Tag Archive | Pendleton Ward

“Five Short Graybles” Review

FSG 1.png

Original Airdate: April 9, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich, Cole Sanchez & Skyler Page

The Graybles episodes never quite reached the heights of the other experimental types of stories AT has pursued. The guest animator and Fionna and Cake episodes have produced quality material that the Graybles stories haven’t been able to meet in my personal list of favorites. Though, I can say, where some guest animator and Fionna and Cake episodes have failed somewhat severely, I’ve never thought too poorly of any of the Graybles. They’re simplistic and cute stories that later contribute to the lore of the show’s world, but for now, they’re simply the former. And there’s nothing wrong with that, this one actually reminds me a lot of 22 Short Films of Springfield, one of my all-time favorite Simpsons episodes. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Graybles episodes stemmed from, Pen Ward is a huge Simpsons fan after all.

FSG 2.png

It starts out very uniquely, with the introduction of Cuber, voiced by Emo Phillips. It’s later revealed that he’s a futuristic dude, but I’m pretty sure in this one, we’re just kind of supposed to look at him as the narrator. But he’s pretty cool, though this is probably his most generic appearance. He later lends himself to some creative and clever scenarios, but here he’s just kind of in it to do his job, and that is to explain the purpose behind Graybles. It’s a decent first appearance, and I really do love Emo Phillips as a voice actor. Check out his stand-up if you haven’t, it’s hilarious!

The first story starts out with BMO, and it’s by far the best. It’s a pretty stellar look into BMO’s psyche that introduces the recurring character of Football, as well as BMO’s underlying desires of wanting to be a human, or wanting to relate to humans. It’s really cute and almost tragic in a way; I really love seeing the little guy take so much pride in what he’s doing, but at the same time, he’s putting on a farce that will later become a larger burden for him and lead to a psychological breakdown. I never get tired of watching him pee through that glass of water, though. Really nice voice acting from Niki Yang, as always.

Finn and Jake’s story is a bit simplistic, but I do enjoy their somewhat masochistic behavior and the depths they’ll go to perfect a measly high-five. The framing device with our main duo is pretty great: their high-five pretty much carries through and builds up till the very end, which caps off in a pretty satisfying and funny ending, but we’ll get to that in a bit. I also love the unique shots we get to see as they run at each other in a pretty cinematic way. This is Skyler Page’s first time boarding for AT, and he really showcased some of his talents by drawing shots we don’t typically get to see in the series.

FSG 3.png

PB’s sandwich sequence is terrific! It’s a really drawn-out scene, but one that never feels like it’s dragging or stale. It’s done through all kinds of visual gags, such as the poor cow that endures that somewhat bizarre contraption, or his block of cheese that’s converted into a single slice using a sewing machine. Then there’s the pure absurdity of PB hitting a head of lettuce with a baseball bat for some reason. Wouldn’t it have made a cleaner slice if she just chopped it up? Also, it’s interesting to see Bubblegum using what is presumed to be black magic. They acknowledge this in the commentary, and no one really has a reason to back it up. I’m just gonna call this one a brief continuity error. And that final bit with Cinnamon Bun was all types of fucking nasty, in the best way possible. I cringe every time I watch his body spew out that diarrhea-like slop.

Ice King’s story is pretty damn funny. I love how 90% of it is just him abusing his penguins. First he sends Gunther off on a block of ice for smelling bad, then he uses penguins to clean himself off and abrasively throws in them in the trash afterwards. It’s some pretty horrifically amusing stuff that only Ice King could get away with, and only seems to get funnier each time I watch those suffering penguins. At least Ice King was partially right about what smelled by the end of it.

Finally, we have LSP’s story. Nothing much to say for this one from me; I never really cared for the These Lumps song too much and I think the story itself is a bit dry. Save for the ending though, which I think is a terrific punchline with Finn and Jake abruptly being named the winners of the talent show instead of LSP. That was priceless. A lot of oddly mean-spirited humor in this episode, wasn’t there?

FSG 4.png

Of course, there’s also the connecting theme. I think this one’s pretty obvious, and also because I had already read somewhere what the motif would be before I had even seen the episode. Despite that, I do commend the writers for introducing this type of brainteaser that would eventually get more difficult as the episodes went along. I think this one worked fine, but the creativity and ambiguity of the themes would only good up from here. I think it’s something neat that helps the youngins do some thinking while they’re watching.

So, I like it. It’s a cute introduction to a new series of stories within the series, and pertains a sense of enjoyability and intrigue throughout. It’s always fun revisiting these because I often forget which story happened when (I could’ve swore Tree Trunks was in this one), and it’s always fun to watch AT in such a chronicle structure.

Favorite line: “I thought you had a stank booty, Gunter. My bad.”

“Hot to the Touch” Review

HTTT 1.png

Original Airdate: April 2, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez

Here we are, kids! Season four! As I’ve mentioned a couple times prior to this review, season four is a really big turning point for the series. Things get darker, edgier, and more impactful from hereon in, folks. Fresh off the batch is Hot to the Touch, a continuation from where season three’s cliffhanger left off. When the original synopsis for this episode was released, I had much different expectations for it. I generally didn’t expect for this one to pick right up where Incendium left off, as it typically wasn’t really something AT had done before, aside from the Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil two-parter. I thought there’d be a lot more of Finn just sort of observing Flame Princess from afar, and trying to learn little tidbits about her in the process. There is a little bit of that, but what we got as a whole was a pretty satisfying episode, though not without it’s issues.

HTTT 2.png

First off, I think Flame Princess’s character is crafted perfectly in this episode. I dunno, after this one, I think they kinda jumped the gun and made her a lot less interesting than this episode set her up to be. I like her curiosity, how uneducated of the world around her she is, and how her moral code is constantly put into question. With a few exceptions (and some cool development much later on) I think her character was sorta squandered down into just a straight good guy following Hot to the Touch. Not to say Flame Princess is an awful character after this episode, but it almost feels like day and night to watch her so recklessly destroy a kingdom in this one and then be all cute and bubbly the next. I just really think they had a lot of momentum going with her ambiguity and then sorta dropped it way too quickly. It’s not an actual issue with the episode, though, and is one of my very favorite appearances of FP’s character in general. Also, she frequently mentions that she’s an elemental! It’s cool to see this mentioned so early on, and makes me wonder how Flame Princess became so familiar with this label to begin with. Perhaps Flame King educated her on this matter? It’s really up for discussion.

Finn’s interest in Flame Princess is very cute; I love his instant infatuation with FP and how he’s quickly able to profess his love for her without even really knowing her. That’s a typical thirteen-year-old for you (or is he 14 now?). I love how honest he is right off the bat, completely contradicting his prior relationship with PB. It’s rewarding to see the little guy be so open regarding his feelings and to not hold back, learning from his mistakes the first time. In addition to that, there is an interesting bit of turmoil he experiences when he has to choose between being a hero or preserving the one he cares about. The decision seems simple at first, but it all becomes more difficult when we learn that putting out FP’s flames legitimately hurt her. All of us want Finn to choose the obvious route of being heroic, but also don’t want to see Flame Princess get injured in the process. As for his ending breakdown… we’ll get to that in a bit.

HTTT 3.png

Jake is the perfect everyman in this episode: completely supportive of his hormonal brother, but being very rational when handling the situation. I love how much he goes through just for his friend, from helping him pursue his new love interest to trying to protect the Goblin Kingdom in the process. And, as a result, Jake is actually the true hero of this episode! Yeah, he helps Finn get closer to Flame Princess AND saves everyone in the Goblin Kingdom. What did you do again, Finn? You’re slippin’, buddy.

There’s a lot of enjoyable moments in this one. I love Finn’s awkwardness when it comes to pursuing FP, right down to the fact that he’s basically being a giant stalker and even acknowledges himself in the act. There’s plenty of silly side characters, from the smoking bird (who, for some reason, speaks in rhymes) and the return of the quirky goblins! And hey, speaking of characters returning, my boi NEPTR’s back!! NEPTR is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s really delightful to see the little scamp once again. I love the fact that everyone just generally disregards everything he says, including his entire existence. It just seems like such an oddly cynical and sadistic turn for such loving characters, and I really like how different it is because of that. NEPTR will always be BMO-Light to the rest of the cast. Also, that rap was fucking dope!

HTTT 4.png

My one problem with this episode, which is actually kind of a major one, is Rebecca Sugar’s part of the episode. I think Cole Sanchez’s section is just fine, but Sugar’s work feels like it’s trying too hard to be really profound and emotional to me. This is a common criticism for a ton of the season six and seven episodes, but really, I think it comes out full-fledged here. Finn’s crying just didn’t hit home for me at all; Rebecca had some big obsession with wanting Finn to cry during her time on the show, and really, I’m not sure I get it. I think some of the most impactful and poignant moments on the show are done without any crying at all (Finn discovering Susan may not be human in Susan Strong, Simon’s video diaries in Holly Jolly Secrets, Finn being abandoned by his father in Escape from the Citadel, etc.). It’s something that carries over heavily into her own show Steven Universe, but really, I just don’t think it works here. And considering the ending is left so ambiguous and poetic, you’d think there’d be room for more development on how Flame Princess and Finn are in a somewhat “forbidden” romance, but it’s rarely even touched upon in the next episode FP is in, outside of the last half, and just feels like a cheap gimmick in order for me to feel something or be left with some lasting impression, but it just doesn’t work at all. Pendleton Ward had this brief bit of wisdom on the episode’s commentary:

“[in reference to writing kid characters] … you just think that they’re gonna skin their knees and cry a bunch, when it’s not fun to watch, I don’t think.”

Though he wasn’t speaking directly about that portion of the episode, it pretty much sums up my feelings. I criticized What Was Missing slightly in the past for Sugar’s style feeling off with AT’s aesthetics, but I think this is a prominent example of her writing failing to meet the emotional complexities of the characters, at least in my eyes. I think Cole gets it right from Finn’s monologue earlier on in the treehouse, that’s meant both to be funny and somewhat profound. That’s exactly what I was looking for throughout a majority of this episode.

HTTT 5.png

That being said, I do think it’s still a pretty decent season premiere. I think there’s still a lot of enjoyable moments, from the silly jokes, to the beautiful visuals (really nice blends of orange and yellow), to the general intrigue of the main conflict. The characters are written as perfectly as they should be; as I mentioned, this is one of my favorite appearances of Flame Princess to date. Even though I’m not crazy about the ending, it still leaves a ton of ambiguity and mystery that Incendium left off with, giving me enough motivation and anticipation to keep watching forward. And as long as I live, I will never get tired of Finn stretching out Jake’s face like silly putty.

Strap in, everyone! Season four is gonna be one hell of a ride!

Favorite line: “Listen, when I look at you, my brain goes all stupid, and I just wanna hug you, and sit on the couch and play BMO with you.” (the most accurate depiction of teenage feelings of all time)

“Dad’s Dungeon” Review

DD 1.png

Original Airdate: February 6, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Pendleton Ward, Adam Muto & Natasha Allegri

Dad’s Dungeon is just too fucking rad. It incorporates pretty much everything that makes Adventure Time so great: big laughs, great visual gags, terrific animation, beautiful colors, layered backgrounds, fantastic interactions between our main duo, and a big heart at the very center. This one collabs some of AT’s biggest talents, with Adam Muto, creator Pen Ward, and Natasha Allegri at the helm. It was originally going to exclusively be boarded by Pen, but he needed extra help as the process went along. That information alone shows you how much of a passion project this one really was; Pen has rarely ever boarded during his original run on the series, and he really only does so when he thinks something’s particularly silly or cool to be working with. All of the boarders did an awesome job of keeping the episode so simple in its plot that it harks back to the old days, but also keeps things fresh and new with elements we haven’t seen much of yet. It’s a fun dungeon themed episode, but at the center is a very interesting dynamic between Finn and his adoptive father.

DD 2.png

This episode is one that I consider funny and energetic from beginning to end. From the very first scene with Jake asking Finn and BMO to come up with suggestions regarding what he could shapeshift into, you’re immediately sucked in by the boys’ wacky antics, and it only continues full force from there. There’s a ton of really strong visual gags, including Jake jumping through the treehouse and posing as he lands, from Finn’s dynamic jump into the actual dungeon. There’s even a brief moment where, while in the dungeon, Jake briefly switches back into his cheetah form for no contextual reason. I really love these “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” AT jokes that the series has become so good at adding in overtime. It really makes every rewatch more worthwhile, as you’re able to pick up on more subtle gags occurring in the background. In addition, it’s filled with great jokes and lines, primarily from Joshua. His 1950’s accent provided by Kent Osborne will literally never get old to me, and pretty much anything he says gets a chuckle out of me (“The whole Kazoo!” “Cover your ears, Sue!” “You’re both squishy babies!”). I specifically love the absurdity behind him reminding Jake that he can’t hear any of his messages, yet anticipating all of Jake’s possible answers and responding back to him anyway.

The connection between Joshua and Finn in this one is particularly strong. The relationship between F&J and Joshua has really never been explored in great detail, so it was kind of neat as is to get some development on a connection between two characters that we really haven’t gotten a chance to see yet. It’s pretty interesting, mostly because I think Joshua is the most positively represented father figure we’ve seen in the series up to this point, and actually of all time in that regard (though you could argue Lady’s dad is a pretty good guy, but he tried to fucking eat Finn that one time). That being said, I think Joshua’s morally ambiguity has come into questioning at times. For one, he blatantly steals from demons for no other reason than besides the fact that they’re demons. Specifically in this one, he labels Finn as a whiny crybaby even though Finn is a literal baby at the time. It has a strong psychological effect on Finn as you would expect, and it’s debatable on whether Joshua’s actions are out of irrationality or his failure to understand the human culture at all. It’s clear that Jake is definitely more emotionally mature than Finn is, but even then, it may be that his ability to hide his deeper emotions and stresses came from his father to begin with. So Joshua’s desires to toughen up Finn may just derive from his methods of dog culture on how he feels Finn is supposed to act as a teenage boy. It might also be an elaborate setup. From Joshua’s pre-meditated answers to Jake, it could be concluded that he knew exactly what was going to happen, and used his backlash towards Finn as a possible way to motivate him. Or it could even just be that he’s the typical macho dad that believes that boys shouldn’t ever cry for the course of eternity. It’s really something that I think can be analyzed and allows you to draw your own conclusions. I also really love Finn’s desire to please his dad as well; it kinda shows that, even though it seems like he is, Joshua isn’t actually a jerk. Finn wouldn’t value him so much as a father, as well as his opinion, if he was just an asshole. It’s clear that Joshua was a caring and cool father, and that his respect and love is very important and well-appreciated by Finn.

DD 3.png

The dynamic between Jake and his father is great as well, mostly because Jake isn’t simply just a slave to Joshua’s wishes. I like that he initially goes along with Joshua’s orders simply out of curiosity and respect for his dad, but later loses trusts in his opinion, and ultimately chooses to side with Finn in the end. It’s a really sweet move for Jake to choose his brother above all, and even decide that, while he loves his father, the emotional state of his brother matters more to him. It’s evident that Jake is certainly more in touch with his sensitive and compassionate side than his father, and would rather care for his brother than to watch him suffer.

The dungeon in this one is dope. I love all the different aspects of it, from the burgers and hot dogs monsters (some really amazing animation sequences during this part!) and when Finn and Jake eventually reach the portal of flowers. The bit with the Fruit Witches is probably my favorite part of the entire episode. It starts out as a really beautiful scene: the colors are nice and lush, the music is soothing and pretty, and the general atmosphere is very calming and laidback. Once one of the Fruit Witches takes a bite of an apple, things go batshit insane in the craziest way possible: the Fruit Witch is wrapped with vines until she becomes an apple, is brutally eaten by her accomplices through demonic mouths on top of their heads, and the entire area grows dark gray and threatening. It’s a really amazing contrast that sets you up for two completely jarring moods: light and relaxed, and dark and frightening. Everything in this dungeon is pretty well-designed too; really love the extra detail to the Fruit Witches, especially during their transition, and even the gross monster that Finn and Jake encounter. I love how everything Pen draws blends grotesque and cute so perfectly together.

DD 4.png

The final climax is terrific as well: the beast Finn faces is awesome in its design, and the darkened lighting of the room helps the colors of the characters (as well as that totally kickass demon blood sword) stick out even more prominently. The final message from Joshua is too sweet. It’s a crowning moment of heartwarming that through everything, Joshua simply set up this dungeon not out of sadism for Finn’s mental and physical help, but out of love. He knew that Finn would love the dungeon, and even through his struggles, he’d be able to make it to the final stage. It’s a moment of beauty that leads into the final battle between Finn and monster, complete with Joshua’s awesome mash-up rap. It also segues into Finn obtaining his brand new possession: the demon blood sword! One of my favorites of Finn’s swords in the entire series, it’s by far used the most, and is frequently a key item from this point on.

Goddamn, this episode is cool. It has pretty much everything you could ever ask for in an Adventure Time episode, as well as doing so much more. I have very little to even nitpick in this one: I love pretty much everything from beginning to end. The connection between Joshua and his sons is so great; I love how, even in its rocky introduction, it still remains one of the strongest father-son relationships in the entire series. The dungeon setting always makes for a pretty bangin’ setting, and considering AT‘s strong roots to Dungeons & Dragons, you know these are the kinds of episodes that the staff (especially Pen) have a lot of fun with. Dad’s Dungeon is also Adventure Time at its absolute funniest, and the characters and visuals do their damndest to carry it through entirely. It’s certainly one of the most riveting dungeon experiences Finn and Jake have faced, and one of season three’s greatest efforts as well.

DD 5.png

Favorite line: “But(t)s are for pooping!”

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

HJS 1.pngHJS 3.png

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.

HJS 2

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.

HJS 4

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.

HJS 6.png

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.

HJS 7.png

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.”

 

“The New Frontier” Review

TNF 1.png

Original Airdate: November 28, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Bert Youn

Jake’s mortality and relationship with death have been very prominent features of his character over the years. His aging process, to say the least, is convoluted. Nobody can really figure it out how it works; even Jake himself has trouble putting the pieces together with just exactly how old he is. That said, Jake’s fear of growing older is significantly more prominent than his actual fear of death. He more so fears outliving the ones he cares about most and losing his sense of edge and mellow behavior than dying, which he seems to welcome with open arms as long as it’s in a fantastical and mythical fashion. The New Frontier revolves heavily around Jake’s intrigue of fate and destiny, and does so by raising some increasingly interesting questions about whether what he’s doing is ethical or not.

TNF 2.png

I love anything with the Cosmic Owl, and aside from Prisoners of Love, this is his big debut as the dream wanderer of prophecies and foreboding outcomes, something which we come to realize that Jake is all about. The croak dream itself is really heavy-handed and atmospheric; I love all the little details of space, along with the rocket ship and Banana Man floating around, as well as the orchestral choir that gradually builds overtime. It’s a bit curious that the Earth is actually full in Jake’s dream, but considering that he doesn’t ever actually end up in space, it doesn’t necessarily feel like a continuity error.

It’s hard to say whether Jake’s behavior in this episode is rational or not; on one hand, it feels like a very selfish decision for Jake to allow himself to die with his thirteen-year-old brother left behind and his loved ones completely unknowing (I mean, he doesn’t even bid Lady goodbye. Harsh!) On the other hand, it’s sort of difficult to disagree with him being so open and unafraid of dying and what’s destined to come for him because most people are naturally afraid of dying. It’s a bit of an interesting balance between wanting Jake to stay with Finn but also wanting him to fulfill his destiny that was prophesied. I mean, then again, how does one even bounce back from a prophetic dream of death? Was Jake supposed to just wait patiently for the day when he eventually dies? It becomes more relatable when analyzing all of the various layers of Jake’s burdens, fears, and his general acceptance of the future that’s to come.

TNF 3.png

Finn is written terrifically for this one. His entire presence is purely sympathetic from beginning to end. We really don’t wanna see our little guy lose his best friend, and his undevoted desire to protect Jake and decrease all chances of him dying are really endearing. I especially love the moment when Finn hopelessly begs Jake to let go of the rocket. It’s not overly dramatic, but it’s a really heart wrenching, heavy scene that really allows the audience to see both sides of the argument. Again, Jake seems selfish by leaving Finn behind, but he’s merely accepting the future in front of him instead of being wildly in denial. However, Finn legitimately needs Jake by his side, and is still too young to accept death so calmly. He’s already lost Joshua and Margaret in his lifetime, which only makes him more opposed to losing his closest relative that’s still alive.

The ending resolves any dark or uneasy feelings towards Jake’s attitude by helping him to realize the one thing that’s more important to him than his own life, and that is the life of his best buddy. It’s a sweet resolution, and one that acknowledges that, while Jake is perfectly fine accepting his fate, he wants Finn to continue to live a successful and satisfying life even if he can’t be by his side. It also leaves a bit of ambiguity for the future of the series and Jake’s life, as we’re left with the possibility that, at some point, Jake will relive his croak dream once more. Of course, it’s a scary thought for both Finn and Jake to swallow, as unpredictability can often be most frightening. Finn and Jake are all about living in the present, however, and are able to get through fearful outcomes through humor and goodwill.

TNF 4.png

This episode also introduces the Banana Man, voiced by “Weird Al” Yankovic. I do really love Banana Man’s eccentric and quirky personality, but I think there are better examples of episodes where he’s utilized better than he is in this one. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy his weird mannerisms and extended dance moves (Pen Ward admitted that this episode came up a little short, so he just added longer, drawn out sequences of Banana Man dancing), but “Weird Al” is such a unique and interesting talent choice that you’d think he’d have a couple of more lines and even a song or two. But, like I said, there are better examples of spotlight episodes for Banana Man, and this one works just fine on its own.

This is also a really funny episode. While Finn and Jake’s interactions are quite tension-packed given the circumstances of Jake’s dream, there are still plenty of silly, fun moments for our main duo. I especially love Finn’s exchange about Banana Man walking into the sun (he really can be such a doofus sometimes), Finn’s ability to start a fire with his bare fucking hands, Jake’s explanation of how Glob World works, including the blatant disrespect he shows BMO by leaving an ice cream-filled pizza sandwich on his head. For as dark as the topic of the episode is, it’s still filled with fun, wacky jokes and character moments that really help lighten up some of the bleaker moments.

The New Frontier is a very enjoyable one. I love the headiness of Jake’s prophetic dream and all of the philosophy behind his decisions in the long run. It’s one that opens up a gateway for future opportunities regarding the fragility of Jake’s life, and the increasing importance of Cosmic Owl-centric dream sequences. There’s even a bit of lore when regarding The Great Mushroom War, as Jake mentions that rocket ships haven’t yet been reinvented. It makes sense with the world of AT that the only gateway to space would be portals and magical entrances, which means that rocket ships aren’t even really needed. It’s one that’s extremely amusing, but also thought-provoking at the same time. Something Adventure Time has really mastered.

TNF 5.png

Favorite line: “There’s not enough boom-boom stick-hole sticks in the stick-hole!”

“Thank You” Review

TY 1.png

Original Airdate: November 23, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich

Taking a tertiary character, or even a character we haven’t even met before, and putting them at center stage has become a staple of AT over time. It’s a risky move for any show to divert its attention from the main cast, but Adventure Time typically almost always pulls this off with great success. This episode, written and solo-boarded by Tom Herpich, is another introduction this season (the other being Fionna and Cake) to an experiment that would later open doors for new opportunities within the world of the series. And while this episode goes in a completely predictable direction that anyone could see a mile away, it’s one I think is really remarkable. It pushes Finn and Jake to the side for two characters who can’t even speak, and it takes advantage of that concept to its fullest degree.

TY 2.png

It’s hard to say what works so well about Thank You, but I think most of that can be contributed to its atmosphere. It’s quiet, solemn, and whimsical. I think there’s a good handful of moments that aren’t exactly funny, but extremely charming. The everyday life of the Snow Golem, from his bird alarm clock to his bowl of acorns and pears, is just very delightful to watch. The Snow Golem himself isn’t really a strong personality, but he’s kind of supposed to be an eccentric everyman. He’s introverted and cautious, but nevertheless friendly and likable. His connection with the fire pup is also really endearing: it hits all the right notes, from the initial distrust to how the Snow Golem genuinely begins to care about the poor pupper. I love all the little moments with them spending time together, including the golem’s finger puppet show and the fire pup quite aggressively sucking on the udder of a cow.

There’s some great bits of voice acting between Dee Bradley Baker and Pendleton Ward in this one. Not a single line of dialogue is uttered between Snow Golem or Fire Wolf until the very end, and yet they managed to add little sounds of expression to really carry the episode forward. I love all the hectic noises Snow Golem makes whenever he’s being paranoid or distraught, and the cries and barks from the Fire Wolf pup are really adorable. I’ll never understand how Dee Bradley Baker is able to so masterfully imitate animals, but he’s a freakin’ legend when it comes down to it.

TY 5.png

There’s a lot of really nice artwork and colors in this one. Ghostshrimp once again did a standout job with this one, in addition to Santino Lascano and Chris Tsirgiotis lending a hand with their lovely artwork. Really nice design of the Snow Golem’s house, which, in the promo art, is revealed to be a barn that was once owned by members of humankind. To my knowledge, this is the first major appearance of the Fire Kingdom, and while it’s a bit different in design, it still looks great. Although it feels a bit odd that the Fire Kingdom and Ice Kingdom are so close together; not sure if that’s a bit of discontinuity or just something that was overlooked for the purpose of plot, but it’s only slightly distracting and doesn’t affect the overall scope of the episode. In addition to the background art, there’s some really nice sunsets, textures between snow and fire, and overall animation quality. You can tell Herpich, the other storyboarded artists, and animators really put their damnedest into this one. Even something as simply as a three second clip of the Snow Golem walking has an extended walking cycle (courtesy of Adam Muto) that just looks terrific and really makes me appreciate that extra effort.

Once more, I just really love the quiet and poignant feel to this one. I love all the little moments of the Snow Golem trying to figure out what to do with the fire pup; it really feels like a simple but crucial situation that I think is treated in the most careful way possible. The ending, as I mentioned, is really predictable, but sweet. I especially just love the last few minutes, including the Snow Golem’s willingness to put himself into grave danger for the sake of a wolf he met only a day ago, and the humble reunion they share in the end. It’s a very endearing way to cap off the episode, and one that I can’t help but smile at on every view.

TY 3.png

The one thing that feels a bit shoehorned in this episode is the presence of Finn, Jake, and Ice King. Their brief in-the-background subplot is fine, but I feel like you could’ve taken them out of the episode entirely and you wouldn’t miss much. I like the moment at the end with Finn putting aside his differences with the IK, but besides that, it just feels like Finn and Jake are there to explain what we already know. Yeah, yeah, fire wolves and snow golems hate each other but they’re able to get along. We know this, we don’t need any extra exposition. It’s just a minor detail I would change or just completely withdraw for more time between the two leads. The only interesting bit is Jake wearing the Ice King’s crown completely unaffected, which can only likely be rooted to the fact that the crown already has a host. We see this in a couple other episodes later on, but this was the first time the concept was introduced.

As is, this is a great one. It really feels like something out of a Pixar short or something along those lines, and just feels so especially unique and beautiful. It’s no wonder this one was nearly nominated for an Oscar! I love the atmosphere, the artwork, the connection between the two main characters, and just the overall message. It’s a thing of beauty that opened a lot of new opportunities for AT to tackle the lives of other secondary characters, as well as the practice of writers being able to solo-board, and one that I’d consider up there with some of the greatest. Definitely one that the Adventure Time crew is really proud of, for all the right reasons.

TY 4.png

Favorite line: “You know, maybe we could all learn a thing or two from those sandwiches.”

“Jake vs. Me-Mow” Review

JVMM 1.png

Original Airdate: November 21, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

The title card concept originates from an actual drawing created by fourteen-year-old (at the time of its debut, that is) Gunnar Gilmore, as Pen Ward himself loved the drawing so much that he wanted an entire episode based around the character Me-Mow. It’s an ambitious concept, but the idea of Jake being pitted against some cat seems especially ludicrous and fanfiction-y for the Adventure Time world. However, the episode is taken in a much, much different direction that actually makes for a genuinely compelling plot.

The character of Me-Mow is actually what I consider to be a more engaging version of the Cute King. Me-Mow is legitimately cute, with her voice be provided by Kyla Rae Kowalewski (also the voice of Anais on The Amazing World of Gumball). In addition to being cute, Me-Mow is a very competent villain, and one that is never downplayed for her size or charm. The show doesn’t pull some manipulative trick by making Me-Mow’s cuteness her strongest weapon, but instead creates a villain that’s able to be so effective as an opponent because of her small size. The scene where she attacks Finn builds a great deal of tension and actually makes some valid points. Though her dagger isn’t able to make very effective dents, it’s pretty evident that she could pretty much just slice Finn’s eyeballs at any point and render him blind. It’s rare that you actually get to see tiny enemies in any animated series that aren’t purely comedic, so I’m glad Adam and Rebecca were so graceful not to fall into any generic cliches.

JVMM 3.png

I mentioned how sympathetic Jake’s character was in No One Can Hear You, and this one really continues the trend of gut-wrenching Jake-centric episodes. It’s incredibly hard to watch the pain he endures in this episode, from the various times he’s brutally injected with poison to all of the psychological burdens he’s probably bearing. You gotta wonder what it’s like from his perspective. There’s points where he literally considers killing Wildberry Princess, and it sounds fucked up, but wouldn’t that thought cross your mind at least once if you were in that position? It’s obviously morally wrong, but Jake simply has his hands tied and there’s not much that he can do to save himself besides the only known solution in front of him. It’s a dark road for the series to cross, but one that doesn’t make Jake seem like he’s bordering psychosis or generally unlikable in the slightest bit. Of course, it’s handled with humor as well. Jake’s “maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be killed!” gets a big laugh out of me, and all of his attempts to get Me-Mow out of his nose, in addition to anytime he tries to act completely normal around Finn and WBP, are really amusing.

Finn’s sort of an idiot in this episode, but again, I don’t think the writers go too far with his stupidity that it’s completely unbelievable or irritating. His side of the story is still handled with much humor and likability too; I’ll never understand why the hell he started shouting “meow” when Jake shushed him, but it’s something only Finn would do, and it’s just silly enough that it works for me. It’s also a sweet one for him too: not only does he share a moment of emotional turmoil towards the end when he threatens to kill Me-Mow for what she’s done and watch his best friend nearly die, but there’s the scene where he sings his mother’s lullaby (written by Rebecca, of course!) that she used to sing to Finn and Jake , and maybe even Jermaine, when they were babies. It’s a brief, out-of-nowhere bit of poignancy that really builds a connection we rarely ever see, that being between Finn and Margaret, and just adds a bit of quiet enlightenment to and otherwise suspenseful episode.

JVMM 2.png

And yes, this one really makes use of the element of suspense. It’s such a small-scale episode, but the many ways we empathize with Jake and are so concerned for his well-being, in addition to the anticipation in regards to whether or not his plans will work out, really kept me at the edge of my seat the first time I saw it. In fact, I’m still able to be fully enthralled by the events of this episode despite knowing the actual outcome of the situation. The resolution I think is really clever, and something I actually didn’t think of once during the duration of the episode. My reaction was pretty much the same as Finn and Jake’s when Jake increased the size of his liver. Biiiiig liver, YEAH!

If there’s one minor criticism I have, it’s that the title is a bit misleading. The original title for this episode was An Assassin in Jake’s Nose, which is much more fitting in my opinion. There’s very little of Jake and Me-Mow facing off, in fact, Finn actually engages in combat with her a lot more. Like I said, though, the contents of the episode are better than what the title suggests, I just wish it was slightly more fitting with the tone and plot of the episode.

JVMM 4.png

Besides that slight nitpick, I do really enjoy this one. The stakes feel really high, and even if we know that Jake isn’t going to legitimately die, it still feels like a very real conflict that’s engaging from beginning to end. There’s a couple of nice gags throughout the episode, like I really enjoy the fact that the people of Wildberry Kingdom eat meat for some reason. I guess they can’t eat berries or fruit, so they must be pretty extreme carnivores in that regard. The backgrounds from Ghostshrimp are really nice in this one; I love that it’s very similar to the setting of the Treehouse, but adds a bit of a unique spin with the many layers of tree branches and berries that gives the Wildberry Kingdom its own separate feel to it. There’s a lot of nice character moments, between Jake’s anxiety of choosing between murder and being murdered, and Finn’s obliviousness, but all-around devotion to his friend. Definitely another high-point in an already above average season.

And if you think it takes Susan Strong a long time to return, let’s just wait and see how many episodes it takes Me-Mow to come back. I’ll start counting now.

Favorite line: “Give it up, Me-Mow! You’re only making my face look cooler!”