Tag Archive | Luke Pearson

“May I Come In?” Review

MCI 1.png

Original Airdate: November 18, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Luke Pearson & Emily Partridge

May I Come In? might just be my favorite episode of Stakes, and it seems apparent that I’m not alone in that opinion. To be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve watched this episode, so I expected to revisit this one and get treated to a fun romp, but I kind of undermined just how well this one gets the atmosphere just right. I somewhat forgot why Hierophant was my favorite vamp to begin with: not only is he enjoyably hammy, but he’s also the most threatening out of the vampire crew. As a result, May I Come In? is possibly the most foreboding and tense episode from Stakes.

MCI 2.png

The beginning starts out nicely, as another reminder that Jake really, really does not fuck with vampires. This is somewhat of his big breakout in the miniseries, as he finally overcomes his own personal issues to help out his friends and actually have a part in saving the day. It is kind of a shame that Jake virtually has much more of a role in this miniseries than Finn. I feel as though Jake’s little story arc is meaningful and has an effect on the story, where I could truthfully say that you can pretty much eliminate Finn completely from Stakes and not much would be missed. But that’s an argument for another day. I also like how May I Come In? handles the linear pacing of the miniseries. Stakes never feels sequential in the sense that every episode features our protagonists going from one vamp to the other. Here, it appears they’re going after The Moon, but they end up fighting against Hierophant instead. Feels as though the story is flowing very naturally, and subverts the audience’s, as well as the characters’, expectations.

The bit with the King of Ooo was absolutely delightful. KOO seriously gets funnier with each appearance, and his bit here is no exception. I also love the return of Crunchy, of whom I grew really fond of during this miniseries as well. Hierophant swarming the boys was relatively tense, even in his Koala-like state, which quickly turns amusing as he threatens the princess to tell him everything, to which KOO literally tells him everything. His tragic backstory cracks me up; I can totally picture a shyster like KOO growing up dirt poor and wanting nothing more but to cheat and swindle his way to prosperity as he grew older. The way KOO and Crunchy team-up to please Hierophant in a panic is really enjoyable, as we’re treated to a threatening transition into the next scene.

MCI 3.png

Again, the atmosphere remains unnerving as we cut over to Peppermint Butler quietly cooking within Gumbald’s cabin. While probably not its main intention, Stakes partially doubles as a Halloween special, and no episode from the miniseries feels like a better contribution to that theme than this one. The scene within the cabin is lit really well, providing a bit of light and color through utter darkness. Save for a bit of humor, where Pepbut shakes his butt and taunts Hierophant for being a “sad old relic.” I really never get tired of hearing Steve Little’s expressive, high-pitched voice, and Pepbut’s texts to PB were equally as hilarious. One thing I appreciate about Hierophant’s character, besides the nice balance between being comedic and threatening, is the show’s ability to treat him completely seriously. So many Adventure Time villains end up just being passed off as “regular dudes” like Kee-Oth or Orgalorg, but Hierophant is treated as a legitimately intimidating guy who operates by his own rules, but could easily suck the blood out of you or rip you to shreds any second. He isn’t a villain that is entirely evil like the Lich, but he’s intimidating because he isn’t impacted by the own personal flaws that face him. Even if he isn’t invited in by the host of a house, he’ll still find an alternative way to act upon his prey.

LSP joining the gang for a brief period of time was good fun and nice for her to actually have somewhat of a role in their master scheme, even if she does fail miserably. The bit where Finn tempts Hierophant into biting him is another purposely uncomfortable sequence that ties back to vampires and rape culture, and I can only imagine the massive amounts of teenage girls who swooned over Finn when he lets down his long, flowing hair. Though I once again was a bit disappointed by how Finn actually contributed to fighting off Hierophant, I do really like his total “fuck this” attitude to almost getting bitten. Even in a situation when he is totally dominated by Hierophant, Finn is still mocking and snarky in his behavior. At least he came in with a fearless attitude.

MCI 4.png

The sequence of everyone failing to constructively put together an attack plan was good fun. Loved LSP’s pride over “helping” as she just aimlessly throws stakes left and right without actually acknowledging where they’re going. Hierophant tampering with the garlic bomb was certainly tense. Once again, this could’ve easily played off as overly-long joke, but it works as a legitimately anxiety provoking bit that left me on the edge of my seat upon first viewing it. But of course, it fails and enrages Hierophant, as he morphs into an entire hodgepodge of different animals and creatures, providing for one of the coolest vamp designs thus far. Luke Pearson and Emily Partridge really helped this episode to succeed on a visual level. It’s a darn shame that this was the last episode that they boarded together (and Pearson’s last episode overall) because they managed to be one of my favorite teams from this season, even if they only worked on two episodes.

As you likely guessed, I adored Jake’s smart contribution by creating a house for his friends and possibly putting himself in danger in the process. This miniseries could have so easily played the joke of Jake being afraid of vampires throughout its entirety, but I’m glad we actually have him face his fears to help prevent Marceline, and others, from getting hurt. Following that sequence, we get an intriguing negotiation between Marcy and Hierophant. Hierophant also benefits from having a competent VA at the helm, being voiced by Paul Williams (other credits include him voicing The Penguin in Batman: TAS and being the composer of the God damn “Rainbow Connection.” My favorite song!) His connection to the Vampire King is equally as intriguing, and I wouldn’t mind even seeing a series of spin-off comics involving their chemistry back in the day. But of course, Hierophant’s shortcomings derive from the fact that he is indeed a relic of his time period, and unable to change because he simply cannot adapt to the times. Which provides his hilarious demise, when Crunchy pushes him into the Jake house and actually kills him. Who knew Crunchy would be the true hero of Stakes? PB’s absolute death stare at King of Ooo was just as appreciated, as he once more takes credit for being the “savior” that only exists within his head. The episode leaves for one final cliffhanger, as Marceline is infected by Hierophant’s poison, and Jake is feeling a bit nauseous from his vamp-filled dinner.

This episode’s gambit is simple, but truly effective: it’s very tense and atmospheric throughout its first half, followed by an exciting and energetic second act. It’s also a lot of fun, not only in its efforts towards humor, but also in its ability to incorporate a bunch of different characters at once. Every character proves to be enjoyable in their own right, either providing for humorous moments or their own interesting character development. And of course, this one truly soars from Hierophant’s star role. Definitely the best of the vamps, and one I seem to enjoy even more every time I view this episode.

MCI 5.png

Favorite line: “I grew up poor, dirt poor. The other kids called me “little bubbles,” because we couldn’t afford a bathtub.”

“Football” Review

FB 1.png

Original Airdate: November 6, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Emily Partridge & Luke Pearson

I never thought that BMO would have as big of a psychotic breakdown than the one he had in BMO Noire, but Football gives that episode a run for its money. In a way, both episodes are quite similar; BMO Noire and Football feature BMO suffering from somewhat of an identity crisis, that is masked behind what seems to be nothing more than a silly game. The episodes also operate primarily in BMO’s perspective, leaving a lot up for interpretation regarding how much of what we’re seeing is actually real and how much is a product of BMO’s imagination. While these episodes share the same gist, Football manages to stand alone as its own thing by telling an equally unique and intense story.

FB 2.png

I always figured that Football would eventually end up starring in an episode of her own; I thought the exchanges between BMO and his imaginary friend in the first two Graybles episodes were relatively cute, but I always saw this concept as something that could be fleshed out into a scenario where BMO’s imagination once again goes haywire. And that’s exactly what happens here. The little interactions with BMO and Football at the beginning were funny and cute. Adventure Time has really mastered making BMO behave exactly like a child at this point in the series. Granted, it’s a fair stretch from the type of character that BMO started out as, but the commitment that went into this archetype the past three or four seasons has really made such a development seem convincing otherwise. When I think of BMO’s character as a whole, I think of childlike whimsy, and not the snarky accomplice we spent time with in an episode like Guardians of Sunshine. I enjoy both interpretations of BMO’s character, but I’ve grown to be more accustomed to the toddler-esque portrayal that has formed his character most recently, and appreciate the dedication that has reflected on it.

As I mentioned, both BMO Noire and Football focus on a game that has essentially gone too far. Though here, I think BMO’s feelings and attitudes are even more vague and difficult to understand. I don’t know exactly why he would want this, or even if he can control it. The episode does a great job with raising curiosity in terms of just how much of BMO’s “game” is supposed to play out, and how much of it is without BMO’s intention. In addition to that, Football really makes you question whether it is entirely within BMO’s imagination or has some kind of basis in reality. I mean, obviously I think it’s all just a mind game from the bot’s perspective, but in the Adventure Time world, and especially with BMO, you really never know. Football really could be some version of BMO from a parallel dimension, and while that’s highly unlikely, the episode still plays with those conflicting view points for an factor of entertainment.

FB 3.png

The visuals are really clever in never showing both BMO and Football talking at the same time. Every sentence is framed in a certain sense of ambiguity. I especially like when “Football” is staring at BMO’s reflection through the mirror, as BMO continuously makes various animated movements, all while Football remains still because the shot only shows the top left half of his body. That was a really smart move; the episode could’ve so easily just gone with the lazy and sloppy route and just had BMO sit still while talking to his reflection, but Adventure Time is much more innovative than that. Emily Partridge and Luke Pearson did a great job on this one from a boarding perspective. Even after being away from the storyboarding phase for quite a bit of time (Pearson left after Frost & Fire and Partridge debuted with The Prince Who Wanted Everything) the two still manage to have a deep understanding of the AT characters and how to properly work with the show’s environment. Similar to Mukai’s work on the past few episodes, it’s nice once again to get treated to the style of guest artists, and both Pearson and Partridge dish out some wacky and unique expressions for each character.

This episode differs from BMO Noire by having Finn and Jake incorporated into the main story. I feel mixed about F&J’s roles overall, as they provide for some really strong moments, and some instances that just stick out to me as kind of weird. First off, I love their willingness to go along with BMO’s game unconditionally. Even when it’s clear that BMO is struggling, Jake still does not break character or attempt to squash BMO’s imagination. The two act as terrific caretakers to the little guy, in both humoring him and trying to ensure that he is physically and mentally sound. Jake’s little speech about having “soul noise” and how it’s perfectly okay to not feel your best at all times was splendid. Though we rarely ever see Jake getting to be a parent to his kids, it’s so lovely that we get these little moments between him and BMO that show what an swell father he would be, if he still had the chance to actually raise his kids. Some of the more unusual instances come from the fact that I felt like the boys were a little too chill at moments. BMO wrecks up the whole Tree Fort and smashes the absolute FUCK outta NEPTR, and Finn and Jake seem totally indifferent to his actions. I mean, I get that the Tree Fort gets demolished on a regular basis, but it seems as though the two were a bit too unfazed by their little buddy’s emotional troubles. And the term “unfazed” could easily be applied to their behavior on the roof, where they just kind of watch as BMO falls off into the river. They aren’t even shown to react to such an instance, nor does Jake attempt to grab him (which he could easily do by stretching out). It’s sort of weird to watch F&J be terrific parental figures in parts of the episode, and then just kind of end up sidelined when BMO’s issues really start to pick up.

FB 4.png

BMO’s complete breakdown is delightfully intense. Again, while it’s clearly framed as a figment of his imagination, BMO’s distress still feels very real, and his emotional turmoil is quite compelling. You never really know where the episode is going to go with it, and keeps building and building until the very end, when BMO falls into the lake a cleverly “switches places” with Football. The ending is a simple, but nice resolution, that ties back into the fact that, under all of this baggage, BMO really is just a cute, playful child on the surface. Even with everything going against him within his mind, he’s still able to create a happy ending within the realm of his own imagination.

Other little things I enjoyed in this episode is the fact that NEPTR and Shelby are now considered part of the Tree Fort family, and it’s especially sweet, seeing as how they gradually start appearing more as secondary characters throughout this season. I still cannot believe how absolutely harsh it was for NEPTR to get beat down like that. I mean, the show usually shits all over him, but God damn. Also, I liked the silly addition of the dozens of grapefruits scattered around the Fort. It was quite absurd, and fun to imagine what kind of offbeat adventure brought that plethora of fruit in.

This one is pretty rad, though. It’s genuinely compelling, using its visuals and intense tone to its strongest abilities. BMO is an interesting gem who presumably has the most confusing issues in the entire series, and it’s always nice to see what kind of stories can lend themselves to his wild imagination, as well as his troubled psyche.

FB 5.png

Favorite line: “Why you gotta be so destructive today, BMO? You doin’ robot puberty or something?”

“Frost & Fire” Review

F&F 1.png

Original Airdate: August 5, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Luke Pearson & Somvilay Xayaphone

Frost & Fire, in my opinion, is the episode that forever changed Adventure Time. The show, from this point on, has almost an entirely different feel from the first four and a half seasons. As most people know, at some point during the second half of the fifth season, Pendleton Ward stepped down from his showrunner position. An announcement that was met with fear and sorrow for most of the fanbase, including myself, as many wondered if the show would be able to keep up its quality and continue to be as innovative and successful as before. However, Adam Muto, who was selected to take over Ward’s role as showrunner, cleverly chose not to try and emulate what made the show so successful in the past, but instead chose to take the show in a completely new direction that is unarguably pretty ballsy. Whether you like the direction the series takes from this point on completely comes down to personal preference; I personally was always on board for these darker and more uncomfortable stories, though it totally makes sense to me why a lot of people turned their back on the series. It does become somewhat of a completely different show, but whether or not you like it, it is really admirable to see the risks that the staff decided to take. Some of them worked, while others failed, but still, you can’t argue that they weren’t trying to keep the series as fresh as possible. And it all starts with Frost & Fire.

F&F 2.png

We’ve (partially) spent the last two seasons exploring the relationship between Flame Princess and Finn. In that time, we’ve seen what types of hardships could befall the two, mainly on Flame Princess’s side. FP, while developing some form of emotional maturity overtime, has a long string of anger issues that hark back to her days in captivity in the Fire Kingdom. Her anger and inability to control her powers has caused innocents to get hurt in the process, something that highly contrasts from Finn’s motivations to help everyone. In addition to her inability to control her powers comes her instability in regards to her powers. FP is physically unstable by natural circumstances, and feelings of extreme passion, such as romance, are quite hard for her to handle. Given that she’s unable to engage in extremely romantic situations, she isn’t even able to kiss or touch Finn without potentially hurting him. And with all of that said, there’s even the fact that she’s been constantly referred to as straight-up “evil.” Though this theory was somewhat debunked over time in-universe, it’s still left with uncertainty given the past history of FP’s family tree, and how she would come to claim her own identity in the process. With all this working against her, you’d think that Finn and Flame Princess’s break-up would relate back to a number of these problems. However, Frost & Fire works as a cautionary as well as heartbreaking tale that, even with FP’s problems at hand, nothing compares to hardship of Finn simply not being honest with her.

Despite the fact that Finn’s actions in this episode are incredibly nasty to the point where it causes others to get hurt, it’s still an incredibly well written learning lesson for him, and I’d much rather watch him go through instances like this than to see him be a perfect hero throughout the run of the series. Finn is only 15 at this point. He has years of life experience before he could consider himself emotionally or sexually mature. And, as any male who once experienced hormonal urgencies during puberty would acknowledge, keeping a lid on sexual desires is an incredibly challenging and confusing process, that many still struggle with even late into adulthood. I mention this because this episode provides one of the most sexually explicit visuals that the show has ever put out: Finn blatantly receiving a “blowjob” from Flame Princess. How this concept got past the Standards and Practices department of Cartoon Network, I’ll never know, though I still think that young children are able to make the connection even without the sexual implications. They know that Finn enjoys the dream, even though they might not know why, and he wants it to continue to happen again. That’s really all there is to it for any inexperienced viewer, and I’m glad that the presentation allows from pretty much anyone to watch and enjoy, rather than being aimed specifically at adults.

F&F 3.png

Yet, I think the implications that are included in terms of Finn’s wet dream are quite brilliant. They really show how twisted and misleading sexual desires can become if you aren’t careful, and show how a nice, considerate guy can turn into a needy, selfish man-child. Finn’s faint imagination where he’s transformed into a hairy baby helps strengthen the former comparison, and is complete with the “wah wah wah” speak utilized in All the Little People. Besides mostly being used to emphasize that nothing Finn says can fix the issue at hand, it also hints back at Finn’s manipulative side in All the Little People that led up to these circumstances. Despite Finn finding an easy solution to help the little people reach a happy conclusion back in that episode, he doesn’t quite realize that he isn’t playing with toys here. He’s playing with the emotional fragility of people, and there isn’t really a quick fix for psychological pain. His last words really emphasize that he doesn’t realize exactly what he has done wrong. “I said I was sorry,” he remarks, as if a five letter word can completely solve a completely complicated issue. This is Finn’s first really big life lesson that, despite the fact that he may feel bad for what he’s done, it doesn’t mean his actions don’t have consequences. And as he stands there defeated, all he knows is that he fucking blew it, man.

Finn is completely at fault in this one, though some would argue otherwise. The inclusion of Jake has really driven people to blame him for the way the episode escalates, and while I’m sure it wouldn’t have ended up exactly how it did without Jake’s involvement, I’m willing to believe Finn would have caused them to fight even without Jake yelling at him. Jake never knew the extent of Finn’s dream, nor did he know that Finn even had them fight in the first place. The only thing Jake knew was that the Cosmic Owl was involved, something that Jake is constantly passionate about regardless of the topic. Jake never knew the weight of the situation; for all he knew, Finn could’ve been in grave danger, or was driven to follow some sort of epic life destiny. What Jake didn’t know was that the Cosmic Owl was trying to warn him the entire time, but before Finn can realize the Cosmic Owl’s purpose, it’s too late. So while Jake does instigate the conflict a bit further, Finn had already caused them to fight once, completely at his own decision. My guess is that Finn, distraught with the second outcome of his dream, would’ve simply gone back to try and manipulate the fantasy into being pleasurable again.

F&F 4.png

A lot of this sounds uncomfortable for Finn’s character, and it really is. A good portion of the next two seasons features some really uneasy depictions of our main heroine, and while he isn’t always entirely sympathetic, his character arc is always compelling. Again, I’d rather see him struggle with his morality and own identity than to watch him simply become a stronger and more successful hero as the show goes along. Not that the latter aspect is bad, as we do get that to a degree later on, but it’s most important to show that our hero has flaws and goes through ruts than just to watch him be a specimen of perfection throughout the show’s run.

Through all of the pain Flame Princess experiences in this one, she’s mostly somewhat of a blank slate. Not to say that’s a bad thing; the main focus of the episode is mostly through Finn’s perspective. She reacts just how we would expect her to, and while it’s not entirely strong characterization in my eyes, we do get a ton of that in Earth & Water that I think really strengthens FP’s character from that point on. Ice King, however, does get some terrific sympathetic moments in this one. Besides his initial jab at FP, IK is thoroughly portrayed as an innocent bystander that gets wrapped up in the mess of it all. We feel bad for him, and it’s nice to fully show how Finn can be cruel to IK even when he isn’t doing anything wrong. That last line where Ice King utters, “ya blew it, man!” really hits home when you realize who it’s coming from.

F&F 5.png

But despite all the dark elements in this one, Frost & Fire also has a pretty great sense of humor. There’s actually some pretty nice Somvilayisms in this one, such as when Finn smashes his body into the oven and knocks over a bunch of pots and pans, or when Finn has like, 20 glasses of milked poured and only drinks two. Somvilay’s drawings in general actually work pretty well. There’s a couple of nice expressions Finn has throughout the episode, namely in the dream sequence where he’s experiencing pure euphoria. Finn wiggling his tongue around and taking in the moment really adds to the stimulation he’s experiencing. And Luke Pearson, as always, has some really swell drawings. Pearson disappears from storyboarding for two whole seasons after this one, and it’s sad, because I really enjoy his work. Aside from the fight sequence looking pretty sweet in general, there’s some really terrific jokes laced into his bits. Flame Princess’s “inferno…. Shot!” follows by IK’s “Ice…. King!” really cracks me up. IK in general is pretty damn hilarious in this one. The scene where he painfully requests for Finn to save Gunther and then insists, “…. I meant after you save me,” is priceless. Ice King is never written as entirely sympathetic; there’s always some added aspect to his sympathy that just makes him seem like a jerk, which I love about his character.

The backgrounds and the music in this one really add to the tone of the overall episode. When the Ice Kingdom is on fire, everything turns very gray and orange, which really makes the rest of the episode feel more somber and weighty. While the music cues are mostly recycled from past episodes, they still attribute greatly to the overall mood. One cue in particular that was introduced in this one, in the scene where Jake frantically urges Finn to force IK and FP to fight, is one of my favorites. It’s been used several times following this episode, which only shows how effectively it can be utilized in scenes of frenzy and stress.

f&f 6.png

So yeah, I don’t know if I’d call this one a personal favorite of mine, but I think it’s a pretty fantastic transition episode regardless. It’s one of the most challenging episodes of the show up to this point, and it has evoked tons of different feelings down the line. There’s some people who love it, and some people who hate it. But that fact alone contributes to its importance; an episode that has such contradictory opinions is arguably more significant than one everybody universally likes, say, Fionna & Cake. Frost & Fire successfully captures the not-so-heroic side of Finn the Human, and opens up for some tremendous explorations of his character in the long run. My opinions of Finn’s portrayal following this episode fluctuate greatly, but the good news is I’ll have tons to talk about in the upcoming bunch. So stay tuned y’all, we’re in for one hell of a ride from this point on.

Also, these title card concepts for Frost & Fire were released in the past week on Tumblr. I think they’re pretty dope, and especially like the third one. Though my assumption was that many people thought it was “too dark” and went with a more ambiguous choice.

f&f 7.png

Favorite line: “Why does anyone do anything?” “… Why do they?”

“Candy Streets” Review

CS 1.png

Original Airdate: June 24, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Luke Pearson

From time to time, AT likes to have fun with Finn and Jake’s rank as heroes in the Land of Ooo, and this one features the two boys as officers that are trying to crack the case of who hurt LSP. For the most part, it’s a pretty fun romp that takes advantage of the idea fully, and reminds us that, for the time being, Finn and Jake should probably just stick to mindlessly slaying dragons and shit.

CS 2.png

For one, I do like the fact that Finn and Jake enjoy being detectives and consider doing it as a full-time occupation. I think this ties in nicely with the boys’ interest in following in their parents’ footsteps, and one that I think they followed up in further episodes exceptionally well. Though, it’s clear that they have a long way to go, because it seems like they certainly caused more damage than they did to fix the solution, but I’ll get to that later. I think it is fun how seriously they take the positions; probably my favorite gag is when Finn has the key to LSP’s room, but simply chooses to kick down the door instead. And Jake’s obsessive tendency to continuously change into cop related material was really hilarious in both a writing and visual sense. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the look of horror on Finn’s face when Jake forces him into his body seat through a rear entrance. That was delightfully morbid.

The story in this one isn’t particularly strong; I think from the very beginning, we know that LSP’s issue probably isn’t anything actually logical, so what makes this episode enjoyable is just all the fun little gags they do include. I like PB using the giant syringe to calm down LSP, I really enjoy Ann’s character (voiced by Melissa Villasenor, whose line deliveries are just perfect), the two police officers who can use their sense of taste to see if someone is actually a police officer, and, once again, all the little sight gags of Jake as different items. One of my favorites is the lawyer he creates through his stretchiness to fuck with Pete Sassafras. It allows for a really amusing performance from John DiMaggio. Oh, and that moment where Finn makes noises like he’s dialing the phone and then somehow actually calls Princess Bubblegum is fucking priceless.

CS 3.png

But yeah, I think my one main issue with this one is that Finn and Jake are pretty bad cops, and don’t really get any flack for it. Aside from some forgivable instances, such as breaking through doors, windows, or jumping to conclusions based on very little evidence, they wrongly arrested someone who we never see again! I could see it working if they eventually went back and let Pete Sassafras out of jail, or if Finn and Jake had to spend a few hours behind bars for it, but no, Pete is locked up and we literally never see him again. I think it’s a pretty frustrating ending and it sucks that it’s not even acknowledged in the slightest. It almost feels like Somvilay Xayaphone and Luke Pearson straight up forgot about the character rather than it being something that was intentional on the story’s part.

So yeah, that’s my main gripe, and it still bothers me every time I see this one, but I do enjoy it to a mild degree. It’s got a nice element of fun to it; lots of silly moments and some fun sight gags on top of it. It’s not particularly strong in anyway possible, especially with the Pete Sassafras aspect included, but I do enjoy looking back on this as Finn and Jake lovingly taking on an investigative position. I think it really adds to episodes like The First Investigation in hindsight.

CS 4.png

Favorite line: “I literally can’t stop turning into cop stuff.”