Tag Archive | Tom Herpich

“You Made Me” Review

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Original Airdate: August 27, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Tom Herpich

The Earl of Lemongrab had potential to be the most disposable character after his debut in Too Young. He was an absurdist gag who was used as a humorous plot device, and outside of that, I didn’t really expect to see him again. When I heard he was returning in You Made Me, I was slightly nervous. One-shot comic relief characters typically are never as funny as they were in their first appearance, and to a degree, this episode arguably supports that idea. However, it also takes Lemongrab’s character in a very interesting direction in regards to his connection with PB. We’ve already gotten so many glorious in depth looks at PB’s character this season, and this is just another addition into an already solid collection. Season four really is the season of PB, y’all!

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The episode starts off silly enough with another peak at Peppermint Butler’s dark and twisted psyche, followed by a mildly humorous interaction between the boys and the Banana Guards. I find it interesting the BG’s are practically rebelling against PB in this sequence, it’d be the first of many instances where the Candy People disregard PB’s orders out of their own stupidity. This is when we’re reintroduced to the creepy lurker himself, Lemongrab. The entire meat of this episode is introduced once PB barges in, and that’s the connection between Bubblegum and Lemongrab in a mother-son scenario. Lemongrab was originally pitched to be PB’s uncle in his first appearance, which was scrapped before its development, but kind of shows as PB generally disregards his physical and emotional well being without even slightly holding back. Here, she’s generally more sympathetic and caring towards him, and their first interactions with each other really give us a more impactful concept of how their relationship actually is. PB isn’t some cynical tyrant making his life more difficult for the sake of her own sadistic gain, but a loving and caring mother who simply can’t empathize with or understand one of her children. It reflects her dialogue in Too Young, where she describes Lemongrab as her first experiment that “went wrong.” All of the Candy People were designed to be moderately simple-minded so they were able to enjoy life freely and have little bottling issues, yet Lemongrab was born with an imbalance that made him unable to experience life as the other Candy People. So, as Bonnie shouts out, “I don’t understand you, Lemongrab!” it isn’t out of anger or malice, but simply her failure to understand the Earl as easily and carefully as she is with her other candy citizens. Lemongrab seems to hold this against PB deeply, as his fears and sadness are something he directly blames on his creator and mother. It’s oftentimes troubled children will blame their parents for any psychological issues they’re experiencing, and it’s only emphasized by the fact that, here, PB literally created Lemongrab with her own two hands. So, it only makes sense that Lemongrab would blame the princess for every single thing wrong with him, including his inability to socialize and live life as carefree as the other citizens. I’m sure I’m just babbling about the obvious right now, but it’s all really interesting written out.

This inner conflict within Lemongrab’s psyche carries through the entirety of the episode, and he begins to sink deeper as he believes that he’ll never be able to conform, so he must change the views of others to better fit what he was made to do. This is where the Pup Gang comes in (based on a real group of kids who threw a basketball at Jesse Moynihan’s head, my apologizes, Moyns) a group of enjoyably juvenile children who simply want to earn cash to support their delinquent mothers. The Pup Gang’s strong demeanor and outlandishness simply aren’t fitting of Lemongrab’s perception of how society is supposed to be, so he decides that the only way to change their perspectives is through extreme means of conditioning. It’s a really big switch from what we’ve seen in his first appearance; he was originally a token buttmonkey and an ineffectual pain in the butt, but here, he’s a much bigger threat and even more sympathetic than before. Despite his insane means of punishment, he still is deeply troubled for the sole reason that he was made to think and act this way, even though PB didn’t intend for this to happen.

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In the same way, PB is also sympathetic. Despite her being the creator of Lemongrab and being unable to fulfill his needs the same way she is with her other people, I do enjoy how motherly she is with LG and how she simply tries to level with him instead of butting heads with his mannerisms and preferences. Even though her efforts to try to help him to see the light fail, she does so in such a genuine and passionate way that isn’t talking down to Lemongrab in the slightest, and it’s really nice to see that she does care for him. Even when she knows that other Candy citizens (though, are the Pup Gang actually Candy People? If so, what the hell are they?) are in danger, she still wants to try to help him, because, in her own words, he’s her responsibility. From a mother-son perspective, it really is done fantastically. We get to see both sides of the situation, and it never feels too one-sided. Both characters have their flaws, which are demonstrated individually in a very fascinating way. “Raising” a child can be mentally taxing for both the mother and the child.

Entering Castle Lemongrab is where we do get to view sad symbolism into Lemongrab’s life, including the fact that he owns empty catcher’s mitts, a sign that he does want to relate to “normal” civilians, but has never found someone he’s able to relate to enough, or even accept into his life, that he’s willing to do so with. The turmoil within LG unleashes when PB enters his reconditioning chamber and pleads with him to stop. Lemongrab argues with PB, “You’re the one who made me this way, how can yoooou help??” It’s clear that his fear to change also stems from the fact that he was born with terrible fears and suffering, meaning that allowing PB to help him could result in only more problems and difficulties in his own life. He isn’t willing to risk that, and instead wants PB to feel and think exactly how he does.

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And I guess I can’t write this review without taking a deeper look into why Finn took the blow for Bubblegum at the hands of LG’s sound-sword. I think it can be looked at two ways: 1. Finn is heroic and willing to take a bullet for those around him, and I think that goes without saying. 2. He still loves PB. Not that he’s still in love with PB, but he still deeply cares for her and his feelings for her will never go away completely. Though he’s willing to do the same for others, Finn really would take a bullet for PB without question, as someone he cares about, serves, and respects greatly. I think this interpretation is much more interesting to me, because even after we get an episode like Burning Low that highlights Finn’s changing feelings and moving past his infatuation with Bubblegum, he still thinks very highly of her and would never let something terrible happen to her. It’s a moment I think could really put shippers in a tizzy, but honestly, I think it was just a nice moment showcasing that Finn still deeply cares for Peebles, and I’m glad they never really added any more attention to it.

The ending is the perfect solution to Lemongrab’s issues (for now, that is…) as he meets his new brother: Lemongrab 2. It’s a sweet and funny ending that once again highlights PB’s compassion; I’m sure there may have been a way for Bubblegum to simply change Lemongrab’s mind chemistry to think and act more like the other Candy People, but it’s clear that, despite his erratic behavior, PB does care and respect Lemongrab for the way he is and wants him to be comfortable in his own skin. The Lemongrabs get acquainted by humorously poking each other over and over and bid their new friendly guests farewell, in perfect Lemongrab fashion.

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I don’t think Lemongrab was that funny in particular in this one, but I don’t think he really needed to be. He’s transformed from a one-time gag into a legitimately compelling and interesting character, and I think that’s much more effective. At times, the screaming can get a bit tiring, but I think that’s something to expect from any Lemongrab episode. I actually think the Candy People were pretty funny in this one. I liked the stuff going on with the Banana Guards, Mr. Cupcake brutally breaking his own arm to get out of residing in Castle Lemongrab, and the Pup Gang are a very delightful addition to the tertiary cast. Also, I thought PB’s hair was somewhat of a funny sight gag for some reason. Her hairstyle was based off of a dutch crown, which I’ve seen in person before, but it just kind of looks wonky in most scenes here. A nice unintentional bit of humor for me. As for scenery, Castle Lemongrab is a very intentionally ugly looking landscape. The yellows, greens, and beiges make it a real eyesore, but always feel appropriately fucked up for the kind of place Castle Lemongrab is supposed to be.

Overall, this episode’s real interesting to me. I love the dynamic between Lemongrab and Princess Bubblegum, and how far they’re willing to stretch Lemongrab’s dysfunctionality. I’ve mentioned many times already, including in the beginning of this review, but the development for PB lately is fantastic. She’s gone from one of the weakest main characters to one of the most interesting and a personal fave for myself. Thank you, season four.

Favorite line: “We want the big cash money wad! Enough to provide for our delinquent mothers, so that hopefully they’ll show us the love we always dreamed about in our sad, young lives!”

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“BMO Noire” Review

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Original Airdate: August 6, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page

BMO Noire is the first true BMO-centric episode of the series, and it quite delightfully blends experimental themes of black and white crime films with a hint of BMO development added in. This episode is essentially working off of everything we’ve learned about BMO so far; despite his childlike wonder, BMO wishes only one thing: to have normal “living” emotions like Jake and Finn. And while BMO does experience feelings deep down similar to his close friends, he still is a robot on the outside, which has kickstarted a lot of inner turmoil that has caused him to be almost borderline sociopathic at times. No matter how cute BMO is, there’s not denying that a lot that goes through his head and his everyday actions are generally fucked up. BMO Noire is essentially the best kind of episode to showcase this aspect of his character; it’s a fun and sweet adventure on the surface, but underneath is a layer of BMO’s dark and tortured imagination.

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It’s probably appropriate to start off this review by mentioning that BMO was totally playing with himself at the beginning of this episode. There is just simply no other way around it. The episode wastes no time, however, by immediately setting up the somewhat trivial conflict that is taken completely seriously by our robot friend. The episode pulls off many noir-themed references and homages very humorously as well as effectively. The episode, of course, is completely in black-and-white (something that Pendleton Ward was really psyched about doing), there’s the bit where BMO steps on his controller cord as if it were a cigarette bud, and the dialogue between the characters (or, in this case, the characters BMO has created) is all very 1950’s. A lot of the exchanges between BMO and his imaginary friends, though very amusing, can also be taken completely straight as well. This episode is full of its funny moments, but honestly, I found myself laughing a lot less after watching it this time around. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. I just think anything noir-themed is pretty fucking cool, so I mostly enjoy this one out of admiration for its tone and style rather than believing it’s a straight-up hilarious parody of crime films, and I think that’s how most people feel as well. You can laugh at the fact that BMO is legitimately having a serious discussion about his past relationship with a chicken named Lorraine, but it’s played so dramatically by BMO that it still amazingly kind of works as a somewhat somber tale.

Of course, I also enjoy this one for the aforementioned development of BMO’s character. Throughout the episode, it’s filled with a lot of silly conversations between Ronnie the rat, Lorraine the chicken, Lieutenant Whiskers, and others that exist as talking figures in BMO’s imagination. They start out harmless and playful enough, but BMO’s dream sequence really sheds light to the questionable and histrionic elements of his actions. BMO concocted the entire scheme, meaning he stole from his friend, supposedly “killed” Bebe, put lipstick on F&J’s pet chicken, and knew the entire sequence was all in his imagination.

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It makes me question what exactly BMO’s motivation behind this elaborate plan was; was it to get attention from Finn and Jake and appear as a hero like the two of them do? Was it strictly for the cause of going on his own enjoyable investigation? Or, going off of the last reason, was it to ultimately feel more “human”? The dream sequence also suggests this aspect (boarded by Tom Herpich, who always does a standout job with dreams or hallucinations, but this is definitely an exceptional one) as BMO is briefly seen with a human face, the same human face seen in the title card for this episode. I think it once again stresses the fact at how BMO feels like a living creature and desires to be like any living creature, but simply cannot be one with the body he was given and the function he was, supposedly up to this point, made for. BMO will always be Finn and Jake’s cute, baby robot, but with any child, there are layers of hidden trauma and turmoil that I’m sure BMO himself isn’t completely cognizant about. The only thing he is aware of is that he has a conscious desire, without soundly too cliche, to “be more”. This is hinted during his exchange with NEPTR, leading to one of the funniest and most poignant lines of the episode, “no NEPTR, I am not like you.” It’s works as a laugh-worthy “fuck you” to Adventure Time’s most in-universally ignored character, but also as a glimpse into what BMO believes he truly is, and that’s something more than just a robot.

This heaviness is blended nicely with the fact that, once again, it is all in BMO’s imagination. I like all of his interactions with these characters, and how he’s able to effectively converse with Lorraine or Ronnie without them ever responding back. There’s a really great moment where Lieutenant Whiskers hands BMO a confession from Ronnie, and there’s just no way in the fucking world someone actually handed it to him. It just kinda sticks up out of nowhere, which harms the authenticity that all of this episode is just in BMO’s head, but it’s so hilarious that I don’t even really mind. There’s also moments reminding us that BMO is indeed still a robot, like the controller stomping I had mentioned and the bit where BMO splashes his face in water, only for his circuits to smoke a bit. I’m actually really glad Herpich got to work on this one. Not even for a writing reason, but I just feel like his really chunky and squishy drawings of the characters blend nicely with the black-and-white and old-timey feel of the episode. It was a nice stylized choice. Also, huge kudos to Niki Yang in this one. Ako Castuera refers to this one as a “Niki Yang voice acting extravaganza” in the commentary, and that’s pretty much the best way of putting it. Yang does an excellent job of pulling of different, distinct and silly voices for each of the newly introduced characters. 

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And after all the psychological issues he goes through, BMO is able to have a moment of victory and lightheartedness as Finn and Jake return home from Glob knows where. The staff would oddly elaborate on this subplot later in season five, but we’ll get to that when the time comes. The ending does hint that BMO does want to be more like Finn and Jake and go on adventures like the two of them, so it’s endearing that he’s able to have a brief moment of triumph at the fact that he saved the day, though it was secretly instigated by himself. We do get one final very small, yet effective scene at the end where BMO blushes at the thought at Lorraine, once again showing that he’s much more “human” than we were lead on to believe. Though he’s still a robot at the end of the day, BMO will always have his attributes that make him equivalent to any other lovable, yet troubled little boy.

I dig this one a ton. Like I said, it’s not one that I find particularly hilarious, but it’s filled with great atmosphere and interesting peeks into BMO’s character that I don’t mind at all. It’s silly, yet intense, and a perfect start to BMO’s descent into his own personal issues.

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Favorite line: “I feel like I got hit with a Dracula by King Kong.”

“Princess Cookie” Review

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Original Airdate: June 25, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page

A brief update before I start this guys, this will be the last week for semi-daily reviews. I return to college for my junior year this upcoming weekend, and I just simply won’t be able to commit to this blog full-time for the time being. You can all still expect one or two reviews per week (hopefully), but attempting to do four a week like I have been would just be impossible. This blog is still a big passion project for me and I plan on finishing it till the very end, so I appreciate the patience of anyone who is reading. I still love revisiting these episodes of my very favorite show, so you can guarantee yourself that I’m involved with this project for the long-run! Without further ado, Princess Cookie.

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Crime and danger within the Candy Kingdom has been handled in very silly and comedic ways in the past. Susan Strong is a prime example of PB not giving a shit when it comes to possible threats to her kingdom that she doesn’t necessarily see as threats. However, like we saw in Goliad, PB’s feelings of unease and vulnerability once the Lich was unleashed certainly made her more aware of the possible dangers around her. Which is why in Princess Cookie, the situation is handled with a higher sense of concern and direness, as shown by the extended levels of Candy Kingdom military units. It makes the entire conflict of the episode seem much more intense and concerning than it really is, and alludes quite eerily to an actual hostage situation.

The character of Baby Snaps, and his connection to PB, is quite interesting to me. I think Baby Snaps as a character is sympathetic, though very clearly insane. His interaction with PB as a child is both tragic and somewhat hilarious, and that’s a pretty accurate summary for the character as a whole. I really enjoy how passionately he views his own desires and goals, yet, he always puts them in such a sincere and genuine way that his tone and inflections still come off as rather humorous to me. Tom Herpich and Pen Ward repeatedly mention in the commentary for this episode that they wanted Donald Faison, the voice of Princess Cookie, to play his lines completely seriously without even remotely trying to be goofy, and I think it really works on both a serious and amusing account. We take the character of Baby Snaps seriously, but also are able to laugh and how he personally takes everything so seriously himself. It’s a load of hammy tragicomedy packed into one single cartoon character that I think they pulled off exceedingly well for the type of story they wanted to tell.

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Back to the actual flashback sequence, which highlights the very dangerous element of what could potentially traumatize a child. Again, it’s a bit of a silly example, but it still accurately portrays the very devastating psychological effects one can have on a child from simply not taking them seriously or pandering down to them. Obviously we know PB wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt Baby Snaps’ feelings or even directly laugh in his face, but it still had a giant impact on the poor little cookie man that led him to serious corruption and mental instability. It’s very sad to see that an instance that Bubblegum likely doesn’t even remember happening led to the mental deterioration of one of her own citizens, and changed a relatively normal, loving child for the worse. There’s two other noteworthy things about this scene: 1. For a while, this scene was pretty confusing because it’s one of the first instances we see into Princess Bubblegum’s actual age. I thought it was originally an error that PB was older while Baby Snaps was a child, or that Baby Snaps grew rapidly over the course of a couple months or so, but now it’s evident why Princess Bubblegum seems relatively unaltered by time. 2. Why exactly did PB laugh at Baby Snaps? I mean, it seems pretty obvious, right? She laughed because Baby Snaps is a boy, and a very young boy at that, and a princess is typically defined as a feminine role of power in a family monarch. Well, in the Land of Ooo, apparently anyone of any gender can be a princess. It’s basically like being president, I guess. We see this with the King of Ooo later on, who is elected princess by people who don’t even seem to bat an eye at the fact that he’s a man. Not even PB. So, was she instead laughing because he was a child? I dunno, I’m just willing to assume it’s a part of the show that wasn’t really thought out ahead of time and now only slightly feels like a bit of discontinuity. That, or you could look at it the way I just mentioned, which seems a bit too condescending for PB to do to a young lad.

The connection with Jake and Baby Snaps is extremely heartwarming and likable. I think Jake’s moral ambiguity is arguably highly in question here, as he’s blatantly going against the law to help a criminal in what I’d called Stockholm syndrome in any other situation, but he’s clearly doing it because he does see the large aspect of tragedy within Baby Snaps character, and perhaps even a bit of himself. Jake didn’t have the cleanest past either, so he most likely see’s all the things that Baby Snaps could be if he left behind his criminal actions and started anew. I think it’s a very compelling depiction of Jake’s character; we’re used to seeing him just kind of go along with Finn and PB’s deeds, but here, he completely goes against both of them and does what he believes is the right path for everyone. Again, it’s hard to argue whether this is a great moral choice or not, but I don’t think the staff was really trying to push this off as a great message. Just that Jake was trying to help someone in need in his own unique way that would potentially lead to success from all sides of the party. The most fascinating concept behind this is that Finn is actually against Jake’s decision. Yeah, Jake willingly abandons Finn after he doesn’t agree with his decision, and while it’s sad to see the brothers at odds, it’s also quite nice to see them have a completely different perspective of the situation that makes sense for both parties. Finn’s all about doing things the conventional and lawful way, while Jake seems to base things on a more emotional level when it comes to bad or good.

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The scene with Baby Snaps’ monologue before he falls back into the canyon is both really heavy, and again, pretty funny. I know a lot of people see this as a straight-up tearjerker scene, but again, it’s riddled with lines that seem so cliche that I almost doubt the dialogue was meant to be taken so seriously. I still appreciate the sentiment Baby Snaps left for Jake before his seemingly final blow, only it fails because I guess Candy People are pretty incapable of committing suicide. Luckily enough, Baby Snaps is able to receive the potential help he needs, while also ruling over the Grasslands as a newly elected ruler. It’s a beautifully crafted grand climax that just makes for a delightful ending, as we’re able to see both the consequences for Baby Snaps’ actions, and the positive future that he may hold. All hail Princess Cookie! In fact, I may take back my previous complaint about male citizens being able to be elected princesses. Perhaps Baby Snaps was the first male princess in all of Ooo, which ushered in a new era of men who wanted in on the princess action as well. What an interesting subvert that would be!

This episode’s riddled with funny moments, along with the bits I mentioned above about Baby Snaps in general, and a special highlight going towards Finn acting as Jake’s shadow. It’s such a bizarre and ridiculous idea that would almost make no sense on paper, but it’s executed in an especially clever and hilarious way that it never ceases to amaze me. There’s zany lines of dialogue, as always, including the widespread favorite “Alvin’s hot juicebox,” which I still have no idea what the intention behind that one was. There’s also a lot of great callbacks, from the cameo of Goliad and Stormo locked in psychic combat in the background to the return of the Baby Whoozlefut & the Wuttlebugs book, as well as PB learning a thing or two from Ice King by trying to sway Baby Snaps with a poo-brained horse. Also, poor Jake just wants to be a mailman. Is there a specific detail of Jake that makes him incapable of being a mailman? Is it the fact that dogs are portrayed as anti-mailmen? You shouldn’t assume those things of Jake. Racist!

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If there’s one overall criticism I have for this one, the drawings are a bit wonky. It looks like Herpich worked on a good majority of this one, and his boarding and general designs of the characters usually look great, but there’s something that feels off. Finn’s face is really stretched out to the point where it looks like an oval, and the general size of the characters look distorted in some scenes. There’s a bit at the beginning and towards the middle where the Banana Guards look GIGANTIC, they’re seriously taking up like, half the screen. There’s also a couple of other errors, such as the chip who is supposedly doing a double jump in the air (though this may have been an error on the animation department, Herpich mentions it didn’t translate as well as he wanted it to) and a couple brief continuity errors, such as the many times PB changes the position of her arms while holding Baby Snaps as a child.

Besides that, I think this one’s great. Lots of intense moments with an overall sweet side, that elaborates on more character studies between Jake and PB, as well as a brand new character central to the story. It’s one that hits all the right feelings of raw emotionality as well as fun and endearing, while still covering a very satisfying story in the course of 11 minutes.

Favorite line: “It’s funny, but you sort of remind me of a mailman I used to know.”

“Goliad” Review

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Original Airdate: June 4, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page

Princess Bubblegum has easily become one of the show’s most fleshed out characters by the ninth season of AT, and the past three seasons would have almost never suggest that. Not to say she’s poorly written, but she appears to be just your standard, charming princess character. Her relationship with Finn was one the stronger facets of her arc, but once that came to a halt in Incendium, I became legitimately concerned for PB’s character. I really wondered just what the hell they were going to do with her from that point on, but Goliad depicts a new side of her personality that becomes pretty consistent with each passing episode.

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Love this opening boarded by Skyler Page.

PB’s encounter with the Lich certainly had a lasting bit of trauma on her life, and we get to see the outcome from those circumstances in great detail, as we view her stress and anxieties in regards to her kingdom surrounding her. Goliad actively sets in motion a more detached and morally ambiguous PB, as she begins to stop at nothing when it comes to protecting the Candy Kingdom and its civilians. It does this so well that I almost have little to no trouble accepting that the Bubblegum we watched from the past couple seasons was simply less stressed and facing fewer issues, while the unleashing of the Lich opened up new dangerous possibilities for the future that PB just simply isn’t ready to handle. The Candy People are super dumb, and without a ruler, they’d be lost.

Which leads to the creation of Goliad! A cute little sociopath that’s built with PB’s DNA. As we delve a bit deeper into Bubblegum’s issues and fears, it becomes clear why Goliad becomes the way that she is: Goliad and PB are both easily influenced by their surroundings. The reason Bubs created Goliad in the first place was because her near death experience and the unleashing of evil onto Ooo lead her to take matters into her own hands based on what she had learned to protect her kingdom. Goliad is exactly the same: filled with huge brains to absorb knowledge, she simply picks up on nihilistic behavior and methods of being a tyrannical leader. Holding her beliefs close to her based on her own experiences, Goliad thinks that the only way to properly run a kingdom is to take it into her own hands, believing that it’s the only way to save her kingdom. The parallels between the two characters really fascinates me, and introduces a bit of PB’s subconscious that she may not even be aware of: the way she is influenced by unorthodox methods.

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Goliad herself is both adorable and extremely creepy. I love the very progressive transition between innocent and psychotic, and her voice actor Wendy Linehan (whose brother Henry actually also voices Stormo in this episode) does a perfect job of balancing between the two. The way Finn and Jake act as her mediators is also great. I enjoy Jake’s generally well-intentioned behavior that goes awry when his buttons are pushed, but it’s pretty funny that he’s the direct reason Goliad went berserk to begin with. I also like the way Goliad and the boys interact with each other. There’s several points that Goliad makes that clearly show off her sociopathic behavior, but the way she elegantly and structurally explains herself makes even Finn question if having full control over other people is correct or not. It’s also interesting to see Goliad’s points that seem almost like they’re straight out of a psychological thriller. The bee scene particularly really rubs me the wrong way, and it’s fascinating to see just how dictatorial her view of leadership has developed.

The climax in particular is a really heart-racing, intense sequence. The bit where Goliad telekinetically forces the Candy People into Jake’s mouth and body crevices had me legitimately stressed out the first time I saw it. I really thought he was gonna swallow one of those suckers! The scene where Goliad tries to read Finn’s mind is both humorous and taxing, it really feels like an accurate depiction of someone trying not to think about something. Trying to do so will only make one do the very opposite, unless they try to suppress it as much as Finn attempted to, leading to some really funny thought sequences. And the return of the Buff Baby song, which I’ve never been a fan of, but it was pretty funny to see it back once again.

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The introduction of Stormo as a lifetime opponent for Goliad is a clever solution to the issue, and the concept that he was born from Finn, who is inherently good, is a pretty nice conclusive piece of information as well. I’d really like if Stormo and Goliad were brought back one more time for a final showdown, but with only so many episodes left, I’m not sure we’re ever going to get a definitive winner of their battle.

This is one of my favorites of season four. A really terrific psychological episode that’s pretty compelling from beginning to end. This is actually one that Herpich pitched himself, and I think that Skyler Page and himself did a damn fine job of making it thoroughly captivating and enjoyable. Most of all, it feels like the full-fledged introduction to an era of really in depth and riveting looks at PB’s character. We’ll get a couple more of those this season, but I think this one is the best one out of the others.

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Favorite line: “Haven’t slept for a solid 83 hours, but… yeah, I’m good.”

“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.”

“Five Short Graybles” Review

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Original Airdate: April 9, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich, Cole Sanchez & Skyler Page

The Graybles episodes never quite reached the heights of the other experimental types of stories AT has pursued. The guest animator and Fionna and Cake episodes have produced quality material that the Graybles stories haven’t been able to meet in my personal list of favorites. Though, I can say, where some guest animator and Fionna and Cake episodes have failed somewhat severely, I’ve never thought too poorly of any of the Graybles. They’re simplistic and cute stories that later contribute to the lore of the show’s world, but for now, they’re simply the former. And there’s nothing wrong with that, this one actually reminds me a lot of 22 Short Films of Springfield, one of my all-time favorite Simpsons episodes. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Graybles episodes stemmed from, Pen Ward is a huge Simpsons fan after all.

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It starts out very uniquely, with the introduction of Cuber, voiced by Emo Phillips. It’s later revealed that he’s a futuristic dude, but I’m pretty sure in this one, we’re just kind of supposed to look at him as the narrator. But he’s pretty cool, though this is probably his most generic appearance. He later lends himself to some creative and clever scenarios, but here he’s just kind of in it to do his job, and that is to explain the purpose behind Graybles. It’s a decent first appearance, and I really do love Emo Phillips as a voice actor. Check out his stand-up if you haven’t, it’s hilarious!

The first story starts out with BMO, and it’s by far the best. It’s a pretty stellar look into BMO’s psyche that introduces the recurring character of Football, as well as BMO’s underlying desires of wanting to be a human, or wanting to relate to humans. It’s really cute and almost tragic in a way; I really love seeing the little guy take so much pride in what he’s doing, but at the same time, he’s putting on a farce that will later become a larger burden for him and lead to a psychological breakdown. I never get tired of watching him pee through that glass of water, though. Really nice voice acting from Niki Yang, as always.

Finn and Jake’s story is a bit simplistic, but I do enjoy their somewhat masochistic behavior and the depths they’ll go to perfect a measly high-five. The framing device with our main duo is pretty great: their high-five pretty much carries through and builds up till the very end, which caps off in a pretty satisfying and funny ending, but we’ll get to that in a bit. I also love the unique shots we get to see as they run at each other in a pretty cinematic way. This is Skyler Page’s first time boarding for AT, and he really showcased some of his talents by drawing shots we don’t typically get to see in the series.

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PB’s sandwich sequence is terrific! It’s a really drawn-out scene, but one that never feels like it’s dragging or stale. It’s done through all kinds of visual gags, such as the poor cow that endures that somewhat bizarre contraption, or his block of cheese that’s converted into a single slice using a sewing machine. Then there’s the pure absurdity of PB hitting a head of lettuce with a baseball bat for some reason. Wouldn’t it have made a cleaner slice if she just chopped it up? Also, it’s interesting to see Bubblegum using what is presumed to be black magic. They acknowledge this in the commentary, and no one really has a reason to back it up. I’m just gonna call this one a brief continuity error. And that final bit with Cinnamon Bun was all types of fucking nasty, in the best way possible. I cringe every time I watch his body spew out that diarrhea-like slop.

Ice King’s story is pretty damn funny. I love how 90% of it is just him abusing his penguins. First he sends Gunther off on a block of ice for smelling bad, then he uses penguins to clean himself off and abrasively throws in them in the trash afterwards. It’s some pretty horrifically amusing stuff that only Ice King could get away with, and only seems to get funnier each time I watch those suffering penguins. At least Ice King was partially right about what smelled by the end of it.

Finally, we have LSP’s story. Nothing much to say for this one from me; I never really cared for the These Lumps song too much and I think the story itself is a bit dry. Save for the ending though, which I think is a terrific punchline with Finn and Jake abruptly being named the winners of the talent show instead of LSP. That was priceless. A lot of oddly mean-spirited humor in this episode, wasn’t there?

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Of course, there’s also the connecting theme. I think this one’s pretty obvious, and also because I had already read somewhere what the motif would be before I had even seen the episode. Despite that, I do commend the writers for introducing this type of brainteaser that would eventually get more difficult as the episodes went along. I think this one worked fine, but the creativity and ambiguity of the themes would only good up from here. I think it’s something neat that helps the youngins do some thinking while they’re watching.

So, I like it. It’s a cute introduction to a new series of stories within the series, and pertains a sense of enjoyability and intrigue throughout. It’s always fun revisiting these because I often forget which story happened when (I could’ve swore Tree Trunks was in this one), and it’s always fun to watch AT in such a chronicle structure.

Favorite line: “I thought you had a stank booty, Gunter. My bad.”

“Another Way” Review

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Love the pre-staging depicted in this title card.

Original Airdate: January 23, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Bert Youn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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