Tag Archive | season five

Season 5.2 Review

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Season 5.2 is arguably the most drastic shift in tone from previous seasons in the entire series. As I’ve mentioned before, and as most of your probably know, Adam Muto took over as showrunner beginning with this half season for the remainder of the series, and by comparing the first half of the series to the second half, you get a pretty clear sense of each showrunner’s attitude and influence on the show. Pendleton Ward is a quiet, yet silly guy who wanted a quiet, yet silly show. He always wanted the series to be kept light, with hints of darkness and beauty scattered throughout. The show was able to have moments of tragedy and heartache, but was always interlaced with lighter and sillier moments. While season 5.2 has similar attitudes in its execution, Adam Muto took a stance towards a darker, more controversial approach in terms of how the characters are written and how most of the stories are told.

Thus, Adventure Time became less about the individual adventures that Finn and Jake embark on and how their actions affect the people around them, and much more about Finn and Jake dealing with tougher and more realistic trials such as the loss of a loved one and the struggle to find out what place they truly have in the world. The scope of focus also became broader, and Finn and Jake are no longer the sole stars of the series. Inhabitants of the Land of Ooo all get their chance in the limelight, more so than ever in the following season.

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The show definitely lost a bit of its identity for this shift; no longer was this the series that was so goofy and weird that it spawned a cult following (and honestly, thank God for that on some accounts. Couldn’t tell you guys how much it bothers me when people address that AT is the best show to get high to). It’s now a series that is less focused on what made it work in the first place, and instead focused on evolving and developing on the world and characters it set up in the first place. And Muto chose some risky decisions to emphasize this direction.

This half season mostly focuses on Finn’s break-up with his loving girlfriend, Flame Princess. Though it doesn’t take up the entirety of the season, it is the main focus in episodes like Frost & Fire, Earth & Water, and The Red Throne, is an overarching theme in episodes such as Too Old, Love Games, and Dungeon Train, and is shown to still affect Finn deeply in The Pit and Rattleballs. And though we sympathize with Finn during his tough time, it’s almost as if the show intentionally placed him into unlikable territory and wanted the audience to turn against him in an attempt to show how much he has lost his way. Honestly, this is what makes this story arc so enticing for myself. Shifting Finn from a kind, caring hero to a slightly incompetent douchebag was a pretty ballsy decision, and while I think the writers went too far with his portrayal in some instances (i.e. The Red Throne), this display of Finn’s character was filled with ripe and interesting details. I’m glad that the series took time to show that, despite his identity as a hero and an overall do-gooder, Finn is still deeply flawed and is not immune to human insecurities. Finn is the human; this series is filled with so many (literally) colorful characters, that Finn is the one that we’re supposed to relate to and be able to empathize with the most. While I certainly don’t want him to embody all of the darker elements of humanity, it is refreshing to see that he is just as misguided and confused as the rest of us. I think that’s the best way to describe his behavior, “misguided.” I like that the show is still able to make him seem enjoyable and likable even during some of his less heroic moments. Regardless of his actions, you can just tell the little guy is confused and uncertain of his needs and desires as ever. In an episode like The Red Throne, where Finn’s behavior is exemplified to its own detriment, his portrayal fails because it touches less on making Finn seem human and flawed and just focuses on making him as cartoony and unrealistically incompetent as possible. The reason Finn’s character works so well is because of the honest, compassionate, and genuine storytelling that carries out his character. This season may not have showcased the Finn we all have come to love so dearly, but a different side of his personality that we can still accept and invest in, despite how unexpected it is. We care because we love Finn, and even in moments where we dislike how he’s acting, we understand his circumstances for what they are. It’s something this half-season really excels at.

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Aside from the Finn focused bits, this half-season also dabbles in some pretty experimental exercises. The Vault  cleverly uses a past life of Finn as a framing device to show a bit of depth into the creation of the Candy Kingdom, Root Beer Guy centers around the life of background citizen of Ooo, Lemonhope is an ambitious, visually interesting tale focusing on substance and allegories rather than all-out action, and Bad Timing features a very neat visual gag, while also managing to do the unthinkable by making Lumpy Space Princess a genuinely sympathetic character. Many episodes of this season also amped up Princess Bubblegum’s presence by showing her shadier and more questionable character traits, such as Frost & Fire, James, Apple Wedding, and Rattleballs. Again, it’s a bit of a controversial decision, but nonetheless an interesting route to take her character in, and one that really makes every one of her spotlight entries raise more intrigue and questions. Hell, Finn and PB steal the spotlight so much in this season that several other main characters take a bit of a step back from the limelight. Marceline had major appearances in Sky Witch, Red Starved, and Betty, yet of the three, only Sky Witch was truly telling and impactful for her character. Even Jake takes a bit of a step back and is absent for a total of four episodes toward the end of the season. Whether John DiMaggio was busy or not, I think it is somewhat appropriate that the series does not feel the need to shoehorn Jake in every time that Finn appears. Not that his presence isn’t welcomed, but it’s cool that the show is able to breathe with just having Finn on screen and leaving it at that.

While I overall enjoyed 5.2 more than 5.1, I will say that this second half to the season did fluctuate in quality quite a bit, but for interesting reasons. Part of the reason is because some episodes were so unbelievably good, and some of the best that the show has ever put out, that others seemed weaker in comparison. Dungeon Train is a perfectly delightful episode that continues to show off Finn’s insecurities, though through Jake’s perspective, yet I gave it a lukewarm review because it was also coming directly after the epic The Vault and the ever-hilarious Love Games. And because some of these episodes were so good, the weight of the actual clunkers felt much more diminishing. An episode like Red Starved might have been well fitting a couple of seasons earlier, but with where the series is now, it doesn’t truly do anything that justifies its placement this late in the series. And I don’t say that because Red Starved is filler; one of the best episodes to come out of this entire season is Time Sandwich, and that’s practically the epitome of filler. What I mean is that the bar is set so high by this point that anything “average” comes closer to feeling like a misfire. Which means that episodes like Box Prince and The Red Throne really feel like the worst pieces of shit ever created, even though I’d probably still prefer to watch them over anything else on television. What a complicated series this is.

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This half-season benefited from some really solid teams. Cole Sanchez and Andy Ristaino were practically comedic geniuses when working together (which really helped divert from the somewhat unfitting Sugar-Sanchez pairing), Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard continued to create some of the most ambitious efforts that AT has ever put out, and occasional guest work from Pendleton Ward, Graham Falk, and Luke Pearson gave an extra boost of creativity to each of the episodes they worked on. Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim were unfortunately the only dead weights this season; feel bad ripping on them, but of the five episodes they worked on during this half-season, only Blade of Grass stands out as a truly competent episode. Earth & Water had some storytelling flukes, Box Prince was incredibly banal, parts of Play Date were good, but the episode as a whole suffers from being disjointed, and The Red Throne features some of the worst writing for Finn in the entire series and awful pacing. Luckily, the two eventually find their feeting with each other as partners, though this season certainly is not one of them. If I had to pick the true shining stars in terms of boarding partners, I’d say that Jesse and Ako were all around a pretty superb pairing, per usual. In terms of quality episodes, I think Herpich and Wolfhard definitely churned out more gems, but Castuera and Moynihan felt the most competent and unique in their efforts. Even an episode like Betty, which could have so easily tanked due to its haphazard pacing, succeeded because the two artists have really mastered the practice of fitting as much substance as they possibly can in 11 minutes. And of course, Billy’s Bucket List works as a perfect swan song for the temporary end to this team.

Top 5 Best Episodes

Honorable Mention: Lemonhope – Threw in an honorable mention last time, so why not do it again? Lemonhope isn’t an absolute favorite of mine, but its terrific storytelling and out-of-the-box visuals give it a very unique and different presence from any other episode in the series.

5. Root Beer Guy – A terrific noir-themed episode that centers around one of AT’s best background characters.

4. Frost & Fire – Was really debating putting this one in the top five, but I think it really deserves it. It’s the direct turning point for AT as a whole, and capitalizes on Finn’s mistakes in all the right ways.

3. Bad Timing – The best LSP episode to date, and one that is fueled by enticing emotional turmoil.

2. Too Old – A really great tale about the dangers of recreating the past, and one that’s done using Lemongrab and Finn of all pairings.

1. Time SandwichAT at its all-time funniest; a pure romp of undeniable joy, cleverly featuring most of AT’s main cast in all the best ways.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. Earth & Water – A follow-up to the “Finn’s break-up arc” that showcases an interesting backstory for Flame Princess, but nevertheless offers nothing particularly insightful or challenging.

4. Red Starved – A mostly dull episode that doesn’t offer anything new between the Jake-Marceline relationship. (Also, that fucking colorblind joke still rubs me the wrong way)

3. James – One that feels extremely convoluted and contrived, and also pretty bad on the storyboarding and animation side as well.

2. Box Prince – Very little of substance or interest.

1. The Red Throne – One of Finn’s worst portrayals to date, and an abysmally disjointed story to go along with it.

Final Consensus

Season 5.2 definitely spent a lot of time testing the waters for the new direction the series was heading in, which is often apparent, but man, some of these entries are just so damn good. It was also nice to get a bit of serialization that gave this season a compelling arc that (mostly) carried all the way through. Season 5.1 had a handful of gems as well, but often times I felt that it was… directionless. Where 5.2 feels much more focused on telling a consistent story, with plenty of delicious fluff in between. Overall, I thought this half-season was great. It fully committed to telling some really ambitious stories, many of which would become even more unique and creative in the following season.

“Billy’s Bucket List” Review

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Original Airdate: March 17, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

We’ve seen Finn at his absolute lowest during this particular half-season, and the little guy has certainly been through a lot. He not only lost his girlfriend of whom he deeply cared for, but also battled quite heavily with his own identity, to the point where he begins to lose himself in his own insecurities a bit, as shown in episodes like Rattleballs and The Red Throne. It’s clear that Finn has regained a bit of his happiness and self-confidence in Billy’s Bucket List, however. He’s rapping away with his admirable rival Rap Bear, and has the support of his friends and his acquaintances behind him. The ending of this episode, however, opens up an entirely new wound that would send Finn into an new state of depression and existentialism when he’s faced with the one person he likely never expected to meet: his human father.

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I enjoy the silliness of this episode’s introduction; I’m never really a huge fan of when AT incorporates rap into their melodies, because it often comes off slightly awkward and never actually catchy (Regular Show was able to do rap episodes much better), but this instance is goofy enough to be enjoyable. And again, it’s nice to see Finn back being proactive and entertaining. Steve Wolfhard once mentioned that the previous episode, Lemonhope, saw Finn at his absolute dumbest (spurting loud noises and referring to cupcakes as “cup cups”) and while I don’t think it was to that episode’s detriment, it is nice to see the more competent and standard version of Finn that we haven’t seen much of throughout the past handful of episodes.

Finn’s happiness is slowly brought to a halt when Party Pat somewhat uncomfortably brings up Billy, who last was revealed to be dead in the episode Finn the Human. It was nice to bring Billy and the Lich back into the mix of things after an entire season of barely even mentioning the two. It’s also nice to get a bit of a flashback sequence that shows Billy and Finn hanging out with each other, partaking in adventurous activities. Though it was implied that they had hung out following the episode His Hero, it is at least nice to see some visual evidence that they did set aside time for cool quest shit before Billy’s inevitable death in The Lich. Makes the weight of his death feel much more impactful from Finn’s perspective.

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It’s a surprising and somewhat surreal experience to hear these characters talk about Billy’s death so earnestly. Adventure Time characters who die very rarely stay dead; up to this point in the series, the only characters who died and actually stay dead are Billy and the King of Mars, and to my knowledge, only one other character’s death is solidified following this episode. Everyone else who perishes in the AT universe is either revived or reincarnated, so it is somewhat refreshing to have these characters so solemnly discuss the death of a loved one. It all feels very honest and in good taste, which really helps this episode soar beyond its main premise. Even Jake himself is dealing with a bad case of being in denial about the whole thing.

One character that helps really add mood and substance to the episode is Billy’s ex-girlfriend, Canyon. Canyon is a side character I quite enjoy, again, mostly relating to her earnesty in her past relationship with Billy. She doesn’t have a huge presence on her own, but I think her relationship with Billy and wistfully zen behavior are enough. I enjoy how her connection to Billy is kept really mature and realistic; there was no ultimate drama or intensity that led to their break-up, Canyon simply felt stagnant in her path and decided to let Billy go because of it, though you can tell there was still a heavy feeling of love that stuck with them even following their break-up.

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In addition to that connection, I really love the way Canyon and Finn work off of each other. It’s a simple mutual connection that really goes a long way in regard to how much respect the two show for each other. It really just feels like two mature people naturally relating to each other, and honestly, I think the episode is really underrated on that aspect. The atmosphere with which the premise is carried out is truly terrific, and even though only half of the episode is dedicated to mourning Billy’s loss, it’s still treated better than I could’ve expected. Canyon’s identity is also formed through some strong voicework by Ako Castuera, and it’s even more fitting that this was initially her last episode as a storyboard artist for Adventure Time. Ako and Jesse certainly put their all into this one, and while I enjoy the direction Jesse’s writing style takes in the following season, the two certainly made for one of the best boarding teams in the duration of the series. Ako’s presence will be missed.

And as mentioned before, Finn’s portrayal in this episode is much needed and refreshing. I enjoy the degree to which he understands Billy’s flaws and issues as Canyon lists them off, to which Finn responds “even heroes have slumps, bro.” After an entire season of making countless mistakes, Finn realizes that heroes, like anyone else, are still “human”. Despite the fact that Finn and Billy are regarded as two of the most legendary heroes within Ooo, they are still flawed and imperfect beings, and Finn is beginning to understand that he can be hero, but still fuck up from time to time.

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Following Finn’s desire to finish Billy’s bucket list, he discovers that the final unmarked option (aside from telling Finn “that thing”) is to lay on his back in the ocean. It’s also a sign of Finn’s growth, that instead of automatically deciding that he can’t face his fear, he at least wants to attempt to do so. Finn has experienced fears and traumas during his entrance in adolescence whether he likes them or not, and he’s now more willing to put himself into uncomfortable situations because, hey, he made it out alright the first time, right? Though he isn’t without adversity, as the Fear Feaster returns once more to extract torture onto his host body. It’s nice to hear Mark Hamill’s voice again after being gone so long from the show, and his inflections continue to hit on both menacing and humorous notions.

While he’s unconscious in the ocean (or is he?) we’re treated to a delightfully trippy sequence in which Finn’s hat is taken from his head and sizes up to giant levels, while shades of bright purples, yellows, and pinks make up the sea floor. I’ve seen a lot of interpretations of this scene, mainly that the loss of Finn’s hat symbolizes the loss of his youth, though I’m much more inclined to believe that it’s just an entertaining visual experience. I’m not opposed to the idea that it has some sort of deeper meaning, but I’m perfectly fine with it being surface level enjoyment as well. The colors, the backgrounds, and the music are all wonderfully executed, making it for equally entertaining experimental experience (pulled that alliteration out of my ass) after coming off the heels of Lemonhope.

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When awakening and resurfacing, Finn is still afraid while being confronted with the Fear Feaster. Though, his instinctual terrors and anxieties in relation to his eternal grass sword curse take over, and Finn’s grass sword effectively disperses of his fears and adversaries, which is attempt to make the grass sword’s owner content and safe in his own experience. This is a nice set up to the long running saga of the grass sword having a brain of its own, and it’s nice to see Finn’s confusion and lack of understanding when it comes to the grass sword’s power over his own body, and his own actions.

Though, the grass sword ultimately worked in Finn’s best interests, as he finally is able to experience the ocean without a care in the world. It’s here that Billy presents himself to Finn within the stars, and suggests that Finn go to the Citadel, where he will meet his human father. It’s a huge moment in Finn’s developmental path, and one can only wonder what is going through Finn’s head as he repeatedly hears Billy’s voice over and over again. Finn likely didn’t question the existence of his human parents much before, as I’m sure it was something he locked away within his vault because he simply didn’t want to deal with the emotional weight of the issue. Now he’s confronted with the existence of his biological father whether he likes it or not. Does Finn even want to meet his father? Why did Finn’s father abandon him as a baby? Why is he in the Citadel to begin with? These are all questions that are likely running through Finn’s head nonstop, and questions that we as viewers are inclined the wonder ourselves.

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Though the biggest question remains: knowing what we know now in the series, why would Billy want Finn to meet his father in the first place? Some have speculated that it was actually the Lich projecting himself as Billy, though I don’t really buy into this one at all. I simply think that Billy knew it was an important part of Finn’s journey that he did meet his father at some point. It would lead to much suffering for Finn, though it would overall lead to the growth of Finn’s character and his developmental as a smart, young man. Regardless of whether Billy telling Finn was a good choice or not, Finn will have a ton to chew on in the future, as he experiences one of the toughest hardships in his life.

This episode is definitely one that gets overlooked a lot, and I think it deserves more attention. The atmosphere is terrific, the characters featured are just swell, and it’s nice to have a crucial solo journey for Finn that really shows us as an audience that he hasn’t transformed into a complete idiot manchild. And all with a big, dramatic cliffhanger to boot the longest season to date.

And that’s it for season five! Again, thank you to everyone who has kept up with the blog to this point, I honestly can’t believe I’ve made it this far in such short time. The season five review will be out later this week, followed by the secret bonus review, and some updates about how season six will be covered are soon to come. Big stuff is on the way folks, and I look forward to everything that’s ahead!

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Favorite line: “Well, that’s gonna bother me forever.”

“Lemonhope (Part 1 & 2) Review

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Original Airdate: March 10, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

This two parter brings Lemonhope back into the spotlight after his first appearance in Too Old. And, as anyone else, I was looking forward to, or at least interested in, how the eventual battle between Lemonhope and Lemongrab would come into fruition. This episode, in turn, gave me something I really wasn’t expecting in the slightest. Where I figured the conflict between Lemongrab and Lemonhope would be solved through a high stakes battle between the Candy Kingdom and Castle Lemongrab, it is instead a mostly experimental journey exploring Lemonhope’s character and how he differs from the traditional Adventure Time hero. But its unconventional nature only contributes to its success, and ultimately is a gateway for some of the trippier and more surrealistic AT episodes that would become more commonplace during the following season.

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Lemonhope is an interesting character… he is certainly on the more selfish side, and many people have attributed his behavior as negative character flaws. Yet, it’s his depiction that, in my eyes, makes him so interesting and unique as a protagonist. If you think about his circumstances and what he’s up against, it’s somewhat ludicrous that people are expecting such a prophetic and heroic method of saving “his people.” The beginning video demonstrates how deranged and oppressive the community of Castle Lemongrab has become following Lemonhope’s departure. Lemongrab has essentially become a tyrannical dictator where absolutely no one is allowed to stray from his vision or even attempt to leave Castle Lemongrab. It’s riddled with hauntingly humorous lines such as “morale has never been higher since we got rid of hope.” And it’s with this video that really shows how much Castle Lemongrab has fallen, and how everyone in the kingdom has almost completely lost hope. Yet, they all depend on the actions of one little boy to single handedly save an entire kingdom and to bring everyone into a more suitable living style. I don’t know, doesn’t that sound a little fucked up to anyone else? Apparently to Lemonhope, because he’s pretty much opposed to returning to his former lifestyle in every way possible.

Lemonhope’s selfishness is well-defined. He was abused, tortured, and born into cruelty at the hands of the Lemongrabs. His people allowed him to leave with the sole implication that he would in turn get stronger and return to save the entire Earldom. Yet, Lemonhope simply wants to be free. Free from his state of torture, free to do whatever he wants in life, and free to choose his own path beyond his original conditional living. He isn’t able to be free and move on, simply because he’s continuously pressured into believing that he is the sole savior over everyone. Lemonhope has a debt to pay for his people allowing him to leave, but he just simply does not want to be a Finn the Human-type hero that conquers adversaries each and everyday. He’s a kid, and he wants nothing more than to just have a lifestyle of freedom and a lack of worries.

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The issue with Lemonhope’s actions is that his duty to preserve Castle Lemongrab still troubles him subconsciously. Through his nightmares, Lemonhope is approached by his demons and worries. In his first dream, Lemonhope is awoken to an area that is surrounded by nothing but the color gray. This signifies Lemonhope’s morally skewed choices and how they define him as a character. Through his own endeavors, he experiences a knocking at his front door. The knocking represents the impatient urges that are calling him to act upon his duties. The second dream deals with his fears of his character being defined by him abandoning his people and ultimately being deemed as “unacceptable” as Lemongrab, as alluded to earlier by Princess Bubblegum. Lemonhope fears being controlled by anyone like his was controlled by Lemongrab, so the signs that Princess Bubblegum is too trying to control him in one way or another only further contributes to his decision to completely seclude himself from everything he’s ever known.

These dream sequences are really fantastic examples of Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard at their all-time most allegorical. Herpich in particular gets very cinematic and unique in his aesthetics from this point on, and it’s a turn in writing that really helps Herpich develop into an even better storyboard artist than he already was.

The first act ends with Lemonhope trying to make it on his own, but failing to do so. Lemonhope’s ultimate desire and goal was to be “free,” yet he’s arguably more lost than ever. Lemonhope believed that being free was to go out on his own and to do whatever he wanted, yet his foolhardy attitude has led him to be left with absolutely nothing but the memories of his past life and the nightmares that haunt him. It’s this realization that I wish came a bit more into play by the end of it, seeing as how Lemonhope’s failure to survive on his own is never really harped (no pun intended) upon again.

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However, his interactions with Phlannel Boxingday in the second half really show off some personal growth from the little lemon boy. He learns that being free doesn’t always mean being alone, though, of course, it doesn’t nearly solve all of his issues. Phlannel Boxingday’s identity is kept purposely vague for the audience to draw their own conclusions as to what/who he actually is. The only constant with viewer theories is that he has some form of relationship to Princess Bubblegum. He has a knowledge of zanoits, speaks German, and has the exact number of letters in his name as Princess Bubblegum (not to mention that their first and last names start with “P” and “B”). My thoughts definitely lean to the idea that Phlannel may be Princess Bubblegum in disguise, and we see that she’s capable of creating such a facade later in The Tower. I’d be willing to bet that she would do something like this to try and further persuade Lemonhope into returning to his people and also saving his kingdom. I think the much more interesting theory, however, is that Phlannel is a mirage that represents what Lemonhope wants Princess Bubblegum to be. Phlannel shares many of the same elements of Bubblegum’s character, though he never pressures Lemonhope into saving his people and allows him free will. Phlannel helps guide Lemonhope onto a path that Lemonhope himself chooses in order to relieve his own demons, not one that Phlannel is trying to force him to pursue against his will. Lemonhope’s desire to be free also revolved around his freedom to choose whatever he wanted to do, and while he never truly wanted to return to Castle Lemongrab, he chooses to do so on his own terms, not anyone else’s. This also is why Phlannel only appears to Lemonhope, and is not able to go with him to battle Lemongrab.

Lemonhope heeds Phlannel’s advice after experiencing yet another nightmare involving Lemongrab. In Lemonhope’s dream, he’s confronted by an overly obese Lemongrab munching onto a cow. As Lemonhope tries to escape, and is urged to escape by the cow, Lemonhope realizes that he’s being puppeteered by a larger version of himself. Lemonhope begins to realize at this point that only he is supposedly holding himself back from saving the Lemon People, and he’s haunted by the choices that he himself set out to pursue.

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As Lemonhope returns to the miserable looking Castle Lemongrab, he’s greeted by a surprise appearance of the obese dictator himself, Lemongrab. I really like how effectively the show has positioned Lemongrab as a villain. He went from being a somewhat psychotic, yet sympathetic character into a full-fledged autocrat. His antagonistic role in this one is definitely strong, and it’s easy to buy into the fact that this man single-handedly corrupted an entire kingdom. Yet, even with all that he has going for him, Lemonhope is able to easily defeat his opposer through the music from his harp. Or, in other words, ‘twas beauty, killed the beast.

In a dream he experiences during his unconscious state, Lemonhope is finally able to answer the knocking by climbing through his gray surroundings into a brighter, more comfortable spot. Lemonhope is able to escape his area of moral ambiguity into a more enlightening state of euphoria and peace of mind. Yet, even with all he has accomplished and achieved through his actions, Lemonhope later acknowledges to Princess Bubblegum that he only came back so he wouldn’t have to think of his people or PB ever again. It’s disheartening to some, but really shows that Lemonhope always stuck to his original desires and goals of simply being free to do whatever he wanted to do in life. Whether he did it for the right reasons or not, he still came back and saved his kingdom, so does it even really matter what the basis of his actions were to begin with? Lemonhope may have been selfish in pretty much everything he chose to do, but he still made heroic sacrifices for it regardless, which ultimately shaped his legacy among the views of the Candy People. By the end of it, were reminded once again that in this world, there are Finn the Humans and there are Lemonhopes: those who choose to be heroes, and those who do not. Often times in the world we want certain people to be these grand saviors and have so many expectations for them, but Lemonhope was one who simply didn’t want any of it, and sometimes that’s okay too.

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Princess Bubblegum has not forgotten his sacrifice, however, and even wrote a melancholic tune about it. As PB begins singing poignantly, a brief glimpse into the future of Ooo is shown. A somewhat demolished Candy Kingdom, an overly grown Treehouse, and the still in tact Castle Lemongrab are shown. It’s really a tearfully beautiful moment that truly emphasizes that nothing in the current Land of Ooo is forever, and that eventually, all of the lovely characters we’ve grown to appreciate so much will die off. It’s a sad but honest truth, and one that is explored through a beautiful melody, terrific landscapes, and an overall atmospheric tone that carries through powerfully to the end. It shows that even though Lemonhope never wanted to be a hero, he’ll be remembered as one regardless.

Lemonhope isn’t a personal favorite of mine, but I think it’s a pretty great example of Adventure Time at its most experimental. A new star character, some nice bits of surrealism, and an overall compelling main story that is filled with Adventure Time-y goodness throughout. I think what stops this one from being one of the all-time greats for myself is that I believe the first part is a little slow. Following Lemonhope’s escape from the Candy Kingdom, there’s many atmospheric bits of him attempting to live on his own and finding his own way of living, and while that’s all fine, I don’t really think it ties into the second part that greatly. As I mentioned earlier, Lemonhope’s main desire was to be free and on his own, but he quickly learns that it’s tough to be free and live life solo because he doesn’t have easy methods of providing for himself. This is mostly ignored in the second part, where it deals with his continual frustrations in regards to whether he should return to Castle Lemongrab or not. I feel like there’s a bit of a conflict with what exactly these two parts are trying to showcase, and while both of them are done well, I wish there was more of a coherent connection. Also, this is more of a nitpick, but there’s this really weird moment where Lemonhope’s voice isn’t filtered and he sounds exactly like Morty from Rick & Morty. It’s more of a funny little mishap than an actual problem, however. Otherwise, Lemonhope does everything it sets out to do quite well, and what was expected to be a big battle-heavy episode ended up being a very emotional tale revolving around inner conflict, and that’s exactly the kind of expectation-defying move I’d want from this show.

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Favorite line: “In conclusion, no one needs to come here ever, especially Lemonhope, and I ate my brother. Goodbye!”

 

“Bad Timing” Review

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Original Airdate: March 3, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Pendleton Ward

Lumpy Space Princess’s vanity and ego make her quite the difficult character to feel sympathy for. While all of the characters within Adventure Time have their fair share of flaws throughout the run of the series, all of them at least have something that gives me a reason as to why I should care for them, that is, all except for LSP. Bad Timing does the unthinkable. It manages to make me care for LSP’s character in a way I really never imagined. And this isn’t an episode that gives a cute or likable side to her character; the episode still does its damndest to show that LSP is crazy and arrogant in her own lumpy way, but it’s exactly that kind of attitude and behavior that directly contributes to the tragedy of her character as a whole. This is all tied together with a unique framing device that includes some delightfully silly creations from Pen Ward and Kent Osborne, and helps to all connect to Bad Timing’s piteous ending.

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The episode is introduced to Princess Bubblegum once again battling the logic behind anomalies and magic in contrast to her deep faith in her own scientific studies. Her method of time travel is also rather complex, but interesting. The back-to-back bickering between PB and Jake is quite enjoyable, as always; I really enjoy this playful conflict between the two. It’s pretty obvious that Jake is more captivated by presentation rather than the deep intervals of the space time continuum. He’d rather just see cool time portals and shit than a big presentation about the construct of time, which PB fails to understand, ultimately diminishing her faith in magic even more. It’s also nice to see one of the Mud Scamps from The Hard Easy back again! I love those quirky little critters.

As LSP enters the scene, it’s already clear what her current state of mind is. After literally sleeping in a gutter for the night (a terrific metaphor for her deranged mindset), she nearly tears PB apart for not allowing her to use the time device to visit her past boyfriend Brad. We haven’t seen a ton of LSP this past season and a half, as her only major appearances were in Candy Streets and Apple Wedding, where her deteriorating mental health is in clear view. And this one does not hold back when showing LSP at her absolute craziest and most desperate. It isn’t devoid of some of her funnier moments as well; Pen Ward gives his all with this performance, showcasing Lumpy Space Princess and her most loud and obnoxious, but also her most passionate.

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While LSP drowns her worries at the Candy Kingdom Tavern, as Tree Trunks softly sings “Slow Boat to China” (a referential moment I actually quite enjoy), she comes across Johnnie, or as she called him in high school: “Ugly Johnnie.” Johnnie is the perfect example of just a likable “nice guy” character. He’s certainly not the most interesting character that has ever starred on the show, but I don’t really think that was the point. He’s just supposed to be this really sweet guy who shows Lumpy Space Princess something that she has probably never received, or at least accepted: care and compassion. He’s also not without his funny moments, mostly stemming from his clear social awkwardness and quirky behavior. I like how corny and kind of stilted his interactions with LSP are. They laugh about using a vinyl record to stimulate a face, and then Johnnie immediately just tells Lumpy Space Princess to sleep on his couch. Talk about a confident and forward man! And honestly, Johnnie is the perfect representation of “that person from high school who went waaay under the radar.” I think all of us who have gone through high school know that one person you look at now and just wonder “damn, where were you three years earlier?” Is that rude? I don’t know.

But the utter tragedy of it all is seeing just how well LSP responds to all of this. She isn’t demeaning, she isn’t arrogant, and she isn’t being vain. She genuinely enjoys the company of Johnnie, and is much happier with herself and her life spending time with someone that not only benefits her own existence, but somebody that she can care and love for as well. Johnnie was able to build confidence and self-esteem through her own actions, and carried those skills over to get a job within the Candy Kingdom. Lumpy Space Princess most likely only dated guys who were physically attractive for a social status back in Lumpy Space, so this is definitely the first boyfriend she has had who isn’t completely materialistic. But of course, LSP’s desire for love is still a very self-centered desire. Though she’s able to give love to Johnnie, anything threatening the love that he gives her ultimately threatens the relationship as a whole. Lumpy Space Princess doesn’t know that love requires trust and flexibility; her only understanding of true love is that it feels good and that she doesn’t want the high to leave. Especially in this case, seeing as how Johnnie is a legitimately kind and loving guy, she does not want to lose him or the way he feels about her for anything.

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During Johnnie’s dinner with Princess Bubblegum, LSP sits sadly outside and utters a monologue that is so raw and passionate that I couldn’t help but include it in this review.

Oh, Johnnie… Ugly Johnnie, through my tender love you have metamorphed into Beautiful Johnnie Butterfly. Every relationship, I gamble with my heart. I go all in because the payoff is true love. I see you when I close my eyes, and thinking of you makes my mind feel light. All my problems fade away, and I can’t help smiling. To let someone you love go into the arms of another takes a big person. I don’t know… if I can be that big.

This is one of my favorite soliloquies in the show, and honestly the best representation about what Lumpy Space Princess as a character is all about. It’s easy to dismiss her as crazy, but even easier to empathize with her viewpoint on love and how important it can make one feel. Yet, it’s important to also realize that LSP isn’t in love… she has only known Johnnie for a day. However, the impact of the brief relationship and the effect it had on her is exactly what makes her feelings so validated. LSP is a person constantly looking for love, and one that struggles so hard to ever find it. For the first time in her life, she’s at least found a genuine person who she could actually see herself with. The thought of mutual love is enough to make her as high as could be, and the only thing that actually threatens her is the loss of that love. It’s a lot similar to Braco’s situation in The Suitor: if the two of these characters were patient and understanding with their alleged loved ones, they would have ended up having a much more positive resolution. Yet, LSP is left with only her paranoia and feelings of heartbreak, which continue to contribute to her own self-destructive behavior. She’s unable to look past her own insecurities because she is afraid of losing everything she has worked so hard to create, even though she’s actively destroying exactly what she wanted in the first place. In a very Lumpy Space Princess-y way, this is a very sad truth when it comes to love and infatuation.

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And of course, let’s not forget the tranch herself, Princess Bubblegum. I think PB is written pretty terrifically in this one, and it’s a nice balance to show her caring and compassionate side after sooo many episode of referencing her more shady and conniving nature (though he use of cyanide laced gum is quite questionable). Even though she initially threatens to declare war on Lumpy Space after a trivial fight between LSP (the chick can be petty sometimes!), her sympathy and understanding of Lumpy’s own self-doubt is exposed in all the right ways. Instead of reprimanding LSP for stealing her material, wrecking her castle, and sort of killing someone, she would much rather put a halt to Lumpy’s suffering, even if it means feeling the wrath of her own hostility. PB is a caring and understanding person when she realizes the emotional turmoil that is going on within other people, and after 800 years of trying to build a happy Utopian society, there’s still the underlying realism that some citizens do deal with deep emotional issues. And sometimes the only way to cope with the heavy issues of her citizens is to have a nice drink at the Candy Kingdom Tavern. Poor gal.

The ending is about as heartwrenching as it gets. Through the outer circle surrounding the episode, we see that these creatures are from an alternate dimension, and that the time machine sent Johnnie here instead of his past timeline. As LSP bawls over the loss of her love, we see that Johnnie can also see exactly what is going on within the Land of Ooo. As she angrily runs out, Johnnie sadly slouches himself, knowing that he’ll never be able to see his lover ever again. Johnnie perhaps receives the saddest fate out of any character in the entire show; he’s doomed to a dimension that he can presumably never escape from, and through everything, he really, really liked LSP. He never doubted his relationship or lost his feelings for his special someone, and Lumpy Space Princess’s failure to understand social cues is what ultimately led to the demise of their individual lives. It’s sad stuff.

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The outer circle is certainly an interesting gag within the episode, with many cute little characters and gags within it. I also think it was delightfully clever to tie the entire episode back to the actual visual gag. Though, I think this is definitely a feature that works much better on rewatches. When I initially viewed this episode, I was quite distracted by the actual circle and actually missed the emotional ending with Johnnie ending up in the circle. Thus, this is one that benefits from multiple viewings, so now I can either focus entirely on the circle, or the events going on within the episode. Each are equally interesting in their own right, and the cute little creatures have Pendleton Ward written all over them. Perhaps my favorite of these doodles are the peanut who splits into two individual nuts and the triangle and square happily see-sawing together.

This one is an emotional rollercoaster, and one that I’m quite fond of. This is the best Lumpy Space Princess episode to date, and it’s one that finds all the right ways for me to sympathize with her. By the end of the episode, she’s still entirely vain and insane, but Bad Timing finds just the right balance to still make her charismatic. One of Ooo’s most unsympathetic characters was able to also become one of the show’s most tragic, and I think that’s just another magical actual of great writing within the scope of Adventure Time.

Favorite line: “Boy, when this evening started, I was feeling so dump trucks, but now it’s like a hundred forklifts!”

“Rattleballs” Review

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Original Airdate: January 27, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Blade of Grass” Review

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Original Airdate: January 20, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Blade of Grass effectively introduces a major plot point to not only the season, but the series as a whole. The introduction of the grass sword would open up a whole variety of doors for Finn’s character, as well as a future character down the line. Yet, despite some of its surreal imagery, this episode doesn’t feel especially heavy or impactful, but it doesn’t really need to be. Somvilay and Seo Kim efficiently worked together to create a fun and intriguing episode, and their best episode of the season overall.

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LOVE the way this one begins. It’s probably Adventure Time at its most odd, with Finn and Jake battling off a bunch of mullet-sporting zombies within a slide park. The idea alone is completely ludicrous enough to get a laugh out of me, and I still to this day have no fucking clue what the slider guys are supposed to be. On the more heartwarming side, Finn is still using his Demon Blood Sword even after it was previously smashed. It seems evident that this episode needed to happen for Finn to acquire a new blade, but I’m glad it does show how much of an attachment Finn had to the Demon Blood Sword. And why shouldn’t he? That sword was bangin’ and it came from his dad, the latter arguably having a bigger emotional impact on Finn in general.

I love the little farmer’s market introduced in this episode that becomes a recurring location from this point on. It feels very fitting with the world of Adventure Time, and I’m glad the series didn’t go full-out Root Beer Guy after said episode and turn the Land of Ooo into one big modern day metropolis. It’s nice to have little medieval elements like this sprinkled around. It’s also been quite some time since we’ve seen Choose Goose, so it was good to reintroduce him once more. I especially like both the callback to Blood Under the Skin and Play Date as Finn describes the armor that Choose Goose once gave him.

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Once Finn receives the grass blade, the episode becomes an effective mixture between comedy and some horror elements. Again, I think this is some of Somvilay and Seo’s best joke telling, simply because it focuses mostly on the story while sprinkling in their own charms along the way. Occasionally, Somvilay’s focus on anti-humor can be so all-consuming and an effort to make the episode as non-jokey as possible that it simply becomes distracting and sometimes quite dry. Here, all of his non-jokes work naturally into the story in a way where his influence is still noticeable, but the episode as a whole doesn’t feel like his own experimental project. There are some nice gags throughout this one, like the random pizza that comes flying out of nowhere, or Finn finally ditching the sword and uttering, “worst three bucks I’ve ever spent.” Honestly, Finn, I love you buddy, but what were you really expecting here? Also, the battle outside of the candle shop is one of my favorite moments in the episode, again, mostly in terms of surreality. The “hooligans who steal candles” are silly renditions of cliched 60’s gang members, and Finn’s interactions with them are equally as hilarious. Also, I think the older candle store owner may surpass Slime Princess for my favorite character performed by Maria Bamford. I absolutely love her forced Irish accent.

Aside from the humor, the episode in general does a great job of showing how big of a threat the grass sword can be. There’s heavy bits of foreshadowing here, especially within the dream sequence and actions of the sword in general. In the dream, we see the grass sword completely consume Finn’s body as he becomes one whole “grass Finn.” And the way the sword cuts through objects and turns them into little Finn heads shows what a fascination the sword has with Finn in general. Obviously I don’t think they thought a ton into the future in terms of the whole “grass Finn” thing in this episode, but I’m glad the connection was made regardless. I just wish the sword was a bit more consistent with it; this is the only episode where the sword cuts objects into Finn shapes, and I think it’d be much less distracting if it wasn’t shown every single time Finn cuts into something following the pillow tag. To be fair, we don’t even really get to see this sword a ton as it is, so I can’t really blame this for being inconsistent. The grass sword in general is cool; I think it’s pretty neat how the entire blade is given weight and strength through the mere sounds that it makes. The blade as a whole looks pretty frail and inferior to Finn’s previous swords, though something as simple as the Grassy Wizard placing it down with a metal “clang” can make it feel a lot more powerful and effective. I enjoy the way it’s categorized as more than just a sword as well. The curse plays a very large part into its existence, and its focused on in all the right ways. I really like how the sword even possesses some elements that the Ice Crown does, in the sense that it longs for the person who wears it and is relentless in its efforts to be used.

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Finn realizes the weight of the curse as Choose Goose informs him, and I enjoy how Finn’s slow progression into actually liking the sword becomes clear following this moment. Oliver Sava over at the A.V. Club would point out that the grass sword has some sort of correlation with Finn’s sexual awakening, though I don’t really buy into that theory at all. If anything, it seems that the lifelong “curse” could correlate more into a lasting condition or mental illness of some sort. As Finn confronts the Grassy Wizard, he is informed that the curse will last forever, and that Finn’s casual response is not how one is supposed to react to that kind of news. Or Jake’s observation, “now that you’ve accepted it, you can control it!” I think it’s pretty obvious that Finn could easily go his entire life resisting the power of the sword and being in denial about its attachment to him, though Finn would much rather just accept his fate and come to terms with his eternal curse. Once he’s learned to accept reality and fate as it is, he can now control his feelings and issues as if they were never issues to begin with. It’s somewhat enlightening.

This episode is also filled with some really nice color schemes. I love it’s focus on the color green; it never feels too nauseating. The grassy mountain is a pretty cool place with some pretty neat beasts, and the Grassy Wizard in general is a pretty enjoyable dickhead. He would later be brought back in Do No Harm, and I’m glad he had at least on more part in the ongoing Grass Sword saga.

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So yeah, this one is a blend of mostly fun and somewhat tense moments. It does a pretty great job of setting up the grass sword story as a whole, and I think it’s pretty obvious to any regular viewer at this point that Finn is going to lose his arm at any point now. It’s been alluded to so many times up to this point, and the grass sword only adds to the anticipation of Finn’s amputation. The de-arming comes soon enough, and while reactions amongst people on whether it was handled properly wildly ranges, I think it’s at least safe to say for now that we did get a pretty cool sword out of it regardless, even if it was short-lived.

A brief detour from my usual endings, but oh. my. Glob. Have y’all seen the new kidrobot Adventure Time figures? I’m actually obsessed, and I cannot wait for the damage my bank account is going to experience once they’re released.

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Favorite line: “Worst $3 I ever spent.”

“Apple Wedding” Review

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Original Airdate: January 13, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

I previously mentioned in my review of Dream of Love that I thought Tree Trunks couldn’t really hold up an episode on her own following that episode, though I think I have to somewhat retract that statement. I have a soft spot for Tree Trunks, but for a while, I thought she was best in small doses, rather than having full episodes centered around her. But now that I look at it, some of Tree Trunks’ best episodes are yet to come, and this one is definitely an enjoyable expedition that I’ve grown fonder of over time. Apple Wedding is a fun way to gather a bunch of different characters and to put them in one place, while also introducing a handful of new and equally entertaining characters. There’s definitely a lot going on in this one, though to its advantage.

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Let’s go over the main story first: Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig are getting married! This seems like a pretty appropriate development in their relationship; we haven’t really seen anything major from the two of them since Dream of Love, though, given their heavy infatuation with each other in that episode, it only makes sense that they would rush into getting married in what is presumably only a year later. It seems obvious that Tree Trunks is getting up in the years (I think… I mean, her mom is still apparently alive after all) and given her past history with men, I think she’d most likely end out her years with someone by her side. I buy into it though, because I think Mr. Pig and Tree Trunks actually make a pretty cute pairing for each other. Though, it’s most funny to me that, while the episode is called Apple Wedding and revolves around Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s wedding, the two never really feel like the main focus. Everything’s connected to their story, but tons of different things are going on around them. Even a good amount of time is dedicated to showing their family members.

We meet Tree Trunks’ mother, who is a hilariously horny elephant that gives us some insight into where TT’s risque behavior comes from. We’re also introduced to Mr. Pig’s extended family (by the looks of it, most of Tree Trunks’ relatives must have died off) including his mother, who has plenty of enjoyable overreactions, as many mothers would when their child’s wedding day occurs. We also get to see what I assume to be Mr. Pig’s nieces and nephews playing and messing around with Jake, which I thought was just adorable. PB’s statement “I haven’t seen Jake this happy in a while,” adds a layer of poignancy to his actions. Jake is probably still not over the fact that he never got to properly raise his children, and now that Finn’s going through his own developmental issues, he is probably thrilled that he has a chance to hangout with and play with a group of children. It’s also a somber inflection from PB that leads me to guess that Jake really isn’t as happy as we’re used to seeing. It’s obvious that Jake pushes away his stressors and doesn’t really like to deal with them, and I get the feeling that PB picks up on that where Finn does not.

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On the Princess Bubblegum side of things, her subplot provides for some fun characterization as well. This episode introduces the one, true King of Ooo, who is a favorite of storyboard artist Steve Wolfhard, and I think this provides for one of his best appearances. I really enjoy the dynamic between PB and King of Ooo, and how it becomes a rivalry of pride by its last moments. And it makes sense why PB would hate him! Bubblegum has worked hard to build her kingdom from scratch and make a name for herself, while the King of Ooo is simply a swindler using a false name to gather the masses. Bubblegum’s determination to expose him is a lot of fun, even if she does end up taking it a bit too far. I was initially annoyed with her decision to lock up everyone after they rebel against her, but I think it works in the sense that it emphasizes her absolute disdain for the King of Ooo, and it’s just genuinely a funny twist. So I’m okay with it.

Aside from those two stories that are mostly major, this episode is also chock full of much smaller stories. Tree Trunks’ ex-husband Wyatt gathers some attention, and man, what a sad loser he is. I really love the way BMO’s absolute enthusiasm is diminished after talking to him for a few minutes, and you can really gather what kind of a person Wyatt is in just a few scenes. There’s always that one sad asshole who ruins a wedding by boring people to death with their own love life, and Wyatt embodies everything those sad assholes possess. After only knowing BMO for like, 15 minutes, he’s totally ready to ask her to move in with him, just because he constantly needs that attention. And BMO’s reaction is perfect; I love how she completely disappears for the entirety of the episode following this scene.

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Finn’s duty to stop LSP from ruining the wedding is fun as well. I love how this is an actual job Finn is given, as in Lumpy Space Princess just generally does this every single time there is a wedding in Ooo. Really adds to her demented, egocentric behavior. The episode does a great job of making her seem haunting and antagonistic as well, even if her motivations are, at core value, quite silly. Also, according to the storyboard, LSP’s dress is an exact copy of Princess Diana’s dress. In the promo art that Wolfhard conjured up, it depicts LSP preparing to defile a grave a steal someone’s dress from inside. So, was that actually Princess Diana’s dress? Interesting thought.

Also depicted in the promotional artwork is Cinnamon Bun returning to the Candy Kingdom once more to bar tend at the wedding. And his appearance is relatively funny! His mix-up of “take around these drinks ‘for us’” and “walk to the zoo and back” really cracks me up every time I hear it, and is one of my favorite Cinnamon Bun lines in general. Also, I love the collaboration of different things coming together, as PB flies the King of Ooo’s jet, LSP gets closer to the wedding, TT nearly says “I do”, and much build up is put on CB shaking that bottle of champagne. Yet, it was entirely a farce and no significance was actually carried out by the bottle. It’s quite funny.

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Annnd, everything is tied together at the end when PB frees everyone (literally, everyone) from prison. Honestly, this scene was a missed opportunity to include Pete Sassafras finally getting released from prison. I wonder how long he was actually in there for. But, regardless, Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig are able to have some alone time for some hardcore fucking while PB watches. Shield your eyes, kiddies!

This one is definitely a lot of fun, mostly deriving from its ability to combine so many ideas with one concept. It’s fun to see this lot of different characters, and each story feels equally as entertaining as the other. It’s a wedding episode that doesn’t feel at all schmaltzy or drawn out, and one I seem to enjoy more on each rewatch.

King of Ooo’s attorney Toronto was initially supposed to appear in this episode, though it was cut from the storyboard. You can see the deleted scenes here.

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Favorite line: King of Ooo dot cooooom!!!

 

“Root Beer Guy” Review

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Original Airdate: December 2, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“James” Review

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Original Airdate: November 25, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

Lotsa problems with this one, folks.

It’s funny, because I think James is the type of episode that could have worked if certain decisions were executed differently. Some choices that were made in this one still baffle me quite a bit, and it seems like an episode that was purely going for shock value rather than actually trying to make sense with the universe.

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The beginning scene is partially funny. The staged drama surrounding Finn and Jake, and their melancholic exchanges with each other are somber, but delivered in such a way that evokes a bit of humor, namely Jake’s insistence to stay in the dark room for several months. My main problem with this scene is that it doesn’t really make contextual sense with how the rest of the episode plays out. When we eventually realize how Finn and Jake feel about James, it doesn’t really seem like this overemotional response is especially warranted. In fact, by the episode’s end, it doesn’t even really accurately tie back into this scene. During the final scene, Finn and Jake are mostly just concerned and uncertain about the events at hand. It doesn’t seem like their trauma lasted particularly long, in that case. And that’s kind of what forms this episode’s biggest, though not its only, problem: characters can act wildly dissonant for the main reason that it serves the plot of the episode, rather than feeling like a natural reaction from the characters based on the circumstances around them. Thus, this beginning scene feels like the only real reason it’s included in is to draw the viewer into the story, which is somewhat effective on a first viewing, but really just falls flat by the time this episode reaches its climax.

Now let’s get to the title character himself: James. First of all, not to the fault of the episode, but the fact that there are two characters named “James” within the AT universe is incredibly dumb to me. There’s a handful of other generic male names in the world, why couldn’t James have been called “Michael” or “Chris” or something along those lines? Naming him “James” despite the fact that James Baxter is an already existing character seem incredibly silly to me. But forget about his name, how is he as a character? Well, quite annoying, actually. Andy Merrill, most notable for his role as Brak from Space Ghost Coast to Coast and its spin-offs, provides the voice of James, though his talent doesn’t really offer much because he isn’t really given much to work with. James’ character practically centers around the fact that he’s unintelligent and slightly hyperactive, and by this point in the series, we’ve seen many, many Candy People who take on this identity. James lacks any form of charm or endearing qualities that should make me care about him over the course of 11 minutes. Again, he is simply there to be a foil within the plot of the episode.

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The story itself is almost as equally devoid of charm and intrigue. I do enjoy the beginning trek through the Desert of Wonders in PB’s spider-like transporter, but once the gang actually lands in the pit and attention mostly focuses within the ship, most of that interest is lost. This is one that is particularly weak in the animation department, and the drawings in general. Andy Ristaino and Cole Sanchez co-boarded the episode, and normally their drawings are pretty solid, especially Ristaino’s, though a large majority of this one features some wonky dynamic shots and disproportionate character modeling. The characters will constantly go off model; there are some parts where Finn will look incredibly smaller and chunkier than usual, or Jake will look huge in comparison to the people around him, or PB’s head will range from the size of raise to an actual oval. I’m all for cartoons going off-model, and AT was not afraid to do so in its earliest seasons, though the tone of the show has changed in terms of not only its story, but its look. So any inconsistencies in actual design of the characters feels more like a wonky doodle rather than an intentional choice on the storyboard artist’s part. This is also primarily a “box episode” that takes place almost exclusively in one area, though this would be a bit more justifiable if the setting was a bit more visually interesting, but it’s pretty much just your general spacecraft filled with light and dark grays.

And the episode’s story is pretty thin as well. I think the story does have some comedic opportunities, though it mostly feels like, from a viewer perspective, that we’re just simply waiting for certain moments to happen. We know James is going to be an idiot, we know he’s going to continuously get blamed for his actions, we know it’s not actually going to be his doing by the end of the episode, etc. It just really feels like we’re going through classic storytelling notions until the episode eventually makes some form of a development, though, in this one, the development doesn’t even feel warranted.

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The big “twist” in this one is that it was PB sabotaging all of Finn and Jake’s plans and ends up knocking out the boys in order to sacrifice James and save F&J. And boy, do I think this is just absolutely ridiculous on every single level. First of all, the way it is explained by PB sounds extremely contrived and honestly just kind of paints her to be legitimately sociopathic. Despite her “conniving” nature being more emphasized by this point in the series, I have a hard time believing that she’d actually perform something so stupid. Instead of wasting time sabotaging the plans Finn and Jake were coming up with, why did she not simply use that time explain her idea to Finn and Jake? Or, even if she hadn’t thought of it at the time, why wouldn’t she just at least take a minute to try and convince Finn and Jake to go through with the plan before she ended up just doing it anyway? If she was so concerned about preserving Finn’s life, then why would she  knock him unconscious with a fucking wrench? I get that PB doesn’t always think using common sense, but c’mon, this is legitimately extreme and slightly moronic even for her. And the excuse of why she sabotaged F&J’s plans feels like genuinely poor writing. She “calculated” that Finn and Jake’s plans wouldn’t work? How? How would she have actually hypothesized that these attempts would absolutely fail without even a slight chance of succeeding? It doesn’t even seem like she knows a ton about the Oozers; she mentions them as “creatures from another time,” though she doesn’t seem to recognize them as a species she actually has any knowledge of. And how was there any possibility that she knew her plan with James would absolutely succeed? What if the Oozers ignored James and started running after PB and friends? The way it is explained just feels so contrived; I feel as though the episode did not stress enough how limited the gang’s options were. Exploring two possible ideas and then deciding that there’s absolutely no way out does not feel like a rational conclusion. I usually don’t bring this up, but it’s really the one time I wish they could’ve explained why Jake couldn’t just grow giant and stretch out of the situation. I get that the Oozers could’ve easily had mutagenic effects onto him, but it just makes me scratch my head and ask “why” because it’d devoid of an actual explanation for this solution. 

And of course, since I don’t care much for James, his “death” ends up feeling pretty ineffective. I’m not much of a Cinnamon Bun guy either, but if he were to take James place in this episode, it would at least feature an already established character who the audience has some emotional investment in. It feels like James was introduced only so he could die, which again adds to the number of moments that feel like they were only included to have a “shockingly edgy” effect on the audience. And it’s all capped off by a cliffhanger featuring the Oozers heading straight for Ooo. It all just feels way too manipulative.

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So yeah, I really teared into this one, but is there anything I like about it? Well, the atmosphere isn’t bad. Despite it being generally laugh free, I do enjoy how the episode at least attempts to make the situation at hand feel dire and uneasy. It isn’t really executed well, but it does paint more of a stressful edge to the entire situation regardless. I also like the scenes where PB drags Finn and Jake out of the pit as James gets ambushed. It’s all staged really dramatically, and is pretty heavy to stomach despite my lack of investment in James. PB’s explanation of how she can clone other Candy People but not Finn is also quite profound, even though it follows a pretty lame explanation on her part.

But overall, I really just don’t like this one. I think the entire episode feels like it’s trying really hard to suck me in, but doesn’t know the basic fundamentals of its story well enough to tell them effectively. It also has some of the dumbest character writing for PB to date, and one of the most forgettable star characters overall. I think it’s a very disjointed mess, and one that has very few redeeming qualities at that. Thankfully, however, the next episode makes up for it with a much more interesting breakout character.

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Favorite line: “This is my cuckoo face!”

“The Pit” Review

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Original Airdate: November 18, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

The Pit certainly provides more entertainment value than Play Date did. It isn’t really as epic or dark as the ending of Play Date seemed to imply it would be, but it’s a thoroughly fun adventure that highlights some terrific character interactions and gags.

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First off, I LOVE the broken dimension that Kee-Oth brings Jake to. It makes the entire episode feel like a trippy, visual treat. The interactions between Kee-Oth and Jake in general are a lot of fun. Per usual, I love Jake’s absolute laid back attitude when it comes to stressful situations. Instead of freaking out, he just kicks back, knowing that Finn will probably end up saving him anyway. And can you blame him? He did end up coming by the end.

Kee-Oth is pretty fun antagonist. He didn’t really have much going for him in his first two appearances, but I think he’s given some stellar lines to work with (“You’re causing tension in my neck and shoulders. I’m gonna go stretch it out. You stay here and suffer.”) and his voice actor, Noah Nelson, provides for some funny deliveries.

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There’s plenty of other enjoyable moments within Kee-Oth dimension. The “little buddy” that arises after 12 years of sleep and then immediately dies is a terrific addition to AT’s line of exceptionally dark jokes. I also enjoy the character of Samantha. She doesn’t have many defining character traits, as her story is mostly surrounded by a group of enigmas, but her voice work by Marina Sirtis gives Samantha more of a standout performance. Also, Jake nearly reveals himself as J.T. Doggzone. And that is the last time J.T. is ever mentioned in the series.

On the other side of things, Finn and Lady work together to rescue Jake from Kee-Oth’s dimension. It’s pretty clear that Finn and Lady haven’t hung out much since My Two Favorite People, as Finn comically doesn’t even know what Lady’s relationship with Jake is. I also like how this becomes a running gag for Finn, and even somewhat reflects the audience’s perspective. By the time it’s brought up again in Bonnie & Neddy, I actually said to myself, “oh shit, Lady and Jake still aren’t married!” Their time together is met with comedic results, mainly centering around the contents of the videos they watch. I enjoy the steps Finn takes after Jake is captured as well; he calls the second most important person in Jake’s life and then meditates till she arrives. It’s a calm and effective moment, showing one way that Finn has taught himself to deal with stressors and anxiety in his life.

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I always enjoy getting new scenes focusing on Joshua, just because we continue to get a better understanding of how much of an asshole he actually was when it comes to demon hunting. It seems like Kee-Oth didn’t actually do anything wrong, and Joshua chained him up specifically to fuck with him. His “protection” of drinking holy water is equally hilarious; Joshua really fits the stereotype of “1950’s father” quite perfectly.

The interludes between each video are also a lot of fun. I think it’s pretty obvious by this point that Lady and Jake are hella freaky when it comes to sexual deeds, and it’s even weirder that Jake taped over his father’s videos specifically to film a sex tape for Lady. My guess is that he just grabbed the first tape he could find without actually questioning what was on it. And the filming of Heat Signature 2 was a thing of brilliance. It’s always nice to see Shelby, and even better that he’s apparently an actual ordained minister. Check please!

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I enjoy the clever way the climax is tied together, as the blessed Demon Grape Sword is too much for Kee-Oth to handle. Upon returning, I enjoy the casual banter between Lady and Jake over whether Jake actually fell in love with Samantha or not. Jake and Lady are far too comfortable with each other to ever get involved in any real drama, so it’s reassuring that an actual “fight” between them is kept light and enjoyable. They’re much too adorable for any of that nonsense. Also a bit of a melancholic inclusion, Finn is still in love with Flame Princess. It’s good to see that there’s no clear episode or plot thread that is going to wrap this up completely; Finn may have used the dungeon train to help cope with his issues, but that didn’t alleviate the problem entirely. Finn is still in love with Flame Princess, and it will take much, much time before he’s able to work out this burning sensation.

Overall, this one is fun. There’s not really a ton I can say about it, as it’s mostly surface level enjoyment, but there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that. It’s full of fun and enjoyable gags, some nice character interactions, and the inclusion of enjoyable minor characters, such as Joshua and Shelby. Definitely isn’t a strong point of season five, but one I enjoy rewatching regardless.

As an added bonus, here are some title card concepts of The Pit illustrated by Michael DeForge.

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Favorite line: “Yeah, your hubby – your boyfriend or whatever.”