Tag Archive | Somvilay Xayaphone

“Bun Bun” Review

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Original Airdate: May 5, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim

The Red Throne Apology Letter – er, I mean, Bun Bun, checks in on Flame Princess, Cinnamon Bun, and Flame King after quite some time, and appropriately focuses on the changes that have occurred since the last time we’ve seen them. The Red Throne is pretty well-known for its notoriously bad reception from the fanbase. Hell, I’d even include it on my own personal bottom ten list (though not entirely for the reasons that everyone else hates it) and I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m not the only one, as it seems that even the staff picked up on this. Bun Bun was written by Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim, of whom also boarded The Red Throne, and man, it really feels like they did everything in their power to make atonement. The best part about this atonement is that it doesn’t feel as if it only exists for the purpose of fanservice, but it’s actually a thoroughly interesting exploration of not only how much Finn has changed over the course of a year, but Cinnamon Bun of all characters! Much like his former self, I think Cinnamon Bun’s developmental arc has been half-baked at best. He started out as a prominent secondary character with little intelligence, left his star role in the Candy Kingdom to become Flame Princess’s knight, and suddenly achieved competency after becoming fully baked within the Kingdom, where his character pretty much fell off from any form of prominence afterwards. While a fitting resolution to his gag personality, I was still somewhat hungry for a story revolving around the newly intellectual CB and how much he’s truly shifted from his original state of being. This episode plays around with this in the best way, by showing how even those around Cinnamon Bun don’t truly know how to support and care for him beyond what they gathered from his personality before.

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As I mentioned, the central theme of this episode is very clearly the changing nature of relationships, as several characters try to adjust or, at the very least, accept these changes around them. Flame Princess moves past the anger and hatred she feels towards her father, as she allows him to go free on his own and to make a new life for himself, Finn shifts through the awkwardness he feels around his ex-girlfriend and finally makes an effort to mend their broken relationship, and Princess Bubblegum struggles to truly empathize with her former assistant as she tries to help him in the only way she knows how: by creating life, per usual. The PB-CB dynamic in this one is perhaps the most interesting and poignant. Both characters have gone through major shifts in the year prior, and that awkward convening they share at the beginning of the episode exemplifies that. Perspectives shift over time, but true inflections based off of past feelings typically reign through, even when time passes. Bubblegum still looks as Cinnamon Bun as her servant who needs constant attention and supervision, and CB didn’t leave on the best terms with his supervisor, as he began a new, comfortable lifestyle since ditching the CK. It’s kind of like the relationship between a child and a super overprotective mother: even when the child has become secure and independent, the mother still craves the opportunity to coddle and care for her child. While PB has a… complex relationship with Cinnamon Bun, she still deeply cares for him, as she does for all of her other citizens, and is also likely stricken with some guilt, considering how she treated CB in the past. Thus, Bun Bun comes along.

Bun Bun is a shockingly endearing character of whom should be really annoying, but is surprisingly quite adorable and hilarious. I’m not sure if it’s because of Ashly Burch’s delightful inflections, or the matter that the character herself is just given great lines, but despite causing constant problems within the story, Bun Bun never once gets on my nerves. I think Somvilay and Seo Kim did a great job of writing her in a way where she’s somewhat annoying to the characters surrounding her, but not to the audience. The charm of Bun Bun’s character comes from that fact that she’s literally just been born and is genuinely ecstatic to exist at all. I love how every small little thing amazes her and she’s learning new things literally by the second. She actually reminds me a lot of Kent, in a way. I also love how much the contrivances of her character are played around with, in the most meta way possible. Finn’s line of, “that’s funny that you don’t know that word, but you know the word ‘opposite,’” sums it up real nicely. I actually think Bun Bun is way less annoying than Cinnamon Bun was in his more incompetent days, and I’m glad that she didn’t appear a ton more after this episode, just because I wouldn’t want subsequent appearances to ruin her initial charm.

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The connection between CB and BB is equally interesting, because I feel as though their relationship once again helps to unravel the subtle insecurities within Cinnamon Bun. It’s neat to see how CB initially somewhat resents and is a bit embarrassed by Bun Bun after enduring her shenanigans, as he likely recognizes this behavior as how he once acted before he matured. Bun Bun’s actions parallel Cinnamon Bun’s to a tee, even in the instance of directly disobeying orders only seconds after they are given (a small homage to Earth & Water) as well as Bun Bun’s sweet flip. Cinnamon Bun is a dignified knight and guardian now, and no longer has time for the goofy antics that he once pursued, or so he thinks. As him and Bun Bun begin to spend more time together once the Flame King is accidentally released, CB does start to recognize Bun Bun’s special nature when watching her interact so civilly with the FK (apologies for the dozens of different acronyms in this post). CB realizes that Bun Bun is a lot like himself; CB too ditched his old methods of living to become apart of a new kingdom and to help lay down the foundation of said kingdom. Despite having part in this, CB denies his previous existence because he associates it with his own shortcomings: he wants to be seen as a serious, competent knight, and not the goofball he once was. What he doesn’t realize at first is that he only became a knight through his zany state of being, and not because he was a intelligent warrior to begin with. It’s only then that he begins to adopt his state of being: he can be silly and quirky while also being a noble person. The true brilliance of Cinnamon Bun was always his direct honesty and sweetness to other people, and had he been lacking these traits from the start, he wouldn’t be who he is today. It’s then that he acknowledges the true brilliance behind Bun Bun, and that who she is does not need to be changed or altered in any which way.

While that alone is enough content to fill an entire episode, Bun Bun ingeniously ties together Flame Princess and Finn’s resolution as a subplot. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way either. While I’m sure Seo and Somvilay could have came up with an 11 minute Finn/FP team-up story, I’m glad that they mostly just focused on giving the two a few quiet scenes in which they could bond over. From their initial introduction, it’s clear that Finn still feels deeply guilty about what happened between the two. Maybe not enough to think about it for days on end, but to the point where he respects Flame Princess’s boundaries (finally) enough to immediately depart a social situation with her after his work was complete. While it definitely shows how awkward he is due to the fact that he doesn’t even try to engage in some form of small talk with FP after delivering Bun Bun, it’s genuinely a huge step for Finn to completely choose to disengage in connecting with FP after years of absolute thirst. It’s cool to see that he is willing to back off entirely, not only for the sake of Flame Princess, but for the sake of himself. The little guy’s been through a lot in the past year, and it’s only suitable that he takes appropriate measures to ensure that he’s caring for himself and his own well-being, and that means perhaps eliminating FP from his life all together. But, FP is generally a lot more chill and less in-her-head than Finn is, and still wants to hangout with him, despite everything that happened. Time heals most wounds, and in her busy schedule, FP has likely allowed for a lot of time to move past her break-up, as well as to forgive Finn for what he’s done. Since Finn is the one who fucked up, it’s a lot more difficult for him because he isn’t really allowed to invite himself back into Flame Princess’s life unless she lets him, to which he’s even surprised is permitted to happen.

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During a lunch that they share together, Finn finally breaks the ice on what’s going through his head this entire time. It seems like it’s really tough for him to confront head on, but he does it with absolute grace in one of his most refined moments of all time.

“It’s just, when we broke up, I said sorry, but I didn’t fully understand exactly what I did wrong. I get it now. I shouldn’t have manipulated you. That was a really, really messed-up thing to do, and I’m truly sorry.”

A simplistic apology, to be certain, but one that is so successful because of its simplicity. Finn doesn’t ramble on or try to justify his behavior in one way or another; he simply acknowledges his faults in the past, empathizes with FP, and apologizes for hurting her in any way. I truly appreciate the brilliant subtleties that went into this apology as well; Finn doesn’t just simply say that he’s sorry, but he outwardly addresses the fact that his first apology was insincere because he just wanted to feel better about himself. It’s a stunningly mature moment that finally resolves any lingering drama between him and Phoebe, and I couldn’t have asked for it any other way. The cool part is that the episode also takes the time to go in a Pajama War route by simply having Flame Princess and Finn catch up with each other and have some fun. It gets the heavy bits out of the way early on to allow for these two likable characters to enjoy each other’s presence, and it’s quite sweet. I always imagined this type of episode to reunite Finn and FP as lovers, but I’m really glad that Bun Bun has them patching things up as friends, and nothing more beyond that. I feel as though for Finn to truly learn his lesson, he would have to be fine with having Flame Princess as a friend or an acquaintance, and that’s exactly what happens here.

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We’re also treated to the triumphant return of Flame King who, as always, is carried by his terrific voicework courtesy of Keith David. Flame King’s bits are likely the weakest bits of the episode, though not bad by any means, and I do like how FK’s plight parallels his daughter’s journey into independence, similar to how BB’s path correlates with Cinnamon Bun’s. While Flame King is left with nothing, he’s still able to gain change by trying something entirely new, with a surprising guest along the way. The scenes between FK and Bun Bun are short, but rather endearing. There’s just something really funny and sweet about a violent jerk like the Flame King enjoying the company of a cute, little kid like Bun Bun. Out of all the connections we’ve had in this episode, I actually really would like to see more of these two working off of each other. I feel like it opens up for a lot of funny possibilities.

Two quick issues I had with this one: like a lot of Somvilay episodes, this one was weighed down by some clunky storyboarding efforts. I get the fact that Finn’s backpack was supposed to be enlarged by the inclusion of his fire suit, but man, it just looks absolutely ridiculous in a way that’s more awkward than funny. There’s a lot of moments like this, especially at the beginning, though it’s more of a nitpick at this point than anything. The other issue I had with this one is more of a personal gripe, but I find it kind of sad that this episode is pretty much the “designated Flame Princess episode” of the season and she really doesn’t get to do much. I wouldn’t really sacrifice any parts of the episode, as I thought they were all pretty important, but it is kind of disappointing that her character feels more like an extension of Finn’s character and an afterthought by this point in time. One of the reasons I really like The Cooler was because it explored a unique relationship that we don’t see much of and helped to add to Flame Princess’s character in new and different ways. By this episode, it feels like the writers don’t really know what to do with her character, to the point where her main personality trait is that she likes to freestyle rap when she’s not ruling her kingdom, which is ultimately a poor decision, in my humble opinion. Though again, this is more an issue I have with the direction of her character, rather than the direction of the episode itself. She has her moments here; I love the initial “security check” of Bun Bun upon entering the Fire Kingdom. Even after making peace with Bubblegum, FP still doesn’t completely trust her.

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Bun Bun is pretty fantastic overall, though. I really love how seamlessly it ties together change among three unlikely characters, and packs it all into one successful 11 minute package. This is essentially the last major role Cinnamon Bun possesses in the remainder of the series, and I think it’s a pretty pitch perfect cap for his character. He perhaps goes through the biggest transition out of any character in the series, and Bun Bun explores this transition in possibly the most meaningful and interesting of ways, to the point where I’m really fond of Cinnamon Bun in his new state of being. As I’ve also mentioned, it’s another terrific example of how Finn is also changing for the better, and making up for his past mistakes as much as he can. I never would have expected an episode where CB and Finn deal with the internal changes within themselves side-by-side, but dammit Adventure Time, I’ll take it!

Favorite line: “I’m 100% evil. What’s evil?”

 

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“Beyond the Grotto” Review

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Original Airdate: April 9, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

Beyond the Grotto is the fifth episode in the guest-animator series, and it’s likely the most unique so far. While the past four episodes in this series have been directed, animated, and written entirely by guest animator themselves, this episode is partially animated by Lindsay and Alex Small-Butera (creators of Baman Piderman) but was written, directed, and storyboarded by the usual AT staff members. This is an idea that I both like and dislike: I like it because my main complaint regarding the guest-animated episodes is that they seem to struggle most with matching the tone of the series. But at the same time, I feel like it kind of tarnishes a bit of the charm of each guest animator bringing wildly different styles and tones to the table. Like, there’s no denying that Water Park Prank is one of AT’s worst entries, but it still at least is so different and unique from every other episode in the series that it at least stands out on its own. And that’s not to say this one doesn’t, but I feel as though I could just as easily associate this episode as a “Somvilay and Seo episode,” rather than a guest-animator episode. Before I get too invested in rambling, I will say that this episode does achieve this blend between staff and guest very well, and actually makes the most sense logically out of any guest-animated episode thus far. While Food Chain had Magic Man there to transition into some of the more frenetic bits of animation, it still felt slightly different because of the animation switch throughout, where this episode only switches its style once Finn and Jake go “beyond the grotto.” This episode also boasts particularly strong and fluid animation, and is probably the most visually stunning among the guest series, aside from the aforementioned Food Chain. Though different from most guest-animated episodes, Beyond the Grotto still struggles from similar issues that a majority of the other episodes suffered from: a slightly lackluster story.

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When it comes down to it, the story of this one is somewhat paper thin. Finn and Jake set out to save the Sea Lard after presumably drowning it, and come across a strange world where they forget themselves and the familiar faces around them. The stories within the world don’t really have any form of connecting story or theme (to my knowledge) and merely exist to show off random interpretations of several characters, including Marceline, BMO, PB, Ice King, Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig. No story in particular has a ton of substance, or is really subject to many funny moments. There’s a couple of unique and interesting moments: I think Marceline’s little song is pretty enjoyable, and I think it’s an especially funny idea that the cute, flower Marceline actually isn’t filled with sadness at all and just enjoys singing songs based on sadness. Though, it’s hard for me to read exactly what this says about Marceline’s character, and the other characters in general. Some inhabitants of the purple world seem to have some allusions to the inner workings of their counterparts, like how Ice King’s consumption of purple products contribute to his own memory loss is an obvious reference to the crown, but then there’s Bush Boots and the BMO Bee, who aren’t really anything beyond surface-level imitations of the characters they are supposed to represent. Thus, the episode feels kind of inconsistent on some level. When rewatching this one, I always feel like I’m going to pick up on something deeper that I didn’t notice at first, but I typically never do. That’s keeping in mind that not every episode has to have some sort of deeper meaning, but when faced with a totally balls-to-the-walls plot, I’d expect something either really funny or profound to go along with it, and this story doesn’t really provide for anything of the sorts. I do enjoy how this is essentially opening up for Finn and Jake to introduce themselves to all of the friends they’ve met over the years; Jake interacting with the Lady butterfly actually has him uttering, “you are crazy, you are sooo crazy,” which is a reference all the way back to the pilot. It’s also interesting to see that, even when forgetting their own identities, Finn and Jake are still invested in helping people out and saving the day. Even without knowing who they are, they’re still driven by kindness and down to lend a helping hand. One other thing worth nothing, BMO’s Bee poem contains these lines:

“Listen for a sound and look, look around. Unless egress is sought, smiles will be not found. Hmm? Hmm? It’s a metaphor.”

I do wonder if that line was used intentionally the reference The Hall of Egress and its ambiguous nature, or Finn’s journey through Egress in general.

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While the story is nothing special in this one, the animation clearly justifies Beyond the Grotto’s existence. The fluidity and zing of the animation is terrific, and I love how it’s constantly moving, even when the characters are still. The wildly static lines remind me a lot of Ed, Edd n Eddy, and help the animation to really pop and standout. Also interesting, the characters are outlined with pencil rather than ink, which is another unique way to set this world apart as its own realm. The attention to color is vivid and beautiful in the way that it is constantly reacting with how the characters are shaded and reflect said lighting, especially when Finn and Jake essentially become mute to color in general. The backgrounds are mostly simplified to show off shapes rather than detail, and once again contributes to how beautiful, earthy colors infect every inch of scenery. Background painter Matt Cummings also guest stars on this one, creating gorgeously painted backgrounds with a keen sense of how he can use splotches of color to illuminate the realm’s surroundings.

The only aspect left to talk about with this one are the non-guest animated portions, which are actually some of my favorite parts of this one joke-wise. I love Shelby’s role as a know-it-all coming back once again after last episode, and him actually being wrong about the Sea Lard’s class which, to be fair, could easily be assumed after watching the lard presumably sink to his death. It’s also lovely to see the Water Nymphs once again who, per usual, are bizarre and mysterious characters. They also apparently make hot dogs from frogs, which is both intriguing and kind of repulsive. The interactions with Ice King towards the end are equally hilarious, as Jake once again shows that he isn’t fully adjusted to the IK’s quirky antics (“beat it, creep!”) and that Ice King’s memory is, as expected, still tragically beyond repair. The ending with the sea lard is also cute, though I don’t really get what the lard is all about, and the episode never really gives us any idea as to what his deal is. He’s kind of like the opposite of Gunther; with Gunther, you’re supposed to have some idea about what going on in his little penguin brain, but with the Lard, we’re not really given anything to work with. I do like how he’s essentially a seventh band member to the Treehouse Fort Fam, though upsetting that this is essentially the last time we even see him. Not because he’s necessarily an interesting character, but because it’s just kind of funny that he takes on the role of Finn and Jake’s “pet rock” throughout the series.

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But yeah, don’t have a ton to add from here. This is essentially an episode that has a 9/10 visual appeal, but a 4/10 story, so it’s kind of middle-ground for myself. I enjoy viewing it from a visual point of view, but there’s very little of substance that actually makes me want to come back to this one. It’s not very interesting, not very funny, and the plot has no real focus beyond just being a series of set pieces that allow for some zany animation. I can certainly appreciate that the episode is built around having moments that allow the animation to truly shine through, but again, visual appeal can only support at least half of the episode. If it went full-on abstract and used music or some other art form to support its visuals, I might be a little more forgiving, but I feel like the intention of the episode is that it still wants to grab my attention, and unfortunately, it just doesn’t do so.

That aside, this still is a gorgeous looking episode and I commend Alex, Lindsay, and Matt for their hard work that truly shines through. You can check out Alex and Lindsay’s site here, subscribe to their Patreon, or visit Matt’s art portfolio here. I’ve become an avid fan of their work since this episode, and I’m looking forward to covering their second AT episode, Ketchup, later on!

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Favorite line: What memories? I’m like a goldfish over here.” “In what way, exactly?” “Hmm? Oh, hey, Jake.”

“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!”

“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.”

“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!”

“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!”

“The Empress Eyes” Review

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Original Airdate: November 17, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

Empress is definitely one of the lesser vamps in my opinion, but considering my opinion of the vampires as it is, that doesn’t at all diminish Empress’s likability or on-screen charisma. And while this episode isn’t as particularly funny or thought-provoking as some of the other Stakes episodes, it still provides for some decent entertainment deriving from its star vamp and the still slightly fucked up relationship between Marceline and Simon.

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First off, I hate the opening joke that involves Ice King screaming about lemons in his sleep. Another thing that bugs me about the humor within Stakes is that it is waaaay too referential; I don’t mind little winks to past moments from the show, but bits like these seem entirely too smug or out of place. I get that this is sort of an Adventure Time movie, so the writers and artists likely wanted to include as much as possible for longtime fans, but from a personal perspective, I’d rather celebrate the series by enjoying what new and creative stories/jokes they can provide for me, rather than merely trying to relive the gags that really aren’t even funny anymore by this point.

Buuuut, that’s about as negative as I can get about the episode. I think the interactions between Empress and Ice King are pretty neat. I like how Empress actually has some sort of long-term connection with Simon that is never actually explained in full detail, or likely will ever be, but is an interesting concept to chew on. I’d assume that the Empress is likely the first vampire that Marceline had ever encountered, and that Simon convened with her either out of his inability to control the power she held over him, or out of pure desperation to somehow save Marcy. I think the latter idea is actually more interesting but it could very well be the former. Regardless, Empress and the IK provide for some truly fun exchanges. I love how sadistic and cruel Empress is to Ice King, and just how much enjoyment she gets from reading his pathetic diary entries. Ice King is also his usual fun self, not acknowledging the obvious threat that Empress is to him and the people around her. Simon has some great one-liners here; I love him mentioning Shelby’s barbecue, as if to imply that Shelby has literally cooked decent sized food for mass amounts of people. I also like his genuine “aw, thanks” response to Empress’s allusion to his state of being. The man really does not understand socializing in the least bit.

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The scene capitalizing on Jake’s paranoia is played pretty straight without many gags (besides the bit with PB’s “outdoor clock”) and I think it’s nice to see that this is a consistent bit of his character throughout the miniseries until he finally overcomes said fear in the next episode. While it’s been mostly presented as humorous throughout the past couple episodes, it’s cool to see that this is something that legitimately stresses Jake out beyond belief. From someone who never likes to show his inner fears or stressors in any given situation, it’s pretty clear that vampires are a legitimate phobia for Jake and something he resents beyond comprehension. Perhaps it relates to a subconscious fear of Jake outliving his children, girlfriend, and his brother? Or maybe vampires are just flippin’ scary. For Jake, it could really be either.

This episode reinforces, once again, that Ice King is still a force to be reckoned with, even if he’s not a straight-up villain anymore. I’m so glad that the series has never, at any point, made Ice King “too soft” or empathetic. He’s certainly straightened out in his behavior and does care for his friends deeply, but as long as the crown is controlling him, he will never not be crazy or primarily selfish. So, him kidnapping Finn for some broad that he just met seems refreshing, though it is weird to me that he was able to do so simply by wrapping Finn in his robe. It doesn’t even look like Finn’s trying to fight it. Granted, Finn may have somehow figured out that Ice King was bringing him to Empress, and wanted to attempt to stake her in the process, which is exactly what he tries to do. While Finn certainly isn’t entirely precise in his efforts, this is at least one of his less incompetent appearances, as he does come close to staking a vampire. Though, granted, you could always consider him easily being captured by Ice King as a measure of his inability to protect himself and others.

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The following scenes between Marcy and Ice King are nice, as again, Ice King is unable to look past his own selfish desires to help his two friends out in a much more dire situation. I’m not a big fan of Marcy’s spoken word, as it’s a bit more awkward and somewhat unmemorable in its dialogue, but it isn’t without its moments. Love the various piles of debris and toxic containers surrounding Marceline; whenever we get mid-Mushroom War flashbacks, it’s always cool to see how unnerving and protective society can be portrayed as. And the method of echoing Marcy’s dialogue is a neat addition to what otherwise would have been just a standard performance from Olivia Olsen.

But once more, Ice King proves his unflattering nature by freezing his two friends to provide for his lady. It is nice, however, to see that Ice King does have restraints. Even with his uncanny nature, he’s notably distraught at the idea of having to kill one of his close friends. Ice King really doesn’t take anything that seriously, and probably sees Marcy and Finn’s conflict with Empress as a game more than anything. When it comes to actually hurting another person that he’s close with, Ice King cannot bring himself to do so, because even though he’s very much conflicted in his motivations, he still has a big heart. It’s thoroughly funny to see his arguments with Empress, and the revealing twist that he wasn’t under Empress’s spell to begin with. The crown likely has more of a possession over him than anything else possibly could, and it’s hilarious to think that Ice King would obey Empress simply because he wants the added attention. I also liked the turmoil between Marceline and Empress. Besides the possible exception of the Vampire King, Marceline likely has more beef with Empress than any other vampire, strictly because the vamp messed with the person she cares about most. So it was nice to see Marcy extra bent out of shape when trying to stake her, as PB helps her to finish the job. The episode comes to a satisfying conclusion as the crew decides to keep staking vampires as a team.

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Few other notes: this one has a real nice purple hue to it in the first few scenes. Stakes really has gotten the lighting and shading down throughout these past few episodes, and The Empress Eyes is no exception. Also like the music throughout this episode, which utilizes a mellow bass guitar in its more laidback and calm sequences. A gripe of mine that is consistent with this one is that Somvilay’s drawings look really wonky most of the time. When Marceline is pulling Finn as she flies, he literally looks as flat as a piece of paper, as he’s constantly distorted by their movement. It also looks awkward as Marceline floats and holds onto Finn, as her palm is just simply placed over his chest area. It doesn’t even look like she has a grip on him at all. I bothers me that PB just kind of shows up at the end as well. I guess it could be gathered that Jake possibly saw Ice King flying away with Finn and informed PB of their disappearance, but I felt it would have been better used as exposition, because otherwise it feels somewhat like a deus ex machina.

As is, The Empress Eyes is decent. Certainly not one of the stronger episodes of the miniseries, but one that is enough fun to carry it through, mostly because of Empress and Ice King. They provide for some delightful interactions with each other, and the other characters featured in general, even if some of it feels like padding at points. It had been a while since Ice King has had a star role at this point, so this was a nice return to his classic self, featuring an enjoyably snarky vamp on the side.

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Favorite line: “C’mon, let’s get you some ice cream.” (Loved Finn being sympathetic for Ice King.)