Tag Archive | Jake the Dog

“Jake the Starchild” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

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

I think the thing that hurts the most about Jake the Starchild is the fact that, if the AT writing staff had a bit more of a heads up regarding the end of the series, I really think this episode could have worked. Imagine this scenario: Warren Ampersand swaps his essence with Jake successfully, and takes Jake’s place on Earth, without Finn immediately noticing the difference. Jake croaks in space, Finn later discovers that Warren Ampersand is NOT his brother, and joins Normal Man and Betty in their quest to rescue their loved ones from the clutches of GOLB. I really hate playing the part of “this episode/scene should have went this way, because that would satisfy myself, and if I’m satisfied, that’s all that matter.” It’s unfair to judge an episode based on my expectations and disappointment, but when you get an episode like Jake the Starchild that is so devoid of satisfaction, it’s hard not to long for what could have been. This is one of the big AT stinkers, but again, I’m not sure how fair it is to say that. Part of where its disappointment stems from is the fact that it comes so close to the finale, yet offers little of substance or build up leading up into the final events of the series, but in harmony of what I had said earlier, this isn’t the fault of the writing staff. And, in another attempt to play devil’s advocate, I had praised Blenanas in spite of it being an episode so close to the show’s conclusion. When it comes down to it, I think Jake the Starchild‘s failure isn’t that it wasn’t able to tie its story in with Come Along With Me, but the fact that its story is so hackneyed and uninspired that it just comes off as a bit of a sad whimper in the face of finality.

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Right off the bat, I don’t really like how the beginning starts out. Jake the Starchild begins with a bit of a recap from The First Investigation that’s unnecessarily long and it doesn’t really follow any realm of continuity. Like, it utilizes identical shots that were used in The First Investigation but with entirely different dialogue. I don’t really get this approach? It incorporates a lot more of AT‘s typical silliness, but it’s just jarring to imply that there wasn’t just additional dialogue between Jake and Warren during this convergence, it was actually just entirely different from what we saw in the previous episode. Come to think of it, why the fuck are we even wasting time with a recap? AT has already gone so off the rails with different storylines that I don’t think the common viewer is going to need a recap anyway. Or if they’re going to do one, just show a super condensed sequence of all the juicy stuff that we need to remember. Otherwise, it just feels like time wasted on an already compressed episode.

After that sequence, we mostly move into the stuff between Jake and Warren Ampersand. I don’t know if I’m just being overly cynical, but the name “Warren Ampersand” has to be one of the dumbest the staff could’ve came up with. It feels like a manatee joke that combines two silly sounding words for the sake of being silly sounding. His name is an accurate representation of his character, however, as Warren Ampersand is pretty uninteresting all around. Surprise, surprise, he’s another bad dad. I know this show has created somewhat of a motif when it comes to shitty parental figures, but Warren is just a reiteration of everything we’ve already seen from the series. He’s the charming, yet selfishly devious father that is more than willing to put their needs before their child’s. Similar to Hunson’s portrayal a few episodes earlier, I’ve grown tired of this character archetype. We got more than enough of this type of material from Martin, and it just simply doesn’t work with anyone else. Martin was interesting because he was one, big subversion from what anyone was expecting from him. He was initially built up as this legendary hero that bestowed his blessed genetics onto Finn, until everything came crashing down in his debut. Martin’s character was great because it made the audience effectively hate him (or love to hate him, in my case) and his impact on Finn was undeniable. Warren’s a bad, selfish dude who tricks Jake, but has little to no effect on Jake or the story overall. So, what are we sincerely supposed to take away from his character? Well, we kind of get to that later.

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I like this painting, but I’m not sure I get it. I’m pretty sure the implication is that Jake and Jermaine turned 5 in dog years, considering that Finn is still a baby. Buuut, that’s not how dog years work and in that case, how did Jake end up being considered 28-years-old at the beginning of the series?

The dynamic between Warren and Jake is pretty standard and not particularly meaty. I’m not gonna act like they butchered Jake’s character or anything here – it’s pretty difficult to fuck up a lax dude like Jake, unless he’s portrayed in some kind of self-centered light. His reactions to Warren’s kindness and revelations are mildly humorous, albeit nothing remarkable. I do like how some of his core character traits return, such as his absolute willingness to follow a destiny bestowed onto him (The New Frontier) or his inability to resist people-pleasing (The Limit). The various trials that Warren puts Jake through are pretty unmemorable – for all of the episodes that could get super creative with Jake’s stretchy abilities, I feel as though this one is a missed opportunity. Aside from some twists and turns, there isn’t much creativity that goes into the possibilities of his own abilities, aside from the pretty neat revelation that Warren’s own caliber allowed him to essentially create an entire planet, similar to how Jake was able to do so in Everything’s Jake.

The climax of the episode really just feels like a culmination of laziness. Jake’s bait-and-switch with swapping the belts is presented in such a way that feels almost like its cheating continuity once more. Typically in a moment like this, the camera would cut up to above Jake and Warren’s waists, but it stays at a medium shot almost the entire time to the point where it feels like a cheap twist. Warren’s lack of knowledge when it comes to Jake’s kids makes little to no sense, considering that Warren apparently stalks Jake on a somewhat regular basis. Jake sacrificing the well-being of himself for his own kids is a moment that’s played up as if it’s supposed to be this big revelation but… we know that. Jake can occasionally have selfish and somewhat spacious tendencies, but I don’t think there was ever a point in the series where I thought that he didn’t care about his children. It’s a nice inclusion, but I don’t really feel like it’s adding anything to Jake’s character that wasn’t already known. Jake mentions that Warren’s behavior as a bad dad reminded him of what being a good dad is like, but what are you even supposed to take away from that? Again, I don’t think that there’s many moments in the series that imply that Jake wouldn’t do anything for his children, even if he is particularly absent-minded.

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Jake the Starchild seems like it has no idea what it wants to say by the end of it, and I walked away from this episode learning very little about Jake, Warren, and the nature of Jake as a whole. It wouldn’t bother me as much if it was one of Adventure Time‘s smaller arcs, but this shit is BIG! Jake’s shapeshifting abilities are a major aspect of his character that have continued to be built up more and more as time has gone one, and the fact that the climax of this arc is a collection of everything that could have already been gathered with context clues is truly a disappointment. I learned way more about Jake and the hidden aspects of his life through Abstract, and I honestly would not care if there was little to no follow-up about Jake’s alien-side after the fact. But, since there is, it deserves to be presented in a much more satisfactory way.

Is there anything I liked about Jake the Starchild? As I mentioned, the Jake moments are perfectly acceptable. The backgrounds and general color scheme of this episode really pop. I love the radiant blues that fill out the entire course of Warren’s make-shift planet. And yeah, aside from those two aspects, that’s kind of it. I don’t even know if I can call Jake the Starchild truly bad. It definitely has moments and attributes that I could deem poor in quality, but at the end of the day, it’s just a truly unmemorable, nearly pointless entry. I’m noticing this as a pattern of season nine episodes that aren’t exactly of good quality. With a very mixed season like Season Six, even at its worst, it was trying something different and pushing the bar for what could be in a kid’s show at the time. Episodes like SeventeenMarcy & Hunson, and Jake the Starchild are simply bland entries that should be really grandiose and exciting, but instead choose the most cookie-cutter options of storytelling available. It shows clearly in Jake the Starchild, because what could have been an exciting conclusion to an individual character’s arc ended up being a showcase of repetitive character traits and pre-existing knowledge. I would have loved to see what the amazing and brilliant team behind Adventure Time could’ve brought to the table had the series continued, but man, with episodes like Jake the Starchild, the show’s end may have been for the best.

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Favorite line: “I’m dying… for a soft pretzel with mustard.”

“Blenanas” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Pat McHale & Sam Alden

I talked a bit about the episodes that were generally regarded as “fan favorites” for season nine. While I enjoyed The Wild Hunt and The First Investigation, they surprisingly aren’t my personal picks for peak season nine material. Blenanas is an episode that seems to bring about polarizing thoughts and feelings. Judging by its placement in the season, I can see why people were a bit pissy with being dealt an episode that’s almost entirely filler right before the finale. Looking back, it makes sense, seeing as how there was no indication that Adventure Time‘s conclusion was a result of the network deciding to can the show, so Blenanas felt more like a poor choice from the writing staff at such a delicate time. But, looking at it for what it is, Blenanas is nothing short of top tier filler. It makes the most of a simple story by being humorous, character driven, and above all, charming.

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Part of where that charm comes from is the return of former creative director Pat McHale! McHale had been away from the series for five whole years, and he only ever worked as a storyboard writer and artist on The Enchiridion!. Yet, McHale really seems like the type of guy that AT comes naturally to. After all, he was Pen’s right hand man throughout Adventure Time‘s inception and had a key part in developing a handful of stories from season 1 through 5. Even with his time apart from the series in mind, his deep understanding of the characters and their individual dynamics has not faded. The episode starts out strong with a really nice back-and-forth between Finn and BMO. What I love about their interactions is that they’re primarily hostile, but that element of charisma is still very much alive. Finn disagrees with BMO about his joke, but mentions that he “loves” his little robot friend regardless. Finn storms off to prove BMO wrong, but the two playfully wave at each other before parting. This bit of sweetness is so irresistible in its lack of cynicism, which really ties into the nature of the show and its characters as a whole. Not to discount the enjoyable nature of Finn and BMO bickering, however. I love BMO’s blunt sassiness in accusing Finn of not being funny, and I always appreciate some aggressive dialogue for Jeremy Shada to put his all into. Also, the implication that Jake leaves BMO scandalous valentines is almost too bizarre to not find funny, or the brief moment where BMO makes a banana and Jake’s “B.R.B.” note passionately kiss. This is subtle AT weirdness that I’ve been longing for.

I get the feeling that Finn’s quest for validation is much more of a diversionary tactic than he puts on. I think in light of recent events with Fern, Finn may have numbed himself to the possibility of any other tragic occurrences in his life, and doesn’t want to humor the idea of his brother possibly being in danger. This is represented in a pretty obvious visual gag on the back of Ble magazine, which reads, “I miss my dog.” Finn has gotten better and better at finding different things to do during times of stress to get his mind off of the things that are worrying him, but that may have worked too well to the point where Finn is suppressing his worries by finding any little thing that can distract him. He may also be a bit scarred from the last time he lost Jake during Elements and resist falling into despair nonetheless.

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Regardless, I don’t think the boy’s confidence has been entirely in tact in a post-Fern world, and he’s focusing towards little things such as his sense of humor in an attempt to feel more confident and happy in his own skin. Only problem is that the people he asks aren’t much help either. I love McHale’s simple facial expressions for each character, but man, is it weird to see PB with nontraditional jagged teeth. Aside from McHale’s board, is this a feature that pops up every now and then? I feel like it’s equivalent to Finn being drawn with eye whites – it’s something that was done early on in the series, but then ditched for consistency. If any of y’all reading have more recent examples of this design feature, feel free to let me know! That visual analysis aside, I enjoy the continued goofiness that carries on through PB’s section. Her failure to understand the basic concept of humor reminded me a lot of something Pearl would say on Steven Universe, but it feels completely fitting with PB’s character regardless, especially in the midst of a detailed lockdown procedure. Even then, she still finds it appropriate to break into the library window with a bat instead of just simply walking in and grabbing the book she needed. In fact, why even was the exact book she was looking for just coincidentally sitting propped in the window? It’s another moment that’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but get into it. Speaking of things that I can’t help but get into, PB’s outfit is just adorable in this episode. It’s making me think more and more about what a missed opportunity it was for Cartoon Network to release a line of Marceline and PB dolls and figures with changeable outfits. It’d be a solid marketing decision for the female demographic, and for weird older guys like myself!

I’ve already praised him above, but Jeremy Shada puts on a terrific performance in this episode. The sections where Finn is chatting with himself have the potential to be awkward, but Shada brings on a very genuine charm that makes Finn’s conversation feel natural. I really hate the cliched analytic note of mentioning that a certain episode of Adventure Time “feels like season one,” because it’s such a broad analogy on its own and usually doesn’t particularly add any type of positive or negative connotation to the moments being described themselves. Yet, I really do feel like Finn having a conversation with himself regarding the fundamentals of humor really feels like AT at its most classic routes, even if the energy or zaniness isn’t all there. Throwing it back as well is the delightful reintroduction of Finn and Ice King’s dynamic.

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Now, Finn and Ice King have interacted plenty of times in the past few seasons, with Elements being the major example. But it’s been a long while since we’ve gotten to see these two characters interact without anyone else involved, and it’s delightful. I love how open-minded Finn has become to seeing Ice King as a legitimate comrade, even if his judgment of him hasn’t faded completely. Not that it really matters, because Finn’s exactly right – even if he does see Ice King as an equal, it doesn’t make him any less desperate for approval and love than he already is. This is also just kind of a really nice aspect of Ice King’s character in general, because as much as the show has proved time and time again that he is a sympathetic being, they really haven’t watered him down all that much. He’s certainly less aggressive and creepy than he was during his conception, but he’s every bit as crazy, desperate, and lacking of common sense. I like how they never went all out with forming this totally lovable, competent dude, and added in just enough to make it appear as progress has passed without really changing any of what made Ice King so enjoyable to begin with. And those elements alone are shown by his total disregard of understanding the intention of Finn’s joke and simply being drawn to the idea of “a cat with big teeth.” Yet, he still is able to come up with a subjectively funnier joke than Finn is! The complexities of Ice King’s character are just splendid.

But that progress that I mentioned prior is certainly welcomed, and I get a sweet kick out of Finn being so enthused by Ice King’s presence. Their combined interest in something creative is too nice, and you really do believe that this is something they’d be able to connect on without a problem. The lore built onto the Demonic Wishing Eye is also welcomed, especially the implication that such a hellish device would have such a cute, colorful host location. Though, I’m not sure how much Ice King actually has to worry about losing pieces of his soul. I’m sure the crown is doing most of the functioning anyway. The Pudding Troll that is introduced in Blenanas is another one of those crazily designed Adventure Time characters with a pretty standard personality, but I do enjoy his presence. I love his obscure design, with a speechless belly that shoots “ammo,” and his general lack of understanding of the purpose of his job. I like to imagine he just sits there for days on end without saying a single word or even moving.

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The Ble factory is certainly bleak, with dozens of skeletons inhabiting the vicinity. It’s interesting, because the skeletons appear to imply that the workers may have been human, but the Pudding Troll mentions having guarded the place for 500 years, and I don’t really know if contact between humans and mutants was ever mainstream during the fallout of the war. It’s also difficult to completely understand the implied disaster – what happened here that left a handful of workers dead without the Pudding Troll even noticing? Unless his application process was truly that he just submitted something a showed up one day, and that the humans working inside of Ble were killed by radiation fallout, or something. It’s food for thought, either way.

The production montage is tons of fun. It’s actually one of those sequences that I feel could be longer! Some of my favorite episodes of television are the ones that deal with behind-the-scenes production, particularly when it comes to animated series (Stimpy’s Cartoon Show from The Ren & Stimpy Show or Wacky Delly from Rocko’s Modern Life) and I’d love to see Adventure Time take on strenuous labor when working with Ble. Regardless, the finished product is funny, considering that Ice King, Finn, and the Pudding Troll aren’t exactly the most ideal content creators. But, Finn’s goals and desires are clearly spelled out in the last few minutes – he isn’t really looking to be funny, he’s simply looking for validation. It really makes sense why Ice King and Finn get along so well in this one, because they’re essentially both after the same sense of approval. Maybe Finn relies on Jake a bit too much to feel empowered. After all, Jake is pretty confident in himself and his own abilities, and the people we spend the most time with often shape our personalities. Without Jake, Finn may be susceptible to more feelings of inferiority and a lack of self-confidence. But, in the end, he does get what he was looking for, through an elaborately staged slapstick routine that’s right up BMO and NEPTR’s alley. Maybe Finn isn’t particularly funny, but he’s still able to feel good about himself through the affirmation of those he cares about most.

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I love Blenanas! It’s a light, silly romp with a decent amount of depth under the hood. This really is the show at it’s most simple, and it proves how much a simple idea can go a long way. Blenanas works as a competent story with added enjoyment in the smaller details; even the random inclusion of unusual transitions between scenes got a big smile out of me. It’s an episode that hits hard on the charm, and shows how crucial these characters are when it comes to the series succeeding. This last season may have picked up heftily on continuity, but at the end of the day, it’s the lovable, silly characters that carry Adventure Time through.

Favorite line: “I should show this to normal people, the common folk. The busy woman on the go. The regular Joe or Josephine.”

“The First Investigation” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

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

I’ve seen a few people bat around their picks for the best Adventure Time episode of Season Nine. The Wild Hunt gets tossed around a bunch, Come Along With Me is the best, and only truly great entry, for many. I also have seen The First Investigation being held in great light, with some people regarding it as one of the best AT episodes out there. In assessing this praise, I sort of sat back, scratched my head, and thought to myself, “Really? This episode?” I know there’s probably a lot of cynicism radiated off of that comment, but I don’t really intend for it to be entirely negative. The First Investigation, though not mind blowing or my exact definition of peak AT, is a delightfully fun entry that plays around with the concept of time-skipping quite cleverly. It also has the perk of being one of the only season nine episodes to focus almost entirely on the relationship between Finn and Jake, and even better, their relationship with their parents.

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Speaking of parental relations, Kim Kil Whan returns for one last featured appearance. I was vocal about my dislike of his character in Ocarina, but these past two spotlight episodes for him have helped him to become instantly more likable. Of course, he doesn’t really do anything particularly noteworthy here – but his general trusting of Jake for such a big task, even after everything that happened with his daughter in the previous episode, is pretty sweet. I especially like his awkward, small “bye, dad,” before teleporting out. That’s probably KKW’s strongest foot forward into emotional sincerity. Like I mentioned prior, part of what’s so great about Finn and Jake’s role in this episode is the irresistible sweetness of their characters. Even more important than the goal of the mission is their desire to tell the possible ghosts of their parents that they love them dearly. The show has left Joshua and Margaret’s deaths pretty deep into the shadows, as I think they should, but the context of this seems to paint that their deaths were sudden and/or unexpected. That, or Finn and Jake simply wanted to use the opportunity for a bit of added closure. Either way, it’s incredibly heartwarming.

I have to say, The First Investigation teases me a bit too much. My idea of a pitch perfect ending for the boys was that they would move into Joshua and Margaret’s old office and start up a business investigating crimes and focusing on a bit of a more routine lifestyle than the sporadic nature of adventuring. Finn asking Jake, “how come we don’t live here?” got me a little too excited for what’s to come, so I was sadly disappointed at the idea of this just being a bit of passing conversation material instead of legitimate foreshadowing. However, the conversations that Jake and Finn do hold are really likable and feel genuine. I love the idea that Finn is almost pissed at his past self for putting Joshua and Margaret in the role of caretakers. He’s still too young to understand the pleasures of parenthood, which is why Jake humorously reminds him, “yeah, but they knew what they were getting into.”

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The First Investigation takes advantage of its time skipping premise really well – this is the kind of episode you likely have to watch multiple times before discovering all of the various different time gags that were included. The middle section alone is just a non-stop fun, frenzied journey through various different interlaced sections of time that all come together in a satisfyingly cohesive and clever way, like Finn traumatizing Jake with a wet willy, baby Finn seeing a “ghost,” and my favorite – Jake scaring the daylights out of Kim Kil Whan’s employee. Like I said, everything is so tightly packed and interconnected that it’s almost ingenious. It also leads to the (highly anticipated?) moment where Jake discovers the truth behind his unusual birth. I do like Jake’s absolute denial and dismay of the circumstances of his birth, though honestly, this setup up just brings back the bad taste of Jake the Starchild in my mouth once more. It’s certainly not The First Investigation‘s fault, but a byproduct of Starchild‘s failure nonetheless.

This episode also interestingly brings back Clock Bear from Preboot, to which I can theorize was a way of keeping Dr. Gross’s name still in the series. I strongly believe that, had the show kept going, Gross’s return would have indubitably occurred. Clock Bear’s an interesting prop character, because his debut appearance in Hoots certainly shows that he exists to foreshadow something, but I’m still not really sure what that is. Regardless, it is cool to see this plot point brought up again, if it’s not the slightest bit contrived. Clock Bear’s ability to control time seems way beyond what Dr. Gross was capable of, as she was more savvy from technological perspective than actually being able to bend reality. But, what do I know? The show never initially went too in depth with her character, so I don’t have much of an issue buying into it. It also, of course, makes the episode way more enjoyable and intriguing with this element included, with the icing on the cake being Finn communicating that he loves his parents through the ticker-tape. That was just adorable.

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The episode comes to a close with the aforementioned convergence of Jake and his alien father, as they take off for a trip into space together. It’s a conclusion that left for much anticipation involving how this would affect the ultimate climax of the series… sadly, it didn’t. But we’ll get to that shortly! I have surprisingly little to say about The First Investigation besides the notion that, well, I like it! It’s an enjoyable romp through time that is nicely woven together with simpler moment. It never fully explores the nature of time to the point where it can be taken as analytical, but it has a ton of fun with the concept regardless. There’s also some nice visual moments and gags as well, namely the broken mirror with the sticky note that says, “you look great!” and Jake’s panicked octopus form. I’m discovering more and more that I don’t really like the way Hanna K. draws Jake; I’m a sucker for the pointed out ears, but the gigantic eyes that she gives him are somewhat unappealing to me. Interested in how others feel about this personalized design. As I also mentioned, it’s just nice to have an episode primarily around Finn and Jake’s connection to each other and their past lives. It’s rare that season nine ever gets this intimate with the boys, so this was a nice surprise and a delightful treat.

Favorite line: “Okay, Finn, what ticks? Metronomes, bombs, pencils…”

“Marcy & Hunson” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Adam Muto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite line: “I have a nice laugh.”

“Ring of Fire” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Though it’s been nearly a year since Adventure Time has ended, I still feel like there’s a ton of divisiveness around the nature of the show’s climax to where I’m not really sure what the truth is. A lot of people have batted around the idea that the execs at Cartoon Network Studios had given the AT staff 16 episodes to wrap the series up, while others have mentioned that, after the completion of Gumbaldia, the crew was given four final episodes to tie up all loose ends. Then of course, there’s the crowd that still believes that Adventure Time wasn’t cancelled and simply “ended on its own terms,” which is simply not true. I get that it’s wishful thinking, but Adam Muto has outright said that he and the staff would have continued working on the series, had Cartoon Network decided to keep it going.¹ Regardless, it is interesting to ponder just how much was planned ahead to definitively wrap things up. A good chunk of this final batch of episodes feels as if they were created without an end in mind, though the one that surprising wraps up an individual character arc the best is Ring of Fire. I’ve seen a handful of mixed opinions towards this one, but I can honestly say it’s the first entry since The Wild Hunt that I’ve pretty much liked all the way through. Adventure Time has largely served as a metaphor for growing up – mostly in allusion to its main character, though other characters have similarly dealt with the grievance of aging, such as Jake, Marceline, and even the world renowned Nurse Betsy Poundcake. In the span of 11 minutes, the life of an entire character is visited, and it really brings up some introspective ideas about relationships, individuality, and what’s most important in life.

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We were bound to get an episode dedicated to Tree Trunks’ relationships with her past lovers ever since they were introduced in Apple WeddingRing of Fire gives a little bit of a taste into each one of them, and essentially uses them as a way to show gradually how Tree Trunks became the person that she is. I’ll never know what it’s like to be ol’ geezer until I actually do, but the general story of Tree Trunks’ life (save for Adventure Time‘s addition of typical absurdity) essentially embodies every story from any female baby boomer I’ve been acquainted with. The freedom of youth, the need for something greater, and the ultimate compliance of settling down. Tree Trunks has clearly lived a very full existence, as demonstrated throughout the episode, and the poignancy of her walk through life is really set by her opening conversation with Sweet P. TT tearing up thinking about her past and present is bittersweet – it’s likely that these emotions come from her feelings of fulfillment in her role as a mother and a wife, but also probably connect to the sadness of her most carefree days being long behind her. It’s both a wonderful feeling and kind of a downer that everything you’ve worked for has finally been accomplished, but there isn’t much room for discovery anymore. Regardless, it’s clear that Tree Trunks’ maturity spans beyond just her past and throughout the series as well. Just a few seasons ago, this same vivacious elephant nearly called off her marriage after only months of being together, and here, we’re treated to a much more grounded Tree Trunks that is even hesitant to get together with her past boyfriend in the sense of jeopardizing what she has currently. That’s where the sweetness comes in of Tree Trunks’ previous emotional moment – that she truly does love and cherish everything that is in her life currently, and is far beyond the idea of jumping ships to whatever else is exciting. I should also bring up the existence of the “Tiny Mammal Kingdom,” which might just be the cutest concept for a kingdom that AT has ever come up with.

Her relationship with her first significant other, Randy (on a side note, GOD are there way too many “Randy”s in Adventure Time. I can’t think of a single more common name in this series than that), is a typical first love scenario. As an 18-year-old, Tree Trunks doesn’t want to tie herself down to anyone, but similarly only knows and is comfortable with the idea of her S.O.. In a much similar sense, Randy is waaay into the idea that his first love is his only love and that, once more, it’s all he really knows. The marriage between the two is hilariously short-lived, as Tree Trunks decides on the wedding day itself that she simply isn’t ready to settle. It’s essentially young love boiled down to its bare essentials; Randy, at 18, already believes that he knows just what he wants for the rest of his life, but Tree Trunks couldn’t even commit to getting past the Honey Moon. It’s primarily a time of discovery and self-actualization, and it very much depicts two people who have entirely different ideas about what they want for their future, which is usually how first serious relationships go. I’m also not sure if it’s incredibly lazy or comical, but in her teen years, Tree Trunks had the same exact old, Polly Lou Livingston voice. It really makes me wonder if she’s actually waaay younger than she appears to be. Reverse PB Syndrome, that is.

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Before it aired, Steve Wolfhard had mentioned on his Twitter that Ring of Fire was “the most sex-mad thing [he] ever boarded for AT.” I think that’s what got people most intrigued by it, but only Tree Trunks’ relationship with Danny ever borders on the line of being overly provocative. Danny is essentially a vessel for Tree Trunks to live out the vivacious section of her life that craves hormonal enticement. Danny’s alluring in a physical sense, but Tree Trunks never acknowledges her need for full intimacy and is attracted to Danny only because he represents the wild/crazy lifestyle that she’s looking for. But, the party life begins to lose its appeal after time, and the need for security becomes more prominent. Tree Trunks was never able to achieve full intimacy with Danny, simply because her needs changed beyond what she thought she ever would desire, and that Danny’s personality proved to be truly ugly on the inside.

I do have to say, the Danny section is probably the most problematic of the episode for myself, and others alike. I don’t really feel like the sauciness promised ever pushes in the direction of being either as hilarious or interesting as it was hyped up to be. Ring of Fire has its scandalous moments, but nothing that tops AT‘s other most sexually driven episodes, such as All the Little PeopleFrost & Fire, or Breezy. The more extreme stuff that we do get to see is just kind of uncomfortable – I could have gone without Tree Trunks harassing her shipmates into bending over for her. Adventure Time has this weird consistency with including harassment towards its male cast that always kind of just feels unlikable or unnecessary (Barb in Web Weirdos, Lumpy Space Princess in Breezy). This section also garnered criticism for including the pirates that were seen helping Martin in the promo art for Min & Marty. I think a lot of people were expecting Martin to show up because of this, but I don’t know if I can really blame the episode for it. I’m assuming Ring of Fire was in production by the time that Min & Marty actually aired, and I’m also assuming that the promo art is not done that far in advance. When making it, Sam Alden may have just included these pirates based on the concept art from Ring of Fire, as a bit of an Easter egg for later on.

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This section of the episode also kind of rewrites Tree Trunks’ backstory in a way. Her debut episode Tree Trunks features her inability to grasp the lifestyle of being an adventurer, but it seems like she knows a hell of a lot from her past experiences. She blew up a friggin’ boat! Of course, I can’t really blame an episode produced seven years prior for that, especially since Tree Trunks was supposed to be dead by the end of it. So I have to turn some of the fault on Ring of Fire as a result. There’s also this weird technical moment when Danny first arrives – his color coding changes twice as if it were sunset, but once Tree Trunks convenes with him, the coding returns to daylight. I’m not sure if this was done for aesthetic purposes, but it’s just kind of distracting for me.

That long tangent aside, the next segment features Tree Trunks’ most frequently mentioned past husband: Wyatt. Wyatt is a pretty pathetic loser, and his star episode Apple Wedding really didn’t hold back with showing that. Still, it’s kind of clear as to why Tree Trunks fell for him, in the sense that he fills that exact sense of security for her that she had decided that she wanted. The love from Wyatt was essentially a given – he’s a really desperate dude and Tree Trunks would probably never have to worry about him deceiving or backstabbing her. Still, while that promise of forever-love is tempting, it comes with its problems when you’re dealt a man like Wyatt. He’s completely dependent on that love for any kind of self-fulfillment, and keeps wanting more and more until he completely drains Tree Trunks of having any individuality herself. He just can’t resist the sweet taste of her delicious pies. Yanno, I use this blog as a writing sample when I apply to jobs. I’m really wondering if my dissection of a children’s cartoon that features an overly-horny elephant is benefiting or hurting my potential future. Food for thought.

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Anywho, that leads us to the climax of Tree Trunks’ martial life with Mr. Pig. Mr. Pig is likely Tree Trunks’ least defined husband. He really doesn’t have much of a personality, and is practically described by his monotonous nature. Regardless, he does represent a little bit of everything Tree Trunks has sought out in the past, at the expense of being slightly underwhelming. With those shortcomings in mind, the culmination of this episode really adds up to Tree Trunks’ acceptance of stagnancy in her own life by finding a comfortable, while not always exciting, alternative.

Ring of Fire presents some narrative issues in its middle section, but I overall really appreciate this one. The message by the end of it is quite obvious: that the simplicities of life can often be the greatest adventure of all. But I do enjoy how it shows that it can take even a lifetime to discover that as well. Often life can seem like a constant battle for significance and deeper meaning, but sometimes the best answers to fulfillment are those simpler elements. Granted, I don’t doubt that Tree Trunks enjoyed her life in her wild and crazy days, and I don’t think this mindset should discourage anyone from living a vigorous lifestyle, but every adventure does come to an end, and ultimately settling into a comfortable position can be a reward on its own. Mr. Pig is the answer to Tree Trunks’ long, confusing life of promiscuity, giving her not what she’s always wanted, but what she’s always needed.

¹ Can’t find the exact quote from Muto where he discusses this process, though he alludes to it here.

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Favorite line: “Hey-hey! Somebody kiss me now!” Oh K.O.O., you delightful dog, you.

“Seventeen” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Finn’s aging is an interesting aspect of the series. The exploration of Finn’s growth is one of the most heavily focused on elements of the series, but the actual ages he experiences are pretty subservient from a writing standpoint. He was established as twelve at the beginning of the series and turned 13 in Mystery Train, but his years as a 14 and 15-year-old went largely unmentioned. After years of not having an established age, Finn was revealed to be 16 in The Comet and remained that age for the next two years within the show’s timeline. It was interesting, because the staff was veeery specific when it came to revealing any extra details about Finn’s growth. Adam Muto would get asked frequently if Finn was 17 yet on his ask.fm, to which Muto would reply with “no, not yet,” or “very soon.” This was all building up to the eventual release of Seventeen, the first episode in over six years to focus on Finn’s birthday. With all of the build up centered around this specific milestone in Finn’s life, along with the notion that the show was actually acknowledging Finn’s aging in the first place, I was really interested in what direction the staff had in mind for such a development. I, along with many others, was disappointed with its execution. I’ve mentioned my qualms with Adventure Time taking on an ongoing story back in my review of Always BMO Closing, and I think a similar argument can be raised here – the staff seems to think that incorporating lore and continuity elements can carry an episode, but it ends up sinking this one further.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I do like what this episode accomplishes story wise. The way Gumbald’s return is connected to the climax of Elements is brilliantly executed. While a good amount of AT‘s writing process involves making things up as the show goes along, this arc was clearly pre-meditated and its dedication really shows. This was even picked up on by fans way before this episode aired, and I couldn’t believe such a detail was so carefully placed even back then. Fern’s return is also welcomed, as previously foreshadowed in The Wild Hunt. But the episode relies on these factors far too heavily, and I don’t think they really hold up outside of a first viewing, if that. The connections to Elements were cool, but I had already bought into the theories that had predicted them in the first place, so I wasn’t too blown away. Even Fern’s return is so obvious from the second he enters as the Green Knight. And once his reveal actually does come into fruition, he doesn’t really even get to do much. But the obviousness of the surprises isn’t really their main fault, more so that they can’t hold an episode on their own. With many Adventure Time entries where lore and story elements are at the forefront, they typically have something else to back them up. Evergreen is amazing not only in its mythos, but its beautiful backgrounds and stellar storytelling. Min & Marty or I Remember You are great because they reveal elements of the past, but are as equally concerned with character exploration as a selling point. There’s even some instances where the lore is bad but the actual episode is good. I still don’t care for Gunter’s brief stint as a space deity, but Orgalorg at least was filled with truly obscure and psychedelic sequences to help it stick out. Take the lore and story elements out of Seventeen and you’re not left with much.

A lot of this episode can be summed up with one word: boring. Boring animation, boring location, boring dialogue. This is primarily a bottle episode that takes place in PB’s castle, and the setting just feels particularly lazy and uninteresting. It’s like one of the SpongeBob episodes that takes place entirely in the Krusty Krab, you quickly grow pretty tiresome of one of the most established locations in any given series, especially when it’s the focus. The castle isn’t even explored, as the entirety of Seventeen takes place in the foyer and doesn’t move beyond there. The animation feels similarly uninspired. There’s some shots that looks especially awkward, like when the Green Knight bursts in and the entire cast is spread haphazardly across the steps. They never look like they’re actually laying across the steps, so it almost looks like their character model was just flipped upside down and pasted on the screen. It at least provides for an unintentionally funny error. Other characters will simply just stand around with blank expressions and barely react to the shit going on around them. Or when the gang bangs on the invisible shield to get Finn’s attention while being expressionless and saying nothing. Everything feels so… lifeless. There’s also a pretty big lack of diversity in camera movements. Aside from the games that Fern and Finn enroll in, this episode is filled with so many medium shots of characters just talking without actually moving that it almost feels like I’m watching anime at times.  Somvilay and Seo have really never been the best visual storytellers outside of a handful of sight gags, and nothing emphasizes that shortcoming more than this one.

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This is also one that is pretty lacking on humor. Along with those boring shots that I mentioned, the dialogue is equally uninspired. A lot of it involves characters just simply explaining what’s going on directly in front of them without the incorporation of humor or wit. It almost feels like plodding, in a way, and Seventeen is full of just that. The competition between the Green Knight and Finn doesn’t start until about 6 minutes in and it doesn’t actually feel like any useful information was included within those first five and a half. I’m not even really sure I get Fern’s methods of fucking with Finn in this one – he has Finn convinced that he’s Jake until the real Jake shows up, so he then participates in a series of games with Finn until the last one where he essentially reveals that he was much stronger than Finn the entire time and can overpower him at any moment. What… what was his edge here? It was partially to test Gumbald’s superior technology, but what did Fern participating in these games actually accomplish? He even chooses to lose one of the rounds for no real reason aside from keeping the competition going. Why doesn’t he just fuck up Finn’s shit, have his cronies enter, and then leave? Wouldn’t that prove that he’s superior? The whole thing feels kind of contrived.

There are a few standout moments I dig from Seventeen. Finn’s portrayed pretty well, and I love his insistent gloating over being one year older. Another nice addition to this was Jake’s line of, “he’s got this. He’s 17,” which is a great callback to Tree Trunks. For all of this episodes shortcomings, (I think) seeing Ice King burst out of Finn’s cake in his ex-girlfriend’s dress was worth every second. Could Finn’s day really get any worse? Brad Neely’s performance as the Green Knight is similarly enjoyable, though I’m glad they didn’t ditch Hayden Ezzy completely.

But otherwise, Seventeen is a thoroughly underwhelming experience. I could see this working in one way or another, if maybe Finn and Fern’s birthdays were explored separately, showing how Finn has a genuinely caring family more so than his counterpart. Fern’s arc in general is pretty underdeveloped throughout this season, so I really would’ve liked seeing his turmoil come into fruition in a better way. This is Seo and Somvilay’s last episode outside of the finale, and it’s really disappointing to see that they ended so poorly this season after having so many good entries in the past couple of seasons. I don’t know if the lack of visual flare comes from a chopped budget or just their general approach to storyboarding but, disheartening to say, my middling first impressions of their team during the second half of season five has remained practically the same by the end of their run together.

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Favorite line: “You can’t tell from my face, but I am smiling triumphantly.”

“Bonnibel Bubblegum” Review

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Son of Rap Bear” Review

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Out of everyone in AT‘s main cast, I don’t think a single character’s potential has been wasted more than Flame Princess. I always like to think back to when her character was pitched as if everything was planned out to begin with; “okay, so this girl is kind of chaotic and was trapped in the Fire Kingdom by her dad. Then she starts dating Finn and they’re really happy together. Then they break up after a year and she usurps her father and becomes the ruler of the Fire Kingdom. Then she becomes a really talented rap artist.” Feels like reading from a madlib book. Flame Princess’s “rap God” status feels less like a fleshed out development from her character and more like a desperate cry for her to stay relevant within the world of the series. I was fine when it was brought in as a gag in Bun Bun and even her brief moment with NEPTR in The Music Hole, but this isn’t the type of story that feels like it’s worthy of exploring in the first place. Not to mention it’s handled in a pretty contrived way that never feels like it actually accomplishes anything by the end.

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I’m estimating, but about 4 minutes of this episode is comprised of rap tunes that are pretty damn bad. I’m not a fan of rap music in the slightest, but I still think I have a decent idea of what makes good rap and why people are into it to begin with. AT‘s concept of rap is mashing funny words together that rhyme and dishing out child-friendly burns that never actually sink as deep as the characters in-universe try to hype up. AT songs are usually either super catchy or humorous, and these tunes are neither. It kinda feels like the lyrics and rhythm were purposely glossed over for the purpose of developing the story, but if that’s the case, why are there so damn many of them?  A show like Regular Show is able to get away with child-friendly raps because they’re intended to be stupid and forced by the main characters. These raps feel like the show was trying to follow down the dumb fun route, but never committed to the actual fun route and just made them seem super lazy and uninspired as a result. It honestly borders on being legitimately cringey.

The rap songs take up a good chunk of this one, which is bad enough, but the story is pretty weak on it’s own. Toronto returns in this episode in what feels like another example of wasted potential. Toronto was a pretty average character from the start, but he truly has no purpose in this one aside from being the token shyster required for the conflict. AT is no stranger to plot contrivances, like the fact that Jake’s stretchy abilities should be able to get him and Finn out of practically any situation, but Son of Rap Bear‘s contrived story kind bugs me. Toronto is standing less than two feet away from Finn and Flame Princess when he reveals his true plans – just burn the fucking documents, Flame Princess! They don’t even try to make an excuse for it. Finn and Flame Princess just stand there in a civil manner as Toronto explains to them how he’s going to take her entire kingdom away from her. Like, what the hell? I previously got annoyed at the writing in The Cooler when Flame Princess unintentionally blew up the Fire Giants, but this instance was just beyond me.

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The more “dramatic” turn this episode takes by incorporating Flame King feels equally uninspired. Flame Princess and Flame King’s relationship in Son of Rap Bear feels like a retread of better stories that we’ve already seen in the series. AT‘s “shitty dad” motif has been effective for the most part throughout its run, but there are clear signs that this theme has run its course. Flame King’s strains with his daughter were made interesting in Earth & Water when it was revealed that he refuted her from his fear of being usurped, but the very path he chose ended up leading to his eventual demise. Here, he’s just kind of an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. This is actually a consistent issue I have with season nine as a whole – all of the “shitty dad” episodes feel tired and unoriginal, and this is no exception. The way Flame Princess uses her own turmoil with her father to fuel her creativity feels similarly unoriginal, as it’s literally the basis of a good majority of Marceline’s songs. I just thought, how cool would it be if Flame Princess and Marceline hung out in this episode and Marceline taught her to use daddy issues as a basis for a song? Can’t say if it’d actually be good or not, because it’d still involve garbo raps, but it’d at least be something different and unique.

This episode ends up having a few saving graces. There are some funny gags throughout, namely the notion that Son of Rap Bear literally rapped the legs off of his dad. There’s also this really great visual treat throughout the first few minutes of the episode where NEPTR just stares completely still and smiles right at the camera and it goes on for a long time. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it’s fucking hilarious. NEPTR can truly brighten up any stinker.

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And yeah, that’s pretty much what Son of Rap Bear is. Like I mentioned previously, the rapping aspect brings this episode down a ton to the point where it’s almost embarrassing. I watched this in my college apartment when it first aired with my friends, and after endlessly telling them how amazing Adventure Time (they had never seen it), I couldn’t help but sink into the cushion of my seat by the end of it. It also doesn’t help that this is the last solo Flame Princess episode of the series, and man, it frustrates me to no end that this is how her character arc ends. There’s so much that could have been done with Flame Princess’s arc as a ruler that sadly never came into fruition. Sad to say, but FP was likely a character strictly created for the purpose of being Finn’s romantic interest, and once their relationship was no more, the staff really never found a place for her.

Favorite line: “Rap Bear, Son of Rap Bear’s father, said his son, Son of Rap Bear, would be at tonight’s open mic.”

“Always BMO Closing” Review

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

Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Graham Falk

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Wild Hunt” Review

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Erik Fountain, Polly Guo & Sam Alden

Here we are, folks! The beginning of the very last season of Adventure Time. A divisive season certainly, but one that I’m especially interested in tackling. Not only because I have a lot to talk about with these next 16 entries, but also because I’m revisiting a lot of these episodes for the very first time and I’m interested in seeing how exactly they hold up, or if they don’t at all from a first expectation. I was, at the very least, happy to see that one of my favorites from season nine, The Wild Hunt, is still just as enjoyable as I remember it being.

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The episode opens in media res, which is a storytelling mechanism that I wasn’t particularly crazy about when it was used in Crossover, but one that fairs better here. I’m really not a fan of the narrative device in general, because I don’t think it adds much besides a cheap sense of early investment, but the grim and startling way that The Wild Hunt opens really carries through with the dark reality that Three Buckets set up for. It’s a much better opening for a season than Finn and PB wearing baseball uniforms would have been. Banana Guard bits are typically hit or miss, but that back-and-forth between the two at the beginning really got me. I think something about the quiet tone and lack of background score really carry it through. Usually just being dumb isn’t enough for the Banana Guards to get a laugh out of me, so the added element of fear really solidifies the execution. The entrance of the banana monster is similarly intimidating – one of the better monsters that AT has ever crafted. This quiet-but-deadly atmosphere is quickly transformed into high-stakes action when Jake and Finn (in their lovely banana disguises from The Thin Yellow Line!) revolt.

Finn’s moral dilemma and quasi-PTSD are what really carry this one through. One of the things I love about this one is how unforgiving it is with showing just how much poor Finn is suffering. Of course, it isn’t quite as bleak as some of his other ruts. He doesn’t sulk or turn to harmful behaviors, like he did in The Music Hole and Breezy, but instead chooses to distract himself with activities that he knows are likely to help or at least ease the pain, even if he knows that they aren’t likely to alleviate his issues completely. Nevertheless, the lad still struggles with internal issues that followed from his previous encounter with Fern. It’s such a shame, because there’s so many reasons as to why Finn shouldn’t feel guilty. The main reason being that Fern was legitimately planning to murder him, had Finn failed to protect himself, but also that Finn probably never intended to straight up kill Fern. It was PB’s voice command that unintentionally perceived Finn’s words as an order, and what caused Fern’s ultimate demise. Regardless, Finn still does feel this way and has even convinced himself that Fern is somewhat innocent. It’s easy to see why Finn empathizes with Fern so much, as Fern is just a alternate version of himself. The episode even goes through great lengths to show just how similar the two are; Finn mentions that he “dinked it” after failing to kill the Grumbo, which is terminology only used by Fern himself. And, while not a direct allusion, Finn’s own tendencies of self deprecation are apparent. Even sadder is Finn’s own choice to try and convince himself that his feelings of hesitation are completely unjust. Finn is empathetic and only ever turns to trashing his enemies when it’s absolutely necessary, so seeing him try to dismiss the fact that he doesn’t care at all about the intentions or history of his foes at all is really heartbreaking. He’s a sweet kid who unfortunately feels like he needs to suppress his core values in order to meet the expectations of others.

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Finn’s inner conflict takes up most of the episode’s run, and his interactions with others are just as enjoyable. Jake plays such a hilariously sweet role during his short amount of screentime. As sympathetic as Finn’s story is, you almost feel equally bad for Jake. I’m sure he’s been as supportive and loving as a brother can be, but seeing as how it seems Finn’s lack of decisiveness has proven to be problematic several times before the Grumbo showed up, Jake has to speak up eventually. It reminds me a lot of Ocean of Fear – Jake will do anything to help his brother, but if it means getting royally fucked up in every way possible, he has his limits. The poor old geezer can’t seem to take a beating anymore.

What’s equally as fun is Huntress Wizard’s triumphant return! I really dug HW in her fleshed out debut during Flute Spell, and I think she might be even better here. As always, her character is very slyly quirky, offering up her usual charm of being as mysterious as possible. I don’t know how popular or unpopular of an opinion this is, but I do truly love HW and Finn working off of each other! They have legitimate chemistry, and it’s fun to see how far Finn has come since his days of adolescence. There’s clear signs that he’s still a bit awkward with women – his line of, “so, how ya been?” is definitely pushing on the more goofy and flirtatious side. But, he has fun with his own shortcomings and uses them to his advantage to actually seem more confident and relaxed in the long run. In general, Huntress Wizard seems much more content with her own being in this one. She actively wants to help Finn and doesn’t care if such behavior exposes herself as being emotionally vulnerable. Plus, she likely feels indebted to Finn after all he went through to help HW achieve her own form of enlightenment and closure back in Flute Spell. She even offers a decent bit of advice to Finn about how he likely did what he had to, but again, I don’t necessarily think good advice is something that is really beneficial for Finn in this situation. Even if he finds it logical, I don’t really think his brain is reacting from a logical standpoint in the first place.

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The battle with the Grumbo is, without a doubt, one of the most beautifully animated sequences in the entire series. Storyboard supervisor Erik Fountain assisted Polly and Sam with the actual storyboard for this one, and his sequences are so detailed and clean that it translates terrifically into the animation process. Not to mention the amazing camera angles, character distortions, and squash-and-stretch that the general fluidity of the animation allows for. It all looks terrific, and it really helps the scene feel so much more tense and alive than it would have otherwise. Tense is a great way to describe a majority of this episode, but it still makes room for a lot of fun along the way. Namely, Finn getting his boy parts cooked and then sporting a Mickey Mouse-esque voice for his next line reading. That really killed me. One of the smartest decisions that The Wild Hunt makes, however, is the decision to not give Finn’s issue closure. Adventure Time is typically decent with showing how emotional pain can take time to heal, and I think it especially makes sense that Finn wouldn’t be able to get over his mental issues so quickly. As someone who lives with OCD and often battles with the lack of solutions to all-consuming anxiety, I felt that Finn’s failure to fix his mind was both understandable and relatable. But, he does temporarily solve his issue in the most clever way possible, by choosing not to focus on a resolution, but instead to fool his mind into benefiting himself and others in the end. It was a really neat way of showing how more complex issues aren’t so easily wrapped up in the course of 11 minutes.

Though, even if Finn is struggling with his own personal dilemmas, it is nice that he has the care and support from a nice dame regardless. I’ll admit, I did get a little fanboyish during HW and Finn’s moments together during the end. HW’s input of, “we both know you’re totally in love with me,” is so funny and cute! The kiss the two share is really sweet, and I’ve actually seen a lot of people debate on whether it was a cheek or mouth smooch. The way it’s framed maaay leave it up for debate, but I don’t really see any other implication that it wouldn’t be a kiss on the lips. It even adds to the moment where Finn inadvertently projects Finn’s image onto HW’s face. If I had to pick one flaw, or rather, an annoyance with this episode, it’s the fact that the Banana Guards are revealed to somehow still be alive by the end of this episode. It’s like, c’monnn, why would a ferocious creature like the Grumbo merely harm the Banana Guards and not just fuck up their lives completely? It feels like a decision that was made to be safe for the kiddies, but really, what little kids are even watching the show anymore? Cartoon Network wasn’t even advertising it. We also end on an overly hammy note with the second official appearance of the mustache-twirling villain himself, Uncle Gumbald. While I don’t think he ever lived up to his initial hype in the previous episode, this ending still does leave on a bit of a haunting note, with Fern’s dismembered body being pieced together into (at the time) God knows what.

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But all-in-all, The Wild Hunt is so good! It’s fun, dramatic, and offers up some of the best visuals that the series has ever churned out. I knew we’d be getting more with Finn’s personal baggage after offing Fern, but I never expected we’d be getting it so soon after Three Buckets, considering that AT usually takes its sweet time with dealing with Finn’s emotional problems. However, Adventure Time is typically great when it does come to covering those issues, and this one is no exception. It never strays away from how tough and often hopeless mental health issues can be, but also cleverly showcases temporary solutions that can be made. Add a solid dynamic between Finn and Huntress Wizard and you’ve got yourself a truly stellar entry.

Favorite line: “I’m gonna make peace with my aging body.”