Tag Archive | season seven

“Don’t Look” Review

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Another one of my favorite title cards. A reference to Charles Allan Gilbert’s All is Vanity, the card takes on the shape of a skull when looking at it from afar.

Original Airdate: April 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time shitting on episodes that Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim boarded. I promise I don’t get any kind of sadistic joy out of trashing their work in the least bit, I just generally have problems with their specific boarding tactics that often make for some of the weakest episodes of the series. I’ve gone on and on about how Somvilay’s anti-humor makes for more awkward and slower moments than legitimately funny jokes, and his tendencies towards facial expressions and boarding in general can be really clunky and off-putting. Seo Kim, on the other hand, is not as noticeable of an offender, though she’s easily the least identifiable artist in the series. While each writer has their share of quirks or noticeable styles, Kim’s work is almost always completely homogenized by Somvilay’s. Though (objectively) I think Kim has the superior art style when I do pick up on it, I oftentimes have trouble deciphering which part of the episode she actually worked on, which is something I very seldom say for AT board artists. Throughout the past two seasons, it was hard for me to grow fond of them because, after constant misses, it became stigmatic for myself to go into each Somvilay-Seo episode with considerably low expectations. This added shitting aside, I think they really were able to find their footing at this point in season seven, to the point where their work lands right up there with some of this season’s best entries. Don’t Look manages to be yet another terrific exploration of Finn’s character that is nuanced, intriguing, and poignant in all the right ways. It brings out the best in Somvilay and Seo because it’s something that they’ve both been able to succeed with in the past: a strong, yet vague story at the helm.

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This episode starts out in the library, which is always just a giant nostalgia bomb for me. Dunno why, but no setting feels more like its emulating the earlier seasons than the library. I instantly start to think of The Real You and Paper Pete (yeah, I guess I do remember that one!) and am reminded of simpler times. When discussing Dead Mountain, the boys have some truly endearing wishes that they came up with: Finn simply wants to be taller and Jake wouldn’t want to change anything about himself. It’s so sweet that the two are so accepting of who they are that the only thing they would consider changing is their height; Finn has the chance to shift into a buff warrior, or even get rid of his weird, cursed grass arm (which is once again acknowledged) but he’s much more accepting of himself and utilizes self-love to the point where that doesn’t really matter to him. I do like the brief mislead that is used to imply that Finn still has feelings for Princess Bubblegum. It feels like a bit of a derailment for his character at first, but it’s merely used to further elaborate on Finn’s changing feelings later on, and cleverly included to simply be debunked. Finn just really wants to be tall, y’all. It’s also worth noting that Finn turns the pages in the book backwards while reading further, which I don’t believe is the first time it’s happened on the show. Either Ooo books are read manga style, or this is a consistent animation error.

Dead Mountain isn’t an exceptionally interesting location, but it is loaded with several mysteries. The hermit in particular is one detail that I’m constantly pondering over. I like how he’s essentially viewed as “evil” by Finn and Jake, though, what I can gather from his general appearance and setting, it seems like he’s actually a lot more of a victim than anything. His peril was likely similar to Finn’s, in the sense that he put on the glasses and then was subjected to the absolute horror of transforming his friends against their will, which led him to seclude himself within Dead Mountain, where he’s unable to hurt anyone else. Jake later mentions that the hermit turned everyone into “rats and plops,” though it seems apparent that this was just a result of decaying food being present within the cave and not a malefactor of the glasses. This is paralleled terrifically when Finn later returns to Dead Mountain after turning NEPTR into a literal microwave, where he plans to stay to prevent anyone from getting hurt. Finn’s results are essentially the same as the hermit’s, though the hermit presumably wasn’t lucky enough to have himself a wise brother/best friend to snap him out of it.

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The premise for Don’t Look in general is a neat, creative idea that the episode has a lot of fun with. I also like the fact that, while this leads to an essential identity crisis for Finn, the story really isn’t exploited for drama. In fact, the way Finn views others is mostly flattering: Jake as a athletic, teenage brother figure, BMO as a little angel, and Ice King as a multi-layered person that is more than just an icy creep. This is because, while some of Finn’s perspective is altered by the simple fact that his sight cannot carry the vast complexities that inner feelings do, he has grown generally less judgmental of the people around him. Even Ice King, one of Finn’s greatest annoyances in the past, is now looked at as a more sympathetic and fleshed-out being, rather than just the creepy neighbor that can occasionally take on the role of a villain. Some depictions are less flattering, like the nerdy “bookworm” Shelby and Starchy as a literal butt, but it could be argued that this is simply because Finn isn’t as close with the two as he is with Jake, BMO, Ice King, and so their depictions are much more subjected to judgment, and also one-note. Of course, the most interesting perspective of all is how Finn views Princess Bubblegum, which, in her words is “a teen-ish boy heartthrob.” I wouldn’t be the first to point out that this is likely referring to the fact that Finn views her as “just one of the guys” now instead of a romantic love interest. Going back to the beginning of the episode, the writers do occasionally try and fool us by including some elements of the status quo, but the series is progressive enough at this point to prove us wrong and show how much the characters have developed since the beginning.

The projection that truly shows off the horrific abilities of the hermit’s eyes is NEPTR’s transformation from a sentient microwave to a regular microwave, which works as yet another hilarious “fuck you” to NEPTR, and also is used as a mechanism for some profound exploration. There’s really no character better to be used as an icon for misuse than NEPTR; over the years, the little guy has been neglected, abused, and ignored, and I think Finn’s turmoil not only centered around his guilt for taking the life of his friend away, but also that Finn has likely contributed to NEPTR’s label as “property.” In fact, Hot to the Touch exclusively featured Finn essentially using NEPTR for his own gain, even if NEPTR was willing to help the entire time. This is what leads Finn into an absolute panicked state, where he begins to question his true intentions, all while looking at his reflection and transforming into the most “judgmental, self-centered, monstrous” image he can think of: his father. This is one of my favorite subtle moments that the show has ever done. Finn doesn’t remark, “oh my glob, I’m just like my dad!” but we’re instead left with a mere facsimile of Martin that hits home much more effectively than any dialogue would. While Martin hasn’t been mentioned since his ascension into a new realm in The Comet, the trauma he put Finn through is still very potent and real, to the point where Finn fears becoming like his father more than anything. Everything that Finn associates with being a bad or immoral person derive directly from Martin’s personality, and it’s interesting that Finn’s maturation also can be attributed to the fact that he actively wants to avoid any behavior that can be seen as selfish or uncaring, because he doesn’t want to end up down the same path.

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Where Finn tends to react more emotionally to certain situations, Jake is always there to round him out logically. And, as our dog friend eloquently states:

“I mean, maybe your eyes are just bad at describing things, you know? Like, how you feel about people, what they mean to you. That stuff’s in your guts. Eyes can’t grok that. Unless you have the eyes of, like, a trained artist or something.”

It’s a well-stated point that can easily be translated as a moral for audiences as well: we as human beings often beat ourselves up for being judgmental off of our own visual and cognitive cues, though neither a single thought nor observation can truly explain the complexities of an actual interpersonal relationship. Finn’s guilt and shame alone are enough to prove that he cares about NEPTR beyond just his usefulness as an appliance. The last few minutes also work as an excellent way to stress the importance of how Finn views others, but also how he views himself. And oftentimes, the most efficient way to view yourself in the best light is to be around people who care for you and love you, which Jake helps organize (even if Ice King is reluctant at first). This, in turn is what makes the eyes release themselves from Finn’s face, as Finn was able to shift back from true verbal judgment, rather just the one-dimensional visual judgment I had mentioned earlier. Not only did Finn learn the importance of this judgment for himself, but he also knows now that you really can’t gauge any kind of opinion from just seeing people, so it’s important to let people know how you see them. Finn sees NEPTR as a friend and “his half-son” and it’s much more important to him that he shows NEPTR care and love to make it so that his viewpoint is accurate. It’s a sweet ending, and a long awaited happy moment for the little robot, but not as much for our other little robot, as he hilariously falls from the sky when his journey as an angel ends. Poor BMO was just living out his dream, but it was too good to last.

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Couple nitpicks for this one: the hermit’s eyes are slightly inconsistent when it comes to how they affect people. Like, with PB, Ice King, Jake, and BMO, the eyes merely affect how they look, while Shelby and NEPTR are essentially given entirely different personalities/states of being by the way Finn views them. It feels like rules were never truly established with how these magical items work. Otherwise, I just kind wish we were able to see more of how Finn views others. It would’ve been really neat to include characters like Marceline, Flame Princess, Cinnamon Bun, Betty, and so on to see how exactly Finn views them from the eyes’ point of view. But alas, the episode is only 11 minutes, and I gotta accept what we got.

But that’s not to say what we got isn’t pretty great stuff. It’s a rare Somvilay and Seo entry that doesn’t rely mostly on humor, and actually focuses more on telling a very intricate and in depth story with lots of subtle details, of which really are some of my favorite moments in the entire series. It’s another excellent depiction of Finn still dealing with the trials of accepting his identity, as well as moving forward with his own maturation process in Adventure Time’s own bizarre, science fiction-y way. I’m also pleased to say that, personally, I don’t even think this is the best Somvilay/Seo episode of the season. That episode is yet to come!

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Favorite line: “These balls are going nuts!”

“Broke His Crown” Review

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Original Airdate: March 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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Love dem freeze-frame bonuses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Favorite line: “GOODBYE, FREAKS!”

“The Thin Yellow Line” Review

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Original Airdate: March 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Emily Partridge & KC Green

Through the past couple seasons, we’ve seen how various different major and secondary characters view Princess Bubblegum from their perspective. Though, one important point of view that hasn’t been explored in great detail is from those who spend the most time around the princess: the Banana Guards. Aside from their strong loyalty and love for the princess, they’ve mostly been in the background, while slightly more intelligent Candy Citizens such as Starchy and Cinnamon Bun (I did say slightly more intelligent) have been able to pinpoint her shady behavior as a flaw of her character. The Thin Yellow Line puts the Banana Guards at center stage to present an almost cultish look at PB’s alleged hierarchy, and how the Guards themselves feel entirely confined by their environment in fear of their own demise. It’s also a cool to see that, outside of their identical appearances, each Banana Guard possesses their own unique character traits and personalities.

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I wanna first start off by saying that the mural painted by Banana Guard 16 (in actuality, it was painted by Joy Ang!) is absolutely gorgeous and has so much detail put into it that it’s impossible to soak in everything on a first glance, and it’s only fair that I analyze it from left to right. The beginning of the mural features what I could only assume to be the catalyst comet, of which likely signifies the “beginning” of Ooo. Of course, it also ties into the overall mystery of how the Catalyst Comet and the Great Mushroom War correlate, and what exactly said comet brought with it. Though, some form of magic surely came into existence when it hit, and may have also had a part in creating the Mother Gum, of which is shown next in the mural. The Mother Gum is then shown sending PB off on her way, as rays of light and brightness surround her. Though, once PB’s figure enters the mural, the bright, white clouds turn menacing and dark, signifying her descent into a perceived bit of unscrupulousness. This includes:

  • The snakelike Neddy, of whom looks content within the nectar tree. As Banana Guard 16 later mentions, he believes that PB “trapped her brother Neddy,” meaning that the general understanding of Neddy within the Kingdom is that he was a possibly dangerous, but provided the Candy Kingdom with a beneficial resource. Hypothetically, this led PB to make the decision that he should be forcibly kept within the kingdom, where he cannot harm anyone and can only provide for the kingdom.
  • Marceline’s bat-like form is seen in the background, meaning that the Candy Kingdom citizens possibly aren’t comfortable with PB’s relationship with Marceline, given Marcy’s somewhat rebellious and uncanny nature. It seems like some form of underlying prejudice towards vampires, that has existed since the olden days, or reflect the stigma that surrounded Marceline when she initially started hanging out with PB. As we’ve seen during the Stakes miniseries, this stigma towards vampires still exists and is potentially harmful, so it’s quite likely to me that the citizens in general may feel intimated by Marceline and uncomfortable with her hanging out with the princess.
  • The ceiling of eyes is representative of PB’s heavy surveillance system of which she watches over the entire kingdom. Though she has recently weened off this method, she’s still viewed with NSA-type paranoia as someone watching the citizens’ every step.
  • The middle section is devoted to showcasing Goliad and Stormo, who are being heavily watched over by the Gumball Guardians. Despite still being locked in an eternal duel, Goliad is also depicted as having an eye on the Gumball Guardians, being ready to strike as soon as something interferes with said psychic battle. It’s also worth noting that, while one Gumball Guardian is locked in a staring contest with Goliad, the other looks off onto the side, while the prison within the cage remains unsupervised. This could represent the dangers hidden within the Candy Kingdom that remain overlooked (one of which is dealt with later) or touch on the fact that the Gumball Guardians are essentially useless in the face of danger, as seen with the Lich attack, the army of Gunters, the vamp cloud, and so on.
  • Towards the end, we see a stitched up Lemongrab, referencing the merging of Lemongrab 1 and Lemongrab 2 after Lemonhope’s attack. The inside of his head is also shown, as his brain is split in two. The implication here reads to me that, though PB stitched up and fixed Lemongrab, she will never be able to fix the broken mess that she sought to create. His body may be one, but he brain will always be in two.
  • And finally, that brings us to the last piece, that returns to the bright color scheme of the first panel. Princess Bubblegum is essentially portrayed as a goddess, with her swan eloquently in back, as an army of Banana Guards stand before her. This shows how, despite all of the dark matters under her belt, the BGs are still willing to worship her no matter what because they know that everything she has done has been for the kingdom. Though, Banana Guard 16 acknowledges through the mural that, if anyone were to defy her, they’d end up in the dark clouds just as everyone else who has betrayed her.

There’s certainly a lot going on, and it’s most definitely the most interesting aspect of this episode. Though, that isn’t necessarily a criticism, as a good portion of this one is a lot of fun. It’s not as deep or dark as the mural, but it provides for a lot of great Banana Guard gags with terrific animation and drawings.

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This one was actually co-boarded by KC Green, a pretty well-known webcomic artist. He has his own ongoing webcomic called He is a Good Boy, is working on the Rocko’s Modern Life revival comics, has drawn every Pokemon everand previously ran the webcomic series Gunshow, of which is widely known because of that one dog meme that was literally everywhere for a period of time. I really dig Green’s style in general, and his zany, cartoon-y drawings really fit for this type of episode. The style of this one honestly reminds me a lot of season two’s design, when artists like Jesse Moynihan and Somvilay Xayaphone were still trying to get a feel for the shape of the characters, and ended up creating some really humorous drawings and faces in the process. Here, it’s the same, though arguably more intentional, and provides for a lot of stretchy and emotive expressions in the process. I especially love the various faces Finn makes as he realizes that Banana Guard 16 is the vandal. I’m totally fine with the subdued and calmer animation in later seasons, though it’s welcomed to have an episode like this, which is likely the most expressive the show has been in years.

I usually think Banana Guard humor is hit-or-miss, but it hits pretty hard in this episode. I love how this episode manages to exaggerate their bumbling and moronic nature to extreme lengths, while also making them somewhat rounder and more vigilant at the same time. Like, you have that scene at the beginning where they’re rolling around and tripping over each other, but then you have the moment when they actually convict the boys and punch the lights out of Jake. That’s right, the motherfucking Banana Guards one-upped F&J. It’s so refreshing to see them actually be half decent at their job, even if they’re hilariously tricked in the next minute that Finn and Jake are new guards. The Thin Yellow Line plays with this back-and-forth between character portrayal a lot, and it’s a ton of fun.

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The episode also has a great mystery element that plays with the viewer’s expectations in a pretty logical way. I like how the Banana Guards aren’t just being ridiculous or conniving in the methods that they send Jake into utter paranoia; the BGs are secretive and hidden with these pleasures because they actually have something to lose in they get caught. It relates to their own paranoia with conforming to the standards of Princess Bubblegum, and the fact that they feel as though diverting from this conformity will ultimately result in a painful punishment. I expected these somewhat tense sequences to be a non-sequitur, but I’m actually glad they have a role in the overall message and conclusion of the episode.

Banana Guard 16 isn’t an especially interesting or likable character, but I’d argue that he’s not really supposed to be. He’s kind of just supposed to be an active voice among the mostly cowardice Banana Guards, and the episode does so successfully by actually giving him his own unique voice. He’s voiced by Tunde Adebimpe, of whom I’ve never actually heard of, though his credentials read that he’s a digital artist, which helps him connect with the character even better. The relationship he has with Finn is sweet; I like how Finn initially just uses him to close the case surrounding the vandalism, though actually ends up seeing the beauty and genuine nature of BG 16’s work. It’s also interesting to see how blindsided Finn is to Bubblegum’s darker side. Of course, the love that he feels for her probably has some part in this, though I honestly think that Finn just doesn’t pick up on this side of her. Granted, while some of what BG 16 was saying did resonate as truthful, he was exaggerating it in ways that simply paint PB to be an absolute tyrant, when she’s really just morally astute. Those sequences are just awesome though. You really don’t blame him for thinking of PB this way, because everything he’s describing does have some truth to it: she didn’t imprison Neddy, but she also didn’t help him beyond containing him; she had good reasons to imprison the “rebellious Candy People” of which, again, we’ll be exploring later; she “diced” the Rattleball boys, but that was only in the logic of them being too powerful for their own good. All of these conclusions are completed ethical, though embroidered.

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The funny thing about this devoted worship is that PB is totally perplexed by it; she has no idea that she’s regarded in such a way, and it goes back to what I was saying before of her behavior being a factor of her inability to go about protecting her kingdom in a healthy way. She knows that she doesn’t exactly have the trust of her people, but is kind of out-of-the-know when it comes to the monstrous perception that has been foisted upon her. Even Finn gets wrapped up in the paranoia surrounding him, and defies PB’s orders to help save his friend. While this episode works to showcase PB’s growth, it also is another interesting look at how Finn’s sense of morality has shifted over time. Back in Rattleballs, Finn betrayed the trust of his new mentor in respect of his loyalty to Bubblegum. Here, Finn betrays his own loyalty to what he thinks is morally just. There’s not really a right or wrong way around either of these situations, besides the fact that Finn is doing so for completely different reasons.

But of course, that paranoia is wasted, because PB has changed as well. She doesn’t view individuality as a conspiracy to take her down, but rather something to be celebrated. She no longer wants fear and uncertainty to be foisted upon those who worship her most, and wants to actually show how she’s changed since her reinstatement into the kingdom. The Banana Guards are able to freely express themselves as individuals, even that one BG that doesn’t have a special talent. Also, might I say that momma PBubs is lookin’ FINE in this episode. Emily Partridge actually modeled her outfit and appearance off of Elaine from Seinfeld, which is pretty apparent, but still suits PB well. Her outfits have been really on point in this season thus far.

My biggest fear following the Stakes miniseries was that PB’s development as a “nicer ruler” would make her a less interesting character, but this episode subverts those anxieties in the best way necessary. The Thin Yellow Line is a terrific exploration of the deep-rooted paranoia of the Candy Kingdom. It’s an episode that has a ton of fun with the naturally silly characters involved, but one that’s still executed in a genuinely tense and potent way. Not to mention that it also has that visual added bonus of KC Green’s expressive storyboarding feat, which is enough to make this episode memorable on its own. Upon it’s original airing, this episode was dedicated to Mandy Long, of whom I had never heard of initially. Upon research, it turns out she was a talented young artist that loved Adventure Time, and who tragically passed away on September 24, 2015. It’s incredibly heartwarming that the staff at AT would pay tribute to someone not on the direct staff, but someone who was just a genuine fan, and an exceptional artist to boot. I send my condolences to all of Mandy’s friends and family.

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Favorite line: “I grew these! Hi-da-ro-pon-i-cal-y!”

 

“Flute Spell” Review

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Original Airdate: March 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan

Flute Spell is remembered for being the “Huntress Wizard X Finn” episode, as one would expect it to be, but honestly, I think this episode makes for a really great star appearance of Jake. Throughout the exploration of Finn’s character and his relationships in the past few years, Jake has typically remained as a bystander. He helped to coach Finn through his crush on Princess Bubblegum in earlier years, and initially assisted him in securing a relationship with Flame Princess, but otherwise, he hasn’t been very involved in this aspect of Finn’s life. Some of these reasons may include the fact that he unintentionally had a part in Finn’s breakup with Flame Princess, or perhaps that he simply can’t relate to Finn’s underlying turmoil. Regardless, he does his best to help Finn connect with Huntress Wizard and to build a healthy, honest relationship between the two, and it’s really sweet.

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Not to mention Jake is thoroughly hilarious in this episode. In the first 10 seconds, we start out with the amusingly jolly song “My Name is Jake,” which is not only a great platform to callback several old characters and concepts (i.e. APTWE and Maja, the villagers from The Visitor, and Jake constantly being faced with Death) but also epitomizes Jake as a character. While I’m thoroughly invested in all of the character drama that this series has to offer, it’s so delightful to have one main character that has no surface level issues. Jake has a terrific relationship with his girlfriend, lives with his brother and his best friends, has five children to spend his time with (even if it is to T.V.’s dismay), and is always faced with a plethora of fun adventures to take on. He’s certainly not without his own personal problems, but there’s no boiling turmoil that threatens Jake’s psyche. He’s simply a carefree dude that is able to live a fulfilling life because he has a terrific support system and is meeting all of his personal needs. Remember this bit, because it’s important later on!

Of course, Jake’s concerns aren’t limited to his own well-being, but the well-being of his brother, of whom went through some deep shit in the past year. The real fun of this one is that Jake not only makes for a fun third-wheel, but also kind of takes on the role of a shipping-invested fan. The main story of this one is practically just Jesse Moynihan living out a ship that he’s always wanted to see (and I don’t necessarily mean that as an insult) so having Jake make all of these wild guesses about Finn’s new love interest and being super invested in everything going on to the point of interrupting important conversations is just hilarious. I have to assume there actually is a Finn X Future Me-Mow fanfiction out there.

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On the other side of things, it is cool to see Finn in the dating scene again, and his maturity definitely shows. Of course, as Shelby eloquently states earlier in the episode, “he’s just trying to be careful this time.” When it comes to Finn’s character flaws, nothing reigns more apparent than his issues with ladies. While it’s a huge step that he’s even pursuing someone that isn’t Bubblegum or Flame Princess, and that he’s not being a giant creep about it, he still isn’t being honest in his intentions. Of course, it’s hard to blame him this time around. He was hurt, and he hurt others in the past, and he’s not fully ready to relive the pain that he once experienced. It’s good that he’s at least trying to pursue a relationship instead of just holding onto that pain forever, but a lot of his issues in this episode stem from the fact that he doesn’t just tell Huntress Wizard upfront about how he feels for her. Even if he has good intentions and ends up helping her in the end, he’s simply not being fair to himself in playing matchmaker. Though it’s hard not to be charmed by his overall behavior, and the fact that he is essentially willing to take pain if it means helping out a girl that he has feelings for. Whatta bro.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s no surprise that Jesse Moynihan loves inserting Huntress Wizard into episodes as often as he can, and that the fanbase in general has taken a particular liking to her ever since Reign of Gunters came along. Some might see it as pandering to the fanbase that this random, insignificant character is suddenly made into Finn’s love interest, but I dunno, I never minded it. Huntress Wizard is a cool and mysterious character with a competent VA at the helm (aka Jenny Slate; HW was previously voiced by Maria Bamford prior to this episode). A lot of the charm of HW’s character comes from that mystery element, though she acts this way for a purpose as revealed at the end of the episode. In general, a lot of the fun with HW comes from her stellar abilities and the way she interacts with the environment. From her ability to change into a tree or turn her clothes in leaves as she pleases, to her almost completely primitive living environment, she really is completely enigmatic from both a physical and psychological level.

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The chemistry between Finn and HW is a lot of fun as well. I love how their first interaction involves Huntress Wizard nearly impaling Finn’s nose with an arrow, and how Finn isn’t at all put off by that. Finn’s grass sword is used to its fullest abilities by having an active role in the story without it necessarily being about the grass sword, but just the thorn in general. That’s an idea that’s pretty unique to this episode, an adds an interesting element in how the grass sword operates outside of battle. Despite it being a curse, it does have mystical elements that really don’t give it proper defining traits, of which is what likely draws in Huntress Wizard so much. Also, the grass arm is apparently “really shreddy and busy.” Eyuck. The back-and-forth between HW and Finn is enjoyable, especially how it manages to make it obvious that Finn wants this way more than Huntress Wizard, but without making him overbearing or slimy. He has some really funny moments as he tries to look cool in front of Huntress Wizard, namely his denial that he smells bad during a high speed chase towards a vicious boar.

One aspect of this episode that does strike my curiosity is the identity of HW’s former mentor and possible love interest, the Spirit of the Forest, of whom looks and sounds exactly like the Dream Warrior from Who Would Win? It’s an… odd cameo to say the least, and one that has never had a ton of conclusive exposition aside from this episode, though I’m guessing each realm of the world has some sort of round, Matthew Broderick-like warrior that watches over a specific dominion. I don’t really have a problem with the Spirit of the Forest’s role in this episode, but I think it’s kind of weird that this is the only other Dream Warrior clone introduced in the series, because I feel like it makes things slightly confusing. Are there just two randomly identical beings that watch over entirely different facets of existence? Are they brothers? Are they the same person? I do wish this was elaborated on a bit more, and that there were more Broderick Warrior characters introduced for consistency, but as it stands, it’s just kind of a weird bit of lore that I’m not sure was completely necessary.

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His role, however, does add for some interesting developments in HW’s character, as it’s revealed that she’s just as afraid of being hurt by feelings as Finn is. HW and Finn, while dealing with similar problems, are very different. Finn went through some tough shit in the past, though he wants to learn how to move on from it and to regain physical love in his life. HW romanticizes with her own sadness, and believes in the idea that loving someone else is “becoming soft” and throwing away her own independence. Thus, she falls into the pit of MMS, because she believes that finding the solution to the very cause of what makes her sad and mad to begin with will erase her purpose and make her less significant in the world. Huntress Wizard admits to having feelings for Finn as well, though she acknowledges that “exceptional beasts like us cannot fall in love. That is the secret of ordinary people.” I’ve seen this viewpoint a lot from creatives, and admittedly feel the same way at times: that falling in love means sacrificing your skills of individuality and surrendering one’s self to the ordinary trials of life. It’s profound, but it’s made even better by Jake’s retort of, “uh, that’s real dumb.” The beginning of the episode showcases what an exciting and pleasurable life one can have when taking on the “normal” standards of life. Jake’s story certainly isn’t by the books in the case of social norms, but he’s able to live in a satisfactory way to his best abilities by meeting his own desires and contributing to his own well-being, as well as that of others. Jake can’t get behind HW’s mentality, because everything he’s ever loved and cared about has come from being a “normie.” Finn mentions he agrees, though it’s unclear who he’s even agreeing with. My money is definitely on HW, as Finn likely buys into HW’s same notions. It could also be the fact that Finn might acknowledge that he simply still isn’t ready to date yet. Even after all he’s been through, Finn still is afraid to love as carelessly as he once did, and though he wants to, it will take some time before he’s fully ready to move on from that fear of loss.

While girls come and go, Finn’s brother certainly does not, as he and Jake share a very sweet moment together at the end. As the Spirit of the Forest mentioned before, infatuation is easily dismantled when it comes to the true intentions and desires of two individuals, in which the relationship practically fades into obscurity. Finn is bummed out, but mirrors the Spirit’s line of “attracting forces come and go,” as he chooses to acknowledge that the connection simply wasn’t worth moving forward with (for the time being) and realizes that the next attracting force isn’t far from the future.

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Tying in with the past couple entries, Flute Spell is really rad on a design aspect. The forest looks terrific in this episode, specifically Huntress Wizard’s house (essentially a cliff under a tree, wink wink) which is just awesome. It’s really well lit when it comes to the nighttime and morning scenes, and the sheer amount of detail inside is terrific. I also really love the design of that boar, who not only looks superb, but is animated in a really stellar way. I love how he’s essentially just a thunder cloud, and how his cloudy behind trails while he runs. It really just made me wonder why there’s never been a “thunder boar” Pokemon. And hey, Finn’s immune to electricity for the rest of the series now!

But yeah, Flute Spell is pretty great. It explores a pretty fascinating relationship that is made entirely fun through an interesting story, some enticing animation, and most of all, Jake’s thoroughly entertaining role. If I had to criticize one thing, it’d be that I feel as though there are too many cameos and references to past episodes. The ones I liked the most were essentially Easter eggs, like the Villagers and Jake’s bird form from Food Chain, but I felt that the Spirit of the Forest was a bit strange on some levels, and Science Cat really, really did not have to be in this episode. Aside from his somewhat funny bit of exposition about Sword Shark, who tragically passed away, he’s kind of just there for the sake of being an obscure cameo. But otherwise, Flute Spell is a ton of fun, and does well with a storyline that I would have typically only imagined being apart of someone’s fanfiction.

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Favorite line: “First off, I’m a great fighter. And I’m especially agile when I’m nude, so good luck.”

“The Hall of Egress” Review

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Original Airdate: March 5, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich 

Before I get into this review, I wanna thank fellow readers Zach Goff and William Zall for donating to my DVD gofundme! I appreciate your contributions and am so very thankful to have dedicated readers like yourself. As promised, these two get to decide on a special bonus review of their choice, so there will be a ton of new bonus content at the end of the season! One final time, thank you two dearly for your contributions, and thank you for reminding me why I love to do these reviews to begin with. Onto the review!

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When Tom Herpich posted the promotional artwork for this one, he mentioned in the description that he initially disregarded the idea for this episode as “irredeemably dark and unpleasant.” While he also mentions tinkering with the concept a bit to make it actually work, this episode, in part, lives up to that description. This is perhaps Finn’s most unimaginably terrifying adventure yet; over the years, he’s been faced with the deadly nature of the Lich, the sadistic shenanigans of Magic Man, the tumultuous relationship with his father, and the struggle to conquer his own identity, but nothing strikes me as more threatening than this endeavor. I won’t beat around the bush, this might just be my favorite episode of the entire series. I know that’s probably somewhat of a unoriginal claim by now, but for very good reasons. This episode just does everything right; I’ve sung my praises about Herpich before, but I really can’t deny that The Hall of Egress feels like he’s using everything that he’s learned about Adventure Time over those six past years and channeling that energy through Finn. A lot of my all-time favorite episodes actually don’t center around the main boys at all; You Forgot Your Floaties was mainly about Magic Man, The More You Moe, The Moe You Know was about BMO, and I Remember You follows the backstory of Simon and Marcy. But what sets The Hall of Egress so high up is that, not only is it an incredibly sophisticated story that strays from the typical “dungeon” themed episode, but it also centers around what I consider to be the absolute central heart of the show: (you guessed it) Finn and (a good amount) of Jake.

This episode truly brings Finn’s growth and evolution to the forefront, and I have reason to believe it was done entirely on an intentional level. The very beginning of the episode opens with Jake mentioning the dungeon train, which was last seen in the self-entitled Dungeon Train right after Finn’s big break-up. His bro even mentions this, to which Finn responds, “heh, yeah, that sucked.” Dungeon Train saw an entirely different Finn than the one we’ve seen over the course of season 6 and 7; Finn was unable to fully deal with his problems and relied on the help of outside sources (PB, the dungeon train, Jake, etc.) to ease his pain. Now, I’m not saying this to imply that support systems are not useful, but Finn’s behavior was clearly much more manipulative and worked harder at putting up a mask more than anything. He wasn’t dealing with his issues, he was finding ways to get around them. The funniest part is, this was the original destination in Dungeon Train. It’s almost horrifying to think of what would have happened to Finn, had he experienced this a year earlier. That’s not to say he went from being a complete dumbass to a brilliant mastermind over the course of time, but his ability to cope and deal with issues has certainly matured and altered from the norm, having been through so much and understanding his own skills in stress management.

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Though again, that doesn’t make this trip any less terrifying. While we get intervals from Jake and BMO from time to time, this is mostly a bottle episode, featuring Finn in one place and leaving him to ramble on to himself for a period of time. As always, we’re treated to his delightfully silly and quirky behavior, even in the midst of a sticky situation. While a good amount of the beginning spends time setting up the absolute ludicrous nature of the dungeon, it’s made fun just by how many delightful Finn moments are scattered in throughout: his pronunciation of “foyer,” the brief flashback where PB explains what egress means, Finn finally adopting the last name “Mertens” and using it proudly as his identity, “breadcrumb style,” the way he cleverly maps out an exit plan using muscle memory, and much more.

The entire hall is pretty cool from an initial standpoint. It’s made eerie and solemn, and its vague nature is what helps to set those feelings. Who set up this dungeon? Why did Flambo’s (unnamed) brother send the boys there? Is it supposed to be exactly what it seems? Herpich truly is the king of clever ambiguity, whereas he provides enough for the audience to create their own wildly different ideas and theories, though none of it is ever proven or set in stone. It’s the same with Phlannel Boxingday: everybody pretty much assumes that he’s Princess Bubblegum, but Herpich never provides any actual confirmation that they are the same person. This episode is just riddled with stuff like that, with my favorite being the snowman statue. There’s a lot of emphasis (including close-up shots) put on this upside-down snowman statue that never actually serves any relevance in the plot. Was it merely put there as a red herring for viewers to assume that this was the solution to the issue, or would setting the snowman up in the correct order actually have some sort of effect on whether Finn would be able to escape? My money’s on the red herring excuse, and I think the mere implication of it is that it’s “too easy” of a solution. The entire point of Finn’s journey in this episode is that he’s not able to easily find a way out of this mind dungeon, and must somehow find a different way out. The snowman is placed there as an obvious mislead, as it’s implying that such an intense, complex situation can be easily fixed in the mere matter of seconds.

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As Finn learns pretty early on, this dungeon is exactly the opposite. While Finn walks through the actual hall, it’s made visually appealing through cloudy shades of white and blue, though it also interestingly works off of the viewer’s sense of touch rather than creating an elaborate design. It reminds me a lot of Rainy Day Daydream, in which Finn and Jake embark on a full-scale adventure and fight baddies, of which are never seen, because they’re all “imaginary.” This episode works in the same vein, by using sound effects and Finn’s body language to show what actually exists in the Hall. It’s even made better by the fact that, while Finn can see inside the hall while closing his eyes, he technically is “going in blind.” It’s a cool way to make the audience feel as though they’re going along with this journey, and feel as if they’re in the same boat. Just like Finn, we can’t explain why this is happening, and there’s no clear answer to what the Hall of Egress is or how to escape from it. The only theory that anyone could have come up with, at the time, is the concept of the snowman, though that’s easily debunked about halfway through. A big element of this episode that contributes to its success is empathy.

Now, empathy has always been a big part of Adventure Time, but I honestly think it’s a rarity among my other favorite episodes. Floaties, The More You Moe, and I Remember You have me sympathizing with the main characters, but I dunno if I can really put myself in their place, with the possible exception of parts of The More You Moe. That’s a personal point of view and I don’t expect everyone to share it, but I say it because it’s not like I’ve ever had/lost a wife, and I’ve never had a loved one who went through Alzheimer’s. Of course, I’ve never been through an endless mind dungeon myself either, but this bit of empathy also works with the episode’s other strongest point, of which I mentioned is its dense ambiguity. I’m sure all of us have been in an impossibly unsolvable situation, of which it seems like there is no possible solution. Hell, as a sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I deal with it regularly! But this episode manages to use an entirely fantastical scenario and has a limitless sense of opportunity in how people can connect with it. Again, that’s the beauty of Adventure Time in general, and having its greatest and most developed character at the center is what drives it forward even more.

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As Finn continues to churn forward, that perceived hopelessness becomes even stronger. Not only is he faced with this treacherous dungeon at hand with no possible way out, but he’s also the only one who actually believes that it exists. It’s an incredibly difficult dilemma, in which he does have the support of his friends, but they don’t understand the situation at large. The support that BMO and Jake do offer is undeniably sweet, however, and provides for some of the cutest interactions between the boys to date. That simple kiss that Jake gives Finn before he goes to bed is absolutely adorable! It’s such a small moment, but such a loving gesture that I don’t think we’ve seen the boys ever exchange up to this point. BMO’s bits are limited, but more than anything, he plays the part of the anxious little child that still lives within Finn. BMO barely speaks in this episode, and when he does, it’s merely to ask Finn questions about his state of being and whether he’s going to attempt to open his eyes or not. BMO is simply representative of the anxious voice within Finn telling him to remain the same and to not change his methods of dealing with a situation. While Finn is uncertain if opening his eyes will actually work or not, he’s still tempted by the most simplistic and obvious way out of things. Though, more often than not, his friends are on the exact same page with that incessant impatience.

Some of the more humorous moments from this episode derive from the idea that Jake continuously tries to open Finn’s eyes, even after being informed of his dilemma. Also, Jake’s hat was terrific. Where can I grab a hat like that? Ultimately, though, the humorous moments underlie the great tragedies of the entire situation: Finn is completely alone. Jake tries to be as supportive and understanding as possible, but as we’ve often seen from Jake, he’s typically more focused on problem-solving than utilizing his abilities to empathize. Not to say that’s a jab at Jake, because he’s doing the best anyone can in that situation: his brother is going on about a dungeon that apparently doesn’t even exist, and won’t open his eyes for the course of an entire month because of a perceived misfortune that only he believes in. While it’s easy to empathize with Finn, it’s difficult to disagree with Jake’s logic as well from a bystander point of view. We empathize with Finn because we watch his situation go down and feel his pain that no one will believe him, but honestly, it all just seems like gibberish otherwise. There’s no way that Finn can possibly explain his story in a convincing and evidential way, which makes it even more tragic and upsetting.

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After several attempts to gradually help Finn escape from his own personal hell, Jake and BMO’s efforts prove to be a stagnant trial. Finn isn’t getting any better or farther in progress than he was before. Though he loves Jake and BMO, their assistance is ineffective, and at worst, slowing progress down. Finn realizes now that only he can be in charge of figuring out a solution for himself, or at least adjusting to society as it is. Finn’s growth throughout the past season has lead him to be competent in taking on an impossibly unsolvable situation, even when it means letting go of the people and the things around him. It’s a tough, but brave decision, and one that feels less like a move of desperation and more as a method of acceptance. While Finn tosses away his clothes and tighty whiteys, he utters “no more threads left behind… no more egress.” The “no more egress” aspect is what really hammers in the theme that Finn has no interest in escaping or running away from his issues, and would rather run into them head-on than to try and come up with another failed attempt to solve his dilemma.

The next few shots are masterful. Herpich really nails cinematic moments, as seen in episodes like Lemonhope, Evergreen, and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. The shots of Finn in the wild add a terrific sense of ambiance, and both dramatically and humorously catches us up on how Finn has adapted. The best part about this sequence is how it’s not measured by time at all; we really don’t know how long he spent within the Hall of Egress, and it’s once again left up to the interpretation of the viewer for how much time passes by. I have my own headcanon that Finn had a series of different blinded adventures during his time within the hall, and I’d totally be down with a one-shot comic series within the hall. Seems like it’s a concept that has a ton of different possibilities on its own.

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Finn’s travels eventually lead him right back to where he started at the beginning of the hall, where his realization is translated through BMO’s voice, “something’s different.” The voice that was used to merely remind Finn of his conformity to reality earlier in the episode is now telling Finn that he instinctively notices a difference. While that voice was used to first mirror Finn’s opposal to change in dire situations, it’s used later to show his shift in perception.

As Finn walks through the door, he wanders into a contained space of where he’s able to see everything on the outside of the cave. Finn is essentially viewing life as “transparent” and his patience is helping to finally see things clearer than they once were. In both a glorious and somewhat humorous scene, Finn charges through the dome to return to his brother, as PB’s voice narrates, “hurry Finn… at the seashell’s center lies the cornucopia’s smallest door.” PB was previously shown to help Finn’s intelligence and comprehensive skills expand further when she explains what egress is. Here, he’s taught himself his own valuable lesson in emotional intelligence, as she narrates what can only be described as personal enlightenment. Though, I still have no clue what “the cornucopia’s smallest door,” is. There’s a great analysis of it on YouTube, which will probably add more insight into the topic than I possibly could. It’s perhaps AT’s most ambiguous line, but one that I enjoy, strictly for Hynden Walch’s whimsical inflections.

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This stressful, exhilarating, jam-packed episode ends on the perfect silly and simplistic note, with Finn shouting, “no comment!” after Jake asks him about the cave. And that’s really what this one boils down to; it’s a thoroughly compelling drama with just the right amount of funny and rewarding moments to carry through its darkness. It’s the most condensed version of Finn’s personal growth and development yet, and I feel as though it really embodies everything that these past two seasons set out to accomplish. Probably the coolest thing about this one is that, while it does have some continuity nods, it’s most standalone and can be enjoyed even by the common viewer. It establishes the characters pretty well without having to know them personally, and there’s added bits of subtle character moments that will treat longtime viewers even better. The Hall of Egress is also really sharp on a technical level. The music cues from Tim Kiefer are, per usual, terrific, and Herpich is always tremendous with utilizing different camera angles and cinematic moments to their best abilities.

It truly is my idea of a perfect episode, but alas, no episode is without imperfections. My main criticisms for this one are mostly nitpicks, but I think the title card is kind of trash. It’s just a simple shot of the exterior of the cave, and the font is a direct reuse of the one featured in the Stakes miniseries. I think it’s pretty boring, and especially upsetting considering how cool the original title card concept was. I mean, look at this image! It’s so much more powerful than what we got. My other criticism actually spans from the length of the episode, because I feel as though this could have been a full blown half hour. Not just because I enjoyed it, but it does feel like there are some missing elements. Like, why did the boys’ never seek out PB’s help? It seems weird that Finn would go potential months being blinded without looking for help from his mastermind of a best friend. I feel as though her incorporation could have made that ending voiceover from herself even more powerful, and it would be interesting to see PB’s scientific methods fail, as she feels incapable of helping her friend.

But, those are mostly just instances of myself looking for problems, because The Hall of Egress is one of my favorite episodes of television in general. It’s unique, it embodies the heart and soul of the series, it’s Finn’s most compelling journey, it uses cinematography well, it’s ambiguous and open to interpretation, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s developmental, and so much more. It’s no wonder this one ended up winning an Emmy, of which it certainly deserves. By doing his normal shtick, Herpich in turn would end up creating a magnum opus for himself and the series in general, one of which would never be topped (IMHO), but one that builds off of everything that Adventure Time is and was: a terrific exploration of the trials of growing up.

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Favorite line: “Yeah, you’ve done it like, 30 times now.”

“Scamps” Review

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Original Airdate: January 21, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

The first half of season seven is comparable to the first half of season five, in a way. While not bad in any way, shape, or form, season 5.1 was filled with a lot of decent to good episodes, but very few that actually stood out as exceptionally hilarious or dramatic. In the same vein, the first half of season seven has had FootballEverything StaysMay I Come In?, and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know (and I just miiight throw in Varmints as well) while the 20 or so other episodes have ranged from mostly decent to just generally good. Not to say this is a bad thing; season 5.2 and season 6 contain some of the best episodes of the series, and also a handful of the worst episodes of the series. Thus far, the only episodes of this season that I would consider “bad” are Cherry Cream Soda and Checkmate, so it really does not hurt to get treated to a series of mostly decent or pleasant episodes that are mildly inoffensive in their own right. But at the time, it did have me longing for some of those really strong entries that season six was churning out. I mention this because Scamps is perhaps the last fluff episode of season seven, and we start getting some exceedingly terrific entries from this point on. It’s hard for me to actually think of a single episode after Scamps that isn’t intriguing on some level (that’s not to say there aren’t any criticisms to be had, however) and I really look forward to entering the second chapter of this season. For now, we have Scamps, which again, isn’t terrible by any means, but probably equals Paper Pete‘s level of “so unimaginably simplistic that I nearly forget it exists.” Seriously, I have trouble thinking of anything that actually stood out to me in this one.

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The Marshmallow Kids are… odd characters to introduce at this point in the series. The episode actually opens with a mini face-off between the Marshmallow Kids and the Notorious Pup Gang, and it really made me wonder… why the fuck didn’t this episode just star the Pup Gang? They’re already established characters and criminal adolescents with nearly identical backstories, I have no idea where the concept came from to introduce a set of entirely new characters (of whom we’re never even going to see again) just for the purpose of this episode. They’re cute in their antics, I suppose, but are all pretty interchangeable and don’t really have any defining personality traits outside of being swindlers. The only thing noteworthy about them that I actually realized while rewatching this episode is that one is voiced by Max Charles, who portrays the titular character in Harvey Beaks. It was nice to hear his voice in something else, and it actually surprised me to see that Charles is featured a lot in other television roles.

Finn’s part in the episode is pretty nice. It’s just cool to see him in the role of caregiver in general, and after all of the growth that he had experienced from the previous season, it’s even nicer to see that he’s a better teacher to children than his own father was to him. The way he uses genuine survival tactics as a method of tricking the children into scamming is pretty cute, and in the most “Finn” way possible. Honestly, the one thing that bothered me the most about Finn in this episode are his facial expressions. I really, really hate this gambit of having to shit on Somvilay in every single episode he works on, because the guy has some honest to God great stuff coming up, but the way Finn’s eyes and mouth are distanced from each other when his face is shown is truly offputting. It’s almost like Somvilay was working off of Herpich’s method of drawing Finn’s facial expressions, but took it one step beyond in a way that just makes Finn look really wonky and unnatural. I know you’re a professional who could probably care less about the opinion of some dork on the internet, but my apologies, Somvy. I promise I’ll show you justice in the future.

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There’s a few other things I like about this one; PB’s voice memo to Finn, and her outfits in general (momma’s lookin’ good) are pretty great, and Jake’s brief role was priceless. I love how much Jake’s changes in lifestyle are emphasized in the beginning of the episode, and then retroactively retconned by the time he realizes how successful he can become. That boy couldn’t stop loving crime all together even if he tried.

The two things I like most about this episode are actually on a technical level. As always, the backgrounds and colors look beautiful, especially the transition from daytime to night. Also, Tim Kiefer’s score throughout Scamps was on point! He uses really distinct trumpet sounds to go along with the personalities of the Marshmallow Kids quite nicely, in a way that actually reminds me of Ed, Edd n Eddy (wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Kiefer got his inspiration for this one).

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Otherwise, this episode is just entirely forgettable. Similar to Paper Pete, it’s hard for me to trash it completely, because I don’t find it unbearable, but it’s so uninteresting in its story and execution of events. There are very, very few jokes, the Marshmallow Kids are particularly unremarkable, their relationship with Finn, while cute, is just kind of generic, and it fails to stick out to me in its humor, story, drama, or anything else it has to offer. Similar to The Pods, it’s a straightforward story that could have been done on pretty much any other show. When I think of Adventure TimeScamps is one of the last episodes to actually come into my head.

Interestingly enough, Scamps is actually Adventure Time‘s peak in viewership. This episode garnered 1.45 million views, a feat that no other episode of the series since has been able to accomplish. Granted, CN’s poor television marketing and the decline of cable in general could easily be at blame for this, but it’s still humorous to think that this episode was the dropping point for AT in terms of viewership.

Favorite line: “Ya know, those Marshmallow Kids remind me of you when you were a young lad.”

“Bad Jubies” Review

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Original Airdate: January 14, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kirsten Lepore

Bad Jubies is the fourth installment in Adventure Time‘s guest animator series, and it might be the best looking entry to date. I’m a sucker for stop motion; whether it be truly gorgeous pieces of cinema, such as Anomalisa or Isle of Dogs, or even some of the sillier examples, like Gumby or those corny Rankin-Bass holiday specials, there’s something undeniably charming about the art form that draws me in, even when the material isn’t particularly good. There is a clear sense of effort put into this episode, which took over a year to make. In fact, it actually started production before Water Park Prank, the previous guest animated episode, had even been conceived. And that effort really pays off; the characters look true to their 2-D counterparts, the backgrounds and scenery are absolutely gorgeous, and the animation feels thoroughly expressive and fluid throughout the run of the episode. The episode was directed entirely by Kirsten Lepore, an animator who specializes in stop motion. I actually had not known of Lepore’s work before this episode, but I did check out her stuff afterwards and quickly fell in love with it (with Bottle and Hi Stranger being my favorites). She’s also provided animation for Yo Gabba Gabba and recently has taken on the role of being a storyboard artist for Summer Camp Island. But, while I love the look of this episode, how does it fare when it comes to story and writing aspects? Well, it’s… alright.

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I really feel bad saying that, and I really wanted to like this one, but just as I’ve said with the past three episodes, it comes across being “just good enough.” There’s nothing particularly bad about it, so to speak, and I think it actually gets down the portrayal of the main characters much better than most of the other guest animated episodes were able to. Granted, some of the portrayals may have been a bit too exaggerated, but I’ll get into that in a bit. Ironically, however, Lepore’s attention to the characters and environment actually somewhat backfires in a way. Typically, guest animated episodes are a chance for the animator to blend their style with AT in a way that sets it apart, while still feeling as though its capturing the show’s essence. Lepore does so well, but in a way that feels like it’s playing it a bit too safe.

Elaborating on what I mean by this, Food Chain was obviously set apart by the detailed Flash animation and surreal stories it could tell through its medium. Bad Jubies is the opposite. It presents a pretty subpar story and doesn’t really do anything particularly creative or interesting with the use of its stop motion that sets it apart from any other episode. Really, if you take away the element of stop motion, this is just your average Adventure Time episode. With a genre as sophisticated and unique as stop motion, I wish a lot more could’ve been played with in terms of fun and surreal animation – imagine the possibilities with Jake’s stretchiness! Again, I hate talking shit on that aspect, because stop motion in general is really expensive and time-consuming, but it fails to get me invested on the story in general, and the animation doesn’t really benefit for any little added bonuses that help carry it through.

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Aside from the story being rather generic and bland, the episode isn’t really on the more humorous side either. In fact, I fail to remember a moment where I had even laughed once. A lot of the attempts at jokes in this one revolve around Lumpy Space Princess being really loud and selfish, and all of you longtime readers probably know how I feel about that by now. She’s obnoxious, intolerant, and unfortunately takes up half of the episode. This is around the last point in time where LSP significantly weighs down an episode with her own vanity, and thank God for that. I’m all for giving the girl a chance, because she has episodes like Bad Timing and Be Sweet under her belt, but I had grown exceedingly tired of her character by this episode. She’s Adventure Time‘s Eric Cartman without any of the charisma or subtle brilliance, and is merely there to be the loud valley girl and nothing more. Luckily, she has a nice breakout role in Elements down the line, which gave me a full season break from her character that I truly needed.

In addition to that exaggerated character portrayal, I thought Jake might have been a bit too zen for my own liking. I dunno, I might be nitpicking here, because I don’t think it was totally out of line with his character, but some parts felt a bit contrived to me. Jake’s spiel about people being way too locked into their technology just didn’t seem like Jake. He’s a cool guy and real spiritual, but he spent an entire episode dedicated to beating his high score on his favorite video game, so I feel as though Bad Jubies tries to showcase him in a bit too much of a Buddha light. He almost seems too unconcerned by the events of the storm that he doesn’t even care if anything happens to himself or his friends in the process. Granted, I do like his role overall, and I think it was a unique decision for Lepore to make Jake the star of the episode over everyone else. While Finn and Jake have had somewhat of an equal role in the past three guest animated episodes, this one is clearly leaning more towards Jake. I just think it would’ve been a lot cooler if Jake had some sort of grapple with his mortality, or something. That stuff is always fun.

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Finn and BMO are portrayed well, but as I mentioned, the story is what mostly suffers from this one. Again, it’s not particularly interesting, and I feeling like it’s trying to have a message at the end, but it really isn’t cohesive. It feels as if the episode is attempting to portray Jake in a better light than everyone else, because he’s managing to find peace and serenity while everyone else stresses out… but isn’t it kind of perfectly reasonable for them to do so? I mean, it’s a deadly storm, and the set up of the episode makes it pretty certain that this is not something that they can get around. If the episode had perhaps centered around insecurities and fears that seemed irrational, Jake’s zen behavior may have provided for a better light of positivity. I get that Jake ends up saving the day by being level-headed and peaceful, but I dunno, it kind of just reminds me of the people in disaster stories who put all of their faith in the church, and then end being swept up by a tornado. I feel like stress is a genuine necessity when it comes to dealing with crisis situations.

So, what do I like about this episode? Well, as I had mentioned before, the look of it is gorgeous. The backgrounds and models are great, and the music really sets the ambiance (which was composed by diasterpeace, whose work in this one sounds a lot like Tim Kiefer’s). That gag at the beginning with BMO’s super-detailed weather forecast face was pretty humorous, but that’s kind of it. Not to say that I hated the rest of the episode, but very little actually stuck out to me. I could see this concept working as a 3-5 minute short, but I don’t think it really makes for an entirely satisfying 11 minute segment. I still want to commend Lepore and her team for their work on this episode, as this is easily the most impressively constructed guest animator episode thus far. There’s actually a short 12 minute documentary about the making of this episode, entitled Good Jubies: The Making of Bad Jubies, which you can watch on Cartoon Network’s YouTube here, and you can also check out all of Lepore’s other wonderful animations here.

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Favorite line: “How bout some o’ dem bean-beans?” (It’s the inflections that really make this one)

 

“Blank-Eyed Girl” Review

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Original Airdate: January 13, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

Blank-Eyed Girl is a horror-themed episode that mainly deals with the ideas and concepts of the horror genre. A lot of the discussions between Finn, Jake, and Starchy aim to analyze fear and frightening objects of our perception and to conclude with where the source of said fear comes from. Each of the boys ends up coming up with their own separate points, but result in mostly confused by the conclusion. And while this episode isn’t particularly strong in its story, humor, or visuals, it does manage to get me invested in the allusions to horror in general.

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Each character follows a pretty interesting archetype, so I’ll briefly chat about each depiction. Jake obviously plays the part of the skeptic: someone who is close-minded when it comes to the existence of the unknown and is unable to accept it as anything more than “bologna.” It is shown, however, that Jake actually ends up being the most frightened when it comes to dealing with the existence of the blank-eyed girls. It’s an interesting analogy; those who reject the harsh truths or the unknown aspects of reality are the ones who are likely the most afraid of those possibilities of said truths. After all, Jake has a ton of life experience under his belt and likely rests easy knowing that he probably feels as though he has the world itself figured out on his own. But, there will always be that scary aspect of the unknown, and life experience itself is what really cripples Jake. It’s the reason older people in general are more likely to be close-minded: while the world changes, adapts, and unravels with new secrets nearly everyday, an aged person is more likely to dismiss such, as it’s not something they have been trained to adapt to.

Finn, on the other hand, is young and malleable. He’s able to become more accepting towards the unknown because he hasn’t gotten to a point where it has separated itself from his grasp on reality. Thus, Finn is still scared, but he’s able to look upon the blank-eyed girls with acceptance and an analysis on creepy stuff in general. As the boy eloquently states, “Creepy is just another label we use to distance ourselves from stuff we don’t understand. Or reminds us of something within ourselves we’re not comfortable with. It just ain’t an actual thing, unless you choose to believe it.” That’s actually some pretty truthful shit, and while I think there are definitely things that can accurately be determined as creepy, (as in things that are also illegal) it is easy for social norms to be a deciding factor in what is viewed as creepy or beyond one’s understanding. As an avid collector of Powerpuff Girls merchandise, I can assure you that I am a victim of the former theory! I also think it’s cute that Finn genuinely has an interest in Starchy’s radio show and doesn’t dismiss it as Jake does. While the boys never really felt one-dimensional as a unit, it’s still cool to watch Finn grow and to see that he does have interests that differ from Jake’s own itinerary, especially when remembering the age gap between the two.

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Starchy plays the part of the conspiracy theorist, and the show does a good job of portraying him as both a complete fabricator, and also somewhat competent in his position. It’s easy to dismiss him as a crazy conspirator, but half of the time, he’s usually right in his hypotheses. He was right about Princess Bubblegum being impersonated by a lizard, her own shady behavior, and the existence of the blank-eyed girls. Starchy may be a nut, but he also plays a part in showing how we also often dismiss people like himself for being insane, though it’s difficult to completely disprove his conjectures. He was also a million times more likable in this episode than he was in Cherry Cream Soda, so that on its own is a plus.

The blank-eyed girls prove to be beyond anyone’s comprehension, however. It’s a good reminder that, though we can try however we want to cope with fear and the unknown, we never know exactly what it will bring. The blank-eyed girls remain as an enigma and an example of how bizarre reality can be in its own right. As BMO also remarks in response to their transformation, “I think it was… beautiful!” there’s beauty to find in even the most horrific things perceivable to mankind, as it proves for most horror movies fanatics.

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I mean… did you expect me not to put this screenshot in here?

This episode is scattered with funny and/or likable moments: Finn and Jake deciding to hold hands on their walk home was adorable, the fact that they spent $200 on pizza was a great throwaway gag, John DiMaggio’s voice acting is usually on point, and that end sequence is pretty great. The episode in general is nothing particularly remarkable, however, because I don’t really think the story is that strong. While the roles that Finn, Jake, and Starchy take on are certainly interesting, I find a lot of the episode to be lacking substance. Most of it is just Finn and Jake being freaked out by the concept of blank-eyed girls, who are really uninteresting in their own right. I do like how they’re somewhat of a satirical look at society’s genuine fear of creepy, little girls, but otherwise, they don’t do much and aren’t particularly frightening either. I think the title card for this episode is way creepier than anything within Blank-Eyed Girl. This is also the fourth or fifth strictly horror-themed episode of the series, and it feels like it’s treading on similar grounds by this point in time. Hell, a lot of this episode feels as if it’s borrowing from Ghost Fly, which similarly felt unremarkable.

So, it ends up being a fairly passable episode that’s mostly inoffensive. I do find it strange that Angel FacePresident Porpoise is Missing!Blank-Eyed GirlBad Jubies, and A King’s Ransom all aired in bomb-format, as most of these entries fall under the “just good enough” category. Perhaps it was a method to further progress the season, and I think it actually works quite nicely, as it allows for a group of breather episodes to pass by pleasantly throughout the week. While none of these episodes stand out as great for myself, this bomb did resonate for me as just a genuinely nice waste of time.

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And as I sit here chatting about wasting time, we have only a mere few hours until the series finale finally airs. It has been so delightful to do these reviews over the past two years (the show’s cancellation had already been announced for three months when I started this blog, and now we’re more than halfway through the series!) and I look forward to continue to do so even after the series is finished. This is such a special show for myself, as well as for you readers and the AT fandom in general. I sincerely hope that all of you enjoy and cherish this final 44 minutes of content, and whether you enjoy it or not, it’s hard to deny that it was well worth the ride. As a final sentiment before the finale, I share with you all some fanart I drew up of my favorite boys. I’ll miss the Tree Fort family more than anything.

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Favorite line: “I took up rock climbing! … My wife left me… and all new conspiracies!”

“President Porpoise is Missing!” Review

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Original Airdate: January 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Sam Alden

I feel like a large amount of season seven episodes attempt to recreate the magic of the early seasons by being lighter and goofier entries that separate themselves from the more intense “fluff” episodes from season six, such as The Diary or Friends Forever. It is easy to see, however, how these episodes differ from early season one entries. As my buddy Stuped mentioned over on the Reddit, a lot of these episodes capture the zany dialogue and lightheartedness of those early entries quite nicely, but what they lack is the energy and non-stop pacing of an episode like Evicted! or Loyalty to the King. In return, President Porpoise is Missing seems like a bit of a facsimile, as it imitates the silliness and story, but doesn’t really stand as what feels like a totally coherent entry. Granted, it’s not a complete stinker, but a lot of it feels like a series of set pieces with no real substance in the actual story.

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Of course, the concept for the episode in general derives loosely from a throwaway gag in Burning Low, and while I usually think these little continuity nods are enjoyable, this is one I’m pretty indifferent to. I didn’t really think the President Porpoise gag in Burning Low was that remarkable to begin with, so I wasn’t particularly ecstatic for an episode dedicated in his honor. But, it is a silly premise, with an equally silly introduction that features a whole gang of Tree Fort creepers. I absolutely loved the reveal of just how many people hide out within the Tree Fort, with not a single character feeling out of place. Banana Man and Ice King are lonely stalkers, Marceline loves to spy on the boys, Princess Bubblegum loves to spy in general, and Starchy and the Gumdrop Lass probably just have nothing else to do with their day. Definitely my favorite part of the episode, and I especially love how cool Finn and Jake are with a bunch of people randomly hanging out in their house. Even the Ice King, of whom the boys would’ve scolded in the past, is greeted with mostly positive reception. I’ve said it before, but Kent Osborne is really great with writing earnest and kind depictions of the main cast during these later seasons, where a lot of Finn and Jake’s interactions with other characters (and each other) are as non-condescending as possible.

A lot of that lack of condescension continues forth in all aspects of the episode, as Finn and Jake take on a political mission and use their skills in problem solving (and pun cracking) to collaborate with each other, BMO and Ice King have their own imaginary sea exploration (featuring another nice callback to All the Little People; Finn was right about those two!), and Banana Man finding love with a nice sea lady. I’ll briefly go over each of these subplots.

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Finn and Jake’s mission to the sea metropolis is great on a visual perspective. The sea world itself is awesome, and kind of surprises me that it’s taken Adventure Time this long to explore an underwater village that is this expansive. It all looks great, and the colors really pop within the expansive blue filter that surrounds each character and landscape. The story itself, however, is pretty unremarkable. I’m not really invested in what actually happened to President Porpoise, the character himself, or the other various sea creatures involved. Vice President Blowfish has a competent VA at the helm, though his motivation and character are barely elaborated on, and he also isn’t particularly interesting or funny in any way necessary. There’s a couple solid gags through these sequences, such as Finn and Jake’s high-five that causes Finn to fall over completely, or the little shrimp who is consistently taking notes, but other than that, the story itself isn’t really given any time to develop, and there aren’t many humorous moments to come from it. It also kinda rubs me the wrong way that Finn and Jake end up beating the shit out of V.P. Blowfish, when he’s clearly proven innocent. I mean, he doesn’t seem like the coolest or nicest fish in the sea, but his issues were mostly from a political standpoint, which they really shouldn’t have any part in to begin with.

Speaking of politics, Banana Man ends up finding love with a girl involved in said panel. While I do like Banana Man’s inferiority towards Finn and Jake within the submarine, I feel as though his actual love story is equally uninteresting. Part of the charm of Banana Man was his hardship of connecting with other people because of his own social anxiety, so watching him embark on his own mission for love is sweet, but particularly unchallenging. He initially mentions his struggles with the great line of, “it’s like there’s this instruction manual that explains how to talk to people, and everyone in the world got a copy except me,” but other than that one instance, his struggle of connecting with other people romantically isn’t really emphasized, so his actual accomplishment of finding love feels relatively hollow. His song is pretty bad and unmemorable; it kind of shocks me that they continuously have Weird Al sing songs within the series but never actually have him write or compose his own tunes for the series. It feels slightly like wasted potential. And I’m not sure I even get Cybil’s character in the slightest; she’s a representative and part of the Fish Parliament, but says that national politics aren’t her thing? I suppose she’s a state politician, but I dunno, it just struck me as a weird bit of character building that kind of makes her character seem impossible to read.

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BMO and Ice King’s moments were actually pretty awesome. I loved to see these two work off of each other and to genuinely enjoy spending time together. It actually surprises me how open BMO is to hanging out with Ice King, but it does make me think that BMO probably treats Ice King with more respect because he is a grown adult figure that he can hangout with, unlike NEPTR. Ice King just so happens to have a similar imagination and ability to go along with anything that he makes for a perfect companion to BMO. I similarly love how Ice King’s wizard eyes come back into play, as he imagines a brightly-colored submarine for BMO and himself to operate. Their friendship was really sweet, as Ice King can likely breathe easy and feel validated that BMO allows him to explore his more weird and imaginative side, and I enjoyed seeing another subsequent episode based on their friendship in the future.

So yeah, not a ton that sticks out about this one for me, but in a similar fashion to Angel Face, this one is nice and inoffensive. It’s hard to pick on it completely because it really does prove to be a fun waste of time that leaves you with a good feeling in the end. There’s some nice moments between the brothers in this episode, such as when Jake shrinks to an unimaginably small size and continues to fall into cracks, as well as their brief moment towards the end. There’s a nice message of companionship that connects the three stories throughout President Porpoise is Missing!, but aside from that aspect, the individual set pieces aren’t really entertaining. It’s a hodgepodge of ideas that never really get a chance to develop on their own, and while they have a nice motif that carries through them, I can’t really get behind anything that’s going on within the plot.

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Favorite line: “Dying with you sucks way less than dying alone!”

“Angel Face” Review

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Original Airdate: January 11, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

We’ve gotten a few great BMO episodes from this season alone, as both Football and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know really set the bar for what could be done with the character. Thus, it’s kind of a given that the mostly silly Angel Face pales in comparison, though it’s kind of unfair to be hard on this one, which is clearly trying to do it’s own thing. Angel Face doesn’t break any ground, but it’s a light romp that isn’t especially funny or intriguing, but is enjoyable regardless.

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I’m actually glad we do have something less stressful for BMO’s character to engage in. After a psychological breakdown and some traumatizing life experiences, it’s nice that the little guy can return to something that makes him genuinely happy, and that is playing with his imagination. The beginning of the episode is bizarrely fucked up, as BMO cooks up some “special sentient sandwiches” which involves killing almost every sentient ingredient involved. This also highlights one of the stronger points of BMO’s character: his ability to be completely adorable and simultaneously a giant sadist at the same time. It’s just as delightful here, and continues throughout the course of the episode. Jake is the perfect comedic foil to go along with BMO’s shtick for this story. While Finn likely would (and did) simply follow BMO’s every command, as would NEPTR, Jake is much more reluctant and deprived of energy to actually be interested in said juvenile games. Though, when it means he’s getting rewarded in some way or another (especially when sandwiches are on the line), he’ll comedically half-ass his way through it, which shows when he shapeshifts into a poor impersonation of a horse. As BMO humorously states, “aw, come on man, you didn’t even try.”

In the risk of sounding redundant, this episode is slightly plagued by the usual pacing problems in Somvilay-Seo episodes. The actual roleplaying adventure doesn’t get started until about three minutes in, so it feels like the beginning moves quite slowly. A lot of extra effort is put into animating things that aren’t really remarkable or amusing in any way, like BMO putting all of the sandwiches within his bag, or Jake taking his good old time to chow down on one of the sandwiches while waiting for BMO. It’s stuff like this that really just feels like it’s trying to span out the course of eleven minutes. Though, none of it is truly painful and the first act does have some decently funny moments. I’ll never get tired of BMO continuously mounting Jake, and how Jake spontaneously ends up looking more like a horse in the aftermath.

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This episode actually provides for some really nice backgrounds and scenery that help connect to its western theme. I love any episode that explores the Badlands; its such a neat little barren wasteland that can often provide for a lot of opportunities in various different genres and tones, to which compliments this episode nicely. I actually really love BMO’s song as well. While the show typically provides BMO with some small tunes that usually aren’t very long lasting, this one lasts a decent amount of time, and is thoroughly adorable throughout. It’s really hard not to get behind Niki Yang’s sweet and innocent singing.

And what would a BMO-centric episode be without a little shitting on NEPTR? While these moments of treating NEPTR like garbage usually make me laugh, I think it does come at a point where it feels like the show is being a bit too needlessly harsh on the little guy consistently. While a lot of the humor surrounding NEPTR revolves around his borderline uselessness, I really didn’t want to see him becoming the Meg Griffin of the Adventure Time world, because he is a genuinely cute and likable character who always means well. That’s part of the charm of his abuse, I suppose, but I think after this instance it just slightly started to strike a nerve with me. Not enough that I wasn’t in on the laughs (as Jake once again doesn’t notice that he was gone for months on end), but I am glad that he does get a moment of victory later on in the series.

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As for the return of Me-Mow, it was definitely kind of weird to see her back after being absent from the series for so long. I used to be really excited about a possible Me-Mow return, but by the time this episode came along, it seemed just a tad too late for my liking. And I’m really not into the big, normal-sized version of her design. Pretty much the defining trait of Me-Mow in her previous episode was that she was really tiny, but still entirely threatening. Granted, she still does provide for a pretty solid return here, and the battle between her and BMO is a ton of fun. Not only does it provide for some all-around nice animation and nighttime shots, but it’s riddled with some really great lines. I love Me-Mow’s internal monologue and her desire for vengeance against Finn and Jake, as well as her overall ignorance when even recognizing Finn in a pretty obvious costume. And the fact that BMO was carrying around an actual firearm the whole time is just icing on the cake. The episode ends with probably one of my favorite gags in the series, as Me-Mow states “this cell’s not going to hold me…” and then is immediately placed in a more advanced confinement cel. Ya should’ve kept your mouth shut there, Me-Mow.

So yeah, not a ton I have to say about this one besides the fact that it’s cute. I’ve never really wanted Adventure Time to take on a western theme to begin with, but this one plays with the genre with a decent amount of fun. Far from the best BMO episode this season, but a light and amusing one at that.

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Favorite line: “I am old enough to vote!”