Tag Archive | The Lich

“Gold Stars” Review

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Original Airdate: January 29, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

This is Sweet Pig Trunks’ (or, Sweet P. for short) first appearance since his faux-debut in Escape From the Citadel, and the episode doesn’t stray away from from the biggest topic on everyone’s mind: if the Lich still has power within Sweet P.’s psyche. While Gold Stars confirms this theory in a chilling and impactful way, the rest of the episode… meanders. It’s not completely awful, but it suffers from being a bit unoriginal and has bits of lazy writing throughout.

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I think one of the main struggles of the episode is that Sweet P. himself is not an inherently interesting character. His connection to the Lich certainly makes him interesting and makes me care for him, but Sweet P. in general doesn’t really have a ton to his character as an individual. He’s sweet, sensitive, and kind… and that’s practically it. And this is about as harsh as I could possibly be on this blog, but his voice actor, Ethan Maher, gives an entirely stilted performance. Obviously it’s not the kid’s fault, he’s only seven years old! I’m sure he was trying as hard as he possibly could to read the lines given to him in a convincing way. But it really is just a result of pretty much every young child actor that’s ever existed not having enough experience in the field to know what exactly makes a good performance. I’m not blaming or criticizing his voice actor at all, but I do think it also hinders Sweet P. from feeling like he’s more than just a blank slate, because every line that comes from him is monotonous. Where these monotone lines do work, however, is anytime when Sweet P. is allowed to act creepy or threatening, which only really comes into play by the end of the episode.

I liked Finn and Jake taking Sweet P. to school with the squadron of Candy Kingdom military force surrounding them, though it really makes me wonder: why the fuck would they give Sweet P. to Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig in the first place if they were so concerned about his unnatural state of being? I mean, it’s proven in this one that TT and Mr. P are far from being the best parents, so how did they ever think such an idea was a good one? Seems to be a cautionary action that’s too little, too late. I actually like how Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s negligence is portrayed as mostly harmless and doesn’t really make them come off as shitty people. I mean, they’re not very responsible parents, that’s clear, but it kind of comes from their own naivety rather than them being terrible or anything. It does make me wonder, though, do these two even know that their son is the Lich? I truly wonder if anyone told them, and my guess is no. But that makes it somewhat more bothersome, because why would they put this temperamental child in the hands of two senile, old coots? As more pieces come together, I struggle to make sense of this decision.

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Though, Sweet P. isn’t the only character who takes center stage in this one, as King of Ooo returns once more after his debut in Apple Wedding. It’s good to see him again; I enjoy the King of Ooo’s tendencies of being an obvious swindler, yet one that still has charm, much like Martin’s character. And it’s cool to see Toronto finally included in this one after his first appearance was cut out from Apple Wedding. The two are presented as enjoyable assholes throughout the episode’s run, though I’m not the first person to feel like the episode treads similar territory to PinocchioAdventure Time has followed the outline of already-done stories before, such as Puhoy did, though that episode was subversive in nature and took a unique spin on the source material. This one seems to be a bit too much like a rip-off, but it’s not an element that particularly bothered me in any which way because I like the story of Pinocchio a ton, and it’s fun seeing it represented through these characters. I guess it’s more so the fact that it’s entirely predictable where exactly this story is going, which makes it less fun, especially on a first viewing. It always struck me as weird that King of Ooo and Toronto steal from people while they’re hysterically laughing… wouldn’t it make more sense and be less risky to just charge people for Sweet P.’s circus act? I guess that’s part of the joke, but I dunno, I didn’t really go along with it. Sweet P.’s truffle shuffle in general is just kind of… awkward, I guess? It’s something that’s funny to the characters in the show, but not necessarily funny to the audience. Which makes it sort of hard to believe in terms of relatability. I mean, the dance practically puts everyone in a trance, and it’s largely ineffective as a comedy device for any of us watching at home. Granted, I’m sure it would be legitimately funny to see a giant baby-man wiggling his tummy around in real life, but it gets so much focus in the actual episode and never comes off as humorous, even from the first time it’s utilized. I wouldn’t have so much of a problem with it, but it’s an episode that’s relatively devoid of humor otherwise, so I wish there could have been something with a bit more substance carrying the actual laughs.

As I mentioned in my first paragraph, this episode suffers from some pretty lazy writing in certain areas. There’s parts that feel almost entirely like padding, such as when Toronto is trying to trying to convince King of Ooo that Sweet P. has talent. It goes on and on and on, and is yet another instance of Somvilay’s writing style slowing down the pacing of the episode. But I can’t put all the blame on Somvilay, because Seo’s bits feel equally uninspired in their dialogue. The scene where King of Ooo and Toronto openly discuss how they’re deceiving Sweet P. is unbelievably dumb. I mean, seriously, this couldn’t have been carried across in any other way? Toronto’s line of “what does it matter? None of it was good!” somewhat makes up for it, but it still feels lazy in its execution regardless. It’s also somewhat jarring to see King of Ooo go from this manipulative con man into someone who’s legitimately violent and aggressive, and I don’t think it’s handled in a natural way. I guess it makes sense because his identity as a “hero” was in jeopardy, but in that case, should he really be openly stealing from others? Wouldn’t that potentially harm his career as Ooo’s savior? And how does burning down Sweet P.’s house “take care of him”? Wouldn’t that bring more attention to the situation? I have so many questions, purely because this entire scenario just feels completely absurd.

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Regardless, it does lead up to the best moment in the episode: the Lich being summoned. I absolutely love this entire bit; the way that the reflection of KOO’s fire shifts to a green flame in Sweet P.’s eye is a purely awesome transitional moment, and the dialogue that mixes between Mayer’s voice and Ron Perlman’s voice is chilling to the bone.

“Stop. I have learned much from you. Thank you, my teachers. And now for your education. Before there was time, before there was anything, there was nothing. And before there was nothing, there were monsters. Here’s your gold star!”

It’s awesome how difficult it is for the series to make a Lich monologue fail, and it helps that they’re used quite sparingly. The way everything goes silent, dark, and then fades into the Lich’s realm of monsters, sets an extremely off-putting atmosphere that once again builds on Adventure Time‘s lore and is pretty awesome in its own right. It’s cool to once again confirm that the Lich has existed for as long as time itself, and that he is likely the oldest being in the existence of this world. The designs of the monsters are all grotesque, yet aesthetically pleasing, along with a cameo from a little guy who we will be meeting shortly. The only thing more disturbing than the actual speech is Sweet P.’s remark that it was “just a dream,” mirroring his line earlier. The Lich is horrifying enough as it is, but connecting him to the life and being of this innocent child makes things even more terrifying. Really leaves a bad feeling in my gut every time I see it.

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However, it still leaves for a relatively happy ending, as Sweet P. is truly a kind kid by nature. Even after being bullied by others, he chooses to laugh along and not let others bother him, rather than channel into his own self-conscious fears and darker tendencies. It’s a bit telling for what kind of a character he is, and plays into his development later on.

As is, this one is mainly mediocre, with some bits I think are really just plain bad. The Lich’s speech at the end surely justifies Gold Stars‘ existence, but the rest of the episode is coated with poorly written dialogue, a predictable story, and a pretty sub-par main character at the helm. It really doesn’t help that it’d be a whopping 82 episodes before we would even get a follow-up of this story, which decreased my investment in this actual arc as time went on. Granted, this is not a fault of the episode, but Gold Stars has many other issues worth noting, with one gem moment that at least helps it stand out.

Favorite line: “Did your grandma knit your clothes?” “Yeah, and she’s my mom!”

“Escape from the Citadel” Review

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Original Airdate: April 21, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Of all the trials and tribulations that Finn has experienced over the years, none compare to the sadness and disappointment that came along with meeting his human father. Though Finn had his bouts of skepticism and confliction in regards to meeting his father, nothing could have prepared him for just how shitty Martin Mertens really is.

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First off, let me just say that the presentation of this episode alone is incredible. The Citadel is likely one of the coolest locations in the entire series, with its heavily pink and purple color scheme, its lovely designs (of both the guardians and the monsters are are incarcerated), and just the overall background details of how the entire setting literally begins crumbling throughout the entirety of the episode. Man, it’s all so awesome! The attention to detail with how well this episode captures the collapse of a society entirely in the background, while the main focus is centered on the drama between Finn and his father, is executed masterfully.

And let’s get right into the pathetic piece of shit himself: Martin. Martin is the definition of a careless dick character that’s written exceptionally well, mainly because of how unforgiving Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard were when conceiving his dialogue. Martin doesn’t have any sympathetic or charismatic attributes: he’s purely an asshole because he doesn’t put any effort into caring for his son. His one-dimensional nature is refreshing, because I was so worried that, at any point in this episode, he was going to have some sudden moment of compassion or it would have been revealed he was in some form of trance the entire time, but that would have been way too obvious and would have ruined anything they were trying to carry across through this character. The main thing to gather from his character is to show how truly human Finn really is. While Finn has some interesting cosmic developments later on in this season, he was not born as some kind of prophecy or came from a long line of super righteous heroes; Finn grew up like any other human child: being conditioned by his surroundings and the people who cared for him. Finn is kind and caring because his true parents, Joshua and Margaret, raised him to be such a person. The idea of Martin and Finn being complete polar opposites is certainly upsetting, though entirely plausible. Heroism and kindness are not genetic traits, and Finn owes none of his positive characteristics to Martin. The promo for this episode incorporated the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” in the background, and I can’t think of a more fitting way to foreshadow the father-son relationship that develop between Martin and Finn.

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The relationship that the two share is certainly uncomfortable to watch, in all the right ways. It seems like with each passing conversation, Martin’s treatment of Finn only worsens as the episode progresses. Finn is nothing but property to Martin; a means of helping him out of trouble and helping him to “escape the citadel,” though Martin wants nothing to do with him otherwise, and does not want to build an emotional connection with his son by any means. Finn begins to acknowledge this little by little, but is not able to accept it by any means necessary. Though Finn realizes he has loved ones and people to care for him, he is still conflicted because he doesn’t know why he was abandoned and left alone in his own feces as a baby in the first place. He’s at the age where he wants to know about his existence and place in the world, and this is the next step into figuring out who he really is.

Yet, Martin offers no answers, and only puts a further hold on Finn’s developmental process. Martin even begins to warp Finn’s perspective by blaming him for the reason the two of them were separated in the first place. Again, Martin has no time to humor Finn’s emotional turmoil, and wants to rush through the interrogation as fast as possible in order for him to successfully escape. But, without answers, Finn isn’t able to fulfill the closure that he craves so severely. And without that closure, Finn feels as unloved and worthless as ever. The funny part about all this is, while Martin is a character that we’re all supposed to hate and despise, he still has qualities that make him somewhat entertaining. By just how much of an absolute douchebag he is and how hard he tries to avoid his responsibilities (“I’m going to the store!”) he comes off as just ridiculous enough to kind of laugh while shaking your head at his antics.

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On the other side of things, Jake is as caring and compassionate as possible. Despite the clear anxiety and stress he experiences throughout this entire endeavor, he never leaves Finn’s side and assists him every chance he gets. Though with all love also comes tough love, and Jake has no issue calling out Finn for attempting to help Martin after several moments showcasing Martin’s neglectful attitude. Jake goes as far as to call Martin a “loser,” which is an effectively touching move that shows just how much of a disdain Jake has for this guy that he met only minutes ago. In Jake’s eyes, anyone who fails to see how special and awesome a kid like Finn is, especially when it’s his biological father, is not worth Finn’s time and that he shouldn’t even attempt to pursue a relationship with him further. And as much as we feel bad for Finn throughout this episode’s run, we also can’t help but feel so sorry for all that Jake is put through as well. The Lich is on the loose, his surroundings are falling apart, there’s absolutely no clear way to get home, and his brother is experiencing absolute pain in what was supposed to be a rewarding endeavor. The weight of the situation is surely weighing on Jake, who not only has himself and Finn to worry about, but his girlfriend and children back home. And the inevitability of whether they’ll survive through all of the destruction, combined with the drama that is currently affecting them, is enough to send the usually laid back and calm Jake into a full-fledged stress attack.

And then there’s the Lich… oh man, is he at his all-time best in this one. Seriously, his speech to Finn and Jake, as everything goes dark and Ron Perlman reads off those haunting words, is one of my all-time favorite moments in the entire series. Gonna quote this monologue to break it down a bit further:

FALL. You are alone, child. There is only darkness for you, and only death for your people. These Ancients are just the beginning. I will command a great and terrible army, and we will sail to a billion worlds. We will sail until every light has been extinguished. You are strong, child, but I am beyond strength. I am the end. And I have come for you, Finn.

The Lich’s words are antagonistic, but also convincing. The Lich doesn’t know about Finn’s current state with his father, nor does he really even care to know. All that the Lich knows is that Finn is a lifeform, which means that he has no other fate aside from death. While the Lich has tried to destroy Finn’s life, and lives of all beings, several times, Finn has averted such a future through vigilance and his own heroic deeds. Yet, the Lich does not feel intimidated by heroism or the the greater good; he has his instinctive duties to destroy all life, because all that deserves to exist is destruction. The Lich addresses how strong Finn is; Finn managed to thwart the Lich’s plans twice during the course of the series. Yet, the Lich knows that, no matter what Finn does, he cannot be defeated. There is no end to the Lich, and as long as life exists, death exists as well. Everytime he is defeated, he will eventually be revived. Because anything that represents mass destruction also represents the Lich. Yet, through all that, Finn’s strength manages to subdue the Lich once more, in one of the more disturbing and demented moments in this episode. As the fleshy-white substance latches onto the Lich, he begins to grow flesh and blood, in a painful, convulsing experience. Jake’s reaction speaks words, as he briefly opens his eyes and watches the horror in front of him, only to soon close his eyes and avoid such terror all together.

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Though Finn’s duties are not done, as he still wants to reach out to his father in a demand for answers. Finn latches on to the severed stem that separates himself from Martin, in a desperate attempt to keep the connector together (tremendous symbolism, by the way) as Finn’s anger, fear, sadness, and stress take over his body in the form of his grass sword. As the engrossed grass arm tries to hold on as tight as it can, Martin effectively separates himself from Finn, and Finn separates from his right arm. Finn has not only lost his father, but a part of himself as well. The anxiety and intensity with which this past scene is executed, along with its transition into complete and utter silence, is some of the most “edge of your seat” material you’ll ever see in Adventure Time. Coupled with the fact that people had been waiting YEARS for Finn to lose his arm, thanks to heavy foreshadowing (and an upcoming episode that would simultaneously kill the dreams and aspirations of all of those who looked forward to it the most. Heh.) As the unending frustration of Finn’s dilemma increases to a point where you feel like your beating heart cannot stand anymore, the episode takes a moment to stop entirely to let everything sink in, and allow your heart to almost stop to a complete halt as we watch Finn sadly, and lifelessly float to the bottom of the crystallized fluid. In his downward floating, some of the growth goop gets onto Finn’s stubby arm, as a flower begins to grow. This shows two things: 1. That the eternal grass curse is very much still active within Finn’s body. 2. That beauty can exist in even the most tragic situations.

As Jake fishes Finn out, his behavior is incredibly nuanced and considerate. He doesn’t immediately start asking Finn if he’s okay or freak out for putting his own life in danger. Jake simply takes the time to silently check if Finn is alright, prop him up for comfort, and tells him “it’ll be okay, dude.” In just a few simple words, Jake really shows how much he does care for Finn and how much he understands Finn’s pain. Though he can’t relate to the parental neglect, Jake knows how much Finn must be suffering, and while he also understands that Finn isn’t going to be able to immediately feel better with his situation, Jake still wants Finn to know that everything is going to work out in the end. And even if that doesn’t get the water works going, Shelby, still in Jake’s ear, crawls out to lie on Finn’s lap like a puppy dog to comfort him.

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Even through all the heartache we just suffered, we get a bit of a happy ending with the Lich rebooted into the form of a baby. This is a decision I’m… kinda okay with? We get some decent episodes and concepts out of it, but I’ll discuss in further episodes how I feel about Sweet P as a character. I like the idea of birth being the factor that essentially “defeated death,” though I still am uncertain if this was a long term decision I liked for the Lich’s character. Regardless, I do enjoy the ending that reveals that Tree Trunks already wants a divorce after presumably only being with Mr. Pig for a month or so. A hilarious idea that shows how easily she feels stagnant in her relationships, and how the role of being a parent apparently (pun intended) changes everything. Somehow it even works out!

I have a few minor gripes with this episodes, one being the whole babified Lich concept, which again is more revolved around my uncollected thoughts with how this was executed over the course of many seasons, and the other being that some of Finn’s dialogue can be a bit too goofy at times in Herpich’s segments. It’s okay to keep him wacky to keep the heavier scenes lighter, but Finn screaming “UH OH” over and over when his dad basically loses his leg makes him feel dissonant to the entire situation at hand. Though, while that particular instance bothers me a lot, the other moments are brief and few. Otherwise, I think this one is pretty fantastic. It’s a really exciting episode that holds every bit of my investment everytime I watch it, and it’s equivalent to that of an emotional rollercoaster. It’s a terrific start to the season long arc of Finn’s inferiority complex regarding his relationship with his father, and one that leads to many, many interesting opportunities down the line.

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Favorite line: “The Lich is super cute now, and he smells real neat!”

“Wake Up” Review

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Original Airdate: April 21, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Andy Ristaino & Cole Sanchez

After Finn was dramatically left with the information that his human father is still very much alive, I expected the next episode to get into visiting his dad almost immediately. And while it technically does, Wake Up primarily works as setup for the next episode, yet in the best possible way. It’s a funny, enjoyable, and energetic first parter to prepare for the drama and intensity ahead.

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The episode begins with yet another revelation surrounding one of our main characters… that character being Jake, and that his past absences have been attributed to his late night partying at Prismo’s place. The cosmic party is a ton of fun, and it’s a great opportunity to reintroduce us to all the deities that embody this world. Outside of their worldly duties, Glob, Cosmic Owl, Death, and Prismo are just a couple of bros trying to live life as anybody else would. It’s also nice to see the return of Prismo and Jake’s friendship. Prismo is such a sweet character, and I’m glad his lifespan as a character wasn’t limited only to Finn the Human and Jake the Dog.

Also returning for the first time since the season five premiere is the Lich, who is still as haunting and menacing as ever. I truly enjoy the way Prismo analyzes his presence within the timeroom, as he compares the Lich to a “machine without a purpose.” This concept makes the Lich even more one-dimensional, but even more frightening in that regard. The Lich really only exists to kill and destroy all life; he has no motivation and he has no deeper plan of ruling the world. He simply wants everything to die and is unable to function when he cannot do so. Quite unnerving really (aside from the fact that Glob is taking selfies on the Lich, of course. I really don’t know how I feel about the term “selfie” being used in an Adventure Time episode), as we, the audience, patiently awake for the Lich to suddenly strike over the course of this 11 minutes. We all knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when.

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But even more troubling is Finn’s solemn state as he reveals to Jake that his human dad is alive. The interactions that follow are very mature and heartwarming from the brothers’ perspectives. The two think out the possible cons of actually actually meeting Dad the Human, but acknowledge all the pros that come with it as well. Jake clearly identifies that it might be risky for Finn to do so, but it seems as though he also realizes that it’s important for Finn regardless. Doing so could lead to some positive closure for Finn’s abandonment issues, and help him develop out of any lingering insecurities regarding his place in the universe. Finn also responds with a facade, saying that he merely wants to meet his father to see what he would look like as an adult. This visit clearly means a lot to Finn, and though he’s terrified by the thought of meeting someone he literally has no knowledge about, it’s something that he feels as though he needs for the same reasons that Jake presumably wants him to do so.

The scenes that follow return to Prismo’s time room, where the Cosmic Owl is still shown to be as clingy as ever, and Prismo warns the boys of the Citadel’s nature. Love the montage of random monsters who do end up in the Citadel, one of which is a headless beast who sucks the heads off of other lifeforms, another zaps apart a planet in equal quadrants, and one simply stamps a form while emitting gross fluids. Finn naively remarks, “my dad must be the warden there,” showing how automatically he accepts that his father must be a hero or a guardian of some sorts. Jake later admits that the thought of Finn’s dad being a bad dude did cross his mind, though he refrains from mentioning this to Finn, likely to avoid tarnishing Finn’s optimism. Jake wants to do anything to help Finn accomplish his goals, even if it means bringing along the somewhat useless Shelby to get the boys to the Citadel, which may just be my favorite moment from this episode. I just love Shelby so damn much you guys, and I love the ludicrous idea that his apparent girlfriend has been hounding him for a pony. Is his girlfriend also a worm? If so, how would she even take care of a pony? The idea of it is so ridiculous, I love it.

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Though Prismo comes up with the idea of committing a cosmic crime, which sends Finn and Jake out on an epic space quest to rescue an old, sleeping man. The backgrounds throughout the outer realm of the time room are pretty simplistic in their color scheme and surroundings, though I do enjoy how everything in the background is constantly moving. It makes for a pretty swell visual treat, and once the boys actually enter the house on the duck-shaped rock (after the hilarious scene featuring Jake loudly knocking on the old man’s door) we’re treated to some sweet designs of the old man’s night terrors. They appear as a more menacing version of Prismo, though I also like their flattened, shadow-y nature and how they just generally shift across the background. It almost reminds me of something out of Samurai Jack in that regard. And the awesome way in which Finn and Jake actually defeat these beats, with the power of Jake’s supernova equipped flashlight, is terrific cap to the tense atmosphere surrounding the old man’s conscious state.

As Prismo reveals that the old man is actually the human incarnate of himself, it really is a moment that helps us grow even fonder of Prismo than before. Prismo is perhaps the most humble and courtesy character in the entire series, going as far as to sacrifice his own self for someone he doesn’t even know that well. Prismo realizes that being stuck in his time room all day probably doesn’t open up many opportunities for purpose beyond his state as a wishmaster, so it’s pretty cool that he’s actively trying to avoid being identical to the Lich. Prismo doesn’t want to only exist to be a functioning deity, but to go beyond his cosmic duties and to reach out to the people around him. So it only makes sense that he’d want to do something as noble as essentially killing himself for the (assumed) greater good.

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Only his plan backfires, and the Lich seizes the helm by waking Old Man Prismo up. This last minute is nothing but pure intensity, as the Lich threateningly stares down the old man, kills him with one menacing breath, and is taken to the Citadel.Aside from Jake being at his absolute most heartbroken and PISSED, Finn no longer only has to deal with the uncertainty of meeting his father, but also the power of the deadliest being in the entire universe.

Wake Up is a terrific first parter that sets up the next episode quite nicely, but also exists as its own entertaining episode. It’s a fun return to form as Finn and Jake embark on an entirely new adventure filled with laughs, awesome visuals, and an overall dire vibe. First parters in this show often end up being pale in comparison to their successors, like Holly Jolly Secrets – Part 1, Play Date, or Finn the Human, but Wake Up proves successful outside of just being connected to its sister episode, and properly prepares me for the intensity the next episode has to offer.

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Favorite line: “Man, I’ve gotten a lot hairier, but also balder? Tell me how that makes any sense!”

“The Lich” Review

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Original Airdate: October 22, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page

Part of what makes the Lich (character) so great is his lack of frequent on-screen appearances. While most would disagree, as a major complaint of the show has been the lack of Lich appearances over the years, I believe he’s a villain that’s so sinister and captivating that he can really only be used so sparingly as an effectively terrifying presence. The Lich returns the aforementioned character to the spotlight, after 52 episodes of absences (unless you count King Worm or In Your Footsteps), and you can tell this is one that writers Tom Herpich and Skyler Page had a ton of fun with. The entire episode is designed around an alarming and ominous atmosphere that is genuinely uncomfortable to sit through, but one that builds up so perfectly to the eventual reveal of Ooo’s greatest villain.

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The episode starts off with another unusual dream sequence, which is like, the third or fourth time AT has done so, and there’s only about fifteen more to come. Not to say this is a bad thing; AT nearly always outdoes itself with trippy and unusual dream sequences, and this one is no exception. It utilizes unconventional and somewhat startling visuals, including the blink-and-you’ll-miss appearance of the Lich as Billy, which of course works as foreshadowing, and also the bear, sporting a masquerade mask, uttering “dark times are coming.” There’s tons of conclusions you can draw by the beginning dream itself, namely that the Lich had killed Billy prior to this episode and disguised himself in Billy’s skin (I still can’t believe how gruesome that sounds/is) and that the Old Lady was presumably eaten by the bear, as we never see her again following this episode. This is where Finn awakes as we’re treated to a humorous dream story by Jake himself, which further implies his giant foot fetish. I dunno, I kinda wanna know how Jake handles this in his relationship with Lady. Like, she doesn’t actually have feet, does she?? She just has hooves, or stubs, or something. These are the types of thoughts that keep me up at night.

The scene to follow in Billy’s crack is a nice representation of the dynamic between Finn and Billy. Finn’s awkwardness typically only arises around his lady friends, but here we see Finn feeling a bit nervous and uncomfortable around Billy. Obviously his admiration for Billy has caused Finn to feel somewhat inferior around his hero, despite his own display of true heroism back in Season One. Finn still acknowledges Billy as someone he wants emulate and follow in his footsteps, which is why he does not know how to present himself and act like a professional hero. The entire scene in Billy’s crack feels… off to say the least, and that’s an atmosphere that carries throughout the run of the episode. I remember the promo for this episode really hyped up what Finn’s response would be to Billy when he asks him if he’s ready to save all of Ooo from the Lich, and somehow it was so much more impactful and uncomfortable to simply have Finn utter “… yes,” during the actual reveal. This is a moment Finn has been waiting for presumably years of his life, and he has no other way to express his feelings both excitedly and solemnly regarding the circumstances of the actual situation.

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The following montage is just lovely. For an episode that really banks itself on being entirely uneasy and subdued, the montage of stealing the jewels of royalty is really a ton of fun. I love it all, from Finn and Jake pranking Ice King by writing “I suck hamburgers” on his beard (how does one even vandalize someone’s beard?), to the gross juices that fly out from Emerald Princesses’s head after F&J squeeze out her jewel, to a very rare appearance of Embryo Princess with her legitimately sleeping inside what appears to be an embryo. Of course, there’s the even grosser sequence of Finn removing LSP’s jewel from her head, complete with what Pendleton Ward calls “dog food sounds” playing in the background. Yuck. The montage ends with Jake, Finn, and Billy riding off into the night, as Finn takes notes of Billy’s flowing mane and cool exterior. Finn finally feels like he’s on Billy’s level, and removes his hat to allow his own hair to flow smoothly. This is the biggest task Finn has ever taken on, and it’s both exciting and somewhat heartwarming for him to be able to work so closely with someone he admires so dearly.

The scene that follows begins to reveal some very perplexing yet humorously revealed exposition about the Enchiridion from a little man named Book-o. The most notable bit of information from this portion actually didn’t make the episode. There was going to be a first mention of the Crystal Citadel by Book-o, including the introduction of Finn’s father, a hero who protected the Citadel, as seen below in the posted storyboard images. By God, am I glad they removed this scene entirely. First of all, this is way too much information to be glossed over so quickly and hardly elaborated on given the actual plot of the episode itself. Second, there’s no way in hell Finn is that dumb that he didn’t already know he was adopted. I just don’t believe that in the slightest. And besides, didn’t he already know that he was abandoned in the forest as a child? A pretty giant continuity error that would’ve been completely unbelievable. Third, Finn’s dad being a hero who is the guardian of another dimension is such a boring concept. I really like the route they eventually take with Finn’s father being a selfish jackass, and it made for a much more compelling story overall. It’s such a small scene, but it really had potential to screw-up a lot of loose ends as well as future story arcs.

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The rest of the exposition exists in order to introduce Prismo and the time room, something heavily featured in the following episode that exists as a place to allegedly imprison the Lich. I think at this point in time, it’s pretty obvious that there’s something entirely sketchy and unnerving going on with Billy himself. The fact that he somehow acquired the Enchiridion from the bear, and his solemn, grotesque close-up are all key-components to Billy’s demise.

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Annnnnd then we get to the scene inside PB’s castle. I don’t even wanna know what the fuck she was doing to those poor little parasites whose limbs were being snipped off, but it was hilarious. Even more chortle-worthy was the fact that the parasites seem like they couldn’t give a shit the entire time. The one just exclaims, “hey” and continues to smile during the entire procedure. PB really can be one concerning momma sometimes. After that polarizing sequence, Finn bursts through the roof (no idea why he couldn’t just use the door, no time, I guess?) as he desperately tries to grab for PB’s jewel, only to accidentally be sliced by her scissors. It’s a very tense moment for both Finn and PB. After an entire season of Finn building up turmoil towards the princess and making an effort to try to get over her, I think this is really where Finn’s anger and agitation with Bubblegum reaches its pinnacle. This was a driving point that would cause issues in Finn and PB’s relationship for years to come, as they would calmly return to being friends after the episode, yet still have plenty of awkward and angsty interactions to come.

As Finn flees with the Enchiridion and the jewels combine with the ancient book (all except for LSP’s, which is both really funny and also builds lore in regards to her elemental prophecy), Princess Bubblegum blatantly reveals that Billy is merely being impersonated by the Lich, something that I feel like people read way too deeply into for a while. It makes you wonder how PB knew that Billy was the Lich, which people often theorized was a sign of PB’s tyranny, though I always just assumed it was something revealed to her by one of the Gumball Guardians. Whatever the reason, we do get a pretty gruesome reveal as half of Billy’s face is blown off, which unleashes the sinister creature.

The conversation between the Lich and Finn is not one of my favorite interactions between the two, but it’s every bit as chilling, uncomfortable, and dark as usual. The Lich makes some Emperor-type offers to Finn regarding promises of immortality and the secrets of existence, something which I do appreciate that the show has never really tackled head-on. Finn is someone who rarely ever battles with his morality, at least in his younger days, but someone who fights for justice based on everything he’s ever learned about being good. He never falls for the Lich’s negotiating and promises of something bigger than himself, as Finn never gambles with the idea that the Lich isn’t anything other than inherently evil. Of course, his desire for doing good is what causes Finn to unleash an emotional tirade of attempting to destroy the book, which is exactly what the Lich wanted. I’m not positive if the Lich knew destroying the book would open the portal to the time room, but it is the Lich, so I’m assuming he had every intention of playing with Finn’s emotional fragility in order to achieve his goal. This leads to a high-stakes travel sequence as Jake latches onto the Lich legs, with Finn following close behind. It’s a really intense scene that’s filled with anxiety that kept me on the edge of my seat on a first viewing. Even now, as I know what follows, I still appreciate the very hyperactive and intense atmosphere as the episode jumps from very subdued and lowkey to extremely urgent and vehement.

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The episode ends on one of AT’s most mysterious notes, as we’re treated to a more human-looking Finn complete with a nose and eye-whites, and a more dog-like Jake. We’ve entered the Farmworld, and, despite knowing practically nothing about it at the time, I think everyone figured that the normal, relaxed perception of the alternate reality of Ooo was soon in dire consequence of being obstructed. It’s one of the most mind-blowing endings in the entire series, and still one I hold close to me as a moment in the show that just completely caught me off guard. We’ll just have to wait until Season Five to explore Farmworld a bit more in detail.

And that’s the end of season four, folks! As always, thank you to the devoted readers for always coming back for more, and any readers who just joined in on the fun. Per usual, I’ll be covering the Season Four review next Friday, as well as a bonus review of the AT graphic novel Playing with Fire. Following next Friday, you can expect a Finn the Human/Jake the Dog double feature, so be prepared for lots of content in the next few weeks!

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Favorite line: “Guess I done  donked something up yet again.”

 

“In Your Footsteps” Review

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Original Airdate: May 7, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Skyler Page & Tom Herpich

In Your Footsteps follows up with a story arc that had be shelved since the season two finale: the much anticipated return of the Lich. We all knew he would make his triumphant reappearance in the snail host body eventually, and it was really reassuring that we had something big to look forward to. Ultimately though, it’s an episode that feels a bit hollow at its center, and really doesn’t do much for me besides being blatant setup.

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The beginning is demonstrated nicely. Skyler Page really crafted some nice shots during his time on the show that feel very fluid and poppy, example being when Finn first enters the party. It’s really funny and a legitimately cool entrance for our little guy. There’s also a couple of funny, quirky moments at the dance party. I like how when we’re introduced to the bear, Jake just generally assumes that the bear is anthropomorphic, as most animals are in the Land of Ooo. I’m wondering if Jake just guessed that the bear spoke and was ignoring him, or just something about the bear rubbed Jake the wrong way. Either way, nice moment to set up their entire conflict. Also, I love how Finn returns to the picnic table with two cups that say “Starchy” and “Cinnamon Bun” on them. Finn just blatantly took other people’s cups. That’s kind of awesome. I didn’t really like the the early utilization of the Enchirdion, however. I thought it was cool that he used the book to save the bear, but I sort of just wish they left it at that. The fact that Finn goes on his spiel about, “oh yeah, it’s the Enchirdion! The hero’s handbook! It’s a super important book! I got in back in season one, episode five, as a matter of fact!” well, I’m exaggerating, but it was pretty obvious to me at that point that the Enchiridion would have had some significance in the episode, and it just really made it feel like a plot device from this moment on.

As for the main conflict, well, it’s a bit confusing to me. I think it kind of works against the episode that the bear doesn’t talk, honestly, because I’m really sort of perplexed on what his motivations are as a character. Was his plot to dress like Finn and pretend to be Finn so Finn himself would eventually give him the Enchirdion? Or did his plot work out all along and it was to make Finn feel bad for him and eventually give him the book? In that case, why did the bear slap Jake in the face? Why did he eat all of Finn’s Finn cakes? Why was he dressed up pretending to be Finn in the middle of the night? Wouldn’t it have just been easier to quickly swipe the Enchridion while Finn was sleeping? His plan seems all types of convoluted, and I really can’t get behind what his strategy was because we don’t know anything about him. He’s just sort of a blank slate at the Lich snail’s command, and so it’s sort of hard to really even buy into his plan. In addition to that, I’m sure y’all know I’m not really a fan of these types of stories. They covered this type of story briefly in Paper Pete, and this one takes it up to eleven by really stressing the idea that Jake thinks the bear is bad news but Finn just can’t see it with his own eyes. It’s just a really frustrating type of story to watch, and very few shows ever get it right. It doesn’t even really know what genre it wants to be either. It could’ve been a lot more interesting to me if the bear wanting to be Finn was just a completely different story with horror elements incorporated. That sounds pretty dope if you ask me, and the first part seems committed to it, but the second half goes more for the generic sitcom-y sort of root.

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That being said, I actually think the episode did okay with it and still managed to keep the characters likable and in character. There are still some very enjoyable moments in this one. The “tops blooby” expression is one of favorite wacky catchphrases in the entire show, and one I find myself uttering it quite frequently, actually. Jake is still very entertaining to watch, despite being at the butt of the plot’s expense. I really like how his feelings towards the bear go from jealousy to concern, yet he actually does listen to Finn and understands where he’s coming from. Also, I like how his actions towards the bear don’t dumb Jake down in anyway. He records the bear eating Finn’s Finn cakes instead of preventing him, of course, but that just generally seems like something Jake would do. It leads to the obvious root of Finn being pissed off at Jake, but it almost had me siding with Finn in the sense where I was thinking, “yeah, why didn’t you just stop him??” But again, it’s still kind of difficult to get through knowing Finn should have just been mad at the bear to begin with and that we know exactly what route it’s headed in. It is tedious, but as I mentioned, it’s the individual scenes that make it tolerable: the slow iris out with Jake quickly blurting “I knew it!”, Jake referring to PB as Finn’s ex, followed by Finn’s awkward response to it, and everyone stating the obvious that they knew the fucking giant bear with a paper mask wasn’t even Finn. Also, I need an episode with BMO at soccer practice. That scene with him rolling the ball on the ground as Finn and Jake argued fucking killed me, and the general idea that Finn takes him to and from soccer practice is just hilarious. I can imagine their conversation as Finn picks him up, “how was practice today, sport?”

The conflict of the episode ultimately leads to Finn giving the Enchirdion away, which I think is a pretty big stretch, considering they know of its importance. I do like how Finn mentions that they rarely ever use it, only for sitting on when the grass is wet, which explains its long-term absence. What I’m most pissed about isn’t actually the episode’s fault at all, but the fact that Cartoon Network spoiled the freakin’ ending in the preview for the episode. That was a complete low blow on their part, and definitely not the first time they’ve done something so spoilerly in regards to this or any of their other shows. But the twist in general I think is pretty great, and leaves you with a feeling of anticipation and dread as we slowly await for the Lich to return again very, very soon.

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So I think this one is decent. It has a lot working against it, but the individual character moments and gags are really what power it through. It still feels a bit flimsy to me in both direction and motivation especially regarding the bear, so I can’t technically call it a good episode in terms of story, but there’s enough good things in it that I can still find many other reasons to rewatch despite everything going against it.

Favorite line: “She’s not my… we never went steady.”

“Mortal Recoil” Review

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Definitely one of the most chilling title cards in the series.

Original Airdate: May 2, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Cole Sanchez

This episode starts immediately where the last one left off, as we’re treated to a dramatically funny scene featuring Dr. Ice Cream and Nurse Poundcake. “Dramatically funny” is a key adjective in this episode; where Mortal Folly was a mostly intense, fast-paced episode, Mortal Recoil is much slower and blends comedy with horror elements.

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Immediately this one makes up for the mistakes of last episode by making the Ice King beneficial to the plot. His constant interruptions of Finn and Jake earlier bordered on the annoying side, but here his purpose is more to serve the main characters, but not before Finn can get rightfully pissed at him. It’s a bit of a breaking point for Finn to blow up at the IK this way. Finn has treated Ice King as a mild disturbance in the past, but never has he affected Finn or someone he cares about so dearly in such a devastating way. It’s a nice instance of Finn royally chewing him out, and letting off that steam allows for things to gradually improve as the episode continues.

The scenes that follow in PB’s bedroom are straight out of a horror movie, but they’re still played lightly enough to save from complete darkness. It’s sad to see that this is really the first time Finn is truly upfront with his feelings toward Bubblegum, but she’s completely possessed and her true self isn’t conscious at all. The only other time we get to see Finn engage in this emotional release again is in Burning Low, and he does so mostly out of anger and sorrow. Here, he’s doing it to express his genuine care and appreciation for the princess, which again, is sadly squandered by the circumstances of the situation.

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Even sadder is Jake’s little booty dance can’t rescue PB from the Lich’s overwhelming presence. Bubblegum is able to absorb massive amounts of power through the fluids Finn gave her, and becomes an entirely new force. This is, of course, when Finn tries to use the sweater to defeat the demonic presence of the Lich once again, but fails this time. Even though Finn confidently holds that his feelings for PB were what helped him defeat the Lich last time, he realizes that love isn’t always the answer to defeating evil, and there’s no guarantee that something that worked fine once will do its job the same way again. Which is where the Ice King comes in with a tale of his wizard eyes, as Finn finally accepts his help and we see the two team up for the very first time. It’s an appropriate fit to watch Ice King and Finn work together civilly for once, and shows just how much the Ice King has evolved from the first instance we saw him. The IK isn’t an evil villain in the slightest anymore. Rather, he’s someone who just wants the attention of the coolest guys in Ooo.

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It’s here that Princess Bubblegum literally dies, in an even more aggressive way than the last time. In the end, she’s rebuilt to be thirteen, something that we’re going to explore later on, even if it never really got off it’s feet. The episode ends in what almost feels like a cap to the series, but we’re left with one haunting wave from the Lich possessed snail, signaling for more to come. This episode is really just a terrific showcase of how much the Lich’s introduction has forever changed the history of the show. Sure, the status quo and the way things return back to the main formula a good chunk of the time still remain relatively untouched, but it’s with this episode that I realized that literally anything can happen in Adventure Time. Princess Bubblegum can become thirteen, some plot points may be held and resolved and a later point. It was just a crazy burst of intrigue that left me so excited for the rest of the series. I began to really appreciate that element of surprise that came with every AT episode. In the past, any surprises or twists that came with the plot could be easily brushed off as something that was contained to just the singular episode, but Mortal Recoil introduced us to the idea that anything can come back at any point, and the fate of the characters could be altered at any given moment. This is all conducted by the intro of the show’s greatest evil, and one that would continue to affect the existence of Ooo much more down the line.

Welp, that’s season two folks! It’s been a lot of fun covering these episodes the last couple months, and really only increases my interest and love of my all-time favorite show. Thanks to everyone who has been reading (special shoutout to fellow commentators Stuped1811 and LilPotato911!), this isn’t really a project I’m doing for copious amounts of viewers, but it always helps to know that people are reading! The full season two review and a bonus mini-review should be out later this week, but besides that, I’ll see y’all for season three!

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Favorite line: “Uh, bleach, lighter fluid, ammonia, gasoline, I dunno. Lady stuff.”

“Mortal Folly” Review

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Original Airdate: May 2, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Rebecca Sugar & Adam Muto

This is a big one. This is the game-changer for most viewers, as it was for me at the young age of thirteen. The stakes are instantly raised in this episode with the introduction of the Lich as a major villain. We’ve previously seen him in His Hero, but this is the first time we truly get to experience the Lich as a villain. His presence in this episode adds new heightened danger that Finn and Jake aren’t typically used to dealing with, and this time they aren’t just facing a threat to save a single princess or candy person. As Jake acknowledges, they’re fighting for the sake of the entire world.

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Immediately we’re thrown into the action, with brief meditations seen by both Finn and Jake. Most notably, Finn imagines himself as a big, bulky hero (including a pretty sick bionic arm) showing that his view on true heroes is still a bit materialistic. As Finn has learned countless times throughout this particular season, a hero is not defined by shape, size, or glamour, and while he has begun to grasp this concept, he still is drawn to those attributes that legendary heroes such as Billy possess. As His Hero displayed, Finn was able to prove himself as a true hero by choosing his own path over the path of his mentor, and it’s appropriately fitting that Mortal Folly has him following in his mentor’s footsteps once again by facing off against the ultimate evil.

After we’re treated to a nice bit of lore and backstory regarding the Lich and Billy, the snail that appears in the background of every single episode frees our grotesquely designed villain from his prison. This really is terrific use of the snail as a plot device; it’s rewarding to those who have been paying attention long enough to notice the hidden snail, as well as a way of building up apprehension by having it possessed. Every time it appears after this, there’s a certain fear of what’s to come and a constant reminder that it’s still a part of the story. But before we get to that, the Lich’s place in this episode is eerie and unsettling, fitting with his appearance that’s especially grotesque and diverse from most other designs in the series. While working on this episode, Sugar and Muto tried to avoid any typical villain cliches as possible to make the Lich seem menacing and serious, and a big kudos to them for pulling it off so well.

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Of course, the episode isn’t entirely focused on tension and darkness. At the center lies a large heart with the relationship between PB and Finn. Although, it is kind of off when you think about it. I know Finn is considered a legendary hero in Ooo and he does ultimately end up defeating the Lich for the time being, but you’d think with all of the life experience Bubblegum possesses, she wouldn’t send a thirteen-year-old out to preserve the fate of the universe. But of course, these were different times, so I can ignore it. It doesn’t divert from the adorable amount of compassion for each other that the two share, and there’s no way you can convince me that PB doesn’t care about Finn in this situation. The sweater she gives him, whether it was meant to be protective from the Lich’s powers or not, was an ultimate token of her appreciation for Finn, and it’s really sweet that he has no hesitation wearing it at all.

On the other hand, if there’s one thing that constantly brings down this episode, it’s Ice King. Not to say he’s without his funny moments, but his interference with Finn and Jake really diverts from the main focus of the episode. I understand that they had to break the episode up a bit and it was completely necessary to include Ice King in it, but from a viewer’s perspective, it really takes you out of the moment when our two main heroes are on an epic quest to save the world and IK continuously gets in the way of it.

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Thankfully, the last third of the episode is primarily focused on the main issues at hand. I love, love, LOVE the abandoned subway setting. It makes for such a cool and well designed battle arena, and is just oozing with post-apocalyptic eye candy. Love the skeletons, love the colors, love how it’s not even explicitly mentioned as a subway. Things get serious when Billy’s gauntlet is crushed by the Lich without any hesitation at all, which is kinda fucked up when you think about it. That gauntlet was totally sentient! It blinked! The atmosphere immediately grows quiet and blood curdling when Finn’s pendant breaks and we get our first-ever bit of dialogue from the Lich, delivered menacingly, yet attractively by Ron Perlman.

“Aren’t you cold, Finn…? Walk into the well… Finn… Aren’t you cold…?”

It’s important to remember that, save for a few moments, we never really get to see the Lich do much of anything destructive throughout the series. Sure, it’s implied he had a big part in the outcome of the Great Mushroom War, but aside from that, everything that is threatening about the Lich comes entirely through his design and his voice. This makes him one of my favorite animated villains of all-time. We only get to see him every so often, but every time we do, we know this guy has potential to blow up entire worlds if he wants to. We know that he can’t be defeated anytime soon. We know that he could set off countless Mushroom Wars with the snap of a finger. Most importantly, we know that the Lich is the ultimate evil. Not through his actions, not through his adversaries, not through his treacherous backstory or anything like that, but simply because of his demeanor. He has no motivation for wanting to destroy all humanity besides the fact that he can and wants to. And there’s nothing scary than that.

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But of course, the one thing that protects Finn from potential destruction is the sweater PB made him. It’s sweet, because they didn’t pull some twist that the sweater has protective armor or guns shooting out of it or anything like that. It’s just a sweater. And that, coupled with Finn’s feelings of l-l-liking someone a lot, is what is able to save him in the end. Again, it’s easy to draw contrasts to Billy and Finn here. Billy was able to defeat the Lich with his gauntlet, whereas Finn failed to the first time he tried. It’s obvious that Billy’s power comes almost entirely from his brawn and strength, while Finn’s ultimate power comes from his heart. It’s a corny but important lesson that’s been enforced many times this season, and this feels like an ultimate driving point. It Finn’s sweater that defeats the Lich, as he lets out a final laugh that’s evidence enough that we won’t be seeing the last of him. It’s a triumphant moment of victory for Finn and Jake, but the moment doesn’t last for long, courtesy of the IK’s “dropsies.”

So there’s a good chunk of really good moments surrounding the main plot, and a good chunk of mediocre moments in regards to the Ice King’s bits. There’s still more than enough for this to be considered as a good episode. Terrific atmosphere, intense action, some brilliant character moments, and a very nice jaw-drop worthy ending in preparation for part two to boot.

Favorite line: “No, I’m not! I’VE GOT A SWEATER ON!”

“His Hero” Review

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Original Airdate: September 20, 2010

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne, Niki Yang & Adam Muto

Billy is one of the more ambivalent characters in the series. He’s no where near being a major character, but most of the secondary (Magic Man, Martin, Susan Strong) and even some of the tertiary characters (James Baxter, Gunther) have had their backstory revealed, and Billy seems to hold with him a deep amount of baggage throughout his epic journey. The only thing we really learn about him through this episode is that he once defeated the Lich King (first appearance, by the way) and that he completed a bunch of other heroic tasks, only to have lost his heroic nature down the line, and that’s about it. Luckily enough, that’s all we really need to know about him for this delightfully hilarious introduction episode.

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Lou Ferrigno’s distinct voice really does a terrific job of giving life to Billy’s character, and I really like the direction they took his character in for this specific episode. They could’ve made him a flawless, egocentric hero who looked down upon Finn, but instead they made him a hardened has-been who has become cold towards the world around him. Finn’s impressionable and easily influenced youth is a good contrast for this, and it makes sense that’d he try his hardest to be the best hero he can be, even though he makes everyone’s lives worse in doing so.

I haven’t said this a lot for any of the past 24 episode I’ve reviewed, but this episodes is really, really funny. There’s a lot of really great dark humor with just how far Finn and Jake go to accidentally fuck up the citizens of Ooo’s lives. I especially feel bad for that Cobbler, he literally hasn’t done anything wrong but F&J keep putting him through hell. On the other hand though, he’s a spazzy little twerp, so it diverts itself from complete tragedy. Also, this is Finn’s first time taking on the role as doctor Finn! It’s less than a minute, but it’s cool that he’s taking on his mom’s footsteps before he was even interested in his mom’s footsteps.

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Of course, this episode gives us the first big boost of wisdom from the series:

“Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”

It’s certainly not among some of the most philosophical and thought-provoking exchanges in the series, but it’s one of those basic life lessons that only Jake could carry out so eloquently and smoothly. Anything you want to be good at will start out with a bit of sucking, but if you keep pushing forward, that sucking can manifest into talent. While the boys don’t succeed in being able to help others without violence, they do succeed in sticking to their own guns and being able to change Billy’s perspective on helping others once again.

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The Three Wise Men from Finn’s belly button were correct in claiming that Finn is the greatest hero in all of Ooo. Despite his young age and lack of life experience, Finn stays pure and true to what works for him, as well as what works best for other people. Billy, on the other hand, gave up on his ways through social experiences and gave into the world’s many hardships. Billy may be a renowned hero who defeated the Lich and slayed a bear, but Finn’s youthful purity and instinct to fight against anything is evil are exactly what the people of Ooo need.