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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”