Tag Archive | Rebecca Sugar

“Lady & Peebles” Review

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Original Airdate: August 20, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Lady Rainicorn and Princess Bubblegum’s relationship is one that always baffles me. In the original series pitch bible for Adventure Time, the friendship between PB and LR is really exaggerated to the point where it includes “when she [Lady Rainicorn] wakes up and doesn’t see Princess Bubblegum, she’ll dash around the castle grounds gaily searching for her mistress.” While the pitch bible isn’t necessarily the most factual piece of reference for AT’s current status, it still was insinuated in the very early days of the show that these two were supposed to be close pals – hell, PB’s even riding on top of Lady in the opening theme. Besides that, we get a few instances of the two together, namely in the pilot and What Have You Done? and… yeah that’s about it. Weird that we’re supposed to believe these two are close companions when the show has never suggested otherwise, until this particular episode. It’s nothing particularly telling of the friendship between the two, but it does give us some insight into two of Adventure Time’s most prominent female leads.

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The beginning starts off as a compelling, tension filled bit of expository information regarding Finn and Jake’s disappearance. It’s enlightened by Bubblegum’s goofy behavior which is always refreshing; I enjoy how she can go from a very stern and solemn ruler to somehow who is just as wacky and unusual as the rest of the cast of AT. The tenseness comes from Lady’s perspective, and, while a good majority of us have no idea what she’s saying, Niki Yang delivers it so eloquently and in such a sincere tone that it keeps my attention despite the fact that I can’t understand Korean. I feel like I’m watching a weighty foreign dub throughout this scene, and despite the fact that it feels heavy and serious, it’s once again lessened by PB’s totally genuine, yet sarcastic reactions to Lady’s monologue. You can tell she’s taking every word LR says seriously, but she does so in such a hammy and amplified way that is then followed by such a minuscule response that it just cracks me up. I love any depictions of PB’s character, but goofy PB really just rubs me the right way. Also, I’ve never mentioned it before, but the way Lady communicates with others is done so in such a non-pandering way. Most English-speaking viewers won’t be able to understand her, but they don’t go the unnatural route of having every character that interacts with her respond to her with “what do you mean you feel [this way] because of [this]?” There’s no spoon feeding with the writers trying to make us understand every single thing Lady says or feels, and we’re just generally supposed to accept this based on the way she emotes and her tone, which is so much more effective than having an English-speaking character repeat every single thing she says. It would defeat the point of having a Korean-speaking character to begin with.

In my somewhat scathing review of King Worm, I mentioned that the slow pacing of the episode was what really brought it down, and this episode takes its sweet time with the entire middle section as well. The only difference to me is that it actually works to strengthen the episode a great deal. The entire expedition through the black ice cave is remarkable, once again showing off the terrific backgrounds (BGs have been on point this season!) equipped with an ominous atmosphere to really drive the tension and mystery even further. Lady & Peebles embraces the quieter and more subdued moments to make a very convincingly unnerving atmosphere, and also helps make the action sequences more impactful. The action sequences themselves aren’t anything special, though the girls do face some visually interesting foes, from hand beasts to a giant tongue. These battles really show off how Lady and PB deal with physical combat: PB is equipped with her typical scientific technology, while Lady herself seems to be somewhat of a pacifist. Lady’s strengths seem much more on a moral and virtuous level rather than her own physicality. She’s evasive and defensive with her own skills, such as her tactic of phasing through walls and ability of flight, though I think it’s tough to picture Lady being someone who would throw punches, especially with her condition that’s revealed later on.

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The real icing on the cake is the reveal that Ricardio was behind Finn and Jake’s disappearances, however. I wasn’t too big on Ricardio or the episode he debuted in, for that matter, but by God, Sugar did her damnedest to make his return as chilling and uncomfortable as possible, and boy, does it work. They’ve somehow managed to make him seem even creepier and more grotesque than his first appearance, and added a layer of body horror with his loosely connected limbs. And for the first time, he does feel like a legitimate threat. I think the brief scene of him breaking Ice King’s bones was totally wince-worthy, and this time, he’s an actual adversary to Finn and Jake. Despite being easily beaten the first time, Ricardio had the upperhand by poisoning the boys with zanoits (something he and Bubblegum both shared a fond interest of in Ricardio the Heart Guy). It makes for a nice role reversal that Finn and Jake are now the ones who are in danger and PB has to be the one that saves them, and really shows how far she has come since the beginning of the series as a character.

After an unnervingly blatant moment of Ricardio making sexual advances towards the princess, Bubblegum is able to face off with him in a very simple, yet effective takedown. Sugar herself said it was really rewarding to include a scene where Peebles is able to engage in hand-to-hand combat without any of her weapons, and yeah, it’s pretty awesome to watch. It doesn’t feel out of character or like a manipulative tactic from the series to highlight feminism, but instead a great spotlight chance to showcase PB’s true strengths: her role as an intellectual. She isn’t able to defeat Ricardio specifically because she’s really buff or fierce, but because she identifies factually that Ricardio is simply not built as a stable living creature. She denotes this by saying, “I know a thing or two about building a body out of biomass,” which could both refer to herself, as well as her people. Bubblegum can easily identify strengths and weaknesses within living creatures simply because she built herself and her people from scratch. She can use her knowledge to help create life on all layers of the earth, or destroy any artificial being in a matter of seconds if need be. It’s a moment that really had me fully invested in PB as a character. Season four is really her first shining season in my eyes, and this particular battle had me cheering her on and just acknowledging how fucking badass she is by the end of it. It’s an excellent bit of growth for what was originally a damsel-esque character, and it’s terrific to see how far she has come from that stereotype.

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So with that, Finn, Jake, and Ice King are saved, Ricardio is defeated, and everything returns to normal… that is, besides the fact that Lady reveals to Jake that she’s pregnant. I love how this bit is handled, too. With Lady’s tears and general tone, it seems like she and Jake had no plans or desires to have children just yet, and Jake’s humorous closing remark suggests that as well. Despite the fact that the two end up loving their children, it’s clear that they’re a couple that wanted to play things safe and casually for the time being. And how ballsy is it that an unmarried couple are having children on a kid’s show? Pen Ward mentioned in the commentary that the original pitch was to have Jake and Lady break up, due to the stress that Lady endures when Jake goes on adventures, I’m so glad they didn’t go that route. It would’ve been incredibly melodramatic and pointless for a couple as laidback and caring as Jake and Lady to break up, especially given Lady’s devoted and unconditional love for her boyfriend. The pregnancy reveal honestly strengthens the episode for me as well. I love the little bits of foreshadowing, such as the heart monitor reading seven heart signatures instead of two. It also increases the impact of some scenes much more – I feel legitimately sick to my stomach every time I watch Ricardio tie Lady’s body in a knot. I know that aspect never comes into fruition (a lot of people argue Jake Jr.’s face is a birth defect, but that theory has been officially debunked) but it’s still very gruesome to watch a pregnant woman abused in such a way.

I enjoy this one, primarily because it does spotlight these two characters who are rarely seen together, yet feels so genuine and powerful. I don’t think there’s a single other time in the series where PB and Lady are seen together, yet, this episode does such a terrific job of building the unseen connection between them that I never have a hard time believing they are close friends. It also adds layers onto their individual characters, and leaves us wanting more from each of these gals. It’s both honest and telling for both PB and Lady, and adds excitement for the future of their respective character arcs.

Favorite line: “Then, I’ll use my Ball Blam Burglerber!”

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“Burning Low” Review

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Original Airdate: July 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Burning Low opens to Finn and Flame Princess acting like a couple and almost completely ignores the past events of Hot to the Touch. It seems like a jarring change to have her previous episode end so vague and profound and then quite abruptly switch to lovey-dovey and endearing. In addition to that, it doesn’t really add anything that new to Flame Princess’s character. Through the entirety of this episode, FP herself only has a total of, like, 7 lines. We do learn a bit into why she had been locked up for several years of her life and the potential dangers that she could cause in her relationship with Finn, though it’s really never elaborated on any further. That said, it’s not really supposed to be a developmental Flame Princess episode, but instead release the turmoil that’s been building inside Finn ever since he let go of his infatuation with Princess Bubblegum. It does a great job of showing both sides of the situation, namely that Finn finally revealed his feelings toward PB after four seasons of build-up.

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First of all, this episode was the biggest fucking tease of all time by Cartoon Network. They really hyped the shit out of this one as if Finn, PB, and FP were going to be apart of some big love triangle that seemed 100% out of some 12-year-old’s fanfiction. Luckily enough, the staff chose a much more interesting direction that led to a pretty obvious misleading, but one that brought out the best in both Finn and PB’s characters.

Princess Bubblegum is clear, concise, and to a point about how she feels: she simply doesn’t want Finn or Flame Princess, someone who she has kept protected and sheltered from the world since she was a baby, to get radically hurt whether it be physical or mental. The only thing unusual about her point is the fact that she doesn’t draw a specific line about whether she believes Finn and Flame Princess should stop dating or just cease all connections completely. She repeatedly asks Finn to not “see” or “hangout” with Flame Princess, and if she means that he can’t engage in anything physical with Flame Princess, it’s completely understandable that she wouldn’t want to see either get hurt. Though, if she wants Finn and Flame Princess to stop hanging out all together, I have some difficulty getting behind that. Does she believe that the idea of Flame Princess and Finn hanging out at all could end disastrous because they eventually will want to give into those desires, or is it also somewhat of a jealous motherly/friendly tuition that she simply isn’t ready to see Finn dating yet? The latter seems more selfish, but I’d be surprised if that wasn’t just slightly a bit of her reasoning. After all, the ending shows that she does feel some jealousy seeing her little friend develop romantic feelings that don’t lean towards herself, which, again, I don’t think is anything out of character or unusual for her. I’m sure PB had very positive intentions to make sure Finn and Flame Princess remained as safe as possible, but also did enjoy the attention that Finn has solely given her over the years and will miss it. Bubblegum deeply cares about Finn, and watching him grow up is both a rewarding and also a tough experience for her.

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The jealousy aspect really stems from Jake, however, who basically instigated the entire conflict of the episode. It’s not unlike him to entirely disregard something important that PB intended for him to pay close attention to, and I find it even more fascinating that, essentially, he was right the whole time. As I mentioned, PB’s intentions were aiming at everyone’s best interests, but Jake wasn’t wrong in believing what he did. Problem is that he accidentally almost caused the death of Flame Princess, but Finn is also at fault for not sticking around while PB was trying to talk to him. Even if Jake did kickstart Burning Low’s conflict, he makes up for it by continuously sticking by Finn’s side throughout the episode. The scene at the beginning where Finn and Jake discuss love and tiers (the tier 15 bit is so infamous now that I’m sure it goes without mentioning) is surprisingly really funny and cute, and the bit where Jake finally blows up at PB for everything she had put Finn through in the past was both heartwarming and intense. Despite Jake and PB having a relatively civil connection, he has no shame in completely blowing up at her for all the emotional turmoil and stagnation Finn had experienced in the past. PB and he have never had the best relationship when it comes to what is best for Finn, and this is the first time they’re really put at odds.

But the icing on the cake is, of course, Finn blowing up at PB. It’s a really powerful moment for Finn to finally get his emotions for the princess out, and that he’s able to do so when his integrity and patience is tested. Finn knows that it would be entirely unfair for himself to give up everything he’s worked for in the past few weeks to be with someone who wouldn’t give him the time of day, and that he deserves better. It really shows how much he’s grown from developing a real, mutual relationship, and that he knows that he never wants to go back to feeling how he did when he was infatuated with Bubblegum.

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These three perspectives are really what carry the episode through, and make the end result a very raw, powerful experience. That doesn’t mean that Finn and Flame Princess’s relationship is covered poorly, however. I do think that Finn assisting FP in building a new house (where Marauder Village coincidentally used to be) was a very cute sequence, and just very sweet to see Finn in a relationship where he’s receiving mutual care and respect. Made me really happy for the little guy. The bit with Flame Princess bursting through the core of the Earth was definitely an intense sequence, but didn’t quite ring with me as much as the rest of the episode did. Maybe it’s just because I enjoyed the introspective looks at how the Finn-PB relationship has escalated and shifted overtime that when it came back to the FP-Finn relationship, I just wasn’t nearly as invested.

But what we have is an excellent display of anger, jealousy, empathy, and even more turmoil that has built up amongst our main characters throughout the years. It’s really intriguing to see them all act so honestly and brutally with each other, not out of hate, but out of care for one and other and for themselves. It also goes without saying that this is one that is loaded with some of AT’s most iconic moments, whether it be the tier 15 scene or Bacon Pancakes. Yes, this is where Bacon Pancakes all started. And obviously it’s been played out profusely over the years (in one of my favorite renditions here), but it still strikes me as an extremely charming and enjoyable tune. Sugar was especially nervous about this one because she figured it was going in the direction of being way too random and absurd to the point where it was making fun of itself, but I never got that kind of vibe from it. It never seemed too embarrassingly self-referential and always struck me as especially delightful. There’s also the bit with Jake videochatting a silly character by the name President Porpoise, who later receives an entire episode dedicated to him much, much later on.

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This one is just a collection of terrific character interactions and development based on the past sequences of events that led up to this point. For all the people who wanted to see more of Flame Princess and Finn’s relationship in depth, this probably wasn’t especially satisfying, seeing as how FP’s physical instability never really plays a large part in the story again and she’s barely even in it. Though, for anyone who has been anticipating the relationship between Finn and PB to have somewhat of an official close, like myself, it’s all the more rewarding.

Favorite line: “You’ll make it to Tier 5, where she’ll let you discover all fifteen feet of her long, beautiful stomach.” (I don’t wanna know what Jake and Lady do in private)

 

 

“Gotcha!” Review

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Original Airdate: June 18, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Going into LSP-centric episodes is always a difficult task for me. I’ve been pretty audible on this blog about my feelings regarding Lumpy Space Princess in the past, so you probably already know I’m not the biggest fan of her. Yet, at the same time, I don’t actively dislike her. Of the recurring cast of characters, LSP and Cinnamon Bun are about as close I’ve come to disliking anyone, but I certainly don’t hate them. Even with that said, there’s a bit of bias I do hold against these episodes going in that I’m sure a diehard LSP fan wouldn’t necessarily agree with. Then again, there’s also characters I genuinely enjoy like Tree Trunks who isn’t really able to hold up an episode on her own either, so I’m not sure if it all comes down to personal preference or not. I dunno, I’m rambling now, but even though I’m not able to enjoy Gotcha! a whole lot for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, it’s still a pretty okay episode that I think has its moments.

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Part of the problem I do find with LSP-centric episodes is that her vanity and self-centered behavior just aren’t enjoyable enough to span the entirety of an 11 minute episode. The episodes she’s heavily focused in typically do revolve around the very one-dimensional side of her personality as well, which is why Lumpy Space Princess works best in small doses. You have an episode like this that attempts to help her come to a realization about herself and the way she behaves, but the fact that she still stays the same in her very next appearance just makes any type of development surrounding her seem like a waste of time. It’s not even that she’s portrayed badly in this one; I enjoy her epiphany that people aren’t solely attractive by their good looks and instead also by their personality, as well as the admiration she grows from Finn because he is especially attractive in that sense. However, as I’ve said, in a cast of characters that are constantly growing and changing, LSP is just one that we can never expect to change, which is fine, but it makes an episode like this seem practically pointless. The only time I find it interesting is when we’re treated to some of the more tragic aspects of her characters, such as in Bad Timing or Be Sweet, but any attempt to put Lumpy in a more compassionate and endearing light just feels a bit flimsy to me because her attitude and obsession with herself never seem to lessen.

As for the plot of the episode itself, I think it also suffers a bit from being slightly disjointed. It almost feels like it could’ve been separated into two different stories: one with Finn and Jake going on an adventure with LSP, and one solely revolved around LSP’s book. I feel as though they had some cool things going with LSP’s social experiment in the first act that just don’t get enough time to breathe or work to their fullest potential. That’s followed by an entertaining dungeon crawl, but by the time that expedition ended, I had almost completely forgotten LSP was writing a book to begin with. I liked both set pieces, but I think committing to one part or separating the two would have helped for satisfactory experiences.

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Not sure if the eye-whites here are an animation error or not. This feature was primarily done away with after the first season, though I’m not sure if the rule specifically applies to Finn. Nevertheless, you rarely see a character with eye-whites these days.

So yeah, I’m ranting my asshole out, but there are many other gems that are worth mentioning. Despite what I just said about the story, I do genuinely enjoy both the adventure and book aspect. From an LSP point of view, I think her parts can drag them down a bit, but it’s more of the atmosphere surrounding her that I like than her actual experience. For instance, I love that brief little montage of Lumpy Space Princess writing a new version of her story while that song about generosity plays softly in the background. The entire episode is just filled with nice indie vibes that I can really get behind. And I guess that’s the best way to describe how I feel after watching this episode, “nice.” Again, I don’t really find myself enjoying Lumpy’s character or sympathizing with her anymore than I did before, but I didn’t actively roll my eyes or find it painful to sit through. It’s not like sitting through a Ronaldo Fryman episode of Steven Universe (coincidentally, Rebecca Sugar boarded this one. Sorry, Rebecca. There’s just no way to make that guy pleasant or charming).

The connection between LSP and Turtle Princess is one I quite enjoy. The constant “HEY, GIRL!”’s throughout the episode do make me laugh considerably hard, and I just generally find Turtle Princess’s sad and macabre personality to be endearing, so anytime she’s on-screen is a delight. Jake in particular is pretty funny in this one. I like his brief interaction with BMO at the beginning (would’ve loved if Jake actually called BMO “sensei” in the next handful of episodes), his reaction when LSP first shows up at the doorstep, and his outburst “LSP, you’re wearing garbage as clothes!” towards the end. I think Cole Sanchez and Sugar went a little overboard with how nice Finn is for the purpose of the plot. It’s not overexaggerated or unbelievable, but it shapes him down to behave like a much blander character than he is. But again, this is from Lumpy Space Princess’s point of view, so I can’t really fault his behavior or the way he’s written for it. I would’ve enjoyed a few goofier or quirky moments for him. I do, however, like his remark, “you’re beautiful on the inside… like, your brain and stuff!” That was a perfect Finn interpretation of inner beauty.

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The quest Finn, Jake, and LSP go on is pretty neat-o too. As I mentioned, I really would’ve liked to see a whole lot more of the Mystery Mountains, but what we got to see was pretty cool. The whole bit with the mirrors was really spooky and interesting, and it makes me wonder what the story is behind the mirrors. Is it secretly what LSP most desires? That would make perfect sense, because the entire episode is devoted to her realization that Finn is not attracted to her, but instead, she is attracted to him. While we’re on the subject, what is the age gap between Lumpy Space Princess and Finn? Like, we know she was already a teenager in her debut, and she later celebrated her quinceranera in The Eyes, meaning she’s probably 15 or 16 where Finn is now a 14-year-old up to this point. I always kind of thought LSP’s attraction to Finn was sort of creepy, but it’s kind of reassuring that they’re likely only a year or two apart. Also, is this the only time Finn uses that little slot on his backpack for the Demon Blood Sword? I mean, I know he used it to carry the Root Sword around, but from the Demon Blood Sword onward, he’s always just kind of kept them in an area between his back and his backpack. Weird thing to note, but I kind of wonder why he doesn’t use that slot more often. Probably a hell of a lot more comfortable (though also probably tougher to draw).

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With that said, this one is okay. It has its fair share of decent moments, but nothing I get behind too much. Again, it might just be my personal beliefs blindsiding me, but there are several LSP-centric episodes down the line I actually really enjoy, so it does lead me to believe I’m not being too biased.

“I don’t know how it happened. Usually, I’m super observant about these kinds of things. Like that one time Melissa’s lump was all crooked when she came back from the bathroom. I observed that. I observed that all day and didn’t say anything. She must have been so embarrassed for herself. What-ever. ‘Cause that’s what you deserve when you PO LSP. Ha. Oh, she know what she did – No, I’m not going to tell you.

After all, a girl’s gotta have some mysteries.

Anyway, I’ll talk to you later, book. To recap, Finn is the one who is hot. I’ll see you in the next chapter. BUMPS.”

– I Wrote a Book, Lumpy Space Princess

Favorite line: “LSP, you’re wearing garbage for clothes!”

“Daddy’s Little Monster” Review

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Original Airdate: April 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Daddy’s Little Monster answers the questions left behind in Return to the Nightosphere with pretty satisfying results. This one had some competition with the hilarity and bizarreness of the last episode, but I think Daddy’s Little Monster takes a bit of a new direction that still makes for an equally enjoyable episode.

This one starts exactly where Return to the Nightosphere left off, as Jake tries to charge up his camera phone through BMO after a refreshing shower. BMO’s technology functions usually incorporate some kind of double entendre revolving around making stool, but this one seems especially straining for the little guy. Almost like he’s passing a kidney stone or something. It’s also interesting to see a cellular phone in the Land of Ooo; to my knowledge, we only ever regularly see LSP’s cell phone up to this point, so it almost makes me wonder where exactly Jake retrieved it from. Though, from this episode on, it seems like almost everyone in Ooo and beyond has a cell phone. Kinda wish they kept up with the cool and unique personal phones Finn and Jake had that were adapted from a transistor radio and a walkie-talkie. They just seemed like fitting and creative pieces of technology for a post-apocalyptic world.

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Aside from that, we do get a lengthy sequence of exposition as Finn and Jake watch video evidence of what happened to Marceline. It’s all very energetic and humorous though, especially with the return of none other than Hunson Abadeer! That guy is so lively and vibrant that I love every second of him being on-screen. It’s rare we even get to ever see him, so his return is certainly welcomed. Marceline’s quick song about wanting Hunson’s respect is alright I suppose, but that’s because its counterpart from the last Nightosphere episode was The Fry Song. Pretty hard to compete with that, and the song itself is just sort of a brief leighway into Marcy’s main conflict with her father. It has some nice lyrics, and reveals more baggage in the ever-dysfunctional relationship between Hunson and Marceline. I also love Jake throughout the duration of the video: he’s constantly rotating the phone up and down from body-view to his feet. I also find his line “ow, my hippocampus!” to be great, because it works as a funny one-liner, as well as revealing where Finn and Jake’s amnesia came from in the previous episode.

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There’s a lot of funny moments once Finn and Jake return to the Nightosphere. I love Jake’s half-assed attempt at shifting into a demon, followed by his really grotesque transformation. The demons return once again and are equally as funny as their last appearance; love how the demonized Marcy finds a way to fuck with them no matter what, even when they try to find loopholes around their predicament. That one guy just wanted abs too God damn badly. Also, that fucking demon who was chewing out Finn and Jake for cutting in line was all kinds of amusingly obnoxious. I love the Political Rap that follows as well, written by J-Moyns himself. It’s so pandering to the demons listening, and yet I love the way they all just immediately go along with it. Especially the line “this system is broke, yo!” That really seemed to hit home.

The scene with Hunson in his kitchen (equipped with magnets from Vegas and Orlando; Hunson really got around in his younger days!) is both enjoyable and pretty interesting, really. Hunson’s actions are obviously morally wrong, but it’s clear that him and Marceline are two completely different people, and it’s often pretty relatable that a parent may want something for their child that just simply isn’t attractive to them. Hunson’s actions aren’t completely unlikable because he certainly seems to hold Marceline to a high standard by considering her worthy of ruling his kingdom, and only wants Marcy to be raised the way he was raised and possibly find more common ground with her. The reason he’s wrong in his actions, though, is obviously because he chose to do it against Marceline’s will and didn’t respect her choice of wanting to go her own path.

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Finn see’s this as an opportunity to save Marceline, and, though it backfires, Finn chooses the heroic and equally chaotically evil choice of putting on Marceline’s amulet. It’s cool to see such a twisted version of Finn’s personality. Even though he saves Marceline and Jake, he’s pretty much immediately taken over by the gem’s demonic powers afterwards, and can’t resist the overwhelming feelings of evil inside of him. That’s when Hunson comes out to save the day! I think this part in particular can be up for interpretation. It’s never explained fully whether Hunson knew this was Finn or not, and I like to believe he assumed the beast was Marceline and finally came to his senses in regards to allow her to go upon her own life path. Looking at it that way is a very sweet moment from the ruler of all darkness, and even if he knew it was Finn, he still chose to put an end to the suffering that Marcy and her friends had gone through.

The only thing about this one I didn’t like that much was the climax. I think the conversation between Hunson and Marceline was resolved way too quickly. It goes from quiet, to tense, to charming, to cheerful all over to course of about 20 seconds. I like Hunson admitting he’s proud of Marceline, but this scene just wasn’t enough of a selling point for me. I was really convinced that Hunson does care about Marceline during their interactions towards the end of the original Nightosphere episode, but it’s done so quickly this time around that I feel like there’s not enough time for a big emotional impact. It’s done well enough, but after one big two parter, I would have liked somewhat of a bigger payoff. Also, apparently a lot of people thought Marceline was completely serious when she said she’d stop being friends with Finn, which almost had me convinced because we won’t see her for another 18 episodes now. Marcy’s pretty much missing in action for the rest of the season from this point on, aside from one final prominent appearance.

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But I do like this one a lot, and I think it really does work well as a two parter. It was a great exploration of a rarely seen area in Adventure Time, and continued to build on a relatively important relationship. I love the Nightosphere, I love Hunson, I love his connection with Marcy, and I just really love all the creativity that went into these past two episodes. This is the last we see of Hunson for now (not sure why they’ve never incorporated him in another story till the upcoming season 9 episode, I suppose they just never found a place for him) and I’m glad we got to see enough into his character and his relationship with Marceline to hold me over till then.

Also, I’ll never look at a banana the same way again.

Favorite line: “See how I’m not killing you?”

“Hot to the Touch” Review

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Original Airdate: April 2, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Cole Sanchez

Here we are, kids! Season four! As I’ve mentioned a couple times prior to this review, season four is a really big turning point for the series. Things get darker, edgier, and more impactful from hereon in, folks. Fresh off the batch is Hot to the Touch, a continuation from where season three’s cliffhanger left off. When the original synopsis for this episode was released, I had much different expectations for it. I generally didn’t expect for this one to pick right up where Incendium left off, as it typically wasn’t really something AT had done before, aside from the Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil two-parter. I thought there’d be a lot more of Finn just sort of observing Flame Princess from afar, and trying to learn little tidbits about her in the process. There is a little bit of that, but what we got as a whole was a pretty satisfying episode, though not without it’s issues.

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First off, I think Flame Princess’s character is crafted perfectly in this episode. I dunno, after this one, I think they kinda jumped the gun and made her a lot less interesting than this episode set her up to be. I like her curiosity, how uneducated of the world around her she is, and how her moral code is constantly put into question. With a few exceptions (and some cool development much later on) I think her character was sorta squandered down into just a straight good guy following Hot to the Touch. Not to say Flame Princess is an awful character after this episode, but it almost feels like day and night to watch her so recklessly destroy a kingdom in this one and then be all cute and bubbly the next. I just really think they had a lot of momentum going with her ambiguity and then sorta dropped it way too quickly. It’s not an actual issue with the episode, though, and is one of my very favorite appearances of FP’s character in general. Also, she frequently mentions that she’s an elemental! It’s cool to see this mentioned so early on, and makes me wonder how Flame Princess became so familiar with this label to begin with. Perhaps Flame King educated her on this matter? It’s really up for discussion.

Finn’s interest in Flame Princess is very cute; I love his instant infatuation with FP and how he’s quickly able to profess his love for her without even really knowing her. That’s a typical thirteen-year-old for you (or is he 14 now?). I love how honest he is right off the bat, completely contradicting his prior relationship with PB. It’s rewarding to see the little guy be so open regarding his feelings and to not hold back, learning from his mistakes the first time. In addition to that, there is an interesting bit of turmoil he experiences when he has to choose between being a hero or preserving the one he cares about. The decision seems simple at first, but it all becomes more difficult when we learn that putting out FP’s flames legitimately hurt her. All of us want Finn to choose the obvious route of being heroic, but also don’t want to see Flame Princess get injured in the process. As for his ending breakdown… we’ll get to that in a bit.

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Jake is the perfect everyman in this episode: completely supportive of his hormonal brother, but being very rational when handling the situation. I love how much he goes through just for his friend, from helping him pursue his new love interest to trying to protect the Goblin Kingdom in the process. And, as a result, Jake is actually the true hero of this episode! Yeah, he helps Finn get closer to Flame Princess AND saves everyone in the Goblin Kingdom. What did you do again, Finn? You’re slippin’, buddy.

There’s a lot of enjoyable moments in this one. I love Finn’s awkwardness when it comes to pursuing FP, right down to the fact that he’s basically being a giant stalker and even acknowledges himself in the act. There’s plenty of silly side characters, from the smoking bird (who, for some reason, speaks in rhymes) and the return of the quirky goblins! And hey, speaking of characters returning, my boi NEPTR’s back!! NEPTR is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s really delightful to see the little scamp once again. I love the fact that everyone just generally disregards everything he says, including his entire existence. It just seems like such an oddly cynical and sadistic turn for such loving characters, and I really like how different it is because of that. NEPTR will always be BMO-Light to the rest of the cast. Also, that rap was fucking dope!

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My one problem with this episode, which is actually kind of a major one, is Rebecca Sugar’s part of the episode. I think Cole Sanchez’s section is just fine, but Sugar’s work feels like it’s trying too hard to be really profound and emotional to me. This is a common criticism for a ton of the season six and seven episodes, but really, I think it comes out full-fledged here. Finn’s crying just didn’t hit home for me at all; Rebecca had some big obsession with wanting Finn to cry during her time on the show, and really, I’m not sure I get it. I think some of the most impactful and poignant moments on the show are done without any crying at all (Finn discovering Susan may not be human in Susan Strong, Simon’s video diaries in Holly Jolly Secrets, Finn being abandoned by his father in Escape from the Citadel, etc.). It’s something that carries over heavily into her own show Steven Universe, but really, I just don’t think it works here. And considering the ending is left so ambiguous and poetic, you’d think there’d be room for more development on how Flame Princess and Finn are in a somewhat “forbidden” romance, but it’s rarely even touched upon in the next episode FP is in, outside of the last half, and just feels like a cheap gimmick in order for me to feel something or be left with some lasting impression, but it just doesn’t work at all. Pendleton Ward had this brief bit of wisdom on the episode’s commentary:

“[in reference to writing kid characters] … you just think that they’re gonna skin their knees and cry a bunch, when it’s not fun to watch, I don’t think.”

Though he wasn’t speaking directly about that portion of the episode, it pretty much sums up my feelings. I criticized What Was Missing slightly in the past for Sugar’s style feeling off with AT’s aesthetics, but I think this is a prominent example of her writing failing to meet the emotional complexities of the characters, at least in my eyes. I think Cole gets it right from Finn’s monologue earlier on in the treehouse, that’s meant both to be funny and somewhat profound. That’s exactly what I was looking for throughout a majority of this episode.

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That being said, I do think it’s still a pretty decent season premiere. I think there’s still a lot of enjoyable moments, from the silly jokes, to the beautiful visuals (really nice blends of orange and yellow), to the general intrigue of the main conflict. The characters are written as perfectly as they should be; as I mentioned, this is one of my favorite appearances of Flame Princess to date. Even though I’m not crazy about the ending, it still leaves a ton of ambiguity and mystery that Incendium left off with, giving me enough motivation and anticipation to keep watching forward. And as long as I live, I will never get tired of Finn stretching out Jake’s face like silly putty.

Strap in, everyone! Season four is gonna be one hell of a ride!

Favorite line: “Listen, when I look at you, my brain goes all stupid, and I just wanna hug you, and sit on the couch and play BMO with you.” (the most accurate depiction of teenage feelings of all time)

“Incendium” Review

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One of my favorite title cards. Finn’s turmoil is so wonderfully represented.

Original Airdate: February 13, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

Incendium is significant because it was the point where I became completely and utterly invested in Adventure Time. There were points prior such as Mortal Recoil, Thank You, and Holly Jolly Secrets where I grew even fonder of the series, but Incendium was the episode where I decided there was absolutely no turning back. I was in it for the long haul from this point on, and prepared for where ever the series would take me next. As you can tell, this is one of my favorites. It’s not one of the funniest or even most dramatic episodes, but this is a direct transition into a new era of AT, and one that doesn’t hold back with its raw emotion, introduction of new characters, and growth from the past three seasons. This is it people: Finn’s most notable entrance into adolescence.

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The concept of this episode came from the writers no longer being able to incorporate Finn’s love interest for PB into compelling stories. Wizard Battle was an episode that proved this relationship to be a bit burnt out in its direction, and one that I was getting dreadfully bored of myself. The beginning of this episode wastes no time by displaying the truth behind how infatuations typically tend to start out as innocent and charming and eventually transition into creepy and desperate. Finn’s behavior can surely be seen as that, though without his intention to be so, and Bubblegum’s response is equally appropriate. It’s a moment that runs so quickly and contains little dialogue, but one that I think is especially well done. It doesn’t focus on making either character unlikable for the sake of the plot, and follows a realistic direction in which the situation was likely to follow. It’s a really impactful, driving moment for Finn to be straight up turned down, something we really haven’t gotten to see yet. It’s also a bit of the least teasing PB’s behavior has ever been; it seems her intentions to show Finn her new invention were strictly out of leisure and companionship, and her personal space being briefly invaded was what turned her off from what was genuinely supposed to be a simple picnic with friends.

That being said, it’s still one of the most emotional Goddamn scenes in the series to see Finn so drastically torn up. Sure, he’s still a child, and we all know those random teenage love interests never meant anything. But they still stung, dammit! This sequence is complete with one of my favorite Sugar songs, All Gummed Up Inside. Not only are the lyrics a perfect example of a character releasing his/her feelings through song, the combination between the pacing of BMO’s video game in the background and the ukulele chords are just beautiful. It’s really one of the most creatively timed tunes in the series, and one that I constantly find myself revisiting. In addition to the song, the visuals during it are equally as heartwrenching. Sugar outdoes herself with really somber depictions of AT’s characters, and the looks of hopelessness on Finn, Jake, and BMO’s faces are really terrifically drawn. It’s a very powerful moment that fits so much emotion into such a short sequence of time. Also love the callback to Finn clutching that wad of Bubblegum’s hair (although, I gotta wonder where he got those pictures of PB. It’s not even like it’s a picture of him and Peebles hanging out, it’s like, a fucking headshot. Did she just randomly give him a bunch of those?),

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A good remainder of the episode is kept mostly light with a really enjoyable and heartfelt story of Jake trying to find a new woman for his best friend. There’s a lot of really amusing moments from this point on: the reintroduction of Flambo, who, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of my favorite secondary characters in the series. I don’t know what it is about him, I just love his general demeanor and random Brooklyn accent. The interactions between him and Jake are really great; love the laidback way they’re able to just shoot the shit, followed by the always hilarious flame shield incantation (“I cast flame shield on ya’s… also I spat on ya’s!”).

Outside of Thank You, this is the first major appearance of the Fire Kingdom, and it looks dope. Love the various orange, red, yellow, and browns that make up the kingdom, and the contrast of Jake’s blue that really helps him to stick out among the crowds of Fire People and their surroundings. There’s also the introduction of another one of my favorite side characters, Flame King, and the entrance of a brand new major player herself, Flame Princess. This is probably Flame King’s strongest appearance in the series. His voice, provided by Keith David, hits all the right points of intimidation and dry wit. I love the way him and Jake work off of each other, and the various tasks Jake must go through that really are very pointless in hindsight. There’s also the crowd of Fire People that honestly crack me up. The way they just mindlessly repeat everything (a very satirical homage to other TV shows and movies that involve royalty) is always worth a dumb laugh or two from me. The way Jake reprises Finn’s song is really delightful; it’s not quite as catchy or powerful, but I love the way Jake is able to take something so heavy and emotional and reboot it into something more calming and delightful, typically showcasing his best abilities.

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It’s also a bit of a sad scene to watch Jake so disappointed of his failure as he softly apologizes to Finn’s hologram. It’s a moment that also displays another emotional strength of the series: the way the characters are able to so strongly empathize with each other. You can tell that Finn’s inability to reciprocate PB’s love is affecting Jake just as much, and that he’d do anything to help out his brother during his time of need. Which leads to one of the most confusing parts of the episode: Jake’s Finn mimic choking himself. I’m not sure if this was Jake getting way too in character, or if it was an elaborate plan by himself all along, but it just feels a bit aimless to me. Not sure how he knew it would work if it was the latter, and not sure why he would do it to begin with if it was the former.

The third act closes out with some of the strongest raw material of the episode, as Finn begins his fueled rampage and unleashes all of his negative inner feelings. It only last for a brief amount of time, and he’s able to step back once he notices the injured princess, allowing for some nice symbolism with Finn using a piece of Bubblegum to save Flame Princess, and then completely leaving that piece of PB behind. Flame Princess’s character isn’t that well-developed in this one, but the ending does leave a bit of intrigue that we haven’t seen from the show before: someone who is less emotionally mature than Finn. FP is completely bonkers when it comes to controlling her inner feelings, and for the longest time, Finn has had to combat his inferiority when it comes to those more mature than him. This may be where his immediate interest in the princess comes from, and it’s an interesting realization that disregards Finn’s entire romantic past up to this point. Everything changed when the fire nation attacked.

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So yeah, I love this one. It just has such an exciting feel to it, and despite it not having any big battles or giant cliffhangers like other season finales do, this one is simply an important transition into the later seasons of Adventure Time, leaving some old, worn out relationships in the past along with it. It’s a really fun exploration of Finn’s new potential love interest, and one that would forever change his life and future ahead of him. It’s a lovely bit of emotion mixed with amusing gags that I really never get tired of. Shoutout to Rebecca Sugar and Adam Muto for ending their board partnership together with a bang! Surely one of my all-time favorites.

That’s the end of season three, folks! Like always, I’d like to thank anyone who’s been keeping up with the blog and sharing your lovely thoughts with each new post. I really enjoy all the feedback I get with this blog, and it makes the entire experience more rewarding. The season three review should be out later this week, along with a bit of a surprise mini-review that I’m sure most of you weren’t expecting. But, besides that, I’ll be back with Hot to the Touch very shortly!

Favorite line: “If anyone tries to hurt Finn, I will kill them!”

“Jake vs. Me-Mow” Review

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Original Airdate: November 21, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

The title card concept originates from an actual drawing created by fourteen-year-old (at the time of its debut, that is) Gunnar Gilmore, as Pen Ward himself loved the drawing so much that he wanted an entire episode based around the character Me-Mow. It’s an ambitious concept, but the idea of Jake being pitted against some cat seems especially ludicrous and fanfiction-y for the Adventure Time world. However, the episode is taken in a much, much different direction that actually makes for a genuinely compelling plot.

The character of Me-Mow is actually what I consider to be a more engaging version of the Cute King. Me-Mow is legitimately cute, with her voice be provided by Kyla Rae Kowalewski (also the voice of Anais on The Amazing World of Gumball). In addition to being cute, Me-Mow is a very competent villain, and one that is never downplayed for her size or charm. The show doesn’t pull some manipulative trick by making Me-Mow’s cuteness her strongest weapon, but instead creates a villain that’s able to be so effective as an opponent because of her small size. The scene where she attacks Finn builds a great deal of tension and actually makes some valid points. Though her dagger isn’t able to make very effective dents, it’s pretty evident that she could pretty much just slice Finn’s eyeballs at any point and render him blind. It’s rare that you actually get to see tiny enemies in any animated series that aren’t purely comedic, so I’m glad Adam and Rebecca were so graceful not to fall into any generic cliches.

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I mentioned how sympathetic Jake’s character was in No One Can Hear You, and this one really continues the trend of gut-wrenching Jake-centric episodes. It’s incredibly hard to watch the pain he endures in this episode, from the various times he’s brutally injected with poison to all of the psychological burdens he’s probably bearing. You gotta wonder what it’s like from his perspective. There’s points where he literally considers killing Wildberry Princess, and it sounds fucked up, but wouldn’t that thought cross your mind at least once if you were in that position? It’s obviously morally wrong, but Jake simply has his hands tied and there’s not much that he can do to save himself besides the only known solution in front of him. It’s a dark road for the series to cross, but one that doesn’t make Jake seem like he’s bordering psychosis or generally unlikable in the slightest bit. Of course, it’s handled with humor as well. Jake’s “maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be killed!” gets a big laugh out of me, and all of his attempts to get Me-Mow out of his nose, in addition to anytime he tries to act completely normal around Finn and WBP, are really amusing.

Finn’s sort of an idiot in this episode, but again, I don’t think the writers go too far with his stupidity that it’s completely unbelievable or irritating. His side of the story is still handled with much humor and likability too; I’ll never understand why the hell he started shouting “meow” when Jake shushed him, but it’s something only Finn would do, and it’s just silly enough that it works for me. It’s also a sweet one for him too: not only does he share a moment of emotional turmoil towards the end when he threatens to kill Me-Mow for what she’s done and watch his best friend nearly die, but there’s the scene where he sings his mother’s lullaby (written by Rebecca, of course!) that she used to sing to Finn and Jake , and maybe even Jermaine, when they were babies. It’s a brief, out-of-nowhere bit of poignancy that really builds a connection we rarely ever see, that being between Finn and Margaret, and just adds a bit of quiet enlightenment to and otherwise suspenseful episode.

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And yes, this one really makes use of the element of suspense. It’s such a small-scale episode, but the many ways we empathize with Jake and are so concerned for his well-being, in addition to the anticipation in regards to whether or not his plans will work out, really kept me at the edge of my seat the first time I saw it. In fact, I’m still able to be fully enthralled by the events of this episode despite knowing the actual outcome of the situation. The resolution I think is really clever, and something I actually didn’t think of once during the duration of the episode. My reaction was pretty much the same as Finn and Jake’s when Jake increased the size of his liver. Biiiiig liver, YEAH!

If there’s one minor criticism I have, it’s that the title is a bit misleading. The original title for this episode was An Assassin in Jake’s Nose, which is much more fitting in my opinion. There’s very little of Jake and Me-Mow facing off, in fact, Finn actually engages in combat with her a lot more. Like I said, though, the contents of the episode are better than what the title suggests, I just wish it was slightly more fitting with the tone and plot of the episode.

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Besides that slight nitpick, I do really enjoy this one. The stakes feel really high, and even if we know that Jake isn’t going to legitimately die, it still feels like a very real conflict that’s engaging from beginning to end. There’s a couple of nice gags throughout the episode, like I really enjoy the fact that the people of Wildberry Kingdom eat meat for some reason. I guess they can’t eat berries or fruit, so they must be pretty extreme carnivores in that regard. The backgrounds from Ghostshrimp are really nice in this one; I love that it’s very similar to the setting of the Treehouse, but adds a bit of a unique spin with the many layers of tree branches and berries that gives the Wildberry Kingdom its own separate feel to it. There’s a lot of nice character moments, between Jake’s anxiety of choosing between murder and being murdered, and Finn’s obliviousness, but all-around devotion to his friend. Definitely another high-point in an already above average season.

And if you think it takes Susan Strong a long time to return, let’s just wait and see how many episodes it takes Me-Mow to come back. I’ll start counting now.

Favorite line: “Give it up, Me-Mow! You’re only making my face look cooler!”