Tag Archive | Princess Bubblegum

“Come Along With Me” (Part 4) Review

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Original Airdate: September 3, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Graham Falk

Before we start, I want to let y’all know that there will be another giving campaign for this blog as I’m wrapping up the first wave of reviews. Some good reasons (I think) to give are:

  • Supporting future reviews for Distant Lands buy helping me acquire a subscription to HBO Max, complete with high qual screengrabs.
  • Supporting for reviews in the past.

I always feel super guilty asking for money from you guys – it’s not like I need it to put food on the table or anything. But this gig is, and has been, a lot of work, and I’ve never really figured out a good way to monetize it despite the decent traffic it brings in. Considering that there is still work to do, with more content on the way, it does feel more like a juggling act in my work and personal life which is already super jam-packed. If y’all are feeling generous and that you got $1’s worth of entertainment or enjoyment from this blog in the past, feel free to support me using the link below (the goal is listed as $1, though I mostly just put that as a placeholder because I didn’t have a specific goal in mind). This is in no way determining the future of the blog, I still plan on reviewing Distant Lands regardless. If you don’t donate, it doesn’t make you any less of a fan of the series or this site. If you feel as if there’s anything deceitful about me asking for donations, or if you just don’t feel like the blog itself is worth any monetary value, there is no pressure on you either. This is simply for anyone out there that is interested in supporting the past and future of Adventure Time Reviewed, and to help assist in motivating me forward.

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I’m partially filled with a warm bittersweet sensation as I tackle my final episode review. I say partial, because it turns out we have waaay more content coming along with Distant Lands, so there’s no use in really getting wishy-washy here. I’ll probably save these warm feelings for my reviews of Distant Lands, only to hold off once again because there will probably be a billion more reboots and revivals in the future. I’m gonna be 80-years-old trying to achieve closure for this series that obviously is never going to die. But still, it took a long way to get here and it’s surreal that I’ve finally gotten to the end of the original run. The final act of Come Along With Me has a lot to jumble, essentially trying to wrap up nearly every loose end up to this point, and from the finale alone. These last 11 minutes feel super rushed, and I really didn’t expect any less. With all of the mysteries that Adventure Time has held onto overtime, it didn’t seem realistic in the slightest that everything would be pulled off in the most satisfying way. But still, even with that in mind, there’s plenty of sweet moments that help this final chunk to land.

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During Adventure Time‘s finale panel at 2018’s San Diego Comic Con, John DiMaggio shed more than just a couple of tears at the idea of the show’s conclusion. That being said, you can really tell how much passion he’s putting into his performance as Jake. That beginning scene where Jake laments the destruction of his sanctuary is both super saddening and humorous in just how over-the-top it is. I mentioned this in my last review, but the idea of the Tree Fort being destroyed in general is immensely depressing. That’s not to say that its demise was necessarily a bad choice – I think it works as a unique tie-in with the theme that this episode revolves around, that being that some things end, but they also don’t really. I could’ve been cliche and said “everything stays, but it still changes,” but I held myself back. While the Tree Fort is no longer standing, the memories and what it represents (family) are still very much in tact. Or, at least, somewhat. That initial shot of BMO’s face is probably as sad as this finale gets; obviously we know the little guy isn’t going to die or anything, but his simple silence, as he stares down sadly at his caretaker, speaks so much louder than words. Adventure Time has always tried to emphasize the importance of silence as opposed to outward emotions, and I think this is a really great example of how well it can work. No tears, no outbursts, just the sad acceptance of what is already done. It’s amazing what AT manages to do with two dots and a line when it comes to reading visual emotions.

And even through all of that sadness, BMO manages to comfort Jake for all that he’s done to protect the members of his household. I’ll admit, I was a bit taken back when BMO ended up being the one singing “Time Adventure.” When Rebecca Sugar debuted the song months before the finale’s release, I assumed it would feature Finn and Jake singing it to each other, or some variation. It initially felt a little too silly for my liking, especially given that the scene essentially shows everyone in Ooo accepting that they’re probably going to die. But I’ve warmed up to the idea, and “Time Adventure” has become one of my favorite songs in the series. I will say that the officially released soundtrack version is waaay better than what we got in the actual episode. I cannot begin to express how bummed I am that Jake’s ending solo got cut out. It’s so beautifully chilling and touching that I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to put Simon and Betty banter over top of it. Still, I think both versions have their perks. The soundtrack version really feels like the harmony it was made out to be, where each character involved (Flame Princess, Magic Man, Slime Princess) can clearly be heard vocalizing. On the other hand, the episode’s version actually really emphasizes on Pendleton Ward’s voice, which I thought was super sweet. I do wonder – did other members of the staff join in? Can Muto’s voice be heard somewhere in this collaboration? I have no clue, but I thought it was nice that Pen had such a strong role in singing his creation off.

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Another strong moment from this section of the finale comes from Simon and Finn’s brief exchange as they anticipate decimation in the pits of GOLB. Simon’s delivery of, “no one gets to choose how it happens,” is genuinely impactful, especially so coming from him. Honestly, Simon’s been through so much at this point that I’m sure he just wants to die and get it over with – hell, that’s exactly what he wanted to do in Betty. I’m slightly more disappointed with Finn’s role, because again, I really feel like he’s a bystander to everything that’s going on around him. His line, “I always thought I’d go out saving someone,” just made me wonder, “why isn’t Finn saving someone right this second? Why was he written to be such a spec on the wall while everyone is included in all of this cool shit going on around them?” I’ve seen the argument that, since Finn has saved everyone countless times, this is an opportunity for everyone to save him, buuuut I don’t really buy into that. One, because it just doesn’t feel like it was written to be played out in such a way – the episode seems convinced that Finn effectively put a stop to the Great Gum War when that’s not really what happened at all. Second, there’s a way of carrying out the “now it’s our turn to save you,” story without making the hero ineffective or sidelined. I overall think that pairing Finn with Betty and Simon was a poor decision. He doesn’t really add anything to their dynamic, and is easily overshadowed by their arc.

I personally do think that Simon and Betty’s arc is wrapped up in a pretty satisfying way, as well as tragic. I like how Betty’s codependence never really dissolved, and it’s ultimately what ended up consuming her in her very last moments. Even when trying to move past her ultimate hidden desires, they resurface when she realizes that sacrificing herself is the only way for Simon to truly be free. It’s probably the least happy ending that occurs during this finale, but one that feels fittingly somber. As time went on, Simon and Betty’s relationship was being portrayed as more and more unhealthy from both parties, and I think the end result being that, no matter how much they love each other, they’ll never be able to be happy together, leading to the culmination of the general unhappiness that has consumed them for so long. A quick “fuck you” to the Simon & Marcy comic series for effectively undoing every sacrifice that occurred in this finale by giving Simon and Betty a totally normal, happy ending. This is much more potent.

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Pretty much every Cartoon Network finale in the past 5 years or so allows for like, 20 seconds of an animation boost of some sort. Regular Show and Steven Universe recruited the likes of James Baxter for a brief segment of animation; it’s a shame he couldn’t come back once more to assist with AT‘s finale, but we do get a cool, sketchy sequence ala Take On Me when GOLB unhinges. I always love these big “fabric of the universe disintegrating” moments in animation, and this one does not disappoint. Though, I am so unnecessarily bothered by the fact that the crew neglected to pitch-shift Shelby’s voice. Come on, guys! This could have been a great final appearance of the little guy if one of his key features wasn’t removed entirely. Now it’s just super distracting.

I dunno what the general consensus is on the GOLBetty design, but I think it’s pretty rad. Steve Wolfhard did the initial concept design, and while aspects of his take on the deity remained, the overall anatomy shifted and I think it looks way better as is. Props to Tom Kenny for obviously being one of the most versatile voice actors out there, as Simon’s disbelief at the sight of Betty feels so real and raw. Then we get to Gunther, who effectively brings Ice King back through the power of the crown. I dunno, man. I guess I’m fine with this? There’s the somewhat uncanny aspect of it all; this transformation was written in such a way that makes it seem like Ice King is back and nobody should worry about it… but like, is it really Ice King? The goofy, stilted dialogue that Gunther utters once he shifts feels like a pet’s perspective of their human owner, but everyone reacts like it’s okay and they shouldn’t think twice about it. It’s tough because I like the idea of Simon being saved by Betty, only for her to end up in a mind prison for all of eternity, but I really don’t like how easily Ice King gets the shaft in the process. This was clearly a timing issue, as there was only five minutes left in the finale by this point in time and the crew probably just decided it was something that could be handled quickly in the quirky manner. But I’ll reiterate once more, the Ice King-Simon story had gotten way too complex and intricate for it to ever have a fully satisfying conclusion. Personally, I think I would have been more happy with the idea that Ice King remains, while Simon is gone forever. I think more people would have been upset with this concept, and it would have been another example of Adventure Time being afraid to shatter the status quo, but man, I can’t help but feel Ice King got did something dirty. I like him so much more than that nerd, Simon. It’s disappointing that, no matter how much effort Ice King put into his own personal growth, it essentially didn’t matter because he’s reduced to a facsimile of his former self.

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One character death certainly isn’t taken for granted, however. Fern’s withering away is not only a poignant farewell for his character, but a nice way to tie-in to Finn saying goodbye to his childhood and a part of him in the process. The idea that he plants it where the Tree Fort once stood represents the idea that a piece of him will always be there, and the growing tree emphasizes the legacy that Finn has built and left behind in the process. Farewell, Fern! Truly one of my favorite secondary characters and probably my favorite aspect of these last two seasons. It’s just a shame that your redemption arc couldn’t have been much stronger than it was.

My gripes with the overuse of Finn’s girlish scream in later seasons aside, I do find the joke that he’s outgrown as his voice has deepened to be quite funny. I’d enjoy the sight gag of Finn being taller to be more enjoyable, had their been some consistency with his character model throughout the episode. I don’t really mind its inconsistency during the course of the series, but it feels just a bit too cheap only being included for this one moment.

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I like the notion that BMO’s story to Shermy and Beth was kind of an allusion to the crew telling the tale of the “end of Ooo” to AT‘s audience. I think many people were expecting this finale to be the end of all things, essentially. Hell, I think you could even argue that half of the fanbase was expecting Jake to be dead by the end of this episode. But that’s really not the story that the staff wanted to tell, and I don’t think that’s the story I necessarily wanted to see either. Don’t get me wrong, I find a good chunk of the finale to be somewhat underwhelming. However, I do appreciate the staff’s commitment to the idea that these characters don’t really have an “end” in mind. Just as Adventure Time has had plenty of moments throughout its run that have signified closure for its characters, such as Mortal Recoil or The Comet, there have also been plenty of new challenges and moments of growth since those instances that have further elaborated on the sinuous nature of our heroes. Even though Finn and Jake are dead by the time BMO is narrating this story, their spirit still lives on in the hearts of Shermy and Beth. Heroes die, but others arise. Even in Sweet P.’s case, an eternity of evil can become an eternity of righteousness. I keep writing myself into a corner that forces me to say “everything stays, but it still changes.” But it does! Adventure Time‘s central theme carries all the way into its final moments, hitting on the specific note that the opening theme reminds us each and every episode: the fun will never end. Even when we’re rotting in the ground!

Another great way to tie that theme together is bringing back Music Hole, a character who has lived through countless centuries, and has watched countless endings and beginnings at that. Even sweeter is the inclusion of Ashley Erikkson as Music Hole, who has very quietly been with the series through the very beginning. She sings the titular song we had all been waiting for, and it makes for a really nice epilogue.

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The montage aims at either wrapping up specific character arcs or just works as a way of showing what their lives held for them in the future. Discussing this speedy wrap-up in cohesive paragraphs seems somewhat impossible, so for your consider, I’m going to go ahead and bullet point each clip in chronological order:

  • The snail can be seen for the final time on the growing Fern tree. I’m not especially invested in this Easter egg, but I think it would have been more fitting if the snail appeared in the final scene with Shermy and Beth, waving goodbye. It’s a sweet and suitable idea that would possess the deepest lore of the snail’s immortal nature.
  • Jake and Lady flying together was nice, but it’s a bit of a shame that Lady’s “closure” is just that she kept dating Jake. Lady’s always been somewhat of the black sheep of the main characters that really doesn’t have a particular arc outside of her relationship with Jake, but I still think the staff could’ve came up with something a bit stronger. Hell, it could even be related to her connection to Jake. Have those lovebirds get married! (Every time I suggest this, some guy on the subreddit yells at me.) Even seeing Lady and Jake snuggling up in the Crystal Dimension would’ve been a nicer sentiment.
  • LSP becoming LSQ was super sweet. Even through all of her vanity, it feels genuinely rewarding to see her have a moment of triumph and receive actual respect from the other princesses of Ooo. Even Breakfast Princess, for crying out loud! I guess this is solid proof that the hierarchy of princesses only applies to Ooo, as queen seems to obviously be the highest position of royalty in Lumpy Space.
  • Haha, Ice Gunther marrying Turtle Princess was too bizarre to resist. It is funny that all Ice King had to do to claim a bride was find someone in Ooo as lonely as he is, as Turtle P is the perfect fill-in for that role. Also nice was the addition of a small, reconstructed King of Ooo in the background of their wedding. They actually managed to make the coniving shyster look adorable.
  • It was sweet to see that the reconstructed Rattleballs is finally able to hang out with other Candy Kingdom personnel in public. Though, his cameo in Jake the Brick ended up being an entire waste. I always thought that Rattleballs rebuilding his bros meant we were in store for a huge army of RBs to help seize the day in the finale. Unfortunately, it amounted to nothing. Seeing a war-starved and depressed Colonel Candy Corn was quite amusing.
  • Possibly the most obscure and easy to miss cameos during the montage is Carroll, who is back to her liquid form and content at that! I really just assumed this was a new model for a Water Nymph that the staff decided to draw up upon initial viewing. Such a thoughtful and nice addition, even including her interest of drawing elves that was mentioned in Winter Light.
  • T.V. moving into Margaret and Joshua’s old office feels a bit cheap to me. Before the series got canned, artist George Mager was commissioned to storyboard for a noir themed episode featuring T.V. in an investigative role. This was scrapped before it was finished, but it would have added a little bit more context to this moment that seems unwarranted to anyone not in-the-know. T.V.’s last appearance in Lady Rainicorn of the Crystal Dimension had him acting as selfishly as possible, and now he gets this gnarly character development out of no where? It would have been more revealing than necessary, but Finn and Jake running their parents’ old office would have been much, much more fitting than what we got.
  • Sweet P.’s graduation was nice. It would have been cool too if other known child characters were featured in the ceremony as well, such as the Pup Gang or the Marshmallow Kids.
  • Bubblegum and Lolly serenading Neddy is nice, I suppose. So, did Lolly ever bring up the fact that she tried to essentially kill her niece one day prior? We just gonna go ahead ignore that fact? Alright.
  • One of my favorite clips in the montage is Prismo’s inability to bring Betty back, only possessing the ability to whip up the waste basket that was previously seen in You Forgot Your Floaties. I like that Come Along With Me takes the time to show that not everyone receives an inherently happy ending. Despite Simon regaining consciousness, he still loses out on the one person he cares about most, continuing the codependence of their relationship by Simon dedicating his life to bringing her back.
  • Jermaine painting a new, more simplistic mural for Lemongrab was sweet, but the icing on the cake is actually see Lemongrab with a genuine smile on his face. The neurotic lemon-man has finally achieved his moment of peace.
  • I became pretty misty-eyed at BMO sending Moe’s memories into space, per his request in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. That episode in particular is one of my very favorites and has a special place in my heart, so seeing BMO fulfill his loving creator’s final wish was just splendid.
  • Flame Princess and NEPTR rapping together is just sad to me. Like, this is what Flame Princess’s character amounted to? That she’s good at rapping? Not anything relating to her elemental nature being inherently chaotic and learning to become a positive force to those around her despite it all? What would have been a fine solo NEPTR moment is weighed down by the fact that Flame Princess’s “conclusion” is inherently meaningless. What a lame climax for a character who started off with such intrigue.
  • Cyber Tiffany 2.0! I get the feeling that the staff was super bummed out that they never got to follow up with the Dr. Gross arc. I do wonder if this will somehow factor into the Distant Lands specials, considering that it is one of the major loose ends that never really was followed up on.
  • The fully grown up Jiggler is probably the funniest cameo of all. It’s the kind of absurdist return that I’d want to see from such a rarely seen character.
  • The Jiggler’s scene is followed by the equally absurd return of the Crabbit from Something Big. It’s cute (Donny is also seen in the audience) but it doesn’t really grab me and feels like a stretch for cameos that felt absolutely necessary in the sequence. It’s like, did anyone really care about the Crabbit enough for him to get his own dedicated moment in the show’s final montage? I’m harping too much on a small moment, but when you consider that other major players, such as Shelby, Cinnamon Bun, Hunson, and Flame King don’t even get a designated appearance in this montage, it feels a bit like wasted space.
  • It was super cool to see Kara and Frieda again, with a Lemonhope cameo smushed in between. Again, similar to what I said about Simon, it’s kind of interesting to see that Lemonhope seems completely lost in life in this one small appearance. His initial appearance kind of set out to prove that he really had no idea what he was doing, and his sad expression here shows that he probably still doesn’t have a clue. Poor little Lemonhope.
  • The Candy citizens clinking their glasses just frustrates me. Again, it’s kind of unfortunate that Chicle isn’t even permitted a second chance, even though his demise was Gumbald’s fault and not his own. Even Gumbald staying in Punchy’s body feels super offensive. It would have been a way nicer sentiment if Gumbald had reverted back to himself by the end of it, showing that PB did learn a lesson in empathy along the way. Something as simple as Gumbald waking up alone by Butterscotch lake, discovering a fishing pole in front of him, and choosing to solemnly relax instead of scheme while PB is seen confident in her decision from afar. Or Gumbald being locked up and PB choosing to stand by outside his cell in an attempt to connect. Anything that doesn’t paint PB out to be somewhat heartless.
  • Tree Trunks is still bangin’ aliens. Niiice.
  • Magic Man’s mission to save Margles never really ends up coming into play in Come Along With Me, and the montage sweetly shows that he’s accepted her passing on, but will always hold memories of her dearly. I especially love that this scene occurs at the verse, “I’ll be here for you always.”
  • The shot of the princesses (and Marceline) in their fashionable wardrobes is actually a reference to a the cover of Adventure Time #51 by Mia Schwartz, whose art you can check out here! Though it wasn’t included on the original cover, I think Flame Princess’s getup is my favorite. Her bangs are too cute.
  • Huntress Wizard meditating is whatever, I suppose. It’s a shame that her character only truly started developing this season, only for her inclusion to be cut short. It really wouldn’t have made sense if she had a bigger role in this finale – there was already so much going on.
  • I do like the next scene a lot, mainly because it shows that, even if Simon is back in the picture, Marcy and PB still chose to actively hangout with him and continue being his friend. It’s super sweet. Though young Pepbut is cute, I DON’T GET WHY PB LEFT HIM LIKE THIS. WHAT THE HELL, MAN? I guess the implication with both Peppermint Butler and Gumbald is that there was no cure, but like, that hasn’t been implied until up to this point. PB’s reasoning for not bringing Gumbald and friends back in Seventeen was that, “[they] were happier this way,” not that there was no known cure. I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit in terms of continuity.
  • Perhaps the sweetest sentiment of all is the closing scene, in which a now homeless Finn and Jake are greeted by the final arrival of the humans from Founders Island. The staff actively wanted to avoid “wrapping up” Finn and Jake’s characters by showing where they ended up in the far future, so instead they offer a bit of a glimmer of hope among big changes occurring in their lives. It’s a really nice note to end on for our heroes, even if the next chapter is right around the corner.

Adventure Time as a series ends exactly how it began – with two heroes standing triumphantly at the forefront, showing that even 1,000 years in the future, some things never change. The Ooo that we knew is no longer intact, but the spirit and the foundation of what it was continue on regardless.

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So that’s it, everyone! All 284 episodes of Adventure Time reviewed! I won’t waste my time getting sentimental here – there’s a couple more weeks of stuff I want to get out, and then the eventual release of Distant Lands, presumably around mid-summer. Here’s a quick glimpse at what’s coming the next few weeks:

  • Come Along With Me consensus.
  • Season Nine review.
  • The Best and Worst Episodes of Adventure Time.
  • Adventure Time Character Analysis.
  • Series Overview and (Kind of) Final Words.
  • Top 10 Adventure Time Moments.

There will likely be more to come from there before Distant Lands, but I do want to focus on these six above, as they’re the ones I’ve been most excited to tackle/chat about. As I mentioned above, if you’re feeling generous, feel free to send a dollar bill my way. Otherwise, stay tuned for more AT content!

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Favorite line: “I wrote this for my son, Jake!”

“Come Along With Me” (Part 2) Review

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Original Airdate: September 3, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

The dream realm has always been a big part of Adventure Time, and it only makes sense that the grand finale would also pay tribute to the show’s most notorious fetish. Part 2, boarded by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim, is possibly the most visually interesting of its sister pieces. Aside from a stellar array of Ghostshrimp backgrounds, this section of the episode also cleverly plays around with its imagery to stress the similarities between Gumbald and PB and also Finn and Fern. This is definitely the kind of trippiness I did want to see from the finale, and on some aspects, it does succeed. In its execution, however, I think it drives a problematic cause into the main story of this conclusion.

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I don’t know if the beginning of this section is subject to criticism or just legitimate questions, but how did Finn know what would happen after igniting the nightmare juice? There’s no way Nightmare Princess was of any help describing it, and it doesn’t look as if there was a description of any sorts. For all Finn knew, it could have nuked the fucking planet. I guess it played into the surprise element of not knowing what was coming next, buuut, a little bit of context would’ve made this feel a little less like a deus ex machina.

Though not primarily associated with dream themes, it is fitting that Somvilay’s last co-board revolves around the unconscious realm, seeing as how he had such a large part in Adventure Time‘s first full-length nightmare, King Worm. There are some fun, trippy bits right off the bat, like the singing poodle that helps to take weight off of the situation at hand or the chimney containing a presumably dead Jake, with a sign that reads, “laff it off!” There’s also quite a few awkwardly executed moments that don’t really work either. The exploding poodle that blinds everyone except Gumbald isn’t presented in a visual way that it actually feels blinding. The color and light stays stagnant and contained at the center of the screen, and it doesn’t convincing feel like it’s as bright as the characters react. I know this seems like a really small, insignificant aspect to harp on, but it is yet another example of the lack of direction that seems to be a staple of Somvilay’s boarding. Similar to the lifeless way Finn’s friends bang on a force field containing him in Seventeen, the gang covers their eyes for the purpose of Gumbald running away, and as he’s about to escape, they all cease covering their eyes, only to blankly stare at him while he delivers a speech about how he’s going to get the upper hand. I’m certainly being overly critical towards a moment like this, but in the finale of the series, and the final board of one of Adventure Time‘s longest-running storyboard artists, I’d also expect more.

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Fern being ditched by Uncle G. is definitely his own way of experiencing first hand how Finn felt when being ditched by his own maker, though I don’t really think it’s played off as the emotional moment it truly could’ve been. Fern’s pretty much lost everything by this point, and you think instead of comically transforming into a pterodactyl (which was admittedly awesome, thematic aspects aside), it would be built into some genuine turmoil. Though, the sweet grass boy does get a handful of nice one-liners here and there, such as, “I’m gonna fly around and wreck things until I feel better! Or at least until I tire myself out.” He really is just the emo equivalent of his counterpart, because that could also come straight out of Finn’s mouth as well.

Jake’s role in the episode is both funny, and somewhat frustrating. It’s frustrating because he exhibits Jake the Dog levels of neglect for his brother. Jake spends a large portion of the first half of the episode dicking around while his bro is in peril. What happened to the Jake a mere episode earlier that curb-stomped the fuck out of Fern for messing with his bro? It is made up for in that Jake helps deliver the solution to Finn’s problems, but the overly cheerful dog with Jermaine at the beginning of the episode goes a bit too far in demonstrating his clueless bliss. It is also justified partially from a humor perspective, I do really get a laugh out of Jake’s concern about getting fired from his imaginary job as Finn asks for help. Seeing as how PB and Gumbald later end up being altered by the dream realm, I suppose it could be argued that it had an effect on Jake’s psyche as well.

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In fact, we actually do get the most “deep” look into Jake’s inner fears with his nightmare-fueled children. The scenes with the pups denouncing Jake’s farts are mostly played for laughs, but I think there is something of substance under the gag itself. Jake values the respect of his children more than anything, and has many underlying anxieties about his role as a father. It’s silly, but also understandable why this triggers such a sensitive part of him. Along with the fact that his children are literally being cooked before him. Best visual gag of the episode officially goes to baby Kim Kil Whan in a hot dog bun. I should note that Jermaine does take on a secondary role in this section, though it’s pretty unremarkable. Not that it’s really even supposed to be the real Jermaine anyway, but a mere reflection of Jake’s subconscious. His presence did serve for one sweet moment – the revelation that balloon animals used to cheer Finn up when he was a child. It’s a small moment, but really adorable to dwell on, especially with Jake’s added look of nostalgia following the exchange.

Perhaps the most well-executed part of the episode is the most surprising: I thought the scenes featuring the swap between Gumbald and Bubblegum’s roles were really well done. I don’t necessarily think that these few minutes alone reconcile for an onslaught of really boring and unremarkable Gumbald moments, but they certainly provide for something to chew on in terms of his ultimate motivations. Bonnibel Bubblegum painted him to be this super uninteresting schemer whose main drive was greed above all, but Come Along With Me takes the previous episode’s intentions further and continues to drive home the underlying similarities between Gumbald and his niece. Although his initial motivation of building apartment buildings in the aftermath of a literal apocalypse was inconceivably stupid, it really is just one part of his vision, of which PB ultimately didn’t have right off the bat either. Gumbald wanted to create his own slice of home where he, and those around him, could live prosperously, which is exactly what Princess Bubblegum sought out for. His motivations to get what he wanted, while questionable, were in desperation to preserve his art and what he saw for the future. PB is no stranger to this practice either – she nearly destroyed an entire kingdom in The Cooler because of her own paranoia. PB also had the chance to properly contain Gumbald even after he was transformed into Punchy, but she chose for him to stay that way because, again, she didn’t want him to stand in the way of her vision. As the vision in the nightmare shows, Gumbald as “princess” could have resulted in an almost identical outcome to Bubblegum’s path, dealing with an ingenuous, yet morally corrupt ruler who is essentially the god amongst his people. Though, like PB once experienced, Gumbald’s role may have not been able to last forever, and it was a time when she surely needed others to depend on. But her O.G. family couldn’t truly support her in their current states, as demonstrated by the tiny Candy Person representation of PB, who can only smile and act goofy even with the pain occurring beneath her. It’s a delightfully fucked up sequence that really shows the equal amount of shittiness on PB’s part, even far beyond her metamorphosis.

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Finn and Fern end up going through a similar understanding of their shared torment, though I think it is a bit on the obvious side. The idea of the boys’ having shared traumas comes as a surprise to Fern, buuuut Fern’s whole deal is that he’s partly Finn. Should this really come as such a revelation to him? That the two have shared experiences that they can both relate to? I feel as if there should have been a bit more of an emotional confrontation. As self-destructive as he is, Fern does have legitimate reasons for going so far off of the deep end. His whole life was turned upside down and everyone that he has ever loved doesn’t really want to associate with him. I would have liked if his turmoil resulted in more of an eruption of pain which would lead to his eventual epiphany, but the resolution between him and Finn feels all too quick. There’s also the conclusion to the curse that lives within Fern, as he and Finn confront it head-on, which is just alright for me. I like the idea that Fern choosing to confront his issues is ultimately what set him free, but if nothing in the Nightmare Realm is actually real, I’m not sure how Finn and Fern were able to affect a real-life situation as a result. I also think Fern was written too well throughout season eight for his own good. Like I said, Fern has legitimate reasons to be ridden with anxiety and turmoil, and I feel as the idea that all of his sorrows being connected to some cursed squid demon is a lot less interesting than the turmoil itself. Though, it does provide for a relatively neat concept that Fern isn’t physically able to exist without issues – the part of himself that he eliminated in order to make him feel more human is ultimately what made his humanity fall to shreds. I’m probably putting too much thought into it, but it is a neat idea. The shared traumas between Finn and Fern are all pretty apparent – the death of their hero at the hands of the Lich, the guilt that comes with hurting friends such as Susan, and the sensitivity of abandonment and fear of being connected to one’s roots as seen with Martin. Though, I feel like it’s up for debate what PB’s role in the vault holds. I get the feeling that Finn is somewhat haunted by his feeling for Bubblegum, never being able to fully move past them and fearing that he may be controlled by his love for her forever, which results in him pushing his feelings way down where they can’t affect him. At least, from a surface level.

The conclusion to this segment of the episode is kind of where my main issues lie. While PB gains her own empathy for Gumbald, he apparently did not, as he was planning on juicing her, demonstrated by Aunt Lolly’s sabotage. I have problems with almost every aspect of this bit. The bigger, more encompassing reason is that I feel like you could deem a good chunk of the first 22 minutes of the finale, and Finn’s plan for peace, relatively pointless. Aside from Fern’s personal growth, nothing that occurred within the dream sequence between PB and Gumbald actually had an effect on anything. The conflict was ultimately resolved by Aunt Lolly, who had no idea what actually went on within their shared nightmare and doesn’t have a strong enough character arc for it to even make sense on her own. She appears to be convincingly against Gumbald’s plans in the previous episode, then we’re taken down a complete 180 as it shows that it was all an elaborate ruse all along. Now… she’s apparently good again? I don’t even understand what we’re supposed to gather from her character – why does she WANT to side with Princess Bubblegum? One might just argue that it boils down to the simplicity of morality, but the staff didn’t even take those simple steps to make her seem like a fully fleshed out character, or even relatively fleshed out at that. You could also argue that, while Gumbald didn’t learn anything in the nightmare world, PB did gain a higher sense of empathy, but does she really? The finale ends with both Gumbald and Chicle trapped inside empty-headed Candy People where they don’t really get any form of free will, and Chicle didn’t even get a second chance at that. Not saying Gumbald should just be free to roam around the Candy Kingdom, because he’s clearly dangerous, but he should be given SOME kind of freedom regardless. I can’t believe the nightmare sequences would highlight how fucked up it was for a somewhat conscious person to be trapped in the goofiness of a candy body, and then just leave them that way by the end of it. Empathy doesn’t really work if you only empathize with someone when do they exactly what you want them to do. The framing of Aunt Lolly tripping Gumbald doesn’t make a lick of sense either. Chances are he might have already had the juice on him when he actually walked down to confront PB, as there wasn’t a single moment after that he would have time to retrieve it. When he trips onto it, he’s not even holding the bottle, it’s just tucked within his robe. The episode plays it off like he was going to juice PB, but the way it’s executed makes it feel like it was just a freak accident. The Gumbald arc started in a way that I felt was relatively mediocre, and it ends in such a way where I feel like I’ve gained almost nothing at all.

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So, Part 2 had its moments on both a visual and story level, but I think it may ultimately be the finale’s biggest flop in terms of story execution. The way Gumbald’s arc was resolved was truly poor, showing hints of interest in the actual dream sequence, but squandering them in the grand conclusion of it all. I feel like Finn was treated as the savior of the situation by the end of it, but ultimately his plans for peace failed (almost) entirely without the episode actually acknowledging this factor. Fern had some decent moments, and I do like that saving him also resulted in sacrificing him later on, but I think his resolution itself was somewhat boring. Add this with some wonky visuals, confusing character moments, instances of stilted animation, and you have yourself a pretty lackluster second act. That being said, I do want to congratulate Seo Kim and Somvilay Xayaphone for managing to be the second longest running team in the show’s history. A lot of their episodes together are far from my favorites, but they always did seem like they had a genuine chemistry going on as collaborators. Hopefully Summer Camp Island is treating you both well.

Favorite line: “Why don’t you just fight me like a real butterfly!?”

“Bonnibel Bubblegum” Review

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Original Airdate: September 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Aleks Sennwald

Princess Bubblegum’s character probably gets the most dedicated exploration out of any other character in the series. Segments of Marceline’s life remain hidden, Finn and Jake’s early childhood into their adolescence are barely touched on, and Simon’s backstory is pretty limited to just before he actually came into contact with the crown. Granted, this isn’t a bad thing. I actually prefer not knowing a good amount of Marceline’s past history, among other characters. I do feel that it is warranted that we learn so much about PB’s backstory – she had a crucial role in developing the world of AT as we know it. Bonnibel Bubblegum is about just that: how the Candy Kingdom came into to fruition and how she took on the role of a leader. It also serves as a way of further fleshing out Uncle Gumbald’s character, and his past history with his essential “niece.” Bonnibel Bubblegum ends up being a decent bit of world-building, but it is one of those examples of an episode that’s probably too short to live up to its full potential.

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A chunk of the main characters hanging out at the beginning of the episode was purely delightful. I really love how this is one of those few moments in the show (at least in recent history) where the characters are able to hang out outside of a plot related scenario. I mean, yeah, the real reason Finn, Jake, and Marcy are there is to be a captive audience for Bubblegum’s story, but regardless, it’s always nice when the characters do feel like real friends outside of a writing perspective. They don’t really get to do much, but their few moments together provide for good fun. I continue to love Jake’s complete opposition to understanding the turmoil of others. He’s the only one of his friends entirely devoid of daddy issues… for now, at least. Such coaxing from her pals is what provokes PB to dive into her past, as we begin the flashback sequence with a solid minute of silence as we’re treated to visual splendor. This first minute is probably my favorite of the episode – the atmosphere is enjoyably eerie, made even better by a bizarre bit of score from Tim Kiefer that really sets the mood. I wouldn’t be the first to discuss the stellar background details within the gas station that PB explores, so I’ll briefly discuss my favorites.

  • The “Back soon! Please come back” text was probably one of the most heartbreaking easter eggs that Adventure Time has ever put out. I can only imagine the context of the words – I’d imagine this was a child writing to their guardian after said guardian walked into the remains of civilization after the war. God only knows what was even out there for humans to deal with at the time.
  • The writing “Love didn’t conquer al(l)” which could very well be from the same person who wrote out “please come back.” I’m assuming this is referring to the blief that compassion couldn’t quench the current warfare.
  • A newspaper with the headline “Time Has Come.” Again, assuming this was referring to the war.
  • A picture of the Mushroom Cloud with the words “never” written across it. I’m wondering if this is actual footage of the effects of the Mushroom War, or an image of what was presumed to result from it. Perhaps the words “never” are a denial from the inhabitants of the gas station that such a thing could ever happen.

PB’s entire design in this one is rad. I also wouldn’t be the first to say this, but it really reminds me of Rey’s get up from The Force Awakens. Honestly, that entire first scene does. It also helps that some nice visual tricks play a part in making it all the more stunning. I love AT‘s attention to detail with smaller occurrences, so I really love the way the dust particles are animated as sunlight beams through the window within the station. A similar bit of animation was included in Her Parents, and it looks great once more in here. Isabella Acres does not reprise her role as a younger PB, and is instead voiced by Livvy Stubenrauch, who previously voiced young Kara in Hide and Seek. But damn me if I even knew the difference, Stubenrauch does terrific! Every line that she carries out really feels like she is a younger version of PB. I know that’s in part thanks to the writing, but I really feel like Stubenrauch did her homework in capturing PB’s deliveries to a tee.

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The relationship between Neddy and PB is once again irresistibly sweet. I do like the fact that, while she loves her brother, PB does acknowledge that she needs people like herself to feel more whole. This is where she conjures up the idea to make a family from scratch. It’s important to remember that even though I enjoyed the first chunk of this episode, it’s a bit time consuming. By the time Gumbald, Chicle, and Aunt Lolly are all “invented”, the episode’s already five minutes in. The series of events that follow end up feeling quite rushed as a result.

I’m not really sure I follow Gumbald’s entire “arc” within this backstory. Well, let me rephrase – I understand the intention, but the execution feels incomplete. Bonnibel Bubblegum is supposed to show how PB’s micro-managing of Gumbald led him to feel restrained and held back from his own potential, thus following his rebellion. However, the pacing makes his conflict way too glanced over before he basically turns to full-on villainy and greed. In fact, his plans kind of just make him seem like a less charismatic King of Ooo. He wants to build an entire city, along with apartments, but does that really make sense given the time period this is taking place in? I mean, the beginning of the episode stresses heavily that there’s barely anyone in the surrounding area and Gumbald doesn’t understand the act of creating lifeforms until he notices the candy fish, so who did he suppose was going to actually live in this city and help him become more prosperous? Maybe the idea is purposefully nonsensical, given PB’s perplexed reaction, but I dunno, seems like a lazy way to give Gumbald a motivation beyond just wanting to be independent.

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I’ll reiterate that I don’t really dislike what this episode is going for – I get it, PB and Gumbald are similar in their ultimate desire to control others, stemming from their denial to be controlled by anyone else. But it ends up feeling so hollow because Gumbald never feels like a empathetic character with reasonable goals. This episode ends up making PB too likable to the point where Gumbald’s motivation doesn’t feel fleshed out in the slightest. It isn’t until the series finale where this idea is explored in more detail, but by that point it feels too little, too late. And I know we’re not supposed to like Gumbald, but I think we’re at least supposed to understand him, and I don’t think I left this episode feeling like I learned that much about him. It also doesn’t help that the inception of Aunt Lolly and Chicle further complaints things. They’re two characters created to be Gumbald’s cronies, but they never really get a chance to come into their own either, which makes me wonder why Gumbald wasn’t just introduced by himself.

I do think the subtleties on PB’s part are handled well, however. Like I said, she isn’t that much different from Gumbald aside from a stronger moral compass overall; one of PB’s main flaws throughout the entire series is her controlling nature, which really starts to come out once her “family” is no longer able to think for themselves. It also ties in with the implication that she likely used the dum dum juice when creating her citizens, in order to assure that nobody would ever overthrow her within her position. It’s a pretty fucked up mindset, and I really wonder if this is the motivation that drove PB forward. I do like to think that her child self was innocent enough to just believe, “hey, this juice makes people way happier and less evil, so why don’t I use it when creating new Candy People?” It does open for an interesting discussion regarding how much free will the Candy People truly have by their own nature, to which I even feel could spawn a greater discussion on this blog later on.

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Bonnibel Bubblegum is riddled with a few other treats – Mr. Cream Puff returns as PB’s “boyfriend” in reference to the long-standing gag from the beginning of the series. I still feel like the brief mention in The Vault was enough to satisfy me, but this instance works as well. I do like how The Punch Bowl, Crunchy, and Manfried end up being these really profound and important characters through the events of this episode after years of just being goofy background props. Crunchy’s identity was actually cleverly foreshadowed in the past two episodes, where a missing sign with his image was seen in the background.

Bonnibel Bubblegum works at adding context to PB’s relationship with her uncle, but I don’t think it reaches its full potential because the central conflict isn’t really fleshed out. Gumbald’s inner turmoil is rushed along at the expense of what could have been a really nice exploration of the darker aspects of PB’s character that led to some of her less than fonder moments, but as is, their portrayal ends up feeling quite black-and-white. I know we learn more about Gumbald later on and context is added to his own fears and shortcomings, but since this is the episode that essentially establishes his place within this world, it does a middling job at making me feel pretty much anything towards his character. And for a character that ends up playing such an important role in the story within this season, that’s a bit of an issue.

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Favorite line: “Dang, Chicle, thass cold.”

 

“Jelly Beans Have Power” Review

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Original Airdate: January 27, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Hanna K. Nyström

I dunno why but, before I had revisited this one, I almost completely forgot what had happened in it. Maybe it’s because I was heavily intoxicated inside of a college dorm bathroom when I first watched this one (new Adventure Time waits for NOTHING), but aside from the main plot, I struggled to remember key elements about this episode’s contents. My incoherence may have had something to do with it, but truth be told, I think this one’s a bit scattershot when handling PB’s character arc, at least in my eyes. Even having seen it 4-5 times by now, I still kind of scratch my head wondering, “what was Prubs upset about again?”

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Her pain stems from so many different corners that it never feels entirely cohesive what she’s going through, which is usually AT‘s strong point, but it kind of works against this episode because it seems like the writers are seeking to put her problems out in the open. First, it appears PB is jealous of Slime Princess for unlocking her skills in elemental prowess prior to herself, which leads PB into attempting to unlock her own abilities. When finally unlocked, PB utilizes her abilities to show-off in front of Slime Princess, and to show that they’re both on equal levels. At first, it seemed like this was an obvious representation of Princess Bubblegum wanting to be the alpha-princess in Ooo. PB has been previously worried about her own Kingdom’s state of power and ability to survive in episodes like The Cooler and High Strangeness, so I kind of figured that PB’s jealousy stemmed from her own fears of being inferior within her own kingdom. That’s… kind of what it is, but also not really. Upon speaking with Pepbut, PB tells him that she’s simply distressed over the fact that she ignored a crucial part of her existence when she should have recognized the ability to begin with. Ooookay, but how does that connect with her attitudes prior toward Slime Princess? SP only knew she possessed said power when speaking to Patience St. Pim – it’s something that NOBODY knew about until the eventual revelation. So I’m not really sure I understand how PB’s anxiety actually meshes with her feelings of envy. Hell, it doesn’t even seem like it should really matter. Bubblegum has created her own massive kingdom and defense system, as well as a reliance on her own physical strength and technology, so I’m not really sure why she feels so forced to channel this power in the first place. Again, it could tie in with her own desires to be on the same pedestal as other powerful princesses, but looking “deeper into” her stressors kind of retconned that for unnecessary reasons.

While battling off the “crystal” device, PB once again laments about her inability to understand her newfangled powers over her own understanding of science, but again, nobody is really forcing her to do so. When she finally combines her knowledge of science with her own elemental abilities, it results in a giant explosion, in which PB is looked upon as a “monster” of the sorts. Once more, I thought this was a bit unnecessary. Regardless of whether her powers impacted the blow or not, a giant, weaponized crystal is going to cause damage regardless of how PB attempts to stop it. And given that the episode puts her character in a more sympathetic perspective about halfway through, it never really feels like PB has any reason to be at blame for her actions. Had she continued with her somewhat arrogant and one-uppy behavior, this ending would have ultimately felt more powerful and impactful. There’s also the notion that it’s only Candy People who were hurt, which sounds kind of fucked up, but they can easily be put back together, as shown numerous times. I’m sure they didn’t wanna go too dark with this ending, but c’mon, if you want me to actually believe that Bubblegum is a overpowered zealot, realistic approaches to psychological or physical damage are necessary. I overall thought her arc over the course of this episode was pretty sloppy, as it struggled to find a true focus for her character, and it doesn’t even really come into play later on. Bit of a spoiler, but Bubblegum’s struggle with her elemental abilities only worsens when Patience St. Pim takes over, and really has nothing to do with PB’s own character or choices. It feels like a bit of wasted character exploration.

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With all of that criticism aside, I actually do like this episode. I think it’s unfocused from a character perspective, but it has a lot of really fun and enjoyable stuff going on. Most of that fun stems from the fact that Peppermint Butler has a major role in this one, and man, the staff really never fucks up when writing for him. Pepbut is a character that so easily could’ve been turned into a full-on villain about halfway through the show’s run, but here we are, eight seasons later, and even after knowing all of his dark and sinister deeds, he still appears to be a genuinely nice, supportive, likable guy. I really love his undying devotion to Princess Bubblegum, even going so far as to appear as a parental figure to her (“let me see your hand, young lady!”). The interactions between Pepbut and PB were truly delightful, and really helped to carry this one through. Also really dig the supporting characters in this episode; Maria Bamford is back as Slime Princess and just as hilarious as ever. Bamford never fails to carry out SP’s voice in the most sensual, and the most hysterical fashion possible.

Jelly Beans Have Power also see’s the return of Chatsberry! I do think it’s a bit odd that he is the one to chat with PB… maybe I’m just stuck with the Avatar mindset of believing that the last incarnation of said elemental always appears as the spirit guide, but I think I have my own separate skepticism. It’s revealed in Elemental that Chatsberry, Evergreen, Slimy D, and Balthus were not the original elementals, so why is Chatsberry randomly the one elemental who does end up guiding the princess (also, including Evergreen, who appears on Pim’s board at the end)? The obvious answer is that he’s the only other candy elemental in the series that we actually know of, but I can’t help but feel it’s slightly contrived. Granted, I do really like Chatsberry through his design and voice, so I honestly can’t complain. And my gripes with PB’s messy arc aside, I don’t think there were any portions of it that were bad; I truly do like how PB uses her own chemical properties to channel the elemental powers within her, thus never compromising her own desires and interests in the process. This is also the second appearance of Patience St. Pim, who unfortunately doesn’t get to do much aside from subtly unlocking Bubblegum’s powers in her actions. I do enjoy how the end very much builds up the eventual culmination of the elemental story, which is surprisingly getting a lot of attention, given AT‘s usual method of pushing arcs aside for later. Big things are coming shortly!

Only other thing to note about this one is that I feel like the episode’s title is somewhat uninspired. Yes, there’s what is believed to be a crystal in this episode, and jelly beans are in fact shown to be powerful, but Jelly Beans Have Power has absolutely no other correlation to Crystals Have Power story-wise. I’m really not certain as to why this connection was made. But, as is, I enjoy this one. It has its problems, but it’s still a lot of fun in its execution, mainly due to the character interactions and humor (love whenever Pepbut pressures PB to shoot out a candy product that she clearly cannot). This is the final “normal” episode before heading straight into two eight-part miniseries(s). Strap in, y’all, we’re in for one hell of a ride!

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Favorite line: “HEY, WOULD YOU KEEP IT DOWN DOWN THERE? SOME OF US HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW!”

 

“High Strangeness” Review

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Original Airdate: January 25, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Pendleton Ward & Sam Alden

These first six episodes of Season 8 were initially aired in “bomb” format, meaning within the same week. Of all six episodes, High Strangeness was likely the one that I was looking forward to the least. By watching the initial previews, I was really under the impression that this would be one of “those” later season episodes that tries so endlessly hard to replicate the random wackiness of the earlier seasons, but never really gets it quite right. On top of that, this was Pendleton Ward’s return to the storyboarding front after being absent for the entirety of two seasons, and I was somewhat skeptical about how in touch he would be with his creation after being gone for so long. Likewise, his board partner Sam Alden seemed like an… odd fit for him. Alden typically specializes in adding coherency to Jesse’s overly heady stories, while occasionally hitting on the humor of individual character moments. It seemed like an odd pairing to say the least, but with that skepticism aside, this episode is pretty great and likely my favorite of the bunch (save for Do No Harm). Not only is it a hilarious episode with tons of sight gags, subtle moments, and terrific one-liners, but it’s also surprisingly heavy in its closing moments.

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I never knew that I wanted an episode centered around Tree Trunks’ extra-terrestrial husband and offspring, but it surprisingly just kind of makes sense. As promiscuous as she is, I have no problem accepting that, at some point in time, Tree Trunks fucked and married an alien. It’s a hilariously over-the-top bit of character building for her character, but it’s fitting nonetheless. Dunno why, but I feel like Pendleton Ward really specializes with Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s characters. I have no proof to back this, because Ward has not written or boarded a single episode with these two as the focus, but I get the feeling that they’re just his type of characters. They’re silly, often bizarre, and simple. Not to imply that Ward doesn’t work well with complexity, as Adventure Time was his creation after all, but his approach to writing for these characters channels into his roots as a storyteller. The reason we care for Finn and Jake initially is because they’re so simple and silly, whereas TT and Mr. P are pretty much in the same vein.

A lot of those small, subtle moments of humor that I mentioned earlier run rampant in Ward’s section of the episode, in the best possible way. I can’t even express to you guys how much I love the blank-faced Finn portrait above Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s bed. It’s like, why the fuck is that even there? I mean, yeah, he’s a close friend to both of them, but why would they position a portrait of a 16-year-old kid directly in the center of their bedroom? What makes this so hysterical is that, again, it kind of makes sense. With Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s strange lifestyles, I can totally see this being a decision that they sat down and chatted about. Also, Mr. Pig’s way of taping his loved ones’ noses as they snore is both demented and kind of sweet. I only say sweet because I really can’t resist that moment of Mr. Pig looking over Sweet P. while he sleeps. That melted my heart.

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The scenes to follow at Princess Bubblegum’s science festival are equally as bizarre and delightful. That pose of Jake stretching into a comfortable seat while holding BMO and holding various objects is another example of something that only a goofball like Ward could come up with, along with the shoe camera that Starchy utilizes and PB’s Texas shaped button. The addition of Princess Bubblegum and her plans of colonization are really what add another layer of substance to this episode. I was curious as to how PB’s developmental transition would change or alter her character, and I’m glad that this episode shows that she does still battle with her own morality in reference to what is best for her people and the Candy Kingdom in general. Here, it’s a more complex situation than what we’ve dealt with in the past. No one from the Candy Kingdom is directly affected by PB’s decisions, but outside sources are. Bonnie likely doesn’t realize the effect she’s having to begin with, but I think she does realize from the beginning that it could have somewhat of a harmful result. Her line “I’m doing the right thing,” definitely implies that there is some form of regret behind her actions, though she knows it is important to keep her legacy and the Candy People alive and well.

An added dose of PB’s shadiness means we get to see the Veritas Brigade once more! It’s a bit disappointing that Peace Master doesn’t appear once more, though understandable why he wouldn’t come back. The scenes leading up to TT and Starchy’s convening are just great; Tree Trunks writing “fascist” in glitter is one of my favorite gif-able moments in the series and completely unexpected… just how many kids know what fascism is anyway? Also, Starchy’s super drawn out method of getting to the secret location of the Brigade, only to find out that it’s where he and Tree Trunks had initially met, is just priceless and something I didn’t even notice on my first couple viewings. This really is a spectacular “blink and you’ll miss it” episode. In general, I like seeing the Brigade again, and even enjoy the way the members are fleshed out a bit more in this episode, like the Banana Guard and “Booshy.” One main question I have one my mind, however: what the hell happened to Toronto in that picture on the wall? I dunno if it’s something that was just generally lost in the animation process, but man, it’s freaky.

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When the Brigade does break into PB’s storage unit (with more hilarious tactics; Nurse Poundcake uses a smoke bomb where it’s clearly not needed) TT and PB come face to face in a dramatic way. After being abducted by the spaceship, PB begins to understand the weight of her decision, and chooses to step back from her methods. Her reasons are, again, understandable. After everything that has happened to the Candy Kingdom in the past year or so, with the passing of the catalyst comet, the invasions of vampires, and the idea that her role as a ruler is finite, PB’s choice to colonize makes sense with the reality that there are plenty of horrific things that could become of the CK (and eventually do). The scene with PB and TT walking and talking during the sunrise is another one of my favorites from the series; it’s a potent moment in which PB allows herself to become vulnerable to someone she doesn’t even like in order to reveal her personal struggles in the process. Similarly, Tree Trunks allows her stern, no-nonsense self to lighten up and compromise with someone who is presumably her strongest enemy to date. It’s a really nice moment between two unlikely characters. But of course, the episode comes to its grand conclusion when Tree Trunks’ alien husband and Mr. Pig humbly come face-to-face with each other. I really don’t know how much more stress Mr. P can take at this point.

High Strangeness is, like the title suggests, an odd and unusual entry, but one that owns its bizarre nature and turns it into utter hilarity, while also knowing the importance of carrying through with its story. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Tree Trunks-centric episode, and High Strangeness really delivers with a story that’s as silly and strange as her character, but one that also helps to flesh out the world of AT and the vulnerability of its characters. It’s also a visually strong episode, with Alden’s scenes being really well-detailed and lit, and Ward’s depictions of the alien society being just trippy enough to work. One criticism I do have is that the design of the aliens feels somewhat lazy and uninspired, but not particularly unlikable. There is a reason why the simplified big eyes and slanted nostrils is so popular, and it works within AT‘s world decently. And truthfully, any episode that involves Tree Trunks smacking Mr. Pig’s ass gets a thumbs up from myself.

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Favorite line: “Booshy’s only prison is this wicked planet!” “Yeah… well, join the club.”

“Broke His Crown” Review

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Original Airdate: March 26, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Hanna K. Nyström

For all of you who do not know, I will be covering the remaining episodes in the way that they were originally intended to be consumed by the show’s staff. I.E. Broke His CrownReboot will be considered season seven, Two Swords-Three Buckets will be considered season eight, and The Wild Hunt-Come Along With Me will be season nine. To avoid confusion, I will eventually be adding two separate sub-tabs under the seasonal archives tab: one for Cartoon Network’s Rebrand and one for the staff’s original production order. This is simply just to avoid confusion in the long run, and I feel as though that it’s in everyone’s best interest that I cover the remaining seasons as they were intended.

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So, with that said, let’s get to Broke His Crown! Essentially being a sequel episode to King’s Ransom, this episode revolves around the changes Betty made to Ice King’s crown and how exactly they affect him. It’s also an opportunity to further develop Bubblegum, Marceline, and Ice King’s relationships with one another, while also sliding in a heavy dose of lore on the side. Upon airing, and to this day, I feel as though opinions of this episode are very mixed. I know a lot of people who love Broke His Crown and see it as one of the strong points of season 7 (or 8. Whatever!) while other people dismiss it as  rushed with serious pacing problems. I’m a little bit in the middle, but more towards the former. I personally think some bits are a little fast-paced and downright contrived, but I actually really dig what this one set out to do. Essentially, it’s the one time in the series that Betty and Simon are permitted a happy ending together. It’s satisfying and dissatisfying in all the right ways, but feels like a truly appropriate way to wrap up their relationship without actually affecting their characters in the slightest. In general, Broke His Crown is also a great exploration of the inner-workings of the crown and what truly becomes of those who wear it. It’s visually appealing and a lot of fun, creating a unique and complex environment with some unique, yet familiar, characters.

Marceline and PB are straight up lovers in this episode. I could totally get the “oh, they’re just really close friends” argument before this episode aired, but nah, you could not convince me otherwise that this is not the direct intention of the episode. Of course, I’m sure it was frustrating for the hardcore Bubbline fans who wanted an outright confirmation from the series by this point in time, but after this episode, I just fully accepted that their romantic involvement with each other was 100% canon. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. And, as far as their relationship goes, it’s cute! I’ve said outright before that I’m not a huge fan of Bubbline. That is to say that, while I enjoy their relationship, a lot of viewers and comic writers are under the impression that their romantic involvement with each other is the single most important aspect of the show, when it really isn’t and never was. So my opinion has soured more because of oversaturation within the fanbase and the expanded universe, but overall, I don’t dislike the way they’re presented within the series. Hanna K. Nyström has a strength in portraying the girls in a really likable way; while other writers like Jesse Moynihan and Ako Castuera have kind of struggled to make their relationship seems compassionate in the past, Nyström knows how to write their relationship with a healthy balance of charisma and snark. And hey, this is actually the last episode in the series that features Castuera as a storyboard artist, and she seems to have gotten a lot stronger when working with this dynamic as well!

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Love dem freeze-frame bonuses.

While PB and Marcy have risked being either too schmaltzy or awkward in the past, you can tell they care for each other in a very genuine and realistic way. You can sense the love between the two, but they aren’t constantly professing their feelings for one another. This is in part because the staff was probably pressured by the network to keep their relationship subtle, but also pays off in other ways. I enjoy how they spend most of the episode arguing, but it isn’t presented in an unlikable or unpleasant way. PB’s combative attitude in particular is just terrific. Not only is she hilarious to watch, but her abrasiveness actually serves a purpose. While we explored her shift in behavior towards the Banana Guards in the previous episode, we now are treated to her shifting behavior toward Ice King. The conflict between PB and Ice King is probably the most heated out of any of the main characters, as one would expect. Ice King has violated Princess Bubblegum’s privacy on several occasions, so you really don’t blame her for being so opposed to the idea of getting along with him. At the same time, however, you also understand things from Marcy’s perspective. Of course she’s going to be more forgiving towards Ice King, because 1. he represents someone she loves and cares for. 2. Ice King is probably cooler with and more respectful of Marcy than anyone else he knows. So her request to Bubblegum is honest and understandable, but so is Bonnie’s hostile behavior. And might I just say that those mamas are looking GREAT in this episode. While Marcy hasn’t gotten as much exposure to different wardrobe changes this season, season seven might just be the best collection of PB’s different outfits, to the point where I was genuinely disappointed that she returned to her standard pink dress in the very next episode.

As for Ice King, he’s his usual terrific blend of being a sweetheart, kind of a dick, and a quirky dude simultaneously, and while he’s not in this one a ton (as IK, at least) his performance really shines through in the first few minutes. I love how much he absolutely lights up when he realizes that Marcy and PB actually want to spend time with him, and how he’s so conditioned to being rejected by ladies that he thinks that he has to actually bribe people to hangout with him. That was both incredibly sweet and sad, with a touch of hilariousness when he does inevitably take the gift back for himself. While I think he provides for some of the episode’s strongest moments, I also think he offers some of the weakest, mostly because of the malfunctioning crown. I dunno, I feel like the way Ice King freaks out and behaves weirdly isn’t really that interesting… when I heard about the synopsis for this one, I expected Ice King’s “uncanny behavior” to involve flashes between himself and Simon, or just a full blown meltdown of some sorts. Ice King smashing plates over his head and rolling around on the ground just aren’t intriguing ways to hammer forward that he needs help, and it doesn’t really feel dire. I wish a little bit more was done for this aspect to make it more dramatic and/or intriguing, because the way it was executed just didn’t grip me at all. I also feel like the initial plot device of Marceline not believing Bubblegum was somewhat unneeded and a waste of time. Sure, it does provide for PB to actually grow concerned for the IK and even refer to him as “Simon,” but this episode already feels a bit tight as it is. So while I liked a good portion of the beginning, I felt that some bits could’ve been better executed, and at worst, taken out for the sake of time.

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When the girls take it upon themselves to help their icy friend, they enter the surface of the crown through virtual reality equipment. The crown’s labyrinth just looks spectacular. It’s essentially a village-type corn maze, where everything is shaded in the exact same colors as the crown, with the exception of plant life. This is exactly what I would expect the world of the crown to look like, with a heavy focus on a wildlife theme, while also keeping things technological. The labyrinth in general is interesting when I think deeply about it, and I’m not really sure how I feel about the idea overall. Granted, this entire simulation is VR, and it’s open to interpretation regarding how much of it is actually real, but I feel like it’s a little convoluted that everyone who ever wore the crown just lives in this little crown town where they’ve presumably existed for thousands or millions of years. Like, what do they even do up there? Do they need to eat? Do they socialize with one another? Do they go to the bathroom? How has Simon not lost his sanity completely? It’s generally a lot of weird concepts that never get fully explained because of time restraints, and it’s something that I have trouble wrapping my head around in a coherent way. Some of it feels like it doesn’t really make sense; Gunther’s been leaving within the crown for millions of years, and is still talking about Master Evergreen? How can he even remember who that is? I don’t fully get behind it, but it’s also something that doesn’t actively bother me because it’s genuinely awesome to visit all of the people who once were enslaved by the crown.

As I just mentioned, Gunther’s back in this one, and man, is it good to see the little guy! I loved Gunther in Evergreen, and while I was ultimately satisfied with his unfortunate demise, it is pretty nice to see him back in action in this one. I really would have never expected to have seen him ever again, so this was a true treat. It isn’t just a cameo either, he actually has a pretty active role in the story, and it’s really nice! How cool is it that we get to see the first person who ever wore the crown interact with the most recent bearer? His relationship with the girls is also really sweet, and it’s cool to see Marceline’s absolute awe at the sight of a dinosaur. Even after 1,000 years of living, it’s cool to see a species that is still relatively foreign to her. Not to mentioned the other inhabitants of the crown; let’s address the elephant in the room: Santa was the Ice King at one point. Fucking Santa Claus is canonically apart of the show’s lore. That is both hysterical and kind of fascinating in terms of a mythos. I mean, you have this legendary folklore character of whom was assumed to be magic, and it turns out that it was just some guy who ended up wearing a magical crown that consumed his sanity. That is simply wild. We also have Sven, who apparently only wore the crown once, but was still consumed by it. This kind of ties into my own headcanon that, the younger you are, the more susceptible you are to the crown’s power. We saw how easily Farmworld Finn was taken over by the crown in only a matter of minutes, and it seems the same thing happened to Sven. I’m guessing the emotional and physical maturity of the wearer really matters in terms of the crown’s influence, and it’s kind of cool that we got this bit of information that seems to imply as much.

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But of course, the real star of the show is Simon, of whom picked up on the crown’s wack behavior. It’s once again nice to see Marcy and Simon work off of each other as characters, and it’s even better to see him and Bonnie meet. Even without the crown taking him over, Simon still manages to get under PB’s skin from ignorance, though once again, can you blame the girl? She’s a scientific mastermind. While this episode is very fast-moving, it actually does make up for some of the sins of the formerly jam-packed episode Betty, in which Simon and Marcy really didn’t get a chance to interact at all. Here, Simon lovingly apologizes for not being able to spend time with her, and it doubles as both a sweet moment and somewhat of a nice “sorry ’bout that” from the staff. I also love how Simon is just a bona fide dork and is a bit socially awkward when it comes to talking to the teen-ified Marceline that he never really had a chance to meet before. The first thing he asks Marceline after he apologizes is if she has a boyfriend, and he truly feels like the most “real” character on the show. Aside from Finn, Martin, and Betty(ish), Simon is the only human character, and so I like that they make him mostly just a normal guy, but also kind of quirky. He truly is “best dad.” Of course, there’s also the great dramatic irony that Simon wishes he could go back and punch Ash, even though he already did so in Betty. Such a great running joke.

After their brief travels, they finally do run into the glitchified Betty, which mostly just makes me sad because, once again, you can tell Lena Dunham is merely there for the paycheck and could not sound less interested in what’s going on. This is her last role as the character, of which could have to do with her performance, or just other unrelated incidents, but I’m glad that this is the last we hear from her, because she really wasn’t adding anything to the character or the series by this point. Simon and Betty’s interactions with each other are actually really cute though; again, Simon and Betty’s love doesn’t feel schmaltzy and hollow and actually feels like a real relationship. Simon’s story is so mundane and simple, but truly adds to the idea that they were just two simple people who were madly in love with each other. Of course, it’s a bit different now, considering that this Betty is merely software, but it still feels authentic and ties into what I was saying earlier about how it’s a partially a satisfying conclusion to their relationship. While there’s still much, much more to be explored between Ice King and Magic Betty, this is essentially the strongest resolution they’re treated to up to this point (without giving too much away to y’all who are watching along with this blog) and nice that they’re able to have some form of a relationship while it’s out of the question. Of course, it’s all tied up a bit too quickly and neatly by the end of it, with Simon once again not being able to give Marcy a proper farewell. Regardless, it does end up with a nice wrap up of sweet moments between all of the characters involved.

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And “sweet” describes a lot of this episode by its end: Gunther met some new cool gals, Simon and Betty are able to share somewhat of a happy life together, Marceline was able to connect with Simon once more, and to really understand the relationship between him and Betty, while PB gained some empathy for Simon, and Ice King, in general. Of course, Betty isn’t truly real and Marceline won’t get to see the human version of her close friend for what seems like forever, but Broke His Crown manages to be satisfying and dissatisfying in all the right ways, as I mentioned prior. It provides from some really nice, welcomed developments, and other moments that just make sense for each character’s journey.

And Broke His Crown is just that: a thoroughly satisfying exploration of a group of characters in a really neat setting. It has its problems in pacing, logic, and execution, but manages to be really entertaining regardless to the point where I don’t really mind its problems. It’s another season seven entry that both adds to the lore of the world of Adventure Time and delves deeper into the identities of its inhabitants, of whom are continuing to grow and develop with each passing episode at this point in time.

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Favorite line: “GOODBYE, FREAKS!”

“Varmints” Review

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Original Airdate: November 3, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Kris Mukai

After an episode like The Comet, which successfully wrapped up Finn’s character arc for the time being, it’s quite fitting that, right off the bat, we’re able to dive deeper into Princess Bubblegum’s demotion dilemma in season seven. Bonnie & Neddy was a decent character exploration on its own, but I’m glad that we’re actually treated with an episode that deals with PB’s stress regarding her “throne-jacking” almost immediately after. It’s also really nice to see Marceline once more after her long-term absence in the previous season, in what makes for not only a great in depth look at Bubblegum’s turmoil regarding her status, but also her falling out with Marceline that has never been addressed in great detail up until this point.

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The beginning is just splendid. Any hesitation I felt about enjoying King of Ooo’s character in the last episode was immediately squashed after his brief scene in Varmints, which is purely hilarious. It’s also unique to this episode that Marceline and KOO actually interact with each other, and while their relationship is never explored in full detail (nor does it need to be) it’s cool to see that Marceline is familiar with him. I’m sure he caused tons of different issues for the two gals back in the day.

The feelings of anger that Marceline feels towards PB are totally warranted, especially after finding out that it’s been two whole months since KOO took over the Candy Kingdom. Granted, it’s been two months on KOO’s “Torontian” calendar, which could easily translate to two, maybe three weeks, tops. After working at rekindling their relationship in episodes like Sky Witch and Princess Day (and likely off-screen) Marcy probably feels hurt by the fact that Bonnibel still isn’t being honest with her even after they came to an understanding with each other, and even then, Bonnie isn’t really being honest with herself either. A lot of y’all replied to my review of Hot Diggity Doom and mentioned that PB didn’t technically get voted out of her kingdom, as she decided to quit instead, but I personally always figured that it was a mask for the benefit of her own pride. Though it was barely legal, the election depicted in Hot Diggity Doom clearly did show that the Candy People no longer wanted Bubblegum to run their kingdom, and while PB likely acknowledges that, she also has a failure to accept it. Hence why she once again mentions that she wasn’t kicked out and that she simply “quit.” Her breakdown later on shows that she likely doesn’t believe this as much as she tries to.

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A good amount of the first act is dedicated to Marceline and PB shooting the breeze by a pumpkin patch, and it provides for some really nice, laidback moments. A lot of what this episode accomplishes is similar to The Pajama War, where two characters were able to catch up and strengthen their relationship after a period of awkwardness. It’s nice to just watch PB and Marceline breathe and discuss whatever comes to mind with each other. Whether you ship Bubbline or not, this episode is able to be enjoyed on two different levels: those who personally view the two girls as old friends, and those who view them as past lovers. The episode makes it just vague enough that you’re able to gather as much as you truly want to from their interactions, and it doesn’t tease or pander in one way or another to distract viewers from the true meat of their relationship at hand.

The design of the varmints is really neat, and isn’t at all what I would expect these creatures to look like, though in a rewarding way. Their main facial design itself isn’t particularly unique, but the extra detail that is contributed to their limbs, caterpillar like tails, and many teeth makes them very versatile when it comes to their movements and their attacks. Speaking of nice, detailed designs, the beast form that Marceline transforms into is AWESOME! Said design is actually courtesy of Kris Mukai, who joined the staff for  a brief bit period of time this season. Mukai’s style is very distinctive, with the especially rounded and wider heads that each character sports, and her contribution of creating Marceline’s wolf design is exactly the kind of innovative move I like to see from guest board artists. Don’t even get me started on PB’s gun either, because I freakin’ love it. The fact that she can turn creatures into literal batteries, and magically create another weapon by simply setting the device to “two gun,” is hysterical. What a brilliantly convoluted mechanic. The crystal cave setting is also a pretty delightful, and it’s made more endearing and realistic by the fact that Marcy and Peebs have an actual history within the cave.

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Speaking of which, a large portion of this one focuses on Marcy and PB recapping their glory days, as well as what exactly went wrong and caused their falling out. This is as overtly emotional as the series has been in a long time, but it is welcomed and feels appropriate given that PB rarely ever expresses her feelings, and only does so because she’s lost practically everything. And man, does PB’s breakdown hit me hard. I totally sympathize with her situation; Bonnie put her blood, sweat, and tears into making her kingdom and the Candy People flourish to their fullest potential, and as a result, she lost practically everything that she had worked so hard to accomplish. She took on a nearly impossible task that practically no one else could achieve, but it also meant shutting off her humanity and pushing everyone away. It’s a sad fact of life and never easy to find that balance one way or another, and PB is learning the hard truth of what it means to be all work and no play.  After all that she’s been through, it’s no wonder that she would arrive at her lowest point here, but also at a point where she can regain that humanity once more. PB not only acknowledges all that she has lost, but starts to realize what she can gain from those losses, as she passionately vents to Marceline, who is nothing but understanding through the process. With this newly found respect, the two can rekindle their relationship that neither of them ever truly wanted to lose, and can also beat down some dern varmints in the process.

The episode ends on a perfect note, as an understandably tired PB rests her head on the arm of a close companion under the stars. All while a misinformed Peppermint Butler hides out at his boss’s request. Varmints is good fun with an emotional center. It’s packed with lots of enjoyable action, designs, backgrounds, and a genuinely compelling dynamic between Marceline and Bonnibel. The relationship between the two would only continue to develop as the series progresses, but this is certainly a great starting point for the two, and dare I say the best Marceline and Bubblegum episode to date.

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Favorite line: “Tell Bubblegum I wear her nightgown. Tell everyooooone!”

“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!”

“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.”