Tag Archive | season three

“The Creeps” Review

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Original Airdate: October 17, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

From the premise alone, you’d think The Creeps was a cheap imitation of the season two episode Mystery Train. However, The Creeps cleverly acknowledges its recycling and even pays homage to Mystery Train, in an execution that makes this episode stand out on top in my book. It’s much more diverse in its cast of characters, and even leaves us wanting a bit more by the end.

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The atmosphere in general in this one is much more desolate. Whereas Mystery Train was pretty much straightforward comedy, The Creeps adds a bit of a horror element to it, increasing the tension behind the murder mystery and the gang’s surroundings. There’s generally a lot of nightmare fuel within this episode as well, with PB melting, BMO’s face being ripped off, Cinnamon Bun’s eye drooping into BMO’s body… it’s all pretty nasty. It makes me really wonder why Jake goes through great lengths to potentially traumatize his younger brother. But hey, he’s thirteen. The kid can handle it.

I also like how the culprit of this episode isn’t really clear. The conductor of the mystery train was pretty obviously Jake to me, but here, I was kinda second guessing myself a lot. It bounces back from Finn, to Jake, to Finn, to some sort of outside force. It’s a twist that I really didn’t see coming, and the fast, thrilling pace of the episode leave little time for you to even have time to think about it. Jake puts on a damn good front as well. His blatant acknowledgement of the fact that they had already done a murder mystery before, his ability to get everyone else in on it, and even small details, like the fact that he was disappointed with his nickname “Randy Butternubs”. He was totally the one who picked out those names!

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In addition, I really love the cast of characters they chose for this episode. It’s an interesting choice of people, but they all work off of each other really well. Some great exchanges in this one, from CB trying to flirt with Lumpy Space Princess, LSP’s melodramatic monologue regarding her ex-boyfriend Brad, Finn’s infatuation for PB allowing him to remember something as insignificant as what he wrote on her birthday card two years prior, and the constant distrust Jake shares towards Finn a majority of the episode. It’s rare we ever get to see a group of characters like these interact with each other, and I really think that adds to the episode tremendously. This could’ve been a completely self-contained murder mystery, but the way each character attributes their own unique presence makes the entire experience much more enjoyable. There’s also one of my favorite BMO lines:

When bad things happen, I know you want to believe they are a joke. But sometimes, life is scary, and dark. That is why we must find the light.

The fun part about it is that it isn’t even supposed to be taken completely seriously based on the circumstances, as BMO was just looking around for a light switch. It works entirely as a beautifully out-of-nowhere bit of poignancy that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a mostly comedic episode. I do have one gripe with this scene in general though: isn’t BMO in on Jake’s plan? Why would the two of them be talking about something scary and dangerous happening if they know exactly what’s going on? Perhaps BMO wasn’t in on the plan till later on? I dunno, it’s pretty much just an afterthought.

This episode also introduces the ghost from the mansion, which will later have a much bigger role later on. For now, she’s simply locked in Finn’s vault, where he hides all of the traumatizing material he experiences. Maybe it makes sense that Finn’s so unaffected by his friends dying grotesquely around him. He can just simply lock it away anytime he wishes. I do really love the way they carry out the ghost scene by treating it as one little glimpse of information to chew on while the conclusion sets in. Finn’s experience of almost dying via train the last time Jake pulled this stunt was a scary thought, but even scarier for Finn is something he can’t entirely understand or even believe before his own eyes.

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A very minor thing, but I also really love the attention to detail with the outfits in this episode. Ako designed a majority of the masks and costumes, and it treats the characters like visual candy (as I frequently say on this blog, no pun intended) by diverting from the standard models. It’s rare we ever get to see Jake, LSP, or Cinnamon Bun fully clothes, and even more interesting is the fact that when Jake stretches, his clothes stretch with him. Not sure if I should consider that an error or a fun visual gag. It can be two things.

Overall, I like this one a lot. It really does a lot with the murder mystery story and uses it to its greatest advantage, something it’s predecessor, Mystery Train, did not. It’s jam packed full of fun jokes, including the false personas of each character (Duchess Gummybuns and Guy Farting being two of my favorites) and its creepy atmosphere keeps me coming back for more. This is certainly one that isn’t getting locked up in the vault anytime soon.

Favorite line: “난 제이크랑 항상 한 몸이 되는데. (Jake and I merge our bodies all the time.)”

“What Was Missing” Review

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Original Airdate: September 26, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

I’ve felt iffy about What Was Missing for a very, very long time. It’s arguably one of the most popular episodes to date, and while I’ve always thought that the episode was well crafted, I also sensed a feeling of tonal difference from the rest of the series. What I love about AT is that the characters’ feelings, motivations, and life paths are left most ambiguous and up for debate, and that notion has only increased throughout the run of the show. Rebecca Sugar, on the other hand, has her own specific style that is very different from everyone other staff member on the show, mostly because she has her own vision for the characters and precise ways of writing for them. Sugar’s style is evident on a show like Steven Universe, where all of the characters are very honest and genuine about their emotions and feelings, and almost every episode works towards some sort of conflict resolution or developmental change. AT, as I said, is very different in its approach. It’s more about drawing your own conclusions about what the characters are feeling, and continuously opening new doors (no pun intended) within the Land of Ooo. These are two very different mediums that collide especially in later seasons when Sugar’s style becomes more evident, this episode included. I could even see this working as an SU episode, with Steven, Pearl, and Amethyst filling the shoes of Finn, PB, and Marceline respectively.

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So what point am I trying to make by this? Well, frankly, for a while I was less enthusiastic about What Was Missing than everyone else was. I really just thought it was too big of a tonal shift for the show to take on, and the characters acting this open and honest with each other felt a bit… out of place. However, after rewatching this episode and the commentary for it specifically for the review, I do have a bit more of an appreciation of it. I realize that this is just a very big passion project that involved Sugar pouring every little bit of her heart into it (not ignoring the fact that it’s also Adam’s episode, but let’s face it, this is pretty much Rebecca’s baby).

The songs she wrote for this episode, I’m Not Your Problem and What Am I to You? are some of the best written songs in the entire series, and derive from very personal place in Sugar’s heart. I’m Not Your Problem not only addresses the subtle, long term conflict between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, but channels an experience Rebecca had while trying to impress a roommate she once had, but failing in that regard. Some of the strongest songs in the series come from personal experiences that help the tune feel more raw and passionate (All Gummed Up Inside, Lost in the Darkness) and this is another great example. It’s an aggressive and intense experience, and pretty much gives us everything we need to know about Marceline and PB’s past history without ever giving us any flashbacks or long bits of exposition. It shows the flaws between both characters: Bubblegum’s unintentional ego and Marceline’s feeling of inadequacy. It’s a very well done conflict that I think a lot of people can identify with, and it’s done in such a unique and entertaining way.

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What Am I to You? is in the same vein. Dealing with Finn’s inferiority complex towards Bubblegum and Marceline is something that feels a bit overlooked and undermined through time, but it’s done in such a catchy and sweet way that it’s hard not to instantly be able to empathize with Finn as a viewer and immediately see things through his perspective. The inspiration behind this song is actually something that admittedly had me tearing up a bit while listening to the commentary (or someone in my house was just coincidentally chopping onions. I like to think the latter). Sugar wrote this song based on her experience with the Adventure Time crew, and how she finally felt accepted in her position and no longer saw her job as work, but rather something she genuinely enjoyed doing with people she loved. It’s a very endearing, loving message that honestly makes the episode itself even more heartwarming, and for that reason, it’s really hard for me not to get drawn into this episode. It puts every bit of care and compassion into it from the crew who love working on this show so much.

Besides that bit, I like the little in-between bits as well. Jake pretending to be the jerk of the band is funny enough, and even gets better when he alters his entire appearance. Finn’s little song about pasta is cute, and I just really love seeing all of these characters together at once. It’s rare that we even get to see Finn, Jake, and Marceline hangout from this point on, so it’s very nice to see Bubblegum and BMO included on this friendship train. It highlights some of the most important flaws of each character and focuses on them in great detail: Finn’s awkward and sometimes creepy interest in Bubblegum, Marceline’s inferiority towards her old friend, PB’s intelligence that can often come off as condescending, and Jake’s inability to take anything seriously. I even like the Door Lord as well, voiced by Steve Agee. His design leads me to believe he’s some sort of relative or distant cousin of Key-per, and it honestly cracks me up everytime he speaks in his hummed speech. Apparently the storyboard has legitimate translations for what he’s saying, but you can pretty much gather the gist of it without even needing to know.

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In the end, it actually is an episode that warrants the characters being so open about their feelings. In fact, it’s basically the whole point. Though I do like the ambiguity that each character possesses in their emotions and personal struggles later on, it’s nice to watch them finally get what is bothering them off their chest, and it’s a pretty good message to show that the truth will set you free a majority of the time. Finn got to open up about his feelings towards Bubblegum to Jake recently in Wizard Battle, and while he isn’t that explicit this time, it’s nice to see that he does acknowledge how he feels about her in a way, and that he’s able to earn a newfound respect in return. In addition, Marceline’s able to do so by accepting the way that she feels towards her ex-BFF. By not getting angry at herself for wanting to reconnect with Bonnie, Marceline allows a possible chance for forgiveness and new beginnings, something she couldn’t envision with her bitterness blinding her beforehand. It also shows PB’s side of things by showing her brief admiration for Marcy by having deep sentimental value in the shirt that she gave her, which was really just icing on the cake. My only problem with this episode is most likely your only problem with this episode: why the hell wasn’t BMO mentioned in the song?! She’s sitting right there, Finn! How couldja forget her like that?

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And I guess I should acknowledge the brief controversy surrounding this episode. On an AT oriented YouTube channel called Mathematical, which was started up by Frederator Studios, there was a video that gave a brief recap of What Was Missing and analyzed it further by addressing the implied homosexual relationship between PB and Marceline, equipped with fanart of the two in a romantic scenario. The entire channel was shut down, and the mastermind behind it, Dan Rickmers, was fired. To be honest, this is just some dumb bullshit that went down. I get that a couple of years have passed since then and animation and television in general have become considerably more LGBTQ positive recently, but c’mon, PB and Marceline are basically openly lesbian at this point in the series. Whether you interpret them as best friends or an actual couple, the show and the staff seem to be doing everything they can to stress the pairing of them in a romantic sense, so really, was there any point in making such a big deal over allegations if said allegations would later just become practically true without anyone even batting an eye? It was a dumb bit of controversy from the start and only seems more absurd with the current state the show is in.

Getting back to the actual episode, I definitely have grown more positive towards What Was Missing as time goes on. I still don’t know if I’d call it one of my personal favorites, but it’s just so charming and likable that it’s hard for me not to get sucked into what many people consider one of the all time best episodes. It just goes to show that whenever you want the show to be as sweet as can be, ya just add a little Sugar!

Favorite line: “I’ll get your kid back, toy!”

“Fionna and Cake” Review

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Original Airdate: September 5, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

A bit of background for this episode: the characters of Fionna and Cake were created by storyboard revisionist Natasha Allegri (as I’m writing this, it’s actually her birthday. Happy birthday, Natasha!). Allegri put the characters in several different humorous comic strips, and Pendleton Ward liked ‘em so much he said, “fuck it, why not make a whole episode around these two characters?”

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That’s where Fionna and Cake comes in, the show’s first big experimental challenge. The thing about Fionna and Cake as characters is that it would’ve been so easy to just make them carbon copies of Finn and Jake. Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar took it one step beyond that. Fionna and Cake become fully defined characters in the course of 11 minutes, and the Land of Aaa feels like its own entirely realized world, despite it being fictitious. That’s what works so greatly about Fionna and Cake; it is just like fanfiction, and can take characters, relationships, areas, and so on wherever it pleases. This episode is pure, illuminating enticement, from brilliantly using characters we all know and love and slightly altering them to giving us a legitimately well devised plot that would work entirely in a standard episode of the show.

As I mentioned, Fionna and Cake themselves are gender swaps of Finn and Jake that take on almost entirely different roles, but still retain attributes of the boys that inspired their creation. Fionna is very independent and even more mature than Finn, but maintains her love of adventure and excitement. This also works with her gender swap as well: she’s much less interested in what society stereotypes in terms of how women should be portrayed and more interested in what she loves to do, that being swinging swords and fighting bad guys. In addition, Cake’s possibly the most defined of the Fionna and Cake cast, and the most different from her male counterpart. Cake’s loyalty to Fionna and her relationship advice pose similarities to Jake, but she’s much more outspoken, sassy, and spunky. When it comes to others, there are minor differences, Gumball’s very proper demeanor and Ice Queen’s downright villainous persona, but part of the fun is just the way the two main leads work off of these characters. This episode captures pretty much all the AT typicalities: Fionna’s crush on Gumball, Ice Queen’s desire to marry Gumball, Cake and Lord Monochromicorn’s interest in each other (there’s an exclusive vinyl of the two that I’d give anything to have, but alas, I am a broke college student), and so on.

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What really works beyond anything else in this episode is just how naturally it flows. A lot of the time with experimental episodes of television, I find myself in a brief moment of disbelief, no matter how good said episode might be, of whether it connects to the world of the series enough or has a chance of succeeding by pushing the boundaries so drastically. Right off the bat, Fionna and Cake takes you right into the action. It doesn’t take the time to introduce individually to everyone because, as I continuously mention, we already know these characters in a way. The idea that we’re able to so easily adjust to something that’s so wildly different, yet exactly the same, from the standard episode of Adventure Time is so delightfully pleasurable and only helps the viewer enjoy every bit of the journey a little bit more.

Aside from that, it’s just generally a really fun episode. There’s plenty of great jokes, primarily from Cake (love the bit with her and Monochromicorn out of breath). The song Gumball sings to Fionna is a catchy and sweet homage to Aladdin that gives the entire episode a big, sweeping cinematic feel. And, as I mentioned, just the general interactions between the characters. I really love the honesty of Fionna during her time with Gumball (“dude, that was like, the stupidest thing ever”) and just the fun of seeing all of the various gender swaps. A character like Marshall Lee, who became so popular off of less than five seconds of screen time, shows how enjoyable it is to be able to see pre-existing characters who you still don’t know a single thing about. They can be anything you want them to be in that sense, and you’re able to allow the mind to create whatever canon you please. Although, I think Lady Cinnamon Bun deserves more love. Was her inaudible dialogue with Gumball simply not enough? Also fitting is the addition of Gingerbread Rebecca taking Gingerbread Muto’s spot in the opening theme, especially considering the two worked together on the episode. Even little things, like the lack of change for BMO and Ice Queen’s penguins, are really nice touches that are so subtle that they may be overlooked.

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The scene when faux Gumball brings her to his room is straight out of a horror movie, even dealing with the uncertainty of Fionna when it comes to intimacy. Finn is awkward and hesitant when it comes to his relationship with the Princess, but I always believe his reaction would be slightly different in this scenario. Maybe I’m just reading way too much into a brief moment, but I really think that Finn would look at this instance with shyness, but acceptance, whereas Fionna expresses briefly that she’s most likely uncomfortable.

Of course, she’s made even more uncomfortable when Gumball is revealed to be the Ice Queen. This whole sequence is some of the best animation in the entire series. It’s a thrilling battle between good and evil, equipped with just the right balance between the two that Ice Queen actually comes across as a threatening villain. It’s slick, smooth, and flowing, right down to the moment when Fionna smashes Ice Queen’s head in with her frozen hands. Once defeated, the scene when Cake runs in and attacks Gumball when she see’s Fionna’s ripped dress is another moment of significance. I could totally see Jake walking in and acting like Finn’s weird uncle and just giving him a simple thumbs up or a wink, but the gender swap allows for some interesting views of cultural differences that apply to our real world as well.

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Finally, the ending reveal that the entire episode was a mere story from Ice King’s fanfiction. This pissed a lot of people off, but honestly, that makes it all the more interesting to me. Not only that Ice King wrote a surprisingly coherent piece of work outside of the ending, but it’s just really fascinating to view the entire story from Ice King’s perspective. His depictions of the characters are especially intriguing, right down to the fact that he wrote Ice Queen as a straight up villain. It almost makes you wonder if he believes this of himself, and Fionna’s line of “be careful! You might catch her crazy!” makes me question if deep down, Ice King subconsciously does know truths about himself that he wouldn’t consciously realize otherwise. There’s also the really creepy notion that Fionna is kissing Ice King in the cover, so I don’t know what to make of that, besides the more endearing version that Ice King simply likes the idea of Finn and Jake worshiping himself, rather than resenting him. That’s the fun part with future Fionna and Cake episodes. They are all told from a certain person’s perception (albeit the most recent one) and it leaves more room for analysis and allows us to unintentionally explore the author’s psyche.

All in all, I really love this one. It takes full advantage of the opportunity at hand, and goes one step beyond by giving us one of the most beautifully crafted episodes to date. This is truly my favorite of the Fionna and Cake saga. There are a couple of other goodies, but I think this one particularly crafted so much from so little. It’s an episode I never truly get tired of watching. Terrific character explorations, nice animation, terrific writing, lovely music (all thanks to a sweet hammered dulcimer), and genuine fun: it’s simply Adventure Time in its truest, most passionate format.

Favorite line: “Why are y’all breathless if we’re the ones running?”

“Wizard Battle” Review

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Original Airdate: August 29, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Wizard Battle is a bit of a missed opportunity in my book. Instead of taking the time to actually show us some really cool wizard battles (this really could’ve simply been a standalone Ice King episode of himself participating in the battle) it’s mostly shaped down to a pretty simplistic, yet mildly effective Finn-PB romance plot.

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In general, pretty much all the wizards are there. Huntress Wizard, Laser Wizard, Bufo, Grand Master Wizard, and so on. Even Science Whyzard is there, who is actually just Doctor Princess in disguise. What a bizarrely interesting cameo that makes for as well. What prompted the writers to have Doctor Princess pretend to be a wizard? Considering her character’s entire life is a giant facade, it actually does make sense with her identity that she’d make up an entirely new false persona.

It’s a considerably weaker Ice King episode, since he really doesn’t have any strong characterization or motives besides simply wanting to kiss Princess Bubblegum. And c’mon, where are his ice nunchucks from Chamber of Frozen Blades?? That could’ve easily solved the barely addressed conflict of the IK cheating right there. Though he doesn’t take a large amount of focus, because this is the debut episode for Abracadaniel. Abracadaniel’s a humorous dork; he’s definitely not one of my favorite side characters, and in terms of awkward nerdlings, I think I’d choose Banana Man over him. He still gets a decent amount of good lines, and I still really love that Steve Little delivery. The animation and timing for how much he struggles to use his wand is really terrific and only strengthens the experience of Abracadaniel’s incredibly weakness as as wizard.

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Love the total of five people in the audience. I hope that gator had a good birthday.

It’s also a bit odd to see Princess Bubblegum at a pro-wizards event, considering how strongly she feels about magic versus science. Even weirder is her subjecting herself to being seen as a prize to anyone who participates in wizard battle. As Jesse Moynihan gracefully stated:

“She’s a diplomat, her number one priority is to keep the peace.”

And from Kent Osborne:

“It’s like the president participating in an Easter egg hunt.”

I still think it’s a bit of a stretch that she’d attend an event like this, but it seems like she isn’t completely taking it seriously to begin with. The only one who’s really taking it seriously is Finn, who arrives at a breaking point when it comes to his feelings for Bubblegum. The real meat of the episode is when he blows up at Jake, simply because it’s taken Finn this long to be completely honest with his feelings about PB. Though at the same time, it’s somewhat odd. Wasn’t Finn pretty upfront with Jake about wanting to go out with the Princess back in Too Young? It seems like this scene could’ve fit a bit more gracefully back in season two, but nevertheless, it’s a very well performed moment of turmoil that doesn’t take itself too seriously or dramatically.

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Besides that one scene though, I think the rest of the episode is pretty disposable. I love a lot of the designs of the wizards, including Finn and Jake’s cosplay outfit, and I really would’ve enjoyed seeing some of the many interactions between them. There’s plenty of quirky gags and funny lines to get me through, but Finn’s infatuation with PB just isn’t enough to keep me invested in the plot, and I think this was a point when these types of stories were becoming stale. We pretty much know for certain that, as of Too Young, PB totally isn’t going to slide for Finn romantically. That’s not to say his infatuation can’t go in an interesting direction, like it does later in this season. But Wizard Battle takes it in a direction that just feels repetitive. I’m glad that Finn got his one kiss from PB (his very last in the series, as well) but I’m also glad this is the last episode that deals with his love for Finn in such a competitive way. 

At least Ice King looks crazy see-yik in those glasses though.

Favorite line: “Well, I’m going back to my cave to wait for someone to kill me. Goodbye.”

“Still” Review

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Original Airdate: August 22, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Somilay Xayaphone & Kent Osborne

Still is simply one of the funniest developmental Ice King episodes of all time. I can’t think of a single episode I’ve rewatched up to the point that I’ve laughed at as much as this one. There’s a lot of great one liners, gags, character interactions, and just a really hilarious story that carries through till the very end.

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Not a particularly interesting screencap, but who is that dude in the picture frame with Finn?? Is that supposed to be Jake?

It’s funny because this episode could’ve easily just worked as a sequel to the ending of Hitman, and it fits with the general tone of continuing to experiment with Ice King’s admiration of Finn and Jake. It’s funny because, while he’s completely insane and actually comes off as somewhat threatening for freezing F&J, he shows that he legitimately has general knowledge about the duo’s interests and aspirations, including Finn’s love of meatloaf (a recurring character trait of his) and Jake’s incapability to express his emotions genuinely. It actually makes him more sympathetic because, while he has no idea how to be a true friend to anyone, he actually does truly care about Finn and Jake and has more interest in their lives than they would ever have about his. Even though Jake notes that the IK has tried to kill them “like, four times” but of course, that’s only because the two boys are constantly “princess blocking” him. Any guy would do the same!

A good majority of the episode, however, is just the very quirky interactions between the Ice King and the boys that takes place exclusively in the tree house. From this point, it’s a pure romp of nonstop laughs. Ice King dressing like Finn and pretending to be him is both really creepy (imagine if you were witnessing him doing this in real life) and truly hilarious. Actually, creepy and funny are themes mixed quite a bit in this episode. I’m not sure if the IK taking pictures of his penguins’ body parts is more uncomfortable or really funny, but maybe I just have to settle for both.

I really love any episode of any animated series that deals with general annoyance with another character, and Jake’s reaction to the Ice King throughout the episode is just priceless. John DiMaggio does a really standout job of giving Jake a very angry yet deadpan tone, and the drawings coincide perfectly with some really humorous facial expressions. I was literally gasping for air laughing at the breakfast scene: “Well, how ’bout I make us some omelettes?” “That sounds pretty good, actually.” “I’m gonna put my foot in it!”

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The other chunk of the episode is Finn trying to connect with an astral beast, which later turns out to be his spirit animal, a butterfly. It’s equally as amusing as the main plot to watch Finn continually shout in an artistically pleasing setting about channeling this beast through his mind. It’s also somewhat of a star episode for Gunther, who was called to “act like a cat” in the outline of this episode (Somvilay even drew him as a cat in the early storyboards). It’s just really cute watching him roam around and play with his surroundings, though I still never know how to feel about the blatant scene where he’s dry humping Jake’s face. The staff jokes about this in the commentary by saying “Gunther’s got some really great dance moves.” Y’all know what you did!!

The episode ends on a perfect note as well. Ice King learns a thing or two about what being a true friend means and the fact that he isn’t going to get anywhere by forcing his two buddies to love him. Considering he never pulls a stunt like this again, I really think Ice King begins to grasp a bit of an understanding of how friendships and love work, and the idea that his misconception is causing him more bad than good. It’s a bit of a crucial moment because of how difficult it is to get through to Ice King. He’s certainly trying to improve his life on one way or another and, despite his craziness, he is learning to be just a smidge more sane day by day. Even though he ruins it in the end by purchasing the wrong unfreezing potion. I really wonder how the three of them got out of this pickle.

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My only lingering question from this episode: where is BMO? It seems like a bit of a contrivance that he’s just completely missing because, obviously if he was there, this plot wouldn’t hold much water. I’m just gonna go with the excuse that he was at soccer practice or something, and later came back to unfreeze his friends.

Aside from that minor detail though, this episode cracks me up. It’s continuously funny from beginning to end, and I really just love the consistent characterization of Ice King throughout this season. Season three really is Ice King’s star season of the show, putting him in many of the series’ funniest episodes, as well as some of the most poignant, and those types of episode would only increase in quality from hereon in.

Favorite line: “Jake, sometimes you don’t cry because you’re afraid of real emotion. It’s okay, let it out.”

“The Monster” Review

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Original Airdate: August 15, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

Besides Trouble in Lumpy Space, LSP has taken on very minor roles since her debut episode. This is her main return to the spotlight, and arguably has an even bigger role than the episode aforementioned. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the biggest fan of LSP when it comes to her more prominent roles, and this episode is somewhat of a true testament as to whether she’s able to hold a story on her own. Does she succeed? Well, let’s see…

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My overall favorite part of the episode is the beginning with Finn and Jake singing their little tune about themselves, which is both really endearing and funny, made even funnier by Finn’s outburst of “PIZZA!” as the song finishes. Somvilay boarded the first half of the episode, and he really does a standout job in this one. There’s a few great Somvilayisms: the tiny people falling down one-by-one and forming a map to the monster, Finn, Jake and LSP abruptly pulling up seats before LSP tells her tale, and just some of the really nice dynamic shots. One of Somvilay’s biggest strengths are his very in depth looking scenes, including the ones of Finn and Jake trodding through the woods and LSP frantically traveling through a forest. Also, he continues to be the master of telling jokes without actually telling jokes. There’s plenty of sight gags within this episode that are so easy to miss if you simply blink.

What this episode really comes down to though, is a good chunk of it being Pendleton Ward talking in his LSP voice for nearly five straight minutes. Lumpy Space Princess’s valley girl accent is worth a laugh if it’s used very sparingly, but hearing it for almost an entire episode is really grating. When it comes down to it, her situation with the wolves just isn’t that funny to me either. I enjoy watching her pretending to speak as the wolves, but aside from that, I can’t think of anything else that really even got a chuckle out of me. It’s classic LSP reading too far into drama, but nothing we haven’t seen before and just really drags on and slows down the general pacing of the episode a lot.

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In addition, the conflict of the episode really isn’t that compelling at all. I don’t really care if Lumpy Space Princess moves back into her house with her parents, which is even completely retconned later on. Why would they even include this somewhat emotional reunion if LSP just ends up choosing to be homeless in later episodes? It’s a resolution that I really have no reason to care about, and Finn and Jake being chucked to the sidelines only weakens the episode’s chance of succeeding.

The only other noteworthy aspect is that Lumpy Space King and Lumpy Space Queen’s design was revamped in this episode. I admittedly sort of liked the more grotesque and detailed design from the first two seasons, but Pen Ward labeled it as “too gross” so they simplified it a bit. It somewhat feels a bit drastic of a change from what they looked like before, but it’s a cute redesign, so I really don’t mind that much.

Aside from that, there really isn’t much else for me to discuss. It’s just slow moving LSP-centric episode that doesn’t do much to help develop or strengthen her character.

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Favorite line: “Yeah, we didn’t really do that much.”

“Morituri Te Salutamus” Review

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This title card was actually a bit lost in translation during the inking process. Jake was supposed to appear as a shapeshifted gladiator, rather than as a ghost. It took me forever to realize that was supposed Jake.

Original Airdate: July 18, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Whenever the question of an underrated episode of Adventure Time arises, Morituri Te Salutamus is usually the first thing that comes to my mind. I really like this one. The plot is pretty standard when observed on a surface level; Finn and Jake enter a battle arena and fight some gladiator ghosts while Jake fails to follow through with his buddy’s plans. On the whole though, the episode has a lot of nice, small details going on in the background, while also including some of the darker and grittier battles we’ve seen on the show to date.

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The main conflict between Finn and Jake is kept very subtle, and relatively sweet. Jake’s lack of focus has been harped on several times before (prominently in Power Animal) and it’s somewhat endearing that Finn has enough of an understanding of that to not bicker with his brother over following a very simple strategy. Of course, it results in Finn nearly scarring Jake for life, but hey, lava hula hoops just aren’t a good alternative for battling ghosts. They’re both written so well that neither of them comes off unlikable for their relatively questionable actions. Jake is still a ton of fun despite the lack of attention he gives his best friend, and Finn is still enjoyably bonkers even if he takes it one step too far. Also, props to Rebecca Sugar for writing one of my all-time favorite songs in the series. Tropical Island works not only as a catchy song, but also to undercut some of the more intense moments in the episode.

The Fight King’s arena is awesome. The colors surrounding it really help emphasize the darker feel to the underlying subject at hand by subduing the bright and colorfulness most people are accustomed to in a typical AT. In addition, the underground has a couple cool details as well. For instance, it’s practically a gladiator graveyard for anyone who ended up dying in the battle arena, which is a pretty grim and quietly placed bit considering it’s never explicitly mentioned. The Fight King (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, who does a pretty good job delivery-wise, per usual) himself is well-designed. He has many bandages, a missing limb, and several weapons attached to him to help create the sense that this dude’s been around forever. He doesn’t seem like a powerful villain in terms of strength or abilities, but he’s certainly one that seems to have mastered the art of manipulation.

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The real gem in this episode, however, is the ghosts. First off, all of them are really inventive and unique. It would’ve been so easy to have every gladiator look the same, but the artists took it one step beyond and gave each gladiator a very specific looking mutation or accessory. Second, it’s a very subtle element of tragedy that all of these ghosts were once loved ones that were pitted against each other, and the remorse that they feel is certainly heavy-handed and powerful. Without even knowing who these people are, you almost get a sense of their backstory and their connection to one and other, as they were likely similar to Finn and Jake in their motivations. Two friends, companions, or siblings who took on a challenge for the fun of it, as one was tragically manipulated into killing the other, carrying with them a deep feeling of regret as a result. It’s clear that no one has ever managed to actually succeed in the battle arena, and I’d theorize that after one of the soldiers killed the other, they later ended up killing themselves as a response to their guilt. It’s a lot of little, but crucial moments that make this episode have a real emotional core to it.

And that emotion carries willingly to the very last third. Again, it’s a moment where we know that Finn isn’t actually going to kill his brother, but at the same time, it’s easy to just feel so scared for Jake. He’s hurt and terrified that someone he simply wanted to retrieve a lava hula hoop for has suddenly turned on him so dramatically. It’s a really intensely packed remainder of the episode that truly kept me on the edge of my seat the first time I watched it, and even still kind of does to this day.

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This episode goes back and forth a lot with Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar’s drawings, but Muto choreographed a good chunk of the fight sequences, and man did they turn out well. Not only is there some decent slapstick, like Jake using his stretched out thighs to crush a gladiator, or one of the ghosts landing crotch first onto his shield, but it really packs a punch! It’s somewhat hard to pull off the idea of Finn and Jake fighting ghosts, because, well, they’re ghosts, and as Jake states, “ghosts don’t got meat.” Still, the show manages to pull off some pretty effective feeling fight scenes despite the insinuation that Finn’s opponents are already dead. The swords Finn uses in this episode aren’t really as visually interesting as most of his other swords, but man, the way Finn slings them left and right is just so terrifically animated and carried out that I don’t mind. They’re used for some fast-paced stabs and shanks, which really assists in improving the final product.

Also, there’s a heavy use of Latin in this episode. The title itself, Morituri Te Salutamus translates to “we who are about to die, salute you.” In addition, Finn utters such phrases as abet (be gone) and eludere (evasion), while one of the gladiators shouts “non pugnant, Flamma!” (be not repugnant to him). It’s a nice example of dialogue that really assists in making the scope of the world of AT feel bigger, and the different cultures throughout. If I got any of those translations wrong, let me know. I totally Google translated all of ‘em.

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So yeah, this is one I really like a lot. It’s one that I don’t see a lot people mentioning often, but it’s certainly an episode that deserves more publicity. Great atmosphere, intense battles, an emotional core, and our two lovable main boys. The episode ends thankfully on a light note, as the gladiators descend to another realm, presumably one of the Dead Worlds. Jake and Finn are the perfect duo to set an example of what true companionship means, and how disagreements are trifling in the long run of lifelong friendship. I only wish that Jake one day does reach that tropical island. What a way to end the series that would be!

Favorite line: “That’s an entirely different plan… than my plan.”