Tag Archive | Pat McHale

“Blenanas” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Pat McHale & Sam Alden

I talked a bit about the episodes that were generally regarded as “fan favorites” for season nine. While I enjoyed The Wild Hunt and The First Investigation, they surprisingly aren’t my personal picks for peak season nine material. Blenanas is an episode that seems to bring about polarizing thoughts and feelings. Judging by its placement in the season, I can see why people were a bit pissy with being dealt an episode that’s almost entirely filler right before the finale. Looking back, it makes sense, seeing as how there was no indication that Adventure Time‘s conclusion was a result of the network deciding to can the show, so Blenanas felt more like a poor choice from the writing staff at such a delicate time. But, looking at it for what it is, Blenanas is nothing short of top tier filler. It makes the most of a simple story by being humorous, character driven, and above all, charming.

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Part of where that charm comes from is the return of former creative director Pat McHale! McHale had been away from the series for five whole years, and he only ever worked as a storyboard writer and artist on The Enchiridion!. Yet, McHale really seems like the type of guy that AT comes naturally to. After all, he was Pen’s right hand man throughout Adventure Time‘s inception and had a key part in developing a handful of stories from season 1 through 5. Even with his time apart from the series in mind, his deep understanding of the characters and their individual dynamics has not faded. The episode starts out strong with a really nice back-and-forth between Finn and BMO. What I love about their interactions is that they’re primarily hostile, but that element of charisma is still very much alive. Finn disagrees with BMO about his joke, but mentions that he “loves” his little robot friend regardless. Finn storms off to prove BMO wrong, but the two playfully wave at each other before parting. This bit of sweetness is so irresistible in its lack of cynicism, which really ties into the nature of the show and its characters as a whole. Not to discount the enjoyable nature of Finn and BMO bickering, however. I love BMO’s blunt sassiness in accusing Finn of not being funny, and I always appreciate some aggressive dialogue for Jeremy Shada to put his all into. Also, the implication that Jake leaves BMO scandalous valentines is almost too bizarre to not find funny, or the brief moment where BMO makes a banana and Jake’s “B.R.B.” note passionately kiss. This is subtle AT weirdness that I’ve been longing for.

I get the feeling that Finn’s quest for validation is much more of a diversionary tactic than he puts on. I think in light of recent events with Fern, Finn may have numbed himself to the possibility of any other tragic occurrences in his life, and doesn’t want to humor the idea of his brother possibly being in danger. This is represented in a pretty obvious visual gag on the back of Ble magazine, which reads, “I miss my dog.” Finn has gotten better and better at finding different things to do during times of stress to get his mind off of the things that are worrying him, but that may have worked too well to the point where Finn is suppressing his worries by finding any little thing that can distract him. He may also be a bit scarred from the last time he lost Jake during Elements and resist falling into despair nonetheless.

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Regardless, I don’t think the boy’s confidence has been entirely in tact in a post-Fern world, and he’s focusing towards little things such as his sense of humor in an attempt to feel more confident and happy in his own skin. Only problem is that the people he asks aren’t much help either. I love McHale’s simple facial expressions for each character, but man, is it weird to see PB with nontraditional jagged teeth. Aside from McHale’s board, is this a feature that pops up every now and then? I feel like it’s equivalent to Finn being drawn with eye whites – it’s something that was done early on in the series, but then ditched for consistency. If any of y’all reading have more recent examples of this design feature, feel free to let me know! That visual analysis aside, I enjoy the continued goofiness that carries on through PB’s section. Her failure to understand the basic concept of humor reminded me a lot of something Pearl would say on Steven Universe, but it feels completely fitting with PB’s character regardless, especially in the midst of a detailed lockdown procedure. Even then, she still finds it appropriate to break into the library window with a bat instead of just simply walking in and grabbing the book she needed. In fact, why even was the exact book she was looking for just coincidentally sitting propped in the window? It’s another moment that’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but get into it. Speaking of things that I can’t help but get into, PB’s outfit is just adorable in this episode. It’s making me think more and more about what a missed opportunity it was for Cartoon Network to release a line of Marceline and PB dolls and figures with changeable outfits. It’d be a solid marketing decision for the female demographic, and for weird older guys like myself!

I’ve already praised him above, but Jeremy Shada puts on a terrific performance in this episode. The sections where Finn is chatting with himself have the potential to be awkward, but Shada brings on a very genuine charm that makes Finn’s conversation feel natural. I really hate the cliched analytic note of mentioning that a certain episode of Adventure Time “feels like season one,” because it’s such a broad analogy on its own and usually doesn’t particularly add any type of positive or negative connotation to the moments being described themselves. Yet, I really do feel like Finn having a conversation with himself regarding the fundamentals of humor really feels like AT at its most classic routes, even if the energy or zaniness isn’t all there. Throwing it back as well is the delightful reintroduction of Finn and Ice King’s dynamic.

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Now, Finn and Ice King have interacted plenty of times in the past few seasons, with Elements being the major example. But it’s been a long while since we’ve gotten to see these two characters interact without anyone else involved, and it’s delightful. I love how open-minded Finn has become to seeing Ice King as a legitimate comrade, even if his judgment of him hasn’t faded completely. Not that it really matters, because Finn’s exactly right – even if he does see Ice King as an equal, it doesn’t make him any less desperate for approval and love than he already is. This is also just kind of a really nice aspect of Ice King’s character in general, because as much as the show has proved time and time again that he is a sympathetic being, they really haven’t watered him down all that much. He’s certainly less aggressive and creepy than he was during his conception, but he’s every bit as crazy, desperate, and lacking of common sense. I like how they never went all out with forming this totally lovable, competent dude, and added in just enough to make it appear as progress has passed without really changing any of what made Ice King so enjoyable to begin with. And those elements alone are shown by his total disregard of understanding the intention of Finn’s joke and simply being drawn to the idea of “a cat with big teeth.” Yet, he still is able to come up with a subjectively funnier joke than Finn is! The complexities of Ice King’s character are just splendid.

But that progress that I mentioned prior is certainly welcomed, and I get a sweet kick out of Finn being so enthused by Ice King’s presence. Their combined interest in something creative is too nice, and you really do believe that this is something they’d be able to connect on without a problem. The lore built onto the Demonic Wishing Eye is also welcomed, especially the implication that such a hellish device would have such a cute, colorful host location. Though, I’m not sure how much Ice King actually has to worry about losing pieces of his soul. I’m sure the crown is doing most of the functioning anyway. The Pudding Troll that is introduced in Blenanas is another one of those crazily designed Adventure Time characters with a pretty standard personality, but I do enjoy his presence. I love his obscure design, with a speechless belly that shoots “ammo,” and his general lack of understanding of the purpose of his job. I like to imagine he just sits there for days on end without saying a single word or even moving.

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The Ble factory is certainly bleak, with dozens of skeletons inhabiting the vicinity. It’s interesting, because the skeletons appear to imply that the workers may have been human, but the Pudding Troll mentions having guarded the place for 500 years, and I don’t really know if contact between humans and mutants was ever mainstream during the fallout of the war. It’s also difficult to completely understand the implied disaster – what happened here that left a handful of workers dead without the Pudding Troll even noticing? Unless his application process was truly that he just submitted something a showed up one day, and that the humans working inside of Ble were killed by radiation fallout, or something. It’s food for thought, either way.

The production montage is tons of fun. It’s actually one of those sequences that I feel could be longer! Some of my favorite episodes of television are the ones that deal with behind-the-scenes production, particularly when it comes to animated series (Stimpy’s Cartoon Show from The Ren & Stimpy Show or Wacky Delly from Rocko’s Modern Life) and I’d love to see Adventure Time take on strenuous labor when working with Ble. Regardless, the finished product is funny, considering that Ice King, Finn, and the Pudding Troll aren’t exactly the most ideal content creators. But, Finn’s goals and desires are clearly spelled out in the last few minutes – he isn’t really looking to be funny, he’s simply looking for validation. It really makes sense why Ice King and Finn get along so well in this one, because they’re essentially both after the same sense of approval. Maybe Finn relies on Jake a bit too much to feel empowered. After all, Jake is pretty confident in himself and his own abilities, and the people we spend the most time with often shape our personalities. Without Jake, Finn may be susceptible to more feelings of inferiority and a lack of self-confidence. But, in the end, he does get what he was looking for, through an elaborately staged slapstick routine that’s right up BMO and NEPTR’s alley. Maybe Finn isn’t particularly funny, but he’s still able to feel good about himself through the affirmation of those he cares about most.

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I love Blenanas! It’s a light, silly romp with a decent amount of depth under the hood. This really is the show at it’s most simple, and it proves how much a simple idea can go a long way. Blenanas works as a competent story with added enjoyment in the smaller details; even the random inclusion of unusual transitions between scenes got a big smile out of me. It’s an episode that hits hard on the charm, and shows how crucial these characters are when it comes to the series succeeding. This last season may have picked up heftily on continuity, but at the end of the day, it’s the lovable, silly characters that carry Adventure Time through.

Favorite line: “I should show this to normal people, the common folk. The busy woman on the go. The regular Joe or Josephine.”

“Cloudy” Review

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Original Airdate: April 25, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Graham Falk

I sometimes question myself about why Adventure Time is my all-time favorite series at the moment. I could name a couple of reasons off of the top of my head, but I think the simplest reason that has always kept me coming back no matter what is the earnestness of Finn and Jake’s relationship. Even the best of friendships in animation (and television in general) can often feel so tacked on or situational. Most shows feature friendships that are highly interchangeable given the conflict of the episode; characters like SpongeBob and Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants or Stan and Kyle from South Park can be as close as possible in one episode and be at each other’s necks in the next. Other cartoons often rely heavily on the “opposites attracting” formula by creating relationships that feel potentially phony or heartless (Regular ShowFoster’s HomeRick & Morty). This isn’t a personal attack on any of these dynamics or programs, as a handful of them succeed specifically because of the uniqueness of each relationship. However, it’s refreshingly revolutionary that Adventure Time has crafted a friendship so genuine and undoubting. Finn and Jake might be the least cynical best friends I’ve ever witnessed. That’s not to say that they don’t have their differences, but it’s their deep understanding and acceptance of those differences that makes them so lovable. Cloudy is a way to explore those obstacles in their relationship while reinforcing how it strengthens their bond as a whole. It’s an episode that former creative director Patrick McHale initially came up with seven years earlier during the first season, where Finn and Jake would “get stuck up in the sky and just talk for the whole episode; relationships, Finn’s past, Jake’s dog side, where their lives will lead, singing songs, etc.” Elements finally allows for that story to see the light of day, and it makes for one of the most delightful viewing experiences I’ve ever had with Adventure Time.

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As a result of their restless adventuring, Finn is understandably wired. The little guy wants to do anything and everything he can to support his friends in the process of saving Ooo, likely as a result of a deeper feeling of guilt that he has been experiencing since he returned home. His efforts to help are admirable even if they are slightly obnoxious… I can’t help but feel so sorry for the little guy as he tries his hardest to be as generous as possible when explaining the science of page turning to Betty. Betty, in general, has a lot of really great comedic moments within this episode, courtesy of Felicia Day actually putting effort into her performance. Finn’s curiosity about graduate school was similarly hilarious, and you can’t really blame the kid for thinking about what’s on all of our minds. Jake, like the good big brother he is, identifies Finn’s need for unwinding, and carefully handles the situation. It’s adorably sweet that Jake putting Finn to bed is accompanied by the tune of their mother’s music box. It’s a terrific symbolic piece regarding how the positions within the dog family have changed; Margaret was, of course, the primary caretaker of the family, but now Jake has circumstantially taken over in ensuring his brother’s uttermost safety and peace of mind. I love how motherly Jake is in his actions, as he doesn’t even ask Finn if he needs to rest, he just knows that he does and sweetly aides his comfort.

Pat McHale was credited as a story editor for Cloudy, but I’m somewhat surprised that he wasn’t acknowledged as a straight up storyboard artist. The first few minutes of Finn and Jake being lost are nearly completely identical to McHale’s initial notes and boards for the planned season one episode. Though a lot has changed over the years, it’s amazing to me how well these moments work seven years later. While Finn and Jake have gone through many personal transitions, one aspect remains unchanged: the silliness and love for fun that the two so passionately bond over. The gliding is sweet fun even if it entirely contradicts Finn’s valid point of “No planes! Never planes!” in Normal Man. Even the pee joke, which could commonly be seen as a lazy attempt at potty humor, is just so charmingly silly. I love how an impatient Finn still respects Jake’s privacy enough to allow him to do his business even in their time crunch. Though, as that patience quickly resurfaces, Jake realizes he needs to dig deeper into his caretaker role. Finn has been mostly independent throughout the past few years, dealing with issues that Jake personally does not understand. Jake has always been there for proper comfort, but over the past few weeks, he’s experienced Finn’s stressors head-on, and see’s it as an opportunity to allow the lad to learn the importance of self-care. And nothing says self-care like a haircut!

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The haircut therapy is great; not only do I love the implication that Jake used to cut his brother’s hair as a child, but that it also allowed a younger Finn to let his feelings and emotions out in a calm and relaxed environment. The barber banter is too likable, and the best part is that it actually does work. Finn’s melancholy over his departure is deeply sympathetic. We’ve been shown on several occasions now just how hard Finn can be on himself in episodes like Don’t Look and Do No Harm, and this is another example of Finn weaving a narrative that simply does not exist. It’s a strongly profound statement for Finn to wonder if he purposely wanted Fern to fail in appointing him as Ooo’s protector, but that clearly is not true. Finn deserved to be selfish in choosing to visit Founder’s Island, as it gave him a better understanding of himself and his past history. Yet, it’s easy to see how he could believe that he’s ultimately at fault for what happened, even if it’s clear that one person could not have prevented an entire environmental shift. The haircut therapy allows for Finn to get these feelings out in the open, but ultimately doesn’t prevent himself from feeling any less responsible for fixing Ooo’s current state. His resistance to allowing himself to relax is ultimately what breaks Jake, in another role reversal that allows for Finn to take care of his brother for once.

Never have we gotten a moment where Jake is as open as he is in Cloudy, and it’s awesome and perfectly fitting for his character. It’s easy to look upon Jake as non-caring because of his upbeat and lax personality, but it’s these traits in particular that prove just how caring and responsible he is. In nearly all of his relationships, Jake feels responsible for being the one to keep things light and positive so that others are not negatively affected by his own or their own anxieties. It’s once more very easy to look at him from a parental role, as he feels that he needs to be this way, instead of wanting to be this way. It makes me really admire past episodes like Dungeon Train, where we have those smaller moments of Jake pondering his own life that really put into perspective how much he gives and puts other people before himself, namely Finn.

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It’s also just incredibly sad to wonder how many and which worries Jake keeps hidden completely. It’s easy to see how these feelings could reflect his own insecurities as a father, again, making an episode like Ocarina more understandable from Jake’s perspective. Jake isn’t dumb – he probably knows that Kim Kil Whan resented him for his lack of knowledge on parental abilities, but didn’t want to fully confront that fact and keep things light and amiable between the two. This episode proves, without a doubt, that Jake is much better at parenting than one could ever guess. Through caring for Finn, Jake has taken on a position of responsibility that he himself may not even recognize, and it’s incredibly sweet to see just how much he loves Finn and cares for his own well-being. What this episode also cleverly explores is how, at a certain point, caretakers need care too. It’s obvious that Finn deeply cares for his brother, but Jake’s revelation opened up a side of him that was completely foreign to Finn. Finn’s new understanding is represented beautifully through the reversal haircut therapy, which shows that he can take on his brother’s role quite nicely. If all of this wasn’t precious enough, the two reenact the intro as Jake climbs up Finn’s body to properly pay him for his haircut. This episode could essentially be named “Finn & Jake” for how perfectly it embodies the heart of their friendship.

Even the song, which isn’t technically a good song, is just so likable and charming that I couldn’t help but have a dumb smile on my face throughout its entirety. Rewatching it almost brings me to tears! With Adventure Time‘s finale being six months old by now, Cloudy really has me longing for the simplistic loveliness of Finn and Jake’s bond. Their song is so irresistibly sweet and likable that I don’t even mind that it doesn’t match the lyrical genius of some of AT‘s past entries. This is another one of those episodes where nearly every line of dialogue is perfect in its subtleties. Jake’s line of “it happens sooner than you think,” when Finn mentions being 35 is so utterly poignant. It’s a brief tie-in to Jake’s rapid aging, but also a great allusion to how a life of peace and positivity can often move so fast beyond our control. It’s even a bit of a sweet sentiment for viewers of the series as well. I started Adventure Time as a young, energetic 12-year-old, and now I’m here writing about as a 21-year-old with so, so much that has happened in between. My balls hadn’t even dropped yet when I started! Life moves fast, y’all! And, just for a random bit of appraisal, I love Jake’s impression of stereotypical Italian man. It’s such an out of nowhere gag that just works wonderfully.

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The climax of the episode is a ton of fun; I love how, even after we’re shown how loving the brothers are, they still get to engage in some likable and light banter, particularly with Finn’s jabs at Jake being smelly. The Cloud Lard was a nice edition to the ongoing lard species, and they add plenty of AT‘s bizarreness to his character, like his eventual ability to speak. While returning back, F&J seek comfort in the fact that, despite everything that has happened, they still have a chance to fix things. It’s a beautiful conclusive piece to their struggles, as they expressed them, learned to accept them, and now work to fix them. Ice King gets a small role in the episode, but it’s pretty fun and delightful at that. I love how Tom Kenny’s inflections can give Ice King the most random instances of humanity, like his small “ew” when the angler lard attempts to eat him. And of course, the haircut line was just the kind of hilariously corny joke to wrap up such an endearing episode.

Cloudy‘s brilliant. Not only does it carry across an atmosphere of what makes the series so lovable in the first place, but it’s one big love letter to the heart and soul of Adventure Time in general. This is an episode I’ve wanted to see since I first read about it in The Art of Ooo, and it did not disappoint. If I had to criticize any aspect of this episode, it’d probably be a technical aspect: I thought Jake’s facial expressions while blowing up could’ve been stronger. Graham Falk is usually great with silly and cartoony expressions, but dramatic faces are certainly not his forte. Otherwise, Cloudy is nearly perfect. While Elements is great in general, it’s most surprising that it’s greatest entry is almost entirely self-contained. It really shows how strong any episode can be when it puts our two lovable heroes at the forefront.

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Favorite line: “Talcum?” “Enough calm!”

“Holly Jolly Secrets (Part I & II)” Review

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Original Airdate: December 5, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Kent Osborne

Ice King has certainly gone through some major developmental stages during the past season. He’s almost completely transitioned from a villain to Finn and Jake’s creepy, annoying neighbor, and while that characterization has proven to be successful all season, it does risk a chance of being repetitive over time. Unless Ice King was at some point going to transform into a complete hero, it’d be awfully boring to just watch him attempt to capture princesses over and over again, or just endlessly try to be Finn and Jake’s best buddy. Holly Jolly Secrets is the one that changes everything. Everything we thought we knew about the Ice King up to this point was ultimately rendered moot, and an onslaught of new questions and mysteries arose. This introduction to Ice King’s backstory is also pretty much a turning point for the entire show: Adventure Time generally has become darker, more ambitious in its storytelling, and persistent in adding continuing bits of lore and mysticism in its ever-growing world.

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I guess I’ll kick-off this review by talking about its most crucial aspect: the videotape revealing the past life of Simon Petrikov. This portion of the episode is absolutely brilliant. It’s one of my top five favorite moments in the entire show, period, and I often forget how chillingly solemn and ominous it really is. There are so many nice little details, between the progression of time throughout each video journal to the brief existence of pre-Mushroom War propaganda. There’s a plane that flies by, which can honestly be taken as a sign of impending warfare (a later scene leads me to lean more towards this theory) and even the existence of a (presumably) Catholic Church. It really shows humanity and early society in the most explicit, uncut way that adds a bit of subtle lore to the existence of the post-apocalyptic world and how some aspects were generally lost in translation. I love all the subtle changes as Simon slowly becomes the Ice King; one aspect I really enjoy is how Simon’s first appearance in the video seems generally unaltered, yet his eyes are actually white and rounded much like the IK’s, rather than dotted and black like most human beings are shown to possess. It’s a nice bit that shows you just how doomed Simon was from the start, and how even before he lost his sanity, the crown had already claimed its victim. The exploration is fascinating; Simon’s transformation is often compared to Alzheimer’s, and while that correlation is quite accurate, it almost feels like a drug addiction in these video entries. Despite the way it’s destroying his life and pushing away the one he loves most, Simon continues to put on the crown, simply because of his failure to resist the feeling of power and strength it gives him. It’s some really tough stuff to get through, and the connection between his fiancee Betty and the Ice King’s desire to capture princesses is absolutely heartbreaking.

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Somvilay added this banner in to keep the viewer’s attention. A strange bit of meta-humor that AT typically strays away from.

The monologue was provided by Patrick McHale, who came up with the idea of Ice King’s tragic backstory. It really feels like a one-man play, but Pendleton Ward himself has compared it to the likes of a radio drama. The speech really shows what a fantastic voice actor Tom Kenny is; he’s so well-known for his portrayals of zany cartoon characters, but the dude can really pull off a legitimately serious and poignant role, and I think that’s a part of his abilities as an actor that’s sadly overlooked. The straight-forward fashion in which he reads these lines, without even slightly sounding phony or forced, is really impressive. It’s a very strong and powerful read through that really adds to this sequence being one of my favorite moments in the entire series. The monotone dialogue is surprisingly what keeps you so drawn to the screen.

However, with all that said, I honestly think the rest of the episode is just okay. The entirety of the episode is padded with quirky video diaries of the Ice King, and truthfully, they don’t do it for me. Like, at all. There’s a few funny lines readings, such as “good morning, you’re watching the evening news,” and IK’s hilarious rendition of Marceline’s Fry Song, (FORESHADOWING) but none of the other tapes do it for me in the slightest. I get it, the episode needed to be stretched out for the purpose of building up to the massive drama bomb, but I wish those tapes and time used at least incorporated more humor and entertainment. The tapes are purposefully boring, but end up slowing down the entire episode to the point where it feels like it takes an eternity to get to the actual meat. There’s an extended scene of BMO fastforwarding one of Ice King’s tapes, and it goes on for like, a solid minute. It’s another one of those episodes that showcases Somvilay’s odd approaches at anti-humor that just simply makes the experience a relatively dull one.

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The original pitch for this episode called for Finn and Jake to watch old Christmas specials, but Pen thought that the idea was awful in hindsight because it destroyed the fabric of the universe that the crew worked so hard at creating. While I can’t say that idea would’ve been better, I do think that the first 18 minutes of this two-parter should’ve been padded with something a little easier to chew on. I feel like it’s incredibly hard for me to think of anything noteworthy about Holly Jolly Secrets that isn’t the big reveal. The characterization of Finn and Jake isn’t that strong; they’re just sort of there to blankly observe until the ending. Even the Ice King isn’t that funny throughout this episode, and coming off the heals of great episodes like Still and Hitman, that’s no excuse.

After the video sequence does end, we do get some legitimately good moments as well. I love the IK’s delusional belief that the most significant thing about the tapes is the fact that he used to wear glasses. It’s a tonally appropriate moment to cap-off one of the heaviest scenes yet with a completely tasteful joke. Finn and Jake’s empathy for the IK is really great, too. It’s a nice moment for Finn to simply just give the Ice King back his tapes; I know people are always a bit annoyed that F&J don’t do more to help out Ice King, but really, what can they do? It’s completely out of their control and knowledge to be able to fix a pretty much unsolvable problem, so even showing him a bit of compassion and sincere appreciation is really sweet. Even though Ice King’s attempts at humor were considerably weak in these episodes, his characterization does come in strong when you realize that he actually hasn’t done anything wrong throughout. All he wanted to do was hang out with Finn and Jake, and when he completely forgets the fact that the two boys even watched his tapes, he rewards them with unusual gifts. It’s such a delightful view of his character that only makes the videos more effective and tragic. The second part ends on a perfect note, as all of the major and minor characters, including a booger and excluding Marceline (FORESHADOWING) sit together by a fire and essentially celebrate Ooo’s first Christmas.

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So yeah, I’m a bit half-and-half on this one. There’s some moments that are absolutely incredibly, yet others that are bafflingly mediocre. It’s safe to say that Simon’s backstory is more than enough to justify Holly Jolly Secrets’ existence, and that it still stands as a very crucial two-parter in the general expansion of the series. The Ice King only gets increasingly more interesting from this point on, and any story arc that was adapted from his backstory can be drawn back directly from this first episode. Holly Jolly Secrets isn’t a two-parter I happen to revisit as a whole a lot, but you can rest assured that I’ll continue coming back to Simon Petrikov’s story for years to come. It’s an emotionally scarring holiday special for the whole family!

Favorite line: “My alarm says it’s time for Finn’s bath. Finn, get naked.”

 

“Belly of the Beast” Review

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Original Airdate: April 4, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

Belly of the Beast poses an interesting argument: is it better to remain ignorant or aware of your surroundings? With the many scary possibilities and dangers in the world around us, many would argue that it is better to ignore the world around you and just live your everyday life. AT delivers this with ambiguous results when Finn and Jake try and save a group of bears who love to party in a monster’s belly, but risk being converted into feces. The series leans more towards Finn and Jake’s understanding of the situation, but also does so without making the other side look like a bunch of idiots. Finn and Jake may be trying to help these people, but at the same time, the bears are just trying to live life and make a party out of it. And there ain’t no party like a beast’s belly party!

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One of the bears they do meet along the way is Party Pat, who is voiced by Andy Samberg and, as Pendleton Ward claims, “is basically Pat McHale.” Party Pat’s a delightfully odd central character for this episode; he seems like a really chill dude, but at the same time, I feel as though he could drug someone’s red solo cup at any given point. Samberg gives Pat that ominous and enigmatic feel, and he’s almost unrecognizable as this character. Why they wanted Samberg specifically for this role, I’m not sure. But hey, he does a great job, so why not? And speaking of voice roles, Jeremy Shada’s performance as Finn is hilarious in this episode. Shada has been getting more experimental and having more fun with his character as of lately, delivering some of his funniest bits of dialogue yet.

The animation in particular is really superb. I seriously have a tough time focusing on the main episode because of how many unique dance moves are being performed in the background. Ian-Jones Quartey provided a lot of the drawings of the bears in this episode, and specifically tried to make every bear’s dance routine different and have a specific cycle, which is really reflected in the final product.

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Like I mentioned above, the core of this episode is the debate of whether or not the bears should stay in the beast’s belly or not. The episode sort of takes some unusual turns in its execution, however. Although Finn and Jake help everyone to settle down through a humorously depressing song about dying food items (RIP milkshake, RIP donut) the bears ultimately decide to stay in the beast’s belly in the end. This poses a couple of plot holes: Wasn’t the original dilemma that the bears would be digested if they stayed in the monster’s stomach? Nothing has changed since they decided to return, so how does that resolve the central conflict? And if the beast is so concerned with having his mouth scorched by fireworks, then how is he unaffected by drinking lava?? They’re a couple of oddities that make this episode seem a bit uneven. It does help the general tone of the episode that the literal party animals would return once more to where the party all started. Although it may seem bleak for some to be living in a perilous situation, Party Pat and his crew know how to enjoy life and are able to deal with any given issue because of their lifestyle. It’s not for everyone, as Finn and Jake have displayed, but hey, when things get tough, why not party? It’s also an important trial for Finn, as he learns that he simply can’t help those who don’t want to be helped. It’s depressing to see his general disappointment in his failure to save the party crew, but he learns the hard way that he simply can’t force his beliefs onto others.

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It’s not necessarily the most structured episode plotwise, but Kent Osborne and Somvilay Xayaphone definitely has a good time with this one. It’s often reflected as one of their personal favorites of season two, and while I can’t say it’s one of my personal faves, it’s a relatively enjoyable one. It has it’s minor flaws like the ones I mentioned, and I’m not really crazy about the “night club” setting throughout the entirety (I thought they could’ve been much more creative with the contents of the beast’s body). It also has funny one-liners, silly side characters, the general annoyance of our main characters, some great songs, and a fast-paced fun environment to boot on the other hand. What more could anyone want in an early season Adventure Time episode?

Favorite line: “HELP ME! … hang these streamers!”