

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I was obviously pretty excited to see an entire eight part miniseries centering AT‘s central character, and more than anything, his arc is what carries Islands through so successfully. His main goal of finding out who he truly is explored quite subtley throughout these eight episodes. While it seemed that Finn was initially on the fence about where he truly belongs in life and if his home in Ooo is the right place for him to be, he continuously is reminded throughout the course of the miniseries of who he intrinsically is and what his place is in the world. He’s a helper, and a great one at that. While he can help people pretty much anywhere, he’s dedicated himself to helping the citizens of Ooo since he was a wee buff baby, and while he loves doing so, it just so happens that he doesn’t truly “belong” anywhere. He loves his home in Ooo and he loves living with his best bro, and as long as he’s helping people along the way, that’s truly where his place is. I don’t know if this is a real quote from the man himself, but the wiki insists that Adam Muto stated that Finn’s mother being a helper was essential to Finn’s growth as a hero. I think that’s utter bullshit, but I think it is essential to show how Finn’s behavior as a helper is what really keeps him going and makes him feel at home anywhere he goes.

While we’re on the topic of Finn’s mom, Minerva is an excellent addition to the cast. I never felt as though Finn needed caring human parents for the satisfaction of his own character arc; he already has two loving parents, Joshua and Margaret, and that was clearly identified to have been enough by the end of season six. However, using Minerva as an entity to parallel Finn’s own perils throughout his life, including the concepts of abandonment and choosing to put others before one’s self, was a pretty successful decision. It shows that, even though Minerva is a heroic helper like her son, their separation didn’t directly impact the other in any shape or form. Finn was still able to develop into a nice, caring individual without the added implication of a heroic bloodline. They’re two great people who become even greater after going through the worst of life’s circumstances, and they have each other to relate to regarding that factor.

Susan’s development also had me a lot more invested in her character than I ever deserved to be for someone who only shows up every two or three years. Her story is just as tragic as it is intriguing. For me, it’s truly reminiscent of children who are raised under toxic religious practices, only to recognize and develop into questioning their own identity and morality. Even though Susan, or Kara, ends up hurting her friend in her own ignorance, you can’t really be mad at her for doing so. It’s how she was conditioned to think and perceive, and that’s her only real reference into how society should be. Her relationship with Frieda quite nicely parallels the relationship between Finn and Minerva, in which one is unnecessarily overprotective of the other and tarnishes their freedom as a result.

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The battle between freedom and safety is heavily focused on throughout Islands, and is, for the most part, handled in a stellar fashion. I was only disappointed with its coverage in The Light Cloud, as I felt the moral was hammered in to the point where it felt as if it was an attack on safety in general rather than a cautionary message about the harm of over-protection. Hide and Seek handled this dilemma in such a way where they didn’t really need to spell it out for anyone – we merely came to a conclusion based on the way that Dr. Gross uses others to get what she wants, as well as how Frieda’s desire for freedom is cut short by the rules and regulations of the island. There’s obvious dangers that can harm the humans, and while the message that’s mainly displayed is that they should live their life regardless, I feel as though not all options were explored for a potential happy medium. While this message clearly applies to our modern day world, as we have tons of different potential hazards that plague us daily, I don’t think it works especially well in a society where humans are nearly extinct as a result of the long-term aftermath of a full-blown war. It feels like this logic is just glanced over entirely for the sake of the message.

That aside, I do think the overall theme is handled mostly well, and works successfully off of what was started in the Islands graphic novel, of which I’ll be covering shortly. I had very few issues with Islands otherwise, aside from a few minor nitpicks. I thought it was kind of strange how, after recalling her past history, Susan is, for the most part, fully coherent and doesn’t look back at all on the fact that she was out of it for 16 years. This is, of course, due to the fact that there’s only so much that can be covered in 11 minutes, and also that there was just too much going on in the miniseries to begin with. Most people thought that the miniseries was too rushed towards the end, but again, I only felt hints of that in The Light Cloud. I felt as though the miniseries did everything to could in its eight episode span, and covered it quite successfully, at that. A lot of others complained that we didn’t have more time dedicated to Finn and Minerva spending time together, but I thought it was for the best, honestly. I’d like the personal moments between the two to be left up to speculation as much as possible. It allows for as many conversations as the viewer would like to take place.

Any side stories and characters were welcomed as well. Alva is definitely the most likable character in the entire miniseries, BMO’s reign as a mod was loads of fun, seeing more of Martin was much appreciated, and Frieda is a cute and enjoyable rebel. Again, there’s a nice balance of stuff on the side of the main adventure with Finn. The miniseries never fully takes its focus off of our hero, but it does allow for other characters and tales to be fleshed out to their best abilities.

Best to Worst Episodes

  1. Min and Marty
  2. Mysterious Island
  3. The Invitation
  4. Hide and Seek
  5. Imaginary Resources
  6. Helpers
  7. The Light Cloud
  8. Whipple the Happy Dragon

Final Consensus

Islands never skips a beat, having a couple of problematic episodes (The Light Cloud and Whipple) but never actually churning out a stinker. While I thought that Stakes was fanservice-y for the worst of reasons, Islands manages to be so for the best of reasons, allowing the staff to fully commit to a passion project that felt as if it was years in the making. We’ve journeyed through Finn’s life a number of times, but I don’t think we’ve ever experienced an adventure as poignant and worthwhile as this one. It’s likely Adventure Time‘s most well-awaited stories to date, and one that almost makes those years of waiting for answers even more rewarding.

“The Light Cloud” Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

“Helpers” Review

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Original Airdate: February 2, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Brief aside before we begin here: I’m starting up a podcast! Hosted by myself and my fellow pal _Comic_ from the AT subreddit, the Animation Ambiance Podcast will cover anything from the most relevant of topics in animation to some of the most obscure. We’ll definitely be discussing Adventure Time at one point or another, so if you’re interested in listening to the garbage box I call my voice, subscribe to our channel here!

The moment we’ve all been waiting for folks: Finn finally meets his birth mother in Helpers. It’s a moment that’s much less devastating than when he met his father, but all the more confusing, nonetheless. It’s pretty sad that Finn is never allowed a “normal” meeting with his relatives, though it is really nice to see him so ecstatic when faced with the chance to meet her in general. Like the past six episodes, Helpers succeeds through its execution of world-building, character interactions, and intense lore. Being the penultimate episode of IslandsHelpers essentially ties up all of the loose ends and curious questions we’ve had throughout the miniseries (and the series in general) and helps to build things up for its grand conclusion.

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I’ve mentioned before that I only really get into Susan’s character when she’s able to work off of Finn (which, thankfully, is a majority of her appearances) and there’s a ton of great moments between them in the first few minutes. Even after just gaining her identity back after like, 16 years, Susan still devotes her time and energy into helping Finn fulfill his own quest and return him to his mother in the process. Granted, it’s a bit difficult for me to ignore that Susan is back to normal for the first time in over a decade and she barely even bats an eye about it, which is one of the very few potential  problems I have with Islands in general, but I still think it’s sweet regardless. Susan acts very sister-like to the little guy throughout the episode, and makes sure that he stays safe in what could be an otherwise dangerous place. I similarly love the pacing when Finn is briefly admiring his mother’s thoughts and her image. You can really get a sense for his own optimism in the realization that his mother might actually be a nice, caring person. Of course, this is mostly just speculation on Finn’s part, but it becomes much more rewarding when we discover that his instincts were precisely right.

We also finally get to explore Founder’s Island, which is a really neat location. I like how it’s clearly shown to be futuristic in the way humans dress and use technology, but for the most part, their actions are relatively down-to-earth and relatable in their humanity. There’s still bustling cities, street performers, and kids who skate and hang out together. While the other islands we visited previously got to show off their examples of dystopian futures, Founder’s Island is perfect location to reinforce that “everything stays, but it still changes” by taking us ahead 1,000 years into the future of humanity but still allowing the society to feel very human in the process. Also really dig the fun and geometric character designs of some of the humans. They look straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.

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Jake hasn’t really had a ton to do over the course of this miniseries, and I’m sure he even caught onto that himself, because he is loving the attention that he receives from the humans in this episode. He’s truly hilarious and enjoyable in his performance; it’s very similar to the role that he played in Wheels, though this time, I don’t have to worry about the implication of Jake being a bad dad getting in my way of enjoying it. I especially love how much the humans eat up Jake’s act even when he isn’t being funny… does the flea circus joke actually make sense? I always found humor in how particularly unfunny and pointless it is. I really love how Jake also plays the part of the AT fanatic that believes that Finn must be a hero because of the person the gave birth to him. And I know it isn’t really profane or inappropriate in any context, but I still found it humorously shocking how Jake was able to use the word “placenta.” It’s like that season five episode of Samurai Jack where Scaramouche says “penis,” something just doesn’t feel quite right.

On the off side of things, Finn finally convenes with Minvera, or in this case, one of Minerva’s cyborg companions. It’s really cool to see how much Finn has matured since he met Martin. While his main goal was to just blurt out his identity and to find answers in his previous parental convening, Finn is very careful and precise in cushioning the possible blow for Minerva’s own sake. I’m not saying that he was wrong in his behavior before, as Finn does deserve answers. But it’s clear that he’s more empathetic and understanding of how this type of news can be confusing and hard to process for others as well, and he does so by making it clear that he isn’t trying to put Minnie on the spot. These moments are as nice as they are funny – I adore Finn’s question of “do you need help!?” after realizing that his mother may be in shock. Things quickly go awry when Jake is discovered to be a “mutant,” to which feels like a pretty logical reason for the humans to panic over. They’re essentially conditioned to fear this species, and after overcoming an excessively dangerous virus, the humans likely fear another potential “end” to their own species.

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I also neglected to mention the very small C-plot involving Susan’s conflicted feelings on seeing Frieda again. It’s an arc that gets a lot more attention in the following episode, though it’s executed quite nicely here. I really like Susan’s sentiment of “my friend got hurt… I don’t know if I’m allowed back in her life.” It’s a very mature frame of mind that shows that even asking for an apology on its own may be invasive, because Susan was never given the proper permission or acceptance back into Frieda’s social circle. She’s betrayed her trust, and effectively chose to end their friendship in the process. Though, how in the fuck is Frieda still wearing the same exact clothes after 16 years? Does that chick ever change her wardrobe? On a side note, I super adore Susan and BMO bonding with each other. It’s a totally out-of-nowhere friendship that I really dig.

Returning to our main plot, the scene with the boys imprisoned is pretty tense. I’ve mentioned throughout the course of this miniseries that Jake has been nothing but supportive of Finn in fulfilling his own needs during this journey, but here, Jake is clearly reaching a breaking point. After an entire stressful expedition across the sea that has only led them into more questions than answers, Jake likely has had enough of putting his life and his brother’s on the line when it has only resulted in more issues for the both of them. That changes, however, in a body horror induced sequence where Finn and Jake’s bones are shut down and one of the Minerva bots discovers that Finn is her son. When the two finally convene (in screen format) it makes for the get together that Finn has presumably always wanted, although he isn’t reciprocating it as well as might one think. This, of course, comes from the fact that Minerva’s transformation from body to screen has left her essentially inhuman. There’s no clear evidence as to how much of Finn’s mother is truly in there, though that’s mostly left for the following episode to explore. What Finn wants in Helpers is answers, and that’s exactly what he gets through a bit of haunting exposition about the trials and tribulations surrounding Founder’s Island.

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Minerva’s brief account of everything that happened is, like I said, quite wistful. It brings us up to date on everything we needed to know about the whereabouts of Susan and Dr. Gross, the steps taken after Finn’s disappearance, and the state of the humans and Minerva in general. Sharon Horgan, Minerva’s voice actor, does a terrific job of narrating in a hushed, yet passionate tone, and it’s only made better by Tim Kiefer’s terrific score to accompany it. The sequence also shows just how dedicated of a person Minerva is; even after going through the depressive reality that her once loving husband left with their son, she still remains tirelessly vigilant in ensuring that her people remain in good health, even if that means altering her own self in the process. While we learn a lot from this backstory, it also raises some interesting questions as well. Like, what happened 300 years prior that was “catastrophic”? I was originally under the belief that it might be referencing the implication that Rainicorns used to eat humans, but according to Everything Stays, such a concept had existed years and years prior and may or may not have died out by this point in time. To my knowledge, I don’t think it was connected to any certain event or piece of lore that we’ve been educated on thus far.

This episode closes with the brief implication that Minerva wants Finn to stay permanently on Founder’s Island, as we transition into the final episode of the miniseries. As a whole, Helpers effectively gets us up to date on pretty much everything we wanted to learn about throughout this miniseries and more. The final episode, The Light Cloud, exists primarily for the resolution of several different character interactions, though Helpers is mostly a resolve on the lore front. There’s so much packed into these 8 episodes that they could easily have spread these moments throughout the course of the series, but after watching Adventure Time for so long, this super condensed bomb of information is exactly what I wanted/needed. By episode seven of Islands, I was already feeling the most satisfied I had ever been with AT in general.

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Favorite line: “I love you, but your mom’s a hundred robo-clones.”

“Min and Marty” Review

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Original Airdate: February 1, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Sam Alden

Much like the previous episode Hide and SeekMin and Marty is primarily one big exposition bomb about the backstory of Finn’s parents, his inception, and his eventual abandonment. While I always expected the events of Finn’s past to be somewhat traumatic and sad, I don’t think the writers could’ve picked a more (satisfyingly) somber way to portray his early childhood. Min and Marty is brilliant in tying together pretty much everything we’ve learned so far and everything we’ve wanted to know, while narrowing the story down to the very intriguing lives of Finn’s mother and father. Much like the previous entry, this is one of the most down-to-earth stories the series has ever told. Aside from AT‘s typically desired goofy sense of humor and some fantasy elements (the tiger owned by the female hider was a necessity, after all) it’s a very straightforward plot that merely explores the lives and characters of two humans. And it’s surprisingly compelling at doing just that.

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Continuing right on after the events of the last episode, Kara’s memory is now fully restored after revisiting her old stomping grounds. I don’t know much about neuroscience, so I can’t really confirm if her sudden ability to retain the English language makes complete sense, but I’m willing to go along with it for the sake of my own ignorance. Finn is largely out of focus in this episode, to its strengths. The sudden info bomb that his mother is still alive and (presumably) well is A LOT to take in. With the almost non-answer that Martin gave him in Min and Marty, I assume that Finn just accepted the inevitability that he would never meet his mother because there was no chance that he’d ever receive the truth in the process. As the backstory of his mother and father plays out, Finn tirelessly looks out the window of Susan’s pod, and God only know what’s going through his head during this period of time. Finn’s anxiety is apparent, and it’s likely that he’s not even sure he wants to meet his mom. While Finn certainly matured and became a better person through his experience with Martin, those were painful moments that he’d likely never want to revisit. When being faced with the idea of his mother, Finn probably fears going through the exact same series of events that he did with Martin, or possibly uncertain in not knowing how or what to even say to his mom. It’s a great background element that isn’t explored especially in depth, to add to Finn’s introspective nature.

We briefly met Minerva and Young Martin in the previous episode, though it was mostly to set up the events that led to their convening. We get a much more focused look at their characters in this one, and I’ll go ahead and discuss them individually. Let’s discuss Minerva first: the long-awaited identity of Finn’s mother. Prior to this miniseries, I had already known about Minerva’s character, and it’s all thanks to the God damned Adventure Time Cookbook of all things that spoiled her existence for me. I was initially not all that enthused by the idea of her reveal; Minerva is the name of the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategy, and I really thought for a second that the staff was going to make Finn’s mom some unbelievable cosmic goddess to explain his heroic and legendary nature. Thank GOD that’s not what happened, as we get to see a more simple and realistic character in return. While I mentioned in my review of Hide and Seek that Kara and Frieda weren’t especially strong characters due to their simplicity, I think Minerva is actually stronger because of her simplicity. It’s easy to gather a lot from her personality in just the first few minutes alone: she’s a kind, intelligent, and helping person who wants to benefit her community and mankind through her own actions. She’s hardworking, to the point where the stress lines on her face indicate that she often puts the care of others and her work before the needs of her own self, but she seems relatively confident in her own abilities regardless. There’s something just so likable about her general demeanor and nature; the role of the hardworking, intelligent, caregiver easily reminds me of the likes of my own mother, and Minerva is a super-condensed version of that.

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Martin, on the other hand, is the opposite of such. Once more, I was a bit nervous seeing more of Martin, because I didn’t want his behavior to be retconned by an entirely virtuous past, but I think he’s handled exceptionally well here. He still is a complete swindler, using his abilities to con people into giving him devices and their trust all for practically nothing. I do wonder if he at least helped a couple people escape from Founder’s Island, because how would he get a reputation for helping hiders escape in the first place? His tactic is pretty conniving, however: playing both sides so he takes on the role of a seeker, but is secretly helping hiders in the process. Min and Marty also highlights perhaps the strongest aspect of Martin’s alluring. He’s selfish, manipulative, and an overall mess, but Martin’s ability to get what he wants always relies on one undeniable factor: he’s legitimately charming. I don’t blame Minerva for falling for him, because his attitude of flattery works on even the most intelligent of people. There is one difference that sets Minerva apart from the rest of Martin’s victims, however – Martin genuinely cares for Minnie. Even at his worst, Martin still possesses elements of humanity and isn’t a complete villain. Martin obviously is who he is because of circumstantial issues in his life, and the aforementioned psychological issues that Minerva diagnosed him with, but with all of his issues aside, good people can change shitty people. As we see from their connection, Marty easily begins to wise up in his actions after being around Minerva for a period of time, as he continues to support her and even gets a real job in the process. It’s safe to say that Martin was at his best around Minerva, and her kindness and strength is what shaped him into a more mature human being.

The sequence showcasing this growth is just great. I love whenever Ashley Eriksson lends her talents to the series, but man, every single song of hers has gotten a full release EXCEPT for this one, and it’s my favorite! I guarantee that there is a full version out there somewhere, and that the AT crew just enjoys watching me suffer in my endless search to find it somewhere on the internet. Regardless, it’s a sweet, calming melody that carries the montage through successfully, to which is entirely sweet on its own. Adventure Time can pack so much into a mere 11 minutes, but I’m so thankful and glad that even in this condensed form of exposition, every moment still feels impactful and told successfully through its storytelling. Min and Marty could have easily shown us an entire scene surrounded around Finn’s birth, but I can’t think of a single moment in the series more heartwarming and chilling than Martin snuggling up to Minnie with a baby Finn in her hands. That image alone melts my entire existence, you guys. If there was ever an Adventure Time instant that I went full-on fanboy over, it would be this one.

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If that sweetness wasn’t enough, we actually get to see Martin spending time with Finn – by choice, nonetheless! Sam Alden is typically terrific at using past scenes and storyboards for symbolism, and here we get to see Martin sitting with Finn in the same exact fashion he performed in The Visitor. It’s a terrific callback that adds a bit of melancholy to a relatively saccharine sequence. The nice moments quickly come to a halt when the deceived hiders come back to seek revenge upon Martin, as his past quickly catches up to him.

Of the sad truths presented in the Islands miniseries, I don’t think there’s anything more heartbreaking than the idea that nobody will ever know about the most selfless action that Martin carried out except for himself, but even that’s a bit hazy. To Minerva, he was a hider that used her to get closer to his goal of escaping. To Finn, he was a neglectful father that never once cared for anyone aside from himself. But, the truth is, Martin was improving on his behavior and becoming a better person, he just sadly could not separate himself from his troubled past, of which is a common issue for many people trying to better themselves. Martin was a misguided person who often chose his own selfishness above everything, but with the right influences, he could actually be a genuine guy. I thought this was the most realistic and tragic approach to covering his backstory. The surprisingly graphic promo art for this episode seems to imply brain injury had a part in Martin’s sudden turn in behavior, though I think it’d be especially lame to blame it entirely on that aspect. I’m sure the injuries to his brain affected Martin’s ability to properly remember how things went down exactly, but I also believe that Martin’s decision to go back to his old ways was a conscious decision on his part. After losing literally everything in the course of minutes without having a way back to his former life, Martin likely chose to protect himself by never looking back and to continue on with the selfish, aimless path that he started. The only time he ever opened himself up to give for others ended up as one big disaster, and who knows what ended up happening in his childhood that led him to take on such a path to begin with. This, of course, doesn’t justify his behavior towards Finn in any way, but it at least makes things more interesting and real.

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This episode doesn’t just add humanity to Martin on one level, however. Min and Marty also proves that the events that Martin had described in The Visitor were, for the most part, true. It really helps to make his previous line of “that’s… true” even more profound, showing that he was trying to be completely genuine and honest with his son for once in their relationship. Steve Wolfhard has stated before that none of the elements he included in The Visitor were pre-planned and that he just simply threw stuff out there for other storyboard artists to pick up along the way. “The Minnie,” Martin’s ship, could have been Finn’s mom’s name, or it could not have been. It’s no secret now that the AT crew essentially make stuff up as they go along, and while that may be disappointing to some, it really comes off as ingenuous when they succeed. This episode is evidence enough that the staff writers truly work hard to tie up those loose ends in the neatest, most logical, and most satisfying way possible.

The ending sequence, which features Minvera looking helplessly to the ocean, is utterly tragic. Minnie doesn’t cry, scream, or panic in any way. She simply just sits there, empty, as she fails to comprehend the series of events that have unfolded around her. Grieving is often a confusing period; while it’s most often associated with outward sadness, I think there’s something much more solemn about emptiness. You can really tell that Minerva just cannot believe what’s happening, and how could she? The day prior, she had all of the love and affection she could ever ask for, and the following day, she’s essentially left with nothing. Finn and Minerva share more than one quality, but it’s very clear that they share the same sadness as well: the turmoil over being abandoned. Before even meeting his mom, the audience is given the chance to look at her history and realize that those eyes of confusion and heartache are ones we’ve seen frequently before on our main hero himself. Luckily, however, Finn still has Jake to support him going forward, even if he isn’t saying much to begin with.

Min & Marty is exposition at its finest, offering up everything I’ve ever wanted to know about Finn’s backstory, but also nothing that I could have predicted or expected beforehand. This is a unique, tragic lovestory that utilizes the essence of humanity to its best abilities, giving us a very real story about the trials and tribulations of moving on from one’s past and the nature of relationships in general. There are so many beautifully profound moments in this episode that it’s hard to count them, and this entire entry does its damnedest to either fill my heart completely, or rip it to shreds in the process. It’s my favorite Islands episode to date, and likely one of my favorite episodes in general.

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Favorite line: “I think someone died.” “Oh, that’s great!”

“Hide and Seek” Review

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Original Airdate: February 1, 2017

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

Hide and Seek really kicks Islands into high gear by diving deep into Susan – er, Kara’s backstory and pretty much showing us everything we’ve ever needed to know about her character. This episode is pretty much one big exposition bomb regarding the policies and nature of Founder’s Island, but one that is tied to a truly tense and somber story in reference to how much freedom the humans actually have when dealing with the long term aftermath of the war. It’s interesting to see that, even among a world of totally civilized and very self-aware mutants, the humans still shelter themselves off in fear that they simply cannot survive. It’s a potentially overly cautious notion, but from the instinctively panicked eyes of a human, I feel like it totally makes sense. In the midst of all of the violence and terror within our own society, extensive security measures are pretty much a norm by this point in time. Not to say that extra attempts at safety are necessarily counterproductive, but the way Hide and Seek executes the dystopian policy feels very real and logical from a humanistic perspective. Of course, what Hide and Seek also plays around with is questioning “how much is too much?” as certain humans battle between safety and free will.

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Returning to the series once more is Dr. Gross, which was to be expected from her initial appearance in Preboot. I wasn’t entirely into Gross’s character in her debut, and thought that her descent into villainy felt somewhat confused at times, but here, she really gets a chance to shine. Dr. Gross is straight up wicked in this one, using manipulation and her own ideology of how humanity should be to strike against anyone that defies her. I truthfully like the way she’s designed here better than her design in Preboot , and I think her general appearance is interestingly symbolic when compared to the other humans who surround her. While she’s stated that she desires to bring the humans into a new golden age, she’s likely the least human person on Founder’s Island, both figuratively and literally. She wants everyone to preserve what remains of the human species, but in the process, everyone is becoming considerably less human themselves. The Founder’s Song not only paints a great picture of how humanity got to this point, but is also really, really catchy. This is one of my favorite post-Sugar songs without a doubt, and Lennon Parham’s voice quite tremendously carries it through. There are also plenty of other nice tidbits within the song sequence, such as how one of the blimps is clearly labeled “MoCo” and how it appears the gaping crater within the Earth is actually referenced to be a result of human error rather than the war itself. At least that’s what I’ve gathered, from Dr. Gross’s musical cues.

Kara’s backstory gives us a lot insight into her character, and it’s admittedly pretty sad. Throughout her entire life, Kara has never truly been able to choose a path for herself. While we’re all conditioned to think about and perceive the world in certain ways, most end up choosing whether they want to carry these values with them into their adulthood. Kara has been influenced to regard her surroundings as an absolute utopia, and before she even has a chance to question her own belief system, it’s too late. Dr. Gross already has complete control over her mind and actions, once more both literally and figuratively. After she eventually leaves Founder’s Island, she ends up in a completely primitive state where she must start over and only has the teachings of others to go off of. It really adds a sense of tragedy to her character, as she carries on through her life in a state of constant naivety. Her upbringing is very reminiscent of a cult, to where you can’t really help but feel bad for her, considering that she’s constantly faced with uncertainty on a morally conscious level. And this level of morality and fairness comes into question the most when she’s faced with the individual uncertainty of her best friend Frieda.

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The connection between Frieda and Kara is quite poignant. I don’t really think either of them are particularly strong characters (no pun intended), per se, but their interactions can best be described as entirely human. This a miniseries designed around the lives of humans, and even in the crazy, messed up world of Adventure Time, it’s really nice to watch a simple, down-to-earth friendship with some (relatively) down-to-earth drama. They play the part of friendly opposites quite well: Kara is a rule-abiding citizen that wants to do what’s right for her community, as well as others, while Frieda is the free-spirited wild child who is more interested in something beyond her own comprehension than what she’s dealt with at hand.

The conflict of the episode is very believable and empathetic, with neither side coming across as particularly unlikable. Kara is concerned for her friend and does not want her to be hurt by what lies beyond Founder’s Island, while Frieda wants to seek out a new life outside of the sanitation of her own community. As she states, “Maybe [I’ll get hurt], but maybe getting hurt isn’t the worst thing there is.” It’s a surprisingly mature and kind of heavy sentiment that emphasizes just how controlled Founder’s Island truly is; it doesn’t seem like its inhabitants are really able to grow and flourish, as they never actually experience pain or suffering outside of their little bubble. Not to say that they should suffer, but again, to be human is to suffer. A lot of the interactions between Frieda and Kara as the episode goes along are pretty heart-wrenching, especially Kara’s non-answer of “It’s gonna be okay!” after Frieda questions her loyalty. Again, Kara isn’t particularly wrong or unlikable in this situation – she cares about her friend, but she also cares about what is morally right to do.

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That cult aspect I mentioned before continues to play a part in Kara’s discussion with Dr. Gross. Anyone who has a different point-of-view from Gross or the knowledge of the Founders themselves is automatically seen as misguided and needs to be properly dealt with and “educated.” It’s a very controlling method of thinking, and only makes me wonder how many other innocents were harmed by their refusal towards the system. It’s made even more horrifying when we get to see how these “rebels” are dealt with, as Dr. Gross effectively manipulates Kara’s brain-chip to carry out her own bidding. I never could figure out if Dr. Gross just effectively picked up on Kara’s context clues, or if Kara herself had flat-out told her, but regardless, it’s pretty heartbreaking either way. There’s already a long, intellectual video that analyzes the meaning behind the slow motion shot of Frieda’s hat being removed, but I have my own two cents. I think Kara removing Frieda’s hat symbolically represents the hypocrisy of the Dr. Gross’s methods. She wants to follow the advice carried out by the Founders, which is to keep everyone unconditionally safe, yet the animal hats were used initially as the only “protection” for humanity during the aftermath of the war. Thus, Dr. Gross is effectively eliminating Frieda’s safety by trying to preserve it, and has become exactly what she sought out to fix. Whatever way people do see it, it’s an impactful moment that really helps to show the errors of humanity even beyond their own safe haven, and one that carries through the remainder of the miniseries even in Gross’s absence.

Hide and Seek features a sad story that succeeds entirely for its compelling story at the helm. That, and it’s also pretty visually stunning. Islands has really been hitting it out of the park with beautiful scenery and terrific landscapes. I have a couple minor nitpicks for this one: I’m not really into the super big heads they gave the children during Dr. Gross’s seminar – it felt more like chibified AT fanart than what I actually imagined human children would look like. There were a couple moments where I felt like Frieda’s VA could’ve done better during her emotional breakdown, but she did pretty well for the most part of the episode. The only other complaint I have is that I wish we saw more of Gross after this episode, but hey, can’t blame the series for that! I guarantee that if it continued, Gross would’ve had a bigger role down the line. Otherwise, it’s a lore-heavy entry that is packed with drama and sadness, and one that keeps me fully invested from beginning to end. The next episode is my favorite of the Islands miniseries, and I cannot wait to discuss it in more detail.

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Favorite line: “I think she’s, uh, getting ready to sleepwalk-sleep.”

“Imaginary Resources” Review

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

“Mysterious Island” Review

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Original Airdate: January 31, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

While The Invitation was mostly focused on its story and Whipple the Happy Dragon was focused on telling jokes and having fun, Mysterious Island is driven in creating an atmosphere, to which it succeeds at. We’re finally treated to our first island of the miniseries, and unlike the others that we eventually come across, this episode doesn’t really seek to make us understand what this island is about. We’re simply presented to a unique and unusual location that isn’t exactly rich with answers regarding its state of being, but are asked to enjoy it and get sucked into it regardless. And that’s exactly what happens.

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Mysterious Island features a lot more subdued, quieter moments than most of the other Islands episodes. While the other entries put exposition and emotion at the center (which by no means is an issue) this one takes its time and allows Finn to figure things out for himself. In a similar fashion to The Hall of Egress, the first half of the episode features Finn making observations out loud in reference to his surroundings. It feels even more like Egress considering that Tom Herpich boarded the first part of this episode, and he really excels with writing for Finn in his complete lonesome. I think it’s really nice, and is somewhat of a coping mechanism for Finn personally. He could allow himself to be completely stressed out about his friends being missing, but he instead chooses to allow the company of his own self to assist him through calmly looking for solutions. His observations are pretty humorous as well, along with his consistent comparisons to “everyday Susans.” In fact, Finn is kind of fucking harsh about Susan’s scent throughout the entirety of the episode, and it’s actually pretty funny. Our little guy is known to be judgmental at times, and let’s be honest, Susan probably NEVER bathes. And there’s the factor that he is looking for her, so it’s probably best that he describes her as in depth as possible. He even added in little stench marks when he drew her – THAT’S hilarious.

I really like the nature of the island in general. I’m always really into these concepts of areas that have a rapidly changing climate, as it feels like there’s so much ground to cover with different backgrounds, landscapes, etc. Upon being captured, I truly love Finn’s attitude towards being faced by a bear. As he mentions, he’s fought the Lich to space and back and has beaten plenty of other space gods… a bear is practically nothing by this point in time. He doesn’t even really antagonize the bear, which is great. Finn simply warns the animal that if he tries to mess with him, he’ll fight back, and that’s exactly what he does. Before the fight escalates, we’re introduced to Alva, the first human of the Islands bunch, and one of my favorites.

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Alva doesn’t boast an especially strong personality, but her mysterious behavior, cute Yoda-ish design, and sweet demeanor is really what draws me into her character. Alva is also Swedish, and I always think it’s a ton of fun when AT utilizes characters of other nationalities and languages. Alva isn’t really a character you need to be constantly translating; unlike Lady, where occasionally she’ll drop a really cryptic line of dialogue, all of Alva’s lines can be easily explained through her behavior and attitude, or through Finn’s interpretations. Alva’s voice actor is Swedish herself, and I know I’m getting way off topic here, but holy shit, her VA is a straight-up babe! Aside from her looks (please read my blog and call me sometime), Helena Mattsson also does a splendid job at capturing the charm and mannerisms of an old lady while only being 34 herself. I enjoy the lengths that Mysterious Island takes to show how foreign this area is – the way Alva pokes holes into each one of her eggsack snacks before they begin to emit steam felt so real to this desolate, quiet land that Herpich and Wolfhard have created. It also felt very Miyazaki-like of the show to give Alva a giant bear as an animal partner. Albert’s pretty neat from his design alone, along with his goofy, cartoon-y facial features and clothing accessories. Come to think of it, every single animal on this island sports boots or shoes of some sort, and it’s another great element that adds to the bizarre mystery of the island. It’s kind of awesome to think that this little old lady is presumably the sole survivor of her entire species within this area of land, and it does seem reasonable enough, as we eventually discover her past history with technology and get to see how she’s on constant look out for trespassers to begin with.

The other aspect that makes this episode so great is Alva and Finn’s relationship. Again, they never even talk to each other, but I love how Finn uses it as an opportunity to observe this land and himself in the process. He even mentions previously identified aspects of his character, like how he isn’t really good at drawing aside from the occasional doodle. His drawing of Alva was legitimately terrible, but in a charming and sympathetic way, because you know the little guy at least put his heart into it. I also enjoy how Alva is very sweet, loving, and curious around Finn. She squeezes his face, reprimands him for playing with a sword, and snuggles up to him when watching the film of her fellow colleagues and humans. Finn is equally as curious around her, and I really appreciate how open he is to just going along with whatever weird endeavors she embarks on. Even after trapping him and squeezing his face, all Finn does is utter a “hi!” which I find to be adorable. I also like how, even after he realizes that she can’t understand him, he still continues to project out loud simply because there’s a lot going on in his mind and he enjoys her general company. Even if those thoughts are about crabs being a form of robot… oh Finn, you special boy.

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The film itself is really well-executed; another somber, silent scene that is pretty effective in showing one of the darker demises of humanity, even for this show’s standards. I know it’s silly that we’re watching a giant parrot wearing boots, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t just a bit chilling that the same exact parrot is shown to have killed someone in the film. This is emotional stuff, but Mysterious Island doesn’t really play it off in a big, dramatic way, to its strengths. I think there’s something much more haunting in the silence and darkness we’re offered. Additionally, it’s sweet that, even after having lost everyone, Alva still isn’t selfish when being face-to-face with the first human she has seen in a long time – she still wants to help him find en hund. If that wasn’t adorable enough, Alva and Finn end up swapping hats, which just charms the hell out of me. Their search pays off, as they do end up running into Jake, who’s less than enthused about the newcomers. Again, it’s nice to see that Jake just wants to keep Finn safe and could give less of a fuck about anyone else involved. He certainly isn’t going to share his portions with just anyone. The end of the episode ends as quietly as it starts, not with a giant conclusion to Alva’s story, but with a transition into the very next episode.

Mysterious Island never seeks to be big or groundbreaking, but just to be a quiet trip to showcase a portion of humanity. It’s cool and realistic to see that humanity is not limited to one segregated island, and, just like within Ooo, there are other humans still alive and roaming about the Earth, just in scarcity. Alva is the perfect specimen for this type of story, allowing us to spend time with her and to unravel her own tragic past along the way. But Alva’s draw isn’t that she’s a tragic character (though she is), but rather a curious, subdued figure that allows Finn to observe and draw conclusions for himself. Mysterious Island is just that: a mostly hushed expedition that put Finn at center stage, as he explores, inquires, and educates himself along the way. The only downside to Mysterious Island, in my humble opinion, is that not every joke works. The humor in Herpich and Wolfhard’s episodes can often be hit-or-miss, and I think there were one or two misses within this entry. I didn’t really find the repeated shots of Albert picking his nose and scratching his butt to be that funny, or the waaay played out use of Finn’s stock scream. Otherwise, Mysterious Island is pretty great in its atmospheric journey through one of the many mysteries of humanity’s demise.

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Favorite line: “Now I can look like an idiot while I freeze to death.”

“Whipple the Happy Dragon” Review

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Original Airdate: January 30, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

Whipple the Happy Dragon is easily the weakest of the Islands bunch, but that isn’t really saying much considering that I pretty much enjoy every entry from this miniseries for individual reasons. Whipple suffers a bit from feeling directionless at times and focusing on a pretty uninteresting side character, but it still has a lot of fun along the way, along with its fair share of poignant moments, which is to be expected from Islands.

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This episode has a lot of nice, small moments that aren’t particularly hilarious, but are just so likable that I can’t really resist. Love Jake’s method of turning super small to figure out directions, the shared “woo” between boat members, Jake’s spidey-like stretch powers that help him form a hammock, and so much more. I like how, even when headed into the unknown where possible dangers lie ahead, the miniseries still takes its time by showing Finn, Jake, and Susan take advantage of the nice experience at hand. I honestly don’t think I’d like this miniseries as much if it was completely dramatic and devoid of these little moments, because that’s not what Adventure Time is. AT is a show that’s filled with drama and devastating scenarios, but masked by the cute and colorful characters at the helm. And that’s really what makes this one a nice breath of fresh air.

I similarly enjoy how Finn is willing to put his important trip aside to save the life of a dragon that he’s never met, even though Susan and Jake are technically right that the pirates aren’t really immoral for hunting the sea creature, unless there’s some sort of Ooo/worldwide law forbidding it. Still, I love how the excursion is more important in Finn’s eyes. This is where the gang meets up with Whipple, a somewhat good-natured, but entirely obnoxious dragon. Whipple’s an alright character, albeit not very interesting. I do like how he’s written in such a way where he’s annoying to the main cast, but not to audience. His main flaw comes from the fact that, aside from being “annoying”, he’s not really that funny or interesting and the episode doesn’t really end up doing much with his character. Granted, the humor surrounding Whipple’s character is funny enough to carry his story through. Whipple’s biggest strength is his relatability, at least from my perspective; I think we all have that one friend that isn’t necessarily mean or toxic but just so God damn annoying that you need the opportunity to tune them out before reaching potential insanity. This is exactly what Finn, Susan, and Jake do, until BMO finally reveals himself and tells Whipple to fuck off. Part of what I love about BMO’s character is that he can be as big of an asshole as possible without it ever coming across as unlikable. He essentially embodies a child, and children in general are pretty outspoken, so it often comes off as more naive than anything. I really crack up at his freakout scene, that promptly leads to the destruction of their boat at the hands of Whipple. Though, I do find it odd that Finn and Jake are completely cool with BMO after this goes down. Feel like the little guy should have been reprimanded just a bit.

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Whipple takes a slight detour, as Jake begins to get possessed by hallucinogenic jellyfish that make him envision Joshua and Margaret in distress. I didn’t really think it added a ton to this episode, but upon simultaneous viewings, I feel like it may possess more meaning than I gave it credit. When Susan is possessed, she briefly envisions Frieda, of whom we meet later. Frieda was someone that Susan had the chance to help, but ended up destroying their friendship in the process. I wonder if Jake somehow is under the impression that he could have helped Joshua and Margaret before they died. The circumstances of their death is still unknown, but I wonder if Jake subconsciously feels responsible for whatever way it actually went down. His fear of letting Joshua down could also relate to the responsibilities that were foisted upon him after his father’s death, and Jake desires to make his poppa as proud as possible, even after his passing. But, this is all stuff Jake doesn’t like dealing with, which promptly makes him want to turn back. Jake’s rather defensive towards Finn in this episode, but I think it’s understandable. Finn hasn’t really been honest about his feelings and why this trip is so important to him to begin with, so it’s no wonder that Jake kind of dismisses it as a waste of time. The safety and well-being of himself and his brother likely matters more to Jake than a “cool trip” that Finn can have part in. And, to be honest, I don’t think Jake really gives a fuck if he gets Susan there or not. He’s cool with her, but her own soul-searchy journey isn’t really his responsibility. Finally, after all this pressure, Finn cracks.

Look, I’m really happy in Ooo. I love our mom and dad. But I don’t know squat about humans. If I don’t see this through, part of me will always be stuck to that boom-boom leaf where mom and dad found me. Still alone.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, and one where Finn quite eloquently states his place in the world. He is happy, but there are questions and uncertainty surrounding him. He likely could continue to live a normal life, slaying monsters and kicking back with his bro, but there are unresolved conflicts living inside of him that will never truly go away. This is his one possible chance for a resolution: to learn about himself and his culture, and he doesn’t want to sacrifice that for another day of being a minority. I get how the concern  of Jake and others is that Finn simply wants to find people more like him in place of his friends and family, but this makes it quite obvious that Finn has no intention of doing so. He simply wants to put his wildly inquisitive mind at ease.

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Whipple returns to the scene, as Finn responds to him with the brilliant line of, “sorry we said you were annoying… or, sorry for not telling you that you were annoying earlier?” Kinda brings up a humorously interesting point: is it our job to tell annoying people that they are annoying? Regardless, Whipple does decide to help out the gang, though it only further leads them into the unknown.

Couple other things I dig about Whipple: Susan’s addition to the main cast feels kind of nice. We rarely get to see this chick, so it’s cool to have her bonding and working off of Finn and Jake for an extended period of time. Also, it’s a small moment, but I love how Jake refers to himself as “the bad boy” when introducing himself to Whipple. I guess Jake would be the rebel of his friend group, if there ever was one. Otherwise, Whipple the Happy Dragon is an enjoyable entry. It certainly has the weakest story of its sister episodes, but it’s thoroughly funny and entertaining throughout, and Finn’s introspective moment is easily enough to justify Whipple‘s existence.

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Favorite line: “Whipple, you suck so much.”