Tag Archive | Tom Herpich

“Five More Short Graybles” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

We’re back with another Graybles episode! As I’ve mentioned before, Graybles focused episodes are far from my favorite AT excerpts, but nevertheless are always fun and charming little expeditions throughout the everyday lives of Ooo’s civilians. This episode is also significant in being Steve Wolfhard’s first board as a full time storyboard artist. This is also Wolfhard and Tom Herpich’s first board together, and they would eventually become one of my favorite teams in the entire series, as well as the longest running partnership to date.  

The first grayble, which revolves around Finn and Jake, is much like their first grayble together, as it’s consistently occurring in the background of other graybles and closes the entire sequence. It’s not as spontaneous or epic as their high-five challenge, but it’s certainly cute and inventive. I love Jake reading waaay too deeply into the book of nursery rhymes, which could and/or could not be a reference to others reading way too deeply into children’s cartoons like AT, but it makes for a silly idea regardless. The entire segment feels like a return to the carefree enjoyment of the Land of Ooo after four episodes of heavy drama. I know people really wanted Adventure Time to be this really heavily serialized show after the Lich came back into play, but it’s nice to watch a completely stress-free hangout session of the boys sticking their thumbs in various items. My favorite (and the cutest of all) was Jake sticking his thumb in the belly of a now very noticeably pregnant Lady. D’awww!

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Next up is Marceline’s story, which, after only seeing her once in a blue moon during season four, it’s nice to get to spend time with her 3 out of the 4 past episodes (even though the last two she was in technically wasn’t our beloved Marcy). Again, this scene is cute. It’s nothing particularly funny or spectacular, though the obvious “rock giant” pun did get a guilty snicker out of me. The one gripe I have with this one is that, if Marcy was flying above the clouds on the rock giant’s hand, then how the fuck didn’t she interact with the sun at all? It’s pretty obvious that this was an afterthought, as the sky did appear sunny in the previews of the episode. I assume that someone noticed and quickly made the sky dark and cloudy before the premiere of the episode, which is slightly less distracting than if the sky was just completely sunny. All I can say about this slight inconsistency is, “at least it isn’t Princess Day.”

The Tree Trunks short really steals the show for me, with a hilarious innuendo that I’m actually quite surprised got past the censors. Though, I think it’s subtle enough that even children who are too young to understand the joke will able to have enough fun with it anyways. It’s also nice to see TT in a scenario that’s well fitting for her. Dream of Love was perhaps her most pitiful episode to date, and made it clear that, while I do very much enjoy her character, she really struggles to hold up an entire episode on her own. Thus, it’s nice to include her in the Graybles format, in a story short that incorporates her character well and doesn’t overdo her slow and sometimes meandering personality. Also, Shelby returns! After going the entire fourth season without appearing, it’s nice to see the little guy back in the spotlight, and he does start gradually appearing more from Season Five onward. His high-pitched Pendleton Ward voice is always welcomed, and he really helps drive the main joke of the grayble to a hilarious conclusion. And, despite my disdain for the OG Cinnamon Bun, I think him hopping up and down in Tree Trunks’ stockings was actually pretty funny. Wonderful!

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Ice King’s story is also a comedic high point for the episode. Though I think the Ice King legitimately dating his foot is a bit too sad and insane for even the IK, there’s a good amount of funny gags with this one that I don’t mind the ludicrousy of it. There’s also some terrifically grotesque close ups of the IK’s feet and hands, complete with bulging veins and liver spots. It’s also surprisingly sweet to once again see Ice King’s view of marriage, this time he points out, “That means I get the remote control three days a week and you get it four!” It caps off with a perfect ending as well, as Ice King begins to develop feelings for his seductive looking right foot. Man, I didn’t think I’d ever find a character from this show more fascinated with feet than Jake is.

BMO’s tale returns to the interactions between she and Football, and it’s nothing that new. It’s basically everything that was already established by their first grayble, and nothing really more interesting from there. Though, I do like how far BMO is willing to go with her imagination. The fact that she repeatedly splashes herself with tea and begins short-circuiting is both somewhat concerning and hilarious. BMO doesn’t give a shit if she explodes completely, as long as she captures the perspective of being a living child.

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And of course, we close out with Cuber’s big revelation of the overarching theme! I enjoy how this one fucks with everyone’s perception equally, and again, manages to avoid directly mentioning the bird being flipped. I thought it was a perfect ending that caught me pretty off guard, and definitely urged me to be more alert for plot twists when the next Graybles episode came along.

So yeah, not much to say with this one. It’s not great nor bad, just a cute selection of stories revolving around the delightful citizens of Ooo. Much like the first Graybles episode, there isn’t anything that particularly noteworthy, but still a fun and enjoyable entry that is still an entirely pleasant sit-through.

Favorite line: “No one’s had five fingers for twenty blablillion glaybles!”

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“Finn the Human” Review

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Original Airdate: November 12, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Jesse Moynihan

The season premiere starts off much like how the last season premiere began: right where the finale left off. The Lich ended with a fast-paced, hectic journey into the multiverse, and the stakes never seemed higher. What was in store for AT’s audience was completely unknown, and the fanbase sat patiently as we endured a long, three week break (yeah, remember when three weeks was the longest period of time we waited for new episodes?). So we all sat down, got ready for the thrilling follow up to the previous episode, annnnd… were mostly met with middling and underwhelming results. Well, at least I was.

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I think the root of the main problem for the episode is simply that the Farmworld just isn’t very interesting. The idea of a world without magic seems so promising and intriguing, yet it just doesn’t seem to have an identity outside of the fact that society has seemingly regressed into a more medieval period because of the creation of an ice age. I would’ve much more enjoyed the possibility of a corrupted future where its civilians ignore the existence of magic and beckon it off as something that should not be discussed, but instead we’re dealt with the typical story of a country boy who has to sacrifice for his family.

Farmworld Finn himself isn’t really a compelling protagonist and I genuinely didn’t really enjoy watching him. He’s a blander, less charismatic version of Finn, and unlike the actual Finn, I really just don’t care about what happens to his pet mule Bartram or the inhabitants of his family. I know this is actually Finn we’re supposed to be caring about and identifying with, but it just doesn’t feel like Finn. This Finn seems almost completely apathetic to what’s going on until the end (something that I think can unfortunately plague Herpich’s writing of the actual character as well) and has no issue with stealing from an older, crabbier Marceline. I know he figured she was crazy, but still, I think the action was somewhat crueler than it had to be. I think if Farmworld Finn simply found the crown and Marceline saw him leaving with it and then pursued him, it would be a bit more of an understandable clause. I get the idea that Farmworld Finn is supposed to be written as a more mundane, modern child character, but there’s just very little that makes me actually care for him. He’s supposed to be Finn, but he’s just… not. The one notable piece of exposition that serves his character well is the reveal of his full name, Finn Mertens. It’s a pretty significant information drop that opens the question on whether or not this is really Finn’s full name, which Finn actually learns subconsciously later on. I’m guessing Farmworld Finn’s self-awareness of his full title was something Finn somehow picked up on his own.

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The inclusion of Marceline made for an interesting tale. I enjoy the detail that, because of the second ice age, she was never bitten, and remains as a decrepit old demon. It really raises the question of, “how long will Marcy actually live for?” to which I honestly have no idea what the answer is. I’m sure demons can live for a long period of time and then die off, but exactly how long? It’s something that continuously has me wondering. Also, her devotion to Simon, as well as protection of the crown, is really sweet. It seems that she’s unable to leave in fear of being ridiculed as a freak by society for her demon-like appearance, so she’s lived in isolation for years, making sure nobody enters the same fate as her beloved father figure. It also leads to one of the most somber, as well as hilarious, interactions in the entire episode, where Simon demands that Marceline should return the crown to him. It could be all in Marceline’s head, or a product of the crown still possessing Simon’s body and thoughts, but either way, it’s really sad to see that, after all these years, Simon’s voice still plays as clear as day in Marceline’s head, but also humorous because it’s Ice King’s inflections and tone.

The biggest highlight of this episode is the Destiny Gang, a group of really generic looking and speaking bullies that just crack me up, given their almost sociopathic nature. Their leader, Big Destiny, actually offers interesting insight that’s both somewhat insane and slightly thought-provoking. The Destiny Gang themselves are practically equivalent to a cult, believing that everyone has a specific destiny in store for them, and if someone crosses them, their fate will be as awful as one could imagine. It’s a pretty tyrannical concept, highlighting a group of bullies as prophetic figures who decide the fate of others, but also hilarious given the fact that, they really are just bullies who love torturing people for their own sadistic kicks. Funny bullies, but bullies nonetheless. It really is a terrific mix-match of both threatening and silly, and showcases a group of some of the most threatening villains yet, who are human by nature. Scary.

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There’s a few other nice details, including Finn’s robot arm, which is always a fun part of his alternate selves, as well as the similarities between Farmworld Finn’s mother and father to his later introduced biological parents. Besides those two positive tidbits, I actually have quite a few nitpicks on side details that really frustrate me as any of the bigger elements would. First of all, why does everyone in Farmworld have eye whites and noses? I know that was the design choice to make the Farmworld feel more “human,” but c’mon, it makes no sense with the world already established and doesn’t connect to the other visual examples of humans in the series. We’ve seen humans several times before this episode and several times after (Heat Signature, Susan Strong, Elemental, and Helpers are just some examples) and never has anyone been shown with eye whites, or to a lesser extent, noses. It’s just a frustrating detail that really throws off the authenticity of Finn as a human. It feels like something Pendleton Ward wanted to do, as he holds the belief that Finn is mutated due to his lack of nose and dotted eyes, but I still stand that it’s a pretty phony argument and has been retconned several times in the series. So why would a humanized incarnation of an already human Finn look like that? It just doesn’t work for me.

Another issue I have is how believable the world they’ve set up is. Like, why would Finn even own Jake as a pet? Jake’s parents are the ones who found Finn in the woods, and also the ones who originally named Jake, so how would Finn even gain possession of Jake, let alone give Jake the name that his talking dog parents gave him? Also, the inclusion of Choose Bruce seems confusingly dumb to me. Why would Choose Goose be a human? Wouldn’t he have mutated from an actual goose? Does this mean Choose Goose in the actual series was once human and was either transformed or mutated into being a Goose? I am reading way too far into this one guys, I know, but I just really do not understand the logic behind this wish-world and I can’t seem to wrap my finger around the absurdity of these two very uncanny reference points.

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Nitpicks aside, this episode is just entirely dull. It isn’t till the ending I actually began to care and get invested in the characters and situations, which made the entire episode feel retroactively meaningless. I know it’s just setting up for the events of the next episode, much like Holly Jolly Secrets – Part 1 did, but I’ve learned over time that “setup” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “uninteresting.” Wake Up, Preboot, or Lemonhope – Part 1 are all examples of episodes that build up to their typically bigger second parts, yet still manage to be very interesting and entertaining in their own right. Finn the Human fails to do any of that, and feels like a bland attempt at using exposition to make up for the fact that there’s nothing that funny, interesting, or enjoyable going on. The only bit of intrigue this one left me when the commercial break start was, “what’s going to happen to Finn as he wears the crown?” and “what’s going on with Jake while he remains in Prismo’s time room?” Both of those questions would be answered in the next episode, as I was surprisingly more excited to visit one of the newest additions to the AT cast, Prismo the Wishmaster, than to delve deeper into the Farmworld.

Favorite line: “How did I even get here, son?”

“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.”

 

“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!”

“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.”