Tag Archive | Lich

“Whispers” Review

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Original Airdate: July 20, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

Whispers was a long-anticipated entry for myself, mainly because I had expected a major role from the Lich on two separate occasions prior: first was the season six finale, of which I figured would somehow involve the Lich’s relationship with the catalyst comet in general, and the season seven finale Preboot and Reboot, which I thought to be a reference to Jake’s line in Escape from the Citadel, “That sap rebooted him or something!” 83 episodes after Gold Stars, we finally get to see more into the dynamic between Sweet P. and the Lich, in a thoroughly satisfying entry… for the most part.

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I actually think the best portion of this episode centers around Finn and Fern’s relationship. Fern is noticeably upset about the events of Elements and can’t seem to bring himself out of the funk of feeling useless in the grand scheme of things. It’s understandable why Fern would feel this way – even though it clearly wasn’t within his control, he still is overly critical and not a stranger to self loathing. What’s more interesting is that Finn doesn’t immediately invalidate Fern’s feelings and kind of goes along with it, telling him to “learn from his dinks.” I think this could be looked at one of two ways: 1. Finn knows that trying to sweet talk Fern is useless, given that he isn’t very susceptible to positive reinforcement. 2. Finn subconsciously still feels slightly concerned about Fern being a stronger and more influential version of himself (as elaborated on in Cloudy) and doesn’t want him to feel too empowered. The latter paints a more darker and selfish version of Finn’s character, but I think it’s all-the-more interesting if the two of them both experience feelings of inferiority towards each other. Their bond is certainly awkward, but similarly sweet. I like how, since Fern is essentially a duplicate version of himself, Finn can pinpoint exactly how to cheer his quasi-brother up with a simple “squoze.”

Fern alone is pretty much the highlight of the episode for me. His problem obviously isn’t that he just flat out sucks, but his preconceived expectation for failure and a general negative outlook prevent him from truly becoming a competent and successful hero. Finn goes through similar trials and tribulations throughout this episode, namely being vested and almost killed off entirely by the Lich, only to be saved by Sweet P. This is something that Finn could easily dwell on and use for self-destructive behavior, but he doesn’t. Fern, on the other hand, perceives any minor failure as affirmation that he’s awful. No matter how hard Fern tries to separate himself from Finn, he’ll always be reminded of who Finn truly is and that Fern will never be as well-regarded as he once knew in his distant memories. I really love how much the writing staff took advantage of Fern’s inferiority and didn’t choose to fully resolve his arc in Do No Harm. Some would call Fern’s arc as a villain somewhat of a predictable turn given that it’s a common trope among clone stories in film and television, but I feel as if it’s unique enough in this situation to work. Without trying to sound redundant, Fern is Finn, but that unfortunately means that he can’t be Finn and will never be regarded as highly as his counterpart. This partially has to do with Fern’s preconception of himself, as well as the element of reality playing a part too. Some of these failures are played straight for dramatic effect, while others are more humorous. I love how his suggestion to help Sweet P. involved mercilessly murdering him.

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I didn’t really think Sweet P. had much of a character in his original star role during Gold Stars, but Whispers plays around with his identity and connection to the Lich much more effectively. Similar to Fern’s connection to Finn, I like how Sweet P. isn’t simply a “vessel” for the Lich as suggested and actually exists as his own independent being. Granted, he’s a child, and doesn’t know a ton about forming his own identity. But, from the simple mind of a child, Sweet P. knows that he wants to be good and to do good things, quite separate from the Lich’s desire for ultimate destruction. This is the last Lich centered episode of the series, and I was originally kind of opposed to the idea that Sweet P.’s arc is resolved in a much lighter and simpler way than expected, but I think it’s kind of fitting considering Adventure Time‘s main theme of change that the ultimate evil within the world of Ooo becomes the ultimate source of goodness and innocence. It’s such a drastic twist that seemed kind of cheap in its inception during Escape from the Citadel, but now I think it’s a change that feels quite endearing on a developmental level. Granted, I can’t help but feel slightly cheated by how much the show built up the Lich over the years, even in recent seasons, but I’ve grown accustomed to the concept that what ultimately killed the greatest source of death and evil in the world was a source of life and righteousness. It’s a simple, yet light-hearted decision that I can get behind. Sweet P.’s presence in this episode is benefited greatly by how Finn acts around him. I love how much of a sweet caretaker he is, even getting to bond with the toddler over having a shitty dad! That was a terrific edition. It also helps that Sweet P. isn’t really meant to be taken completely seriously throughout this one’s run – Sam Alden and Polly Guo have a lot of fun with how massive Sweet P. is, mainly when he tosses himself down the sewer and crushes everything in sight. It’s a fantastic bit of slapstick.

Now, I really like Whispers for the reasons I mentioned above and will mention below, but I think it’s important to discuss the biggest issue with this episode, which is kind of a big one: from a character standpoint, this is the Lich’s weakest entry to date. I’m almost glad this is his last appearance, because I think this episode is a clear sign that he may have outlived his usefulness. The Lich, plain and simple, isn’t scary or intimidating in this episode. There was a time where he really would feel like the big bad he was designed to be, providing a level of intensity and uncomfortable feelings that’s unique to his character only. Even in a bad episode, like Gold Stars, the Lich is able to add substance and atmosphere that nearly justifies the entire episode’s existence. But here, he kind of just feels like a stock bad guy. I thought Finn’s “oh boy, here we go,” in Crossover was a hilarious nod to show how he is pretty used to dealing with the Lich by now, but all of the little nods in this episode, which are funny, just kind of downplay the Lich more and more to where I kind of feel as if there aren’t any stakes at hand at all. It’s really disappointing to say because the Lich is one of those great villains that typically adds so much whenever he’s on screen, but this just kind of feels like overkill. I think the Farmworld Lich hand was a cool twist that I never expected to come back, but the silliness of the hand talking also kind of kills any creepy or threatening vibes in the air. The Lich’s dialogue isn’t particularly engaging either… I think they made Ron Perlman say “child” a few too many times to where it just feels somewhat comical. The one aspect that stands out with the Lich’s presence is that he mentions himself as “the last scholar of Golb” which is interesting, to say the least. I do wonder if this implies a more two dimensional side of the Lich that wasn’t entirely evil before absorbing the knowledge and tendencies of an ultimate evil. Golb is a character that we begin seeing more of from this point on, and this was a great starting point. Otherwise, I was pretty ready to move on from the Lich’s character. People often complained about the Lich only appearing after a handful of episodes, but I think it was the best decision to keep his character intimidating. Otherwise, he’s no more threatening than Orgalorg is.

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While the Lich himself isn’t scary in Whispers, the atmosphere, environment, and ambiance suit it nicely. The quiet nature of the forest was a terrific location to build up fear and concern, while the return of the abandoned subway station and the Lich’s well of power carry through that build up in the most invigorating and intense way. Sweet P.’s dialogue continues to be creepy because of its stilted nature, namely when he describes the terrifying nightmares that he’s been having. Even the shadows of the Lich and Sweet P., while slightly silly, provide a bit of a creepy demise for the Lich and a threatening feeling overall. The rest of Whispers looks gorgeous; once again, Ghostshrimp is back at it providing more memorable landscapes, namely the fishing pond that is also a graveyard. The lighting and shifting of the time of day similarly allow for some really beautiful colors and shading to shine through.

It also helps that Whispers is thoroughly hilarious. Whether it be Finn’s back-and-forths with Fern (apparently Fern doesn’t have tree senses, hm), Mr. Fox’s cranky discovery, Jake’s morbid voicemail, or Sweet P.’s uncanny nature, there’s a lot of funny moments packed in this one, especially on Sam Alden’s side of the board. Whispers ends on the stressful and ambiguous note that Fern wants to become the only Finn in Ooo. Sweet P. chose to shape his own destiny, but in Fern’s case, that isn’t exactly the simple route for just everyone. ‘Specially when you have an evil grass octopus living inside of you.

Aside from my gripes with the Lich aspects, Whispers did its job in being both thoroughly entertaining, and a solid entry for development. It still is strange to me that the Lich’s final appearance is just a standard 11 minute episode, but like I mentioned, I guess it’s for the best. The Lich was designed to be the big bad during the show’s initial inception, and I don’t really think anyone expected for Adventure Time to run as long as it did. The sad truth is that the Lich simply had too many opportunities to shine, and isn’t able to recreate the same magic that he was capable of at the beginning of the series. He’s a character that is deservedly retired, for better or worse.

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Favorite line: “I can’t come to the phone right now. I’m either hanging with Finn, my kids, my G.F., or I’m dead. Bye!”

“Crossover” Review

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Original Airdate: January 28, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Sam Alden

The wish-world that Finn created in Finn the Human and Jake the Dog was a realm that I never expected to be revisited. I figured that the reality was instantly reversed when Jake wished for him and Finn to be back home safely in Ooo, so this plot point in particular was one that definitely flew far off of my radar. So, when I discovered that this episode would feature a return to the Farmworld dimension, I was cautiously optimistic. Optimistic, because the Farmworld bits in Jake the Dog were easily the strongest parts of the episode, but cautious because I wasn’t really sure I actually wanted a definitive resolution to this conflict. Luckily, Jesse Moynihan and Sam Alden manage to pull off exactly that while executing it in an absolutely stunning, tense, and hilarious way.

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I have very few criticisms of this one, but I’ll open up with what I think is possibly the most questionable aspect of Crossover: why did it begin in media res? I’m not necessarily saying that it’s a problem, or detracts from the quality of the episode in anyway, but I do kind of wonder what it actually adds to the episode. Granted, it’s a cool opening, and sets an ominous tone for the episode, as well as a sense of curiosity. But the episode returns to the exact same scene only a minute and a half later, and it doesn’t feel like the beginning was inserted to really save time on any aspect. It’s surely strange, but again, it’s not something I actively dislike, I just find it slightly distracting.

Though, that may just be do to the fact that the rest of the episode is mostly fantastic. This one truly has a star-studded cast, with Finn, Jake, Prismo, Ice Finn, and the Lich at the helm, along with side roles from BMO, Bil- er, Bobby, and Big Destiny. It feels like a big episode in just how crucial the main characters are in terms of their ranks in the universe: Jake and Finn are the epitome of good, the Lich is the epitome of evil, Prismo is the guardian/overseer, and Ice Finn is at the center of it all. It really helps to add to that sense of direness when some of the most powerful beings in the series are present, and their roles are certainly not wasted.

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Prismo returns once more (in Kumail Nanjiani’s LAST performance as the character; sad, ain’t it?) mostly to deliver much needed exposition, but also to act as the cautious “jedi master” type. His concern and wary nature that Finn and Jake must exterminate Ice Finn in his way and his way only once again adds to that tension on whether everything is going to end up alright in the end. And of course, his concerns actually do make sense. At first, I was kind of like, “why the fuck would Prismo care about this?” but he’s the one who technically created it to begin with. Thus, he’s responsible for the nature of said universe and how it directly affects the existence of other universes. It is curious, however, of who his boss truly is. Given that it’s never directly explained at any point in the series, I do wonder if Prismo’s boss was ever intended to be apart of the series, though the staff was never permitted the time to incorporate said storyline. My money’s on this guy, of whom Adam Muto created conceptual drawings for, but never actually made it into the series.

The way Finn views Ice Finn is certainly unique and interesting, and definitely ties into his development and growth over time. Call me out on it if you will, but I feel as if past Finn would simply go along with Prismo’s plan, and end up destroying what he would think is merely “an evil version of himself” in the process. Here, Finn is much more sympathetic and understanding. Not only has his view on evil beings changed over time, but he also likely empathizes with the Ice King more, since he realizes what little control he has over the crown. This also ties into Finn’s refusal to diss the Ice King as the series goes on, as he understands the pain he experiences and wants to do everything he can to minimize that pain as much as possible. Finn’s view of himself as well has adapted as well. In a way, Finn essentially “helps himself” in this episode using everything that he knows about his own character, including his pride, temperance, and his strong sense of morality. The days of Finn feeling sorely bad for himself are over, and he’s able to know himself better through self evaluation, and the evaluation of Ice Finn. Through this effective transformation of character, Finn helps validate his alternate self, and his own self in the process. Finn knows who he is, and that is unquestionably being a devoted hero.

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Of course, Jake’s along for the ride as well, and provides some great comic relief in response to some of the heavier, and headier, business going on within the actual story. While Finn has to deal with the inner workings of the mind of his alternate self, Jake is merely faced with a completely evil alternate version of himself that isn’t down to go through the same type of self evaluation. It wouldn’t be a completely terrific Jake appearance without his absolute devotion to his brother as well, which is fully emphasized here. Whether it be his cute “I love you,” to Finn as they almost bite it, or his courage to take on the fucking Lich for Christ’s sakes, is just great. Jake really will go the full mile for his brother, even when there’s opportunities for the two of them to safely go about finding a solution, as shown in the beginning. Jake has likely killed hundreds of baddies before, but none that looked as hauntingly similar to his own bro. And it’s the last thing that Jake would want to involve himself in.

After so many sporadic appearances in the series, I expected to kind of be nonplussed by the Lich, but Ron Perlman once again distills just the amount of solemn horror into his voice. It is hilarious to see how immune Finn and Jake are to the Lich by this point in the series. Of course, the Lich is still the big bad, and could kill any character he wants at any point, but there’s something so distinctly hilarious about Finn looking death right in the face and saying, “oh boy, here we go…” Of course, they’re terrified by him, but they’re pretty much prepared for this kind of situation by this point. They’ve been through it a handful of times before, and by now, Finn probably realizes that, though it’ll be tough, they’ll get through it again. However, I’ll reinforce that this in no way undermines the Lich’s role as a threat in this one. Despite the ultra silly way his head is placed on Jake’s body (which actually makes him even MORE threatening) Perlman’s monologue about how everyone in every multiverse will die once again hits home. As Jake said to Ice Finn earlier, “come on dude, he’s not even trying to hide [his evil]!” the Lich doesn’t even try to mask his true intentions to Ice Finn after he gets what he wants. The Lich has no need for allies or partners: once he obtains the ability to cause death everywhere possible, he has all of the power in the world to do so. He’d even kill Jake, if it wasn’t for Finn’s handy-dandy thorn arm. Once again, the thorn arm returns, this time actually having a role in battle. As proven in episodes like Billy’s Bucket List, The Comet, and Checkmate, the grass curse only effectively activates when Finn is powerless and consumed by his inability to help a situation. I do wonder if some form of level of anxiety within Finn’s system is what triggers the grass sword to act upon itself. It’s probably not important, but it’d be rad to actually have an episode where Finn attempts to control the power of the grass arm. I’d be lying if I didn’t pan out the possibility of that entire episode in my head. Maybe I’ll write incorporate it into fanfiction someday. Hm.

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After the Lich’s arm is chopped off into multiple dimensions (of which will be explored later!) the episode dissolves into one big, frenzy-filled sequence where Jake helplessly tries to fight off the Lich, and Finn attempts to reasons with his counterpart. Again, the pacing in this one is terrific. It speeds up all of the action-packed sequences to make them feel more tense and relentless, while slowing down the more character driven moments, as I just mentioned. The interactions between Finn and Ice Finn are really touching and telling (apparently Finn has a birthmark of a “flaming sideways teardrop,” or essentially, a comet. Nice touch there, Alden). These interactions are ultimately what leads the boys to working together with “The Maid,” which is one of my absolute favorite weapons in the series. That little “housekeeping!” that goes off when activated is priceless.

That help that Finn begins to offer is unfortunately cut short, but luckily, Prismo’s an expert with Adobe Premiere and patches the whole thing up. Of course, it’s one big reference to the fact that the ice crown was accidentally shown to still be on Simon’s head in Jake the Dog, but I’ve seen a couple different complaints of people who thought this was somewhat of a deus ex machina and that Prismo shouldn’t really possess the power to interfere with other universes. Honestly, I didn’t mind it at all because 1. It’s funny. 2. It’s at the command of the wish bearer himself and the being that granted the wish. Prismo could theoretically just let Finn sit with the wish that he made, but he isn’t a dick. Prismo would rather help the dude who saved his life than to let someone endlessly suffer for the rest of eternity. Though Finn helps his alternate self, the only thing that’s possibly more painful for Finn than Ice Finn suffering is the fact that he has a really good family life outside of everything. Finn has never met his mom, and had previously spent an entire year dealing with the fact that his dad is a legitimately shitty person. Though Finn has a home with Jake and BMO and the other treehouse boys, he’s still stuck with the sad reminder that he has no caring birth parents to rely on. It’s the perfect quiet ending to cap off an otherwise intense episode, and one that opens up Finn’s longing for more possibilities in the future.

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On a visual aspect, this episode is just gorgeous. Aside from Evergreen, this may be the best looking episode to date. The subdued blues and whites of the iced-up Farmworld are pleasant and somewhat calming, so when the brighter yellows and greens arise during the Lich’s arrival, it really adds a dark and foreboding feeling, even if the contrasting colors are saying the opposite. The landscape in general is really awesome, feeling like an even bleaker and less welcoming Ice Kingdom. In addition to that, Finn and Jake looking fucking rad in those snow jackets. No kidding, I would pay good money for a vinyl figure of Finn in that jacket with his Finn Sword. Get on it, Kidrobot!

Other small things I liked about this one: hearing Lou Ferrigno’s one final time in the series as Bobby, the return of the Enchiridion and the fact that it actually has a unique, different design on the cover, the boys’ random Tree Fort activities at the beginning of the episode, the return of the talking Finn Sword, and the allusions to Finn getting better at playing the flute ACTUALLY having a role in future episodes. It’s always been a headcanon of mine that Finn subconsciously picked up the last name “Mertens” from his experiences within the Farmworld.

Crossover is just an overall delight. Sam Alden and Jesse Moynihan make for terrific boarding team this season; Moynihan is still able to pull off some crazy, off-the-walls stories like this, but is more grounded with Alden’s guidance. It’s a fast-paced, fun, exhilarating journey that really kicks off a series of terrific episodes spanning across the entire rest of the season. In particular, my favorite of season seven is coming up next.

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Favorite line: “Are you bein’ stupid on purpose?”

 

“In Your Footsteps” Review

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Original Airdate: May 7, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Skyler Page & Tom Herpich

In Your Footsteps follows up with a story arc that had be shelved since the season two finale: the much anticipated return of the Lich. We all knew he would make his triumphant reappearance in the snail host body eventually, and it was really reassuring that we had something big to look forward to. Ultimately though, it’s an episode that feels a bit hollow at its center, and really doesn’t do much for me besides being blatant setup.

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The beginning is demonstrated nicely. Skyler Page really crafted some nice shots during his time on the show that feel very fluid and poppy, example being when Finn first enters the party. It’s really funny and a legitimately cool entrance for our little guy. There’s also a couple of funny, quirky moments at the dance party. I like how when we’re introduced to the bear, Jake just generally assumes that the bear is anthropomorphic, as most animals are in the Land of Ooo. I’m wondering if Jake just guessed that the bear spoke and was ignoring him, or just something about the bear rubbed Jake the wrong way. Either way, nice moment to set up their entire conflict. Also, I love how Finn returns to the picnic table with two cups that say “Starchy” and “Cinnamon Bun” on them. Finn just blatantly took other people’s cups. That’s kind of awesome. I didn’t really like the the early utilization of the Enchirdion, however. I thought it was cool that he used the book to save the bear, but I sort of just wish they left it at that. The fact that Finn goes on his spiel about, “oh yeah, it’s the Enchirdion! The hero’s handbook! It’s a super important book! I got in back in season one, episode five, as a matter of fact!” well, I’m exaggerating, but it was pretty obvious to me at that point that the Enchiridion would have had some significance in the episode, and it just really made it feel like a plot device from this moment on.

As for the main conflict, well, it’s a bit confusing to me. I think it kind of works against the episode that the bear doesn’t talk, honestly, because I’m really sort of perplexed on what his motivations are as a character. Was his plot to dress like Finn and pretend to be Finn so Finn himself would eventually give him the Enchirdion? Or did his plot work out all along and it was to make Finn feel bad for him and eventually give him the book? In that case, why did the bear slap Jake in the face? Why did he eat all of Finn’s Finn cakes? Why was he dressed up pretending to be Finn in the middle of the night? Wouldn’t it have just been easier to quickly swipe the Enchridion while Finn was sleeping? His plan seems all types of convoluted, and I really can’t get behind what his strategy was because we don’t know anything about him. He’s just sort of a blank slate at the Lich snail’s command, and so it’s sort of hard to really even buy into his plan. In addition to that, I’m sure y’all know I’m not really a fan of these types of stories. They covered this type of story briefly in Paper Pete, and this one takes it up to eleven by really stressing the idea that Jake thinks the bear is bad news but Finn just can’t see it with his own eyes. It’s just a really frustrating type of story to watch, and very few shows ever get it right. It doesn’t even really know what genre it wants to be either. It could’ve been a lot more interesting to me if the bear wanting to be Finn was just a completely different story with horror elements incorporated. That sounds pretty dope if you ask me, and the first part seems committed to it, but the second half goes more for the generic sitcom-y sort of root.

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That being said, I actually think the episode did okay with it and still managed to keep the characters likable and in character. There are still some very enjoyable moments in this one. The “tops blooby” expression is one of favorite wacky catchphrases in the entire show, and one I find myself uttering it quite frequently, actually. Jake is still very entertaining to watch, despite being at the butt of the plot’s expense. I really like how his feelings towards the bear go from jealousy to concern, yet he actually does listen to Finn and understands where he’s coming from. Also, I like how his actions towards the bear don’t dumb Jake down in anyway. He records the bear eating Finn’s Finn cakes instead of preventing him, of course, but that just generally seems like something Jake would do. It leads to the obvious root of Finn being pissed off at Jake, but it almost had me siding with Finn in the sense where I was thinking, “yeah, why didn’t you just stop him??” But again, it’s still kind of difficult to get through knowing Finn should have just been mad at the bear to begin with and that we know exactly what route it’s headed in. It is tedious, but as I mentioned, it’s the individual scenes that make it tolerable: the slow iris out with Jake quickly blurting “I knew it!”, Jake referring to PB as Finn’s ex, followed by Finn’s awkward response to it, and everyone stating the obvious that they knew the fucking giant bear with a paper mask wasn’t even Finn. Also, I need an episode with BMO at soccer practice. That scene with him rolling the ball on the ground as Finn and Jake argued fucking killed me, and the general idea that Finn takes him to and from soccer practice is just hilarious. I can imagine their conversation as Finn picks him up, “how was practice today, sport?”

The conflict of the episode ultimately leads to Finn giving the Enchirdion away, which I think is a pretty big stretch, considering they know of its importance. I do like how Finn mentions that they rarely ever use it, only for sitting on when the grass is wet, which explains its long-term absence. What I’m most pissed about isn’t actually the episode’s fault at all, but the fact that Cartoon Network spoiled the freakin’ ending in the preview for the episode. That was a complete low blow on their part, and definitely not the first time they’ve done something so spoilerly in regards to this or any of their other shows. But the twist in general I think is pretty great, and leaves you with a feeling of anticipation and dread as we slowly await for the Lich to return again very, very soon.

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So I think this one is decent. It has a lot working against it, but the individual character moments and gags are really what power it through. It still feels a bit flimsy to me in both direction and motivation especially regarding the bear, so I can’t technically call it a good episode in terms of story, but there’s enough good things in it that I can still find many other reasons to rewatch despite everything going against it.

Favorite line: “She’s not my… we never went steady.”

“Mortal Folly” Review

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Original Airdate: May 2, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

This is a big one. This is the game-changer for most viewers, as it was for me at the young age of thirteen. The stakes are instantly raised in this episode with the introduction of the Lich as a major villain. We’ve previously seen him in His Hero, but this is the first time we truly get to experience the Lich as a villain. His presence in this episode adds new heightened danger that Finn and Jake aren’t typically used to dealing with, and this time they aren’t just facing a threat to save a single princess or candy person. As Jake acknowledges, they’re fighting for the sake of the entire world.

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Immediately we’re thrown into the action, with brief meditations seen by both Finn and Jake. Most notably, Finn imagines himself as a big, bulky hero (including a pretty sick bionic arm) showing that his view on true heroes is still a bit materialistic. As Finn has learned countless times throughout this particular season, a hero is not defined by shape, size, or glamour, and while he has begun to grasp this concept, he still is drawn to those attributes that legendary heroes such as Billy possess. As His Hero displayed, Finn was able to prove himself as a true hero by choosing his own path over the path of his mentor, and it’s appropriately fitting that Mortal Folly has him following in his mentor’s footsteps once again by facing off against the ultimate evil.

After we’re treated to a nice bit of lore and backstory regarding the Lich and Billy, the snail that appears in the background of every single episode frees our grotesquely designed villain from his prison. This really is terrific use of the snail as a plot device; it’s rewarding to those who have been paying attention long enough to notice the hidden snail, as well as a way of building up apprehension by having it possessed. Every time it appears after this, there’s a certain fear of what’s to come and a constant reminder that it’s still a part of the story. But before we get to that, the Lich’s place in this episode is eerie and unsettling, fitting with his appearance that’s especially grotesque and diverse from most other designs in the series. While working on this episode, Sugar and Muto tried to avoid any typical villain cliches as possible to make the Lich seem menacing and serious, and a big kudos to them for pulling it off so well.

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Of course, the episode isn’t entirely focused on tension and darkness. At the center lies a large heart with the relationship between PB and Finn. Although, it is kind of off when you think about it. I know Finn is considered a legendary hero in Ooo and he does ultimately end up defeating the Lich for the time being, but you’d think with all of the life experience Bubblegum possesses, she wouldn’t send a thirteen-year-old out to preserve the fate of the universe. But of course, these were different times, so I can ignore it. It doesn’t divert from the adorable amount of compassion for each other that the two share, and there’s no way you can convince me that PB doesn’t care about Finn in this situation. The sweater she gives him, whether it was meant to be protective from the Lich’s powers or not, was an ultimate token of her appreciation for Finn, and it’s really sweet that he has no hesitation wearing it at all.

On the other hand, if there’s one thing that constantly brings down this episode, it’s Ice King. Not to say he’s without his funny moments, but his interference with Finn and Jake really diverts from the main focus of the episode. I understand that they had to break the episode up a bit and it was completely necessary to include Ice King in it, but from a viewer’s perspective, it really takes you out of the moment when our two main heroes are on an epic quest to save the world and IK continuously gets in the way of it.

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Thankfully, the last third of the episode is primarily focused on the main issues at hand. I love, love, LOVE the abandoned subway setting. It makes for such a cool and well designed battle arena, and is just oozing with post-apocalyptic eye candy. Love the skeletons, love the colors, love how it’s not even explicitly mentioned as a subway. Things get serious when Billy’s gauntlet is crushed by the Lich without any hesitation at all, which is kinda fucked up when you think about it. That gauntlet was totally sentient! It blinked! The atmosphere immediately grows quiet and blood curdling when Finn’s pendant breaks and we get our first-ever bit of dialogue from the Lich, delivered menacingly, yet attractively by Ron Perlman.

“Aren’t you cold, Finn…? Walk into the well… Finn… Aren’t you cold…?”

It’s important to remember that, save for a few moments, we never really get to see the Lich do much of anything destructive throughout the series. Sure, it’s implied he had a big part in the outcome of the Great Mushroom War, but aside from that, everything that is threatening about the Lich comes entirely through his design and his voice. This makes him one of my favorite animated villains of all-time. We only get to see him every so often, but every time we do, we know this guy has potential to blow up entire worlds if he wants to. We know that he can’t be defeated anytime soon. We know that he could set off countless Mushroom Wars with the snap of a finger. Most importantly, we know that the Lich is the ultimate evil. Not through his actions, not through his adversaries, not through his treacherous backstory or anything like that, but simply because of his demeanor. He has no motivation for wanting to destroy all humanity besides the fact that he can and wants to. And there’s nothing scary than that.

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But of course, the one thing that protects Finn from potential destruction is the sweater PB made him. It’s sweet, because they didn’t pull some twist that the sweater has protective armor or guns shooting out of it or anything like that. It’s just a sweater. And that, coupled with Finn’s feelings of l-l-liking someone a lot, is what is able to save him in the end. Again, it’s easy to draw contrasts to Billy and Finn here. Billy was able to defeat the Lich with his gauntlet, whereas Finn failed to the first time he tried. It’s obvious that Billy’s power comes almost entirely from his brawn and strength, while Finn’s ultimate power comes from his heart. It’s a corny but important lesson that’s been enforced many times this season, and this feels like an ultimate driving point. It Finn’s sweater that defeats the Lich, as he lets out a final laugh that’s evidence enough that we won’t be seeing the last of him. It’s a triumphant moment of victory for Finn and Jake, but the moment doesn’t last for long, courtesy of the IK’s “dropsies.”

So there’s a good chunk of really good moments surrounding the main plot, and a good chunk of mediocre moments in regards to the Ice King’s bits. There’s still more than enough for this to be considered as a good episode. Terrific atmosphere, intense action, some brilliant character moments, and a very nice jaw-drop worthy ending in preparation for part two to boot.

Favorite line: “No, I’m not! I’VE GOT A SWEATER ON!”

“His Hero” Review

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Original Airdate: September 20, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne, Niki Yang & Adam Muto

Billy is one of the more ambivalent characters in the series. He’s no where near being a major character, but most of the secondary (Magic Man, Martin, Susan Strong) and even some of the tertiary characters (James Baxter, Gunther) have had their backstory revealed, and Billy seems to hold with him a deep amount of baggage throughout his epic journey. The only thing we really learn about him through this episode is that he once defeated the Lich King (first appearance, by the way) and that he completed a bunch of other heroic tasks, only to have lost his heroic nature down the line, and that’s about it. Luckily enough, that’s all we really need to know about him for this delightfully hilarious introduction episode.

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Lou Ferrigno’s distinct voice really does a terrific job of giving life to Billy’s character, and I really like the direction they took his character in for this specific episode. They could’ve made him a flawless, egocentric hero who looked down upon Finn, but instead they made him a hardened has-been who has become cold towards the world around him. Finn’s impressionable and easily influenced youth is a good contrast for this, and it makes sense that’d he try his hardest to be the best hero he can be, even though he makes everyone’s lives worse in doing so.

I haven’t said this a lot for any of the past 24 episode I’ve reviewed, but this episodes is really, really funny. There’s a lot of really great dark humor with just how far Finn and Jake go to accidentally fuck up the citizens of Ooo’s lives. I especially feel bad for that Cobbler, he literally hasn’t done anything wrong but F&J keep putting him through hell. On the other hand though, he’s a spazzy little twerp, so it diverts itself from complete tragedy. Also, this is Finn’s first time taking on the role as doctor Finn! It’s less than a minute, but it’s cool that he’s taking on his mom’s footsteps before he was even interested in his mom’s footsteps.

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Of course, this episode gives us the first big boost of wisdom from the series:

“Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”

It’s certainly not among some of the most philosophical and thought-provoking exchanges in the series, but it’s one of those basic life lessons that only Jake could carry out so eloquently and smoothly. Anything you want to be good at will start out with a bit of sucking, but if you keep pushing forward, that sucking can manifest into talent. While the boys don’t succeed in being able to help others without violence, they do succeed in sticking to their own guns and being able to change Billy’s perspective on helping others once again.

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The Three Wise Men from Finn’s belly button were correct in claiming that Finn is the greatest hero in all of Ooo. Despite his young age and lack of life experience, Finn stays pure and true to what works for him, as well as what works best for other people. Billy, on the other hand, gave up on his ways through social experiences and gave into the world’s many hardships. Billy may be a renowned hero who defeated the Lich and slayed a bear, but Finn’s youthful purity and instinct to fight against anything is evil are exactly what the people of Ooo need.