Tag Archive | Princess Bubblegum

“The Cooler” Review

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Original Airdate: December 4, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

I had actually started to miss Flame Princess’s character during this point in season six. I definitely don’t love Flame Princess by any means, but I had grown fond of her over the course of season four and five, and knew that it was inevitable that she wouldn’t be appearing as much. It is nice to see, however, that her star appearance in this episode has absolutely nothing to do with Finn, which is exactly the type of spotlight I wanted for her character. And it doesn’t disappoint, developing on the already established dynamic between FP and Princess Bubblegum.

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The cooling of the Fire Kingdom provides for some pretty funny interactions between its citizens, which is a given, as no Cole Sanchez/Andy Ristaino episode is without its laughs. Among of the funniest of these citizens is the guy who can no longer fit in his pants and the two brothers who tragically merged bodies with each other. The cooled down kingdom in general looks pretty awesome; we’re so used to seeing the Fire Kingdom engulfed in red, orange, and yellow, but The Cooler provides for a more subdued landscape, shadowed with gray and blue color schemes. It’s a nice shift from what’s expected from this location and helps set the mood for the rest of the episode.

One of the most noticeable changes in Flame Princess’s character is how she’s drawn to look more mature and adultlike. Of course, this is more-or-less a complement of Cole Sanchez’s storyboards, as Andy Ristaino resorts to a squishier, more rounded depiction of the character in the second half of the episode, but Sanchez’s efforts still pull through as effective. I like seeing her more competent and comfortable in her role as a ruler, and it’s the first time we truly get to see her from a political viewpoint. In fact, the entire conflict in the episode could be interpreted as a political standpoint, and while I previously mentioned back in Ocarina that I thought AT should never incorporate politics, I think it’s handled in this one relatively open-ended. Politics can be especially tricky with any show aimed at children, just because any topic that leans one way or another can easily come off as propaganda and fail to be challenging in the slightest. OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is another great series currently airing on Cartoon Network, but one of its episodes suffered from the reasons aforementioned. The Cooler cleverly presents the conflict based on how each character featured would act in a situation that could possibly imply war, and feels much more in touch with Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum’s behavior rather than trying to force a direct message that seems out of character.

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It’s also pretty cool to see Flame Princess’s family back again! They had previously made a brief appearance in Jake Suit, but they get a true chance to shine in this one. I really love all of their quirky personalities; Aunt Agnes and Randy are two likable dimwits, and Flint is enjoyable in his hot-headed personality. Flint somewhat represents the side of society that simply thinks destroying/invading other bodies of land is the easiest solution in times of crisis, though it is pretty cool to see that this idea is not immediately turned down as completely irrational. Of course, Flint is hot-headed and beyond reason, but Flame Princess states that she’s prepared for any type of action if it means protecting her kingdom, which I thought was actually kind of nice to see that violence isn’t immediately shut down. FP hasn’t been opposed to violence in the past, and it makes sense that she wouldn’t be opposed to it in the present either. Yet, she has grown to be more intelligent, and knows how helpful Princess Bubblegum could be as an ally. Her desire to do what is best for her kingdom also helps to connect her character to Princess Bubblegum later on, showing that the two aren’t so different in motivations. Really adds depth to her character. Contradicting intelligence, however, is Cinnamon Bun, who seems to be back to being slightly incompetent in this episode. It’s strange, because I guess you could attribute this to the cooling process, but later episodes have showcased CB outside of the Fire Kingdom and he still retains his newfound intellectual abilities. I’ll let it go for now, though, because it at least makes sense in the present moment.

The connection between Flame Princess and Bubblegum is presented quite interestingly in this one. Keeping in touch with Flame Princess’s flat-out honesty, I enjoy how she tells PB upfront that she genuinely does not consider her a friend and that she merely wants to keep things professional and non-personal. And who could blame her? Though FP originally went along with PB’s experimentation in Earth & Water, she later discovered how untrustworthy PB can be and quite “devious” at that. Princess Bubblegum doesn’t really do anything to disprove this theory during her meeting with Flame Princess, as she uses manipulation and the promise of friendship as a means of trying to get FP to let her guard down. Of course, this fails, though PB would later use this manipulative behavior in a different way once the two come across the Sleeping Fire Giants.

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The backstory of the Fire Kingdom is briefly explained through Flame Princess’s very first song, A Kingdom from a Spark. It’s all cool stuff, and adds significance, as well as great power, to the identity of the Sleeping Fire Giants… I only wish the song had been a bit less awkward. Yeah, I’m not really a fan of it. Jessica DiCicco’s singing voice isn’t awful by any means, though the tune of the song itself isn’t really presented in a catchy or interesting way, and the lyrics just feel like a jumble of mismatched sentences that don’t even really deserve to be in a song sequence. I think I would’ve liked this bit better as spoken word, as it would make for a less uncomfortable experience overall. Though the song is there primarily to distract FP from Bubblegum’s tinkering in the background.

I think Bubblegum’s fears and paranoia of Flame Princess possibly using the Fire Giants to blow up the kingdom are very much well-defined and reasonable, even though she is clearly wrong and beyond her boundaries. Though, isn’t that kind of cool as well? Bubblegum is obviously shown in the wrong for dismantling a weapon that could potentially destroy the Candy Kingdom. Again, the episode does its damnedest to spread across a message that exemplifies the importance of trust, rather than the disregard for potential violence. Flame Princess would likely never consider the destruction of the Candy Kingdom because of her ties to Princess Bubblegum, and even taking into consideration the feelings of Cinnamon Bun and his relations to the Kingdom. PB put herself and her kingdom in an even further state of jeopardy by simply not allowing her fears to subside. Though again, this isn’t really totally despicable for PB herself. She cares for her kingdom and wants to make sure it is in the greatest state possible, even if it means that her methods of protection become self-destructive.

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What brings this episode down a slight notch is the entirely stupid way the Sleeping Fire Giants are disposed of. Like, there’s the somewhat believable way it’s carried out when Princess Bubblegum uses her shield to block FP’s shots, but there’s moments where Flame Princess COMPLETELY misses PB and knocks two Fire Giants out instead. I get that she lost control of her anger, but this form of recklessness just made her seem completely oblivious. I have trouble that Flame Princess would be careless enough to destroy the one thing that she went on and on about its importance.

Bringing it back down to the more rational side of things, Bubblegum finally comes clean and reveals that she was the one behind the cooling process, which upsets FP. For the longest time, Princess Bubblegum has looked at her tendency to spy on others and her manipulative attributes as mere quirks and nothing more, though this is the first time someone is directly calling her out on being a shitty person. PB likely has acknowledged in the past that she may be going too far with her invasiveness, though she always had the reassurance that everything she did was for her Kingdom. Only now is she realizing that the consequences of her actions not only cut off potential allies, but potential friends as well. FP was willing to give Princess Bubblegum the benefit of the doubt and to trust her, but PB has become so disconnected and out of touch with people that she couldn’t even manage to be respectful and trustworthy. It’s this realization that causes PB to allow one Sleeping Fire Giant to remain, in hopes that Flame Princess will understand where Princess Bubblegum is coming from. Honestly, I think PB is let off a bit too easily, and I think it would have been slightly more effective if Flame Princess just passively let Bubblegum go, leaving her with her own fears and anxieties of the future, but without direct validation of safety. Granted, I think Flame Princess’s more understanding side is used to her advantage, as she finally reveals her first name: Phoebe. It mirrors Bubblegum’s question earlier in the episode, and shows that Flame Princess is willing to consider Bubblegum her friend, if she merely chooses an honest path over one of deceit and shadiness. And look at that, she got Ice King in on the whole thing too! Thought that was a pretty hilarious reveal, by the way. Though would Ice King logically be able to produce frost in the heated atmosphere of the Fire Kingdom? It’s up for debate.

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The episode does leave off centering around PB’s lingering feeling of discomfort, and it finally has her coming to terms with her invasive nature. She cuts the line completely to her security system, with a promise of never returning to her spying nature. I think it’s a pretty effective moment in PB’s developmental path, and it really doesn’t come across as too irrational for her character. It doesn’t downplay the importance of general surveillance, but shows that PB is starting to realize that she doesn’t need to keep an eye on every individual member of her kingdom at all times. Finn and Jake are free to serenade each other with the Food Chain song as much as they like, without PB watching their every move. It’s a huge jump for her character, and though she chooses to make the right decision, the latter half of the season would prove that this choice may have been too little, too late. Even if Peebs is willing to change, it will take a lot for her Kingdom to notice and accept these changes.

The Cooler isn’t perfect, but it’s thoroughly entertaining and capitalizes on a truly interesting dynamic. Again, I didn’t think this episode tried to preach anything too heavy on the political side, as it focused more on showcasing how its two lead characters treat honesty and respect. This would be Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum’s last episode interacting with each other, though it’s a perfect time for their characters to separate, as Bubblegum becomes consumed with her own identity crisis. Flame Princess is the most brutally honest character to face off with Bubblegum’s shady nature, and The Cooler uses this conflict to its advantage. It’s Flame Princess’s only star role in season six, and though that’s somewhat of a sad thought, I think her presence is used in the best way possible, and helps her to develop by diverting her attention away from Finn.

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Favorite line: “I’m PB! I spy on everybody. No big D!”

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“Nemesis” Review

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Another awesome title card by Derek Ballard, this being his last one in the series. This episode is also his final role as a storyboard artist.

Original Airdate: August 7, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Derek Ballard

Ever since The Suitor, I’ve wanted to see an entire story based off of Peppermint Butler’s interest in the dark arts and how it connects to his character. I think all of us, at one point or another, assumed that Pepbut would take on some sort of antagonistic role and turn full-on evil, but the way this episode presents his character is very telling and interesting. Though he certainly isn’t a hero by any means, his duty first and foremost is to serve Princess Bubblegum, regardless of his interests in the dark arts. I also like how this episode once again ties into Princess Bubblegum being viewed as suspicious throughout the Candy Kingdom, in what is likely the most explicit example of her misusing her power up until The Cooler.

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First off, I really enjoy the Veritas Brigade (“veritas” is Latin for “truth”) and the collection of different people who gather for it. It really makes sense that Starchy would be the leader of this sort of thing, and the secretive nature of the group, along with how they practically speak in riddles, is really neat. The password itself to enter the organization, “to beelzebub with the brewer’s knave,” derives from the poem “The Romance Of Britomarte,” to which I have no clue what the connection is, so if you have any idea, let me know in the comments. The group slogan, “lux in tenebris,” translates to “light into darkness.” Love how much was put into establishing this society’s place in the Candy Kingdom, and the various interesting choices for members. Of course, Starchy is there because conspiracy theories are his one true passion in life, but what put people like Nurse Poundcake and Science in there? I like to think Starchy just brought Science there so it would appear as though he had more members. Also love the Banana Guard who wears a big plastic nose and fake mustache to avoid getting caught by PB. Though, that didn’t pan out too well, apparently.

Princess Bubblegum is once again shown spying on her people because, let’s face it, this is her source of entertainment. In her ever-stressful life, it’s almost impossible for her to relax, and her one method of escaping from the stressors of everyday life is to do so in the most “responsible” way possible: watch over her city, or in actuality, spy on others. Of course, she isn’t malicious about it. She doesn’t plan on punishing the citizens who rebel against her, nor does she plan on stopping their meetings. She’s simply being invasive and not respecting the privacy of others, though this is likely a more justified reason than most others. A secret society that bases itself off of Bubblegum’s wrongdoings could potentially get unorthodox or violent, and it makes sense that she would want to observe for the possibility of such an occurrence, even if it’s unlikely. Though, the donut man named Kenneth has apparently built a device that disrupts parallel dimensions, and it actually works, too! I do wonder who the shadow-y figure that Nurse Poundcake mentioned is supposed to represent: Peppermint Butler or Rattleballs? Pretty cool if the main concern from the group in this episode revolves around the intrigue of Rattleballs’ existence. Even though we don’t see him much, it’s cool that he is established to be guarding over the Candy Kingdom at night, where he cannot be seen. Also interesting is that the information that causes the Candy People to question PB’s behavior is actually protecting them from impending dangers. Though it’s also likely this shadow is referring to Peppermint Butler’s strange activities after dark.

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This is where Peace Master comes in: a delightfully hammy anti-hero who pretends to be a lot cooler in his head than he is in real life. He’s voiced by Rainn Wilson, which feels a bit distracting as it seems like including Rattleballs in this one was just an excuse not to find another voice actor for PM, though Wilson does a great job so I’m not complaining. Peace Master gives me major vibes of religious cult leaders who believe they are the savior over everything and that they are an all-powerful being, combined with elements of Batman. Though, PM isn’t the dark and tortured being he seems to portray. What makes Peace Master so interesting, however, is ironically the fact that he’s just a normal guy. Despite all of his abilities and his confidence in vanquishing all that is evil, he’s actually a father who is raising three kids. I love how much Nemesis builds this guy up, with his well-drawn dramatic faces and his menacing exterior, only for him to come off as a pretty lame dude when it comes down to it. Though I dunno, is it a little too mundane for anyone else that he just casually drives a minivan around? Who in the Candy Kingdom actually drives automotive vehicles? It seems too out of place for the setting, but I digress. I like how Peace Master even acknowledges to his children that he was pontificating, and just how much his children rebel against him. His children are essentially more down-to-earth than their father; Peacemaster dismisses the dark arts as nothing but monstrosities that deserve to be excluded from society, though someone like Peppermint Butler would prove that there is a balance between practicing such magic and also being a totally cool dude. Speaking of the peppermint man, his role in the episode is defined by PM’s defiance of such practices.

PB’s desire to shift the kingdom into full red alert mode is a lot of fun, namely the return of Colonel Candy Corn in a much more enjoyable appearance after his large role in Something Big. Something tells me that Jesse Moynihan just really likes this character for some reason. Regardless, his comments about his state of being and the nature of the Banana Guards were both hilarious, and it’s refreshing to see a member of the Candy Kingdom military who is actually relatively competent. Speaking of competence, PB calls upon the aforementioned Rattleballs after awkwardly avoiding the discussion revolving around him, in a pretty funny scene featuring an actual training session between Finn and himself! With Jake included, of course. The scene is pretty humorous in the fact that I have literally NO IDEA how such a skill is actually beneficial for Finn to use. It’s always fun to see Rattleballs, and it’s equally fun to see Finn and Jake by this point. I appreciate the direction that the show has taken to where they are able to focus on various different characters without the company of Finn and Jake, but their presence is still missed. It’s a lot different going back and watching these episodes now, where I can appreciate them more for what they are, rather than how they aired. Though I still enjoyed Nemesis upon airing, nearly a month of AT episodes had aired without Finn and Jake having a role, and I truly missed my boys by the time this one came along.

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It’s funny how I’m only now realizing that the true meat of the episode, which is Peppermint Butler’s conflict with Peace Master, only comes into play about halfway through the episode. Yet, I think the beginning of the episode does a pretty solid job of creating a sense of urgency throughout the Candy Kingdom, which is just as important. The atmosphere which leads into Peppermint Butler’s experimenting is really what helps to create a justification for such behavior. And man, is Peppermint Butler’s transformation seminar just awesome! His spiritual avatar itself is nothing special, but the bit where the boxed walls are torn apart and transition into an A-HA inspired sketch sequence is just awesome! These past couple episodes (Ocarina, Crabapples, and Nemesis) have all incorporated unique animation and art sequences that derive from the show’s usual fare, and it’s awesome to see how ambitious the series is able to be with every single episode by this point. Really feels like season six as a whole has shown an effort to be completely different on all levels. The exchanges between Pepbut and Peace Master are pretty enticing, namely the camera angles and how each side has their own unique powers. That blade that Peppermint Butler pulls out of his shoe is especially gnarly, even if it is virtually ineffective. Though PM is liked by his acquaintances of Veritas Brigade, I enjoy how everyone virtually sides with Peppermint Butler for simply being a cool dude. It really goes to show how much Pepbut has masked his identity over the years; though a participant of the dark arts, Peppermint Butler is laidback, polite, and a total bro, which helps shape his identity where PB fails. Peppermint Butler is essentially just as shady as Bubblegum, though he has the people skills and the right demeanor to alleviate all suspicion from himself. The way Pepbut is saved through Kenneth’s machine is also a pretty awesome callback. I’d love to see more of this Kenneth fella.

After the two separate, PM and Pepbut meet back up at the always visually interesting Wizard Battle arena (complete with a beautiful sunrise) and the atmosphere is certainly tense. The way Peppermint Butler enters, as he’s carried by that awesomely bizarre brain creature, shows that he seems to have the upper hand. This is proven right when he goes as far as transforming Peace Master’s children into literal monsters. It’s certainly a disheartening experience, though I enjoy the way it’s presented. Peppermint Butler isn’t in the right, and the episode doesn’t go through any methods to prove as much. Peace Master is essentially the hero who wants nothing but to defeat all evil that faces him and to make the world safer for his children. What makes this “wrong” is that he’s threatening the state of the kingdom, and its main ambassadors, even though he isn’t inherently wrong in his mindset. What makes Peppermint Butler “right” is that he’s doing everything he can to protect the princess and the Candy Kingdom, even though he goes through extreme lengths to do so. It’s a really interesting scenario where the technical hero is presented as a villain and the technical villain is presented as a hero, and Nemesis presents this a hell of a lot better than the previous episode Princess Day attempted to. What stops it from becoming absolute tragedy, however, is that the children actually like their transformation, and Peace Master grows to accept dark magic and monstrosities because of it, making for a relatively touching close to his character. It’s still a completely unfortunate situation for himself, though it isn’t portrayed in the most horrific way possible. Also like how “eating dirt” is going too far for Peppermint Butler, but turning his children into monsters is not. Again, Nemesis does this much better than Princess Day.

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But of course, after the entire situation fizzles out, Pepbut returns to his quarters, with little evidence that he was ever involved. Not even Princess Bubblegum knows the full extent of Peppermint Butler’s dark interests, though his demeanor once again proves just the opposite. Peppermint Butler is a complex soul who keeps himself presentable in the most appropriate of ways, yet will do what he must to protect what he stands for. Letting anyone know of his involvement in such sorcery would only confuse and put off most people, and Peppermint Butler knows this. He simply keeps to himself, but uses his powers for all the right things. At least, in his perspective.

The best way to describe this one is “cool.” It has some cool ideas, new characters, new developments from pre-existing characters, atmosphere, animation sequences, and more. It’s not necessarily the most amazing tertiary character spotlight episode, but it executes a lot of elements pretty well. It’s just the kind of Peppermint Butler episode I wanted, and aside from The Suitor, this is likely his best role to date.

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Favorite line: “Sorry, I hate evil so much.”

“The Tower” Review

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Original Airdate: May 5, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

James II was a bit of a farce in showing just how okay Finn is doing after his amputation and the fallout with his father. Yet, The Tower shows us in great detail that Finn isn’t really in a good state of mind since he left the Citadel. He still has unaddressed turmoil to deal with, and he attempts to do so in some arguably unconventional ways.

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After his previous heartbreak of losing his girlfriend, it makes sense that Finn still would not understand that things are not supposed to automatically return to normal after traumatic events. Finn tried everything he could to deflect the sadness that was brought on by his break up, as Finn still is under the impression that sadness isn’t relevant to him. As he mentioned all the way back in Dad’s Dungeon, Finn believes crying is really only healthy when people die (though he is seen crying in Sugar-boarded episodes, which is unarguably a product of her emotive writing style) and that he should be keeping his chin up no matter what life throws at him. Though it isn’t sadness he’s struggling with in this one, it’s primarily anger and frustration, which also fall under the five stages of grief. Finn isn’t seeking emotional validation this time around; the boy is out for revenge. Finn looks to the “eye for an eye” philosophy as a means of reaching a solution to his issues, though through his experience, Finn learns that this isn’t exactly the proper way to deal with his problems. In fact, I think the episode is very clever in terms of never siding completely with one of the three main characters featured; Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum all have their separate idealistic views when it comes to figuring out how to help the situation, and while some lean in a more helpful way than others, no plan seems completely competent by the episode’s end. The issue is much too complex to receive a straightforward answer, and The Tower is challenging in all the right ways.

After blowing up the prosthetic arm made from candy that PB gave to him (which was pretty poorly constructed… definitely was just a temporary gift from Bubblegum until she was able to build a more superior one), Finn is lectured by Jake, who believes that the donation of arms are doing more harm than good for Finn’s psychological health. Once again, Jake and PB are at odds with their belief mechanisms. Jake thinks more emotionally, while PB thinks more logically. Jake is likely under the impression that Bubblegum gave Finn the arm so he could simply replace it and move on with his life, yet Jake knows Finn, and he knows that he needs time to deal with his issues and not just immediately move on from them. Jake tells Finn that he needs to move at his own pace, and not to let anyone make him feel like he has to feel better immediately, which is pretty solid advice. Finn is possibly the only person in existence who lost his arm and his father all in one day, so only he knows how he’s feeling and how he should take this time to grieve. Where Jake’s advice is misleading is the introduction of the “melon heart” concept. Like every character who tries to help Finn in this episode, Jake means well, though his implication that Finn should “trust what his heart tells him” is a somewhat dangerous misconception. People are more susceptible to think and make decisions based off of their emotions rather than logic, and often times those emotional decisions can be self-destructive and over-impulsive. Jake doesn’t really have to worry about this because he’s emotionally sound, meaning that most of his thoughts can be based off of a combination of his feelings and his life experience, while Finn is less mature emotionally and isn’t able to create rational decisions based on his own feelings. This is why Finn’s immediate thought process is that he should seek revenge, though Jake warns that the information being sent to Finn is incorrect, and that he should listen harder. This of course does not help in Finn’s thought process, and only makes him dwell on those thoughts of revenge even harder than before.

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As Finn ponders outside the Treehouse on what his feelings are telling him and how he should actually go about these feelings, he unexpectedly gains a telekinetic arm brought about by his emotional ambiguity. And as far as ambiguity goes, I appreciate the arm’s mysterious nature. This is the only episode is appears in, and likely is a product of Finn trying to tell himself something that he isn’t even aware of yet. Though Finn follows the arm’s alleged instructions by building on a tower leading him into space.

As Jake returns from the spaghetti store, he comes across PB and her squadron of Banana Guards, and the tower that Finn has begun to build. This provides for some really great disagreements into the PB and Jake dynamic, where the two argue what is best for Finn in his time of need. It really feels like two parents arguing, and as is in the present, Jake and PB are the closest thing to parental figures that Finn has. Jake continues to argue that Finn needs to work things out on his own, and that Bubblegum should T.M.L.O. (that means ‘lay off’) though PB is more under the impression that Finn is a danger to himself and the people around him in his current situation. PB’s belief system is definitely flawed for reasons we’ll explore later, though I think it’s clear that she’s in the right at the moment. Jake is thinking compassionately of his brother and wants him to figure out his own path, but when it involves extremes like traveling into space and building a giant, unending tower surrounding Ooo, it’s pretty obviously irrational and dangerous. This goes back to where Jake and PB’s belief systems contrast with each other: Jake is thinking based on emotions, while PB is thinking based on logic.

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The detail put into Finn’s tower is great, showing just how much of a variety of different materials is actually being put into said tower. There’s tons of stuff from the Candy Kingdom, and also an inclusion of flaming debris that obviously comes from the Fire Kingdom. Also the horrified deer that wants nothing more than to get off of the tower. The song that accompanies the building sequence is the ever-catchy “Baby’s Building a Tower Into Space.” It’s a pretty simple tune, but one that’s funny enough and almost nursery rhyme inspired that it easily embed itself into my head. It’s a song that constantly repeats itself throughout the episode, and also finds its way into the actual score, and it’s a nice running motif that helps show Finn’s desires of revenge in an almost cutesy sort of way.

This one is also pretty beautiful in its scenery, as well as its atmosphere. There’s that extended entrance into dawn sequence that quietly showcases the citizens and surroundings of Ooo, right before the sun rises and the beautiful morning sky backgrounds appear before the long-pan of the still developing tower. Love the extra detail added to the tower as well, where the contents have gone from simple bricks and debris to actual ice castles and even penguins.

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Another character aside from the main cast who offers her own inspiration and life experience is a cloud named Caroll: a very enjoyable shut-in who rejects her past history as a puddle of water. The advice that Caroll offers to Finn is possibly the most irrational, and I think Finn acknowledges that in a way. Caroll, at the very least, acknowledges that revenge is not healthy and Finn should not be so vengeful in his actions, yet she is still misguided by her own confusing principles. Caroll has never comes to terms with her former self, and is ironically unable to move on from her traumas because she is focused on never reliving them again. Thus, Caroll has caused her development to become stagnant, simply because she is too fixated on hating everything that came before her cloudy state. She’s become cold and cowardly because of her history, and is more inclined to run from her troubles rather than deal with them head on, to which she still suffers from some nasty anxiety-driven issues. This is shown in her debut scene, where she attacks Finn and angrily yells in him for trying to swim in her, when Finn was not even considering such an opportunity. Caroll is merely haunted by her past self so much that she pushes away everyone and everything because of it. Though I think Finn is smart enough to realize that this is not a healthy alternative either.

When Finn finally blacks out upon reaching the brink of space and is rescued by “Martin’s” ship, Finn cannot help acting like a kid on Christmas at the thought of extracting revenge against the man who hurt him so much. As Finn powerfully punches his father, he begins tugging at his arm until Martin pitifully utters “… my favorite arm,” mirroring Finn’s line earlier in the episode. It’s an obvious, but effective moment that has Finn realizing that he doesn’t want to inflict the same pain that that his dad inflicted on him. And in an ultimate twist: it turns out to be PB the entire time!

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While Bubblegum left Finn with the message that revenge isn’t the proper way to take care of his issues, I’m not completely sure she was in the right here either. She subdues Finn’s anger and makes him feel less vengeful, but she uses trickery and deceit to do so. Her exchange sums it up her misdoings real nicely.

“You were hallucinating like crazy so it was really easy to trick you. I figured you’d thank me later after learning your lesson.”

Once again, PB uses logic and deductive reasoning, rather than thinking about Finn’s emotional fragility in the situation. She automatically assumes her plan is the exact thing that will make Finn feel better, and while it arguably works to some degree, I think Finn leaves feeling more confused than anything. He learned a valuable lesson, but one of his closest friends tricked him to do so, and he never got any closure with the situation at all. Still, props to PB for taking a black eye and trying regardless, it just didn’t seem like using deceit was the “fix-all” to Finn’s issues. On a more critical aspect, how does Princess Bubblegum know what Finn’s dad looks like? I mean, I guess you could imply that Finn or Jake described what Martin looked like to PB at some point, and since it was dark in the room, Finn couldn’t really decipher between a fake or real Martin. Still, I think it’s a bit contrived with how she’s able to emulate Martin’s voice, but I’m willing to glance over it for now.

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Finn announces that he’s feeling neutral to Jake. He’s not exactly feeling better, but he at least let go of his anger and decided to put empathy first. He may still be struggling, but he no longer feels like he needs to put anyone else through shitty circumstances because of his own. That is, except for PB, who experiences a whopping arm injury after Finn knocks the tower onto the Candy Kingdom. Yikes.

Otherwise, this is a very well-executed episode. I like how different each point of view is presented, and how each perspective has its own list of pros and cons. In the end, the episode never feels completely one-sided, and we’re left with the idea that the means of a solution for this dilemma is just as confusing to Finn as it is to all of us. Finn is at least left accepting that this is going to be a tough period in his life, and that there really isn’t anything that is going to give him instant gratification. All he can hope to do is better himself a little bit at a time, and try to understand the situation a bit more in depth. These concepts, along with a good bit of humor, and some nice artistic attributes from Steve Wolfhard and Tom Herpich, really help to make this episode soar.

As an added bonus, here’s some arm-concepts that Steve Wolfhard whipped up for this episode!

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Finn’s two-armed shadow: continuity error or intentional? You decide.

Favorite line: “I just thought about my anxieties and it’s like my mind hand touched a hot memory stove.”

“Rattleballs” Review

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Original Airdate: January 27, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

If there’s anything to gather from the beginning few scenes of Rattleballs, it’s that Finn is quite lonely. After his break-up with Flame Princess, Finn has found coping mechanisms, fun distractions, and the overall comfort of his best friend, though as The Pit proved, he’s still very much in love with Flame Princess. One of Finn’s biggest mistakes since his break-up is his desire to recreate the past and try to once again get closer to Princess Bubblegum. This blew up in his face in Too Old, but Rattleballs shows that Finn hasn’t completely learned his lesson, and still wants to use his time to devote to another woman. In other words: Finn is bored. This is only a mere few minutes of focus within the episode, though I do like how this story arc continues to embed its way into almost the entirety of the second half of season five. 

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Finn’s desire to assist PB and be her knight definitely amplifies his stupidity, though I don’t think it’s as sinister as his actions in Too Old. Here, he simply acts foolhardy and wants to put all of his time and energy into being someone’s knight. His role as Flame Princess’s boyfriend certainly gave him a role of importance, and I have no doubt that he’s trying to once again recreate these feelings and boost up his own self-esteem. Yet, he doesn’t really realize that he’s being entirely clingy. I’m glad this episode takes a more light-hearted approach to Finn’s own desperation; he’s still not smart or logical in his actions, but you can’t really get mad at him for just acting mildly stupid. His stupidity would will later be amped up to 100% in the next episode and give me a reason to argue against his portrayal, though we’ll cross that road when we get to it. I do like Finn and PB’s interactions in the first half, and how PB herself doesn’t respond maliciously or vice-versa and try to coddle Finn. PB most likely understands what Finn is doing, and doesn’t want to enable his actions, but also doesn’t want to upset him either. I think she handles his behavior in a very mature and responsible way, and it shows how far she has come from her constant teasing of the idea of a romance in the earlier seasons. As of Burning Low, she’s realized what an effect she has on Finn, and doesn’t want to do anything to kickstart that turmoil once more. And if we didn’t already know, Finn is still in love with Bubblegum. It’s something that never truly died, and was only alleviated once Finn had another female in his life to focus on. Finn still deeply cares for PB, and is even willing to throw Peppermint Butler off a balcony for her (he’s kidding, but not really).

As Finn treks on and continues to try and emulate his role as a knight in the Ooo Junkyard, he begins to practice using his badass new blade once more. Love the Ooo Junkyard; it’s riddled with post-apocalyptic goodies, and gives the entire episode a bit of a grunge feeling, with the toned down colors and general background details. This is where we’re introduced to the episode’s titular character, Rattleballs. Rattleballs is right up there with Root Beer Guy as my favorite character introduced from this season. Both hilarious and somewhat solemn, Rattleballs is given life by his intriguing character story, as well as his voice. Rainn Wilson provides the voice for Ree-Bee-Zee, and what a spectacular job he does. The lack of emotion and strictly robotic inflections he gives to this character can make for some really funny line deliveries, as well as some very haunting ones. It’s especially effective, seeing how Rattleballs never really changes the tone of his voice throughout the course of the episode, which makes it all the more impressive and effective.

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I also really enjoy the connection he makes with Finn! His initial introduction where he threatens to pluck out Finn’s eyeballs and then congratulates him for his warrior’s heart is quite endearing, and shows us firsthand how Rattleballs has conquered his desire for needless violence. The included “sad backstory” where he describes his experience horseback riding is also a terrifically funny edition to the episode. I don’t know when or why Rattleballs would decide to go horse riding back in the day, but I guess maybe it was a routine wholesome activity for the robots? No idea, but it’s funny regardless of the reasoning.

I love the training montage as well, and how it subverts our expectations by showing the typical cliches of a training montage, yet none of them seem to actually be helping in Finn learning how to use his sword. Going through obstacle course, sitting on heated rocks, and being hit with eggs seems more like a test of endurance, and I’m sure Rattleballs had his reasons, but I just love how ludicrously useless it seems. A lot of people wanted to see Finn being trained by Rattleballs after this episode, but I dunno, I think the parody of training elements is far more enjoyable than the actual thing. I especially like how, by the end of it, Finn hasn’t really learned anything. The one special technique that Rattleballs teaches him isn’t even achievable unless he practices for ten years and gains a robot body. That logic puts a funny spin on the typical “work hard and you can do it” message that so many of these stories put out. Though, it would be really neat if Finn was able to perform this swift strike in the series finale. Doubt it would be brought back, but it’d be a nice little touch to show that Finn had been practicing ever since (and he kinda has a robot body!).

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The second half of the episode shifts gears to delve into Rattleballs backstory and, I have to say, this is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. I mean it, you guys. I think the episode itself is pretty great on its own, but this flashback sequence in particular is spectacularly done. Again, the narration by Rattleballs alone gives the entire sequence a bit of a wistful tone, and drives a very compelling story about the past history of the Candy Kingdom. The stand out moment in particular to me is the scene where Bubblegum asks one section of the Rattleball boys to turn their backs, while the others are crushed into oblivion. The reading of Rattleballs’ line “we were judged too dangerous to stay operational, and sentenced to death” sends straight shivers down my spine, and I’m willing to say this is one of the most fucked up things we’ve ever seen PB do. Obviously it’s easy to see things from her standpoint, however; the Rattleballs are robots, so it’s probably clear to assume that they don’t have emotions or identities of their own. Whether or not this is true for all Rattleballs, or the one that we’ve spent time with is just an exception, the idea of making a group of them look away as their brethren are killed is entirely morbid. All while PB has a smile across her face. It’s a beautifully presented scene, as it comes off as almost entirely messed up, but doesn’t make PB seem like an absolute monster either. Aside from her assumption about the Rattleballs willingness to emote, she probably feared that their violent attitudes of anarchy could lead to her own demise, and wanted to put an end to them before they began their own uprising. Most of PB’s fears and anxieties revolve around the loss of her power, but most importantly, the loss of her Kingdom. In her eyes, only she can properly run the Candy Kingdom (which she probably isn’t entirely wrong by thinking) and any threat to her role is a threat to the Kingdom as a whole. It’s a well-defined backstory that sees both sides of the stories, and is accomplished so successfully in tone, execution, music, performances, and so on.

Of course, Rattleballs warns Finn not to tell Princess Bubblegum about his existence, though Finn fails to do so, given his honorable stance as PB’s knight. On the one hand, it’s kind of a dick move for Finn to sell out Rattleballs after he assisted in Finn’s sword training. However, I do think Finn’s decision is consistent with his dedication to the Princess that was shown early on, and I think his blissful ignorance to PB’s more cold hearted nature is apparent. When they convene in the junkyard, Finn simply thinks that the two will just “talk it out” and come to a level of agreement, though I don’t think he fully understands how PB responds to possible threats. She’s not really the “let’s talk it out” type, and would rather alleviate her own paranoia by getting rid of the threat as soon as possible. With the help of Commander Root Beer Guy, of course!

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As tensions increase during the confrontation, Rattleballs proves himself by showing that he can change his behavior and that he’s not limited to what he was designed for. This is turned onto PB in a poignant display, where Rattleballs states, “I hope time has made you less bloodthirsty.” It’s effective in showing that, despite the fact that Ree-Bee-Z is a robot designed for violence, he isn’t entirely different from PB. Through deciding that the Rattleball boys are nothing but dangerous entities who deserve to be destroyed, PB is showing her own form of robotic violence and instigating what she set out to prevent.

It’s even more heart wrenching when we see PB toss what is assumed to be the destroyed Rattleballs in front of the bruised Banana Guards, until it is revealed that it was a farce. Despite her ability to change her ways to look upon Rattleballs with empathy, she still does not want anyone to think that she has let her guard down or “gone soft.” PB’s identity in the Kingdom is important to her, and during this particular period, she wants the respect of her citizens, and a bit of fear in the process. This slight altercation in her behavior, where she is able to allow Rattleballs to protect the kingdom in the shadows, shows that she is willing to change her behavior a bit at a time, and is a clear reveal of her true intents.

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Overall, this one is pretty awesome! I forgot how good it actually is, so this revisit was a true delight. It stars a terrific new character, some great new insights into the past of the Candy Kingdom, lots of funny moments, a nice tense atmosphere throughout, and a huge plot shift halfway through the episode that feels quite natural. I love how only the last few minutes are actually dedicated to showing more into the shady side of Princess Bubblegum, but it’s all cleverly tied back into Finn’s perspective and how he views her as a person. Throughout the entirety of PB’s struggle with her own morality, Finn remains nonjudgmental and by her side. Of course, it’s a bit more selfish and catering to his own needs, but as Finn becomes more encased in his own issues, the more he becomes ignorant of Bubblegum’s issues. It’s a terrific episode for analysis overall, and really capitalizes on the changing behaviors of two of the show’s main characters.

The Red Throne review will be posted on Friday, as I return to posting on a weekly basis. We’re nearing the end of Season Five, folks!

Favorite line: “I don’t eat muffins. I am a robot.”

 

“Root Beer Guy” Review

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Original Airdate: December 2, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk

Root Beer Guy is a diversion from the typical Adventure Time formula and centers around a character we know little to nothing about. The past episode James did so to its derailment, though this one effectively makes me care about this newly introduced character in a single minute than I’ve cared about James in any of his individual appearances.

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Root Beer Guy isn’t a completely new character, however. Root Beer Guy has made several background appearances throughout the past few seasons, so his inclusion in this one as a regular Candy citizen feels much more connected to the world of Adventure Time and not just a random entity. For years, we’ve seen the wacky jobs that Candy citizens possess, from Banana Guard positions to edgy tavern owners, but this is the most humanized example of the Candy Kingdom. On the one hand it’s odd, because The Enchiridion! gave us a glimpse at a kingdom that does nothing but wiggle their arms around and party all day, but this Candy Kingdom seems like a simple mundane example of everyday adulthood. Yet, that’s what works to this episode’s strength.

Part of what makes Root Beer Guy so likable, is the fact that he’s so simple. He represents the mundanity that everyone fears in adulthood, but the life of an man spending most of his days in an office is a sadly realistic reality. Experiencing his days exactly the same, with nagging anxiety about his life passing by around him, and the burden of the inevitability of the future growing more by the day (maybe it’s also because I have a part-time job in telemarketing, but I partially feel his pain). The beginning of the episode goes through great lengths to show the stagnant nature of Root Beer Guy’s life: his dead-end job and pushy boss, his casual train ride home, the repetitive nature of his dinners, and a somewhat awkward relationship with his wife. The first few scenes do a good job of showing that Root Beer Guy isn’t necessarily depressed, but striving for more from his everyday life. This is shown in his reaction to Finn and Jake battling the ogre (a callback to the aforementioned The Enchiridion!), his interest in graphic novels, and his own novel that he’s been working on for quite some time. It seems pretty obvious, though, that his own novel isn’t entirely a passion project, but an escapist project where he can easily place himself in the shoes of the main character “Joe Milkshake.” Root Beer Guy is merely a dreamer who wants a life of excitement and constant action, but is unable to do so by what the circumstances of life have dealt him. This is all established within the first few minutes.

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The way Finn and Jake are incorporated into this one is a lot of fun as well. Not to diss the later episodes that exclude Finn and Jake, but this one does a great job of having the focus be on separate characters while still including Finn and Jake in some of their most humorous moments. I love the way they’re painted in this one; they’re as absurd and disconnected as possible. Obviously we know that Finn and Jake didn’t actually kidnap Princess Bubblegum from the second that element is introduced, but their commitment to being as shady and unusual as possible is great. Moments such as when they take long strides through the streets of the Candy Kingdom with their arms still or when Jake easily tricks the Banana Guards with an entirely poor imitation of Princess Bubblegum are what really help to shape the humor in this episode.

But the episode still primarily centers around the life and adventures of Root Beer Guy, and that’s perfectly enjoyable as well. I like Root Beer Guy, and I really want to seem him succeed by the end of it. Again, a lot of his charm comes from his simplicity, as well as some terrific voice acting from Jack Pendarvis in his first ever voice acting role (aside from his work on the ever-strange Rudy & Gogo Famous Cartoon Show). I care about his relationship with the equally interesting Cherry Cream Soda, who simply wants attention from her husband and will go through several different methods to do so, no matter how kinky. Honestly RBG, you’re a fool for not paying attention to your French maid-dressed wife. All jokes aside, what makes this dynamic work is, again, the simplicity and realism within RBG and CCS’s characterization. The Candy Kingdom is full of crazy and silly characters, so to view the story of a member of this race that is more down-to-Earth and relatable is a refreshing change of pace that also works as potential worldbuilding. It not only makes me care for RBG, but also the entirety of the Candy Kingdom as a whole. It makes this entire area feel more like our own world, and more like a world that we can potentially relate to. Also, Root Beer Guy’s novel and indecisiveness with his writing style is hilariously relatable to me. I experience the same exact issue with rewording statements nearly every time I post for this blog.

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This episode is just as great in terms of visual appeal. Graham Falk returns once again for his second storyboarding gig on the show, and man, his influence and emphasis on silly expressions really help his episodes soar. His style is virtually different from any other storyboard artist on the show, and it allows for some really stretchy, evocative, and wacky character expressions that are practically eye candy.

It’s also scattered with funny moments outside of Finn and Jake’s influence. This is one where the Banana Guards are possibly at their finest, and their stupidity feels more refreshing than tedious. The melodrama between RBG and CCS, while captivating, is also quite delightfully silly on some aspects, namely the French maid outfit mentioned earlier. And I also enjoy the inclusion of another newly introduced character, Buck Pudding. Buck is the perfect example of a somewhat haunting, yet completely innocent redneck ally to our main protagonist. I’m glad he got at least one cameo appearance after this episode.

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The conclusion ties things together nicely; Root Beer Guy is able to have his moment where he saves the day, and he’s rewarded appropriately. I am glad that we are able to see RBG have a happy ending. Given AT’s somewhat sadistic and darker tendencies to its lesser known characters, I’m glad Root Beer Guy is able to have his happily ever after, where he appropriately ditches his typewriter to live out his own real life adventure.

And that’s mostly what this one boils down to: just a fun adventure featuring a rather subdued and unbeknownst hero, but it works really well. I enjoy the character exploration of Root Beer Guy, the solid animation and character drawings, and the lovely bits of humor sprinkled throughout. I think Root Beer Guy also works as a key indicator of how interesting it can be for Adventure Time to explore lesser known characters. Obviously it’s be done before with episodes like Thank You, but I think Root Beer Guy in particular paved the way for future episodes such as Lemonhope, Little Brother, Hoots and so on. It’s an experiment that I think works out exceptionally well, and one I continuously enjoy upon revisiting. If only Root Beer Guy’s legacy could be kept as perfect as this episode left it…

Favorite line: “Nice place to hide a body if you’re into that sort of thing.”

“Too Old” Review

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Original Airdate: August 12, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

After the preview came out for Too Old following the release of Frost & Fire, the entire fandom was in somewhat of a tizzy. People were really, really pissed at Finn (the comments on this particular YouTube video are a trip down memory lane) and it didn’t help that his behavior in this one was considerably more offensive than the last episode. While Finn’s manipulative behavior was generally based off of ignorance and hormonal urges, this episode features him being purposely lying and deceitful, downright creepy, and virtually pathetic and useless in his environment. That being said, I initially hated this one. I couldn’t believe the way Finn’s character was bastardized, and it doesn’t help that the episode is a bit of an ear sore as well. The Lemongrabs are constantly shrieking throughout the entirety of this one, and while it’s helped the characters really make a unique identity in the past, it’s just downright unpleasant in this one. Yet, time has been good to Too Old. What I initially thought was an irritating expedition through Castle Lemongrab with some really unlikable moments with Finn, I now believe is a really intriguing cautionary tale of trying to relive the past. And with tons of little details sprinkled throughout the episode’s run, I actually think it’s a pretty brilliant allegory.

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Too Old mimics Too Young to a tee. Aside from its title, the episode uses the basic structure of Too Young’s individual moments to carry the plot and its motif along smoothly. Even the title card music is the exact same jingle that was heard during Too Young’s title sequence. Yet, this isn’t a sequel episode. A sequel, by definition is “a published, broadcast, or recorded work that continues the story or develops the theme of an earlier one.” Too Young, in contrast, was a mostly bright and colorful tale with silly jokes that revolved around the bittersweet relationship between Finn and PB. Too Old, however, focuses not on a bright and colorful story, or the sweeter elements between Finn and PB, but a dark and twisted tale of a creation gone corrupt and Finn at his absolute lowest. Let’s start with Lemongrab.

Lemongrab has certainly come a long way since his first appearance. Initially an ineffectual and goofy tyrant, Lemongrab has gone from having absolutely nothing to having practically everything that the Candy Kingdom possesses. Lemongrab has a proper kingdom with citizens, the company of a brother, and enough food to make for an absurdly overweight lemon. The one thing that Lemongrab didn’t consider when building his kingdom, however, was building a kingdom based out of love and care for his people. Lemongrab simply decided to create for the sake of creation. Fascinated with his own ability to make citizens, he continued to do so and caused his kingdom to become overpopulated. Now he simply has a plethora of candy citizens who he doesn’t even love or care about; he simply was interested in their creation, and by the time the next lemon person came along, he was already disinterested in the last. On top of that, his brother, who was once built to be his equal, was quickly distorted into his oppressor. The fatal flaw in the creation of Lemongrab 2 was believing that a second Lemongrab would help to round out the first. Yet, what PB didn’t realize, was that Lemongrab only believes in himself. If someone’s methods don’t line up exactly with his, they’re automatically deemed as oppressors of his beliefs and tactics. And, though the two Lemongrabs were built exactly the same, the first Lemongrab has much more life experience than the first. The first Lemongrab has been hardened by society and has grown to be bigoted against anything that goes beyond his own way, as he was virtually born into this world alone. Lemongrab 2 was never built to be alone; Lemongrab 2 always had his brother since the moment he was conceived, and doesn’t possess the selfishness and ego that his brother has developed.

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What this all boils down to, basically, is that Lemongrab believes he is finally greater (or at least up-to-par) with his creator. Having an array of servants, citizens, and entertainers, he finally feels like royalty. And this really shows during Lemongrab’s royal dinner. As PB and Finn arrive, a Lemon Person announces the arrival of the two, followed by a Lemon Person abruptly falling from a trapeze, alluding to Cinnamon Bun doing the same thing in Too Young. What seems like a brief, cute reference to the past episode is actually a pretty in depth look into Lemongrab’s psyche. This introduction of PB and Finn, as well as the trapeze act, is how Lemongrab believes people are supposed to be greeted in a sophisticated, upstanding kingdom. Cinnamon Bun’s entrance, was of course, based on his own bumbling stupidity, rather than an actual elaborate performance. This view of ignorance on how a kingdom is supposed to be run is ultimately what leads Lemongrab into absolute fascism.

Say what you want about PB’s own policies and treatment of her people, yet she puts her heart, blood, sweat, and tears into caring and loving for her people and giving them a serviceable living experience. Lemongrab, on the other hand, only cares about himself and his own way of living. He could care less about the other Lemon People and their own quality of life; he simply wants to create a luxurious living community for himself as a status of his importance. The only person he has an ounce of care for, aside from himself, is Princess Bubblegum, though this care is often combatted with hostility. I don’t believe for a second that Lemongrab invited PB over for her to see how much the kingdom has improved, but rather to one-up her and to show that he is now more dominant than his creator.

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Yet, Lemongrab’s kingdom is based on a single ruler’s mindset, rather than the success and individuality of others. Whether the Candy Kingdom contains truly unique and inspired Candy People or not, they do have their own sense of individualism and their own distinct mindsets. This is why, when we’re introduced to Badlemonnohope (nicknamed Lemonhope), his identity and mindset offer a much higher sense of individuality and character than anyone else in the Earldom. He chooses his own path and interests, which is why Lemongrab has deemed him as obsolete among the crowd of lemon people that surround him. The reason I’m explaining all of this in great detail is particularly because I think Lemongrab’s descent into pure tyranny is actually quite well-rounded. It derives from systematic inadequacy and a sense of inferiority toward his creator. Lemongrab simply believes that emulating a fictitious utopian society based on what he has seen can create a bustling and admirable community, though all of what he thinks makes up a thriving kingdom is a mere facsimile of the Candy Kingdom. And his insistence that PB was behind all of this, that she is at fault for his shortcomings, is simply an excuse at this point. While some of PB’s errors and flaws could be attributed to Lemongrab’s suffering in You Made Me, at this point, Lemongrab uses his creator as a mere scapegoat for his own flaws, marking a full transformation into villainy as opposed to a sympathetic anti-hero. Once again, his selfishness comes out when addressing PB by his balcony, “You try to steal my Lemonhope away?!” His possessiveness towards Lemonhope shows that Lemongrab merely thinks of him as property; a token to add to the completeness of his kingdom. And, despite all of Lemongrab’s monstrous actions, an almost completely devoured Lemongrab 2 professes his life experiences and what he’s learned through his encounters with his devious brother: that lemons should not squeeze other lemons to get by, but allow lemons to grow and flourish. A silly analogy, but one that shows that Castle Lemongrab isn’t completely devoid of empathy and hope. The lemon people, through their suffering, have learned to empathize as well, and continue to look on towards hope for the day they will be rescued. Though, one must also remember: the desires of the Lemon People still remain deeply selfish. They look for freedom of their own, yet depend on one very little boy to save an entire society of people. This comes in handy when taking a look at Lemonhope’s selfishness in his own star episode, which has gotten a lot of flack, but is considerably more understandable when looking at the sour nature of the Lemon People in general.

Whew, so that was Lemongrab’s portion, now let’s look at the horny teen at the center of it: Finn. After the events of Frost & Fire, Finn most likely was heartbroken and ashamed over the loss of his girlfriend. Having no one but himself to blame, Finn was left alone with nothing but his own guilt to bear. This is also a time where, as we’ve discussed, Finn has yet to even border emotional maturity. That’s why, instead of addressing the thing that he has done wrong and allowing time for himself to grieve, he turns to a comfortable source of endearment of whom he spent much simpler times with: Princess Bubblegum. Probably the most rewarding time that Finn has experienced in his youth did take place when Lemongrab usurped Prubs; spending the entire day pulling pranks and being childish with someone he cares for deeply was something that Finn truly cherished and enjoyed more than anything else. Finn longs for the simple days of being a child, when he didn’t have to deal with the tough trials of relationships, and when he could spend time with someone he remembers having terrific times with. What Finn hasn’t acknowledged is that times have changed since he last pulled a series of pranks on the cranky lemon man. Finn does not realize that he cannot simply escape from his issues using glamorized memories, and that the memories he has left behind cannot simply be recreated.

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This is where most of his jerkiness comes from; first, from his childish lie to Jake in order to spend time alone with Princess Bubblegum. People have targeted this one especially, though honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Finn held some hostility for Jake after contributing to the third occurrence of Flame Princess and Ice King’s fight in the past episode. Though it’s never addressed upfront, and his guilt most likely puts most of the blame on himself, I get the feeling that Finn is looking for a scapegoat to put blame on, much like Lemongrab, which leads him to targeting Jake. It’s mean on it’s own, but Finn’s insistent urge to manipulating PB proves that he hasn’t completely learned from his actions in the past episode, if at all. Finn simply wants to find a quick and easy way to feel good again, and selfishly does not consider the wellbeing of others in the process.

It’s interesting to note that Finn barely even reacts in relation to the Lemon-centric plot. It makes it somewhat ingeniously tied together in my eyes that these two character’s failure to recreate the past have virtually nothing to do with the other: Lemongrab could give less of a shit about Finn’s boner issues, and Finn doesn’t realize the severity of Lemongrab’s corrupt government. He’s still too young to look beyond situations as a fun and enticing adventure, which is why he weighs Lemongrab’s abusive, dictating nature as equal to the day when Lemongrab took over the kingdom. Finn doesn’t yet grasp political issues like this, and the first time he encountered such an issue, he attempted to solve it with pranks and gags. Naturally, he believes the same solution is in place, yet only through PB’s solemn words is he able to realize that exploding pudding isn’t going to save Castle Lemongrab. Finn wasn’t looking to save an entire kingdom; instead, he was looking to have a fun time with an old friend (or in this case, an old flame). Yet, growing up is realizing that life isn’t always a little boy game, and that sometimes there are dire consequences to deal with. Trying to pretend that the past can simply be emulated every time something bad happens is completely ineffectual, and Finn cannot ignore his shame and guilt forever.

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When looking at Finn that way, I think it is a lot more forgivable that, by the end of this one, he does at least learn something from his actions. We aren’t just treated to a barrage of insufferable Finn moments that have no real payoff for his character (as The Red Throne would later be guilty of), as these moments are all vital for giving Finn a reality check that is much needed. Aside from Jesse Moynihan, Steve Wolfhard and Tom Herpich seem to be the most ballsy in exploring the darker and more uncomfortable portions of Finn’s personality, and I really enjoy these expeditions. Even if Finn is somewhat of an uncharismatic dick, you really have to look at it from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy. That doesn’t automatically correlate to decent writing, yet I think Finn’s issue at hand is presented with meaning and purpose. Finn is a sweet kid who wants the best for everyone, but as life has taken a turn for him, he has put his emotional sensitivity behind him and simply wants to be numbed to his own errors. And the sad truth of the matter is that a lot of nice people in the world have been negatively altered by the circumstances of life, to the point where their behavior is completely unrecognizable from their past self. 

Of course, at the center of this is PB; the level-headed guardian who just can’t catch a break. I sympathize with her a lot in this one, though there isn’t a ton of focus on her perspective. Her own creation has become a legitimate monster, and tons of people are suffering because of it, while the one person she thought could lessen the burden of a stressful trip actually made things more complicated and difficult. The poor gal just wanted to get through an already expectedly painful dinner.

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The humor in this one is paper thin, though this is a part of the series where I care much less about how funny an episode is and rather how captivating it can tell a story in the course of 11 minutes. Though this episode does have its funny moments, especially within the little details. BMO continuously trying to get into the bath with Jake while he’s on the phone with Finn is adorable and hilarious, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that the lemon toilet is a fucking juicer. There’s no way that isn’t excruciating.

I think some of my initial criticisms still stand, as the constant screaming of every single line performed by the Lemongrabs can grate on me a bit, but I think there’s some really brilliant undertones to this one that help it skyrocket beyond my first impressions. Capturing the motif of change between two distinctly different characters is interesting enough, yet there’s so many layers to Lemongrab and Finn’s individual identities that I feel like there’s so much you can read into and enjoy upon multiple viewings. Is Finn a dick? Yes. But this is an episode where he needs to be a dick. I can’t imagine the episode and allegories within this one working as well if Finn was just depressed or ignoring his issues the entire time. These choices, while potentially detrimental to Finn’s character, really work to emphasize a dangerous lesson in life, and to show its viewers the consequences that come with it. Whether it be Lemongrab’s inability to comprehend what it means to be a true leader, or Finn’s neverending issues with ladies, this episode combines two of the series recurring themes and blends them together for one completely uncomfortable, yet fascinating journey. It’s one of my favorites of the second half of season five, and one of the most interesting depictions of Finn during the fallout of his relationship.

Favorite line: “… and you’ll never get yelled at. Unless you drink my soda from out of the fridge.”

“You Made Me” Review

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Original Airdate: August 27, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Tom Herpich

The Earl of Lemongrab had potential to be the most disposable character after his debut in Too Young. He was an absurdist gag who was used as a humorous plot device, and outside of that, I didn’t really expect to see him again. When I heard he was returning in You Made Me, I was slightly nervous. One-shot comic relief characters typically are never as funny as they were in their first appearance, and to a degree, this episode arguably supports that idea. However, it also takes Lemongrab’s character in a very interesting direction in regards to his connection with PB. We’ve already gotten so many glorious in depth looks at PB’s character this season, and this is just another addition into an already solid collection. Season four really is the season of PB, y’all!

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The episode starts off silly enough with another peak at Peppermint Butler’s dark and twisted psyche, followed by a mildly humorous interaction between the boys and the Banana Guards. I find it interesting the BG’s are practically rebelling against PB in this sequence, it’d be the first of many instances where the Candy People disregard PB’s orders out of their own stupidity. This is when we’re reintroduced to the creepy lurker himself, Lemongrab. The entire meat of this episode is introduced once PB barges in, and that’s the connection between Bubblegum and Lemongrab in a mother-son scenario. Lemongrab was originally pitched to be PB’s uncle in his first appearance, which was scrapped before its development, but kind of shows as PB generally disregards his physical and emotional well being without even slightly holding back. Here, she’s generally more sympathetic and caring towards him, and their first interactions with each other really give us a more impactful concept of how their relationship actually is. PB isn’t some cynical tyrant making his life more difficult for the sake of her own sadistic gain, but a loving and caring mother who simply can’t empathize with or understand one of her children. It reflects her dialogue in Too Young, where she describes Lemongrab as her first experiment that “went wrong.” All of the Candy People were designed to be moderately simple-minded so they were able to enjoy life freely and have little bottling issues, yet Lemongrab was born with an imbalance that made him unable to experience life as the other Candy People. So, as Bonnie shouts out, “I don’t understand you, Lemongrab!” it isn’t out of anger or malice, but simply her failure to understand the Earl as easily and carefully as she is with her other candy citizens. Lemongrab seems to hold this against PB deeply, as his fears and sadness are something he directly blames on his creator and mother. It’s oftentimes troubled children will blame their parents for any psychological issues they’re experiencing, and it’s only emphasized by the fact that, here, PB literally created Lemongrab with her own two hands. So, it only makes sense that Lemongrab would blame the princess for every single thing wrong with him, including his inability to socialize and live life as carefree as the other citizens. I’m sure I’m just babbling about the obvious right now, but it’s all really interesting written out.

This inner conflict within Lemongrab’s psyche carries through the entirety of the episode, and he begins to sink deeper as he believes that he’ll never be able to conform, so he must change the views of others to better fit what he was made to do. This is where the Pup Gang comes in (based on a real group of kids who threw a basketball at Jesse Moynihan’s head, my apologizes, Moyns) a group of enjoyably juvenile children who simply want to earn cash to support their delinquent mothers. The Pup Gang’s strong demeanor and outlandishness simply aren’t fitting of Lemongrab’s perception of how society is supposed to be, so he decides that the only way to change their perspectives is through extreme means of conditioning. It’s a really big switch from what we’ve seen in his first appearance; he was originally a token buttmonkey and an ineffectual pain in the butt, but here, he’s a much bigger threat and even more sympathetic than before. Despite his insane means of punishment, he still is deeply troubled for the sole reason that he was made to think and act this way, even though PB didn’t intend for this to happen.

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In the same way, PB is also sympathetic. Despite her being the creator of Lemongrab and being unable to fulfill his needs the same way she is with her other people, I do enjoy how motherly she is with LG and how she simply tries to level with him instead of butting heads with his mannerisms and preferences. Even though her efforts to try to help him to see the light fail, she does so in such a genuine and passionate way that isn’t talking down to Lemongrab in the slightest, and it’s really nice to see that she does care for him. Even when she knows that other Candy citizens (though, are the Pup Gang actually Candy People? If so, what the hell are they?) are in danger, she still wants to try to help him, because, in her own words, he’s her responsibility. From a mother-son perspective, it really is done fantastically. We get to see both sides of the situation, and it never feels too one-sided. Both characters have their flaws, which are demonstrated individually in a very fascinating way. “Raising” a child can be mentally taxing for both the mother and the child.

Entering Castle Lemongrab is where we do get to view sad symbolism into Lemongrab’s life, including the fact that he owns empty catcher’s mitts, a sign that he does want to relate to “normal” civilians, but has never found someone he’s able to relate to enough, or even accept into his life, that he’s willing to do so with. The turmoil within LG unleashes when PB enters his reconditioning chamber and pleads with him to stop. Lemongrab argues with PB, “You’re the one who made me this way, how can yoooou help??” It’s clear that his fear to change also stems from the fact that he was born with terrible fears and suffering, meaning that allowing PB to help him could result in only more problems and difficulties in his own life. He isn’t willing to risk that, and instead wants PB to feel and think exactly how he does.

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And I guess I can’t write this review without taking a deeper look into why Finn took the blow for Bubblegum at the hands of LG’s sound-sword. I think it can be looked at two ways: 1. Finn is heroic and willing to take a bullet for those around him, and I think that goes without saying. 2. He still loves PB. Not that he’s still in love with PB, but he still deeply cares for her and his feelings for her will never go away completely. Though he’s willing to do the same for others, Finn really would take a bullet for PB without question, as someone he cares about, serves, and respects greatly. I think this interpretation is much more interesting to me, because even after we get an episode like Burning Low that highlights Finn’s changing feelings and moving past his infatuation with Bubblegum, he still thinks very highly of her and would never let something terrible happen to her. It’s a moment I think could really put shippers in a tizzy, but honestly, I think it was just a nice moment showcasing that Finn still deeply cares for Peebles, and I’m glad they never really added any more attention to it.

The ending is the perfect solution to Lemongrab’s issues (for now, that is…) as he meets his new brother: Lemongrab 2. It’s a sweet and funny ending that once again highlights PB’s compassion; I’m sure there may have been a way for Bubblegum to simply change Lemongrab’s mind chemistry to think and act more like the other Candy People, but it’s clear that, despite his erratic behavior, PB does care and respect Lemongrab for the way he is and wants him to be comfortable in his own skin. The Lemongrabs get acquainted by humorously poking each other over and over and bid their new friendly guests farewell, in perfect Lemongrab fashion.

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I don’t think Lemongrab was that funny in particular in this one, but I don’t think he really needed to be. He’s transformed from a one-time gag into a legitimately compelling and interesting character, and I think that’s much more effective. At times, the screaming can get a bit tiring, but I think that’s something to expect from any Lemongrab episode. I actually think the Candy People were pretty funny in this one. I liked the stuff going on with the Banana Guards, Mr. Cupcake brutally breaking his own arm to get out of residing in Castle Lemongrab, and the Pup Gang are a very delightful addition to the tertiary cast. Also, I thought PB’s hair was somewhat of a funny sight gag for some reason. Her hairstyle was based off of a dutch crown, which I’ve seen in person before, but it just kind of looks wonky in most scenes here. A nice unintentional bit of humor for me. As for scenery, Castle Lemongrab is a very intentionally ugly looking landscape. The yellows, greens, and beiges make it a real eyesore, but always feel appropriately fucked up for the kind of place Castle Lemongrab is supposed to be.

Overall, this episode’s real interesting to me. I love the dynamic between Lemongrab and Princess Bubblegum, and how far they’re willing to stretch Lemongrab’s dysfunctionality. I’ve mentioned many times already, including in the beginning of this review, but the development for PB lately is fantastic. She’s gone from one of the weakest main characters to one of the most interesting and a personal fave for myself. Thank you, season four.

Favorite line: “We want the big cash money wad! Enough to provide for our delinquent mothers, so that hopefully they’ll show us the love we always dreamed about in our sad, young lives!”