Tag Archive | Susan Strong

“Whipple the Happy Dragon” Review

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Original Airdate: January 30, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

Whipple the Happy Dragon is easily the weakest of the Islands bunch, but that isn’t really saying much considering that I pretty much enjoy every entry from this miniseries for individual reasons. Whipple suffers a bit from feeling directionless at times and focusing on a pretty uninteresting side character, but it still has a lot of fun along the way, along with its fair share of poignant moments, which is to be expected from Islands.

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This episode has a lot of nice, small moments that aren’t particularly hilarious, but are just so likable that I can’t really resist. Love Jake’s method of turning super small to figure out directions, the shared “woo” between boat members, Jake’s spidey-like stretch powers that help him form a hammock, and so much more. I like how, even when headed into the unknown where possible dangers lie ahead, the miniseries still takes its time by showing Finn, Jake, and Susan take advantage of the nice experience at hand. I honestly don’t think I’d like this miniseries as much if it was completely dramatic and devoid of these little moments, because that’s not what Adventure Time is. AT is a show that’s filled with drama and devastating scenarios, but masked by the cute and colorful characters at the helm. And that’s really what makes this one a nice breath of fresh air.

I similarly enjoy how Finn is willing to put his important trip aside to save the life of a dragon that he’s never met, even though Susan and Jake are technically right that the pirates aren’t really immoral for hunting the sea creature, unless there’s some sort of Ooo/worldwide law forbidding it. Still, I love how the excursion is more important in Finn’s eyes. This is where the gang meets up with Whipple, a somewhat good-natured, but entirely obnoxious dragon. Whipple’s an alright character, albeit not very interesting. I do like how he’s written in such a way where he’s annoying to the main cast, but not to audience. His main flaw comes from the fact that, aside from being “annoying”, he’s not really that funny or interesting and the episode doesn’t really end up doing much with his character. Granted, the humor surrounding Whipple’s character is funny enough to carry his story through. Whipple’s biggest strength is his relatability, at least from my perspective; I think we all have that one friend that isn’t necessarily mean or toxic but just so God damn annoying that you need the opportunity to tune them out before reaching potential insanity. This is exactly what Finn, Susan, and Jake do, until BMO finally reveals himself and tells Whipple to fuck off. Part of what I love about BMO’s character is that he can be as big of an asshole as possible without it ever coming across as unlikable. He essentially embodies a child, and children in general are pretty outspoken, so it often comes off as more naive than anything. I really crack up at his freakout scene, that promptly leads to the destruction of their boat at the hands of Whipple. Though, I do find it odd that Finn and Jake are completely cool with BMO after this goes down. Feel like the little guy should have been reprimanded just a bit.

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Whipple takes a slight detour, as Jake begins to get possessed by hallucinogenic jellyfish that make him envision Joshua and Margaret in distress. I didn’t really think it added a ton to this episode, but upon simultaneous viewings, I feel like it may possess more meaning than I gave it credit. When Susan is possessed, she briefly envisions Frieda, of whom we meet later. Frieda was someone that Susan had the chance to help, but ended up destroying their friendship in the process. I wonder if Jake somehow is under the impression that he could have helped Joshua and Margaret before they died. The circumstances of their death is still unknown, but I wonder if Jake subconsciously feels responsible for whatever way it actually went down. His fear of letting Joshua down could also relate to the responsibilities that were foisted upon him after his father’s death, and Jake desires to make his poppa as proud as possible, even after his passing. But, this is all stuff Jake doesn’t like dealing with, which promptly makes him want to turn back. Jake’s rather defensive towards Finn in this episode, but I think it’s understandable. Finn hasn’t really been honest about his feelings and why this trip is so important to him to begin with, so it’s no wonder that Jake kind of dismisses it as a waste of time. The safety and well-being of himself and his brother likely matters more to Jake than a “cool trip” that Finn can have part in. And, to be honest, I don’t think Jake really gives a fuck if he gets Susan there or not. He’s cool with her, but her own soul-searchy journey isn’t really his responsibility. Finally, after all this pressure, Finn cracks.

Look, I’m really happy in Ooo. I love our mom and dad. But I don’t know squat about humans. If I don’t see this through, part of me will always be stuck to that boom-boom leaf where mom and dad found me. Still alone.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, and one where Finn quite eloquently states his place in the world. He is happy, but there are questions and uncertainty surrounding him. He likely could continue to live a normal life, slaying monsters and kicking back with his bro, but there are unresolved conflicts living inside of him that will never truly go away. This is his one possible chance for a resolution: to learn about himself and his culture, and he doesn’t want to sacrifice that for another day of being a minority. I get how the concern  of Jake and others is that Finn simply wants to find people more like him in place of his friends and family, but this makes it quite obvious that Finn has no intention of doing so. He simply wants to put his wildly inquisitive mind at ease.

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Whipple returns to the scene, as Finn responds to him with the brilliant line of, “sorry we said you were annoying… or, sorry for not telling you that you were annoying earlier?” Kinda brings up a humorously interesting point: is it our job to tell annoying people that they are annoying? Regardless, Whipple does decide to help out the gang, though it only further leads them into the unknown.

Couple other things I dig about Whipple: Susan’s addition to the main cast feels kind of nice. We rarely get to see this chick, so it’s cool to have her bonding and working off of Finn and Jake for an extended period of time. Also, it’s a small moment, but I love how Jake refers to himself as “the bad boy” when introducing himself to Whipple. I guess Jake would be the rebel of his friend group, if there ever was one. Otherwise, Whipple the Happy Dragon is an enjoyable entry. It certainly has the weakest story of its sister episodes, but it’s thoroughly funny and entertaining throughout, and Finn’s introspective moment is easily enough to justify Whipple‘s existence.

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Favorite line: “Whipple, you suck so much.”

“The Invitation” Review

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Original Airdate: January 30, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Polly Guo & Sam Alden

We’re finally at Islands, folks! These next bunch of episodes are big ones, and answer some of the most sought-after AT questions from the past few years. Without a doubt, this was the miniseries I was the most excited for. While I could get behind the hype of Stakes, I’m much more invested in Finn’s character than I am with Marceline at this point in the series (though I still do love Marcy), and couldn’t wait to unravel some of the deeper mysteries surrounding Finn’s character, including where he came from, the status of his people, and how his abandonment came into play. But, I’m getting ahead of myself… my full length overview of the Islands miniseries will be released once we get through all eight episodes. For now, we have the episode that started it all, The Invitation! While I’ve been fairly critical of “setup” episodes in the past, such as Finn the Human and Marceline the Vampire QueenThe Invitation is pretty much the perfect example of a setup episode. Not only is it rifled with an array of various different major and minor characters and terrific interactions between them, but in general, The Invitation feels big. Finn, Susan, Jake, and (possibly) BMO embark on a grand adventure full of huge possibilities, and the episode doesn’t once stray way from showing how crucial and potentially risky this whole expedition really is.

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The beginning of the episode doesn’t hesitate to jump right into things, as we get a bit of a prelude to the story of the miniseries as a whole through the interactions of a girl and her doll. The setting for these first few minutes is a little odd to me… the Beach has never been shown to be an attraction for residents, as I always just assumed the Candy People didn’t have a reason to sit out, tan, and soak around in the water for any reason. It’s still a little weird to me, but I’m alright with it, just because it does seem like a perfect place for Mr. Cupcake to relax and flex his muscles. His sequence at the beginning is quite humorous, and hey, apparently his name is Todd? I always assumed that his first name was “mister.” Does this mean that Old Mr. Creampuff has a real name as well? (Edit: I just noticed that this is a reference to A Glitch is a Glitch, where he is referred to as Todd. What a callback!)

The silliness continues when we cut back to our main boys, who are shopping in preparation for an upcoming funeral. For anyone who hasn’t seen an episode of Adventure Time before, I feel like Jake’s line of “we’re gonna look awesome for this funeral!” sums up perfectly the balance of wackiness and darkness within the world of AT. The scenes in which Finn, Jake, and various other guardians of the Candy Kingdom protect against the emissary from Founder’s Island are high-energy fun. It’s pretty apparent by the presentation that the Founder’s Aircraft is quite powerful, though not entirely from my perspective, because by this point in time, the Gumball Guardians being defeated by anyone and everyone is nothing new. It’s essentially their birthright. This episode also debuts Finn’s new sword, which is unarguably his lamest sword to date. Not even entirely sure where it came from – it looks nearly identical to Rattleballs’, which was seen previously used by Finn in Do No Harm, but I do wonder how it was acquired by Finn himself. Perhaps Rattleballs chose to retire from swordsmanship after the events of Reboot and gave his sword to Finn? Not that it really matters, but it does interest me.

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I mentioned some really great character interactions within this episode, and yeah, it’s chock full of ’em. I love Jake immediately smashing the aircraft right before Finn is able to retrieve answers, as Finn presumably tries so hard to lash out at his best friend in frustration and simply accepts the results of what happened. I feel like this sequence could be used to represent the relationship between the series and its viewers quite accurately. I do enjoy how Finn has let go of some of the guilt he has held against himself so critically in reference to what happened with Susan. He simply apologizes briefly once more, and let’s things go from there. There’s really nothing more he can do to change what has already happened, after all. Similarly, I love how cold-hearted PB is in this episode. She’s not particularly close with Susan, and likely holds her accountable for harming Finn and Jake so brutally. She does a really great job of playing the part of the protective momma bear in this episode, even cuddling BMO as if she were her baby. That was straight-up adorable! I do think Finn’s reasoning for joining Susan is quite appropriate given that he likely doesn’t want the people around him to worry about what’s truly going on inside of his head. He’s old enough at this point and feels as though he doesn’t want people to go out of their way to worry about him, but of course, he isn’t really fooling anyone. Jake is there to support him, like always, but isn’t always assertive in trying to make Finn react emotionally to any given situation. Momma-Bear PB, on the other hand, knows something else is up. Also, there are some really nice storyboard moments within this episode. Love the way Alden made Finn play with and stretch out his bottom lip when scanning over the map of the Islands.

The scenes to follow are shot beautifully, and filled with some great interactive moments. I loved Finn’s heart-to-heart with Fern upon the top of the Tree Fort. I truly did not expect to see Fern again so soon, but I really love that, of all characters, this episode took the time to have Finn bid farewell to him as well. This is especially sweet on Finn’s part; Fern’s self-esteem is likely in a bit of a pit after realizing that he truly isn’t who he believed himself to be as he sits in the shadows of his former self. With Finn’s proposal, Fern finally gets the chance to claim his own identity, and also to get some attention as the designated hero of Ooo. Their bonding is really nice, especially with Fern’s “thanks for trusting me.” I love that sweet grass boy. Not to mention, their completely awkward handshake. Even with all of the nice interactions they do have, it’s totally unsurprising that they’re still awkward around each other. How could they not be? It was real nice to see Charlie again, and it’s also cool to see once more how the pups deal with their own insecurities in relation to their father. Charlie’s not really living the most glamorous life, and probably feels ashamed that Jake is (apparently) seeing her this way. It’s always cool to see the unique, differing perspectives that each pup has toward their dad. And of course, Jake’s goodbye to Lady really melts me. I love Jake’s expression during this scene, it really emphasizes just how much he cares for her. The icing on the cake is what Lady’s response translates to: “Don’t worry too much about me and just go be a good big brother.” D’aww. Even NEPTR gets to give a little goodbye to his creator, without the company of Shelby, who I can only imagine was unconscious from a long night of partying.

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PB’s cold-hearted, motherly nature does go a bit to the extreme when she almost seems angry at Finn for leaving on this journey in general, but again, you can totally sense where her overprotective attitude is coming from. It’s a really well-drawn sequence: I love how, during the lecture, Finn barely makes eye-contact with PB at all. Again, he’s likely trying to put off feeling emotional about the series of events in general, and doesn’t want to make a big deal about anything, despite his true intentions that PB can easily see through. Luckily Fern intervenes before things can get too heavy between them, as Finn says his goodbyes and the four set off on their journey. I do like Marceline being there, though I wish she did interact with Finn a bit more before his departure. Her shutting PB the fuck up was funny, however, and it got a little kick out of me to see her overtly flirting with Susan.

Overall, The Invitation is pretty great, and I’d even call it a potential strong-point of the miniseries. Like I mentioned, this episode is just so great at showing how important this trip really is, how tough some of these goodbyes are, and how much fun the writers can have while covering all of it. It perfectly captures the excitement I was feeling for the miniseries in general, and does not disappoint with hyping up that excitement even further. Marceline the Vampire Queen, the premiere of the Stakes miniseries, felt like it was more focused on executing really over-the-top and forced bits of humor, while The Invitation focuses on just the right amount of humor within its interactions and also reminds us why we should care about this story to begin with. Even in its first entry, The Invitation gives me enough of a reason to care about each individual goodbye that sets these characters further on their journey into the unknown.

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Favorite line: “You got this, Finn Mertens. You’re a buff, little, bionic baby!”

“Reboot” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard 

Preboot alone had already raised several questions and opened new doors for the series in general, so it’s surprising that its sequel episode, Reboot, seeks to answer zero questions and instead manages to be even more ambiguous. Reboot, in many ways, is one big mess. There’s hardly any resemblance of a story, the humor falls flat a majority of the time, and the animation is often underwhelming. Yet, I find myself strangely captivated by this one. Out of every episode in the series, I think I can say with utter certainty that I don’t think I’ve ever been on the edge of my seat more than I was with Reboot. It’s a high-speed, stressful rush that, once started, never really lets up until the very end of the episode when things just… end. It’s likely the most abrupt that an episode of AT has ever closed out, and I think it’s somewhat ingeniously executed. Right when the episode is at the peak of its intensity, things suddenly stop, leaving the viewer (at least, from my personal perspective) wanting even more. AT has always been good at teasing its fanbase for what’s ahead, but with the end in sight, I think everyone was much more optimistic about the unraveling of said mysteries rather than feeling cheated.

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There isn’t a whole lot to analyze or go over for this one, aside from simply emphasizing my points from the intro paragraph. From the moment Susan’s implant goes haywire, the episode transitions into a frenzied, anxiety-ridden sequence, and anxiety-ridden is a pretty decent description to how every character reacts in this episode: Finn must resist the impulse of allowing his grass sword to take over, PB must find a way to save everyone without causing harm to anyone, and Jake is faced with his failure to resist protecting his brother at all costs, even if that means hurting those around him. Of all of these introspective character moments, I think I especially like Finn’s mini-arc. With all of the power literally in the palm of his hand, Finn can so easily allow himself to be saved if he just simply gives into those urges. Though, in his eyes, it doesn’t seem like a viable option. After everything that happened with Finn Sword, I think Finn is afraid to even allow the grass sword any kind of power, in fear of hurting anyone like he previously did. Finn’s fear of hurting others and his inability to properly fight and defend himself in the process progressively becomes a more consistent part of his character as the series continues, and he only continues to struggle with similar circumstances from this point on.

When I appeared on the RE-Cast podcast back in September, I joked that the episode title From Bad to Worse could easily apply to any episode in the series. If I had to pick a more appropriate episode for that title, it would certainly be Reboot. I really love how much the episode plays around with just how strong Susan is, and any attempt to actually stop her only makes things exceedingly more dangerous. I think it’s a little bit contrived that Susan’s chip absorbed the Gumball Guardian’s blast, but even then, I do think it’s fun to watch all of these really strong and not-so-strong characters go against Susan with relatively no chance of succeeding. It becomes a bit repetitive after a while, but I really think it adds to the tension that Susan is absolutely unstoppable, and it really makes you wonder just how exactly she’s going to be stopped.

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AT is a cartoon, so more often than not, pain feels and is executed in a very temporary fashion. For the most part, however, everything presented in Reboot feels kind of gruesome. Rattleballs is smashed to bits, Finn and Susan suffer long-lasting injuries following this episode, and even Jake gets royally fucked up to the point that a ton of fans actually thought he was dead. Like, no kidding. There was a point in time when fans thought that Jake had died 40 episodes before the series finale. While it’s easy to dismiss this theory as ridiculous, it really goes to show how well this episode presents pain and injury. It’s kept mostly light at first with the absurd catchphrase “yubba dubba dubba,” but by the time Jake utters it, it feels more concerning than comedic. Even though Jake is one of our main characters, the stakes within this episode feel so real that you can’t really help but question his well being yourself.

But before he does end up biting the dust, Jake assists his brother in fighting off Susan. The scene in which Finn slides up Jake’s body and transforms into the Jake Suit is legitimately one of my favorite moments in the entire series. The momentum, timing, camera angle, and music are so Goddamn pitch-perfect that it legitimately took my breath away the first time I had seen it, and still does to this day! The fight sequence that follows is less remarkable for its lack in fluidity, but I do somewhat admire it for being a uniquely choreographed battle. The camera pretty much stays in one spot as Jake Suit and Susan perform a number of different wrestling moves on each other, and it’s neat, despite the middling animation. The most tense moment in the episode is easily when Finn’s grass sword does go berserk and begins to crush Susan with all of its might. Again, tying back to what I was saying earlier, we should know that no lasting damages are actually going to happen to Susan, but execution is everything with Reboot and it feels quite stressful and unpreventable. If that wasn’t enough, however, the episode leaves us with one of the biggest “what the fuck” moments in the series, as Finn’s grass sword leaves his body, merges with the Finn Sword, and becomes an entire being in the course of a few seconds. Finn is once again left armless (permanently, this time!) and an entirely separate story arc has now emerged itself into the main story. Once again, in typical Adventure Time fashion, things only continue to get exceptionally crazier and lore heavy down the line.

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So, I really can’t defend Reboot on all levels. Besides its somewhat sloppy pacing and forced jokes, there are some minor to major inconsistencies that this episode presents. I appreciated that they brought back Finn’s immunity to electricity, but what was the point if they have him getting shocked by Susan’s headpiece only a few seconds later? And, in a more pressing issue, Susan’s lab name from Dr. Gross appears to be “Strong,” which is a bit of an unbelievable coincidence. In the episode Susan Strong, Finn simply gave Susan that name because of her physical appearance. Now we’re supposed to believe that it was also her code name all along? Yeaaaah, I don’t buy that at all. It’s right up there with Gunter riding a “G” labeled boat in Orgalorg. However, plot holes and story issues aside, I still have to commend this episode for being as thrilling and entertaining as an Adventure Time episode can be. It’s kind of like how I feel with Star Wars: The Force Awakens… it has its major and minor issues, but it’s such a damn fun ride that I really don’t mind. Reboot is far from a perfect episode, but it’s almost as if it makes up for it by being a perfect experience: a fun, invigorating journey that leaves me wanting more. And I think that’s a pretty fair compromise, especially considering that it is season seven’s grand finale.

So yeah, that’s it for season seven y’all! As always, I want to thank all of you for tuning in and making this such a fun side gig. This year alone, AT Reviewed has racked up almost 45,000 views, which is amazing! You guys rock, and I’m so glad to be sharing this experience with you. Per usual, the review and bonus review will be coming shortly (likely on Sunday or Monday), and I’m excited to announce that I’m back to posting semi-daily reviews and plan on covering at least half of season eight throughout the next month. Stay tuned, y’all! Some of the series’ best entries lie ahead.

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Favorite line: “We need a finger, not a thumb. Finesse, boi!”

“Preboot” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Adam Muto

Before diving into this review, I think it’s important to discuss a little bit of this episode’s history and how it actually plays into the rest of the series. A preview (aka, the first five minutes) of this episode initially aired at San Diego Comic Con back in 2016, and I remember being a bit taken back by what I had seen. After the course of season seven, it really seemed like the show was beginning to slowly wrap up, with many ongoing arcs closing up (PB’s morality, Finn’s aging and resolution with Flame Princess) and many others that are consistently hinted to be wrapping up (Ice King being “cured,” the possibility of another huge war at the hands of Patience St. Pim). The five minutes shown seemed to open up yet another door for exploration when there was already so much on the table that needed closure, and with the additional revelation around the same week that there would be a ninth season of AT, I was really starting to become under the impression that the series was never going to end and that it would eventually lose the luster that made it so special to begin with. I had spoken too soon, apparently, as it was revealed under two months later that Adventure Time had been canceled by Cartoon Network. This was news that was certainly bittersweet for myself, as I was confronted with the idea that my favorite show would be ending, but also that it meant that things would be wrapping up before I had lost interest or investment in the series. As a few more months passed by without any news regarding new episodes, Preboot and Reboot were slated for a November airdate, and Tom Herpich had posted on tumblr in reference to the remaining episodes. He mentioned that, after Preboot and its sister episode, “everything starts rolling into one big snowball that rolls and rolls all the way to the end.” I was struck with curiosity by this statement, but cautiously optimistic. I remember hearing reports back during season six that Escape From the Citadel was stated by the staff to break the status quo entirely when that simply was not true. Though, looking back now, Herpich’s statement really did deliver! I won’t say that everything ties together perfectly, but for the most part, Preboot and Reboot really are a turning point for the series. AT’s relationship with the status quo was the one thing that was holding it back from telling all of the stories that it wanted to tell, and I feel as though the transition into (almost) full serialization is the best possible move and reward for fans at this point in the series. Really feels like a treat for everyone who has been paying attention up to this point. So, without further ado, we have yet another episode that changes Adventure Time as a show forever: Preboot.

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The beginning of this episode is always weird for me. Like, I had always assumed that the Comic Con preview started a minute into the episode or something, but it’s actually the start and jumps immediately into the situation. I usually enjoy when AT throws us into weird situations with no exposition, but it kind of feels like a part of the episode is missing in this case. Was it at PB’s command? Was it a request from the Hyoomans? Definitely could have used some more context clues. I do enjoy their brief excavation, however. Jake genuinely wanting to be cursed is just classic Jake, and Finn thinking that horses used to have poles in their spines before the Mushroom War is classic, dumb Finn.

Things take a very abrupt turn when the assumed to be dead Tiffany pops out of the ground in a narwhal shaped shuttle. Not only did he get a sick new bionic arm, but he’s also going through puberty! Good on him. This is one of Tiffany’s better appearances, though Colin Dean’s voice shift does weigh it down a bit. It’s not like it’s his fault or anything, but it’s really hard for a child voice actor to capture the same charm that they once did before their balls dropped. Of course, it’s different for a character like Finn, who’s actively aging and evolving with each passing episode. This shift reminds me more of Chowder’s shift in Chowder, or Jeff’s shift in Clarence, it feels like some kind of whimsical magic was lost during the change that just can’t be recaptured anymore.

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Aside from Tiffany though, we’re also introduced to Dr. Gross, a character that is pretty cool in her general design (both initially and post-suit removal) and ultimately decent in her motivation. I feel as though her presentation is a little too obvious in this episode, in the sense that it becomes pretty obvious early on that she will be an antagonist towards Finn and Jake. Hell, the episode doesn’t even really try to hide it – Susan is adamantly opposed to Dr. Gross’s behavior and surroundings from the start. As a villain, she’s alright. I think her motivation becomes more clear and somewhat twisted in subsequent appearances, though here, it’s pretty base level stuff. She wants to utilize Finn in order to help to bring himself (and others) into a new golden age of humanity, featuring various different mods and altercations. But after they (very quickly) escape, she kind of just decides that she wants to kill the gang and use them for spare parts instead. I guess it’s supposed to paint her as crazy, but it kind of weakens her character if she’s not given consistency with her motivation. I mean, Finn and Jake were never into the idea of being operated on the begin with, how would their attempt to escape change literally anything? It really seems like her presence in this episode is to merely set up her backstory for future episodes down the line.

Though, her dystopian lair and menagerie are pretty terrific, albeit the song sequence, which is just okay. A lot of the lyrics feel forced and hardly catchy, though I do dig the electro-funk tempo in the background. The animal hybrids are too a lot of fun, with my favorite being the Wolf Lards, who have the “high endurance of a sea lard combined with the bloodthirsty killer instincts of a sea lard.” That was just priceless to me. There are a few other nice editions; I love the scorpmunk that can talk and instead uses dancing to warn others of danger, the return of Clockbear after his debut in Hoots, and the apple with a humanistic face, of which I’m preeeetty sure was based off a child’s drawing for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but I couldn’t find the information when looking for that fact, so hey, you guys can confirm that for me!

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This scene always weirds me out. Finn and Jake are fucking huge compared to Dr. Gross!

I mentioned this episode setting up for Dr. Gross’s eventual subsequent role, and that’s pretty much Preboot in a nutshell. Not only is it set up for the following episode, but also for future episodes involving Finn’s destination to find other humans. It was admittedly funny to see Finn’s shock about the existence of other human beings, only to contradict himself by mentioning just how many humans he’s actually met over the course of the series. Though, I do have to bring up that it’s a bit contrived that Finn doesn’t mention Susan. He declares in the following episode that he didn’t know she was part cyborg, so wouldn’t his assumption be that she truly is human after the events of Beautopia? I get that they had to play around with the mystery elements for the sake of the story, but I feel as though this is info that he should downright know by now.

And as a whole, Preboot essentially is one big mystery element. It plays around with a lot of ideas and concepts that haven’t yet been answered, and also adds even more questions than we had before. In fact, Preboot alone probably contains the most amount of questions in a single Adventure Time episode yet, of which are answered shortly after, thankfully. Though, it’s kind of hard to go back into this one knowing everything that I know now. It’s got some funny jokes, fun action sequences, and sweet locations, but its ultimate goal is to build on exposition and facts about the past and future of the series that mostly tease viewers into wanting to see more. So when I find did get more, I was satisfied, but there isn’t a ton that draws me back into this one aside from those scattered fun moments throughout. The main goal of this episode is to set up a mask of ambiguity to once again pique the interests of AT audiences, but ultimately sacrifices a portion of entertainment in the aftermath. I truthfully ended up enjoying the second part of this episode, Reboot, more for various different reasons. You kids can read all about it here!

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Favorite line: Crisis Another critical life juncture in the ongoing saga that is Tiffany.”

 

“Dark Purple” Review

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Original Airdate: February 19, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Sloane Leong & Adam Muto

Out of all the recurring characters in Adventure Time, I don’t know a single character who disappeared for a longer period of time than Susan Strong did (not counting original one-shots like Me-Mow and Science Cat). The gap of 119 episodes between Beautopia and Dark Purple made it feel as though she was never going to appear again, but this episode returns her to the spotlight. Unfortunately, her first episode in three years is largely unremarkable, and while I don’t know if I would call it awful by any means, I think it kind of comes off as uninteresting on almost every level.

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The beginning scene is the best of the episode, and genuinely enjoyable at that. I loved seeing Finn, Jake, BMO, and Marcy hang out after how long it’s been since we’ve seen this group of characters together. Even though Marcy had a brief moment of screentime in Astral Plane, it’s really rewarding to see her again here, especially when it means she gets to just kick back with her boys. Hell, it even feels like forever since we’ve seen BMO! Seeing him all giddy over Jake’s skateboard tricks made me realize just how much I missed his presence. And Jake’s skateboarding was also pretty gnarly; love how this becomes and actual trait and interest of his character. The way Jake and Finn get excited over the Super Porp delivery into the vending machine just felt like classic Adventure Time, and something only the bros could get into to. It’s somewhat clever to me how Super Porp has been seen in the background of a ton of different episodes, and even in Simon & Marcy, which helps drive forth the point that the soda has been around for 1,000 years. Again, another classic AT move that picks up on details that most wouldn’t even notice. Jake’s explanation for not wanting to explore the Super Porp factory is an obvious segue, but one that feels totally in line with his character, as Jake would likely prefer enjoying the simpler things in life in complete ignorance, rather than ruining those simple things by investigating further.

And that segue takes us right into Beautopia, where we spend the rest of the episode with Susan Strong and her new squadron of sidekicks! Yay, I guess? Look, I’m not one to complain about season six’s method of taking obscure side characters and giving them their own episode; for the most part it works, with episodes like Little Brother, Nemesis, Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe!, and Evergreen, but other times it doesn’t, as seen in Sad Face and Gold Stars. I think the biggest thing that weighs this one down is actually its strongest element, which is that beginning scene. An episode featuring Marcy, Finn, Jake, and BMO exploring an underground factory sounds entirely more interesting than what we actually got. It’s not that I don’t like Susan Strong, but I think all of the interesting bits of her character practically relate back to Finn. Not saying she can’t work on her own, as we see later with the Islands arc, but otherwise, I really enjoy her unique connection to Finn more than anything, while I think she’s just okay on her own. And it doesn’t help that we haven’t seen her in over a hundred episodes… any investment I did have in her character was kind of bogged down by the fact that we literally never see her, and I would have wanted something a bit more interesting to chew on than to watch her try to stop a corrupted soda factory. It really feels like this was mostly just an opportunity to reveal the metal implant on the side of her head, which didn’t even really phase me much at all. Again, I think this was a necessary development down the line that becomes way more interesting once it’s explored, but again, it feels like nothing more than a teaser for what’s ahead, rather than a natural part of the episode. Granted, I think it was obligatory that SOME new development for her character was included in this episode, given how long its been since she has appeared, but it’s still frustrating that every Susan Strong episode so far feels like it’s just blue-balling fans who want to know about her true nature. It isn’t for a whole season later until we begin to get some legitimate answers.

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The story itself is pretty unremarkable as well. I like the environment of the factory, and the purples in this one really pop, but I feel like the conspiracy is something I could care less about. I dunno, maybe it just wasn’t funny or interesting enough, or maybe it’s the fact that this one kind of ripped off Futurama’s slurm episode, but I just find myself utterly bored by the plot. It has its moments throughout, even though they are few and short. Some of the workers are funny, namely the one that keeps muttering “uh-oh!” over and over again, and that porp beast was pretty sick. There’s hints of good animation here and there during the action sequences, even though the action itself is nothing spectacular. I actually get into the smaller moments more than anything; I like how Susan’s one friend, Sally, speaks in sign language as opposed to English. I can’t think of a single other character that comes to mind who does so, so it’s nice to get this bit of diversity in the Land of Ooo. Also, Susan’s English itself seems to have gotten better, even if she still speaks in the third person and through broken sentences. It helps that gap in time to at least feel beneficial to her character, and to allow her to grow up a bit.

The climax is pretty bleh. I like the concept of Super Porp spanning multiple generations, but the way it’s executed with Cheryl is pretty lame. I guess it could have been some kind of cool allusion to slave labor, but it’s once again muddled by the fact that it isn’t given any time to develop. A majority of the episode is Susan traveling through the factory, and about ten seconds are actually dedicated to Cheryl and her plan. The dilemma is barely given any time to develop, and is resolved in the matter of seconds. Also, Susan’s disdain for Super Porp as a brand is kind of odd to me. I mean, does the entire factory really deserve to be destroyed just because it was headed by a corrupt ruler? Couldn’t Super Porp just continue to exist under new management? I just find it weird that Susan continuously points out how bad the soda is when it isn’t having any negative effect on other people. Dunno if this was just a result of her ignorance, or if it was a result of clunky writing.

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But yeah, this one is kind of a snoozefest otherwise. I can’t really think of a single thing that sticks out to me during Susan’s story, and it feels entirely unremarkable in nature. While the timespan between Beautopia and this episode has something to do with Dark Purple’s failure, I don’t think it would fare much better even if it did air earlier. It isn’t very funny, it isn’t very interesting, and Susan Strong isn’t very compelling outside of the reveal that she has some sort of attachment on her head. Even when one of the “obscure character spotlight” episodes do fail, they are at least is somewhat unique or interesting. Sad Face is pretty bland, but I would have never expected an episode to be focused solely on Jake’s tail. Dark Purple just proves to be pretty unremarkable in every way possible, and provides for one of the dullest episodes of the season.

Favorite line: “Alright, well, it’s one month later.” (Because I say that every time a month has passed too, Jake.)

“Beautopia” Review

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Original Airdate: November 8, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Beautopia is Susan Strong’s first appearance since her debut episode, and her last episode for a very long period of time. Some general developments are made, as she obtains a wider (albeit broken) variety of vocabulary and a subtle, yet more intelligent grasp of the world around her. It’s even somewhat of a conclusive piece to her arc, even though nothing is explicitly given away and her character returns much later on to drive her story even further.

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The relationship between Susan Strong in her debut episode was driven by Finn’s growing interest in the existence of humans and his fascination with her as a member of his species. Here, it’s quite different, but even more endearing to me. Finn simply wants to help her out as a friend, despite the fact that she may not even be one of his kind, and caused great danger for the Candy Kingdom previously. Finn is still considerate enough to be by her side and never once question her motivation or beliefs. He’s written terrifically in this episode, and it really shows what an honest and caring guy he is. Even when everything Susan does seem to be completely ludicrous and unethical, with her even going so far as to almost drowning Finn, he still has her back completely, possibly due to his belief that she is still strongly connected to him despite her different appearance. His line towards the end “humans and hyoomans gotta stick together,” strongly indicates that, even though he acknowledges that Susan and her people may be different from him, he still considers them worthy of his utmost respect. It mirrors Jake’s line of “we’re all wild animals, brother,” from Susan Strong, and it’s just delightful to see his strong support of his humanoid friend.

Speaking of Jake, he can be a bit of a jerk in this one, but I feel like it’s necessary and makes sense with the plot. On one hand, he is entirely disrespectful (or as he put, “disruptive and obnoxious”) towards Susan and her people, and even mocks the hyoomans on several occasions. I dunno, isn’t that considered like, racism in the AT universe? C’mon Jake, you’re better than that. On the other hand, his reactions and behavior do seem completely rational, considering the circumstances. In a way, he’s everything that you’d expect Finn to be: distrusting of Susan, completely skeptical about her ridiculous claims, and in fear of death throughout their entire travels. It’s humorous to watch Jake act so completely smug and condescending, and his actions are almost completely understandable. Obviously he isn’t going to trust Susan, because, for one, she almost destroyed the entire Candy Kingdom. In addition to that, she almost drowned his brother, gotten the three of them killed on several different occasions, and has paranoia that seems to be entirely irrational.

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For that reason, it’s really nice to have a blend of both Finn and Jake’s opposing viewpoints in this episode. It’s really refreshing to see the boys on two completely different sides and not have it be intolerable to watch, but instead actually strengthens the episode. It’s a perfect perspective aspect that shows us exactly what we’d want to see from each character.

Susan herself is enjoyable to watch; she’s more used as a plot point than anything. She’s still enjoyable to watch, but not necessarily as amusingly wide-eyed as she was in Susan Strong. That being said, I do like her progression from a character who was completely shut off from the outside world to someone who’s gained a basic understanding of society and the actual dangers within it. It feels like an appropriate growth of her character, and it would’ve been so uninteresting if this episode picked up exactly where the last one left off and just followed Finn teaching Susan new information that she hasn’t learned yet. That’s the fun part about the amount of time it takes for characters to return in AT; time passes within the show somewhat naturally, and progression is happening in real-time, whether we get to see it or not. So characters are allowed to grow and develop without us necessarily getting to see every bit and piece of it. I do really love the brief moment where Finn pulls his hat off and Susan quietly says “you no gills!” It’s a very subtle and downplayed moment, but very crucial in the sense that it’s a moment where Susan comes to a realization about Finn that she hadn’t even known: he isn’t a fish person, he’s a full-fledged human boy, and it wasn’t until this point where she actually began to understand that.

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The design of Beautopia is really, really cool. Michael DeForge worked on a lot of the backgrounds in this episode, and they range from very eerie and dark to something of a post-apocalyptic beauty. I love how Beautopia is actually just some sort of shopping mall as well, as it really adds to the notion of vast worlds and lands just simply being everyday parts of society that we recognize today. In addition, the Lub Glubs are really well-designed too. The way their teeth are practically ingrained in their body in a 2-D fashion is so freakin’ cool to me, and the lack of eyes and gas-like body are both chilling and pretty grotesque as well. The idea that Jake recognizes that one of them reminds him of his mother (and a drawing early on reminded him of his father) is surely more than just his mind going insane and an in depth observation of a part himself that he may subconsciously recognize. It’s a bit of a stretch, as the Lub Glubs don’t exactly resemble what is later revealed to be Jake’s true form, but it’s still an interesting point from Jake’s perspective, and something he probably had a better understanding of than he even consciously knew.

However, those lines are pretty funny on this own, and so is the rest of this episode. Jake plays a major part when it comes to comedy in Beautopia, from his long, panned out attempt at throwing the lantern into the City Heart to his attitude toward everything going on around him throughout the episode, I just really love watching him react to his surroundings in this fashion. His I’m On a Boat song gets a kick out of me every time I watch this episode, it’s so amusing yet so annoying at the same time.

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The last act ends on a perfect note as well, with Finn receiving a private revelation through Susan Strong that we can only assume is positive. It’s a bit more teasing for the audience, but it is entirely satisfactory that one of the characters at least has an idea who Susan Strong is, and Finn’s content, friendly wave to her at the end leaves him feeling closer than ever to Susan, and without any further questions of her identity… for now, that is.

Anyway, I like this one. It’s not one of my favorites of the third season, but it has some really great characterization among the main cast, as well as some further developments in one of AT’s most mysterious story arcs. It’s also one that leaves me feeling completely fuzzy inside, and one that really can’t make Finn any more lovable if it tried. It’s a perfect wrap to Susan’s character for the time being, and left me entirely content until her later reappearance in the sixth season.

Favorite line: “C’mon, Finn, let’s go! I grabbed, like, 100 soft pretzels!”

“Susan Strong” Review

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Original Airdate: March 7, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

Finn “the Human” has been nothing more but a descriptive title for the first handful of episodes. Upon first watching up to this point as a thirteen-year-old, I didn’t quite yet grasp the connections to the apocalypse and lack humans within the world of Ooo. Her Parents alludes to the idea that humans are of a rare species, but still treated the topic as if it was simply brushing it off. Susan Strong, on the other hand, is the first direct mention that Finn is indeed the last known remaining human in Ooo. Finn is certainly the easiest for the audience to connect to, as he is the only major human character, and while we are able to easily relate to him, his lack of understanding of his own culture is what causes him great uncertainty and a difficulty to be able to connect with the world Ooo.

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Of course, Finn has a terrific support system of friends and family, but the idea of never knowing his own heritage or culture surely must be a burden for him. So when Finn comes across a tribe of alleged humans, it’s no doubt that he’s ecstatic to be able to make that connection with his own kind, especially a bystander he appropriately names “Susan Strong.” Susan’s broken dialogue (which the AT staff has deemed “Somvilayism”) can be a bit grating at times, but her introduction as a character is pretty adorable. She’s reacting practically how anyone who is just discovering the world would act, much like a baby, and just enjoying every second of it. Or being afraid, which is a perfectly natural (and sometimes hilarious) reaction too.

Speaking of adorable, every scene building on the friendship between Finn and Susan is just delightful. Both are so extremely excited to be around each other: Susan discovering the Land of Ooo and Finn discovering one of his own kind. It’s really heartwarming to see the two of them being able to feel so high with each other only through a short period of time. And yes, the scenes with Finn teaching Susan about how the world works go by very, very fast, but the strong friendship (no pun intended) between both of them is still perfectly believable. They’re both going through very exciting first experiences, and they luckily get to share those experiences together, which Finn sings about in the song “Susan Strong.”

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The general look of this episode is gorgeous. The colors really help bring out the vibrancy in each character; the shadows underground, the sunset in the woods, and the nighttime skies in the Candy Kingdom all blend with the color palettes of our main characters, causing them look really fluid with their surroundings. In addition, the animation is especially really good in this episode! Rebecca Sugar definitely adds much detail to her drawings while going through the storyboard process, which shows by how smoothly and flowing each character moves, specifically during the song sequence.

Of course, Finn’s fun with his human friends doesn’t last however, as Susan proves that she isn’t educated enough to be welcomed into the Candy Kingdom. On a side note, one thing that doesn’t necessarily add up with continuity is Princess Bubblegum’s general lack of defense against the Hyoomens. I realized this from a comment on the episode I saw recently, and it actually has me scratching my head a bit. Where are the Gumball Guardians, or even the Banana Guards? I have a hard time believing she’s that unprepared to protect her kingdom from possibly being eaten. The only hypotheses I can come up with are: 1. She wants her people to attempt to defend themselves. 2. If the Candy People were actually eaten, PB could always just clone new ones. 3. She didn’t want to hurt Finn’s people. The first one doesn’t hold much water the second one seems a little dark even for Bubs, and the third one still seems a bit phony but that’s the only conclusion I can come up with. It just seems to distance itself with what we’ve learned about the Princess over the years.

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Aside from that minor issue, the reveal that the sewer people weren’t actually human is certainly one of the weightier moments in the first two seasons, and it’s generally heartbreaking that Finn solemnly asks Susan who/what she really is. It’s sad stuff; Finn finally had someone as closely related to him as possible, but remains alone at the end, as he began in the beginning of the episode. But, as Jake profoundly tells him, “we’re all wild animals, brother,” Finn replies “I guess we are… brother.” Perhaps Finn did lose the closest thing to a relative that he has, but on the bright side, he still has a brother, and as Adventure Time has proved time and time again, that just might be enough.

Favorite line: “Grass can’t hurt you!” (Primarily for the irony)