Tag Archive | Laura Knetzger

“BMO” Review

BMO

Original Airdate: July 25, 2020

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström, Iggy Craig, Laura Knetzger, Anna Syvertsson & Adam Muto

Before we start, I wanted to plug a project from my friend, Paul Thomas. Paul has written a really neat account of Adventure Time‘s production history, storytelling mechanics, and its fandom. I also contributed a small portion to the book as an interview piece in the fandom section, under my full name, Eric Stone. Though I haven’t been able to read through it fully yet, it’s a really detailed and packed novel that I think any Adventure Time fan should surely check out. You can read this novel here!

Welp, here we are kiddos! Most fandoms have to wait like, 10 years for new content after an original IP ends, the AT crowd has been blessed with new stuff only two years down the road! The sweet part about this is it probably wasn’t too hard to wrangle up most of the original crew (as of this episode, we have Adam Muto, Hanna K. Nyström, Jack Pendarvis, Andy Ristaino, Benjamin Anders, Anna Syvertsson, Laura Knetzger Michael DeForge, Jesse Balmer, Amber Blade Jones, the Frederator crew, and Tim Kiefer as returning members; correct me if I missed anyone) and the style is able to remain pretty true to the original, with some added upgrades. And for the most part, BMO does manage to capture that AT feel more than I was originally expecting from it.

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As a precursor, I’ll mention that it’s good to be back in this role. I truly have missed talking about AT in any capacity, and honestly, it really took new content to get my motivation back again. It is definitely strange to be talking about it in this position – I had reviewed each episode long after their initial airdate. There’s a large community of cartoon reviewers that can probably get to this faster than I can and likely say everything that I would have already said otherwise. That being said, I hope that I continue to add a layer of freshness to these reviews and that there is still a desire for open discussion around this blog and its themes. That aside, let’s get down to the good stuff.

Distant Lands immediately sets itself apart by having a distinct opening that feels slightly alien in comparison to any AT content that we’ve seen prior. Despite its namesake, Distant Lands doesn’t borrow from Adventure Time‘s opening credits much at all. It appears each special will have its own unique opening, with the additional interstitial beginning that features a quick bombardment of past AT characters and moments. Lack of lyrical accompaniment aside, BMO‘s intro does follow the standard that most AT opening titles follow – it’s a sweeping journey, filled with familiar sounds, and an eventual climax to the central focus. This beautifully crafted CGI intro was animated by Encyclopedia Pictura, a film and animation studio that has worked on some really gnarly stuff, including music videos and bizarre, but beautiful, short films. Their attention to bright, vivid colors and smooth designs make me truly crave a fully guest animated 11 minutes from them, but I suppose we’re past that point… for now. The ending credits also feature a cameo of AstroBMO, which is a real life BMO that was sent into space!

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I was initially a bit cautious about BMO having his own 44 minute special. With some clear exceptions, BMO is very much a comic relief character. She certainly has her depth and isn’t only good for jokes, but BMO isn’t necessarily an “epic” character by any means. Not to mention that Adventure Time has really only dabbled with the 44 minute formula once before with Come Along With Me and… yeah, that was a bit messy. I will say that the two aspects of the special I was most concerned about were actually some of the strongest elements. BMO, per usual, is his usual lovable self. Even if his dialogue isn’t laugh-worthy, it is undeniably charming. BMO’s bizarre dialogue and tendency to not understand structural sentences really never tires itself out, which could be chalked up to solid writing, but it’s also just Niki Yang being the absolute best at what she does. I don’t think I praise her enough on this blog, but Yang’s dedication to really embodying the character and knowing just how to hit all of the right notes for a successful delivery always pay off so well. I think voice actors very much embody their character and cannot be replaced, but there are surely occasional issues with delivery that can sink certain impactful moments for individual characters. I feel like Yang almost never skips a beat – almost because BMO’s inflections are, by nature, slightly monotonous, but I mean that in the most loving way. Even when just speaking in her natural voice, Yang recognizes how to add an extra bit of gusto every single time she gets in that recording booth.

BMO’s silly opening monologue is lots of fun, and it’s a great way to showcase all of the visual elements that this special has to offer. BMO alone gets a pass for being absolutely gorgeous – Adventure Time has never looked so good! The lush colors and richer backgrounds (though somewhat of a departure from the original series) felt like breath of fresh air. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Adventure Time has never looked bad (okay yes Seventeen exists. I know, guys) but the increased budget that Max has allowed for is certainly noteworthy and quite frankly exciting. Imagine what a Finn and Jake adventure is gonna look like on a high budget! Impressive colors and animation aren’t the only new element in the visuals department that BMO brings to the table – or in this case, an old element – the return of the eye whites! Eye whites were retired from the series around season two because Pen felt that it took viewers out of the universe and made characters feel less “human.” BMO is drawn with them as he transcends into The Drift, and while I’m not the hugest fan of them myself, it is kind of nice to see them back in this fashion. It’s a visual element that does add to Distant Lands‘ clear interest in expanding on the design of the original series. ALSO, it’s around this point that we meet Olive, one of the cooler characters that BMO dishes out. In typical AT fashion, Olive’s simple design is her biggest strength, being both very charming and intriguing from a minimalist perspective. Olive also provides for some gnarly shapeshifting moments, easily filling in Jake’s shoes while he’s absent.

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After we get this establishing piece with BMO and Olive, we’re treated to another establishing piece within the Drift, where we meet the other featured characters and settings of this special, which are some of the weaker bits, in my eyes. Elaborating on what I said about the visuals above, the backgrounds within the Drift are gorgeous. They certainly are a bit of departure from what we’re used to seeing from the original series – Ghostshrimp’s backgrounds were filled to the brim with every possible apocalyptic Easter egg and neat hunk of junk that he could imagine, while the background artists clearly focused on more interesting textures and attention to color for BMO, and that works just as well. I was surprised to see just how thick some of the outlines were within several backdrops – really makes the whole thing feel like a comic in motion. Which… I suppose is exactly what animation is. Hmph.

It’s here that we’re introduced to Y-4 (later known as Y-5) who is… okay! I actually think her design is very cute and she’s competently portrayed by Glory Curda, but her character isn’t really super compelling in any way. That’s not to say that she’s bad! I didn’t actively dislike any aspect of her personality or arc, but it never really managed to grab me in one way or another. Her relationships with other characters end up putting her in pretty predictable spots, namely that her obedience to her parents would end up causing a tiff in her newly found friendship with BMO, and that her relationship with her parents would ultimately come to a resolve when they recognized the error of their ways. It’s all stories that we’ve seen in other movies and shows before, and while none of it is done badly, it’s not the type of story that I feel is captivating for me personally. I do have to give Adventure Time credit where its due because, while the parents that don’t trust their child is a trope that’s been tackled before, it’s a bit new to Adventure Time. Parental figures within the original series are usually just straightforward really shitty or astute moral guardians. Here, these parents act shitty, but it’s both resolved and tackled in somewhat interesting way regarding their unbridled faith towards governmental power.

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The aliens we see throughout this special, namely the Shells and the Elves, are decently fun. They have the same goofy disagreements that would be commonplace in Ooo, yet are unique in their foreign designs. I do think AT‘s character team is really smart with understanding what works for different settings; I don’t know what it is about the Elves and Shells, but they just feel like beings that wouldn’t really be fitting for Ooo, even if it is an open world for all kinds of weird inhabitants. These aliens feel akin to On the Lam, in the way that they aren’t a complete departure from AT‘s style, but feel off enough that they wouldn’t necessarily be roaming the Earth either. It’s also fun to see how, despite the fact that they’re portrayed as the antagonists, BMO’s kind of the asshole that gets in THEIR way, and the episode has a lot of fun with that. BMO is most fun when he’s only interested in satisfying his own needs and gives zero fucks about anything else. That’s not to say she isn’t still sweet and lovable, but anything that doesn’t directly inconvenience her isn’t really an issue. This also leads to one of the funniest moments in the episode, in which BMO is lauded for single-handedly saving everyone in The Drift… with the exception of the Elves’ leader. Let us also not forget the BMO is the one who caused this breach in the first place!

Y-5 and BMO’s relationship is pretty similar to the E.T. type kinship that has become commonplace in cinema and television, but it is, at the very least, delightful. They have some pretty humorous back-and-forths, with a highlight being BMO’s sass anytime Y-5 tries to question or contradict him. As they begin to explore The Drift further, we’re treated to a decent amount of world-building. I don’t think The Drift is especially mindblowing or distinctive from any other fictional space station, so it’s the AT charm that really helps set it apart from any other generic location. I love the parrot merchant shouting, “buy my eggs! Buy my eggs! Or I swear to Glob, I’ll eat them myself,” and the squidlike alien that wants to eat his space lards. Again, it’s cute how everyone treats BMO as this really noble and heroic icon when he clearly is just speaking from a child’s perspective. He likes the cute space lard, so he’s going to protect the cute space lard. That’s really all there is to do it. Long live BMO and her love for the name Ricky.

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Two characters I actually had completely forgotten about before rewatching are Sweetie and Darling, the heist bugs! I feel guilty even saying that because, while their designs are pretty unremarkable, they are plenty of fun. BMO’s second big task in the Drift is a rescue mission after a communications hub floods. This is one of my favorite bits of the special, namely because of how fluid the animation is throughout the entire sequence. There’s a ridiculous amount of motion during the scenes that feature Y-5 swimming, with so many little fun details that are easy to miss, such as BMO riding her head like a cowboy as she tries to communicate with her parents. It’s a scene that, again, would likely be an afterthought in terms of visual flair when Adventure Time was on a television budget, but now we’re on HBO, bitches! It really helps add to the general frantic nature of the sequence, and really pays off as a visual delight.

The main conflict really sets in when BMO is sent on a governmental mission by Hugo and Mr. M. Hugo is somewhat in the same realm of Y-5’s characters, though I’d say that Y-5 probably has more going for her. He’s mainly just there as plot device for villainy to take place – I’m not even entirely positive that I fully understand his story or his plan. So, he was a human who sought to survive the apocalypse of mankind by traveling out into space and he made a compromise with aliens to remove the humanity of himself and his crew. That succeeded… but also caused some sort of societal collapse? And then as they were drifting through space, Olive picked them up and warped them into the Drift, and then Hugo decided to proclaim himself as the leader? It’s an arc that, unless I’m missing something, feels like a haphazard attempt at world-building and doesn’t seem concise in its characterization or the timeline it wants to set up. Were Hugo and crew members just floating through space for hundreds of years? I dunno, I guess it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s cool we get to learn more about the other options of humanity following the Great Mushroom War, and the best part of all? The entire backstory sequence is animated by David freakin’ Ferguson himself! It was really nice seeing his style back once again, especially with the manner in which it was utilized. I’m glad that, despite the overwhelmingly negative reception Water Park Prank got, Ferguson still got the chance to come back and share his unique artwork with a mainstream audience. You da man, Ferguson!

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Mr. M, on the other hand, is a really interesting side villain, mainly because of the fact that he quite obviously is none other than Martin Mertens! Well, maybe not entirely obvious, but enough information is presented to draw up a conclusion. I really like the fact that, despite the fact that Mr. M is very clearly supposed to be Martin, the episode never outright has him reveal himself. There’s the certain bit of anticipation throughout the special that he will be exposed, but you never truly get that full satisfaction, which in turn makes the payoff even more satisfying. It personally reminded me of the visual gag of Dr. Princess dressing up as Science Whyzard, only with much more purpose and attention this time around. There’s several different indicators that Mr. M is Martin Mertens, including quotes that he’s used before previously, the fact that his feet are very clearly human, and the namesake alone. There are some additions that I don’t really care for, like the fact that Mr. M jokes with Y-5’s parents about being called out for their deadbeat nature. It’s throwaway line that’s only used to further identify Martin, but since he didn’t have a tumultuous relationship with his son at this point in the timeline, it just doesn’t really make sense. Of course, I’ll discuss more about the fact that this special is a prequel later on, but might I just add that I’m glad it is, because if Martin’s cosmic destiny just meant he was a grifter in space elsewhere, that would be really fucking lame.

The eventual tiff between Y-5 and BMO is played out in a way that mirrors this type of trope in most buddy-buddy stories, so it doesn’t feel particularly enticing when you can kind of seeing it coming from their first interaction together. Thankfully, the drama isn’t played up too much, and BMO has lots of funny lines to make up for it, including “I have no feelings,” followed almost immediately by “you make my feelings happy!” It does help provide for a solo BMO journey into the Jungle Pod, which ends up making for the best parts of the episode. I standby the idea that all of BMO’s strongest moments are just when he’s alone and chatting to himself. Or, in this case Football, who increasingly becomes a coping mechanism to help BMO deal with the thoughts and fears inside of her head. This mechanism of placing her own fear onto her imaginary friend only gets BMO so far, as she finds herself in certain danger pretty quickly. The winged crabs were also a nice touch for this special, which I’m pretty sure was a reference to Abstract, was it not? When Jake’s alien form sprouts wings, BMO accuses Jake of being a “crab.” Maybe I’m digging too deep, but I thought of this almost immediately. It’s a shame Crusty died as quickly as he lived. R.I.P. my man.

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Things take a very dramatic turn when BMO is ripped apart after taking the Jungle Pod’s crystal, where we are treated to what feels like a classic AT bad trip. In a similar fashion to BMO Noire, Niki Yang delivers each line as she normally would for BMO, yet the framework of the scene helps it to come across in a much more unnerving fashion. Because of BMO’s role as a child, any mention of death or substantially dark topics come across in this really uncomfortable fashion, and I mean that in the best way. Like previous BMO entries such as BMO Noire, BMO Lost, and The More You Moe, The Moe You KnowBMO understands how to balance the humor of the character, as well as the very dark reality that he’s only a mere child in a very threatening world. BMO’s colorful subconscious returns during his “death” and reminds him of the inevitable: that he is just a lil kid in a big world that’s often times difficult to navigate. Again, I think it’s kind of a familiar path for this type of story to take – the hero discovers he/she is in over their head and temporarily admits defeat. But since it’s portrayed in such a dark, visually interesting matter that only AT could pull off so well, I really don’t mind it at all.

The climax of the episode, which involves Y-5 rebelling against her parents in order to save BMO. It’s where we meet CGO, who had appeared earlier in the episode for a brief moment, and heard singing the Frasier theme song. I do like how the major connections to the old world are mainly drawn through theme songs of classic sitcoms. CGO is a fun little bot herself, kind of reminding me of a toned down Carroll. Her introduction also provides for a genuinely emotional moment in the episode in which Y-5 breaks down into tears after learning the truth about Hugo. It’s a small, quiet moment, but it’s quite impactful. Y-5 is essentially learning that everything she has worked hard for to achieve, whether for herself or for her parents, has virtually been for nothing, and that the only one who could have saved her might be dead. AT‘s sadness is usually confined to these quiet, ambiguous moments, but Y-5’s sadness takes the Steven U route of being heavily tearful, which hits pretty hard. Of course, BMO ain’t dead though, you dumb babies!! He is revived in the midst of Y-5’s breakdown, and the two travel to save The Drift together.

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Hugo is outed, and though I don’t think his plan is entirely fleshed out, his argument against the citizens is pretty interesting. It’s not really a good argument; Hugo’s essentially just saying that the citizens of The Drift are just as selfish as him because they didn’t really care about what happened to it as long as they were able to leave. It does tie into the fact that civilization and humanity in of itself is predominantly selfish, and Hugo believes he’s truly just one of those citizens that happened to have made it out on top. The climax comes together in a pretty satisfying way, as the many minor characters that we’ve met throughout this special team up to stop Hugo from destroying The Drift. Y-5 also makes amends with her parents, which does feel earned in the sense that her parents feel like decently rational people by the end of it, despite their shitty ways. And best of all, Olive gets what she always wanted – and presumably Hugo as well – a friend!

The ending of BMO closes out with the biggest surprise and possibly the biggest delight of all: it was a prequel! For the first time ever in AT‘s history, we get to see a toddler version of Finn and a teenage version of Jake! It’s a really sweet twist that makes any qualms that I would have with the story, such as Martin being a space grifter, essentially moot. Though I’m not necessarily free of qualms with this twist. A lot of people have brought up that BMO’s characterization is way different in BMO than it was earlier in the series. I would somewhat agree with this, though not necessarily entirely. I don’t think BMO was ever really that uniquely different early on in the series, besides being a bit more robotic and snarky. He still had a sense of childlike wonder, it just wasn’t fully realized yet. Even then, he’s frequently referred to as a “sassy robot” in BMO, so the snarky aspects of his character really aren’t all missing entirely. I will say that one issue I do have with the continuity is that I think it kinda stinks that BMO was going on these massive adventures before he even met Finn and Jake. The early days of BMO’s journeys involved him mainly playing with himself (hardy har har) and making his own fun/drama. Hell, the events of The More You Moe, The Moe You Know are acknowledged as his “greatest adventure ever,” yet he was traveling through time and space since the beginning? A little hard to believe.

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Overall though, I quite enjoyed BMO, even more so on my second watch! It isn’t perfect – the story and characters feel a bit cookie cutter at times and there’s never really a point, aside from the ending, where you feel like you don’t know where the general structure is going, which isn’t usually that commonplace with Adventure Time. But it’s a thoroughly fun and endearing special that succeeded way beyond my expectations. I really didn’t think a silly BMO entry would be able to hold a 45 minute period, but it does so tremendously well, and BMO is actually the best part of it! Shouldn’t have doubted the lil guy. This definitely was a great start to reignite my interest and love for the series, and though it probably could have been stronger on certain levels, it was a fun, beautiful, and sweet journey that has me pumped for the future of Distant Lands.

Favorite line: “He died as he lived: sucking big time.”

“Abstract” Review

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Original Airdate: July 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Laura Knetzger

From a cast of emotionally-fueled characters, Jake is certainly an outsider on Adventure Time. We’ve seen him time and time again ignore significant changes in his life and as he attempts to treat drastic shifts as if they are easily manageable and barely noticeable. This has always been a consistent trait of Jake’s character, even in the earlier seasons and more comedic centered episodes. Trouble in Lumpy Space features Jake largely downplaying a potentially crucial life change, while Chips & Ice Cream has him ignoring a physical change almost completely. On the surface, it looks like Jake is accepting change exceptionally well, though it’s clearly more so the denial that any change has occurred to begin with. Abstract exaggerates said denial to extreme lengths in the best way possible. As we witnessed recently in Cloudy, Jake struggles to be open about his fears and inner conflict, and Abstract takes it a bit further by showing his resistance to any form of transition around him, good or bad. It isn’t necessarily change itself that Jake fears, however. Over the course of the show, we’ve seen Jake go through several transitions, namely becoming a father. He’s always found comfort in the fact that those around him, including his brother and loved ones, have looked at him as the same person he was before. Now, with changes noticeably happening around him, Jake is terrified that such changes may result in a total change of his character, and his life.

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Jake’s denial of such changes really shine through in the first few minutes, and it’s really interesting to see how each character acts in response to his new form. BMO is a child at heart, and is understandably the least accepting to such changes. We’ve already seen in The More You Moe, the Moe You Know that BMO perceives change as something Earth shattering, rather than a natural part of life, so it’s no wonder that he’s so opposed to such jarring shift. Finn is a bit more open to the new alien-like Jake, though not by much. He struggles to even look his brother in the face and bats around the topic rather tackling it head on, which is similarly understandable. Jake gets defensive after Finn only brings up the obvious, thus Finn tries to be as supportive as he possibly can, while still being the slightest bit freaked out by his brother’s transformation.

On the even more supportive side, I love how kind and caring Lady is toward her S.O. She never passes judgment against him and shoots the dirtiest of looks towards Dirt Beer Guy (in his final appearance) for invalidating her boyfriend. It just goes to show how sweet she really is, having Jake’s back no matter what he looks like or does, as long as he is content with himself. This is practically one of Lady’s only standout roles in season eight, and I’m glad we do get an opportunity to revisit the kind-natured character every so often. I also love the subtlety in her moments with Jake… as she says she loves Jake, he responds with, “I love me too!” referencing his desire to stay the same forever.

Things quickly go astray when Jake begins experiencing strange shared dreams with Jermaine, which aren’t as prophetic or metaphorical as most AT dream sequences go, but are just as bizarre. Something that is immediately noticeable within this episode is that the backgrounds standout more than usual, and that is a result of former AT artist ghostshrimp returning to the team! Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great background artists following his departure, but I don’t think anyone has quite matched ghostshrimp’s legacy since. The amount of detail he puts into every single aspect of the screen is incredible; when I think of AT backgrounds in general, I think of soaking in every individual piece that I can analyze for further implications. Ghostshrimp gets this better than anyone, and really puts his all into making scenery look as bizarre and unique as possible. And what better way to do that than with an episode entitled Abstract?

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The episode title, of course, also connects to a more literal meaning. Jake perceives Jermaine’s painting of abstract portraits as out of character and concludes that something must be wrong with him, which quite clearly connects to Jake’s mindset that if he chooses to change, it may lead to dire consequences for himself. Finn helping out Jake is sweet and brings up an adorably childish side of his character, in which he draws out his weird dreams using crayons. I’d love to see what he whipped up based on his dream experiences in Frost & Fire. It’s also funny to note that Finn continues to avoid making eye contact with Jake during this experience, likely because it’s frankly strange to view his brother, of whom he’s known since birth, as a five-eyed, blue, alien-like creature. The crayon therapy proves to be ineffective for Jake, as he acknowledges that changing isn’t in Jermaine’s “nature.” This similarly applies to Jake’s thought process about his own being; in Cloudy, Jake mentions that being the responsible caregiver means that he isn’t supposed to talk about his stress and anxieties to Finn. Thus, he also believes that Jermaine isn’t supposed to express himself through abstract art because it doesn’t represent the Jermaine that he once knew. Jake also dismisses the abstract art that he draws himself, calling it out as “just squiggles.” Abstract art later becomes a metaphor for personal change, to which the previous moment adds to, as Jake views change as something insignificant.

Though, through his soul-searching, Jake does decide to set out to find Jermaine (equipped with his blue pack! With all of the disappearing props throughout AT‘s eight years on air, I’m glad that Jake’s trademark backpack has still remained a consistent element). During his travels, he runs into James, a character of whom I’m not very fond of, but I was still happy to see. He even gets a few laughs out of me this time around – I typically never found James’ “WHA?” catchphrase to be particularly funny, but there’s something about him using it a third time around that gets a kick out of me. I can’t really explain why, humor’s just weird like that. I will say that I think the middle section of the episode is a bit weak. A lot of it feels like it’s just plodding until Jake finally reaches Jermaine. I didn’t find the wall of water that funny, nor did I with Bryce, whose interactions with Jake felt particularly purposeless. It’s even more distracting that Bryce’s voice actor, Jon Wurster, also portrays the wall of water, who appears directly before Bryce. Wurster’s voice really isn’t that difficult to identify.

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It’s very nice to see Jermaine again, who seems noticeably happier. I dug the stick-in-the-mud Jermaine we saw in his debut episode, but seeing him much more relaxed and compassionate towards Jake is just as rewarding. Though he is compassionate, he doesn’t bullshit, and he’s probably the only one to be so straightforward to Jake thus far. He says it like it is – Jake has changed and despite his denial and ignorance to it, he can’t remain stagnant. His personal changes come from several different factors: 1. He’s more open and honest about his emotions, as Cloudy proved. 2. He’s getting older and wiser, and even more mature as a result, but also retains his sense of fun and loving nature despite everything. With all of these changes at hand, Jake does worry that he’ll no longer be able to be the fun-loving guy that he once was, but Jermaine reassures him that he can still remain the same person while changing regardless. Jermaine’s interactions with his bro are irresistibly sweet, especially with lines like, “He [Joshua] told me to be supportive, but I would’ve done that anyway.” Jermaine painted a picture of a jealous person who resented his brother for all that he doesn’t have, but Abstract proves how much Jermaine truly loves his brother despite their differences.

In an effort to understand his brother’s artwork, Jake examines Jermaine’s paintings in a trippy, peaceful sequence.

“The shapes are always changing. Changing is their normal state, like us. Even if we’re not changing on the outside, we’re changing on the inside constantly. There’s some stuff about me that I’ve been ignoring for a long time. I’m afraid of that stuff. But it’s part of who I am. As long as I know the shape of my soul, I’ll be all right.”

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Change is a core theme of Adventure Time, and this is yet another beautiful sentiment. It’s a reminder that, whether you like it or not, change will happen and is ALWAYS happening. Despite all of it, however, one’s soul and values do not change. Learning to trust one’s self is much more vital than trusting the finite structure of the ever-changing world, and Jake recognizes that. His ability to acknowledge that, whatever changes do happen, he’ll still be the same Jake that he recognizes to be good. This is another one of those Adventure Time moments that is pretty divisive among the fanbase. This is an example of AT kind of batting around the status quo to ensure that everything remains familiar. I’ve mentioned before that I was mixed with Finn’s arm coming back in Breezy; on the one hand (no pun intended), it was an incredibly dumb decision to return his arm to normal only episodes after he had lost it, while on the other hand, it still really worked with the theme that the episode set to accomplish, and I feel the same here. Jake’s appearance changes only after he discovers that his entire soul doesn’t have to change even if he does, which visually leaves us with the yellow stretchy dog that we’ve come to love. I’ll even say that I don’t think it was a dumb decision to bring back yellow Jake at all – the shapeshifter design is a bit… wonky. It’s fine for what they set out to accomplish within this episode, but I don’t really think I’d want Jake to look like this for the rest of the series. I think when fans complain about this type of situation, it helps to wonder if they truly want the change in the first place, or if they just don’t want any type of change to be retconned. The latter’s understandable, but I really do question the former. Jake returns home and finally recognizes that he’s returned to normal, knowing that he’s changed, but is still the same on the inside. Everything stays, mothafuckas!

Abstract is a pretty solid entry. It has it weaker and more controversial moments, but at its core, it’s a solid developmental episode for both Jake and Jermaine. After so much mystery and ambiguity about Jake’s character, season eight has really done a great job of showing us subtle glimpses into Jake’s psyche. It isn’t much, but then again, Jake’s baggage isn’t really his strong point to begin with. He’s a fun, comical, and loving character, and as Abstract has shown, its a title he chooses to defend and represent above everything.

Also, fun fact: all of the abstract paintings in the episode were created by Laura Knetzger, who co-boarded this episode. This is Knetzger’s last episode working on the show. Thanks for the fun, Laura!

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Favorite line: “Funny, though, I can kind of taste the toast’s emotions or something.”

“Winter Light” Review

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Original Airdate: April 25, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Laura Knetzger

Winter Light is all about showcasing the loomy-gloom of the newfound Ice Kingdom, and it does its damnedest to mirror that tone as accurately as possible. This one is sooo moody in its atmosphere, and I really dig it. Not only does it have a lot of fun with just how depressing this warped landscape is, but it also looks gorgeous. This is definitely the type of episode I admire for its atmosphere more than anything.

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The initial trek through the new Ice Kingdom is awesome; the entire scope of the ice dome itself feels so wide and vivid, making it really seem like this vast, desolate continent as opposed to a small community. Everything is masked with shadows and darkness, making even the silliest of Ooo’s creatures, like the Snow Golem and Iceclops, appear menacing and detached. Even in the more technically “light” scenes, the tone is still kept subdued and wistful. The Ice Fox’s version of “Blue Magic” is a song I’ve gradually gotten more invested in over time, and again, adds a haunting tone to the course of events at hand. Steve Wolfhard boarded the first half of this one and he excels at observational moments. In a similar essence to episodes like Graybles 1000+ and Mysterious Island, Finn and Jake merely exist as bystanders to soak in the various changes around them, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s what really helps knock this one out of the park on an atmospheric level, and really highlights the vast changes that have occurred since the boys’ departure. Elements takes its time quite appropriately in circumstances like this, allowing environment to be established before conflict and tension.

Though, there is clear tension within this episode, at the hands of Patience St. Pim. Her role in this miniseries always fascinates me; at first, it was something I felt somewhat disappointed and confused by. After the fun that was had with her character in Elemental, I expected more of the same over the course of eight episodes that would really give her character and huge personality a time to shine. We’re treated to a much different version of Patience here, however, though it’s one I’ve grown to really appreciate and admire over time. I think it’s really interesting how each elemental essentially embodies one main emotional state, with Flame Princess’s being anger, PB’s being bubbly happiness, and Slime Princess’s being her vivacious lifestyle. Of course, these characters are not limited to these traits; Bubblegum, while bubbly and sweet, is far from the wildly happy and calmed persona that we get to see throughout Elements. Yet, it’s still quite unique to me how sadness is the emotion that embodies Patience as a whole. Ice always seems to represent the least emotionally stable of characters, and it’s clear that their sadness is what drives them to the destruction of their own lives and others. Patience’s sadness stems from her inability to accept and deal with changes around her, as we’ve seen through her actions on multiple occasions. Winter Cloud shows us how following the instinctive clues of her sadness has only driven her into more sadness, which can really be a statement for magic users in the world of Adventure Time in general.

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Time and time again, magic has been shown to be utterly catastrophic in fixing the issues that only lead to more treachery. Patience is just one of those magic users, and she follows in the footsteps of so many other characters who have ended up making the same mistakes – trying desperately to alleviate the possibilities of disaster, but ultimately causing more damage and becoming absolutely paralyzed by madness and sadness in the process. “Blue Magic” is a great representation of this hastiness, and I think it’s especially powerful that Betty’s magic, combined with Patience’s efforts, are ultimately what brought the downfall of society. The parallels between the two are especially strong throughout the miniseries, and the climax of these eight episodes in general shows how such resistances to change happen like clockwork, and rarely ever provide positive results. Patience barely poses as a villain throughout the miniseries, but I think it’s rather potent that she’s so consumed by sadness and despair that she’d rather just watch the world die than even try to fix or ruin anything else. With so many villains bent on utter destruction in the world of AT, it’s unique to have a villain who has caused such irrepressible damage, but ultimately doesn’t care any which way what happens in the end.

Like most of the Elements episodes that precede this episode and come after it, Winter Light is chock full of great character moments. The dynamic between Ice King, Finn, and Jake has been practically absent since King’s Ransom, so it was really great to watch them all interact with each other once more. It’s hilarious to me that Ice King thinks that Finn views him as a best friend, but knows absolutely that Jake does not. This is another one of those shockingly self-aware Ice King moments that are just priceless to me. The IK’s pretty funny throughout this one’s run, including the overly long gag with Finn putting Jake’s sweater on. I remembered this joke going back into the rewatch, and I didn’t expect to find it funny, but it surprisingly got me – a really well-timed gag. I did think it was slightly strange that the two boys completely glanced over Ice King pushing Finn into unknown dangers, but that brief Rattleballs reference was probably worth the instance at all. I’m really digging Ice King’s Simonlike look as well, something that remains throughout the course of this miniseries.

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Finn and Jake’s relationship really thrives throughout the run of these eight episodes, and they share a lot of nice moments in Winter Light as well. Jake giving Finn his sweater, even if it means being susceptible to the side effects of the Ice Kingdom, was an adorably sweet move. It’s a nice metaphor that Jake will literally sacrifice his own happiness for the sake of Finn’s.  And Carroll returns in this one! Really didn’t expect to see her again, but I’m so glad we do. Her abrasive nature shines once more, as she quickly becomes another addition on my list of characters that should be really annoying, but strangely are not. Really dig the subtleties within her scenes as well, like the fact that her ice door will not remain sturdy throughout her prominent entrance.

Winter Light wraps things up by progressing the story forward, as Finn offers up the Farmworld Enchiridion to Betty (complete with the small music cue when it was first introduced in The Enchiridion! Nice touch!) and Betty lets out one confusing bout of laughter that begins bringing her actions into question. Winter Light is pretty small on moments that actually move the story otherwise, but its strength, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, is its atmosphere. There’s something both foreboding and strangely comforting about the freezing cold climate; a lot of this episode just reminds me of Bob Ross segments where he paints a snowy cabin for 20 minutes straight. While it’s a bit more dark and unforgiving than that, it’s really pleasant in its solemn nature, and provides for an enjoyably moody viewing experience to boot.

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Favorite line: “Everyone leaves except me. I remember father made me stay at the table until all the eggs were eaten.”

 

“Do No Harm” Review

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Original Airdate: January 23, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Emily Partridge & Laura Knetzger

Two Swords was a great introduction to grass Finn’s character, or Fern as he’s finally christened in this episode, though it left me wanting even more from his character. Do No Harm quickly delivers, and cleverly chooses to separate both Finn and Fern in order to expand on their characters individually. What makes this episode so great, however, is the strong parallels that are ingeniously tied together between the two boys.

Aside from All the Little People, this is one of my favorite episodes that Tim Kiefer has ever scored. The ambient harp used throughout this one’s duration gives it both a hint of whimsy and a slight unnerving feel, which really hits home during Fern’s mini tantrums. Part of why I enjoy Do No Harm so much is 1. because of how nice it looks. 2. because of how nice it sounds. The slow transition from Finn to Fern as the sunset rises in Ooo and Kiefer’s score plays gently in the background is already one of my favorite scenes and it’s in the first five seconds! With an added killer story, this one really has a lot going for it.

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It’s nice how this episode continues to paint a picture of how much Finn and Jake differ when it comes to strangers/people who they aren’t necessarily close with. While Finn is generally more kind and accepting (as he grew to be with Ice King and how he was with “Moe” in The More You Moe), Jake is a bit more judgmental and awkward. Finn is more times than most the awkward one of the duo, though Jake experiences such social crutches when he fails to fully understand people. Jake is inclined to better click with those who fit his type and lifestyle, so he tends to struggle with those who need special accommodations because he isn’t really able to put himself in their feet. Finn advises Jake that Fern is just another version of himself, but even so, Jake previously had trouble empathizing and understanding Finn’s own emotional trauma a year earlier. From its inception, it’s certainly a recipe for discomfort!

Despite discovering some aspects of his true identity in the previous episode, Fern is still somewhat under the impression that he’s Finn. I’m not sure if its denial, or if another part of his brain is operating during these periods, but I’m glad they kept this aspect going to really hammer in his inability to conform. Even when faced with his favorite meal of meatloaf (I love how this is a recurring trait of Finn’s character), he’s unable to consume it. This could easily be seen as a moment that simply seeks to explain how the grass bod works, but it’s also a key indicator of Fern continually losing more and more aspects of his former self that he once found pleasurable. Again, it really paints a depressing picture. How is Fern supposed to be happy when he can’t even enjoy his favorite meal properly?

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Though it’s unnecessary for him to have to explain himself, Finn still goes out of his way to apologize to an unconscious Susan for what happened with his grass sword. It’s a touching moment, but ultimately, I think our little guy is too hard on himself. He mentions not being strong enough to stop himself from hurting her, but it was a situation that was out of his control. The main purpose of his apology, however, is to draw on similarities between he and Fern. Fern is constantly mentioning how he can’t do anything right, even though most of his shortcomings are circumstantial at best. In a similar fashion, Finn blames himself for his own shortcomings that he really doesn’t have any control over. This brief emotional interlude is cut short when Doctor Princess enters Susan’s room and immediately appoints Finn as a physician. In what has to be one of the funniest Adventure Time moments in the past few seasons, Doctor Princess reveals to Finn in confidentiality that she isn’t actually a doctor, and it just happens to be her surname. The Doctor Princess is neither a doctor nor a princess. Her character is essentially one big, mysterious dead-end. Regardless, Finn chooses to take on the position and learns some new aspects about himself in the process.

Meanwhile, over on Fern and Jake’s side of things, the two boys get wrapped up in finding something for Fern to get involved with. Fern is unable to play flute, another one of Finn’s favorite hobbies as of recent, as he begins to go through yet another breakdown. Again, it might be seen as a cool aspect of Fern’s character that he doesn’t even need to breathe, but when its something as simple, given, and humanistic as that, it really sets out to hammer in how abnormal Fern’s entire existence is. Jake does manage to pull through in a pretty heartwarming way, as he reminds Fern of what his (and Finn’s) true favorite activity to embark on is: adventuring and slaying evil. They head to a grassy maze, in what feels like a fun return to AT‘s video game-esque dungeon scenarios. Much like Blade of GrassDo No Harm is heavily reliant on the color green, but in the best, least nauseating type of way. As we soon find, this is just one of many similarities that this episode shares with Blade of Grass. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. As Fern battles off grass demons, he begins to feel good about doing good in general.

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Finn, similarly, feels great being able to help others out. Whether it be a splintered Mr. Fox or a back-broken Ice King (whose toes also taste like jam, for whatever reason), Finn simply seeks pleasure from being able to treat others, of which later ties into another aspect of his past, and also kind of channels in to Finn’s maturity by this point in the series. While Finn loves adventuring and beating up bad guys, his main goal and desire in life at this point in time is to simply help others and make it so that their lives thrive. It’s a really sweet sentiment from our big, baby boy.

While Fern continues to sweep through lower-tier enemies, he finally ends up on the other side of the maze, of where the boys convene with the Grassy Wizard. I totally didn’t expect the Grassy Wizard to ever appear again, but damn, I’m glad that he did. He plays a much bigger part in the series than the staff likely thought when first introducing the grass sword, and it makes sense to revisit his character as a potential source for answers and closure. Those two elements are exactly what Fern is looking for, as he begins to question Grassy Wizard on his current state and what his birthright truly is. It is interesting how, here, Fern refers to Finn as a separate person from himself, contrary to how he was acting earlier in the episode. By this point in time, to the remainder of the series, Fern has pretty much realized that, no matter how much he feels as though he is, he simply isn’t Finn and has to move on from that idea. Though, despite not being the same person as Finn, their similarities are practically uncanny, and that goes beyond the two sharing the same anatomy and memories. Grassy Wizard plays the part of Fern’s shitty, neglectful father, as he basically admits that he only created Fern as somewhat of a joke and because he thought it would be “cool.” Grassy Wizard reeks of Martinisms, failing to understand even the slightest bits of empathy, but gets his comeuppance as Fern wallops him in a punch that’s nearly identical to the way Finn punched “Martin” in The Tower. Fern has now experienced yet another moment that places him in the same place that Finn was once at, though, while Finn learned to accept Martin and move on from his hatred, Fern nearly beats Grassy Wizard to a pulp, thinking that’s what he’s supposed to do. Jake quickly informs Fern that it isn’t exactly natural or healthy to go about defeating evil this way, as Fern finally realizes that he simply isn’t Finn. No matter how good it feels to do things that Finn would want to do, he isn’t able to take on those tasks with the exact same flair, further alienating him from what he believes to be right and true.

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Finn begins to experience this same form of dissonance as he realizes that his efforts to help others essentially failed. Finn and Fern are essentially on the exact same wavelength: they want to do something that they know is good and helps others, though they aren’t exactly sure that they are cut out for the job. These two stories come to a culmination when the two reconvene at the hospital, and Fern realizes that, despite doing things “as Finn would,” he just isn’t Finn, and he has to find his own path in life, via a beautiful departure on Starchy’s new motorcycle. One thing I also love about this ending is it recycles the same music from the ending of Blade of Grass, when Finn learns to accept the grass sword as a part of him. Here, this score is used as Fern accepts himself for something that he is realistically not and chooses to take on a new journey to truly figure out who he is in the process.

Also capping this episode off is the revelation that Susan is alive and well, proving that Finn’s medical advice was indeed correct, and further leading us into the Islands miniseries.

I really love Do No Harm. It’s a terrific character study of two boys faced with hopes and desires, but ultimately coming face-to-face with their own shortcomings and insecurities by the end of it. Fern worries that he isn’t anything like Finn, though if the events of this episode prove anything, the two are more alike than he could possibly know. My only issue with this one is that I feel as though Jake’s concern wasn’t entirely believable within the grass maze. We’re supposed to believe that Fern is going too far in his efforts to defeat tertiary bad guys, but I dunno, haven’t Finn and Jake involved themselves in similar carnage in episodes like Dad’s DungeonDungeon Train, or even Memory of a Memory? Finn evens mentions in Puhoy that he “kills stuff lots of times,” so I feel as though this aspect of the episode didn’t necessarily hit home in painting Fern in a poor light. But overall, it’s another really strong episode to flesh out Fern’s character, and a sweet episode for Finn in the wake of the eight part miniseries based around himself and his past.

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Favorite line: “I don’t even have a medical degree. I just came in here one day for an X-ray, and my first name is Doctor, so, well, one thing led to another…”