Tag Archive | Pendleton Ward

“What Was Missing” Review

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Original Airdate: September 26, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

I’ve felt iffy about What Was Missing for a very, very long time. It’s arguably one of the most popular episodes to date, and while I’ve always thought that the episode was well crafted, I also sensed a feeling of tonal difference from the rest of the series. What I love about AT is that the characters’ feelings, motivations, and life paths are left most ambiguous and up for debate, and that notion has only increased throughout the run of the show. Rebecca Sugar, on the other hand, has her own specific style that is very different from everyone other staff member on the show, mostly because she has her own vision for the characters and precise ways of writing for them. Sugar’s style is evident on a show like Steven Universe, where all of the characters are very honest and genuine about their emotions and feelings, and almost every episode works towards some sort of conflict resolution or developmental change. AT, as I said, is very different in its approach. It’s more about drawing your own conclusions about what the characters are feeling, and continuously opening new doors (no pun intended) within the Land of Ooo. These are two very different mediums that collide especially in later seasons when Sugar’s style becomes more evident, this episode included. I could even see this working as an SU episode, with Steven, Pearl, and Amethyst filling the shoes of Finn, PB, and Marceline respectively.

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So what point am I trying to make by this? Well, frankly, for a while I was less enthusiastic about What Was Missing than everyone else was. I really just thought it was too big of a tonal shift for the show to take on, and the characters acting this open and honest with each other felt a bit… out of place. However, after rewatching this episode and the commentary for it specifically for the review, I do have a bit more of an appreciation of it. I realize that this is just a very big passion project that involved Sugar pouring every little bit of her heart into it (not ignoring the fact that it’s also Adam’s episode, but let’s face it, this is pretty much Rebecca’s baby).

The songs she wrote for this episode, I’m Not Your Problem and What Am I to You? are some of the best written songs in the entire series, and derive from very personal place in Sugar’s heart. I’m Not Your Problem not only addresses the subtle, long term conflict between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, but channels an experience Rebecca had while trying to impress a roommate she once had, but failing in that regard. Some of the strongest songs in the series come from personal experiences that help the tune feel more raw and passionate (All Gummed Up Inside, Lost in the Darkness) and this is another great example. It’s an aggressive and intense experience, and pretty much gives us everything we need to know about Marceline and PB’s past history without ever giving us any flashbacks or long bits of exposition. It shows the flaws between both characters: Bubblegum’s unintentional ego and Marceline’s feeling of inadequacy. It’s a very well done conflict that I think a lot of people can identify with, and it’s done in such a unique and entertaining way.

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What Am I to You? is in the same vein. Dealing with Finn’s inferiority complex towards Bubblegum and Marceline is something that feels a bit overlooked and undermined through time, but it’s done in such a catchy and sweet way that it’s hard not to instantly be able to empathize with Finn as a viewer and immediately see things through his perspective. The inspiration behind this song is actually something that admittedly had me tearing up a bit while listening to the commentary (or someone in my house was just coincidentally chopping onions. I like to think the latter). Sugar wrote this song based on her experience with the Adventure Time crew, and how she finally felt accepted in her position and no longer saw her job as work, but rather something she genuinely enjoyed doing with people she loved. It’s a very endearing, loving message that honestly makes the episode itself even more heartwarming, and for that reason, it’s really hard for me not to get drawn into this episode. It puts every bit of care and compassion into it from the crew who love working on this show so much.

Besides that bit, I like the little in-between bits as well. Jake pretending to be the jerk of the band is funny enough, and even gets better when he alters his entire appearance. Finn’s little song about pasta is cute, and I just really love seeing all of these characters together at once. It’s rare that we even get to see Finn, Jake, and Marceline hangout from this point on, so it’s very nice to see Bubblegum and BMO included on this friendship train. It highlights some of the most important flaws of each character and focuses on them in great detail: Finn’s awkward and sometimes creepy interest in Bubblegum, Marceline’s inferiority towards her old friend, PB’s intelligence that can often come off as condescending, and Jake’s inability to take anything seriously. I even like the Door Lord as well, voiced by Steve Agee. His design leads me to believe he’s some sort of relative or distant cousin of Key-per, and it honestly cracks me up everytime he speaks in his hummed speech. Apparently the storyboard has legitimate translations for what he’s saying, but you can pretty much gather the gist of it without even needing to know.

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In the end, it actually is an episode that warrants the characters being so open about their feelings. In fact, it’s basically the whole point. Though I do like the ambiguity that each character possesses in their emotions and personal struggles later on, it’s nice to watch them finally get what is bothering them off their chest, and it’s a pretty good message to show that the truth will set you free a majority of the time. Finn got to open up about his feelings towards Bubblegum to Jake recently in Wizard Battle, and while he isn’t that explicit this time, it’s nice to see that he does acknowledge how he feels about her in a way, and that he’s able to earn a newfound respect in return. In addition, Marceline’s able to do so by accepting the way that she feels towards her ex-BFF. By not getting angry at herself for wanting to reconnect with Bonnie, Marceline allows a possible chance for forgiveness and new beginnings, something she couldn’t envision with her bitterness blinding her beforehand. It also shows PB’s side of things by showing her brief admiration for Marcy by having deep sentimental value in the shirt that she gave her, which was really just icing on the cake. My only problem with this episode is most likely your only problem with this episode: why the hell wasn’t BMO mentioned in the song?! She’s sitting right there, Finn! How couldja forget her like that?

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And I guess I should acknowledge the brief controversy surrounding this episode. On an AT oriented YouTube channel called Mathematical, which was started up by Frederator Studios, there was a video that gave a brief recap of What Was Missing and analyzed it further by addressing the implied homosexual relationship between PB and Marceline, equipped with fanart of the two in a romantic scenario. The entire channel was shut down, and the mastermind behind it, Dan Rickmers, was fired. To be honest, this is just some dumb bullshit that went down. I get that a couple of years have passed since then and animation and television in general have become considerably more LGBTQ positive recently, but c’mon, PB and Marceline are basically openly lesbian at this point in the series. Whether you interpret them as best friends or an actual couple, the show and the staff seem to be doing everything they can to stress the pairing of them in a romantic sense, so really, was there any point in making such a big deal over allegations if said allegations would later just become practically true without anyone even batting an eye? It was a dumb bit of controversy from the start and only seems more absurd with the current state the show is in.

Getting back to the actual episode, I definitely have grown more positive towards What Was Missing as time goes on. I still don’t know if I’d call it one of my personal favorites, but it’s just so charming and likable that it’s hard for me not to get sucked into what many people consider one of the all time best episodes. It just goes to show that whenever you want the show to be as sweet as can be, ya just add a little Sugar!

Favorite line: “I’ll get your kid back, toy!”

“Hitman” Review

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Original Airdate: August 1, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Bert Youn & Jesse Moynihan

This is a point in the series where Ice King isn’t necessarily enemies with Finn and Jake, but the three sort of share a friendly rivalry. It’s harped on when the IK gets grounded for interrupting the Breakfast Princesses (who, for some reason, became really popular after this episode; though her design is pretty great), and it’s generally reflected in the attitudes of the boys for the rest of the episode. They don’t hate the guy, but at the same time, he’s a giant creepy dork. The two can share enjoyment in punishing him without even kicking his butt.

It’s also reflected on the IK’s side. In season one, it would have been totally likely for him to willingly try to kill Finn and Jake, but here, he states very clearly that he values them as friends, even though they can get on his nerves. Ice King may be one of the most stagnant characters due to his blatant insanity, but he does undergo clear developmental changes that flow so naturally over time.

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Down to the actual plot of the episode, there isn’t a lot going on. It’s just a fun little Ice King-centric episode that has a lot of good laughs, and some very nice moments between the main characters. The hitman himself, Scorcher, is really awesome. He’s sort of like the Boba Fett of the AT universe; he doesn’t say or do much, but his character is completely carried by how cool his design is and how generally mysterious he is. He’s also one of the few villains up to this point that Finn and Jake actually haven’t been able to defeat, which shows how considerably powerful he is.

It’s a very fast-paced episode as well. I like all the really quick gags, such as Scorcher easily trashing Blastronaut and Ice King asking him to kill the princesses he just simply doesn’t find attractive instead. Also, fucking Meat Man. I don’t know what Finn and Jake went through to get that meat, but I even find myself disturbed by the screams of Meat Man late at night.

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One of the other interesting elements is how the Ice King actually comes out on top in most parts of the episode. Even though the entire conflict is his fault, Ice King has some shining examples of heroism and even possesses more competence than Finn and Jake in more than a few moments (“you’re GROUNDED,” “I know, but, shush!”). He ends up strategizing the most rational plan, and even outsmarts Scorcher, as the hitman leaves one final note.

“Echos of past events nudge the tiller on my present course, I await it’s reflection in the future”

Aside from the obvious spelling and grammatical errors, the poem seems to imply that Scorcher’s events of this episode will not have impacted him until further reflection later on, leaving a bit of leeway for character analysis. I like to think that Scorcher’s just a simple guy doing his job as assassin, followed by a night at home with his wife and kids. It could happen! As a final product though, I like this one. It’s rewarding to see the Ice King actually come out in the best case scenario for once. He certainly isn’t portrayed as a hero, but it’s sort of nice to see him save the day and get back at Finn and Jake for repeatedly pandering down to him. Season three to me, is basically Ice King’s season. We see him go through many different character explorations and developmental changes, and this episode really kicks off these insights with hilarious results.

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Favorite line: “Someone got hit in the boing-loins! … Hit in the boing-loins… boing-loins… boing-loins… somebody got hit in them.”

“Memory of a Memory” Review

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Original Airdate: July 25, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Ako Castuera

I incorrectly stated that Conquest of Cuteness was the last Tom-Ako board in my episode review. This is actually the last episode written and storyboarded by the pair, and it’s certainly a good episode to go out on. It’s a very interesting look at Marceline’s past history that I’d actually even like to see this as a half hour special. Just Finn and Jake exploring the memories of Marceline’s past and exploring a new understanding of herself along the way. They did fine with the time they were given, but I can’t help but feel like this one was a bit rushed.

The reason for that is that there’s a lot of exposition at the beginning. It’s all for a purpose, as it is a convoluted inception-type story, which requires a good bit of explanation for the audience. However, it does make the exploration through Marceline’s memories feel all the more shorter, while I feel as though there were points in history I’d like to see more. But of course, this is still early in the series. There are many, many more episodes where we delve deeper in Marceline’s history, so really, I’m just nitpicking.

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The memories Finn and Jake do end up exploring are really interesting. I really love the background details of the scene with young Marcy. Some burning building, tanks, and broken debris continue to entertain the story of the apocalypse, and Marcy’s experiences through it. In addition, I just think young Marcy is too cute. The actress Ava Acres (who actually plays Young PB as well) is really terrific when capturing the innocence of a younger Marceline, while also adding charm and flair to her line deliveries. This episode also introduces Hambo, which will have a much bigger role in the series later on. It is noteworthy that Marcy states “Hambo is my only friend,” which makes me wonder when this flashback is supposed to take place. Simon must have still been around then, as Marceline still appears to be very young. Perhaps it was a point where he was beginning to lose himself more, distancing Marcy. Whatever the reason, it still lines up pretty solidly with everything we’ve learned about Marceline up to now.

Transitioning into a memory with an older Marceline is the hilarious addition of the scene with Hunson literally eating Marcy’s fries, much to her dismay. A bit of fun trivia is that in the Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook, this scene is included as a point to emphasize the breaking point of Marceline and Hunson’s relationship with each other (as implied in the song) and the fact that food was fairly scarce during this time, leaving a plate of fries being the only thing Marceline had to eat. Here, it’s just used as a nice little humorous gap following up one of AT’s most popular songs.

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Other great memories explored are the time Marceline lived in the treehouse, her time with her ex-boyfriend Ash, and the final jump to the memory core. The memory core looks really dope. Once the boys enter in, it’s an artistically fluid trip that displays some of the most ambition artwork the show has covered yet. It really feels like something out of a trippy 70’s animated movie, and it’s disappointing it only last for a short bit of time. The reveal that Ash was behind all of it is a relatively good twist. I actually really like the character of Ash. He’s a giant douche, but they manage to give him a lot of funny lines and avoid turning him into the typical snobby jerk you see in most cartoons. He’s just kind of a dumb loser, with zero moral empathy for those around him. Also, the idea of a wizard dating a vampire is pretty rad! Hooray for diversity!

The resolution for the conflict is actually something I think is really clever as well. I think it somewhat comes out of nowhere, as when was there ever a point where Finn actually mentioned this plan before he just went ahead and did it? Besides that, it’s a pretty inventive solution to the issue by entering Finn’s memories. However, it really only makes me want an episode that explores Finn’s memories. The premise for this episode is such a good concept that I wouldn’t mind if every character’s past history was explored this way at some point. All we get from Finn’s past is the now viral Buff Baby song, which is admittedly a lot of fun. Also, it takes place in Joshua and Margaret’s house! That’s three direct mentions of Finn and Jake being adoptive brothers in a row. It feels like the writers were really trying to stress that this season. The episode ends on the best way possible: some delightfully painful abuse towards Ash, courtesy by Finn, Marceline, and Jake’s giant foot. One way to know that Ako is boarding an episode is that she loves drawing Jake with toes.

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In the end, I do enjoy this one, I just wish it had a little more time to breathe. There are just so many great ideas and interesting character explorations that I wish the show could go one step further with it. As I mentioned though, there’s plenty more of Marceline’s past to be explored in the future, so I’m okay with this brief and fun journey through her life experiences.

Favorite line: “Ash gets hungies at eight o’ clock, you need to get back in the kitchen and make me dinner.”

“Morituri Te Salutamus” Review

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This title card was actually a bit lost in translation during the inking process. Jake was supposed to appear as a shapeshifted gladiator, rather than as a ghost. It took me forever to realize that was supposed Jake.

Original Airdate: July 18, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Whenever the question of an underrated episode of Adventure Time arises, Morituri Te Salutamus is usually the first thing that comes to my mind. I really like this one. The plot is pretty standard when observed on a surface level; Finn and Jake enter a battle arena and fight some gladiator ghosts while Jake fails to follow through with his buddy’s plans. On the whole though, the episode has a lot of nice, small details going on in the background, while also including some of the darker and grittier battles we’ve seen on the show to date.

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The main conflict between Finn and Jake is kept very subtle, and relatively sweet. Jake’s lack of focus has been harped on several times before (prominently in Power Animal) and it’s somewhat endearing that Finn has enough of an understanding of that to not bicker with his brother over following a very simple strategy. Of course, it results in Finn nearly scarring Jake for life, but hey, lava hula hoops just aren’t a good alternative for battling ghosts. They’re both written so well that neither of them comes off unlikable for their relatively questionable actions. Jake is still a ton of fun despite the lack of attention he gives his best friend, and Finn is still enjoyably bonkers even if he takes it one step too far. Also, props to Rebecca Sugar for writing one of my all-time favorite songs in the series. Tropical Island works not only as a catchy song, but also to undercut some of the more intense moments in the episode.

The Fight King’s arena is awesome. The colors surrounding it really help emphasize the darker feel to the underlying subject at hand by subduing the bright and colorfulness most people are accustomed to in a typical AT. In addition, the underground has a couple cool details as well. For instance, it’s practically a gladiator graveyard for anyone who ended up dying in the battle arena, which is a pretty grim and quietly placed bit considering it’s never explicitly mentioned. The Fight King (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, who does a pretty good job delivery-wise, per usual) himself is well-designed. He has many bandages, a missing limb, and several weapons attached to him to help create the sense that this dude’s been around forever. He doesn’t seem like a powerful villain in terms of strength or abilities, but he’s certainly one that seems to have mastered the art of manipulation.

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The real gem in this episode, however, is the ghosts. First off, all of them are really inventive and unique. It would’ve been so easy to have every gladiator look the same, but the artists took it one step beyond and gave each gladiator a very specific looking mutation or accessory. Second, it’s a very subtle element of tragedy that all of these ghosts were once loved ones that were pitted against each other, and the remorse that they feel is certainly heavy-handed and powerful. Without even knowing who these people are, you almost get a sense of their backstory and their connection to one and other, as they were likely similar to Finn and Jake in their motivations. Two friends, companions, or siblings who took on a challenge for the fun of it, as one was tragically manipulated into killing the other, carrying with them a deep feeling of regret as a result. It’s clear that no one has ever managed to actually succeed in the battle arena, and I’d theorize that after one of the soldiers killed the other, they later ended up killing themselves as a response to their guilt. It’s a lot of little, but crucial moments that make this episode have a real emotional core to it.

And that emotion carries willingly to the very last third. Again, it’s a moment where we know that Finn isn’t actually going to kill his brother, but at the same time, it’s easy to just feel so scared for Jake. He’s hurt and terrified that someone he simply wanted to retrieve a lava hula hoop for has suddenly turned on him so dramatically. It’s a really intensely packed remainder of the episode that truly kept me on the edge of my seat the first time I watched it, and even still kind of does to this day.

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This episode goes back and forth a lot with Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar’s drawings, but Muto choreographed a good chunk of the fight sequences, and man did they turn out well. Not only is there some decent slapstick, like Jake using his stretched out thighs to crush a gladiator, or one of the ghosts landing crotch first onto his shield, but it really packs a punch! It’s somewhat hard to pull off the idea of Finn and Jake fighting ghosts, because, well, they’re ghosts, and as Jake states, “ghosts don’t got meat.” Still, the show manages to pull off some pretty effective feeling fight scenes despite the insinuation that Finn’s opponents are already dead. The swords Finn uses in this episode aren’t really as visually interesting as most of his other swords, but man, the way Finn slings them left and right is just so terrifically animated and carried out that I don’t mind. They’re used for some fast-paced stabs and shanks, which really assists in improving the final product.

Also, there’s a heavy use of Latin in this episode. The title itself, Morituri Te Salutamus translates to “we who are about to die, salute you.” In addition, Finn utters such phrases as abet (be gone) and eludere (evasion), while one of the gladiators shouts “non pugnant, Flamma!” (be not repugnant to him). It’s a nice example of dialogue that really assists in making the scope of the world of AT feel bigger, and the different cultures throughout. If I got any of those translations wrong, let me know. I totally Google translated all of ‘em.

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So yeah, this is one I really like a lot. It’s one that I don’t see a lot people mentioning often, but it’s certainly an episode that deserves more publicity. Great atmosphere, intense battles, an emotional core, and our two lovable main boys. The episode ends thankfully on a light note, as the gladiators descend to another realm, presumably one of the Dead Worlds. Jake and Finn are the perfect duo to set an example of what true companionship means, and how disagreements are trifling in the long run of lifelong friendship. I only wish that Jake one day does reach that tropical island. What a way to end the series that would be!

Favorite line: “That’s an entirely different plan… than my plan.”

Season Two Review

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Season two of Adventure Time pushed the envelope for the series a bit more than season one. It still focused on the lighthearted yet occasionally dark adventures of a boy and his dog in the post-apocalyptic land of Ooo, but this really feels like a point when the series began to get comfortable in its own skin. It began expanding what was already established in its world, and even added new elements on top of that. I’ll be revamping the season reviews a bit from the last one and, instead of breaking it up into sections, I’ll just kind of ramble on about the season as a whole.

First off, the humor and pacing this season became much more rounded and coherent. My biggest problem with season one is it could get a bit too juvenile and random in its approaches to humor. In season two, the writing focused a lot less on zany catchphrases and non-sequiturs and just focused on being funny, which it definitely succeeded at.

This season’s storyboard teams worked off of each other greatly! Season two introduced some of the most crucial writers on the Adventure Time crew, and some who work on the show even to this day. If I had to pick a team that I thought worked best together, it’d probably have to be Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar. The two definitely have an apparent chemistry with each other: Muto definitely has a clear vision of what’s important regarding the AT world, while Sugar understands the emotional complexity and the deeper layers of each lead character. The other teams were terrific as well: Kent Osborne and Somvilay Xayaphone helped create some of the zanier and more fun-focused episodes, Jesse Moynihan and Cole Sanchez began developing their own writing skills, and Ako Castuera and Tom Herpich had some of the most stylized work all season. Ako and Tom didn’t really have the best relationship as storyboard partners, but it’s great to see that creative differences within the staff don’t affect the actual quality of the episodes.

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As for story, the one main recurring theme revolves around honesty. Finn continues to battle with his feelings towards Bubblegum and struggles to be honest about them, Jake had to show his true self in order for the acceptance of his loved one’s parents, Marceline began to connect more with her real personality and became less focused on putting on her typical trickster facade, Bubblegum explicitly showed her affection for Finn throughout, and Ice King even began to ponder realizations about the cause of his unhappiness, and what he wants to do to improve it.

Finn continues to be an incredibly likable protagonist. Despite his goofiness, he is beginning to transition into his early teen years, and is starting to deal with more heavy handed issues that he typically isn’t accustomed to. Jake definitely began to grow into a more diverse character as well. My one complaint with the way Jake is written in the first season is that he seems a bit too similar to Finn, but this season begins to literally and metaphorically shape his character into someone with his own aspirations and view on life.

Additionally, Ice King and Marceline began to go through their own big transitions this season. Ice King is much less of a villain, which is a point where I really start to enjoy his character. It’s much more fun to watch him try to befriend Finn and Jake and fail than to watch his depiction as an ineffectual nemesis. As I had mentioned, Marcy has begun to connect more with her true self, which arguably lessens the wild and exciting aspects of her character, but leads to a chain of her complexity in return.

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Also, we begin to see a lot more BMO this season! It’s definitely a bit of a different portrayal of his character; he’s a bit more sassy and negligent, but not without his charms. It’s delightful to see a character that was practically irrelevant in the previous season have more screen-time, as he rightfully should.

If there’s one of the leads that kinda got the shaft this season, it’s Princess Bubblegum. She appears in a handful of episodes, yet I feel as though we barely learned anything that new about her character. Besides her connection with Finn, she’s just seen as cute and nice, and it’s a bit of a shame that we don’t get to see any of her darker aspects that would eventually unravel later on. That’s not to say she’s written badly, but she definitely pales in comparison to the developments of the rest of the cast.

Top 5 Best Episodes

5. Susan Strong – The introduction of a character that forever changed Finn’s intrigue when it comes to the existence of humans, and a beautifully explored depiction of their relationship.

4. The Eyes – A humorous episode focusing on the mere interactions between our two main characters, as well as another sympathetic look into the life of the Ice King.

3. Mortal Folly – A high stakes and action packed episode that introduces the big bad of the series, and is filled with heavy atmosphere and intense imagery.

2. Power Animal – An entertaining look at the life of Jake the Dog and the inner struggles he faces, including a great subplot featuring Finn.

1. It Came from the Nightosphere – A beautifully crafted episode that kicks off an entirely new feel to the style of Adventure Time, with an important exploration of Marceline’s character and big, wide-scope feel to it.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. Crystals Have Power – An enjoyable and funny, but relatively slow-paced episode with somewhat distractingly crude drawings throughout.

4. The Chamber of Frozen Blades – A nice subplot featuring Ice King and Gunther, but the Finn and Jake material never quite got off on its feet.

3. The Pods – A bit too formulaic of a plot for even AT to bring anything that unique to the table.

2. Video Makers – An episode that highlights one of the worst aspect of Finn and Jake’s relationship: the two arguing over petty nonsense.

1. Slow Love – One that focuses on a pretty unlikable main character, which brings down the entire episode as a result.

Final Consensus

Season two brought to the table some of the most enjoyably fun AT episodes. It’s not my personal favorite season, but I think it’s arguably the season with the least amount of problems in it. Great depictions of the lead characters, higher stakes, terrific writing, and colorfully pulpy animation on top of that. It’s a great continuation of what season one started, and probably what drew in the large following that Adventure Time began to have. It’s surely not the strongest in story or character-study wise, but it’s one that will go down in history as one of the most delightful adventures a viewer can experience.

“Mortal Folly” Review

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Original Airdate: May 2, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Heat Signature” Review

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Original Airdate: May 9, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Tom Herpich

Heat Signature is an oddball; it was supposed to be aired a week before the season two finale, but ended up being spontaneously dropped from the schedule that night and aired the week following Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil. On the DVD order, it’s placed directly before those two episodes. That being said, I still don’t think it’s in the right order! In the episode prior, Finn and Jake gather everyone together to watch Heat Signature 3, so unless the two boys were blatantly intending to screen Heat Signature’s second sequel in front of Marceline before she had even seen the first one protected by government law, I think there’s some sort of mix-up with production codes here. That aside, this is actually another one of those AT episodes I’ve probably seen the least. I actually didn’t watch it the first time it aired, and kinda thought the preview for it was just some weird fever dream I had for a little while. Much like Henchman though, it’s an episode that continues to develop Marceline’s character and actually outlines some major behavioral changes for the remainder of the series.

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I just really love this brief little scene of Finn tossing Jake up and down.

I think the premise is actually quite interesting. Finn, as we know, is pretty reckless and willing to throw himself at any opposing force, but it’s pretty crazy how willing he is to be permanently turned into a vampire and sacrifice his stance as the last human. Even Jake, whose fear of vampires has plagued him, is totally willing to get bitten. It actually sort of makes sense if you look at the big picture of his character: Jake’s aging process has burdened him for a large chunk of the series, and with both of his parents passing after a relatively short lifespan, the promise of immortality, along with the fact that he’ll be able to look after Finn and stay with Lady for longer periods of time, just might seem promising to him. It could also just be that being a vampire in modern Ooo is considered super grunge and hipster, I dunno.

Wendy, Booboo, and Georgy aren’t really that interesting. They’re typical bullies with nothing that new or fun about them, but the faux trials they put Finn and Jake through are pretty amusing. I always forget that this is the episode with Lumpy Space Princess and a can of beans (for some reason I usually remember it being in To Cut a Woman’s Hair), and that always gets a big kick out of me. Speaking of kicks, I like the scene where the ghosts brutally kick the shit out of Finn and Jake too. It’s so cruel, but there’s something so painfully funny about the two of them still going along with it. Yeah, Finn and Jake are a bit oblivious to what’s going on in this episode, but for the most part, I think it works. I’m glad they didn’t go the route of having Finn and Jake be super pissed at Marceline for “not believing in them” or some nonsense, the show keeps out any unnecessary drama involving the two boys.

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The only necessary drama we need to see is between Marceline and her friends. This is really a true testament of Marceline’s character, and one that sticks with her throughout the rest of the series. For the past two seasons, Marceline’s been portrayed more as a prankster and an anti-hero, but her time spent with Finn and Jake has had an effective result on her improving moral code. If this had been any other person in the past, I do believe Marceline would’ve went through with whatever her ghost friends had in mind. But Marcy’s time spent with Finn and Jake has opened her character up to new levels of understanding and compassion, and it’s really delightful to watch her develop a little more with each episode she’s featured in. I do feel as though Marceline’s character has been toned down a bit more significantly as of Heat Signature, but of course, these were different times. This is primarily the climax of Marceline’s teasing of Finn and Jake, as her character arc shifts focus from the main duo to Ice King and Bubblegum majorly in the next couple of seasons. I think it’s an appropriate ending for this type of relationship she shares, as it’s obvious that’s she’s gained a newfound respect for Finn and Jake that she previously didn’t have before.

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So yeah, it’s definitely a goodie. Terrific character expansions, some nice backgrounds and colors, and a decent obstacle to put Finn and Jake through. According to Pen Ward, the actual Heat Signature movie is an animated film in-universe because, if it was considered live action, it would debunk his original theory that Finn’s dotted eyes and lack of nose signify that he’s a mutant. I never bought into that theory… Finn is the Human, dammit! Sorry, Mr. Ward. Can’t stand by you on that one.

Favorite line: “What if we turn evil? I’ll have to start wearing cologne.”