Original Airdate: August 20, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar
Lady Rainicorn and Princess Bubblegum’s relationship is one that always baffles me. In the original series pitch bible for Adventure Time, the friendship between PB and LR is really exaggerated to the point where it includes “when she [Lady Rainicorn] wakes up and doesn’t see Princess Bubblegum, she’ll dash around the castle grounds gaily searching for her mistress.” While the pitch bible isn’t necessarily the most factual piece of reference for AT’s current status, it still was insinuated in the very early days of the show that these two were supposed to be close pals – hell, PB’s even riding on top of Lady in the opening theme. Besides that, we get a few instances of the two together, namely in the pilot and What Have You Done? and… yeah that’s about it. Weird that we’re supposed to believe these two are close companions when the show has never suggested otherwise, until this particular episode. It’s nothing particularly telling of the friendship between the two, but it does give us some insight into two of Adventure Time’s most prominent female leads.
The beginning starts off as a compelling, tension filled bit of expository information regarding Finn and Jake’s disappearance. It’s enlightened by Bubblegum’s goofy behavior which is always refreshing; I enjoy how she can go from a very stern and solemn ruler to somehow who is just as wacky and unusual as the rest of the cast of AT. The tenseness comes from Lady’s perspective, and, while a good majority of us have no idea what she’s saying, Niki Yang delivers it so eloquently and in such a sincere tone that it keeps my attention despite the fact that I can’t understand Korean. I feel like I’m watching a weighty foreign dub throughout this scene, and despite the fact that it feels heavy and serious, it’s once again lessened by PB’s totally genuine, yet sarcastic reactions to Lady’s monologue. You can tell she’s taking every word LR says seriously, but she does so in such a hammy and amplified way that is then followed by such a minuscule response that it just cracks me up. I love any depictions of PB’s character, but goofy PB really just rubs me the right way. Also, I’ve never mentioned it before, but the way Lady communicates with others is done so in such a non-pandering way. Most English-speaking viewers won’t be able to understand her, but they don’t go the unnatural route of having every character that interacts with her respond to her with “what do you mean you feel [this way] because of [this]?” There’s no spoon feeding with the writers trying to make us understand every single thing Lady says or feels, and we’re just generally supposed to accept this based on the way she emotes and her tone, which is so much more effective than having an English-speaking character repeat every single thing she says. It would defeat the point of having a Korean-speaking character to begin with.
In my somewhat scathing review of King Worm, I mentioned that the slow pacing of the episode was what really brought it down, and this episode takes its sweet time with the entire middle section as well. The only difference to me is that it actually works to strengthen the episode a great deal. The entire expedition through the black ice cave is remarkable, once again showing off the terrific backgrounds (BGs have been on point this season!) equipped with an ominous atmosphere to really drive the tension and mystery even further. Lady & Peebles embraces the quieter and more subdued moments to make a very convincingly unnerving atmosphere, and also helps make the action sequences more impactful. The action sequences themselves aren’t anything special, though the girls do face some visually interesting foes, from hand beasts to a giant tongue. These battles really show off how Lady and PB deal with physical combat: PB is equipped with her typical scientific technology, while Lady herself seems to be somewhat of a pacifist. Lady’s strengths seem much more on a moral and virtuous level rather than her own physicality. She’s evasive and defensive with her own skills, such as her tactic of phasing through walls and ability of flight, though I think it’s tough to picture Lady being someone who would throw punches, especially with her condition that’s revealed later on.
The real icing on the cake is the reveal that Ricardio was behind Finn and Jake’s disappearances, however. I wasn’t too big on Ricardio or the episode he debuted in, for that matter, but by God, Sugar did her damnedest to make his return as chilling and uncomfortable as possible, and boy, does it work. They’ve somehow managed to make him seem even creepier and more grotesque than his first appearance, and added a layer of body horror with his loosely connected limbs. And for the first time, he does feel like a legitimate threat. I think the brief scene of him breaking Ice King’s bones was totally wince-worthy, and this time, he’s an actual adversary to Finn and Jake. Despite being easily beaten the first time, Ricardio had the upperhand by poisoning the boys with zanoits (something he and Bubblegum both shared a fond interest of in Ricardio the Heart Guy). It makes for a nice role reversal that Finn and Jake are now the ones who are in danger and PB has to be the one that saves them, and really shows how far she has come since the beginning of the series as a character.
After an unnervingly blatant moment of Ricardio making sexual advances towards the princess, Bubblegum is able to face off with him in a very simple, yet effective takedown. Sugar herself said it was really rewarding to include a scene where Peebles is able to engage in hand-to-hand combat without any of her weapons, and yeah, it’s pretty awesome to watch. It doesn’t feel out of character or like a manipulative tactic from the series to highlight feminism, but instead a great spotlight chance to showcase PB’s true strengths: her role as an intellectual. She isn’t able to defeat Ricardio specifically because she’s really buff or fierce, but because she identifies factually that Ricardio is simply not built as a stable living creature. She denotes this by saying, “I know a thing or two about building a body out of biomass,” which could both refer to herself, as well as her people. Bubblegum can easily identify strengths and weaknesses within living creatures simply because she built herself and her people from scratch. She can use her knowledge to help create life on all layers of the earth, or destroy any artificial being in a matter of seconds if need be. It’s a moment that really had me fully invested in PB as a character. Season four is really her first shining season in my eyes, and this particular battle had me cheering her on and just acknowledging how fucking badass she is by the end of it. It’s an excellent bit of growth for what was originally a damsel-esque character, and it’s terrific to see how far she has come from that stereotype.
So with that, Finn, Jake, and Ice King are saved, Ricardio is defeated, and everything returns to normal… that is, besides the fact that Lady reveals to Jake that she’s pregnant. I love how this bit is handled, too. With Lady’s tears and general tone, it seems like she and Jake had no plans or desires to have children just yet, and Jake’s humorous closing remark suggests that as well. Despite the fact that the two end up loving their children, it’s clear that they’re a couple that wanted to play things safe and casually for the time being. And how ballsy is it that an unmarried couple are having children on a kid’s show? Pen Ward mentioned in the commentary that the original pitch was to have Jake and Lady break up, due to the stress that Lady endures when Jake goes on adventures, I’m so glad they didn’t go that route. It would’ve been incredibly melodramatic and pointless for a couple as laidback and caring as Jake and Lady to break up, especially given Lady’s devoted and unconditional love for her boyfriend. The pregnancy reveal honestly strengthens the episode for me as well. I love the little bits of foreshadowing, such as the heart monitor reading seven heart signatures instead of two. It also increases the impact of some scenes much more – I feel legitimately sick to my stomach every time I watch Ricardio tie Lady’s body in a knot. I know that aspect never comes into fruition (a lot of people argue Jake Jr.’s face is a birth defect, but that theory has been officially debunked) but it’s still very gruesome to watch a pregnant woman abused in such a way.
I enjoy this one, primarily because it does spotlight these two characters who are rarely seen together, yet feels so genuine and powerful. I don’t think there’s a single other time in the series where PB and Lady are seen together, yet, this episode does such a terrific job of building the unseen connection between them that I never have a hard time believing they are close friends. It also adds layers onto their individual characters, and leaves us wanting more from each of these gals. It’s both honest and telling for both PB and Lady, and adds excitement for the future of their respective character arcs.