Tag Archive | season three

Season Three Review

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Season Three of AT is arguably the best combination between humor and drama in the entire series. Season seven comes close, but I think season three really manages to balance goofiness and intensity to a tee. I always stand by my belief that each season gets better as the show goes along, but really, this is as close to a perfect season for any series.

The humor was really spot on this time around. With episodes like Still, Hitman, and Another Way, the show has really come accustomed to a much sharper, rounded form of humor that goes beyond just uttering wacky catchphrases. The interactions between the characters are brilliant, especially episodes that deal with the relationship between Finn, Jake, and Ice King. I can’t remember laughing as hard as I did while rewatching episodes like Hitman or Still up to this point. And even then, episodes that aren’t primarily comedy based had a lot of great jokes and gags within them as well: Dad’s Dungeon, The Creeps, and Too Young had their own moments of precise hilarity.

Some episodes also introduced one of AT’s greatest elements in later episodes: their experimental nature. Fionna and Cake and Thank You both diverted majorly away from the show’s comfort zone, and took on topics and genres that proved to be largely popular in the outcome. It’s clear the crew was very pleased with these episodes, as it lead to some bigger experimentation later on, such as more Fionna and Cake stories, guest animated episodes, and the inclusion of side characters as the main focus of their designated episode.

Things took a dark turn in No One Can Hear You, which was a largely unfunny episode that was more focused more on creepy atmosphere and story than trying to shoehorn in jokes. Again, it was another creative choice that pushed the boundaries of the series on whether it could possibly work out not, which, again, proved to be a successful decision in the long run.

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We also got a good chunk of particularly emotional episodes. Holly Jolly Secrets revealed the secret backstory of the Ice King through one of the most powerful sequences in the entire show, and Incendium focused on Finn’s crushed love life as he struggled to bounce back from getting rejected by Bubblegum for the final time. It was really nice for AT to divert from what a typical kid’s show is allowed to do by showcasing some of the more raw emotional circumstances and hardships of life. Even The New Frontier, which was a relatively silly episode, had a very heavy focus on the topic of death and whether we should handle it with open arms or ignore it completely. Little things like that are what really show why this series has such a large adult following, and how a good majority of viewers these days are adults themselves.

The teams were pretty great for this season as well. Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar are once again the superstars of this season, crafting some of the most poignant and enjoyable episodes in the series (Morituri te Salutamus, What Was Missing, and Incendium). We also got the great new pairing of Ako and Jesse, who surprisingly worked very well together! They actually crafted a lot of the creepier and more atmospheric episodes this season (No One Can Hear You, The Creeps, and Ghost Princess) and while not all of them were big hits, they did manage to blend their styles together quite nicely. Tom Herpich and Bert Youn were a solid team as well, which leaves Kent Osborne and Somvilay Xayaphone as the weakest team once again. They did manage to create what is definitely the funniest episode of the season, Still, but their work never really stood out one way or another to me. Their styles just never really meshed that well together; Somvilay was all for more absurd comedy and visuals, while Kent is kind of a traditionalist when it comes to AT’s humor. I think Osborne himself works terrifically on his own later on, and Somvilay even found a better pairing with Seo Kim.

The character arcs this season are pretty well divided out: Finn begins experiencing some of the hardships of his teenage life, including his development of an inferiority complex, his acceptance that, one day, his best friend will die, and the painful tragedy of unrequited love. He still remains the goofball with a heart of gold that we’ve come so comfortable with, but it’s still very interesting to watch him experience his changing life around him, and the traumas that come with growing. Jake wasn’t entitled to a specific arc, but we do get a really good glimpse of his view on death and destiny in The New Frontier, which pretty much remains consistent throughout the show’s run. We get a good amount of episodes dedicated to Marceline, including hints of her backstory that are explored in Memory of a Memory, What Was Missing, and Marceline’s Closet. It’s all really cool to get even some hints of post-Mushroom War information through her past, and it only becomes more compelling and interesting from this point on. Unfortunately, we still don’t get too in depth with PB’s character arc, which doesn’t really go into full effect until the next season. The most we get to see out of her is through Too Young, where, during her time as a thirteen-year-old, she gets to enjoy time having fun with Finn, and we even get a look into her background as a the ruler of the Candy Kingdom. This single episode shows that PB finds being a ruler quite stressful, and sets up a good chunk of her story later on. Besides that, we only get to see her one-sided relationship with Finn (on Finn’s side, of course) and a glimpse into her rocky relationship with Marceline. It’s also unfortunate that we get to see a majority of the depth on Marceline and Finn’s side of the story and rarely ever get to see a view from PB’s point of view. This is handled better later on, but I still feel like PB is a bit underwhelming when it comes to true character development in this particular season.

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And of course, the true star, the Ice King. The way he’s incorporated into this season is absolutely genius. There’s a handful of episodes that work towards developing the IK into a lonely jerk who simply wants to be friends with Finn and Jake in some of the funniest ways possible. Just when you think that concept can’t build up any longer, the big reveal occurs that Ice King’s crown is what caused a relatively normal human being into a crazy ice wizard, which completely changes the IK’s story into one of the most interesting arcs in the entire series. This entire season could simply be labeled as “The Best of Ice King”, because that’s truly what it is in my eyes: a terrific assortment of episodes that really do their damnest to make the show’s primary antagonist into one of the most sympathetic and endearing characters of all time.

Top 5 Best Episodes

5. Fionna and Cake – A dazzlingly beautiful episode that takes full advantage of an awesome experiment, as well as being the best Fionna and Cake episode to date.

4. Thank You – Another great experiment that’s a strong emotional experience, churning out one of the most heartwarming stories in the entire series.

3. Dad’s Dungeon – A totally kickass episode that showcases the relationship between Finn and his adoptive father, as he and Jake trek through the coolest dungeon to date.

2. No One Can Hear You – A rather creepy episode that feels like AT’s most prominent attempt at a psychological thriller, and one that succeeds in the very best way.

1. Incendium – A turning point for the series that puts an end to one of the first established relationships in the series, and one that’s filled with emotion, humor, and the introduction of a new major player.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

5. Marceline’s Closet – Not a bad one by any means, but one that feels a bit thin on any new light to put Marceline in, and thin on story as well.

4. From Bad to Worse – Not particularly strong in humor or story, and a very experimental one for Somvilay that slightly backfires.

3. Wizard Battle – Less of Finn trying to smooch on Princess Bubblegum and more wizard battles, dammit!

2. Paper Pete – A cute, yet mildly bland episode that I almost always forget immediately after I watch it.

1. The Monster – A spotlight debut for LSP that only brings out why she shouldn’t be in the spotlight of any episode.

Final Consensus

As I mentioned above, this really is as perfect a season as you can get. The Monster is really the only episode from season three I could label as straight-up bad, and that’s pretty impressive from a package of 26 episodes. It continued to pushed the boundaries of what AT is capable of doing, and gave reasonable belief for viewers that the series wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It really closed out the era of classic Adventure Time with a bang.

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“Ghost Princess” Review

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Original Airdate: January 30, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Ghost Princess has appeared once or twice before this episode, but this is her first big step to mainstage and her last as well. An episode about spirits and the 50th Dead World is right up my alley, so I was especially hyped when this one first came out. Unfortunately, I don’t think its direction was as interesting as it could’ve been, and I think some executive meddling restrained this one from being as dark or serious as it wanted to be.

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Love little moments like this where Finn and Jake are just casually spending time with each other.

The great bits come mostly from Finn and Jake, who engage in a good cop-bad cop routine, and it’s really a delightful scenario to watch. We’re used to seeing the little guy play good cop in most situations, whereas Jake is usually the more skeptical one, so it’s a nice role reversal that allows us to see different sides of the boys. There’s plenty of great lines among the two, specifically Finn’s “time to sing, ya canary!” As for Jake, I love the bit of him subtly looting throughout the entirety of the episode. It continues the streak of criminality shown by him in episodes like City of Thieves and Apple Thief, and it humorously depicts Jake’s general reaction every time he does something wrong: he simply acknowledges that he didn’t know it was wrong. I’m willing to believe that was his reaction the minute he realized his criminal gang was immoral; he probably just shrugged and realized he shouldn’t have been involved and then just left. It’s actually an interesting concept that I’m just noticing as I write this, but could Jake’s inability to realize that crime and looting are wrong come from his father’s past history of stealing from demons? I’m getting ahead of myself, but I didn’t wanna lose this thought. More to chat about with the next review, Joshua!

The backgrounds in this one are great, mostly designed by ghostshrimp. I really love the vast depth of the cemetery, and just how many little details there are within it. It’s clear that the graveyard has signs of being post-apocalyptic, but I do enjoy settings that are just generally creepy and atmospheric without those added Easter eggs. Easter eggs are great, but sometimes ya just need a handful of tombstones to really set that chilling feeling into full gear.

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As for the main story, the romance between Clarence and Ghost Princess just isn’t that interesting to me. It’s a pretty bland love story, with little chemistry outside of the backstory revealed toward the end. I wish the character of Clarence was a lot more quirky and awkward. Adventure Time is usually so good at creating delightfully off-color side characters, and even with the talented voicework of Sam Marin, Clarence is just kind of lame. He basically just recites really corny and poetic love lines that are played completely straight. Though, to be fair, he did take GP to the Spirit Waves performance, which is totally dope. I don’t know if they had a guest animator for this sequence or if it was just given a lot of attention in studio, but it’s so funny to watch these blank figures move around so fluidly and choreographed. The ghostdates.com website mentioned is actually a real website, by the way. A really neat test of the Spirit Waves performers doing their thing!

The twist is something I think most people see coming, but it is cleverly tied together. As for the actual backstory sequence, it feels a bit awkward to me. A lot of the episode was altered by Cartoon Network to switch around the utterance of the word “murder” with its substitutes “moider” and “murdle-urdle”, and I’m willing to assume they wanted the memory sequence to be a little lighter and less intense as well. Therefore, you have Clarence crying really over-the-top and his tears falling in WP’s mouth, followed by him committing suicide via squeezy cheese overdose. It just feels a little forced to me; it’s like they spent the whole episode working to make the dynamic between Clarence and GP really serious and straightforward, and then tried to add humor to the actual scenes that should be the most heavy (though I do enjoy the fact that it essentially traumatized Jake). Adventure Time’s handled death awkwardly on a couple of separate occasions, and I think this one is a decent example. I know it’s a kid’s show, but Adventure Time has proved time and time again that it’s able to handle weighty situations with grace and proper care. Not to say I wanted Ghost Princess of all episodes to be a completely serious and intense tale, but I think it still could’ve been handled a little more delicately. I’m also a bit confused by the timeline of the flashback: it feels like something that happened hundreds of years ago, yet Clarence apparently only died a mere couple of weeks prior. Are there just random wars going on in Ooo that we don’t even know about? Probably overthinking it. 

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This one was kickstarted by an idea Jesse Moynihan had, in an attempt to explore the 50th Dead World, and one that even called for Magic Man to appear in it. Not sure what the entire concept behind that premise was, but I think it would’ve been really cool to explore more of that idea. Pure, uncut Moynihan has given us some of the most trippy and existential episodes in the entire series, and this episode poses a story that calls for some really surreal and heady bits. I’m guessing his desire for more of the experimental side of the plot is what restricted Ghost Princess from getting too out-of-hand, and kept it a mostly grounded story.

As is, it’s okay. I think the chunk of the episode centered around Finn and Jake is a lot of fun, but the main love story between GP and Clarence falls flat for me. I think it could’ve taken a much more interesting direction with the various Dead Worlds, including the backstory as well. If there was a bit extra time dedicated to making the GP and Clarence relationship more charming or endearing, it might’ve been able to hold a little more water. But with that said, it was sweet to watch the two ascend to Dead World together. And with two episodes left, season three shall soon ascend to its own Dead World in my archives. Ya donkus.

Favorite line: “TIME TO SING, YA CANARY!” (already mentioned it, but I just enjoy it too much)

 

“Another Way” Review

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Love the pre-staging depicted in this title card.

Original Airdate: January 23, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Bert Youn

Another Way is probably the most absurdist episode since season one. It’s not particularly strong in story; it’s just sort of a sequence of occurring events with Finn screaming a good chunk throughout. However, it’s one of those episodes where the jokes and visuals easily outweigh the necessity for an especially strong story, so it’s something that doesn’t bother me much. It’s jam packed with a lot of amusing moments and surreal humor that we haven’t seen much of in quite sometime.

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First of all, the episode starts off with the most baffling fucking thing in AT history: Finn actually reading the Enchiridion. I can’t believe my eyes! It’s a darn shame this book hasn’t gotten more use in the grand scheme of things up to this point. The only time it was ever seen outside of its debut episode was when Finn threw it at a worm in Evicted!. I know it’s used for a very crucial story arc later on, but I really kinda wish it was used a bit more frequently early on. Could’ve been cool to explore bits of the book more, what it’s capable of, and make it more effective when it’s reintroduced a bit later on. Also, Jake’s recurring foot fetish returns in this one. That dog loves him some feet.

I really love all the unusual Ren & Stimpy type humor in this one. The clown nurses are really creepy and well-designed, and their demeanor is just completely ludicrous. There’s one farting bubbles out of a wand, one that looks completely distorted, and the main one, who gets a lot of grotesque close-ups of kissing Finn’s feet and breaking a sweat while doing so. It’s a really great episode for Bert Youn’s artwork. Youn is one of the only storyboard artists up to this point who still retains an aesthetic of the earlier days of the show. Of course, I like the individual artwork of the storyboard artists and think the general design and quality has advanced significantly over time, but it’s always nice to see Youn’s work that pales so similarly to the show’s roots.

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The moments between Finn and the civilians he encounters are really hilarious. I love all of the wacky characters he comes face-to-face with. The stump voiced by Maria Bamford is great, I really never get tired of hearing that woman’s voice in the show. She always hits the right notes between goofy and completely sincere. The bush voiced by Gregg Turkington cracks me up; I don’t know why he’s so angry and passive aggressive, but I just love his attitude and general dislike of Finn. What the hell did Finn even do to deserve to be called an “ugly tramp”?? There’s also Pan and his wife Rainy, who are a cute little bunch to drive the conflict further during the second act.

I really love the moral conflict Finn is put through in this one. He doesn’t immediately acknowledge that he was wrong, but rather ponder if his way is incorrect or not. It’s admirable to watch him go about his own way and succeed throughout the episode, but also for him to realize that sometimes doing things completely individually can backfire, and the idea that occasionally not everything can be within your direction. It’s important to follow your own direction, but also crucial to analyze every given situation before doing so. It’s really driven home by Finn’s song, complete with auto-tune and some really terrific angles and shots by Tom Herpich. Awesome symbolism as well: there’s a river with three different streams, with two going in a direction where they’re able to flow freely, and one that is pouring over a waterfall and crashing, alluding Finn’s decision to choose his own path. It’s a perfect combination of philosophy and humor that’s especially fascinating to me. Also, there’s a cute little bit in this one where, for some reason, all of the trees have eyes. Not sure if it was just to go along with all of the other sentient elements of nature, but it’s always really funny and silly to just simply watch them blink and emote in the background.

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Ultimately, Finn is able to get an accurate view on the situation when he realizes that he can still use his way to help others as well, even bring a sandwich to life with the tears from a Cyclops! And what a great lesson that is! I really like how it diverts from the typical message of listening to others and the idea that irrational plans are always likely to fail. It sides with the idea that, following your own path could get you into very possible trouble, but it can also lead you to independence and better options. It’s a lovely message of learning that there’s always another way, and that just might be your own way. Of course, it’s also accepting of the fact that everyone else has their own way too, and sometimes that way is accepting foot kisses from clown nurses.

So yeah, I enjoy this one. It’s not one of my faves from season three, but it’s very, very funny and engaging throughout. I love all the trippy and grotesque visuals, the side characters, and most of all the message. It’s one of Finn’s strongest lessons in independence yet, and it’s done so in the least preachy way possible. A very amusing adventure for our little man. That ugly, fat-smelling fathead.

Favorite line: “The current is so fast, it’ll turn your butt inside-out for real, doofus.”

“Paper Pete” Review

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Original Airdate: January 16, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Somvilay Xayaphone

Paper Pete is perhaps one of, if not the most forgettable episode of Adventure Time for me. It’s not a particularly horrendous one, but it poses a premise and characters so bland that it never really has a chance to be significant in any form.

The idea of Jake studying a Rainicornocopia is a pretty cool concept, even before the Rainipups themselves were actually born. I like Jake’s heartfelt interest and compassion for Lady to go out and educate himself on something that’s important for the both of them. It’s also fitting that Jake wouldn’t be able to even get past the first paragraph, and even more logical considering he has no idea how Rainicorn children work when he eventually has five of his own.

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Somvilay’s bubbly design of Finn in this one is cute!

As for the plot itself, I think it’s somewhat of a frustrating, yet commonly used story for animated and live-action series alike. I think the idea of Finn “making up adventures” is a bit of a weird argument from Jake, considering it isn’t a common aspect of Finn’s character in general. It works primarily as a plot device for this one, and it’s slightly annoying to watch Jake blatantly ignore what’s right in front of him. Jake vs. Me-Mow had a similar plot, and that episode did it much, much better in my opinion. It’s hard to pull off that story in general without causing some form of frustration for the viewer.

Paper Pete, voiced by Peter Browngardt, makes his first and only appearance in this episode. Usually AT side characters stick out in their own absurd and quirky fashion, but Paper Pete doesn’t really have any strong character traits. He’s not particularly funny, interesting, or even well-designed. It’s a bit odd they got Peter Browngardt for this role. Besides the name, Peter Browngardt is known for his over-the-top and ludicrous characters, namely Uncle Grandpa. It’s a weird pairing for a character who kind of feels like an afterthought, despite having an entire episode named after him.

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The two main conflicts are pretty thin, with one being treated as amusingly ineffective, and the other just being quickly resolved in the end without a ton of time devoted to it. Considering they’re both treated as very minor issues, the conflict almost seems somewhat nonexistent. It’s harder to pull through as a competent episode when there’s no compelling struggle to carry onward, whether it be humorous or thrilling. And the episode ends as it does on every rewatch: with me almost entirely forgetting what I just saw.

I know I’m ripping this episode a new one, but honestly, I’m being a bit harsh on it. It’s nothing terrible: the writing isn’t bad, the animation isn’t bad, the characterizations aren’t bad. There’s a few enjoyable aspects, namely the background artwork. The library setting isn’t really visually interesting, but the detailed backgrounds and just how many shelves upon shelves they can squeeze in is pretty dope to look at. There’s a few good jokes in this one, though scarce. I do like Finn’s general uninterest with the pagelings, and how his main goal is really to just shove his proof in Jake’s face. It’s pretty funny to watch him react to the ineffectual environment, and even his mild annoyance with Paper Pete. Also, Turtle Princess seeing Finn with his shirt off was fucking priceless. So, it’s not bad, but it’s one of AT’s most forgettable efforts for me. This is Kent and Somvilay’s last episode for a while together; Kent began exclusively as a story editor for a while up until season five. Although this wasn’t a perfect episode to leave off on, the two would come back stronger than ever a couple seasons later for one of their best episodes yet.

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Favorite line: (in regards to relating to his future children) “Eh, I’ll just fake it.”

“Marceline’s Closet” Review

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Original Airdate: December 12, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Marceline’s Closet isn’t as strong of a character exploration as other Marcy-centric episodes are. For an episode revolving around Finn and Jake accidentally spying on their vampire friend, I think it would’ve been a lot more interesting to see Marceline at her most vulnerable or even look into her deepest darkest secrets, but it’s mostly focused on the dilemma Finn and Jake face in front of them. However, there are a couple of gags and amusing moments the two boys share that do make for a relatively funny episode.

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The beginning starts out really strong with Finn conducting some balloon music. It’s a great musical moment that’s up there with some of the funnier songs in the series. In addition to that, there’s a brief moment of apocalyptic lore that’s so easy to miss. The duo engage in a game of hide-and-seek, or “Cloud Hunt” as they call it, and Finn’s recites this nursery rhyme while counting:

Over the mountain, the ominous cloud

Coming to cover the land in a shroud,

Hide in a bushel, a basement, a cave,

But when cloud comes a-huntin’,

No one’s a save… no, safe!

It’s a lovely little bit of tragedy, similar to Ring Around the Rosey, that just reminds me of why I love this show. Every bit of past history is so hidden in the background and non-expository, and it just feels so natural that way.

Of course, once Finn and Jake enter inside Marceline’s closet is when the true conflict starts. I always do love the classic synopsis of characters hiding inside of another person’s house and trying to avoid getting caught. The stakes don’t feel particularly high in this one, as I don’t really think there’s much to anticipate with Marceline being the culprit. Though, it interestingly enough does bring back a scenario that feels exclusive to earlier seasons, which is Finn and Jake’s general fear of Marceline. We all know Jake’s fear of vampires is still mildly persistent, but Finn has treated Marceline as an equal since the beginning of season two, and it’s fun to see the old dynamic of the two boys being so easily startled by their mostly laid back, yet intimidating friend. And I really wonder if Marceline actually did use blood to write on that note at the beginning. You’re above that lifestyle, gurl!

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There’s a couple of great moments with Finn and Jake in the closet (no pun intended), including Finn’s completely ludicrous plan to fly an egg-making paper plane to get Marcy’s attention. What did making the eggs actually accomplish? I don’t know! I also love Finn’s brief encounter with a bare-bodied Marcy. It’s hilariously awkward to see the little guy so traumatized by seeing not only his friend in the nude, but presumably his first naked woman ever. There’s also some great sight gags, such as Finn and Jake’s terrified expressions and Jake’s silent tantrum of pain as he’s so violently bit by a spider.

So there are a good amount of laughs in this one, I just wish the stuff with Marceline was little more interesting. We don’t really get to see into her life all that much or any interesting tidbits of unknown characteristics. The strongest example we get is a is a song based on one of her diary entries, with the word “Gunter” written on the cover (FORESHADOWING). It’s not a particularly great song, which was written by Jesse Moynihan, and one that he admits wasn’t that great either. I’m not going to be one of “those people” who believes that Rebecca Sugar is the only one who can write for Marceline on the show, because that’s completely invalid. However, I will admit that the musical aspect of the series does suffer a bit without her talents (unless is for comedic purposes, as shown earlier), and that’s something that carries over heavily once she departs from the series. In addition, the lyrics aren’t really that strong either. Coming off the heels of one of Sugar’s most powerful songs in the series I’m Just Your Problem, Dear Diary just feels kind of lacking and out of place. I’m not sure if Marcy sang this song because she knew Finn and Jake were secretly watching her (we never really find out how long she was in on it), but it doesn’t really make sense from a developmental standpoint. Wasn’t the purpose of What Was Missing that Marceline began to embrace the friendships she’s made and even patch up some of her old ones? Why on earth would she believe she didn’t have any friends? You could argue this diary entry could’ve been written at any point, as she mentions it’s based on the past 500 years, but still, it does feel a bit out of place given all that Marcy has been through the past couple seasons.

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The end resolution is a bit of an abrupt and unsatisfying one, though it does completely make sense that Marceline wouldn’t be mad at Finn and Jake in the first place. Her whole game is fucking with people and showing up uninvited. That’s who Marcy is! So yeah, I think this episode is decent. It’s a generally enjoyable premise with a good amount of funny character moments, but it does suffer from being a bit thin when it comes to a story that does potentially call for an interesting character study. Also, the conflict does feel a bit light, as I think it’s pretty obvious that Marcy’s not actually going to react as badly as our two main characters believe. If it was a character like Magic Man or even Marceline’s father, Hunson Abadeer, it could’ve made for a more interesting conflict. But as is, it did an okay job of showcasing Marceline out of the closet (pun intended).

Favorite line: “Well, now we’re both quietly screaming.”

“Holly Jolly Secrets (Part I & II)” Review

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Original Airdate: December 5, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Kent Osborne

Ice King has certainly gone through some major developmental stages during the past season. He’s almost completely transitioned from a villain to Finn and Jake’s creepy, annoying neighbor, and while that characterization has proven to be successful all season, it does risk a chance of being repetitive over time. Unless Ice King was at some point going to transform into a complete hero, it’d be awfully boring to just watch him attempt to capture princesses over and over again, or just endlessly try to be Finn and Jake’s best buddy. Holly Jolly Secrets is the one that changes everything. Everything we thought we knew about the Ice King up to this point was ultimately rendered moot, and an onslaught of new questions and mysteries arose. This introduction to Ice King’s backstory is also pretty much a turning point for the entire show: Adventure Time generally has become darker, more ambitious in its storytelling, and persistent in adding continuing bits of lore and mysticism in its ever-growing world.

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I guess I’ll kick-off this review by talking about its most crucial aspect: the videotape revealing the past life of Simon Petrikov. This portion of the episode is absolutely brilliant. It’s one of my top five favorite moments in the entire show, period, and I often forget how chillingly solemn and ominous it really is. There are so many nice little details, between the progression of time throughout each video journal to the brief existence of pre-Mushroom War propaganda. There’s a plane that flies by, which can honestly be taken as a sign of impending warfare (a later scene leads me to lean more towards this theory) and even the existence of a (presumably) Catholic Church. It really shows humanity and early society in the most explicit, uncut way that adds a bit of subtle lore to the existence of the post-apocalyptic world and how some aspects were generally lost in translation. I love all the subtle changes as Simon slowly becomes the Ice King; one aspect I really enjoy is how Simon’s first appearance in the video seems generally unaltered, yet his eyes are actually white and rounded much like the IK’s, rather than dotted and black like most human beings are shown to possess. It’s a nice bit that shows you just how doomed Simon was from the start, and how even before he lost his sanity, the crown had already claimed its victim. The exploration is fascinating; Simon’s transformation is often compared to Alzheimer’s, and while that correlation is quite accurate, it almost feels like a drug addiction in these video entries. Despite the way it’s destroying his life and pushing away the one he loves most, Simon continues to put on the crown, simply because of his failure to resist the feeling of power and strength it gives him. It’s some really tough stuff to get through, and the connection between his fiancee Betty and the Ice King’s desire to capture princesses is absolutely heartbreaking.

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Somvilay added this banner in to keep the viewer’s attention. A strange bit of meta-humor that AT typically strays away from.

The monologue was provided by Patrick McHale, who came up with the idea of Ice King’s tragic backstory. It really feels like a one-man play, but Pendleton Ward himself has compared it to the likes of a radio drama. The speech really shows what a fantastic voice actor Tom Kenny is; he’s so well-known for his portrayals of zany cartoon characters, but the dude can really pull off a legitimately serious and poignant role, and I think that’s a part of his abilities as an actor that’s sadly overlooked. The straight-forward fashion in which he reads these lines, without even slightly sounding phony or forced, is really impressive. It’s a very strong and powerful read through that really adds to this sequence being one of my favorite moments in the entire series. The monotone dialogue is surprisingly what keeps you so drawn to the screen.

However, with all that said, I honestly think the rest of the episode is just okay. The entirety of the episode is padded with quirky video diaries of the Ice King, and truthfully, they don’t do it for me. Like, at all. There’s a few funny lines readings, such as “good morning, you’re watching the evening news,” and IK’s hilarious rendition of Marceline’s Fry Song, (FORESHADOWING) but none of the other tapes do it for me in the slightest. I get it, the episode needed to be stretched out for the purpose of building up to the massive drama bomb, but I wish those tapes and time used at least incorporated more humor and entertainment. The tapes are purposefully boring, but end up slowing down the entire episode to the point where it feels like it takes an eternity to get to the actual meat. There’s an extended scene of BMO fastforwarding one of Ice King’s tapes, and it goes on for like, a solid minute. It’s another one of those episodes that showcases Somvilay’s odd approaches at anti-humor that just simply makes the experience a relatively dull one.

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The original pitch for this episode called for Finn and Jake to watch old Christmas specials, but Pen thought that the idea was awful in hindsight because it destroyed the fabric of the universe that the crew worked so hard at creating. While I can’t say that idea would’ve been better, I do think that the first 18 minutes of this two-parter should’ve been padded with something a little easier to chew on. I feel like it’s incredibly hard for me to think of anything noteworthy about Holly Jolly Secrets that isn’t the big reveal. The characterization of Finn and Jake isn’t that strong; they’re just sort of there to blankly observe until the ending. Even the Ice King isn’t that funny throughout this episode, and coming off the heals of great episodes like Still and Hitman, that’s no excuse.

After the video sequence does end, we do get some legitimately good moments as well. I love the IK’s delusional belief that the most significant thing about the tapes is the fact that he used to wear glasses. It’s a tonally appropriate moment to cap-off one of the heaviest scenes yet with a completely tasteful joke. Finn and Jake’s empathy for the IK is really great, too. It’s a nice moment for Finn to simply just give the Ice King back his tapes; I know people are always a bit annoyed that F&J don’t do more to help out Ice King, but really, what can they do? It’s completely out of their control and knowledge to be able to fix a pretty much unsolvable problem, so even showing him a bit of compassion and sincere appreciation is really sweet. Even though Ice King’s attempts at humor were considerably weak in these episodes, his characterization does come in strong when you realize that he actually hasn’t done anything wrong throughout. All he wanted to do was hang out with Finn and Jake, and when he completely forgets the fact that the two boys even watched his tapes, he rewards them with unusual gifts. It’s such a delightful view of his character that only makes the videos more effective and tragic. The second part ends on a perfect note, as all of the major and minor characters, including a booger and excluding Marceline (FORESHADOWING) sit together by a fire and essentially celebrate Ooo’s first Christmas.

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So yeah, I’m a bit half-and-half on this one. There’s some moments that are absolutely incredibly, yet others that are bafflingly mediocre. It’s safe to say that Simon’s backstory is more than enough to justify Holly Jolly Secrets’ existence, and that it still stands as a very crucial two-parter in the general expansion of the series. The Ice King only gets increasingly more interesting from this point on, and any story arc that was adapted from his backstory can be drawn back directly from this first episode. Holly Jolly Secrets isn’t a two-parter I happen to revisit as a whole a lot, but you can rest assured that I’ll continue coming back to Simon Petrikov’s story for years to come. It’s an emotionally scarring holiday special for the whole family!

Favorite line: “My alarm says it’s time for Finn’s bath. Finn, get naked.”

 

“Thank You” Review

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Original Airdate: November 23, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich

Taking a tertiary character, or even a character we haven’t even met before, and putting them at center stage has become a staple of AT over time. It’s a risky move for any show to divert its attention from the main cast, but Adventure Time typically almost always pulls this off with great success. This episode, written and solo-boarded by Tom Herpich, is another introduction this season (the other being Fionna and Cake) to an experiment that would later open doors for new opportunities within the world of the series. And while this episode goes in a completely predictable direction that anyone could see a mile away, it’s one I think is really remarkable. It pushes Finn and Jake to the side for two characters who can’t even speak, and it takes advantage of that concept to its fullest degree.

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It’s hard to say what works so well about Thank You, but I think most of that can be contributed to its atmosphere. It’s quiet, solemn, and whimsical. I think there’s a good handful of moments that aren’t exactly funny, but extremely charming. The everyday life of the Snow Golem, from his bird alarm clock to his bowl of acorns and pears, is just very delightful to watch. The Snow Golem himself isn’t really a strong personality, but he’s kind of supposed to be an eccentric everyman. He’s introverted and cautious, but nevertheless friendly and likable. His connection with the fire pup is also really endearing: it hits all the right notes, from the initial distrust to how the Snow Golem genuinely begins to care about the poor pupper. I love all the little moments with them spending time together, including the golem’s finger puppet show and the fire pup quite aggressively sucking on the udder of a cow.

There’s some great bits of voice acting between Dee Bradley Baker and Pendleton Ward in this one. Not a single line of dialogue is uttered between Snow Golem or Fire Wolf until the very end, and yet they managed to add little sounds of expression to really carry the episode forward. I love all the hectic noises Snow Golem makes whenever he’s being paranoid or distraught, and the cries and barks from the Fire Wolf pup are really adorable. I’ll never understand how Dee Bradley Baker is able to so masterfully imitate animals, but he’s a freakin’ legend when it comes down to it.

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There’s a lot of really nice artwork and colors in this one. Ghostshrimp once again did a standout job with this one, in addition to Santino Lascano and Chris Tsirgiotis lending a hand with their lovely artwork. Really nice design of the Snow Golem’s house, which, in the promo art, is revealed to be a barn that was once owned by members of humankind. To my knowledge, this is the first major appearance of the Fire Kingdom, and while it’s a bit different in design, it still looks great. Although it feels a bit odd that the Fire Kingdom and Ice Kingdom are so close together; not sure if that’s a bit of discontinuity or just something that was overlooked for the purpose of plot, but it’s only slightly distracting and doesn’t affect the overall scope of the episode. In addition to the background art, there’s some really nice sunsets, textures between snow and fire, and overall animation quality. You can tell Herpich, the other storyboarded artists, and animators really put their damnedest into this one. Even something as simply as a three second clip of the Snow Golem walking has an extended walking cycle (courtesy of Adam Muto) that just looks terrific and really makes me appreciate that extra effort.

Once more, I just really love the quiet and poignant feel to this one. I love all the little moments of the Snow Golem trying to figure out what to do with the fire pup; it really feels like a simple but crucial situation that I think is treated in the most careful way possible. The ending, as I mentioned, is really predictable, but sweet. I especially just love the last few minutes, including the Snow Golem’s willingness to put himself into grave danger for the sake of a wolf he met only a day ago, and the humble reunion they share in the end. It’s a very endearing way to cap off the episode, and one that I can’t help but smile at on every view.

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The one thing that feels a bit shoehorned in this episode is the presence of Finn, Jake, and Ice King. Their brief in-the-background subplot is fine, but I feel like you could’ve taken them out of the episode entirely and you wouldn’t miss much. I like the moment at the end with Finn putting aside his differences with the IK, but besides that, it just feels like Finn and Jake are there to explain what we already know. Yeah, yeah, fire wolves and snow golems hate each other but they’re able to get along. We know this, we don’t need any extra exposition. It’s just a minor detail I would change or just completely withdraw for more time between the two leads. The only interesting bit is Jake wearing the Ice King’s crown completely unaffected, which can only likely be rooted to the fact that the crown already has a host. We see this in a couple other episodes later on, but this was the first time the concept was introduced.

As is, this is a great one. It really feels like something out of a Pixar short or something along those lines, and just feels so especially unique and beautiful. It’s no wonder this one was nearly nominated for an Oscar! I love the atmosphere, the artwork, the connection between the two main characters, and just the overall message. It’s a thing of beauty that opened a lot of new opportunities for AT to tackle the lives of other secondary characters, as well as the practice of writers being able to solo-board, and one that I’d consider up there with some of the greatest. Definitely one that the Adventure Time crew is really proud of, for all the right reasons.

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Favorite line: “You know, maybe we could all learn a thing or two from those sandwiches.”