Original Airdate: March 10, 2014
Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard
This two parter brings Lemonhope back into the spotlight after his first appearance in Too Old. And, as anyone else, I was looking forward to, or at least interested in, how the eventual battle between Lemonhope and Lemongrab would come into fruition. This episode, in turn, gave me something I really wasn’t expecting in the slightest. Where I figured the conflict between Lemongrab and Lemonhope would be solved through a high stakes battle between the Candy Kingdom and Castle Lemongrab, it is instead a mostly experimental journey exploring Lemonhope’s character and how he differs from the traditional Adventure Time hero. But its unconventional nature only contributes to its success, and ultimately is a gateway for some of the trippier and more surrealistic AT episodes that would become more commonplace during the following season.
Lemonhope is an interesting character… he is certainly on the more selfish side, and many people have attributed his behavior as negative character flaws. Yet, it’s his depiction that, in my eyes, makes him so interesting and unique as a protagonist. If you think about his circumstances and what he’s up against, it’s somewhat ludicrous that people are expecting such a prophetic and heroic method of saving “his people.” The beginning video demonstrates how deranged and oppressive the community of Castle Lemongrab has become following Lemonhope’s departure. Lemongrab has essentially become a tyrannical dictator where absolutely no one is allowed to stray from his vision or even attempt to leave Castle Lemongrab. It’s riddled with hauntingly humorous lines such as “morale has never been higher since we got rid of hope.” And it’s with this video that really shows how much Castle Lemongrab has fallen, and how everyone in the kingdom has almost completely lost hope. Yet, they all depend on the actions of one little boy to single handedly save an entire kingdom and to bring everyone into a more suitable living style. I don’t know, doesn’t that sound a little fucked up to anyone else? Apparently to Lemonhope, because he’s pretty much opposed to returning to his former lifestyle in every way possible.
Lemonhope’s selfishness is well-defined. He was abused, tortured, and born into cruelty at the hands of the Lemongrabs. His people allowed him to leave with the sole implication that he would in turn get stronger and return to save the entire Earldom. Yet, Lemonhope simply wants to be free. Free from his state of torture, free to do whatever he wants in life, and free to choose his own path beyond his original conditional living. He isn’t able to be free and move on, simply because he’s continuously pressured into believing that he is the sole savior over everyone. Lemonhope has a debt to pay for his people allowing him to leave, but he just simply does not want to be a Finn the Human-type hero that conquers adversaries each and everyday. He’s a kid, and he wants nothing more than to just have a lifestyle of freedom and a lack of worries.
The issue with Lemonhope’s actions is that his duty to preserve Castle Lemongrab still troubles him subconsciously. Through his nightmares, Lemonhope is approached by his demons and worries. In his first dream, Lemonhope is awoken to an area that is surrounded by nothing but the color gray. This signifies Lemonhope’s morally skewed choices and how they define him as a character. Through his own endeavors, he experiences a knocking at his front door. The knocking represents the impatient urges that are calling him to act upon his duties. The second dream deals with his fears of his character being defined by him abandoning his people and ultimately being deemed as “unacceptable” as Lemongrab, as alluded to earlier by Princess Bubblegum. Lemonhope fears being controlled by anyone like his was controlled by Lemongrab, so the signs that Princess Bubblegum is too trying to control him in one way or another only further contributes to his decision to completely seclude himself from everything he’s ever known.
These dream sequences are really fantastic examples of Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard at their all-time most allegorical. Herpich in particular gets very cinematic and unique in his aesthetics from this point on, and it’s a turn in writing that really helps Herpich develop into an even better storyboard artist than he already was.
The first act ends with Lemonhope trying to make it on his own, but failing to do so. Lemonhope’s ultimate desire and goal was to be “free,” yet he’s arguably more lost than ever. Lemonhope believed that being free was to go out on his own and to do whatever he wanted, yet his foolhardy attitude has led him to be left with absolutely nothing but the memories of his past life and the nightmares that haunt him. It’s this realization that I wish came a bit more into play by the end of it, seeing as how Lemonhope’s failure to survive on his own is never really harped (no pun intended) upon again.
However, his interactions with Phlannel Boxingday in the second half really show off some personal growth from the little lemon boy. He learns that being free doesn’t always mean being alone, though, of course, it doesn’t nearly solve all of his issues. Phlannel Boxingday’s identity is kept purposely vague for the audience to draw their own conclusions as to what/who he actually is. The only constant with viewer theories is that he has some form of relationship to Princess Bubblegum. He has a knowledge of zanoits, speaks German, and has the exact number of letters in his name as Princess Bubblegum (not to mention that their first and last names start with “P” and “B”). My thoughts definitely lean to the idea that Phlannel may be Princess Bubblegum in disguise, and we see that she’s capable of creating such a facade later in The Tower. I’d be willing to bet that she would do something like this to try and further persuade Lemonhope into returning to his people and also saving his kingdom. I think the much more interesting theory, however, is that Phlannel is a mirage that represents what Lemonhope wants Princess Bubblegum to be. Phlannel shares many of the same elements of Bubblegum’s character, though he never pressures Lemonhope into saving his people and allows him free will. Phlannel helps guide Lemonhope onto a path that Lemonhope himself chooses in order to relieve his own demons, not one that Phlannel is trying to force him to pursue against his will. Lemonhope’s desire to be free also revolved around his freedom to choose whatever he wanted to do, and while he never truly wanted to return to Castle Lemongrab, he chooses to do so on his own terms, not anyone else’s. This also is why Phlannel only appears to Lemonhope, and is not able to go with him to battle Lemongrab.
Lemonhope heeds Phlannel’s advice after experiencing yet another nightmare involving Lemongrab. In Lemonhope’s dream, he’s confronted by an overly obese Lemongrab munching onto a cow. As Lemonhope tries to escape, and is urged to escape by the cow, Lemonhope realizes that he’s being puppeteered by a larger version of himself. Lemonhope begins to realize at this point that only he is supposedly holding himself back from saving the Lemon People, and he’s haunted by the choices that he himself set out to pursue.
As Lemonhope returns to the miserable looking Castle Lemongrab, he’s greeted by a surprise appearance of the obese dictator himself, Lemongrab. I really like how effectively the show has positioned Lemongrab as a villain. He went from being a somewhat psychotic, yet sympathetic character into a full-fledged autocrat. His antagonistic role in this one is definitely strong, and it’s easy to buy into the fact that this man single-handedly corrupted an entire kingdom. Yet, even with all that he has going for him, Lemonhope is able to easily defeat his opposer through the music from his harp. Or, in other words, ‘twas beauty, killed the beast.
In a dream he experiences during his unconscious state, Lemonhope is finally able to answer the knocking by climbing through his gray surroundings into a brighter, more comfortable spot. Lemonhope is able to escape his area of moral ambiguity into a more enlightening state of euphoria and peace of mind. Yet, even with all he has accomplished and achieved through his actions, Lemonhope later acknowledges to Princess Bubblegum that he only came back so he wouldn’t have to think of his people or PB ever again. It’s disheartening to some, but really shows that Lemonhope always stuck to his original desires and goals of simply being free to do whatever he wanted to do in life. Whether he did it for the right reasons or not, he still came back and saved his kingdom, so does it even really matter what the basis of his actions were to begin with? Lemonhope may have been selfish in pretty much everything he chose to do, but he still made heroic sacrifices for it regardless, which ultimately shaped his legacy among the views of the Candy People. By the end of it, were reminded once again that in this world, there are Finn the Humans and there are Lemonhopes: those who choose to be heroes, and those who do not. Often times in the world we want certain people to be these grand saviors and have so many expectations for them, but Lemonhope was one who simply didn’t want any of it, and sometimes that’s okay too.
Princess Bubblegum has not forgotten his sacrifice, however, and even wrote a melancholic tune about it. As PB begins singing poignantly, a brief glimpse into the future of Ooo is shown. A somewhat demolished Candy Kingdom, an overly grown Treehouse, and the still in tact Castle Lemongrab are shown. It’s really a tearfully beautiful moment that truly emphasizes that nothing in the current Land of Ooo is forever, and that eventually, all of the lovely characters we’ve grown to appreciate so much will die off. It’s a sad but honest truth, and one that is explored through a beautiful melody, terrific landscapes, and an overall atmospheric tone that carries through powerfully to the end. It shows that even though Lemonhope never wanted to be a hero, he’ll be remembered as one regardless.
Lemonhope isn’t a personal favorite of mine, but I think it’s a pretty great example of Adventure Time at its most experimental. A new star character, some nice bits of surrealism, and an overall compelling main story that is filled with Adventure Time-y goodness throughout. I think what stops this one from being one of the all-time greats for myself is that I believe the first part is a little slow. Following Lemonhope’s escape from the Candy Kingdom, there’s many atmospheric bits of him attempting to live on his own and finding his own way of living, and while that’s all fine, I don’t really think it ties into the second part that greatly. As I mentioned earlier, Lemonhope’s main desire was to be free and on his own, but he quickly learns that it’s tough to be free and live life solo because he doesn’t have easy methods of providing for himself. This is mostly ignored in the second part, where it deals with his continual frustrations in regards to whether he should return to Castle Lemongrab or not. I feel like there’s a bit of a conflict with what exactly these two parts are trying to showcase, and while both of them are done well, I wish there was more of a coherent connection. Also, this is more of a nitpick, but there’s this really weird moment where Lemonhope’s voice isn’t filtered and he sounds exactly like Morty from Rick & Morty. It’s more of a funny little mishap than an actual problem, however. Otherwise, Lemonhope does everything it sets out to do quite well, and what was expected to be a big battle-heavy episode ended up being a very emotional tale revolving around inner conflict, and that’s exactly the kind of expectation-defying move I’d want from this show.
Favorite line: “In conclusion, no one needs to come here ever, especially Lemonhope, and I ate my brother. Goodbye!”