Tag Archive | Polly Guo

“The Wild Hunt” Review

TWH 1.png

Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Erik Fountain, Polly Guo & Sam Alden

Here we are, folks! The beginning of the very last season of Adventure Time. A divisive season certainly, but one that I’m especially interested in tackling. Not only because I have a lot to talk about with these next 16 entries, but also because I’m revisiting a lot of these episodes for the very first time and I’m interested in seeing how exactly they hold up, or if they don’t at all from a first expectation. I was, at the very least, happy to see that one of my favorites from season nine, The Wild Hunt, is still just as enjoyable as I remember it being.

TWH 2.png

The episode opens in media res, which is a storytelling mechanism that I wasn’t particularly crazy about when it was used in Crossover, but one that fairs better here. I’m really not a fan of the narrative device in general, because I don’t think it adds much besides a cheap sense of early investment, but the grim and startling way that The Wild Hunt opens really carries through with the dark reality that Three Buckets set up for. It’s a much better opening for a season than Finn and PB wearing baseball uniforms would have been. Banana Guard bits are typically hit or miss, but that back-and-forth between the two at the beginning really got me. I think something about the quiet tone and lack of background score really carry it through. Usually just being dumb isn’t enough for the Banana Guards to get a laugh out of me, so the added element of fear really solidifies the execution. The entrance of the banana monster is similarly intimidating – one of the better monsters that AT has ever crafted. This quiet-but-deadly atmosphere is quickly transformed into high-stakes action when Jake and Finn (in their lovely banana disguises from The Thin Yellow Line!) revolt.

Finn’s moral dilemma and quasi-PTSD are what really carry this one through. One of the things I love about this one is how unforgiving it is with showing just how much poor Finn is suffering. Of course, it isn’t quite as bleak as some of his other ruts. He doesn’t sulk or turn to harmful behaviors, like he did in The Music Hole and Breezy, but instead chooses to distract himself with activities that he knows are likely to help or at least ease the pain, even if he knows that they aren’t likely to alleviate his issues completely. Nevertheless, the lad still struggles with internal issues that followed from his previous encounter with Fern. It’s such a shame, because there’s so many reasons as to why Finn shouldn’t feel guilty. The main reason being that Fern was legitimately planning to murder him, had Finn failed to protect himself, but also that Finn probably never intended to straight up kill Fern. It was PB’s voice command that unintentionally perceived Finn’s words as an order, and what caused Fern’s ultimate demise. Regardless, Finn still does feel this way and has even convinced himself that Fern is somewhat innocent. It’s easy to see why Finn empathizes with Fern so much, as Fern is just a alternate version of himself. The episode even goes through great lengths to show just how similar the two are; Finn mentions that he “dinked it” after failing to kill the Grumbo, which is terminology only used by Fern himself. And, while not a direct allusion, Finn’s own tendencies of self deprecation are apparent. Even sadder is Finn’s own choice to try and convince himself that his feelings of hesitation are completely unjust. Finn is empathetic and only ever turns to trashing his enemies when it’s absolutely necessary, so seeing him try to dismiss the fact that he doesn’t care at all about the intentions or history of his foes at all is really heartbreaking. He’s a sweet kid who unfortunately feels like he needs to suppress his core values in order to meet the expectations of others.

TWH 3.png

Finn’s inner conflict takes up most of the episode’s run, and his interactions with others are just as enjoyable. Jake plays such a hilariously sweet role during his short amount of screentime. As sympathetic as Finn’s story is, you almost feel equally bad for Jake. I’m sure he’s been as supportive and loving as a brother can be, but seeing as how it seems Finn’s lack of decisiveness has proven to be problematic several times before the Grumbo showed up, Jake has to speak up eventually. It reminds me a lot of Ocean of Fear – Jake will do anything to help his brother, but if it means getting royally fucked up in every way possible, he has his limits. The poor old geezer can’t seem to take a beating anymore.

What’s equally as fun is Huntress Wizard’s triumphant return! I really dug HW in her fleshed out debut during Flute Spell, and I think she might be even better here. As always, her character is very slyly quirky, offering up her usual charm of being as mysterious as possible. I don’t know how popular or unpopular of an opinion this is, but I do truly love HW and Finn working off of each other! They have legitimate chemistry, and it’s fun to see how far Finn has come since his days of adolescence. There’s clear signs that he’s still a bit awkward with women – his line of, “so, how ya been?” is definitely pushing on the more goofy and flirtatious side. But, he has fun with his own shortcomings and uses them to his advantage to actually seem more confident and relaxed in the long run. In general, Huntress Wizard seems much more content with her own being in this one. She actively wants to help Finn and doesn’t care if such behavior exposes herself as being emotionally vulnerable. Plus, she likely feels indebted to Finn after all he went through to help HW achieve her own form of enlightenment and closure back in Flute Spell. She even offers a decent bit of advice to Finn about how he likely did what he had to, but again, I don’t necessarily think good advice is something that is really beneficial for Finn in this situation. Even if he finds it logical, I don’t really think his brain is reacting from a logical standpoint in the first place.

TWH 4.png

The battle with the Grumbo is, without a doubt, one of the most beautifully animated sequences in the entire series. Storyboard supervisor Erik Fountain assisted Polly and Sam with the actual storyboard for this one, and his sequences are so detailed and clean that it translates terrifically into the animation process. Not to mention the amazing camera angles, character distortions, and squash-and-stretch that the general fluidity of the animation allows for. It all looks terrific, and it really helps the scene feel so much more tense and alive than it would have otherwise. Tense is a great way to describe a majority of this episode, but it still makes room for a lot of fun along the way. Namely, Finn getting his boy parts cooked and then sporting a Mickey Mouse-esque voice for his next line reading. That really killed me. One of the smartest decisions that The Wild Hunt makes, however, is the decision to not give Finn’s issue closure. Adventure Time is typically decent with showing how emotional pain can take time to heal, and I think it especially makes sense that Finn wouldn’t be able to get over his mental issues so quickly. As someone who lives with OCD and often battles with the lack of solutions to all-consuming anxiety, I felt that Finn’s failure to fix his mind was both understandable and relatable. But, he does temporarily solve his issue in the most clever way possible, by choosing not to focus on a resolution, but instead to fool his mind into benefiting himself and others in the end. It was a really neat way of showing how more complex issues aren’t so easily wrapped up in the course of 11 minutes.

Though, even if Finn is struggling with his own personal dilemmas, it is nice that he has the care and support from a nice dame regardless. I’ll admit, I did get a little fanboyish during HW and Finn’s moments together during the end. HW’s input of, “we both know you’re totally in love with me,” is so funny and cute! The kiss the two share is really sweet, and I’ve actually seen a lot of people debate on whether it was a cheek or mouth smooch. The way it’s framed maaay leave it up for debate, but I don’t really see any other implication that it wouldn’t be a kiss on the lips. It even adds to the moment where Finn inadvertently projects Finn’s image onto HW’s face. If I had to pick one flaw, or rather, an annoyance with this episode, it’s the fact that the Banana Guards are revealed to somehow still be alive by the end of this episode. It’s like, c’monnn, why would a ferocious creature like the Grumbo merely harm the Banana Guards and not just fuck up their lives completely? It feels like a decision that was made to be safe for the kiddies, but really, what little kids are even watching the show anymore? Cartoon Network wasn’t even advertising it. We also end on an overly hammy note with the second official appearance of the mustache-twirling villain himself, Uncle Gumbald. While I don’t think he ever lived up to his initial hype in the previous episode, this ending still does leave on a bit of a haunting note, with Fern’s dismembered body being pieced together into (at the time) God knows what.

TWH 5.png

But all-in-all, The Wild Hunt is so good! It’s fun, dramatic, and offers up some of the best visuals that the series has ever churned out. I knew we’d be getting more with Finn’s personal baggage after offing Fern, but I never expected we’d be getting it so soon after Three Buckets, considering that AT usually takes its sweet time with dealing with Finn’s emotional problems. However, Adventure Time is typically great when it does come to covering those issues, and this one is no exception. It never strays away from how tough and often hopeless mental health issues can be, but also cleverly showcases temporary solutions that can be made. Add a solid dynamic between Finn and Huntress Wizard and you’ve got yourself a truly stellar entry.

Favorite line: “I’m gonna make peace with my aging body.”

 

 

“Whispers” Review

W 1.png

Original Airdate: July 20, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

Whispers was a long-anticipated entry for myself, mainly because I had expected a major role from the Lich on two separate occasions prior: first was the season six finale, of which I figured would somehow involve the Lich’s relationship with the catalyst comet in general, and the season seven finale Preboot and Reboot, which I thought to be a reference to Jake’s line in Escape from the Citadel, “That sap rebooted him or something!” 83 episodes after Gold Stars, we finally get to see more into the dynamic between Sweet P. and the Lich, in a thoroughly satisfying entry… for the most part.

W 2.png

I actually think the best portion of this episode centers around Finn and Fern’s relationship. Fern is noticeably upset about the events of Elements and can’t seem to bring himself out of the funk of feeling useless in the grand scheme of things. It’s understandable why Fern would feel this way – even though it clearly wasn’t within his control, he still is overly critical and not a stranger to self loathing. What’s more interesting is that Finn doesn’t immediately invalidate Fern’s feelings and kind of goes along with it, telling him to “learn from his dinks.” I think this could be looked at one of two ways: 1. Finn knows that trying to sweet talk Fern is useless, given that he isn’t very susceptible to positive reinforcement. 2. Finn subconsciously still feels slightly concerned about Fern being a stronger and more influential version of himself (as elaborated on in Cloudy) and doesn’t want him to feel too empowered. The latter paints a more darker and selfish version of Finn’s character, but I think it’s all-the-more interesting if the two of them both experience feelings of inferiority towards each other. Their bond is certainly awkward, but similarly sweet. I like how, since Fern is essentially a duplicate version of himself, Finn can pinpoint exactly how to cheer his quasi-brother up with a simple “squoze.”

Fern alone is pretty much the highlight of the episode for me. His problem obviously isn’t that he just flat out sucks, but his preconceived expectation for failure and a general negative outlook prevent him from truly becoming a competent and successful hero. Finn goes through similar trials and tribulations throughout this episode, namely being vested and almost killed off entirely by the Lich, only to be saved by Sweet P. This is something that Finn could easily dwell on and use for self-destructive behavior, but he doesn’t. Fern, on the other hand, perceives any minor failure as affirmation that he’s awful. No matter how hard Fern tries to separate himself from Finn, he’ll always be reminded of who Finn truly is and that Fern will never be as well-regarded as he once knew in his distant memories. I really love how much the writing staff took advantage of Fern’s inferiority and didn’t choose to fully resolve his arc in Do No Harm. Some would call Fern’s arc as a villain somewhat of a predictable turn given that it’s a common trope among clone stories in film and television, but I feel as if it’s unique enough in this situation to work. Without trying to sound redundant, Fern is Finn, but that unfortunately means that he can’t be Finn and will never be regarded as highly as his counterpart. This partially has to do with Fern’s preconception of himself, as well as the element of reality playing a part too. Some of these failures are played straight for dramatic effect, while others are more humorous. I love how his suggestion to help Sweet P. involved mercilessly murdering him.

W 3.png

I didn’t really think Sweet P. had much of a character in his original star role during Gold Stars, but Whispers plays around with his identity and connection to the Lich much more effectively. Similar to Fern’s connection to Finn, I like how Sweet P. isn’t simply a “vessel” for the Lich as suggested and actually exists as his own independent being. Granted, he’s a child, and doesn’t know a ton about forming his own identity. But, from the simple mind of a child, Sweet P. knows that he wants to be good and to do good things, quite separate from the Lich’s desire for ultimate destruction. This is the last Lich centered episode of the series, and I was originally kind of opposed to the idea that Sweet P.’s arc is resolved in a much lighter and simpler way than expected, but I think it’s kind of fitting considering Adventure Time‘s main theme of change that the ultimate evil within the world of Ooo becomes the ultimate source of goodness and innocence. It’s such a drastic twist that seemed kind of cheap in its inception during Escape from the Citadel, but now I think it’s a change that feels quite endearing on a developmental level. Granted, I can’t help but feel slightly cheated by how much the show built up the Lich over the years, even in recent seasons, but I’ve grown accustomed to the concept that what ultimately killed the greatest source of death and evil in the world was a source of life and righteousness. It’s a simple, yet light-hearted decision that I can get behind. Sweet P.’s presence in this episode is benefited greatly by how Finn acts around him. I love how much of a sweet caretaker he is, even getting to bond with the toddler over having a shitty dad! That was a terrific edition. It also helps that Sweet P. isn’t really meant to be taken completely seriously throughout this one’s run – Sam Alden and Polly Guo have a lot of fun with how massive Sweet P. is, mainly when he tosses himself down the sewer and crushes everything in sight. It’s a fantastic bit of slapstick.

Now, I really like Whispers for the reasons I mentioned above and will mention below, but I think it’s important to discuss the biggest issue with this episode, which is kind of a big one: from a character standpoint, this is the Lich’s weakest entry to date. I’m almost glad this is his last appearance, because I think this episode is a clear sign that he may have outlived his usefulness. The Lich, plain and simple, isn’t scary or intimidating in this episode. There was a time where he really would feel like the big bad he was designed to be, providing a level of intensity and uncomfortable feelings that’s unique to his character only. Even in a bad episode, like Gold Stars, the Lich is able to add substance and atmosphere that nearly justifies the entire episode’s existence. But here, he kind of just feels like a stock bad guy. I thought Finn’s “oh boy, here we go,” in Crossover was a hilarious nod to show how he is pretty used to dealing with the Lich by now, but all of the little nods in this episode, which are funny, just kind of downplay the Lich more and more to where I kind of feel as if there aren’t any stakes at hand at all. It’s really disappointing to say because the Lich is one of those great villains that typically adds so much whenever he’s on screen, but this just kind of feels like overkill. I think the Farmworld Lich hand was a cool twist that I never expected to come back, but the silliness of the hand talking also kind of kills any creepy or threatening vibes in the air. The Lich’s dialogue isn’t particularly engaging either… I think they made Ron Perlman say “child” a few too many times to where it just feels somewhat comical. The one aspect that stands out with the Lich’s presence is that he mentions himself as “the last scholar of Golb” which is interesting, to say the least. I do wonder if this implies a more two dimensional side of the Lich that wasn’t entirely evil before absorbing the knowledge and tendencies of an ultimate evil. Golb is a character that we begin seeing more of from this point on, and this was a great starting point. Otherwise, I was pretty ready to move on from the Lich’s character. People often complained about the Lich only appearing after a handful of episodes, but I think it was the best decision to keep his character intimidating. Otherwise, he’s no more threatening than Orgalorg is.

W 4.png

While the Lich himself isn’t scary in Whispers, the atmosphere, environment, and ambiance suit it nicely. The quiet nature of the forest was a terrific location to build up fear and concern, while the return of the abandoned subway station and the Lich’s well of power carry through that build up in the most invigorating and intense way. Sweet P.’s dialogue continues to be creepy because of its stilted nature, namely when he describes the terrifying nightmares that he’s been having. Even the shadows of the Lich and Sweet P., while slightly silly, provide a bit of a creepy demise for the Lich and a threatening feeling overall. The rest of Whispers looks gorgeous; once again, Ghostshrimp is back at it providing more memorable landscapes, namely the fishing pond that is also a graveyard. The lighting and shifting of the time of day similarly allow for some really beautiful colors and shading to shine through.

It also helps that Whispers is thoroughly hilarious. Whether it be Finn’s back-and-forths with Fern (apparently Fern doesn’t have tree senses, hm), Mr. Fox’s cranky discovery, Jake’s morbid voicemail, or Sweet P.’s uncanny nature, there’s a lot of funny moments packed in this one, especially on Sam Alden’s side of the board. Whispers ends on the stressful and ambiguous note that Fern wants to become the only Finn in Ooo. Sweet P. chose to shape his own destiny, but in Fern’s case, that isn’t exactly the simple route for just everyone. ‘Specially when you have an evil grass octopus living inside of you.

Aside from my gripes with the Lich aspects, Whispers did its job in being both thoroughly entertaining, and a solid entry for development. It still is strange to me that the Lich’s final appearance is just a standard 11 minute episode, but like I mentioned, I guess it’s for the best. The Lich was designed to be the big bad during the show’s initial inception, and I don’t really think anyone expected for Adventure Time to run as long as it did. The sad truth is that the Lich simply had too many opportunities to shine, and isn’t able to recreate the same magic that he was capable of at the beginning of the series. He’s a character that is deservedly retired, for better or worse.

W 5.png

Favorite line: “I can’t come to the phone right now. I’m either hanging with Finn, my kids, my G.F., or I’m dead. Bye!”

“Happy Warrior” Review

HW 1

Original Airdate: April 26, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

The Elementified Fire Kingdom may just be my favorite of the four kingdoms we get to visit! I think it’s definitely the most interesting on a thematic level, without a doubt. While the Ice and Slime Kingdom’s environments were met with resistance and refusal from the boys, tendencies towards rage and anger are not as easily combated. I don’t know if anger is technically easier to fall into than sadness, but it’s definitely more tempting, especially when faced with Flame Princess’s history prior. FP’s initial development was centered entirely around her struggle between her own morality and her tendencies towards destructiveness. Here, Finn ends up going through the exact same thing, and it’s a lot of fun to see the little guy battle between his own abilities of self-control.

HW 2

I don’t know what it is about Lumpy Space Princess’s portrayal throughout this miniseries, but she’s waaay funnier than she usually is. I think it might have something to do with the fact that her lack of concern and self-centered nature is such a sharp contrast from the literal apocalypse that is going on around her that I can’t help but laugh. I typically don’t like when her self-absorbed nature is used strictly to inconvenience those around her, but I find her efforts to be, at the very least, charmingly destructive. Even when she’s shown to be destroying Finn’s phone, it’s only because she doesn’t want him to suffer from losing Jake. It’s kind of sweet in a somewhat aggressive way.

The Fire Kingdom looks AWESOME. The FK was already pretty chaotic and colorful in nature, so it’s really cool that, instead of choosing to expand on what was already in existence, the background designers went with something entirely different. Instead of being permeated with red and orange schemes, the Fire Kingdom goes for a more hushed, yet desolate blend of blue, white, gray, and black (along with the purple flame shield that really helps to make Finn, Gunter, and LSP pop!). Happy Warrior is also equipped with some more stellar cameos, and some of the most obscure yet, such as Fire Wyatt (who is just as whiny as ever) and the long awaited return of one of my favorite side characters, Flambo! The staff definitely had a lot of fun with the designs on this one, with Wyatt’s sick armor and Flambo’s overly-comical get-up. Of course, this episode also introduces my favorite of the elementified characters – Lady Flamicorn! Her design is just so rad, as her long-flowing hair has shifted into the blue flames that embody the majority of the kingdom. In general, it’s a really neat idea that they decided to take such a sweet character such as Lady and turn her into a vengeful beast – it’s probably the most drastic shift out of ANY of the AT crew. It’s also sweet how Finn considers Lady to be “like family.” Even after being downgraded to such a tertiary role within the series, Lady’s presence still feels significant.  There’s lots of great gags spread throughout these sequences as well. I’ve missed Gunther’s role as a simple temperamental penguin, and it’s a lot of fun to see his unpredictable nature in play. Of course, it raises the question as to why he was affected but Sweet P. wasn’t, to which I have two suggestions: 1. The Gunther that is featured here isn’t the same penguin that embodies Orgalorg. 2. I dunno, maybe the writing staff just didn’t think about it? The latter is a bit harsh, as it’s just another one of those gimmicky Elements moments that doesn’t really make a ton of sense, but is still fun and not entirely distracting in the long run.

HW 3

Cinnamon Bun also returns in this one, and man, I never get tired of some badass CB. The lines provided for him in this episode are too suave, and Dee Bradley Baker reads them off with such poise. It’s also just neat to picture Cinnamon Bun in such a position where he’s one of the last survivors during the collapse of society. From the guy who previously almost started a zombie apocalypse five seasons earlier, that’s a hugely impressive feat. He’s obviously not a full-blown hero like Finn, as he doesn’t attempt to necessarily fix anything, but his cold, detached, loner type self makes him all the more intriguing as a guardian and protector. He even managed to control an elementified Jake 2!

Like Bun BunHappy Warrior is riddled with tiny Finn and FP developmental moments. I love Finn reflecting on his past relationship with her knowing (or at least thinking) he could get through to her, while also acknowledging that he’s completely happy with having a platonic friendship that he worked so hard to achieve. LSP also has some great comic relief moments in feeling like an overly invested member of the fandom, as she hounds Finn about Flame Princess and repeatedly addresses anything that is happening as it’s happening. Somewhat reminiscent of Padparadscha.

HW 4

Flame Princess’s dragon form is also pretty dope in its uniqueness. While PB, Patience, and Slime Princess all have undergone minor design changes to where they are still recognizable, FP’s shift is the most drastic and most complex. It’s quite profound to me that Finn, who has done a terrific job at managing his anger and rage throughout the run of the episode, is only transformed into a beast after his plans to save Jake are ruined. Elements really has to be the best Finn-Jake arc of the entire series, as it really does its best at showing us just how much Finn and Jake care for each other in various different ways. Finn’s able to stay calm and caring, but once his brother is messed with, he’s unable to suppress the rage within him.

LSP’s method of getting the attention of every fire person is quite funny, but I also found it to be slightly sad for some reason. I thought her question of “why isn’t everyone more like me?” felt like an inquiry of desperation more than anything. LSP has been rejected time and time again (and just recently in Slime Central) and I feel as though this was of an implication of her failure to relate to others more than anything. Of course, I could be reading way too far into things, but we wouldn’t have a blog if I didn’t, now would we?? The ending leaves off on a cliffhanger that of course follows through in the very next episode. Not much to say about it here, aside from the hilarious mention of “Wyatt?” as LSP calls out to her friends.

Happy Warrior is fun and visually stunning. Certainly the best looking episode of the bunch (though not by much!) and just as equally hilarious and interesting. As I said, I really dig the back-and-forth between chaos and control that Finn experiences within this episode, and LSP provides some much needed comic relief between the sections of rage and terror. Also, with its terrific cameos and characterization, it’s one of the strongest of the miniseries, and definitely one of the most enjoyable at that.

HW 5

Favorite line: “My wolf is also a loner. We are both loners!”

“Skyhooks” Review

SH 1

Original Airdate: April 24, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Polly Guo

Interesting aspect to note before I start this one off: Niki Yang is not listed anywhere in the end credits. How odd! I can’t think of a single other time I’ve noticed an error like this. Sorry Niki, you know we love your voicework.

Anywho, it’s Elements time! While Islands branded itself mostly as a big, emotional journey, Elements certainly taps into AT’s absurdity more than anything. This is definitely the weirdest miniseries of the three, but I don’t use that term to patronize it in any way. Elements still carries with it the strengths of its predecessors; it manages to feel like one big, grand adventure, and after coming straight off of the heels of Islands, I think it’s especially impressive. It might even rival Islands for best miniseries. But I’m getting ahead of myself… for now, we have Skyhooks! A simple, yet pretty enjoyable opening that works off of what made The Invitation just as enjoyable: stellar character interactions. Being introduced to the new entities that embody well-known characters is a ton of fun, and also comes with a surprising amount of weight that carries through in several different story arcs for the remainder of the series.

SH 2

Skyhooks is an episode that establishes itself very quickly while also taking its time in the process, which is pretty evident during the first few minutes alone. I like how the episode allows for moments where Finn and Jake are clearly realizing something isn’t right within Ooo. That slow pan of Jake walking is just as atmospheric as it is kind of haunting. The two boys are carelessly entering a completely warped version of their home without even (fully) realizing it. Finn, of course, has some idea of things going awry, as his observant self typically does, while Jake shuts him down. It’s pretty apparent that Jake notices these changes as well, but in typical Jake fashion, he would rather ignore the potential of dangerous truths and simply tries alleviate Finn’s worries in the process, like a good caretaker does.

Jake’s calming attitude can’t keep Finn at ease for long, as the discovery of the candified Tree Fort leaves the boys in utter awe. The candy versions of Fern, NEPTR, and Shelby are all just freakin’ adorable and look terrific. Really wish AT didn’t slow down on the merchandising front at this point in time, coz you know I’d totally splurge on Elementified versions of the crew. This is also, to my knowledge, the only time in the series the entire Tree Fort family is together in one place! Of course, they aren’t their usual selves, but it’s still an endearing thought regardless.

sh 3

The way the boys individually perceive their altered friends is a lot of fun. I love how Jake openly calls out how lame some alternate dimensions stories truly are; all I could think about was the particularly bland and uninteresting first few issues of the AT: Season 11 comic series. BMO’s strange fascination with his new surroundings (I’m assuming it’s mainly because it’s bright and colorful) is also really enjoyable, considering that he doesn’t once question anything. He’s also opined that he’s going to start treating NEPTR (er, NECTR) as an equal because of it, which is also a hilarious sentiment. Finn, as expected, isn’t as easily swayed by his new home and roommates. I like how the show doesn’t stray away from Finn’s more defensive side as he initially scolds Fern (er, Fun) for the damages left to his household, and Ooo in general. I don’t think Finn is necessarily upset directly at Fun, but I can imagine he’s entirely stressed out about what he allowed to have happened in his absence. Of course, it’s shown later that it’s almost lucky that Finn and Jake had stepped out at the time, but I can easily see how Finn would immediately jump to the conclusion that he fucked up for leaving his friends and former home in such a state. Though, once again, this doesn’t phase Jake.

The episode has a lot of fun with Finn and Jake’s dynamic in this episode, and I always like how the writers never single out Finn’s POV as the necessary “right” option. Jake does have a solid point: Fern is typically in utter turmoil, NEPTR lives a life of neglect, Lemongrab (who has now transformed into the somewhat more terrifying “Lemonpink) is, for once in his entire life, actually happy and sociable. It brings the main question at hand that is a recurring theme among the civilians of the Candy Kingdom in general: should people that do not want to change have to change? It seems like an obvious answer; Fern, Lemongrab, and many others should be allowed the free will that they aren’t necessarily given within their altered forms, and even though they are “happier,” they still aren’t living that way by choice, or even their own method of thinking. But again… they are happier, and that’s always the most difficult argument to battle with: is it better for people to be happy or self-aware? I don’t think it’s something that has to be mutually exclusive, but the happiness portrayed in Elements is clearly an extreme that needs to be addressed.

sh 4

The clear turning point of Jake’s perspective is when he recognizes the legitimate danger of the new Candy citizens. Sweet P., who has been gone for well over 50 episodes (surprised he doesn’t have a manlike, deep voice by now), is left without actual caregivers since Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig have been turned into utter nightmares. Granted, TT and Mr. P probably weren’t the best parents to begin with, buuuut they were marginally better than what was displayed here, and the desire to “change” anyone who does not fall into the social norms of the Kingdom is an upsettingly creepy concept. The cute and sweet cult-like environment of candified Ooo certainly isn’t an idea that’s exclusive to Adventure Time, but I think they handled it relatively well by knowing when to make things terrifying and when to keep things genuinely cute.

Speaking of genuinely cute, I love the inclusion of Finn mentioning his “late night bedtime calls” with Jake when he’s at Lady’s. It’s such a sweet notion. I can imagine half of those calls are just completely silent while Finn and Jake do some other kind of menial task, like play video games, cook food, or something else, but they just enjoy the idea of having each other there while they’re doing it. I love those bros. It does give me a bit of a sad though; I feel like Jake leaving his phone behind meant that he likely didn’t get any texts from his children, or at least as many as he was hoping for. Or, on a less sad note, maybe it’s Prismo. We do get to see him partying later on, so maybe Jake just ain’t his main squeeze for that type of stuff anymore.

sh 5

And, once more on the topic of adorable, I loooove Marshmaline’s design! Someone on Etsy actually whipped up a felt version of her, which looks absolutely lovely! Unfortunately it’s $70 and out of my minuscule pay range. If only I got paid in obscure AT merchandise for my blogging efforts. Anywho, the sequence leading up to Finn and Jake’s arrival on PB’s tower is serenaded by Marshy, who hums “Greensleeves,” or “What Child is This?” for the 90% of people who more likely know it by that name. Like most of these small, but prominent AT moments, this one has been up for several different interpretations. There’s a solid UncivilizedElk video on it, which kind of knocks my theory out of the park. I mostly saw it as a way to show Marshmaline’s disconnection from using music as an emotional platform. While the lyrical interpretations of “Greensleeves” lean on its message of heartbreak and desolation, Marshmaline hums the tune in utter euphoria. While sad tunes still seem to exist within the candified remnants of Ooo, it’s quite apparent that Marshmaline lacks the raw material and attitude to effectively embody these tunes as she used to. It’s simple, but I think it still holds up a bit.

Perhaps the most hilariously horrifying entity in Ooo is PB, who personifies a giant tower, and even has tiny, cute T-Rex arms to articulate with. Finn’s anger and disgust with PB is also apparent here, and I wonder if he truly recognizes that it isn’t actually her in the moment. To be fair, PB isn’t always the best in balancing logic with emotions, and has tried to build on the Candy Kingdom’s territory on more than one occasion. That anger could also be reflected at Finn’s ability to recognize the changes that PB has gone through in recent years to become a better person, and likely wonders if she’s truly decided to go back on her policies. It isn’t till Ice King comes to the rescue with his skyhooks (a nice callback to Elemental) that Finn and Jake truly recognize the severity of the dilemma that they’re experiencing.

sh 6

Couple nitpicks with this one, that might honestly be nitpicks aimed towards the miniseries as a whole: Finn and Jake are a bit negligent for the purpose of moving the story forward in this episode, to the point where they leave an unattended child in utter terror (Sweet P.) and their own child of whom they don’t really blink twice at over his loss. I get that there’s plenty of other people that Finn and Jake are close to that they also need to save, but I feel like BMO’s too close to the comrades to the point where they should be a bit more affected by completely forgetting about him. Only thing that resolves my issue with it is the idea that BMO really doesn’t give a fuck about being transformed to begin with, so maybe it was for the best at the time. Also, the whole idea that every elementified Ooo citizen now has a name that’s more appropriate to their state of being is a little gimmick-y. Who’s even giving them these names, and why are their forms always so coincidentally close to their name or identity? To harp on this would just show what a joyless, twisted person I am, so I really don’t have a legitimate complaint here. It’s gimmick-y, but enjoyably gimmick-y at that.

Otherwise, Skyhooks is pretty great! It’s not only another great showcase of solid character interactions, but also a great showcase for Ooo in general. So many various players within the Land of Ooo show up throughout this miniseries, it’s amazing! I don’t even think the finale was able to pull off such a feat. Skyhooks is also a visual treat as well, along with the seven episodes that come after it, making beauty out of the most horrid and twisted of situations. It’s a great and funny start to Elements that sets things up nicely.

sh 7

Favorite line: “Just sit tight there like a windowpane, and you’ll be back to normal like a windowpane.”

“The Invitation” Review

TI 5.png

Original Airdate: January 30, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

We’re finally at Islands, folks! These next bunch of episodes are big ones, and answer some of the most sought-after AT questions from the past few years. Without a doubt, this was the miniseries I was the most excited for. While I could get behind the hype of Stakes, I’m much more invested in Finn’s character than I am with Marceline at this point in the series (though I still do love Marcy), and couldn’t wait to unravel some of the deeper mysteries surrounding Finn’s character, including where he came from, the status of his people, and how his abandonment came into play. But, I’m getting ahead of myself… my full length overview of the Islands miniseries will be released once we get through all eight episodes. For now, we have the episode that started it all, The Invitation! While I’ve been fairly critical of “setup” episodes in the past, such as Finn the Human and Marceline the Vampire QueenThe Invitation is pretty much the perfect example of a setup episode. Not only is it rifled with an array of various different major and minor characters and terrific interactions between them, but in general, The Invitation feels big. Finn, Susan, Jake, and (possibly) BMO embark on a grand adventure full of huge possibilities, and the episode doesn’t once stray way from showing how crucial and potentially risky this whole expedition really is.

ti 1

The beginning of the episode doesn’t hesitate to jump right into things, as we get a bit of a prelude to the story of the miniseries as a whole through the interactions of a girl and her doll. The setting for these first few minutes is a little odd to me… the Beach has never been shown to be an attraction for residents, as I always just assumed the Candy People didn’t have a reason to sit out, tan, and soak around in the water for any reason. It’s still a little weird to me, but I’m alright with it, just because it does seem like a perfect place for Mr. Cupcake to relax and flex his muscles. His sequence at the beginning is quite humorous, and hey, apparently his name is Todd? I always assumed that his first name was “mister.” Does this mean that Old Mr. Creampuff has a real name as well? (Edit: I just noticed that this is a reference to A Glitch is a Glitch, where he is referred to as Todd. What a callback!)

The silliness continues when we cut back to our main boys, who are shopping in preparation for an upcoming funeral. For anyone who hasn’t seen an episode of Adventure Time before, I feel like Jake’s line of “we’re gonna look awesome for this funeral!” sums up perfectly the balance of wackiness and darkness within the world of AT. The scenes in which Finn, Jake, and various other guardians of the Candy Kingdom protect against the emissary from Founder’s Island are high-energy fun. It’s pretty apparent by the presentation that the Founder’s Aircraft is quite powerful, though not entirely from my perspective, because by this point in time, the Gumball Guardians being defeated by anyone and everyone is nothing new. It’s essentially their birthright. This episode also debuts Finn’s new sword, which is unarguably his lamest sword to date. Not even entirely sure where it came from – it looks nearly identical to Rattleballs’, which was seen previously used by Finn in Do No Harm, but I do wonder how it was acquired by Finn himself. Perhaps Rattleballs chose to retire from swordsmanship after the events of Reboot and gave his sword to Finn? Not that it really matters, but it does interest me.

TI 2.png

I mentioned some really great character interactions within this episode, and yeah, it’s chock full of ’em. I love Jake immediately smashing the aircraft right before Finn is able to retrieve answers, as Finn presumably tries so hard to lash out at his best friend in frustration and simply accepts the results of what happened. I feel like this sequence could be used to represent the relationship between the series and its viewers quite accurately. I do enjoy how Finn has let go of some of the guilt he has held against himself so critically in reference to what happened with Susan. He simply apologizes briefly once more, and let’s things go from there. There’s really nothing more he can do to change what has already happened, after all. Similarly, I love how cold-hearted PB is in this episode. She’s not particularly close with Susan, and likely holds her accountable for harming Finn and Jake so brutally. She does a really great job of playing the part of the protective momma bear in this episode, even cuddling BMO as if she were her baby. That was straight-up adorable! I do think Finn’s reasoning for joining Susan is quite appropriate given that he likely doesn’t want the people around him to worry about what’s truly going on inside of his head. He’s old enough at this point and feels as though he doesn’t want people to go out of their way to worry about him, but of course, he isn’t really fooling anyone. Jake is there to support him, like always, but isn’t always assertive in trying to make Finn react emotionally to any given situation. Momma-Bear PB, on the other hand, knows something else is up. Also, there are some really nice storyboard moments within this episode. Love the way Alden made Finn play with and stretch out his bottom lip when scanning over the map of the Islands.

The scenes to follow are shot beautifully, and filled with some great interactive moments. I loved Finn’s heart-to-heart with Fern upon the top of the Tree Fort. I truly did not expect to see Fern again so soon, but I really love that, of all characters, this episode took the time to have Finn bid farewell to him as well. This is especially sweet on Finn’s part; Fern’s self-esteem is likely in a bit of a pit after realizing that he truly isn’t who he believed himself to be as he sits in the shadows of his former self. With Finn’s proposal, Fern finally gets the chance to claim his own identity, and also to get some attention as the designated hero of Ooo. Their bonding is really nice, especially with Fern’s “thanks for trusting me.” I love that sweet grass boy. Not to mention, their completely awkward handshake. Even with all of the nice interactions they do have, it’s totally unsurprising that they’re still awkward around each other. How could they not be? It was real nice to see Charlie again, and it’s also cool to see once more how the pups deal with their own insecurities in relation to their father. Charlie’s not really living the most glamorous life, and probably feels ashamed that Jake is (apparently) seeing her this way. It’s always cool to see the unique, differing perspectives that each pup has toward their dad. And of course, Jake’s goodbye to Lady really melts me. I love Jake’s expression during this scene, it really emphasizes just how much he cares for her. The icing on the cake is what Lady’s response translates to: “Don’t worry too much about me and just go be a good big brother.” D’aww. Even NEPTR gets to give a little goodbye to his creator, without the company of Shelby, who I can only imagine was unconscious from a long night of partying.

TI 3.png

PB’s cold-hearted, motherly nature does go a bit to the extreme when she almost seems angry at Finn for leaving on this journey in general, but again, you can totally sense where her overprotective attitude is coming from. It’s a really well-drawn sequence: I love how, during the lecture, Finn barely makes eye-contact with PB at all. Again, he’s likely trying to put off feeling emotional about the series of events in general, and doesn’t want to make a big deal about anything, despite his true intentions that PB can easily see through. Luckily Fern intervenes before things can get too heavy between them, as Finn says his goodbyes and the four set off on their journey. I do like Marceline being there, though I wish she did interact with Finn a bit more before his departure. Her shutting PB the fuck up was funny, however, and it got a little kick out of me to see her overtly flirting with Susan.

Overall, The Invitation is pretty great, and I’d even call it a potential strong-point of the miniseries. Like I mentioned, this episode is just so great at showing how important this trip really is, how tough some of these goodbyes are, and how much fun the writers can have while covering all of it. It perfectly captures the excitement I was feeling for the miniseries in general, and does not disappoint with hyping up that excitement even further. Marceline the Vampire Queen, the premiere of the Stakes miniseries, felt like it was more focused on executing really over-the-top and forced bits of humor, while The Invitation focuses on just the right amount of humor within its interactions and also reminds us why we should care about this story to begin with. Even in its first entry, The Invitation gives me enough of a reason to care about each individual goodbye that sets these characters further on their journey into the unknown.

TI 4.png

Favorite line: “You got this, Finn Mertens. You’re a buff, little, bionic baby!”

“The Music Hole” Review

TMH 1.png

Original Airdate: June 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Andres Salaff

It was really only a matter of time before Adventure Time took on a “Battle of the Bands” themed episode. Music, for the most part, has been a crucial part of AT’s identity. I know people who have never seen a single episode of the series, yet are able to sing “Bacon Pancakes” in full. Adventure Time is far from the first animated series to heavily incorporate music into its content; hell, musical cartoons date back to the beginning of animation as an art form, with the early renditions of Silly Symphonies and Merrie Melodies marketing their brand specifically around the combination of animation and music. I will say, however, that AT is perhaps the first mainstream cartoon to rely on the plot device of utilizing music in order for characters to let their emotions loose. This is shown most prominently between seasons two and four; we get to see Finn serenade his new friend in Susan Strong, Marceline unravel her true feelings towards Bubblegum in What Was Missing?, Gumball croon about his passion for Fionna in Fionna & Cake, and so on. I overall disagree with the notion that Adventure Time hit any form of seasonal rot within the past two seasons, but I will say that, if any aspect derailed, it would have to be that musical element. Rebecca Sugar was pretty much the key-driver of this musical movement, and once she departed, Steven Universe became the flagship series for emotional and well-written song sequences. That’s not to say that Adventure Time hasn’t had any catchy melodies in the past few years – “Food Chain” from the episode of the same name remains one of the best tunes that the show has ever put out, and I really loved the soft medley that Breezy had to offer. But overall, there were more misses than hits, and it really felt as though the show was lacking in what was once one of its most prominent trademarks. The Music Hole is somewhat of a return to those old trademarks, by not only basing an entire episode around music, but also the notion of channeling the sadness and heartache within one’s self into something creative and beautiful as a means of coping. In typical AT fashion, that something is music.

TMH 2.png

It’d be one thing if this episode was just jam-packed with songs for the sake of it, but hey, the songs in Music Hole are actually pretty good! Of course, that’s also keeping in mind that a lot of the songs that are featured in this episode aren’t original, but that’s actually kind of cooler to me. It feels like a real, authentic Battle of the Bands in that way, and I think it’s kind of nice that some indie artists and bands like Mitski and Lake probably got a lot more attention from outside audiences because of this episode. This isn’t the first time that an AT episode has included somewhat of product placement for LAKE, and I honestly think it’s a really sweet love letter to the band that they continue to give them publicity because of their role in creating AT’s outro. The original songs are pretty decent as well. I actually really dug the small portion of Susan’s song that we got to hear (leave it to Susan Strong to come back after a 130 episode absence, and then disappear for another 50 episodes) and NEPTR and Flame Princess’s rap was cute and fun as far as FP raps go, which usually aren’t very good or entertaining. At the very least, it’s an appropriate place for her to dish such a tune. The licensed songs also work greatly with the characters that present them. “Francis Forever” might be one of my favorite Marceline songs to date, and I think it’s also because it’s one of the few more recent Marcy songs to not have super obvious subtext behind it. Like, I can listen to this song without hearing the screams of dozens of Bubbline fans that the lyrics are referring entirely to her feelings for PB. That’s always a plus. Also can’t help but join the fun of Ice King interrupting the event by singing “Do The Boogaloo” while dancing along with Gunter. I’m usually not a fan when the series uses well-known licensed songs just for the hell of it, but this example is one that only Ice King could pull off so well.

This episode isn’t only jam-packed with songs, however. It’s also filled to the brim with as many main and secondary characters as possible, and it really just leaves me in awe! Is there a single episode that features all of the main cast and most of the secondary characters in one area together? It’s somewhat of a solo feat for this episode that is only matched by the series finale itself. In general, it opens up for a lot of fun interactions. I thought the LSP, Marceline, and Death trio was awesome, not only because it shows that LSP and Marcy are still close friends, but because LSP is actually a competent drummer, and has no problem taking on a secondary part in the band! The girl’s come a long way. Even just the implication that Ice King was likely asked by Princess Bubblegum to be a bouncer for the Battle of the Bands is an extremely sweet sentiment.

TMH 3.png

But I’m getting ahead of myself a lot, because the main focus of this episode is clearly not the Battle of the Bands. Instead, the episode revolves mostly around Finn in a deep state of depression after the breaking of his Finn sword. It is a bit of a strange continuity burp that Finn seemed pretty much fine in Bun Bun, Normal Man, and Elemental and now he’s in such a sudden area of despair that he can’t even move from one place to another. I’ve seen two theories about Finn’s behavior from episode to episode: one is that the production number of The Music Hole indicates that it was supposed to be aired directly after I Am a Sword, before Bun Bun and Normal Man. While I’m truthfully not entirely educated on how production numbers actually translate into the airing process, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that this theory is wrong, because Flame Princess’s role in The Music Hole doesn’t really make much sense without Bun Bun coming before it. The second theory is that Finn was repressing his feelings in the three episodes that preceded The Music Hole, but truthfully, I think that’s too far of a stretch. I think the real answer is just simply that the staff wanted to tell different stories in the meantime in which Finn was required to be a confident hero. So it’s definitely a bit unusual to go into this one accepting it as a direct follow-up of I Am a Sword when there was nothing to suggest that Finn was actually affected by the issue prior, but despite this, it’s still easy to get fully emerged in Finn’s depression once the episode gets going.

Despite everything the lad has been through, he still finds himself unable to cope with heavy bouts of depression. He’s been able to gather ideas about how to effectively use other activities to divert from the stressors surrounding himself, but when it comes to dealing with issues head on, it takes a bit of time for him to realize that he can’t just simply sit in his own swamp of raw emotions. That’s why I think it’s so sweet that he has guardians like PB and Jake to watch over him. PB and Jake aren’t exactly the most efficient when dealing with Finn’s emotional problems; The Tower featured both Bonnie and Jake coming up with methods of alleviating the pain that Finn was experiencing, and while their support is apparent, the execution of their methods was slightly ineffective, or at worst, more damaging in the long run. Thus, they aren’t really sure how to deal with the situation. Hell, how could anyone? It’s easy to feel the weight and urgency of Finn’s pain, but as I mentioned in my review of I Am a Sword, it’s impossible to understand what he’s going through because it’s a situation that’s strictly personal. But, with any feelings of negativity, often any kind of distraction can be a positive one, which is what PB and Jake realize when they decide to execute “Plan C”: a Battle of the Bands starring the citizens of Ooo. Again, it’s something small and by no means psychological, but it is something positive and light that can help divert Finn’s attention onto something outside of his rut. And it does work, for the most part! While the bags that are drawn under Finn’s eyes indicate that he is still experiencing negative feelings and hasn’t solved his issue completely, he is genuinely enjoying himself and having a good time.

TMH 4.png

Though, often with emotional problems, you can never distract yourself completely from said problems. Distractions can do wonders when helping one cope and live a healthy lifestyle, but they aren’t necessarily dealing with the issue. Finn ultimately still has the loss of his Finn Sword to deal with, and while he doesn’t identify with that at first, he makes this discovery upon meeting the Music Hole. In another sweet love letter, Music Hole is voiced by Ashley Eriksson, the founder of LAKE. Music Hole is an delightful and intriguing specimen that helps to teach Finn a valuable lesson. She’s a very sympathetic and tragic character, left to an eternity of being a bystander with no chance of activism. Though, it seems that she does have a deep understanding of morality, the inner feelings of people, and the acceptance of status regardless. While being essentially doomed, Music Hole accepts her role in the world the best way that she can: by channeling her sadness and isolation into her music. It’s also unique that Finn is the type of person who cannot see her through childlike eyes; while he retains the spirit and goofiness of his younger days, Finn simply can’t view life in an innocent fashion, because he’s been through far too much. Thus, his loss and regret are what shape his perspective, and he’s able to not only acknowledge this sadness rather than putting it off (as he did in Too Old and Breezy) but also uses it as an opportunity to connect with another being who is also suffering from personal issues as well. Finn has all of the support he could ask for, but not many people who can relate to the turmoil within himself.

He’s able to not only talk over his feelings with Music Hole, but to also realize how lucky he is for what he has. Even the company of his brother and (sort of, kind of) sister-in-law is something that’s enough to make Finn feel grateful and more privileged than someone like Music Hole. But the most important lesson Finn gathers from Music Hole is that it’s important to allow sadness to run its course, but not to be consumed by it, and there are many, many creative outlets to channel all of his negative energy into. The most prominent one featured in this episode is song, and Finn allows himself time to properly grieve and express his emotions with the tune “I Look Up to You” that he sings along with Music Hole. The connection between Finn and Music Hole is nothing short from endearing and poignant, and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of those episodes that left me misty-eyed by the end of it. I really love these types of episodes that don’t feel as though they need to end happy or on some sort of a silly note to balance out the drama of the episode. While the ending of The Music Hole isn’t depressing by any means, it’s certainly bittersweet. Finn still possesses great sadness within him, but has learned to accept it and to find new ways to deal with it. The same goes for Music Hole. She’s accepted her sadness and has learned how to utilize her own creativity to cope with it, but she left this episode having something that she’s never had before: a true friend. It’s a truly beautiful connection of two people who are utterly lost in life, yet use their own feelings within them to create something wonderful from it.

TMH 5

And that’s pretty much what The Music Hole sets out to do: to show the beauty in sadness by displaying all of the wonderful things that can come from it, and can also work to help one move on from it. Adventure Time has set out to prove this with so many other musical moments in the past, but The Music Hole really feels like a culmination of everything that the show has been trying to accomplish by this point in time with this art form. This episode is also deeply fun and humorous; I didn’t expect to actually enjoy the Battle of the Bands sequences, but they’re kept really lively with priceless character moments. I especially love when things go absolutely haywire, as Gunters swarm the audience and start breaking the fuck out of the Banana Guards’ legs. That looked excruciatingly painful. This episode is also a visual treat, not only utilizing gorgeous color schemes, but there’s also several instances where Finn’s face or torso is shaded throughout The Music Hole, adding a lot of depth and volume to his figure. I only have one possible criticism for the episode… well, two actually, if you include the slightly out-of-nowhere rut that Finn is in starting with this episode: I don’t really get if Jake and Lady can hear Music Hole talking or not. I mean, the way this episode plays out, it doesn’t seem like they can. They don’t interact with Music Hole at all aside from looking at her while she chats with Finn. Yet, when Music Hole reappears later on (without giving too much away for y’all who might be reading along with the series) Jake seems to be able to interact with her. I guess I just don’t really understand the rules with Music Hole? Like, can people only hear her when she talks, and isn’t singing? I guess that’s something I can chat more about down the line.  With everything this episode sets out to accomplish and does so successfully, it’s really up there with my other favorite episodes of season seven, and one of my top 20 favorites from the show as a whole. The Music Hole is masterful in helping Finn to continue to understand the parts of himself that he’s less comfortable with, and uses music to accompany these changing feelings in the best way necessary.

If you like the songs that you heard in this episode, please by all means show them some love and support! Follow the links down below for more information about the artists and songs featured in this episode.

LAKE’s website: https://laketheband.bandcamp.com/track/i-look-up-to-you

Where to purchase “I Look Up to You”: https://laketheband.bandcamp.com/track/i-look-up-to-you

Mitski’s website: https://mitski.com/

Where to purchase “Francis Forever”: https://www.amazon.com/Francis-Forever/dp/B019QTSA5C

Favorite line: “He’s all jefferied up in the dumb piece.”

“Graybles Allsorts” Review

Graybles Allsorts is a series of shorts that were aired sporadically from July to November of 2015. I never truly understood the origin of these shorts… were they commissioned by CN executives? Was this produced as an actual episode and was soon scrapped into a short series? Or was the AT crew themselves interested in producing a short series? Regardless, Graybles Allsorts came into existence for one reason or another, and it does stay true to its name by incorporating an overarching motif to be hinted at in each short. Today, I’m going to be looking at each minisode individually, and then conclude with a final consensus regarding my feelings on the short series as a whole. Considering that Graybles Allsorts possesses an actual production code, I’ll be judging it as if it were an actual episode as well.

All’s Well that Rats Swell

GA 2.png

Original Airdate: July 6, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard

This one is a slightly amusing BMO episode. I love any effort the series makes towards BMO’s failure to understand social norms, and the beginning of All’s Well that Rats Swell is riddled with ’em. My favorites include BMO aggressively throwing water onto a flower and yelling “drink up” and their belief that plucking all of Finn’s facial hair out will retain Finn’s youth. I suppose that’s why Finn never ends up growing a beard at any point.

While this stuff is silly, All’s Well that Rats Swell is muddled by its latter half that is mostly filled with BMO shouting and murmuring nonsense. BMO’s one of the weirder and more random characters of the main cast, but when that randomness is featured as their sole trait, I think BMO’s charm fades a bit. This is certainly trademark Wolfhard humor, but his episodes are usually much, much funnier than what’s provided here. Wolfhard’s zaniness typically shines through when he’s faced with a good story at the helm, but I think the fact that this minisode is seriously lacking of a coherent story makes for equally incoherent humor. I mean, I know it doesn’t have a ton of time to develop, but the main gist of this one is that BMO finds a rat, tries to thumb wrestle it, loses, eventually wins, and is ecstatic about it. Nothing particularly funny about the premise itself, and its execution is notably weak as well.

Have You Seen the Muffin Mess?

GA 4.png

Original Airdate: August 3, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard

In the spirit of the very first Graybles episode, Princess Bubblegum whips up another insanely complicated substitute for cooking that is a pure delight. Her need to make every simple task as complex as possible is especially hilarious when she’s faced with something as simple as baking muffins, right down to placing a microscopic recipe within the muffin nanite. I remember being absolutely shocked when Princess Bubblegum first lost her arm, but hilariously relieved as she easily makeshifts a new arm with the existing gum on her body. If only it was that easy for poor Finn.

I loved Finn’s sheer dedication to helping PB out even when he’s in an awful condition, and I grew legitimately stressed as his accessories began turning into muffins, which is pretty impressive considering that I knew in the back of my mind that nothing especially impactful would come from these shorts. The ending itself is pure Adventure Time absurdity, and while I didn’t find the monster muffin especially funny, he was silly enough to force a dumb smile on my face. Have You Seen the Muffin Mess? is a delightfully fun bout of fluff.

The Gift That Reaps Giving

GA 6.png

Original Airdate: November 1, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo

The Gift That Reaps Giving is likely my favorite of all four shorts. Death is the most obscure star character within Graybles Allsorts, in what is the late Miguel Ferrer’s last performance as the character. It’s fun to watch a character like Death just simply go about his everyday life, and unlike the Cosmic Owl, his mundane nature doesn’t make him any less interesting. I like how Death’s trivial struggle of wanting to record a certain song for his girlfriend leads to extreme ends, such as him nearly killing a child; that was all levels of absurd darkness. It’s also cool to see that, even though Death is an agent of demise, he still has his limits and would be slightly embarrassed by the idea of killing someone who isn’t meant to die. It’s also funny how Finn and Jake unintentionally foil his plans, and instead of reprimanding them, he just tries to stay cool in the process. Death probably has some form of respect for the two boys, and doesn’t want them to know of his shameful deeds.

Death ends up victorious in the end, while surprising his girlfriend Life with a compatible disc format. The design for Life was wicked cool, and even though Hynden Walch is providing her usual inflections, Life’s voicing is made instantly more unique by her double-headed nature. Simply a cool short featuring one of AT‘s chillest side characters. This is also a series first for Polly Guo, who would later become a more consistent board artist from season seven onward.

Sow, Do You Like Them Apples?

GA 8.png

Original Airdate: October 1, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Geneva Hodgson

Definitely the worst of the four shorts. I was actually completely unsure of who Geneva Hodgson before writing up this post, so I googled her, and it turns out she’s one of the main storyboard artists on O.K.! Let’s Be Heroes. Good on her!

This short is limited to one main joke: Ice King and his hunger for food. It was kind of silly to see Ice King’s misled perspective on how food is acquire, but I thought his wrestling with the pig was much more awkward and clumsy than actually humorous, and it takes up almost a full minute of the short. It was nice to see Marceline and Ice King interacting again after so long, and it was also interesting to see Marceline actually do something relatively malicious when she sucks the red from the pig’s skin. I mean, I don’t really think the pig is hurt by it, but I’m also not really sure that Marceline is morally correct for doing so either. Regardless, it was a nice touch, and just reminded me of how much I had missed Marceline by this point in time. But, there’s plenty more of her down the line.

Aside from that aspect, there’s very little that stands out with this one, and it’s remarkably unfunny. There is a very brief “blink-and-you’ll-miss” moment when Ice King is looking through his telescope of Peppermint Butler dragging a body bag and a shovel. Classic Peppermint Butler.

Consensus

Like any Graybles episode, Graybles Allsorts also comes with a hidden theme, that being the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. All’s Well That Rats Swell represents war with BMO’s thumb war between the rat, Have You Seen the Muffin Mess? features Finn’s illness representing pestilence, The Gift That Reaps Giving very obviously stars Death, and Sow, Do You Like Them Apples? revolves around Ice King’s famine. Definitely didn’t know this one when I watched these shorts, nor would I have even guessed it afterwards. It’s really cool how these motifs continue to become more obscure and less clear as time goes on. I also like how the shorts quietly transition from morning, into day, into evening, into night. But as it is, Graybles Allsorts is pretty run-of-the-mill. It’s just like any other Graybles episode, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t really stand out in any which way. They’re simplistic and harmless shorts that provide for some light fun, but nothing really more than that, as most Graybles episodes do play out.

Best to Worst

  1. The Gift That Reaps On Giving
  2. Have You Seen the Muffin Mess?
  3. All’s Well That Rats Swell
  4. Sow, Do You Like Them Apples?

Favorite line: “I hope muffins aren’t easy to make or I’m being an idiot.” (Have You Seen the Muffin Mess?)