Tag Archive | Season eight

Season Eight Review

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Following the huge backlash regarding the tone and execution of Season Six of Adventure Time, Season Seven was, in turn, somewhat of a return to form of less heady and complicated stories that focused more on our main heroes. Season Eight takes that notion one step further by feeling as if it is catered to please the Adventure Time fandom in general, offering more resolutions to ongoing storylines, less filler episodes, and more of a central focus on Finn’s character and role in the series. As a result, it really pays off and makes for, in my opinion, probably the most satisfying and enticing Adventure Time season to date.

Season Eight is practically the most exclusive Adventure Time season to date, and what I mean by that is that there really isn’t single episode within this packaged bunch that any common viewer would be able to watch without having some trouble following. There’s a few entries at the beginning of the season that are a bit more inclusive, namely WheelsHigh Strangeness, and Horse and Ball, but those still feature characters and situations that are better enjoyed with previous knowledge and information regarding the series. This is also probably why Cartoon Network practically shunned it from the network and aired episodes completely unadvertised throughout the course of the entire season. It’s a strategy that caused a lot of uproar at the time, but I think I kind of understand where the network was coming from. I mean, they had already cancelled the series, and with the new season being targeted almost entirely towards longtime fans, the network would kind of be wasting money on advertising a show to children unfamiliar with its history. Anybody who actually wanted to watch the show obviously kept up with social media more than television advertising. After all, up to 20 million people in the US got rid of cable in 2017, which is a fuck-ton. I don’t blame the big boys at CN for thinking that this was the best way to go about things. Just makes me slightly sad we weren’t able to get ant really rad previews like this anymore.

Regardless of that tangent, it is really satisfying to feel as if every episode being dished out this season is important. I’m all for filler episodes of the series, but inconsistent airdates from the network can often result in deteriorating interest. Season Six was the first season to have inconsistencies in its airing schedule, and considering that the season was filled to the brim with wildly different stories that often didn’t connect in any particular way, it often left me a bit dissonant. Season Eight’s episodes actually aired in four different pairs, essentially. The first six episodes were aired in bomb format in the course of a week, Islands and Elements were released digitally all at once, both of which I watched straight through in one sitting, and the last five episodes of Season Eight were all dropped on the app at the same time. I’m all for the practice of watching episodes week-by-week, but at the expense of Cartoon Network’s insane schedule changes, I’m glad we were always left with satisfying bunches in return.

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“Satisfying” is a term I throw around a lot when describing this season, and I think most of the credit is due to the fact that this season had not one, but two miniseries(es)! Islands and Elements are easily two of the greatest accomplishments that Adventure Time has ever pulled off, and showing just how successful the show can be when telling a dedicated and ongoing story. Stakes was the first attempt at practicing this method, though I like how Islands and Elements are way more incorporated into the main story, while Stakes was (for the most part) standalone. Also, unlike StakesIslands and Elements are actually good. I’m anticipating many, many death threats for that statement. I could talk about Islands and Elements more here, but it’d be less redundant if y’all just checked out my individual reviews of both of them if you haven’t already!

It is weird talking about this season without including the miniseries(es), but there is one, main ongoing story outside of these individual arcs: Fern’s inception. As I’ve mentioned before, Fern is one of my favorites. I think his stellar design and portrayal, coupled with his compellingly tragic story, really makes for one of Adventure Time‘s strongest secondary contenders. Even though he was only fleshed out in the course of four separate episodes (with some minor bits of characterization in both Islands and Elements) it’s really easy to get behind his story because of how recognizable he is. He’s essentially Finn if things went horribly, horribly wrong everyday of his life. It’s even more fittingly appropriate that (originally) Season Eight begins with Fern’s arc in Two Swords and closes out his role as a unlikely hero in Three Buckets. Thankfully, we’ll see more of the little weirdo later on in Season Nine!

Finn is the primary star of this season, with both of the miniseries centering mainly around him and his story. Both of them feature some of the most emotionally charged tales featuring our main hero to date, namely his origins and his loving connection to his brother. Though Finn steals the spotlight most of the time (rightfully so) everybody gets a chance to shine in their own compelling way. Princess Bubblegum continues to battle with her own identity and individual power in both High Strangeness and Jelly Beans Have Power, Jake struggles to cope with the changes and stress in his life in Cloudy and Abstract, Marceline comes to terms with her own repressed emotions in Ketchup, BMO learns to appreciate his real-life connections above all in Imaginary Resources, Susan’s arc FINALLY is restored as of Islands, while Elements features LSP’s unlikable personality actually benefiting the world for once, Ice King experiencing a sense of self-actualization, and Betty going bonkers. The only characters within the main crew that don’t really get to do much are Flame Princess and Lady Rainicorn. Flame Princess gets a big role in Happy Warrior, but she doesn’t really get a chance to shine in full form since she’s altered by the elemental effects. Lady Rainicorn had her swan song in the self-entitled Season Seven episode, though she has some nice moments in The Invitation and Abstract. Even though half of the season is encompassed by Elements and Islands, the other lovely citizens of Ooo still get a great chance to shine in the other 16 episodes.

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The teams this season were pretty stellar all around, but I have to give special props to Sam Alden. He worked with a total of THREE different storyboard artists throughout the run of this season, and his work always stands out as top notch. Alden started out being easily glanced over during his time with the incredibly out-there Jesse Moynihan, but he’s really come into his own the past two seasons by having an recognizable style, a strong focus on passionate characterization, and a heavy emphasis on studying the works and tactics of his peers. Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard dish out their usual atmospheric treats, with slightly less classics than previous seasons. Seo Kim and Somvilay Xayaphone don’t have a single bad entry this season! Granted, they worked on some of the weaker miniseries episodes, but they also spearheaded one of the best – Bespoken For! Hanna and Aleks worked on episodes that were mostly good, with a heavy emphasis on mostly. And per usual, uncle Graham Falk stopped by on occasion to offer his delightful zaniness. There’s definitely less of a focus on new staff members, with a couple exceptions, namely Laura Knetzger, Polly Guo, and Charmaine Verhagen. It really helps to nail the notion of stronger character portrayals and longterm story arcs by having mostly veterans take the helm this time around.

Top 5 Best Episodes

5. High Strangeness – Bizarre and potent, this one is the best Tree Trunks episode to date, and another compelling look at PB’s inner doubt.

4. Bespoken For – A brilliant tease for lore that ends up being a hilarious day in the life of Ice King, and also a very depressing day in the life of Betty Grof.

3. Do No Harm – A terrific back-to-back exploration of both Finn and Fern’s characters, and one that’s both beautiful in the art and sound department.

2. Cloudy – A beautiful celebration of Finn and Jake’s relationship.

1. Min & Marty – AT‘s storytelling at its absolute best, giving us one of the most compassionate, and most heartwrenching, tales of Finn’s past to date.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. Slime Central – Man, this one isn’t even bad! I just didn’t know what else to put at the fifth spot. I guess it’s just kind of surface level entertainment, but in the same sense, it is entertainment.

4. Hero Heart – Again, I guess it’s a little slow, but ehhh, I still enjoyed it??

3. The Light Cloud – I think its message is slightly problematic, but again, it has some really great moments! I actually enjoyed this one more than the previous two, but since I have clear problems with it, I ranked it slightly higher.

2. Wheels – In the risk of sounding redundant, I did enjoy this one! It has a lot of funny moments and competently animated scenes. Buuuut, it also features Jake at his absolute worst on the parental front, and considering that this is the last “Jake and his kids” episode to date, that rubs me slightly the wrong way.

1. Fionna and Cake and Fionna – The only actual bad episode this season, and booooy is it bad. A completely pointless and joyless entry that messes with the fabric of Adventure Time‘s world as a whole.

Final Consensus

If my “Top 5 Worst” list was any indication of the quality of this season, it should show why it’s personally the best in my opinion. It really feels like a huge passion project from the AT crew to try and give fans exactly what they want without it feeling gimmicky or unwarranted. Season Eight is fanservice in the best way necessary, focusing on closing doors that have been open for far too long, while also opening new ones along the way. It’s some of the best storytelling the series has ever told, and certainly the peak for the show in general. Not to say Season Nine is bad, but it’s an… interesting beast. And I look forward to tackling it head on shortly!

“Three Buckets” Review

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Original Airdate: July 21, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Fern’s inception began in Two Swords, and so begins his demise in Three Buckets. The “clone vs. OG” is a story that’s been done a handful of times among popular culture, but Three Buckets manages to stand out in a particularly dark and somber way. This isn’t really even an “evil clone” type of situation to begin with – this is the culmination of Fern’s bent up angst, frustration, and feelings of dejection resulting in his desire to be what he always wanted to be in the first place: Finn.

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The beginning of the episode starts out silly enough. Not only because Jake’s vuvuzela, that he’s never, ever been seeing using after over 250 episodes of Adventure Time, is smashed unexpectedly, but because he opts to buy a new vuvuzela at the “vuvuzela store.” In the Land of Ooo, there is apparently an entire store dedicated to selling colorful, plastic horns. Even better is that NEPTR confesses to the crime of breaking the horn, likely only for the chance to get some much needed attention. The poor little guy gets left out of shopping with Jake and BMO, as well as Finn and Fern’s adventure! He just can’t win. Speaking of dudes who can’t win, Fern begins by showing off his new ability of mimicking the real Finn, which is an ability that makes sense to me for the most part. I still feel really unconvinced that Fern would be able to recreate Finn’s bionic arm, however. That doesn’t make a lick of sense, not to mention that Fern’s right arm in the previous episode formed a flesh limb, so it’s inconsistent as well. I guess the episode wouldn’t have really worked without it, so I’m partially fine with it, though still slightly bothered. I do like how the beginning proves that Fern still wouldn’t be a good Finn even if he tried, or at least the “same” Finn. Fern still has literal demons within him that influence his dialogue and behavior – Finn wouldn’t really be one to “slash the flippin’ faces” off of his friends, after all.

In consistency with the past handful of episodes, the backgrounds here are pretty great. Love the vast meadows with miscellaneous objects scattered throughout (including A-Bombs) and the inclusion of the maze-like ziggurat. Got major Zelda vibes from the setting as a whole. Finn and Fern’s trip together ranges from goofy fun times to awkward and tense. The simple game of rock, paper, scissors really shows just how deep Fern is into his own envy and self-pity. I think we’ve all had those days where the tiniest, most insignificant occurrences trigger a history of negative feelings that send us into utter defeat. Only this time, it’s Fern’s entire life. It’s also kind of fun, in a sadistic sense, to see how much Fern truly resents Finn on every level. Finn’s line regarding his brotherhood with Fern is met with a long, blank stare and a lack of response from Fern. Fern has grown so much hatred towards his counterpart that he doesn’t even have the energy or charisma to manipulate him. He just wants to rid his life of Finn as quickly as possible. On a manipulative level, however, I really can’t decide if I like Finn’s line from a writing perspective. It feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to build up the eventual tragedy when Fern does turn on Finn, but on the other hand, I think it makes sense for Finn to make such a proclamation if he was trying to make Fern feel better for any past grievances. Only in this case, it fails.

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Fern’s kindness extends to the small favor that he at least provided Finn’s favorite meal for him within the stone prison… or at least, he tried to. That brief thoughtful act aside, Fern’s completely sociopathic side begins to come out (with the nice visual edition of his glowing, cursed eyes) as he only offers to provide Finn with resources once a month and practically leaves him to rot. It’s also fitting that Fern pronounces his favoritism towards NEPTR, considering that they’re both outsiders who don’t really get the respect or attention that they desperately strive for. Finn’s response to such a betrayal prompts a lot of interesting solo-convos with himself, starting with the fact that Finn refers to Fern as “grass Finn” rather than the actual name he christened himself with. This really touches on Finn’s more judgmental side and the fact that he may not have ever viewed Fern as an equal to begin with, or at least he doesn’t any longer. Finn bringing up his sensitivity to abandonment was a hilariously sweet moment; I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I always figured that Fern winking at Finn through the wall opening with the added sound effect was a subtle reference to Martin, showing that Fern followed in the footsteps of arguably their greatest enemy.

Upon dicking around during his imprisonment, Finn discovers a hidden feature on his bionic arm that uncovers hidden abilities of the arm installed by PB. It’s weird to me that the princess didn’t tell him beforehand, but still, I really dig how sweet this moment is. I just love socially awkward PB and her inability to understand the basic knowledge of humor, and the fact that it shows how Finn truly has the upper hand (literally) against his clone. Fern may be able to take on the appearance of Finn, but Finn still has strong support from his friends and family that goes far beyond what Fern has been able to accomplish. The only thing that upsets me about these newly discovered powers is that Finn never utilizes the arm’s abilities again! It’s such a shame, as it appears to have some really neat features just from what we saw. Even a “sad marionette” function! I have no idea when that would ever come in handy, but sure.

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I mentioned that this was a particularly somber and dark entry, but it’s interlaced with humorous moments that never feel out-of-place or unwarranted. That being said, I love Finn’s transition into the fight by screaming “YOU DONKED UP,” followed by all of the unintentional responses from PB’s AI. Regardless, the fight itself stays thoroughly tense in its entirety. It’s a battle that isn’t visually appealing by nature, but is competently animated and weighted to feel like a true struggle, unlike the former battle scene in Reboot that was also storyboarded by Steve Wolfhard. The sequence is also coupled with some profound interjections from Finn, such as the clueless, “what ARE you?” when Fern’s demon half takes over, and Finn’s final wish of giving Jake a proper farewell. It’s so lovingly sad that, even in Finn’s potential last moments, he’s still thinking of the person he cares about the most rather than his own immediate safety. Hell, it’s even aggressively sad on it’s own that our main character, who is 16 years of age, is essentially the closest he’s ever been to dying and has no choice but to accept it. Finn’s had many possible life threats throughout the show’s history, but none have felt as real and dangerous as this instance. Once more, Fern is unable to see through Finn’s sadness, because he feels as though his love for Jake is essentially enough. This battle all comes to an end when Finn’s arm enters fatality mode, and slices Fern to bits. It’s already a pretty morbid concept on its own, but the way it’s executed just adds to the blow. Fern’s head slowly twisting further and further into his chest was surprisingly graphic, and really makes this “death” seem even more painfully tragic than it already was.

In typical Adventure Time fashion, extended moments of noise and action are always followed by quiet poignancy. Finn returns home in one of the most heartwrenching exchanges AT has ever churned out. Finn doesn’t even have the words or energy to describe what happened, and how could he? He likely blames the outcome partially on himself and feels as if he could’ve prevented it, but even that might be pushing it. I think Finn is in total shock and can’t even begin to comprehend such a devastating moment. Once more, such a tragic moment is interlaced with just the right amount of humor, as that little devil BMO is ALREADY trying to break Jake’s new vuvuzela and references back to when he also killed his brother in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. Oh, BMO!

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Like most season finales, we’re left on a hefty cliffhanger that involves the remaining pieces of Fern’s body being picked up by a mysterious stranger. Who is this mysterious stranger? Well, I guess we’ll just have to find out in season nine!! Three Buckets closes out a busy and hectic season properly with a busy and hectic episode. As things began to calm down following the madness of Elements, they have only flared up once more, leading us into an invigorating and… somewhat questionably satisfying… journey to the ultimate finale.

And that’s the end of season eight! Gonna be frank with you all, my schedule is becoming more and more tight and I’m struggling to meet deadlines as efficiently as I once was. After all, I’ve been doing this gig for nearly three years now, and my life has changed a lot since I started. BUT, regardless, I still intend on carrying through to the very end, I just ask for all of your patience as I try my best to balance everything else in my life along with this side hobby. The season eight review and bonus review should be out sometime next week or into the following week, and if I have the time, I might churn out the first few batches of season nine episodes. It’s gonna be somewhat of a relief when I do end up finishing this project, but man, it’s been one hell of a ride thus far, and I plan on putting everything I’ve got into these last batch of reviews!

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Favorite line: “My belzer!” (Okay, so this is kind of a cheat because this episode had a lot of really great lines, but I legit call my stomach my “belzer” religiously because of this one line. It just felt obligatory.)

“Whispers” Review

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Original Airdate: July 20, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fionna and Cake and Fionna” Review

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Original Airdate: July 19, 2017

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

I don’t think a single episode of Adventure Time strikes me as more bizarre than Fionna and Cake and Fionna. A bold statement to say the least, but it’s not because the episode is filled with weird gags and non-sequiturs, akin to King Worm. This is the type of episode that really makes me wonder, “who thought this was a good idea?” With all of the controversial misfires that AT dished out over the years, such as Finn gaining his arm back and Betty’s introduction being quickly glossed over, I’ve been able to accept everything for what it was even if it wasn’t perfect, or good, at the very least. However, the decision to build on the lore behind Fionna and Cake is one that I typically ignore all together just because of how ridiculous and pointless it is.

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The big revelation within this episode is that Fionna and Cake were apparently apart of some super old television show before the Mushroom War. So, all of this time, the Land of Ooo has comprised of coincidental duplicates of the entire Fionna and Cake cast? How… does that make any sense? It’s absolutely jarring information that (nearly) ruins the fabric of the AT world itself. Even worse is that it’s treated so casually, almost as if this is information isn’t Earth shattering in the slightest, and just a simple piece of expository dialogue to drive the episode home with. I’m guessing that this information was going to be utilized for later Fionna and Cake entries, but the show got cancelled and then nothing else ever came from this story at all. I don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse, really, because as much as I feel like this plot point needs further explanation, I just don’t care in the slightest about Fionna and Cake or their role in this world at all anymore. The concept started out as a fun crackpipe idea that Natasha Allegri came up with, but has gotten so lost in the weeds that it doesn’t even know what it wants to be anymore. The world of Fionna and Cake simply isn’t that interesting – it’s just a watered-down and less characterized version of Ooo. The first two F&C episodes were satirical but loving jabs at the nature of fanfiction in general, the third and fourth entries seemed so straightforward and less committed to being parodies that there really wasn’t anything of substance within either, and this one feels like a desperate attempt to keep Fionna and Cake relevant in the world of Adventure Time through the most convoluted way possible. It’s pretty apparent that the staff really doesn’t know what to do with these characters anymore, but they clearly feel obligated to keep churning out an annual entry.

It doesn’t help that the episode is pretty boring on its own. My favorite bits of this episode are at the beginning – I love Finn, Jake, and BMO’s raft ride! After some of the craziest adventures they’ve ever been through, it’s really neat to see the boys back to having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Ice King’s book reading is similarly enjoyable, just for the fact that he actually had a decent turnout of people interested in listening to his stories. I really disliked that Bad Little Boy uncharacteristically portrayed Ice King’s writing as incoherent, because it’s actually one of his strong suits. As goofy as the subject matter is, he actually manages to churn out semi-decent tales with a committed story structure, and it’s nice to see that the folks of Ooo are captivated by these stories. The ol’ coot deserves it! As for the good stuff, the list pretty much ends there. Once the Fionna impersonator introduces herself, the episode slows down entirely while feeling like it’s accomplishing nothing at the same time. The Fionna impersonator really isn’t that interesting… you know from the beginning that she isn’t actually Fionna, so it ends up being a game of waiting for the revelation to come to the forefront. That element alone isn’t always poorly executed, but again, the fact that fake Fionna has little to no character at all makes it a pretty drab experience. I don’t know why they didn’t choose the more fun route of turning her into an obsession stalker, since it would’ve been cool to see Ice King work off of that type of personality. Speaking of which, Ice King isn’t at his A-game in this one. They don’t really give him any humorous material to work with; the closest moment he gets to being funny is when he incorrectly comes to the conclusion that the fake Fionna must be a mummy, but even then, it doesn’t do much for me. After coming off of the heels of Elements, this is probably the weakest IK episode in a long, long time.

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The actual Fionna and Cake segments are equally as pointless. Cake remains to be the only likable character in the F&C world, as Fionna continues to feel like a hollow and lifeless version of her counterpart. The story meanders for a good while, until the eventual twist that the mummy was actually the Queen of Ooo, which is a slightly obscure cameo, but it’s a pretty lame climax. The joke is essentially, “here’s this character all of you know, except as a lady!” which feels incredibly cheap and repetitive. A lot of Fionna and Cake stories are boring and forgettable, but this is definitely the most unremarkable of the five.

This episode tries to make up for being pretty joyless by leaving the audience with a few things to chew on, mainly the concept of Fionna and Cake being real that I had mentioned, and the fact that ideas for Fionna and Cake are beamed into Ice King’s head at night. I guess this could possibly mean that Ice King’s crown somehow picks up the signal of past Fionna and Cake episodes, or vice versa, with his mind projecting the ideas out to Ooo’s television signals, but again, I just could care less. I know that’s kind of an arrogant thing to say, mainly because I write this blog with the intention of putting as much care and passion in as possible, but I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve realized that Fionna and Cake really add nothing to the series beyond their initial episode. As I’ve mentioned, it was a enjoyably bizarre idea for the first entry, but it’s not a concept that lends itself to multiple different independent episodes centered around the idea. This episode would be atrocious for completely disregarding what made Fionna and Cake unique to begin with, but I’m not angry at it for the main reason that I’m not invested in this concept at all to begin with. Fionna and Cake outlived their usefulness long ago, and I’m eternally grateful that this is the last F&C episode ever produced.

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Favorite line: “Yes, let’s never do anything boring ever ag… Time for Ice King’s boring book reading!”

“Ketchup” Review

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Original Airdate: July 18, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Here’s a lil’ bonus review for y’all! Happy Easter/Passover/Whatever you choose to celebrate… Day…!

Ketchup is a sweet treat. It’s not only cool to see Marceline and BMO interact, which almost NEVER happens, but also to welcome back Alex and Lindsay Small-Butera to the team, who previously worked on Beyond the Grotto. I mentioned in my review of Beyond the Grotto that it was visually stunning, but had a pretty lackluster story at the helm. Ketchup is quite the opposite, having a (mostly) solid recap story that is complemented by the guest animation nicely.

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Ketchup begins so brilliantly. As an episode that seeks to shed some light on the past two miniseries(s), it’s so clever that Stakes was also referenced as a result, in a way that feels totally in line with BMO’s character. I can imagine Finn and Jake bringing it up to each other and BMO, without even telling them, chooses to set out on his own vampire hunting adventure. The little guy even has stakes prepared! As I mentioned, it’s really sweet to see Marceline and BMO chatting with each other. After 250+ episodes of the series, it amazes me that the only thing Marceline has ever said to BMO is, “Come here, baby,” in What Was Missing. It’s crazy that there’s still an opportunity for new character interactions, but hey, I’m all for it! Marceline herself is a lot of fun in this one – she’s been limited to a lot of dramatic entries in the past, and while Ketchup is one to an extent, it’s still cute to see her so energetic and playful in BMO’s presence. Lovin’ those ponytails, too!

Things really pick up when the episode gets into the actual “ketching up” part, as BMO describes his Islands trip to Marceline, which has to be my favorite part of the episode. I love how even with plenty of stories under his belt, namely the fact that he was a literal god within a virtual world, BMO still chooses to tell a story completely nonsensical and untrue (though emotionally true, as he later reassures). The animation within this sequence is particularly a spectacle. Not only are the colors beautiful, but the vibrancy of the animation in general is so refreshing. There’s a lot of nice slapstick as well, like Finn’s constant falling over and knocking into his surroundings, or the brief squash-and-stretch as Jake lands onto the island. The flying animation is hilariously beautiful as well; there’s something surprisingly humorous for me about the simplistic design of the cat and how superbly it’s animated. The song itself is lots of fun, which was actually written by Pat McHale and his younger son. There’s actually a demo somewhere out there with McHale’s son singing the song himself, it’s adorable! It also helps add to BMO’s childike wonder that a child themselves worked on a song for his character. The J.G. Quintel blue jay is as close to a crossover as I’d ever want Adventure Time to go, too. It’s a silly reference on its own, and I’m glad it doesn’t go too over-the-top or reference heavy towards Regular Show in general.

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Marceline’s story doesn’t quite live up to BMO’s visual or humor wise, but I love the effort she put in to making it fun and engaging for BMO. In general, I don’t think this is a story I really needed to hear. It’s supposed to be giving us information about the events leading up to Elements… but nothing that I found particularly interesting or surprising. We learn that Marceline did all that she could to try to save PB during the elemental shift, but again, I feel as though that’s just kind of common sense given the situation. And I certainly wasn’t especially stoked that the ONE Marceline-centric episode of the season finds a way to shoehorn her relationship with PB in. I’ll reiterate that I don’t hate their relationship at all, but I find it tiring that it feels like her character can’t just exist on her own without some sort of Bubblegum reference.

That bitching aside, I do like the execution of the story, mostly on a visual level. I think the designs of lollipop and rockstar girl are really cute and lovable, and it’s so nice to have a return of Patience St. Pim’s character once more, of whom I never expected to see again! She gets a handful of funny moments, namely the fact that a migraine was what nearly led her into undoing all that she worked to accomplish (I do wonder why Patience wasn’t affected by the elementa- er, potato curse during the story sequence. Wouldn’t she have been affected the same time that PB was?). The backgrounds are similarly gorgeous. I love the soft, matching color schemes that inhabit Weekend City. It almost reminds me of the beautiful UPA-like backgrounds in The Powerpuff Girls – another one of my favorite shows. The emotional ending of the story didn’t really get me, but Marceline’s follow-up about her own lack of honesty when it comes to her emotions was actually pretty effective. Marceline’s been through a lot in the past year, including losing and gaining back her vampirism, meeting back up and having to leave her former father figure, and nearly bidding farewell to the one that she loves, only for everything to end up back to normal. She’s gone through so many whiplash-like transitions that she probably never even gets a chance to think about how she feels or how she should feel.

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It isn’t until her flashdrive finally loads through BMO’s projector that she discovers a distant memory that channels into her emotions – the image of her mother. Despite all of the numbing Marceline has had to force on herself in order to get by, such a memory is a reminder of sweet and simpler times, and a time where she was arguably more emotionally honest with herself and others. Marceline’s always had to hide her emotions for one reason or another, but such a memory is a great reminder of a person who was always there for her, through both darker and lighter times. The tale that BMO weaves is sweet and artistically pleasing. Despite the Small-Buteras animating each story segment of the episode, I love how they do bring a different flair to each portion, as the Moon Lady segment artistically looks straight out of a storybook itself. It’s a really neat and sad moment that appropriately utilizes Marcy’s mom to her best potential. I never really wanted a full explanation of why Mrs. Abadeer left or where she went to begin with, so I feel that a story that somewhat captures the essence of her past is enough to make for a satisfying emotional conclusion for her character, and a partial resolution for Marceline’s character as well.

Ketchup has its problems; for an episode about Marceline’s experiences during an sixteen episode gap, I don’t think it was as compelling as it could’ve been. But it’s an episode that’s irresistibly sweet, and one that’s visually stunning as well. Shout out to the Small-Buteras for being the only animators (aside from Science SARU with the alternate intros) to be guest talents on AT twice! I liked Beyond the Grotto fine, but Ketchup is clearly superior. It’s much more fun and coherent within its individual storylines, with a big heart to boot. I never knew I wanted an episode focusing on Marceline and BMO’s relationship, but I’m damn glad we got one regardless.

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Favorite line: “Then we floated with the boats. Not in the boats, but with the boats.”

“Abstract” Review

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Original Airdate: July 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Laura Knetzger

From a cast of emotionally-fueled characters, Jake is certainly an outsider on Adventure Time. We’ve seen him time and time again ignore significant changes in his life and as he attempts to treat drastic shifts as if they are easily manageable and barely noticeable. This has always been a consistent trait of Jake’s character, even in the earlier seasons and more comedic centered episodes. Trouble in Lumpy Space features Jake largely downplaying a potentially crucial life change, while Chips & Ice Cream has him ignoring a physical change almost completely. On the surface, it looks like Jake is accepting change exceptionally well, though it’s clearly more so the denial that any change has occurred to begin with. Abstract exaggerates said denial to extreme lengths in the best way possible. As we witnessed recently in Cloudy, Jake struggles to be open about his fears and inner conflict, and Abstract takes it a bit further by showing his resistance to any form of transition around him, good or bad. It isn’t necessarily change itself that Jake fears, however. Over the course of the show, we’ve seen Jake go through several transitions, namely becoming a father. He’s always found comfort in the fact that those around him, including his brother and loved ones, have looked at him as the same person he was before. Now, with changes noticeably happening around him, Jake is terrified that such changes may result in a total change of his character, and his life.

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Jake’s denial of such changes really shine through in the first few minutes, and it’s really interesting to see how each character acts in response to his new form. BMO is a child at heart, and is understandably the least accepting to such changes. We’ve already seen in The More You Moe, the Moe You Know that BMO perceives change as something Earth shattering, rather than a natural part of life, so it’s no wonder that he’s so opposed to such jarring shift. Finn is a bit more open to the new alien-like Jake, though not by much. He struggles to even look his brother in the face and bats around the topic rather tackling it head on, which is similarly understandable. Jake gets defensive after Finn only brings up the obvious, thus Finn tries to be as supportive as he possibly can, while still being the slightest bit freaked out by his brother’s transformation.

On the even more supportive side, I love how kind and caring Lady is toward her S.O. She never passes judgment against him and shoots the dirtiest of looks towards Dirt Beer Guy (in his final appearance) for invalidating her boyfriend. It just goes to show how sweet she really is, having Jake’s back no matter what he looks like or does, as long as he is content with himself. This is practically one of Lady’s only standout roles in season eight, and I’m glad we do get an opportunity to revisit the kind-natured character every so often. I also love the subtlety in her moments with Jake… as she says she loves Jake, he responds with, “I love me too!” referencing his desire to stay the same forever.

Things quickly go astray when Jake begins experiencing strange shared dreams with Jermaine, which aren’t as prophetic or metaphorical as most AT dream sequences go, but are just as bizarre. Something that is immediately noticeable within this episode is that the backgrounds standout more than usual, and that is a result of former AT artist ghostshrimp returning to the team! Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great background artists following his departure, but I don’t think anyone has quite matched ghostshrimp’s legacy since. The amount of detail he puts into every single aspect of the screen is incredible; when I think of AT backgrounds in general, I think of soaking in every individual piece that I can analyze for further implications. Ghostshrimp gets this better than anyone, and really puts his all into making scenery look as bizarre and unique as possible. And what better way to do that than with an episode entitled Abstract?

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The episode title, of course, also connects to a more literal meaning. Jake perceives Jermaine’s painting of abstract portraits as out of character and concludes that something must be wrong with him, which quite clearly connects to Jake’s mindset that if he chooses to change, it may lead to dire consequences for himself. Finn helping out Jake is sweet and brings up an adorably childish side of his character, in which he draws out his weird dreams using crayons. I’d love to see what he whipped up based on his dream experiences in Frost & Fire. It’s also funny to note that Finn continues to avoid making eye contact with Jake during this experience, likely because it’s frankly strange to view his brother, of whom he’s known since birth, as a five-eyed, blue, alien-like creature. The crayon therapy proves to be ineffective for Jake, as he acknowledges that changing isn’t in Jermaine’s “nature.” This similarly applies to Jake’s thought process about his own being; in Cloudy, Jake mentions that being the responsible caregiver means that he isn’t supposed to talk about his stress and anxieties to Finn. Thus, he also believes that Jermaine isn’t supposed to express himself through abstract art because it doesn’t represent the Jermaine that he once knew. Jake also dismisses the abstract art that he draws himself, calling it out as “just squiggles.” Abstract art later becomes a metaphor for personal change, to which the previous moment adds to, as Jake views change as something insignificant.

Though, through his soul-searching, Jake does decide to set out to find Jermaine (equipped with his blue pack! With all of the disappearing props throughout AT‘s eight years on air, I’m glad that Jake’s trademark backpack has still remained a consistent element). During his travels, he runs into James, a character of whom I’m not very fond of, but I was still happy to see. He even gets a few laughs out of me this time around – I typically never found James’ “WHA?” catchphrase to be particularly funny, but there’s something about him using it a third time around that gets a kick out of me. I can’t really explain why, humor’s just weird like that. I will say that I think the middle section of the episode is a bit weak. A lot of it feels like it’s just plodding until Jake finally reaches Jermaine. I didn’t find the wall of water that funny, nor did I with Bryce, whose interactions with Jake felt particularly purposeless. It’s even more distracting that Bryce’s voice actor, Jon Wurster, also portrays the wall of water, who appears directly before Bryce. Wurster’s voice really isn’t that difficult to identify.

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It’s very nice to see Jermaine again, who seems noticeably happier. I dug the stick-in-the-mud Jermaine we saw in his debut episode, but seeing him much more relaxed and compassionate towards Jake is just as rewarding. Though he is compassionate, he doesn’t bullshit, and he’s probably the only one to be so straightforward to Jake thus far. He says it like it is – Jake has changed and despite his denial and ignorance to it, he can’t remain stagnant. His personal changes come from several different factors: 1. He’s more open and honest about his emotions, as Cloudy proved. 2. He’s getting older and wiser, and even more mature as a result, but also retains his sense of fun and loving nature despite everything. With all of these changes at hand, Jake does worry that he’ll no longer be able to be the fun-loving guy that he once was, but Jermaine reassures him that he can still remain the same person while changing regardless. Jermaine’s interactions with his bro are irresistibly sweet, especially with lines like, “He [Joshua] told me to be supportive, but I would’ve done that anyway.” Jermaine painted a picture of a jealous person who resented his brother for all that he doesn’t have, but Abstract proves how much Jermaine truly loves his brother despite their differences.

In an effort to understand his brother’s artwork, Jake examines Jermaine’s paintings in a trippy, peaceful sequence.

“The shapes are always changing. Changing is their normal state, like us. Even if we’re not changing on the outside, we’re changing on the inside constantly. There’s some stuff about me that I’ve been ignoring for a long time. I’m afraid of that stuff. But it’s part of who I am. As long as I know the shape of my soul, I’ll be all right.”

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Change is a core theme of Adventure Time, and this is yet another beautiful sentiment. It’s a reminder that, whether you like it or not, change will happen and is ALWAYS happening. Despite all of it, however, one’s soul and values do not change. Learning to trust one’s self is much more vital than trusting the finite structure of the ever-changing world, and Jake recognizes that. His ability to acknowledge that, whatever changes do happen, he’ll still be the same Jake that he recognizes to be good. This is another one of those Adventure Time moments that is pretty divisive among the fanbase. This is an example of AT kind of batting around the status quo to ensure that everything remains familiar. I’ve mentioned before that I was mixed with Finn’s arm coming back in Breezy; on the one hand (no pun intended), it was an incredibly dumb decision to return his arm to normal only episodes after he had lost it, while on the other hand, it still really worked with the theme that the episode set to accomplish, and I feel the same here. Jake’s appearance changes only after he discovers that his entire soul doesn’t have to change even if he does, which visually leaves us with the yellow stretchy dog that we’ve come to love. I’ll even say that I don’t think it was a dumb decision to bring back yellow Jake at all – the shapeshifter design is a bit… wonky. It’s fine for what they set out to accomplish within this episode, but I don’t really think I’d want Jake to look like this for the rest of the series. I think when fans complain about this type of situation, it helps to wonder if they truly want the change in the first place, or if they just don’t want any type of change to be retconned. The latter’s understandable, but I really do question the former. Jake returns home and finally recognizes that he’s returned to normal, knowing that he’s changed, but is still the same on the inside. Everything stays, mothafuckas!

Abstract is a pretty solid entry. It has it weaker and more controversial moments, but at its core, it’s a solid developmental episode for both Jake and Jermaine. After so much mystery and ambiguity about Jake’s character, season eight has really done a great job of showing us subtle glimpses into Jake’s psyche. It isn’t much, but then again, Jake’s baggage isn’t really his strong point to begin with. He’s a fun, comical, and loving character, and as Abstract has shown, its a title he chooses to defend and represent above everything.

Also, fun fact: all of the abstract paintings in the episode were created by Laura Knetzger, who co-boarded this episode. This is Knetzger’s last episode working on the show. Thanks for the fun, Laura!

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Favorite line: “Funny, though, I can kind of taste the toast’s emotions or something.”

“Elements” Miniseries Review

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Elements is the last miniseries that Adventure Time has ever produced, and it really closed things up with a bang. I’ve debated up to this point whether I think that Islands or Elements is the better miniseries, and I’m still slightly torn. I think I definitely have the stronger emotional connection to Islands, but Elements as a whole is the least problematic miniseries as a whole. While I have a ton of problems with Stakes and a few minor ones with IslandsElements has very few actual issues that I can pinpoint. While Stakes and Islands had their weaker entries, Elements really doesn’t have any duds on its hands. It’s weakest episodes mainly are limited to being entertaining on a base level, but still, they’re at the very least entertaining.

The opening of Elements is AMAZING, and quite possibly my favorite alternate opening that AT has ever put out. There’s just sooo much going on in it. While I previously complained that Islands‘ intro was just limited to a long-pan of the ocean that didn’t look all that spectacular, Elements gives us a glimpse into each of the elementified kingdoms (with the exception of the Fire Kingdom) and even adds a bit of backstory to the events of Elements as a whole. There’s a brief bit of foreshadowing with a happy LSP floating through the literal elemental apocalypse. There’s also that really neat shot of Fern being fully consumed by the candy wave; everything is presented in such a quick and tense matter that there’s a ton to absorb in such a short amount of time. The downside is that, while Science SARU is usually top-notch when it comes to guest animation, there are some sequences that are awkwardly storyboarded that make it feel slightly wonky in execution. Hanna K. boarded this one, and while she usually is pretty competent from an artistic front, there are some scenes (namely the dynamic pan up towards Patience) that just feel a little sloppy. But, it’s so fast-paced that you barely even notice, and only really sticks out upon actual analysis. I also appreciate how cryptic the nature of the intro is in general; as usual, this miniseries lists off four main heroes, but Lumpy Space Princess’s role is barely even alluded to. It really keeps things interesting in that sense. I’m usually not a fan of PB’s singing voice all that much, but you can almost tell how much fun Hynden Walch is having singing that classic AT tune. It’s kind of hard to resist.

Oh, and holy shit, are those title cards beautiful! These have got to be some of my favorites in the series, with each title card shifting the main character of focus more and more to the left, which makes for a really neat looking banner. Joy Ang painted half of them, and while her art is always beautiful, Benjamin Anders, who joined the design team this season, really shines with his work in designing and painting a good majority of the cards.

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Like Islands and StakesElements features a main, ongoing story, but there’s also A LOT going on beyond the surface as well. You have the mysterious and often hostile relationship between Betty and Ice King, the constant tensions between the four kingdoms (of course, it’s only natural that the Fire Nation are the ones to attack), Lumpy Space Princess’s role as a hero, and the subtle, but still very much prominent, development of Finn and Jake’s relationship with each other. While F&J’s strengthened bond isn’t focused on as much as those other elements (pun intended), I think it’s undoubtedly this miniseries’ strongest arc. The passion behind Finn and Jake’s brotherhood is something that has been hit on numerous times throughout the run of the series, with great standout entries such as StorytellingMorituri Te SaltutamusSons of MarsDungeon Train, and Don’t Look, but never has it been more apparent how much they truly appreciate each other. Cloudy is, without a doubt, one of the best episodes Adventure Time has ever put out because it really emphasizes what makes the series so lovable to begin with: the simplicity of Finn and Jake and their friendship. I say simplicity not to undermine the complexities of their individual characters, but because their friendship is not bogged down by their baggage. Even with the weight of the world on their shoulders, Finn and Jake still manage to get by in their ability to enjoy each other’s presence and take delight in the simpler things. Cloudy had the potential to be a dark and grim entry, but it instead chooses to be a celebration of the positivity of our two heroes. It ultimately makes it all the more poignant when Jake is separated from Finn. We’ve seen Finn struggle without Jake plenty of times before, but the timing of their mutual trust that everything will end up alright makes consequences all the more dire, which in turn makes their reunion all the more heartwarming.

A surprising feat for this miniseries is that it also features Lumpy Space Princess at her absolute best. It’s really cool how such a shallow character can be incorporated into the overall lore of AT in a meaningful and believable fashion. It’s also neat that her development comes full circle by the end of Elements. LSP has always been a character that has lived in stagnancy and has been unable to actually grow because of the way she is and how she will always be. Here, Elements allows for her to be accepted and celebrated for who she is, rather than what society wants her to be, and I think that’s pretty swell. I’m usually fairly critical of LSP’s role in nearly any episode she’s in, but I really only have one nitpick for her arc in general: the way each writer handles her character can be somewhat inconsistent. I’ve mentioned before that a hidden talent of Seo Kim is portraying Lumpy Space Princess as sympathetic and thoughtfully as possible, and she’s really at her most likable in Hero Heart. She’s just as humorous in the following episode, but Steve Wolfhard portrays her as much more cold and detached from wanting to have any role in helping the people of Ooo. It feels a little bit of a drastic shift, but meh, it’s not something that particularly bothers me because I do appreciate each of these LSP entries.

The ongoing storyline featuring the elementified kingdoms is handled pretty successfully. While some of these individual explorations are (appropriately) silly, like the party-crazy Slime Kingdom, others are used as a deeper dive into more challenging allegories, like the question of whether permanent happiness is logical or not, or how easily controlled anger and rage truly are. There’s a nice balance of drama and fun mixed into it all, with the Candy and Slime Kingdom’s being used to showcase the comedy and fun of the shift, while the Fire and Ice Kingdom are used to emphasize how truly bleak this essential apocalypse is.

Then there’s Betty and Ice King, who work off of each other pretty greatly, though with some weak spots along the way. I’ll say this, I think Elements may be the best stories for Ice King and Betty’s characters individually. Ice King is still the lovable goofball we’ve come to love, but I really love how much of a team player he is in this. Ice King tagging along for Finn and Jake’s adventures has always left him either ignored or useless, but here, he’s actually one of the most competent members. Not only did he manage to avoid getting transformed entirely on his own (which may partially be a result of his crown) but he’s the only one who stays entirely focused on the central mission throughout this whole journey. Even Finn, who is understandably upset after losing Jake, is given a bit of reality check from ol Simon. It really shows how far his character has come and how truly devoted he is to being a hero in his own right. Betty is similarly terrific, for entirely different reasons. For one, she has a new voice actor that actually seems to care about the world itself, which helps for her character to truly shine through. Betty is still thoroughly sympathetic, and perhaps more-so than ever. I’ve mentioned this before, but even though she’s insane, she’s understandably insane, and it’s easy to get behind her woes knowing everything she’s been through. Not to mention she also has terrific comedic timing when interacting with other characters, such as Finn. It’s a perfect balance of wanting Betty to succeed, but also wanting Ice King to thrive in his own element. My few problems with their interactions stem from the fact that I think the pacing for Betty’s turmoil could have been panned out slightly better. It appears that she’s had it planned all along that she wants to steal the Enchiridion to get Simon back, but she has a brief moment of understanding and connectedness with Ice King in Hero Heart, which ultimately ends with her deciding to go through with her plan all along. It feels a bit out of place; I get that the endgoal was to make Betty’s betrayal a surprise, but I feel as though it allowed for false implications of development to still be executed and ultimately feel wasted by the end of it. Outside of Hero Heart, however, I thought everything moved relatively smoothly, so I’m nitpicking a bit.

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As for the rest of Elements, you’ll mostly find myself nitpicking a few other issues that are barely really issues. I think the elementified versions of the characters are slightly gimmick-y in who is affected (Sweet P. is not, but Gunther is; Finn’s flame shield doesn’t protect him, but Cinnamon Bun’s weaker shield does) as well as the fact that everyone has conveniently clever names for their transition, but it’s all in the spirit of suspension of disbelief, and to harp on the latter point would just show how soulless and not fun I truly am. I also believe that the first half of Elements is objectively better than the second half, but that’s not to say that those last four episodes are bad by any means. Elements just started out unbelievably strong and I don’t think those first few entries are met in quality by the second half.

I typically don’t talk about storyboard teams during the miniseries(s) because pretty much every staff member gets a chance to shine, but something still baffles me about Elements… where was Tom Herpich? Steve Wolfhard had a guest spot with Laura Knetzger in Winter Light, and then worked on Skyhooks II entirely on his own. Was Herpich just busy at the time, or did he purposely opt-out of storyboarding for the miniseries? I dunno, it’s a strange absence that really just has me scratching my head.

Best to Worst Episodes

  1. Cloudy
  2. Bespoken For
  3. Skyhooks
  4. Winter Light
  5. Happy Warrior
  6. Skyhooks II
  7. Hero Heart
  8. Slime Central

Final Consensus

It’s no wonder that season eight is such a renaissance period for past fans of the series, as it really just gets better and better as it goes along, and Elements is a prime example of that. It’s a celebration of everything that the series started out as and everything it has become, allowing for non-stop fun and non-stop lore to blend in seamlessly. I’m overall excited to move on to a non-miniseries, because Islands and Elements have basically consumed my life for the past few months, but overall I was just really happy to get to rewatch these two landmark AT entries once more. Might be a controversial statement, but I truly do think that Islands and Elements may be the two best batches of episodes that the series has EVER put out.

 

“Skyhooks II” Review

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Original Airdate: April 24, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard

Something that sets Skyhooks II apart from its predecessors The Dark Cloud and The Light Cloud (aside from a pretty lazy name) is that this miniseries finale focuses less on the idea of absolute closure and instead, in typical AT fashion, opens the floor up for even more questions. It only makes sense that such a huge and drastic change to the Land of Ooo is not met with an immediate resolution on all levels. Skyhooks II directly affects the remainder of the series in several different ways, making it feel perhaps the most important and crucial miniseries storywise. It also helps that the finale itself is thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking.

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The episode starts off right where the previous episode left off, as an endangered Finn is saved by the newly heroic LSP. It’s actually news to me that the “Bon Bon Ballad” that PB sings is NOT a pre-existing licensed song. I always thought that it, along with the other songs featured in Elements, were ripped directly from outside sources. But it’s not, and hey, it’s pretty catchy! I also love how PB’s horrifyingly strong powers are combatted by just how sweet and pleasant she is. For all of AT‘s straight-up villainous characters like Oragalorg, Hunson, and the Lich, it’s profound to me that one of the toughest baddies that the boys, and all of Ooo, have been up against is menacing in her own sweetness.

Even more fittingly contradictory is that one of Ooo’s most powerful heroes is the disinterested and self-absorbed LSP. Per usual, her behavior throughout this miniseries continues to amuse me. I love that the power within her to potentially save the world could have stopped things a lot sooner if she had just listened to her parents for once. Kinda reminds me of Lemonhope, in a way – you have these two prophetic beings who just want absolutely nothing to do with what they were prophesied to be. Aside from verbal humor, this is also a pretty decent visual episode as well. Steve Wolfhard boarded this one entirely on his own, being the second he’s done solo since Graybles 1000+, and it looks pretty great. Love LSP’s hand sinking into her cheek as she gushes over Michael by the fire.

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On the other side of things, Betty has lost her fucking marbles. After building her up as semi-competent throughout the run of ElementsSkyhooks II throws that all out the door in order to show off her true nature: a hopeless romantic who is destined on preventing any tragedies in her life and others, even if it means preventing the Mushroom War as a whole (even Prismo and Cosmic Owl are shocked!) Betty’s plight is hugely similar to Magic Man’s that we saw in You Forgot Your Floaties, as we watch her go to extreme lengths in order to be reunited with the one she loved, even if that means altering the world as we know it. While MM’s role in that episode was certainly sympathetic, Betty’s role in Skyhooks II is definitely more tragic, or it at least feels that way. Betty’s obviously insane, but you can’t really blame her for being insane either. The man she once loved has turned into a decrepit, goofy, old man, with absolutely no logical solutions in sight. That’s enough to turn anybody insane, and Felicia Day does an absolutely stupendous job at capturing both the madness and sadness that lives inside Betty.

But, something amazing happens during the run of this episode that has changed my perspective on Ice King as a whole. While Betty has a great sympathetic role, Ice King has an even greater one. Up to this point, I’ve been pretty supportive for Ice King’s “cure” that would ultimately revert him back to his former self because I always saw Ice King as an alternate version of Simon. But then, we get this brilliant line that really picked at my brain:

“Lady, this Simon sounds cool, but I’m Ice King! I guess I’m a special person, and I am worthy of respect.”

Ice King’s charm and charisma has always come from this fact that he’s a lovable, creepy goof, but this line alone humanizes him more than the series ever has. Ice King is an individual, he is his own person, and he is not Simon. So, with that in mind, is it really ethical on any level to “save” Simon if it means erasing Ice King? The IK, while occasionally harmful, is still very much a socially conscious person who is susceptible to all of the privileges that any other living being has, such as personal growth and self-actualization. Since Holly Jolly Secrets, the mindset I have always had is “it’s so sad what happened to Simon,” but now, if Simon were to be restored to his former self, my thought process would change entirely to “it’s so sad what happened to Ice King.” The show has really done it’s damnedest to add as much empathy to not only Simon’s character, but also Ice King’s, throughout the past few seasons. Even with an episode like I Remember You, which I LOVE, Ice King is kind of viewed more as a plague than someone to be celebrated. Skyhooks II acknowledges that, yes, the loss of Simon is sad, but at least we got Ice King out of it, and despite his shortcomings, he deserves respect like anyone else. Not only is this terrifically represented through IK’s line alone, but also the explosion that destroys his bespoked suit, exposing his classic blue moomoo and the return of his crown. It feels like a final, definitive statement that Simon is gone (for now) and that Ice King is here to stay, and that’s okay too! Elements has been a truly profound experience for the ice man.

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As we return to PB’s sweet-pocalypse, it’s especially fitting that Patience St. Pim once again chooses to freeze herself instead of dealing with the consequences and her mortality at hand. Similar to Betty, Patience is still unable to deal with the changes and transitions in the world around her, and this time it was her own doing. As AT has shown time and time again, history repeats itself, and Patience may never learn to accept her own fate. History repeating itself is also humorously shown in Ice King’s behavior; even after all of the growth and development he’s experienced, he still can’t seem to remember who in God’s name Betty is. Betty will never forget her Simon, but Ice King can’t seem to remember a woman of whom he interacted with minutes earlier.

LSP’s “bullish” nature proves to be the most effective it’s ever been by changing the DNA of elementified Ooo citizens back to their natural states of being. Elements has already been jam-packed with characters prior, but Skyhooks II welcomes back a number of secondary characters, some of which we haven’t even seen before during this miniseries! Namely Bronwyn, James Baxter, Toronto, and Huntress Wizard. The real icing on the cake is watching BMO hold Fern’s hand, though. That shit melted my heart. It’s a pretty triumphant moment for LSP’s character, and even kind of wraps up her arc as a whole. The most cynical Adventure Time character is finally shown to be worthy for the exact reason that she was excluded for prior. There’s no LSP-centric episodes following Skyhooks II, probably just for time constraints, but it’s a decision I felt was most appropriate and satisfying.

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As I mentioned, Skyhooks II has several lasting cliffhangers: Sweet P.’s regrown horn, Ice King’s loose jewel, Jake’s… haircut, and Betty’s judgment from Normal Man. I always wondered how/why Betty ended up at Mars… was she transported there from the Enchiridion explosion, or did Normal Man transport her there personally? Either way, it’s clear that her tampering in chaotic magic has put her on trial for the same reasons MM was put on trial prior. The episode, and miniseries, closes with the revelation that Jake has reverted to his shapeshifter form (which again, is slightly gimmicky… why didn’t Fern revert to both the Finn Sword and Grass Sword? Why didn’t Gunther revert to Orgalorg?), but at least he’s reunited with his brother. Probably the most important thing that Elements has sought to accomplish, beyond its story, is the reinforcement of Finn and Jake’s strong bond with each other, and it pays off beautifully. Jake’s simple “I love you,” is irresistibly sweet, with clear compassion and sincere love in John DiMaggio’s voice.

So, that was Elements, and it was better than I remember! I always dug it, but its strong-points really do stand out as some of the best entries AT has ever put out. Next week, I’ll be taking a look at the miniseries as a whole. Islands and Elements took a lot out of me; two miniseries that I was hoping to get done by February ended up taking three months to complete. But, regardless, I’m eager to continue on as we enter in to the last leg of Adventure Time as a whole!

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Favorite line: “People say you shouldn’t live in the past! But I say, ‘Why not?’ I love it.”

“Hero Heart” Review

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Original Airdate: April 27, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

Hero Heart is pretty base-level story stuff. Similar to Slime Central, it’s a perfectly enjoyable entry, but it doesn’t really stand out for a ton of different reasons like its predecessors. The summary for this one promises and all-out war between the Fire Kingdom and Candy Kingdom, but it’s a lot more small-scale in its execution and a bit middling at that. But, like the rest of Elements, it has its standout moments that range between thought-provoking and hilarious.

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Similar to its predecessors, Lumpy Space Princess is probably at her most likable. It’s funny to mean how little of her vanity comes out within this episode; Happy Warrior was all about showing how her self-absorbed nature in the brink of destruction can be really hilarious, while Hero Heart goes for a more poignant approach. I’ve said before that I think Seo Kim has a hidden talent for writing LSP at her absolute most sympathetic, and it really shines through in this entry. I found her line of “will I be the last witness to the glory of this world that I chose above all others?” pretty profound and lamentable. This line is made even more impactful when we realize that LSP’s happy place that keeps her grounded is her own home. LSP chose Ooo because it’s where she’s able to have freedom above everything else, but I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily been good to her. She’s been rejected, hurt, and now her entire world is falling apart around her. Her regrets are clear, but LSP is far too prideful to ever admit that she needs the support from her parents and her past home to get her by. But, regardless, this is where LSP spent her best days. She has the memories of simpler times to help her get through the worst of situations, and after years of her seemingly unnecessary resent towards her home world, this feels particularly satisfying.

In the same sense, it’s even sweeter that Finn’s “happy place” centers around his relationship with Bubblegum. I think there’s clear implications within this sequence that can easily lean on the more romantic side, but also in a more platonic sense. I get the feeling that Finn will always love PB no matter what, even if he’s not vying for her. He still has a deep affection for her, and even though he’s more than happy to continue through life without her as a partner, he’ll always be reminded of the soft, nostalgic memories of the innocent feelings he once felt for her. Similarly, it’s also easy to see how this happy place revolves around his shift from no longer burning for her and instead being able to connect with her in the most compromising way possible (the Pajama War clip easily infers this). I sort of lean towards the former as the more interesting option, but I think either is a really sweet reminder about how much Bubblegum truly means to Finn.

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There aren’t a ton of new character cameos in this one, but I’m perfectly fine with the returning players we got in return. It was fun to see Lemonpink and the Tree Fort gang again, and man, Tim Kiefer’s score is freakin’ stellar during their travels in the lemonade cart. I remember there was a ton of fans gushing over Marceline and Flame Princess interacting within this episode, but honestly, it just kind of distracted me by making me realize that we’ve never seen Marceline interact with Finn’s only girlfriend. Man, we missed an opportunity for some really cool wingman stuff, didn’t we? There’s other cool interactions going on throughout this one, like the return of Lumpy Space Princess and Marcy’s friendship that always seems to turn back up in Seo and Somvy entries. Ice King and Betty’s relationship is still really charming, even if Betty’s true desires arise by the end of the episode. Like I’ve said before, Elements really is a spectacle for Ice King at his most charismatic. He’s genuinely competent and likely the strongest survivor currently in Ooo. Coupled with the fact that he’s still the hilarious goof he’s always been… that brief shrug during Betty’s maniacal laugh was absolutely hilarious and definitely the biggest chuckle of the miniseries thus far.

Otherwise, Hero Heart mainly works as an opportunity to move the miniseries forward in several different ways: Lumpy Space Princess’s resistance to elemental powers, Betty’s betrayal towards Finn, and the inevitability of the Candy Kingdom’s rule over everything. It’s all enjoyable, but I don’t think it’s really worth talking about until the actual final chapter of Elements. We’re provided tons of hints, in typical AT fashion, but nothing that I can really dig into or analyze beyond their obvious implications. Hero Heart does leave us off on a horrifying and unsettling note, as the now transformed Candy People creep in to an unprotected Finn singing “Let Me Call You Sweet Heart.” It’s a terrifically terrifying close that transitions us into the grand finale of Elements, which surely feels like a grand culmination (and one big cliffhanger) off of everything we’ve gotten thus far.

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Favorite line: “I got, like, the morals and the charisma and the good looks, but I lack field experience!”

“Happy Warrior” Review

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Original Airdate: April 26, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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