Original Airdate: November 8, 2011
Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto
Beautopia is Susan Strong’s first appearance since her debut episode, and her last episode for a very long period of time. Some general developments are made, as she obtains a wider (albeit broken) variety of vocabulary and a subtle, yet more intelligent grasp of the world around her. It’s even somewhat of a conclusive piece to her arc, even though nothing is explicitly given away and her character returns much later on to drive her story even further.
The relationship between Susan Strong in her debut episode was driven by Finn’s growing interest in the existence of humans and his fascination with her as a member of his species. Here, it’s quite different, but even more endearing to me. Finn simply wants to help her out as a friend, despite the fact that she may not even be one of his kind, and caused great danger for the Candy Kingdom previously. Finn is still considerate enough to be by her side and never once question her motivation or beliefs. He’s written terrifically in this episode, and it really shows what an honest and caring guy he is. Even when everything Susan does seem to be completely ludicrous and unethical, with her even going so far as to almost drowning Finn, he still has her back completely, possibly due to his belief that she is still strongly connected to him despite her different appearance. His line towards the end “humans and hyoomans gotta stick together,” strongly indicates that, even though he acknowledges that Susan and her people may be different from him, he still considers them worthy of his utmost respect. It mirrors Jake’s line of “we’re all wild animals, brother,” from Susan Strong, and it’s just delightful to see his strong support of his humanoid friend.
Speaking of Jake, he can be a bit of a jerk in this one, but I feel like it’s necessary and makes sense with the plot. On one hand, he is entirely disrespectful (or as he put, “disruptive and obnoxious”) towards Susan and her people, and even mocks the hyoomans on several occasions. I dunno, isn’t that considered like, racism in the AT universe? C’mon Jake, you’re better than that. On the other hand, his reactions and behavior do seem completely rational, considering the circumstances. In a way, he’s everything that you’d expect Finn to be: distrusting of Susan, completely skeptical about her ridiculous claims, and in fear of death throughout their entire travels. It’s humorous to watch Jake act so completely smug and condescending, and his actions are almost completely understandable. Obviously he isn’t going to trust Susan, because, for one, she almost destroyed the entire Candy Kingdom. In addition to that, she almost drowned his brother, gotten the three of them killed on several different occasions, and has paranoia that seems to be entirely irrational.
For that reason, it’s really nice to have a blend of both Finn and Jake’s opposing viewpoints in this episode. It’s really refreshing to see the boys on two completely different sides and not have it be intolerable to watch, but instead actually strengthens the episode. It’s a perfect perspective aspect that shows us exactly what we’d want to see from each character.
Susan herself is enjoyable to watch; she’s more used as a plot point than anything. She’s still enjoyable to watch, but not necessarily as amusingly wide-eyed as she was in Susan Strong. That being said, I do like her progression from a character who was completely shut off from the outside world to someone who’s gained a basic understanding of society and the actual dangers within it. It feels like an appropriate growth of her character, and it would’ve been so uninteresting if this episode picked up exactly where the last one left off and just followed Finn teaching Susan new information that she hasn’t learned yet. That’s the fun part about the amount of time it takes for characters to return in AT; time passes within the show somewhat naturally, and progression is happening in real-time, whether we get to see it or not. So characters are allowed to grow and develop without us necessarily getting to see every bit and piece of it. I do really love the brief moment where Finn pulls his hat off and Susan quietly says “you no gills!” It’s a very subtle and downplayed moment, but very crucial in the sense that it’s a moment where Susan comes to a realization about Finn that she hadn’t even known: he isn’t a fish person, he’s a full-fledged human boy, and it wasn’t until this point where she actually began to understand that.
The design of Beautopia is really, really cool. Michael DeForge worked on a lot of the backgrounds in this episode, and they range from very eerie and dark to something of a post-apocalyptic beauty. I love how Beautopia is actually just some sort of shopping mall as well, as it really adds to the notion of vast worlds and lands just simply being everyday parts of society that we recognize today. In addition, the Lub Glubs are really well-designed too. The way their teeth are practically ingrained in their body in a 2-D fashion is so freakin’ cool to me, and the lack of eyes and gas-like body are both chilling and pretty grotesque as well. The idea that Jake recognizes that one of them reminds him of his mother (and a drawing early on reminded him of his father) is surely more than just his mind going insane and an in depth observation of a part himself that he may subconsciously recognize. It’s a bit of a stretch, as the Lub Glubs don’t exactly resemble what is later revealed to be Jake’s true form, but it’s still an interesting point from Jake’s perspective, and something he probably had a better understanding of than he even consciously knew.
However, those lines are pretty funny on this own, and so is the rest of this episode. Jake plays a major part when it comes to comedy in Beautopia, from his long, panned out attempt at throwing the lantern into the City Heart to his attitude toward everything going on around him throughout the episode, I just really love watching him react to his surroundings in this fashion. His I’m On a Boat song gets a kick out of me every time I watch this episode, it’s so amusing yet so annoying at the same time.
The last act ends on a perfect note as well, with Finn receiving a private revelation through Susan Strong that we can only assume is positive. It’s a bit more teasing for the audience, but it is entirely satisfactory that one of the characters at least has an idea who Susan Strong is, and Finn’s content, friendly wave to her at the end leaves him feeling closer than ever to Susan, and without any further questions of her identity… for now, that is.
Anyway, I like this one. It’s not one of my favorites of the third season, but it has some really great characterization among the main cast, as well as some further developments in one of AT’s most mysterious story arcs. It’s also one that leaves me feeling completely fuzzy inside, and one that really can’t make Finn any more lovable if it tried. It’s a perfect wrap to Susan’s character for the time being, and left me entirely content until her later reappearance in the sixth season.