Tag Archive | Mars

“Temple of Mars” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Weirdly enough, both Hulu and the Final Seasons DVD set list Temple of Mars before Jake the Starchild. Wonder how much that ruined anyone’s experience that was going in blind. Also, this isn’t particularly noteworthy or even likely intentional, but Temple of Mars‘ acronym is T.O.M. Aside from the finale, this is Tom Herpich’s final episode. Heh.

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Way back in 2016, Tom Herpich wrote his sentiments about Adventure Time ending and what was left for the series in its next two years on air in a Tumblr post. In this post, he also mentions that he had recently wrapped up his final board with Steve, of which he deemed “one of his favorites.” I’m still unsure if this was referring to their section in Come Along With Me or Temple of Mars, buuuut I lean more towards the latter. In my own personal opinion, I like Temple of Mars, though it surprises me that Herpich would (allegedly) hold it so highly. It doesn’t really strike me as a culmination of his art house style, and considering that some of my favorite episodes in the series are Mars-centric episodes, I do feel as though this entry doesn’t quite live up to the hype of its predecessors. But, instead of complaining about this episode for what it’s not, I am generally satisfied with it for what it is.

Right off the bat, what Temple of Mars offers strength-wise is stellar character interactions. Having Jermaine return to the forefront is a decision I really appreciate, especially since the series draws so close to its climax. It is weird – there are clear signs that Adventure Time certainly wasn’t ready to come to a close, but there are other signs of it subtly wrapping up other individual aspects, like Marceline and Hunson’s relationship, Jake’s alien side, and Jermaine’s connection to his brothers. Of course, a lot of these characters and arcs aren’t really necessary to the grand scheme of things, but regardless, these are nice little additions that make me feel slightly less sour about the show being canned on such a short notice.

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More than anything, I appreciate that this episode takes time to explore Jermaine and Finn’s connection. In his eponymous first episode, Jermaine’s anger was mainly reflected towards Jake, while Finn mostly stood by as an accomplice. I get the feeling that Finn and Jermaine were never truly close – Jermaine was likely the responsible one, while Jake was the one that Finn would pal around with during his formative years. Before Finn had the chance to truly form a relationship with Jermaine during his transition into young adulthood, the two were practically separated. Jermaine likely regrets the years of being estranged from his youngest brother, and it’s sweet to see that he does remind Finn that he can count on him during stressful times. It’s also clear that Jermaine doesn’t necessarily understand Finn’s behavioral patterns. Finn’s actions are clearly inspired by his inability to allow any other tragedies to bestow his already mucked up mind, but I get the feeling that Jermaine simply excuses it to the observed position of Finn and Jake living entirely carefree lives. Hence why Jermaine refers to the Tree Fort as a “playhouse,” his judgement is still very much there. The included callbacks to Jermaine were welcomed, such as the face mug and the boys’ freezer, though they don’t really stick out in any metaphorical or ponderous way.

Jermaine’s added fear to the idea of going to Mars is both humorous and cute. For years, I’ve referred to Finn as the straight man in a world full of wacky characters, but I do feel as though Jermaine is a straight man’s straight man. As much as he is empathetic and easy to connect to, Finn still really isn’t the brightest bulb or the most “normal” at that (this is the boy that doesn’t blink twice on a wayward trip to Mars), so it’s cool to have a character that clearly represents the surface level elements of a grown adult. The goofy aspects aside, Jermaine does actually have a lot in common with Greg Universe in terms of their humanity. Tom Scharpling really was the perfect choice for ol’ Jerm.

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The reintroduction of Betty and Norm- er, King Man, is pretty delightful, though I kinda wish Finn’s anger towards Betty was spelled out over a longer period. I mean, everything ended up alright by the end of Elements, but it’s strange to me how quickly Finn goes from “fuck yourself,” to “come on this journey with me and my brother!” Perhaps he decided to show some of King Man’s inspired “empathy,” buuuut, I don’t know. In defense of the episode, I’m not really sure how a Betty-Finn conflict would’ve been crammed in to an already jam-packed episode, so I’ll let it slide. It was great to see King Man again, and I’m so glad the show has sought out to acknowledge that, magic-less or not, he’s still kind of a douche. I can’t think of a single way Betty’s punishment would actually help her, and it’s likely to send her into further insanity. King Man technically should be responsible for the state of Betty’s condition (though he’s not entirely at fault), but since he has a nice, cushion-y spot on Mars’ throne, he doesn’t really have anyone to tell him otherwise.

Once inside the temple, we’re treated to an interesting sequence featuring a group of frogs all taking on the appearance of Ice King, except for one stray frog resembling Fern. The Fern frog leaping at Finn, as Finn chooses to ignore it, seems to embody the idea that Finn no longer finds himself stuck thinking about Fern on an endless basis. Though his mind wants him to “remember” and stay in a stagnant state of pain and suffering. Betty, on the other hand, does not choose to move forward. She wants to stay and observe her passing thoughts, as if they hold the key to solving her every living problem, even though the answer isn’t found in her mind, but her ability to shift her attention onto something else. Not exactly sure why frogs were chosen to represent habitual thinking – frogs in dreams are said to represent spiritual and emotional transformation, but I’m not exactly sure that’s what Herpich was going for.

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It is interesting how Jermaine went through perhaps the most stress of his companions, and now he’s in the best shape possible. Granted, I think Jermaine, by his nature, is slightly neurotic and prone to chronic stress. Yet, he was able to find his peace of mind, while his brother continues to struggle with his own personal dilemmas. It just goes to show how far off Jermaine’s accusations are of Finn and Jake living totally carefree lives, even if they are legitimately privileged regardless. This section of the episode also marks the Ice Thing’s first appearance since Graybles 1000+. I can’t help but feel this inclusion was when the staff figured they would have more time to actually flesh out what the Ice Thing is and how Ice King would eventually transform into him, but considering that we’re only two episodes away from the finale, I don’t think that wish was ever fully fulfilled. This section does provide for a bit of fun analysis, in a very small, almost insignificant moment. Betty’s fascination with the Ice King masked frogs shows how truly encompassed her mind is with the Ice King, and how she doesn’t really put any foot forward to try and sway her mind or shift her focus. Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially when dealing with strong emotional trauma. However, Betty’s representation of her current approach at living is summed up quite nicely with her line of, “He’s… changing? Oh no.” This could imply one of two things: 1. Betty is adverse to changing her lifestyle because she is so set on figuring out how to fix Simon that changing her behavior isn’t really an option; 2. Betty is adverse to change in general, viewing it as an inherently bad thing. As seen in her lack of acceptance of Ice King in general, this makes sense as well.

This turmoil builds up to Betty’s confrontation of her past, which is admittedly quite a somber sequence. These last few seasons have done a great job at fleshing out Betty’s madness and sadness, and Temple of Mars is a particular highlight. The idea of choosing to focus on one’s self is additional advice that is easier said than done. It’s certainly what she needs, but she’s incapable of seeing how that’s even possible. Again, I think it ties in really well with the motif of both anxiety and grief – no matter how much you want to get better and shift your focus, occasionally the fixation of your energy is so strong that it’s impossible to even know where to start. Betty takes the first step forward (or, so it seems) into a better life by answering her test with a response of self-healing, rather than desperate manifesting.

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I do think the conclusion is way too hokey for my liking. I know there’s kind of a no-holds-barred atmosphere of the world of Adventure Time where literally anything can happen, but I fail to see how Finn, Jermaine, and Betty’s journey has ANYTHING to do with channeling Jake’s energy so that he would be transported into the temple. It seems like Tom and Steve had decided they wanted to explore the psyche of these various different characters and interactions, and then thought to themselves 10 minutes in that, “oh shit, we’d better bring Jake back.” I was even shocked by Jermaine’s quick acceptance of King Man’s explanation. He’s the straight man after all, it would make way more sense (and also be funnier) if he shot back with, “that’s a load of horseshit,” or something along those lines. The second conclusion, in which Betty realizes her true potential, is quite satisfying. In reality, Betty is way too far gone that it just wouldn’t make sense for her to turn her life around so quickly. It makes sense that she would take away some inspiration, but the wrong inspiration at that. I could’ve sworn that I was watching some bad DVR rip of the episode upon first viewing, because Temple of Mars‘ close takes AT‘s abrupt endings to a whole new level. But, it is a quick cut-off that I enjoy regardless. The entire concept of GOLB being brought back into things is something that’s purposely been left in the dark for quite sometime, and enough to leave a character like King Man speechless, who has spent his life devoted to finding the deity. It definitely had me hyped for the show’s conclusion no doubt, even if I ended up having mixed feelings about GOLB’s inclusion as a whole.

So, while Temple of Mars isn’t exactly the experimental nuttiness that I would expect from a Mars entry, it’s still quite enjoyable. It contains some of the best interaction material we’ve seen all season, and is definitely one of Betty’s best roles to date. Some of the visuals are quite nice, especially the return of the rust-filled void of Mars, and the temple itself. Nice moments of lore here and there, such as Betty’s mention of the Enchiridion, or the foreshadowed idea that Margles is still very much on King Man’s radar. There are some good gags here and there, but others that kind of fall flat. The big build up to Finn’s bald head was a joke I found quite unfunny as a whole, and somewhat of a cheap gag that doesn’t really add much. Regardless, it’s certainly a strong point for the season specifically for its inclusion of great character moments, namely Betty and Jermaine, who truly are the stars of Temple of Mars.

Favorite line: “If anyone else feels like solving any of these puzzles, just jump right in, you know?”

“Sons of Mars” Review

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Original Airdate: July 23, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

The official planned release date for reviews will be Fridays from now on. The only exception may be next Friday, only because I’ll be pretty damn busy. And I know one review a week might seem slim, but I’m going to try my best to increase that amount through time and see how much I’m able to juggle at once. Again, thank you all for being patient!

So, to end this summer of daily reviews, we have Sons of Mars! A personal favorite of mine that I may have seen one too many times (the luster has faded a bit because of how many rewatches I’ve sat through) but one that signifies how all-around awesome it is. It’s loaded with world-building and mythology, and delves into the lives and stories of its central characters.

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First and foremost, this episode reintroduces Magic Man, and he enters in the most sadistic and jarring way possible by turning that fucking creepy deer from No One Can Hear You into a telescope. This is still when it was fairly uncommon for AT one-off characters to return, so it was very surprising to see the nihilistic wizard who lacks empathy back once again, but surely rewarding. Magic Man is one of my favorite characters in the series, simply because I enjoy how little of a fuck he gives for other people, yet still manages to retain an unusually sympathetic side. This is the first episode to showcase this, as we get a look into some of his inner turmoil. Speaking of firsts, this episode is a pretty prominent point in Jesse Moynihan’s writing tendencies, as he began to get much more personal and surreal in his boarding efforts. Much of Magic Man’s story in Sons of Mars revolves around Moynihan’s own experiences with his girlfriend Margaret, who he called “Margles.” Jesse used this pet name to portray Magic’s lost love interest, and did his damndest to channel all of the negative emotion he had been feeling into this character and particular episode. In the words of Moynihan himself, “Magic Man had gone insane because I had gone insane.” This kind of self-insertion doesn’t seem to appeal to AT’s audience much, and would only receive even more negative attention as Jesse turned it into a regular practice. I dunno, for me personally, I think it’s one of the most interesting and ambitious aspects of Jesse’s writing in general. There’s no one on the staff quite as heady as Moynihan, and while I’ve criticized specific styles of the writers and storyboard artists on the show somewhat often, Moynihan’s is one I’ve never really had a clear problem with. It’s something I completely understand as to why people find it pretentious, but it also makes for some of the most imaginative and poignant stories and character arcs in the entire series. Moynihan’s ability to connect with Magic Man so closely and make one of the biggest assholes in Ooo seem more human is a really impressive task and one that I think was exceedingly well done. Moynihan believes he may have went a bit overboard with just how much of his own self he inserted into this episode, but I think it was handled with a great deal of subtlety. She’s only even mentioned twice briefly, but the most powerful moment comes from Magic Man discovering her photo after Finn tosses it aside. In a rare moment of Magic Man acting completely straightforward and honest, he quietly acknowledges the location of his Martian transporter. It’s a moment that feels so real and genuine, and doesn’t at all feel like it’s forcing me to care about a relationship that we barely know anything about. All we know by this encounter is that Magic Man had a significant other, who he tragically lost. But it’s how it personally affects Magic Man that makes it so much more interesting. The heartwrenching promo art sets up this unseen relationship, and amazes me at just how vaguely emotion is conveyed in this one without going into too much detail about what happened in the past.

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We also get a bit of history with the introduction of Grob Gob Glob Grod and the King of Mars, two very important characters in regards to the overall lore of the series. These two characters have their fair share of goofy and fun moments (including the hilarious run-through of all of Magic Man’s terrible crimes, which they don’t have footage of, so it’s a good thing Grod is good at drawing), but I do really enjoy how the episode still treats them as very crucial beings in the world of AT. Grob Gob Glob Grod (blending the many humorous variations of “glob” mentioned throughout the past few seasons, though has anyone actually said “oh my Grob” before or even mentioned Grob? Poor dude doesn’t get enough praise) is essentially the religious figurehead of this universe, while King of Mars isn’t necessarily a religious figure but instead an all-knowing ruler of entire galaxies, who is represented by Abraham Lincoln himself. Pen Ward obviously incorporated Lincoln in the pilot of Adventure Time as a silly gag that was never intended to be utilized again, but this episode is very clever in never mentioning the 16th president of the U.S. by name, and is only ever referred to by his stance as king. It’s open for a good deal of interpretation as well; I think the whole story behind the King of Mars himself is that he is a magical entity and possesses the power to travel time and the multiverse. Him sacrificing his immortality meant that he would allow himself to be as human and vulnerable as the rest of society, causing him to take his place as a legend of the past, present, and future. A soul who traveled Earth as a human being thousands of years ago, an entity who ruled over the cosmos as the King of Mars, and a spirit who will continue to embark throughout the many lands of Dead World. Honestly, it just makes me think that the actual Abraham Lincoln was a lot more fucking cool than what high school history classes taught me. Props to you, Jesse and Ako. Of course, there are plenty of connections to the King of Mars and Abe Lincoln as well. The notion that he’s the “most honest being in all the land”, the penny he carries with him at all times, and his sad remark about his lack of peers that references his longterm depression. His exchange with Death is one of my all-time favorite moments in the series, and feels like a classic negotiation between two friendly rivals as opposed to good facing off with evil.

And at the center of this heady venture is the relationship between Finn and Jake. It’s funny because, looking deeper into Finn’s mission to get Jake back, he could honestly give less of a shit of the events going on around him. He has one goal: to get his best friend back and save him from certain death. He doesn’t care about the trial Magic Man was put through or the sacrifice of Mars’ thousand year ruler. He just wants his buddy back by his side, and it’s both really endearing and quite funny when you acknowledge that he just does not care that he practically initiated the King’s sacrifice. I mean, it’s pretty clear that ol’ Abe probably would’ve let Jake go when he discovered that Magic Man may have been experiencing real emotions, but Finn just pops the fuck out of nowhere and hits GGGG with a chair that ends up striking Jake with the wand. Finn inadvertently set a prophecy into motion, whether it resulted in positive or negative consequences, though he was correct in citing that nothing would have escalated had Abe and Glob believed in his brother’s statements. It definitely could’ve made Finn come off as a dick, but again, he’s doing everything for the sake of his brother, and he doesn’t care what powerful entities he has to cross to do so.

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Jake’s role in this episode is interesting as well. He doesn’t do a ton, but we’re once again reintroduced to his desire to go out with a bang when it comes to death and destiny, though Jake acknowledges for the first time that, though he’d love to accept the afterlife with open arms, he’d be leaving his best friend behind, and he just can’t do that to Finn. It’s very heartwarming and thoughtful of Jake to put Finn before himself in this situation, and really shows how far he has come from his original stance. Knowing that Finn would do anything to save him and have him by his side, Jake will simply have to put off his own prophetic desires for the person he cares about most, and that’s what is really at the core of this trippy episode: the connection between Finn and Jake. Through all of the drama Magic Man experiences with his own personal problems and the collapsing of Mars’ government, Finn and Jake simply want to be with each other, and in the toughest of life’s problems, the relationship between two best friends can often bring light to some of the darkest of moments. Even the releasing of Tiny Manticore, who wrongfully dissed Finn and Jake, but will regret doing so to the two most caring guys in Ooo for presumably the rest of his life. His new prison is shame, if you haven’t heard.

The entire Martian space system looks amazing. Ghostshrimp once again designed a bunch of the scenery for this one, and I love everything from the design of the numerous domes and silos that populate Mars, as well as the terrific red, purple, and pink color scheme that makes the entire land feel foreign and unique. I think the designs of the martians who view the trial are kind of lame, however, though characters strictly in the background of AT episodes never look superb or detailed. I guess it’s just weird that they decided to include these random Martian civilians in the background at all because wouldn’t they like, be freaking out about what’s going on? They’re kinda just there to be there, so I feel like they could’ve just be excluded completely unless they were in-sync with the tragedies occurring in front of them. The design of GGGG is awesome though, one of my favorite character designs in the series. Love his/her rotating heads and the groovy headgear they wear to cover their baldness.

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Sons of Mars embodies some of the greatest elements of any AT episode up to this point: the honesty of our two main characters, the ambition and headiness of the world surrounding them, the ability to humanize even the most abysmal characters, the intrigue of wanting to see even more of what this world has to offer, and the deep connection between writer and character. It’s one of my personal all-time favorites, and even though I’ve seen it a million times, it just has so much to offer every time I do watch. One of the biggest steps towards more surreal and intoxicating mythology that would grace the series much later on.

Favorite line: “How long have you had this house?” “Yes, that is true!”