Original Airdate: July 21, 2017
Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich
Fern’s inception began in Two Swords, and so begins his demise in Three Buckets. The “clone vs. OG” is a story that’s been done a handful of times among popular culture, but Three Buckets manages to stand out in a particularly dark and somber way. This isn’t really even an “evil clone” type of situation to begin with – this is the culmination of Fern’s bent up angst, frustration, and feelings of dejection resulting in his desire to be what he always wanted to be in the first place: Finn.
The beginning of the episode starts out silly enough. Not only because Jake’s vuvuzela, that he’s never, ever been seeing using after over 250 episodes of Adventure Time, is smashed unexpectedly, but because he opts to buy a new vuvuzela at the “vuvuzela store.” In the Land of Ooo, there is apparently an entire store dedicated to selling colorful, plastic horns. Even better is that NEPTR confesses to the crime of breaking the horn, likely only for the chance to get some much needed attention. The poor little guy gets left out of shopping with Jake and BMO, as well as Finn and Fern’s adventure! He just can’t win. Speaking of dudes who can’t win, Fern begins by showing off his new ability of mimicking the real Finn, which is an ability that makes sense to me for the most part. I still feel really unconvinced that Fern would be able to recreate Finn’s bionic arm, however. That doesn’t make a lick of sense, not to mention that Fern’s right arm in the previous episode formed a flesh limb, so it’s inconsistent as well. I guess the episode wouldn’t have really worked without it, so I’m partially fine with it, though still slightly bothered. I do like how the beginning proves that Fern still wouldn’t be a good Finn even if he tried, or at least the “same” Finn. Fern still has literal demons within him that influence his dialogue and behavior – Finn wouldn’t really be one to “slash the flippin’ faces” off of his friends, after all.
In consistency with the past handful of episodes, the backgrounds here are pretty great. Love the vast meadows with miscellaneous objects scattered throughout (including A-Bombs) and the inclusion of the maze-like ziggurat. Got major Zelda vibes from the setting as a whole. Finn and Fern’s trip together ranges from goofy fun times to awkward and tense. The simple game of rock, paper, scissors really shows just how deep Fern is into his own envy and self-pity. I think we’ve all had those days where the tiniest, most insignificant occurrences trigger a history of negative feelings that send us into utter defeat. Only this time, it’s Fern’s entire life. It’s also kind of fun, in a sadistic sense, to see how much Fern truly resents Finn on every level. Finn’s line regarding his brotherhood with Fern is met with a long, blank stare and a lack of response from Fern. Fern has grown so much hatred towards his counterpart that he doesn’t even have the energy or charisma to manipulate him. He just wants to rid his life of Finn as quickly as possible. On a manipulative level, however, I really can’t decide if I like Finn’s line from a writing perspective. It feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to build up the eventual tragedy when Fern does turn on Finn, but on the other hand, I think it makes sense for Finn to make such a proclamation if he was trying to make Fern feel better for any past grievances. Only in this case, it fails.
Fern’s kindness extends to the small favor that he at least provided Finn’s favorite meal for him within the stone prison… or at least, he tried to. That brief thoughtful act aside, Fern’s completely sociopathic side begins to come out (with the nice visual edition of his glowing, cursed eyes) as he only offers to provide Finn with resources once a month and practically leaves him to rot. It’s also fitting that Fern pronounces his favoritism towards NEPTR, considering that they’re both outsiders who don’t really get the respect or attention that they desperately strive for. Finn’s response to such a betrayal prompts a lot of interesting solo-convos with himself, starting with the fact that Finn refers to Fern as “grass Finn” rather than the actual name he christened himself with. This really touches on Finn’s more judgmental side and the fact that he may not have ever viewed Fern as an equal to begin with, or at least he doesn’t any longer. Finn bringing up his sensitivity to abandonment was a hilariously sweet moment; I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I always figured that Fern winking at Finn through the wall opening with the added sound effect was a subtle reference to Martin, showing that Fern followed in the footsteps of arguably their greatest enemy.
Upon dicking around during his imprisonment, Finn discovers a hidden feature on his bionic arm that uncovers hidden abilities of the arm installed by PB. It’s weird to me that the princess didn’t tell him beforehand, but still, I really dig how sweet this moment is. I just love socially awkward PB and her inability to understand the basic knowledge of humor, and the fact that it shows how Finn truly has the upper hand (literally) against his clone. Fern may be able to take on the appearance of Finn, but Finn still has strong support from his friends and family that goes far beyond what Fern has been able to accomplish. The only thing that upsets me about these newly discovered powers is that Finn never utilizes the arm’s abilities again! It’s such a shame, as it appears to have some really neat features just from what we saw. Even a “sad marionette” function! I have no idea when that would ever come in handy, but sure.
I mentioned that this was a particularly somber and dark entry, but it’s interlaced with humorous moments that never feel out-of-place or unwarranted. That being said, I love Finn’s transition into the fight by screaming “YOU DONKED UP,” followed by all of the unintentional responses from PB’s AI. Regardless, the fight itself stays thoroughly tense in its entirety. It’s a battle that isn’t visually appealing by nature, but is competently animated and weighted to feel like a true struggle, unlike the former battle scene in Reboot that was also storyboarded by Steve Wolfhard. The sequence is also coupled with some profound interjections from Finn, such as the clueless, “what ARE you?” when Fern’s demon half takes over, and Finn’s final wish of giving Jake a proper farewell. It’s so lovingly sad that, even in Finn’s potential last moments, he’s still thinking of the person he cares about the most rather than his own immediate safety. Hell, it’s even aggressively sad on it’s own that our main character, who is 16 years of age, is essentially the closest he’s ever been to dying and has no choice but to accept it. Finn’s had many possible life threats throughout the show’s history, but none have felt as real and dangerous as this instance. Once more, Fern is unable to see through Finn’s sadness, because he feels as though his love for Jake is essentially enough. This battle all comes to an end when Finn’s arm enters fatality mode, and slices Fern to bits. It’s already a pretty morbid concept on its own, but the way it’s executed just adds to the blow. Fern’s head slowly twisting further and further into his chest was surprisingly graphic, and really makes this “death” seem even more painfully tragic than it already was.
In typical Adventure Time fashion, extended moments of noise and action are always followed by quiet poignancy. Finn returns home in one of the most heartwrenching exchanges AT has ever churned out. Finn doesn’t even have the words or energy to describe what happened, and how could he? He likely blames the outcome partially on himself and feels as if he could’ve prevented it, but even that might be pushing it. I think Finn is in total shock and can’t even begin to comprehend such a devastating moment. Once more, such a tragic moment is interlaced with just the right amount of humor, as that little devil BMO is ALREADY trying to break Jake’s new vuvuzela and references back to when he also killed his brother in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. Oh, BMO!
Like most season finales, we’re left on a hefty cliffhanger that involves the remaining pieces of Fern’s body being picked up by a mysterious stranger. Who is this mysterious stranger? Well, I guess we’ll just have to find out in season nine!! Three Buckets closes out a busy and hectic season properly with a busy and hectic episode. As things began to calm down following the madness of Elements, they have only flared up once more, leading us into an invigorating and… somewhat questionably satisfying… journey to the ultimate finale.
And that’s the end of season eight! Gonna be frank with you all, my schedule is becoming more and more tight and I’m struggling to meet deadlines as efficiently as I once was. After all, I’ve been doing this gig for nearly three years now, and my life has changed a lot since I started. BUT, regardless, I still intend on carrying through to the very end, I just ask for all of your patience as I try my best to balance everything else in my life along with this side hobby. The season eight review and bonus review should be out sometime next week or into the following week, and if I have the time, I might churn out the first few batches of season nine episodes. It’s gonna be somewhat of a relief when I do end up finishing this project, but man, it’s been one hell of a ride thus far, and I plan on putting everything I’ve got into these last batch of reviews!