Original Airdate: August 12, 2013
Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard
After the preview came out for Too Old following the release of Frost & Fire, the entire fandom was in somewhat of a tizzy. People were really, really pissed at Finn (the comments on this particular YouTube video are a trip down memory lane) and it didn’t help that his behavior in this one was considerably more offensive than the last episode. While Finn’s manipulative behavior was generally based off of ignorance and hormonal urges, this episode features him being purposely lying and deceitful, downright creepy, and virtually pathetic and useless in his environment. That being said, I initially hated this one. I couldn’t believe the way Finn’s character was bastardized, and it doesn’t help that the episode is a bit of an ear sore as well. The Lemongrabs are constantly shrieking throughout the entirety of this one, and while it’s helped the characters really make a unique identity in the past, it’s just downright unpleasant in this one. Yet, time has been good to Too Old. What I initially thought was an irritating expedition through Castle Lemongrab with some really unlikable moments with Finn, I now believe is a really intriguing cautionary tale of trying to relive the past. And with tons of little details sprinkled throughout the episode’s run, I actually think it’s a pretty brilliant allegory.
Too Old mimics Too Young to a tee. Aside from its title, the episode uses the basic structure of Too Young’s individual moments to carry the plot and its motif along smoothly. Even the title card music is the exact same jingle that was heard during Too Young’s title sequence. Yet, this isn’t a sequel episode. A sequel, by definition is “a published, broadcast, or recorded work that continues the story or develops the theme of an earlier one.” Too Young, in contrast, was a mostly bright and colorful tale with silly jokes that revolved around the bittersweet relationship between Finn and PB. Too Old, however, focuses not on a bright and colorful story, or the sweeter elements between Finn and PB, but a dark and twisted tale of a creation gone corrupt and Finn at his absolute lowest. Let’s start with Lemongrab.
Lemongrab has certainly come a long way since his first appearance. Initially an ineffectual and goofy tyrant, Lemongrab has gone from having absolutely nothing to having practically everything that the Candy Kingdom possesses. Lemongrab has a proper kingdom with citizens, the company of a brother, and enough food to make for an absurdly overweight lemon. The one thing that Lemongrab didn’t consider when building his kingdom, however, was building a kingdom based out of love and care for his people. Lemongrab simply decided to create for the sake of creation. Fascinated with his own ability to make citizens, he continued to do so and caused his kingdom to become overpopulated. Now he simply has a plethora of candy citizens who he doesn’t even love or care about; he simply was interested in their creation, and by the time the next lemon person came along, he was already disinterested in the last. On top of that, his brother, who was once built to be his equal, was quickly distorted into his oppressor. The fatal flaw in the creation of Lemongrab 2 was believing that a second Lemongrab would help to round out the first. Yet, what PB didn’t realize, was that Lemongrab only believes in himself. If someone’s methods don’t line up exactly with his, they’re automatically deemed as oppressors of his beliefs and tactics. And, though the two Lemongrabs were built exactly the same, the first Lemongrab has much more life experience than the first. The first Lemongrab has been hardened by society and has grown to be bigoted against anything that goes beyond his own way, as he was virtually born into this world alone. Lemongrab 2 was never built to be alone; Lemongrab 2 always had his brother since the moment he was conceived, and doesn’t possess the selfishness and ego that his brother has developed.
What this all boils down to, basically, is that Lemongrab believes he is finally greater (or at least up-to-par) with his creator. Having an array of servants, citizens, and entertainers, he finally feels like royalty. And this really shows during Lemongrab’s royal dinner. As PB and Finn arrive, a Lemon Person announces the arrival of the two, followed by a Lemon Person abruptly falling from a trapeze, alluding to Cinnamon Bun doing the same thing in Too Young. What seems like a brief, cute reference to the past episode is actually a pretty in depth look into Lemongrab’s psyche. This introduction of PB and Finn, as well as the trapeze act, is how Lemongrab believes people are supposed to be greeted in a sophisticated, upstanding kingdom. Cinnamon Bun’s entrance, was of course, based on his own bumbling stupidity, rather than an actual elaborate performance. This view of ignorance on how a kingdom is supposed to be run is ultimately what leads Lemongrab into absolute fascism.
Say what you want about PB’s own policies and treatment of her people, yet she puts her heart, blood, sweat, and tears into caring and loving for her people and giving them a serviceable living experience. Lemongrab, on the other hand, only cares about himself and his own way of living. He could care less about the other Lemon People and their own quality of life; he simply wants to create a luxurious living community for himself as a status of his importance. The only person he has an ounce of care for, aside from himself, is Princess Bubblegum, though this care is often combatted with hostility. I don’t believe for a second that Lemongrab invited PB over for her to see how much the kingdom has improved, but rather to one-up her and to show that he is now more dominant than his creator.
Yet, Lemongrab’s kingdom is based on a single ruler’s mindset, rather than the success and individuality of others. Whether the Candy Kingdom contains truly unique and inspired Candy People or not, they do have their own sense of individualism and their own distinct mindsets. This is why, when we’re introduced to Badlemonnohope (nicknamed Lemonhope), his identity and mindset offer a much higher sense of individuality and character than anyone else in the Earldom. He chooses his own path and interests, which is why Lemongrab has deemed him as obsolete among the crowd of lemon people that surround him. The reason I’m explaining all of this in great detail is particularly because I think Lemongrab’s descent into pure tyranny is actually quite well-rounded. It derives from systematic inadequacy and a sense of inferiority toward his creator. Lemongrab simply believes that emulating a fictitious utopian society based on what he has seen can create a bustling and admirable community, though all of what he thinks makes up a thriving kingdom is a mere facsimile of the Candy Kingdom. And his insistence that PB was behind all of this, that she is at fault for his shortcomings, is simply an excuse at this point. While some of PB’s errors and flaws could be attributed to Lemongrab’s suffering in You Made Me, at this point, Lemongrab uses his creator as a mere scapegoat for his own flaws, marking a full transformation into villainy as opposed to a sympathetic anti-hero. Once again, his selfishness comes out when addressing PB by his balcony, “You try to steal my Lemonhope away?!” His possessiveness towards Lemonhope shows that Lemongrab merely thinks of him as property; a token to add to the completeness of his kingdom. And, despite all of Lemongrab’s monstrous actions, an almost completely devoured Lemongrab 2 professes his life experiences and what he’s learned through his encounters with his devious brother: that lemons should not squeeze other lemons to get by, but allow lemons to grow and flourish. A silly analogy, but one that shows that Castle Lemongrab isn’t completely devoid of empathy and hope. The lemon people, through their suffering, have learned to empathize as well, and continue to look on towards hope for the day they will be rescued. Though, one must also remember: the desires of the Lemon People still remain deeply selfish. They look for freedom of their own, yet depend on one very little boy to save an entire society of people. This comes in handy when taking a look at Lemonhope’s selfishness in his own star episode, which has gotten a lot of flack, but is considerably more understandable when looking at the sour nature of the Lemon People in general.
Whew, so that was Lemongrab’s portion, now let’s look at the horny teen at the center of it: Finn. After the events of Frost & Fire, Finn most likely was heartbroken and ashamed over the loss of his girlfriend. Having no one but himself to blame, Finn was left alone with nothing but his own guilt to bear. This is also a time where, as we’ve discussed, Finn has yet to even border emotional maturity. That’s why, instead of addressing the thing that he has done wrong and allowing time for himself to grieve, he turns to a comfortable source of endearment of whom he spent much simpler times with: Princess Bubblegum. Probably the most rewarding time that Finn has experienced in his youth did take place when Lemongrab usurped Prubs; spending the entire day pulling pranks and being childish with someone he cares for deeply was something that Finn truly cherished and enjoyed more than anything else. Finn longs for the simple days of being a child, when he didn’t have to deal with the tough trials of relationships, and when he could spend time with someone he remembers having terrific times with. What Finn hasn’t acknowledged is that times have changed since he last pulled a series of pranks on the cranky lemon man. Finn does not realize that he cannot simply escape from his issues using glamorized memories, and that the memories he has left behind cannot simply be recreated.
This is where most of his jerkiness comes from; first, from his childish lie to Jake in order to spend time alone with Princess Bubblegum. People have targeted this one especially, though honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Finn held some hostility for Jake after contributing to the third occurrence of Flame Princess and Ice King’s fight in the past episode. Though it’s never addressed upfront, and his guilt most likely puts most of the blame on himself, I get the feeling that Finn is looking for a scapegoat to put blame on, much like Lemongrab, which leads him to targeting Jake. It’s mean on it’s own, but Finn’s insistent urge to manipulating PB proves that he hasn’t completely learned from his actions in the past episode, if at all. Finn simply wants to find a quick and easy way to feel good again, and selfishly does not consider the wellbeing of others in the process.
It’s interesting to note that Finn barely even reacts in relation to the Lemon-centric plot. It makes it somewhat ingeniously tied together in my eyes that these two character’s failure to recreate the past have virtually nothing to do with the other: Lemongrab could give less of a shit about Finn’s boner issues, and Finn doesn’t realize the severity of Lemongrab’s corrupt government. He’s still too young to look beyond situations as a fun and enticing adventure, which is why he weighs Lemongrab’s abusive, dictating nature as equal to the day when Lemongrab took over the kingdom. Finn doesn’t yet grasp political issues like this, and the first time he encountered such an issue, he attempted to solve it with pranks and gags. Naturally, he believes the same solution is in place, yet only through PB’s solemn words is he able to realize that exploding pudding isn’t going to save Castle Lemongrab. Finn wasn’t looking to save an entire kingdom; instead, he was looking to have a fun time with an old friend (or in this case, an old flame). Yet, growing up is realizing that life isn’t always a little boy game, and that sometimes there are dire consequences to deal with. Trying to pretend that the past can simply be emulated every time something bad happens is completely ineffectual, and Finn cannot ignore his shame and guilt forever.
When looking at Finn that way, I think it is a lot more forgivable that, by the end of this one, he does at least learn something from his actions. We aren’t just treated to a barrage of insufferable Finn moments that have no real payoff for his character (as The Red Throne would later be guilty of), as these moments are all vital for giving Finn a reality check that is much needed. Aside from Jesse Moynihan, Steve Wolfhard and Tom Herpich seem to be the most ballsy in exploring the darker and more uncomfortable portions of Finn’s personality, and I really enjoy these expeditions. Even if Finn is somewhat of an uncharismatic dick, you really have to look at it from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy. That doesn’t automatically correlate to decent writing, yet I think Finn’s issue at hand is presented with meaning and purpose. Finn is a sweet kid who wants the best for everyone, but as life has taken a turn for him, he has put his emotional sensitivity behind him and simply wants to be numbed to his own errors. And the sad truth of the matter is that a lot of nice people in the world have been negatively altered by the circumstances of life, to the point where their behavior is completely unrecognizable from their past self.
Of course, at the center of this is PB; the level-headed guardian who just can’t catch a break. I sympathize with her a lot in this one, though there isn’t a ton of focus on her perspective. Her own creation has become a legitimate monster, and tons of people are suffering because of it, while the one person she thought could lessen the burden of a stressful trip actually made things more complicated and difficult. The poor gal just wanted to get through an already expectedly painful dinner.
The humor in this one is paper thin, though this is a part of the series where I care much less about how funny an episode is and rather how captivating it can tell a story in the course of 11 minutes. Though this episode does have its funny moments, especially within the little details. BMO continuously trying to get into the bath with Jake while he’s on the phone with Finn is adorable and hilarious, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that the lemon toilet is a fucking juicer. There’s no way that isn’t excruciating.
I think some of my initial criticisms still stand, as the constant screaming of every single line performed by the Lemongrabs can grate on me a bit, but I think there’s some really brilliant undertones to this one that help it skyrocket beyond my first impressions. Capturing the motif of change between two distinctly different characters is interesting enough, yet there’s so many layers to Lemongrab and Finn’s individual identities that I feel like there’s so much you can read into and enjoy upon multiple viewings. Is Finn a dick? Yes. But this is an episode where he needs to be a dick. I can’t imagine the episode and allegories within this one working as well if Finn was just depressed or ignoring his issues the entire time. These choices, while potentially detrimental to Finn’s character, really work to emphasize a dangerous lesson in life, and to show its viewers the consequences that come with it. Whether it be Lemongrab’s inability to comprehend what it means to be a true leader, or Finn’s neverending issues with ladies, this episode combines two of the series recurring themes and blends them together for one completely uncomfortable, yet fascinating journey. It’s one of my favorites of the second half of season five, and one of the most interesting depictions of Finn during the fallout of his relationship.