Tag Archive | Tom Herpich

“The Hall of Egress” Review

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Original Airdate: March 5, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich 

Before I get into this review, I wanna thank fellow readers Zach Goff and William Zall for donating to my DVD gofundme! I appreciate your contributions and am so very thankful to have dedicated readers like yourself. As promised, these two get to decide on a special bonus review of their choice, so there will be a ton of new bonus content at the end of the season! One final time, thank you two dearly for your contributions, and thank you for reminding me why I love to do these reviews to begin with. Onto the review!

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When Tom Herpich posted the promotional artwork for this one, he mentioned in the description that he initially disregarded the idea for this episode as “irredeemably dark and unpleasant.” While he also mentions tinkering with the concept a bit to make it actually work, this episode, in part, lives up to that description. This is perhaps Finn’s most unimaginably terrifying adventure yet; over the years, he’s been faced with the deadly nature of the Lich, the sadistic shenanigans of Magic Man, the tumultuous relationship with his father, and the struggle to conquer his own identity, but nothing strikes me as more threatening than this endeavor. I won’t beat around the bush, this might just be my favorite episode of the entire series. I know that’s probably somewhat of a unoriginal claim by now, but for very good reasons. This episode just does everything right; I’ve sung my praises about Herpich before, but I really can’t deny that The Hall of Egress feels like he’s using everything that he’s learned about Adventure Time over those six past years and channeling that energy through Finn. A lot of my all-time favorite episodes actually don’t center around the main boys at all; You Forgot Your Floaties was mainly about Magic Man, The More You Moe, The Moe You Know was about BMO, and I Remember You follows the backstory of Simon and Marcy. But what sets The Hall of Egress so high up is that, not only is it an incredibly sophisticated story that strays from the typical “dungeon” themed episode, but it also centers around what I consider to be the absolute central heart of the show: (you guessed it) Finn and (a good amount) of Jake.

This episode truly brings Finn’s growth and evolution to the forefront, and I have reason to believe it was done entirely on an intentional level. The very beginning of the episode opens with Jake mentioning the dungeon train, which was last seen in the self-entitled Dungeon Train right after Finn’s big break-up. His bro even mentions this, to which Finn responds, “heh, yeah, that sucked.” Dungeon Train saw an entirely different Finn than the one we’ve seen over the course of season 6 and 7; Finn was unable to fully deal with his problems and relied on the help of outside sources (PB, the dungeon train, Jake, etc.) to ease his pain. Now, I’m not saying this to imply that support systems are not useful, but Finn’s behavior was clearly much more manipulative and worked harder at putting up a mask more than anything. He wasn’t dealing with his issues, he was finding ways to get around them. The funniest part is, this was the original destination in Dungeon Train. It’s almost horrifying to think of what would have happened to Finn, had he experienced this a year earlier. That’s not to say he went from being a complete dumbass to a brilliant mastermind over the course of time, but his ability to cope and deal with issues has certainly matured and altered from the norm, having been through so much and understanding his own skills in stress management.

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Though again, that doesn’t make this trip any less terrifying. While we get intervals from Jake and BMO from time to time, this is mostly a bottle episode, featuring Finn in one place and leaving him to ramble on to himself for a period of time. As always, we’re treated to his delightfully silly and quirky behavior, even in the midst of a sticky situation. While a good amount of the beginning spends time setting up the absolute ludicrous nature of the dungeon, it’s made fun just by how many delightful Finn moments are scattered in throughout: his pronunciation of “foyer,” the brief flashback where PB explains what egress means, Finn finally adopting the last name “Mertens” and using it proudly as his identity, “breadcrumb style,” the way he cleverly maps out an exit plan using muscle memory, and much more.

The entire hall is pretty cool from an initial standpoint. It’s made eerie and solemn, and its vague nature is what helps to set those feelings. Who set up this dungeon? Why did Flambo’s (unnamed) brother send the boys there? Is it supposed to be exactly what it seems? Herpich truly is the king of clever ambiguity, whereas he provides enough for the audience to create their own wildly different ideas and theories, though none of it is ever proven or set in stone. It’s the same with Phlannel Boxingday: everybody pretty much assumes that he’s Princess Bubblegum, but Herpich never provides any actual confirmation that they are the same person. This episode is just riddled with stuff like that, with my favorite being the snowman statue. There’s a lot of emphasis (including close-up shots) put on this upside-down snowman statue that never actually serves any relevance in the plot. Was it merely put there as a red herring for viewers to assume that this was the solution to the issue, or would setting the snowman up in the correct order actually have some sort of effect on whether Finn would be able to escape? My money’s on the red herring excuse, and I think the mere implication of it is that it’s “too easy” of a solution. The entire point of Finn’s journey in this episode is that he’s not able to easily find a way out of this mind dungeon, and must somehow find a different way out. The snowman is placed there as an obvious mislead, as it’s implying that such an intense, complex situation can be easily fixed in the mere matter of seconds.

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As Finn learns pretty early on, this dungeon is exactly the opposite. While Finn walks through the actual hall, it’s made visually appealing through cloudy shades of white and blue, though it also interestingly works off of the viewer’s sense of touch rather than creating an elaborate design. It reminds me a lot of Rainy Day Daydream, in which Finn and Jake embark on a full-scale adventure and fight baddies, of which are never seen, because they’re all “imaginary.” This episode works in the same vein, by using sound effects and Finn’s body language to show what actually exists in the Hall. It’s even made better by the fact that, while Finn can see inside the hall while closing his eyes, he technically is “going in blind.” It’s a cool way to make the audience feel as though they’re going along with this journey, and feel as if they’re in the same boat. Just like Finn, we can’t explain why this is happening, and there’s no clear answer to what the Hall of Egress is or how to escape from it. The only theory that anyone could have come up with, at the time, is the concept of the snowman, though that’s easily debunked about halfway through. A big element of this episode that contributes to its success is empathy.

Now, empathy has always been a big part of Adventure Time, but I honestly think it’s a rarity among my other favorite episodes. Floaties, The More You Moe, and I Remember You have me sympathizing with the main characters, but I dunno if I can really put myself in their place, with the possible exception of parts of The More You Moe. That’s a personal point of view and I don’t expect everyone to share it, but I say it because it’s not like I’ve ever had/lost a wife, and I’ve never had a loved one who went through Alzheimer’s. Of course, I’ve never been through an endless mind dungeon myself either, but this bit of empathy also works with the episode’s other strongest point, of which I mentioned is its dense ambiguity. I’m sure all of us have been in an impossibly unsolvable situation, of which it seems like there is no possible solution. Hell, as a sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I deal with it regularly! But this episode manages to use an entirely fantastical scenario and has a limitless sense of opportunity in how people can connect with it. Again, that’s the beauty of Adventure Time in general, and having its greatest and most developed character at the center is what drives it forward even more.

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As Finn continues to churn forward, that perceived hopelessness becomes even stronger. Not only is he faced with this treacherous dungeon at hand with no possible way out, but he’s also the only one who actually believes that it exists. It’s an incredibly difficult dilemma, in which he does have the support of his friends, but they don’t understand the situation at large. The support that BMO and Jake do offer is undeniably sweet, however, and provides for some of the cutest interactions between the boys to date. That simple kiss that Jake gives Finn before he goes to bed is absolutely adorable! It’s such a small moment, but such a loving gesture that I don’t think we’ve seen the boys ever exchange up to this point. BMO’s bits are limited, but more than anything, he plays the part of the anxious little child that still lives within Finn. BMO barely speaks in this episode, and when he does, it’s merely to ask Finn questions about his state of being and whether he’s going to attempt to open his eyes or not. BMO is simply representative of the anxious voice within Finn telling him to remain the same and to not change his methods of dealing with a situation. While Finn is uncertain if opening his eyes will actually work or not, he’s still tempted by the most simplistic and obvious way out of things. Though, more often than not, his friends are on the exact same page with that incessant impatience.

Some of the more humorous moments from this episode derive from the idea that Jake continuously tries to open Finn’s eyes, even after being informed of his dilemma. Also, Jake’s hat was terrific. Where can I grab a hat like that? Ultimately, though, the humorous moments underlie the great tragedies of the entire situation: Finn is completely alone. Jake tries to be as supportive and understanding as possible, but as we’ve often seen from Jake, he’s typically more focused on problem-solving than utilizing his abilities to empathize. Not to say that’s a jab at Jake, because he’s doing the best anyone can in that situation: his brother is going on about a dungeon that apparently doesn’t even exist, and won’t open his eyes for the course of an entire month because of a perceived misfortune that only he believes in. While it’s easy to empathize with Finn, it’s difficult to disagree with Jake’s logic as well from a bystander point of view. We empathize with Finn because we watch his situation go down and feel his pain that no one will believe him, but honestly, it all just seems like gibberish otherwise. There’s no way that Finn can possibly explain his story in a convincing and evidential way, which makes it even more tragic and upsetting.

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After several attempts to gradually help Finn escape from his own personal hell, Jake and BMO’s efforts prove to be a stagnant trial. Finn isn’t getting any better or farther in progress than he was before. Though he loves Jake and BMO, their assistance is ineffective, and at worst, slowing progress down. Finn realizes now that only he can be in charge of figuring out a solution for himself, or at least adjusting to society as it is. Finn’s growth throughout the past season has lead him to be competent in taking on an impossibly unsolvable situation, even when it means letting go of the people and the things around him. It’s a tough, but brave decision, and one that feels less like a move of desperation and more as a method of acceptance. While Finn tosses away his clothes and tighty whiteys, he utters “no more threads left behind… no more egress.” The “no more egress” aspect is what really hammers in the theme that Finn has no interest in escaping or running away from his issues, and would rather run into them head-on than to try and come up with another failed attempt to solve his dilemma.

The next few shots are masterful. Herpich really nails cinematic moments, as seen in episodes like Lemonhope, Evergreen, and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. The shots of Finn in the wild add a terrific sense of ambiance, and both dramatically and humorously catches us up on how Finn has adapted. The best part about this sequence is how it’s not measured by time at all; we really don’t know how long he spent within the Hall of Egress, and it’s once again left up to the interpretation of the viewer for how much time passes by. I have my own headcanon that Finn had a series of different blinded adventures during his time within the hall, and I’d totally be down with a one-shot comic series within the hall. Seems like it’s a concept that has a ton of different possibilities on its own.

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Finn’s travels eventually lead him right back to where he started at the beginning of the hall, where his realization is translated through BMO’s voice, “something’s different.” The voice that was used to merely remind Finn of his conformity to reality earlier in the episode is now telling Finn that he instinctively notices a difference. While that voice was used to first mirror Finn’s opposal to change in dire situations, it’s used later to show his shift in perception.

As Finn walks through the door, he wanders into a contained space of where he’s able to see everything on the outside of the cave. Finn is essentially viewing life as “transparent” and his patience is helping to finally see things clearer than they once were. In both a glorious and somewhat humorous scene, Finn charges through the dome to return to his brother, as PB’s voice narrates, “hurry Finn… at the seashell’s center lies the cornucopia’s smallest door.” PB was previously shown to help Finn’s intelligence and comprehensive skills expand further when she explains what egress is. Here, he’s taught himself his own valuable lesson in emotional intelligence, as she narrates what can only be described as personal enlightenment. Though, I still have no clue what “the cornucopia’s smallest door,” is. There’s a great analysis of it on YouTube, which will probably add more insight into the topic than I possibly could. It’s perhaps AT’s most ambiguous line, but one that I enjoy, strictly for Hynden Walch’s whimsical inflections.

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This stressful, exhilarating, jam-packed episode ends on the perfect silly and simplistic note, with Finn shouting, “no comment!” after Jake asks him about the cave. And that’s really what this one boils down to; it’s a thoroughly compelling drama with just the right amount of funny and rewarding moments to carry through its darkness. It’s the most condensed version of Finn’s personal growth and development yet, and I feel as though it really embodies everything that these past two seasons set out to accomplish. Probably the coolest thing about this one is that, while it does have some continuity nods, it’s most standalone and can be enjoyed even by the common viewer. It establishes the characters pretty well without having to know them personally, and there’s added bits of subtle character moments that will treat longtime viewers even better. The Hall of Egress is also really sharp on a technical level. The music cues from Tim Kiefer are, per usual, terrific, and Herpich is always tremendous with utilizing different camera angles and cinematic moments to their best abilities.

It truly is my idea of a perfect episode, but alas, no episode is without imperfections. My main criticisms for this one are mostly nitpicks, but I think the title card is kind of trash. It’s just a simple shot of the exterior of the cave, and the font is a direct reuse of the one featured in the Stakes miniseries. I think it’s pretty boring, and especially upsetting considering how cool the original title card concept was. I mean, look at this image! It’s so much more powerful than what we got. My other criticism actually spans from the length of the episode, because I feel as though this could have been a full blown half hour. Not just because I enjoyed it, but it does feel like there are some missing elements. Like, why did the boys’ never seek out PB’s help? It seems weird that Finn would go potential months being blinded without looking for help from his mastermind of a best friend. I feel as though her incorporation could have made that ending voiceover from herself even more powerful, and it would be interesting to see PB’s scientific methods fail, as she feels incapable of helping her friend.

But, those are mostly just instances of myself looking for problems, because The Hall of Egress is one of my favorite episodes of television in general. It’s unique, it embodies the heart and soul of the series, it’s Finn’s most compelling journey, it uses cinematography well, it’s ambiguous and open to interpretation, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s developmental, and so much more. It’s no wonder this one ended up winning an Emmy, of which it certainly deserves. By doing his normal shtick, Herpich in turn would end up creating a magnum opus for himself and the series in general, one of which would never be topped (IMHO), but one that builds off of everything that Adventure Time is and was: a terrific exploration of the trials of growing up.

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Favorite line: “Yeah, you’ve done it like, 30 times now.”

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“The More You Moe, The Moe You Know” Review

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Original Airdate: December 3, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

This promo comic really sums up all of the heartwrenching material I’ve experienced through this one.

The More You Moe, The Moe You Know was an episode that was announced a few months before its initial airdate at New York Comic-Con, and I always assumed that a “BMO themed holiday special” would merely be a light (but delightful) Christmas-themed episode to take the edge off of how dark I had theorized Stakes to be. But, keeping in the tradition of what Holly Jolly Secrets started, Adventure Time continues to churn out the most dark and devastating holiday specials known to man. And honestly, this is another one of my favorites. Top 3 of all-time, without a question. I’ve always had a soft spot for BMO in general, but so much of this episode represents – at least, in my eyes – what makes Adventure Time so profound and special. Essentially, AT is one big coming of age story, and The More You Moe, The Moe You Know feels like a super-compressed version of that featuring the show’s most innocently naive character.

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It is a sweet idea that we’ve finally gotten an episode dedicated to the birthday of each of the Tree Fort boys. I do wonder how exactly BMO’s birthday was decided, however: was it the day BMO was actually built? Was it the anniversary of the day he met Finn and Jake? Or was it simply a random day BMO chose for the sake of following social norms? I like to think it was the latter, but I think any one of those options is appropriate. It’s also cute to once again witness BMO’s absolute affinity for his creator. Going back to my notion regarding social norms, I think BMO’s adoration towards Moe mostly derives from the fact that he, like the friends that he surrounds himself with, has some sort of parent of whom he can owe his life to. Finn and Jake have Joshua and Margaret, and NEPTR has Finn, so BMO is able to feel more “human” through having a legitimate maker that directly has an impact on BMO’s identity as a whole. This is something that also ties in as important later on, during BMO’s reflections.

Of course, the Moe we do get treated to isn’t the Moe we were expecting, and his mission for BMO is certainly ambiguous. What really makes BMO himself is his demeanor and mindset that unarguably represents that of a small child. BMO is programmed with knowledge and abilities beyond comprehension, but when it comes down to it, he’s really just like any other child. Thus, the scariest thing to BMO, along with pretty much any child and people of any age in general, is the unknown. Growing up is obviously something that Adventure Time has touched on consistently; whether it be Finn and Jake’s entire individual arcs, some passing lines in Another Five More Short Graybles from Jake Jr., Nurse Poundcake’s humorous backstory in The Diary, or even the entirety of the Stakes miniseries, it goes without staying that this is a big thematic element within the world of Adventure Time. Though, everyone deals with it in a very unique way, with BMO included. While each character seems to deal with specific issues that arise throughout their period of growth, BMO’s hang-up deals with something much, much more complex: the concept of growing up in general. I certainly don’t mean to downplay the complexity non-vague issues, like Finn coming to terms with the fact that his father doesn’t care for him, or that Marceline feels as though she is physically and mentally incapable of moving on from her past, but there is something so specifically threatening about being completely unsure of what you’re getting into. And I can’t think about a single issue that represents those feelings of uncertainty rather than the idea of growing up, of which is presented tremendously through BMO’s little monologue.

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One of the most sorrowful moments from this episode is complete absence of Air during BMO’s attempted conversation. While it could have been an attempt to excuse LeVar Burton’s inability to return to the recording booth, it feels much more like a poignant method of having BMO release his feelings to a close confidant, even if it’s more to get his thoughts out than anything. BMO’s vision of being an adult is delightfully silly, but made somewhat atmospheric by the grainy filter surrounding it. This episode really succeeds in attention to color and diversifying different shots. Considering that there are a ton of different flashbacks and imaginations sequences throughout, the visual appeal of the episode experiments with several color schemes that really helps each excerpt pop. What really strikes me as moving during BMO’s dialogue, however, is his worrisome expression of, “but then, if I change, will Finn and Jake still love me? Will I still love them?” It’s made pretty clear by this statement that BMO isn’t necessarily scared of the trials he will face when he grows up, but rather if he will even be the same person that he currently is. This is a scary part of change that everyone deals, and BMO’s vision of the distorted versions of Finn and Jake further emphasize this anxious feeling of the two becoming unrecognizable to himself. Which leads him to the prompt of, “does growing up just change your body, or also your soul?” BMO has built up so much happiness for himself through the people who surrounds himself with and his daily imaginative activities in general, and doesn’t recognize that he has the ability to grow while also keeping his loved ones near and dear to him. Thus, the concept of growing up instead gets conflicted with his anxiety of growing into a completely different person, and BMO would much rather stay the same forever than to face those consequences. His turmoil feels very profound, real, and convincing. Even if we know that it’s irrational to think that Finn and Jake would never stop loving BMO, it is hard to know what will derive from any sort of big life change, and growing up is a significant event that often brings about significant life changes. Though, growing is only a state of mind, and BMO has yet to realize that it’s a gradual part of his life, rather than one big epiphany.

After going through that big, analytical spiel, I might as well mention the nice little side roles that Finn and Jake have in this episode, which are great! Wolfhard covers most of the F&J scenes, and really carries forth his sharpest sense of humor. Jake hiding himself from Moe is both hilarious and kind of fitting for Jake’s character. Somewhat tying into the central theme of the episode, Jake is just as scared of becoming a different person as he grows old as BMO is. Though, Jake’s fears are a bit more materialistic, as he worries he’ll simply be an old coot that listens to the world decaying in the process. The way the boys quickly warm up to “Moe” is cute, and the show does a pretty good job at keeping his identity convincing, for the most part, until the near end of the episode.

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In general, this one does a really good job of keeping its audience on edge by constantly playing around with who the true “villain” is. At first, it seems like DMO is randomly supposed to be the antagonist (who is sadly not voiced by Aziz Ansari) and then the later appearance of All-MO is seemingly foreboding as well, though BMO never sits around to consider the actual possibility of there being one true “villain” to oppose him. He instead continues to ponder about his life and begins to humor the idea of never knowing if everything is okay or totally haywire, which seems like a concept that is entirely normalized by anyone who is actually grown. It’s another visual interesting sequence, and it makes me realize more and more how similar this one is to Lemonhope in exploring interesting thought processes through really unique and experimental visualizations. Of course, a lot of that can likely be contributed to the fact that Tom Herpich and Wolfhard worked on both, but this one really shines through in being the better example of AT being at its most unique in its visuals and storytelling. And while Lemonhope seemed to prioritize its title character’s inner struggles over the actual content of the story in some parts, The More You Moe is very committed to telling an engaging story, while also sprinkling in a delightful bit of soul-searching. In addition to being equally as funny most of the time, which really shines through in All-MO’s explanation of what happened within the MO factory. The expository dialogue has some great gems, such as, “if you wanted a free hug, all you had to do was ask! No one could say no, it was a rule,” and “until one fateful day… yesterday.” Herpich and Wolfhard seem to be particularly good at incorporating humor in moments that really shouldn’t be funny, but are made funny in execution regardless. Thus, All-MO ends up being a pretty enjoyably off-kilter character, despite the fact that his creation essentially means that we won’t ever see the other MOs again. Definitely a bummer, though this character did remain thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

As we transition into the second part of this one, it begins to become apparent that Finn and Jake are pretty fed up with Moe’s shit, after he cries during their “classic” imitation of Prisoners of Love and offers some of the most boring consoling experiences imaginable. The “hangman” sequences are really great, and it’s hilarious to me how much Finn and Jake get into the concept of it. To be fair, it is an awesome name for a game, but their reactions to the true nature of the game itself are priceless. It doesn’t help that the game only comes with one solvable puzzle, and that being “Bur-guess Mere-dithe.” And this is where “Moe”‘s facade begins to gradually fall, and the true identity of AMO starts to unravel.

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AMO is easily designed to be equivalent to that of a spoiled toddler, but his delusions of the properties of love and his desire to destroy anything and everything that gets in his way of being admired is what makes him truly standout as one of my favorite AT baddies. The initial reveal of the appearance of his room is straight out of a horror movie, and does a great job at visually describing what kind of a character AMO is: a ripped doll with the words “love me” written above it in the vents and the skeleton of a once existent hamster shows how willingly AMO is to get violent towards anything that cannot directly show him love, and how he is unable to care for and to feel loving feelings because of the way he was programmed. As All-MO eloquently states, “such is the cruel physics of love, that those who crave it most will repel it,” it seems apparent that AMO was, more than any other MO that followed, a failed experiment. Moe likely wanted to build a robot that would act and behave like BMO, but did not truly understand that building a robot that could only receive love would actively work against his intended programming. Moe’s intention was to build a robot that could be in-sync with human emotions, but without fully understanding those underlying physics of love, he ended up, in turn, creating a sociopath.

And that sociopathic nature really shows when he knocks out poor ol’ NEPTR (who has been the victim of many sadistic beatings this season!) and tries to get him out of the picture so he can exclusively covet Finn and Jake’s love for himself. Aside from AMO’s misunderstanding of love, he truly does not understand BMO’s relationship with Finn and Jake. His only understanding is that F&J love BMO, but truly does not comprehend how exactly BMO reciprocates that love. In AMO’s head, he honestly believes that love can only be expressed by one devoting their entire life to another person. AMO thinks that F&J spend their days showing relentless affection towards BMO, but does not realize why the boys love BMO to begin with. And of course, when AMO has failed to receive the “love” that he thinks he deserves, he in turn decides to reject it and to get rid of Finn and Jake all together. AMO’s cannon phaser is executed in an excruciatingly painful way. They really pack a punch every single time AMO utilizes said weaponry, and it never feels as though the cannonballs are wasted. Each shot appears to be legitimately painful and threatening to our protagonists, especially when BMO is continuously shot later on. Wolfhard did leave a note within the storyboard that states, “the ball noises should be distinct & memorable,” and it seems he got his wish in that regard. AMO is voiced by Thu Tran, and Tran does a terrific job of capturing the same quirkiness and childlike nature that Niki Yang captures with BMO. While channeling that same energy, Tran manages to also give AMO a bit of an off-kilter feel to his voice, and really pulls off that equally threatening nature.

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While I truly admire the flashback sequence for just how fucked up and depressing it is – I mean, God damn, the show has never pulled off a death scene in this grim of an execution – my one criticism for the episode is that AMO’s impersonation of Moe can be a bit too silly and somewhat tasteless at times. I really don’t know what department to blame for this, as Wolfhard very clearly seems to repetitively jot down within the storyboard that the voiceover within this sequence is supposed to stay completely serious throughout its run. I dunno if it was a decision by the network to downplay the more somber implications of the sequence, but I think it really works against it by making AMO’s goofy inflections quite unfitting with the tone of the rest of the flashback. Granted, I still love everything else. AMO starts off said story by mentioning terrible truths that he discovered about himself, and I think it’s really neat that those discoveries are left completely unknown. It kind of makes AMO a much more sophisticated and less one-dimensional character to know that he has some sort of self-awareness about the troubles that lies inside his heart and within his programming. Perhaps he isn’t exactly cognizant of his own desires to repel any love that is given to him, but it is clear that he knows something about his uncanny nature that startles him to some degree, even if he doesn’t try to fix said issues. And even though his voiceover is distractingly out of place, the contents of said scene are still left as somber as possible. Even AMO’s small utterance of “he was dying…” is really effective. Going back to what I had mentioned earlier, this is somewhat shockingly ballsy for AT to cover, as deaths within the series are usually off-screen, retconned, or left to be humorous. Even using the words “dead” or “die” are typically substituted for “skronked up” or “murdle-urdled” or something more kid friendly of the sorts. But here, we’re treated to the actual, on-screen, (for the most part) serious death of a secondary character. It’s even more heart-wrenching to see that Moe did show some form of care and affection for AMO as he refers to him as his “dear child.” Even with AMO’s dysfunctions, Moe still loved all of his children dearly and equally, enough to trust AMO with his last possession. Though, AMO’s selfishness continues to shine through when he lets his own insecurities get in the way of what seems to be a genuine final moment between father and son.

Which leads into a final battle between brother and brother. Another gem from the storyboard that was cut is AMO’s master plan to get rid of everyone, until only one family remains and has no other choice but to love him. It was probably cut for time reasons, though I think the implication of said scene still remains. As AMO continuously fails to find a loving family, it seems apparent that he’ll continue to embark upon his pursuits, and willingly place himself in a neverending loop of failed attempts. That is, if he survived his battle with BMO, which ends just as violently as BMO pulls a Wile E. Coyote tactic and launches AMO off a cliff. Though it’s shown that AMO was built with a golden heart, just as his brother, his heart is left sad and and unresponsive, as those who only want love and cannot give it will never achieve true happiness.

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This leaves BMO as a hero, but in possibly the worst possible place he’s ever been in. Not only has he just killed his brother of whom he recently met, but he’s left knowing that his father is dead and will never be coming back. This comes as a starling and upsetting revelation when BMO softly responds “no,” to Finn, who asks if he’s alright. BMO expected growing up to be full of challenges that that were beyond his grasp or control, and in some aspects, he was right. His solo mission brought about some of the most traumatizing events he could have ever experienced, and troubles that were clearly out of his control, as life seems to consistently offer. In addition to that, he’s also left with the sad knowledge that his entire “growing up” mission was a lie, and that he may not even have an attempt to grow up because of how Moe designed him to be, in a spectacularly beautiful sequence that features multi-colored BMO’s representing his inner thoughts. Though, BMO’s stress is not long lasting. As we already learned in Be More, to which this episode is keen to reuse footage of, BMO was built simply to “be more.” AMO was intended to be one specific thing upon his inception: a robot that can receive love, while BMO was built to be whatever he chose to be. There’s the intrinsic fear within anyone that their lives are predetermined by their birthright, or whatever uncontrollable conditions have been created within their lives, though there is always the existing truth that free will will always reign above everything. Though BMO is faced with the scary truth that he could theoretically end up like his brother, he’s reassured by the fact that he knows who he is and he knows he has the power to be anything he wishes to be. While BMO started out raving about how Moe was some sort of God-like person who could do or fix anything inside of him, BMO is now left with the knowledge that though he is unable to rely on Moe to help guide him through his life, he is able to trust in himself and the creativity that so powerfully defines him. Without changing himself or his lifestyle in any way possible, BMO was able to grow up a bit by realizing who he is and what he wants, and not transforming into an entirely different entity in the process. It showed him that, while growing up brings about some scary obstacles, the true bit of comforting bliss comes from knowing who you are and being able to trust in yourself to guide you forward.

It is not, however, an attempt to discredit the type of person Moe was or all that he did for BMO, as BMO still saves for one sorrowful goodbye to his creator during his hectic day. As BMO falls asleep, an unintentional Moe flashback is triggered as he leaves his son the same message, and a cute, tired BMO falls into a deep sleep of his own. You better believe this ending left me misty-eyed. It is also a curious spectacle to see within the flashback that Moe had some form of role in creating the Sleeping Fire Giants (which later comes into play in one of the Beginning of the End comics) as to show that he does have a role in helping build on society and technological advances in Ooo, aside from his own personal splendors. It adds a bit of remaining mystery to his character, as we say a tearful goodbye to his pleasant, grandpa-ish nature. It’s also equally sad watching it now, only months after Moe’s voice actor Chuck McCann passed away. Rest in peace to a legend.

But yeah, with all that I’ve written up for this one, you can easily see that this is one of my favorites. Adventure Time has attempted these types of compressed coming of age stories before with Lemonhope and Stakes, and while both of those examples had their strong points, no such story comes across as successful as The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. This one is so amazing in its story, visuals, dialogue, thematic elements, characters, tone, and so on, and I really cannot think of a better character to use for this type of story than BMO. He’s a character that can easily be pushed aside as mere comic relief, but he really embodies the child within every living person, and those childlike fears that plague even the oldest and wisest of people. The More You Moe, The Moe You Know uses this aspect of BMO’s character to its best ability, and tells a story that is just as heartbreaking and tragic as it is uplifting. Growing up is certainly scary, because there really is no guarantee that everything is going to be alright. While most of these stories would usually leave off their central hero reassured by the reality that nothing is as bad as it seems, BMO experiences some of the most horrifying truths of life in the process. But, it’s experiencing those truths that help him to realize one of the most important part aspects of life: knowing himself and feeling in control. And, as Adventure Time has proved time and time again, that just might be enough in even the toughest of times.

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Favorite line: “I think I just killed someone”

 

“The Dark Cloud” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

With the exception of Marceline’s arc, it’s interesting how The Dark Cloud ends being a story that is almost entirely distant from what the last batch of Stakes episodes aimed to accomplish. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing; it is refreshing to get a bit of a plot shift after so much of the focus in the last few episodes has been strictly on staking the various different vamps that face our heroes’ path. But does this one wrap up the Stakes miniseries in a satisfying way, and is it successful standing on its own? Well, let’s check ‘er out.

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First off, wasn’t really buying into Marcy’s ho-hum speech about how she ruined everything. Personally, I thought it was a little selfish that she goes on about how all of it was her own fault, and then decides to do nothing in the process. Her insecurity of making things worse feels real, but c’mon, if you’re going to go on spiel about how you directly caused a giant cloud monster to invade the Candy Kingdom and destroy all of your friends, you should at least lend a helping hand, chica. I’m also just kind of down on these moments in general, because we obviously know that Marceline is going turn her viewpoint around and help out in saving the day by the end. These bits are frustrating just because they don’t really add anything to the story or character overall. Marceline’s belief that she’s the cause of all of the problems currently occurring in Ooo doesn’t really help her to come to a big revelation or even an ongoing solution to that insecurity. Unless, of course, you count her connection with Simon.

Marcy and Ice King hanging out together and having a rational discussion was really nice. I’m not a big fan of Marcy’s song in this episode, but Ice King singing the final line and acknowledging that it was a tune that he actually taught Marceline was somewhat profound. I’m guessing it was something that Simon sang to Marceline during the Mushroom War, and a morsel of it was lodged deep within Ice King’s cranium. Such a sweet moment. It was also really cool to have Ice King talk about how he and Marceline are “survivors,” likely referencing that they have existed in Ooo practically longer than anyone, and that he believes that’s the destiny they were meant to fit for the rest of eternity. Of course, this somewhat ties back into the Vampire King’s method in the very last episode, where he ultimately decided to choose a new path for himself, as well as the world around him. Ice King’s speech partially reminds Marceline of that possibility: that she can watch the world fall to shreds for the umpteenth time in her lifespan, or that she can actively have a role in creating a new path for herself, and the people around her. Ice King also refers to her as a “cockroach,” pretty much implying that she’s a being who continues to get squashed over and over again, but never dies or gives up on her mission regardless. Again, it doesn’t really connect to her turmoil earlier in the episode, but it makes for a really nice interaction that hits home with the overarching theme of the past few episodes, as well as appropriately characterizing Marceline’s identity as a whole.

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Probably my favorite part from this episode was the usurping of King of Ooo. It’s so sad to see the demise of the lovable moneygrubbing jerk, but it provides for a pretty epic sequence featuring every citizen of the Candy Kingdom standing up to their so-called princess, as well as the return of Princess Crunchy, the unforgiving. Crunchy has really worked his way into my heart after the entirety of this miniseries.

A good portion of the episode does revolve around the people of the Candy Kingdom attempting to vanquish the cloud beast in general, and it’s mostly good fun. I actually think it’s a somewhat hilarious subversion of how the “everyone gangs up against one big bad” trope is used, and it fails miserably in every way possible. The cameos were pretty terrific; Flambo returns after an 112 episode absence to let Flame Princess and Cinnamon Bun know of the the dangers lurking in the Candy Kingdom, to which the two lend a helping hand, showing that they remain as allies to Princess Bubblegum. The Hot Dog knights also get a triumphant return, only to show that haven’t gotten anymore competent over the course of a couple years.

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But even with everything going against them, things changes when Marceline slides into battle (with a priceless delayed reaction from Jake) and really takes charge. While I think it’s well-animated and presented, I’m not really a huge fan of Marceline’s demon heart opening up and sucking in the essence of the cloud for a few different reasons. First off, this is like, the third or fourth Sailor Moon-esque transformation sequence in the series, so I think the presentation, while cool, is somewhat of an overly done concept by this point in time. Second, I’m not really sure I understand how Marceline is able to do this? I guess it ties into her soul-sucking abilities as a demon, and is a power she doesn’t really have the chance to channel very often, but it just came off as something that felt a lot more like a random deus ex machina than an actual fitting solution to the issue. And if Marceline had this ability all along, then why didn’t she just do it from the beginning?? I mean, I guess she couldn’t have known what results it would bring, and she was also being pouty, but regardless, it felt like a pretty silly conclusion to the battle.

This is strictly a personal preference, but I actually do like Marceline being converted back into a vampire. Yeah, I get that it seems like another desperate attempt to hang onto the status quo, but I felt that it was a sad, yet equally uplifting reminder of what this miniseries as a whole set out to accomplish: that everything stays, but it still changes. It’s a terrific representation of the series in general, and Marceline’s arc as a character. For the series, no matter how things are restricted to staying exactly the same, the characters and environments still grow and mature every-so-slightly with each passing episode. As with Marceline, a character who has been around for a thousand years, is still able to grow and evolve, despite being inclined to feeling like the same person she was 1,000 years ago. Even though she’s left with those feelings, she’s still growing, learning, and understanding. And even in her long-winded lifespan, it’s cool to see that it’s still very possible. Take Bubblegum as well, who goes back to ruling over the Candy Kingdom, but this time with a more relaxed and caring demeanor. Though her situation remains the same, she chooses to go about her role in a new light that will positively benefit herself and the sanctity of her kingdom.

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The last few scenes are nice, as Finn, Jake, and PB welcome Marcy back in her home. I’ve given Finn a lot of shit throughout this miniseries, but he does manage to provide my all-time favorite line from Stakes: “Are you, uh… Do you feel bad? I don’t want to say, like, ‘I’m sorry about who you are’ or anything if you’re feeling okay, but I don’t know how bad news all of this is… Right?” Such an eloquently put and mature sentiment from our little buddy. It really emphasizes Finn’s absolute desire to empathize with anyone he comes across, especially when it comes to his friends, and knowing exactly how to phrase things even when he’s struck with complete confusion. Finn understands that this form of apology is hollow and potentially inappropriate, so it’s sweet to get such an outward sentiment of how he truly feels, and how he truly cares about what Marceline is feeling. Marceline’s half-and-half reassurance is nice, as we’re left with the ambiguous notion that the Vampire King now lies within Marceline’s psyche. I don’t think this is ever going to be something that’s resolved or addressed in the finale (though it may surprise me), but it is interesting to assess the implications surrounding it. No matter how much pain the VK put Marcy through, she’ll always have a part of him within her (both figuratively and literally) and the reminder that she has her own destiny to shape. The episode caps off in a nice, heartfelt fashion, as Marceline strums on her guitar, the lion finds a new home, PB rebuilds her butler buddy, Toronto runs off with the Candy Kingdom’s entire stock of gold, and Stakes comes to a quiet conclusion.

This episode was certainly not the big ending to Stakes I was expecting, but it’s mostly nice. It takes a bit of a turn by focusing more on thematic elements, rather than story, which I think is both satisfying and unsatisfying, depending on how you look at it. It’s unsatisfying in a way that, to most, likely feels like not much was actually accomplished on Marceline’s side of things within the actual Stakes arc. Though, to me, it’s satisfying in a way that connects to what the miniseries has been trying to establish since the beginning, and this episode encapsulates that in a relatively successful way. Definitely has its pros and cons, but I left this one feeling mostly good about the closure that was offered.

And that’s Stakes, gang! I’m a bit burned out by discussing the miniseries in general, so I’m glad to be moving on to other episodes, but there will be one mega-review regarding my assessment on Stakes as a whole tomorrow, so stay tuned for that! Otherwise, I’ll be digging into The More You Moe, The Moe You Know on Sunday.

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Favorite line: That dope Finn quote I mentioned above.

“Vamps About” Review

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Original Airdate: November 17, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Stakes really begins to pick up in story by the time Vamps About comes. This one really establishes the overarching dilemma of the miniseries, as well as introducing the main villains to our heroic crew. As far as establishing said plotline, this episode does a pretty solid job on that part, as well as having a ton of fun along the way.

The first few minutes of the episode are mostly spent with the vampires, as we’re provided with a solid concept regarding their personalities, abilities, and character traits. And man, do I love these guys. The vamps in general are probably my favorite part of the miniseries, as so much effort was clearly put into their designs, motivations, and individuality. Each vamp is charismatic and unique in their own way, and its nice how the presentation of these characters isn’t too exposition heavy either. We’re given brief glimpses into the perspectives of each vamp, but we don’t really fully get to know them until their own star episode. Thus each vamp leaves us with a bit of anticipation until they eventually strike later on. Especially The Moon, who remains entirely speechless and virtually unacknowledged during the entire convergence. Hella creepy. I have my own list of favorites and least favorites when it comes to the vampires, but I’ll get into that list during the Stakes mega-review. Aside from their individual characteristics, the vamps also have great chemistry between each other. Love all the slapstick-y moments involving Empress and the Vampire King’s treatment of The Fool, as well as the Vampire King threateningly holding Hierophant captive and shouting, “surely? Surely? SHIRLEY J. TEMPLE!” An obscure reference to say the least, but one that always gets me regardless. It’s also cool to see that the vamps are very different in their philosophies regarding how they should go about adapting to their new environment: Empress wants to rebuild an entirely new army of vamps, Hierophant wants to stick to the old-school vampire ways, The Moon’s motivations are unknown, The Fool just wants to fuck around and have a good time, and the Vampire King wants to turn over an entirely new leaf of existence.

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The next bit regroups our main heroes, and while it isn’t as fun or enjoyable as the time we spent with the vamps, we do get some quality moments. I love Marceline toying with Jake once more as she fake-out sucks his soul, and his version of giving Marcy a “ride” to PB’s house that involves growing a bigger, more human-like torso. Only Jake would come up with something so complicated. I know this isn’t a moment that a ton of people were into, but I liked Finn putting his arms around the girls as Marceline explains the vampire situation to Bonnie. A lot of people saw it as Finn being creepy and trying to cop a feel from his female companions, but I always saw it as an attempt for Finn to be involved and incorporated into the conversation, but gets a bit too into the gals’ personal space for their own liking. I never saw this moment as being especially malicious or creepy, and more naive than anything. The scene that did bother me was the 40 second long gag that involved Peppermint Butler drawing various interpretations of Jake’s description of the vamps, as Jake consistently responds with, “nah, that’s not right.” I remember being really bored and unamused the first time I watched this bit, and I’m equally as unfazed after a third or fourth time. Adventure Time has never fared with with overly-long jokes. It’s a series that banks itself off of quick-shot gags and overt absurdity, rather than toying with the patience of the audience and seeing how long a particular joke can be stretched out. I’d be fairly more forgiving if Peppermint Butler’s sketches were at least funny, but they’re pretty straightforward and unremarkable. This at least provided us with the sweet promo art that Steve Wolfhard drew up for the episode.

The flashback sequence featuring the final battle between Marceline and the Vampire King is visually impressive. The action is staged terrifically, Vampire King’s words are dramatic and foreboding, the shot is well-lit through the use of moonlight, and the biting scene in general is really intense and somewhat disturbing. Vampirism has shared a connection with rape culture in the media since pretty much the beginning of its existence, and I definitely get those uncomfortable feelings here. That’s not necessarily a complaint though, as I think it really adds to the absolute trauma that seems to have been inflicted on Marceline. Adventure Time has flew past the radar countless times, but I was actually somewhat surprised with how aggressive this biting sequence was able to play out.

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Another one of my favorite bits in this one is Peppermint Butler unleashing his large, collective supply of vampire slaying material. It was pretty obvious from the beginning of this miniseries that PB, Finn, and Jake would all still possess prominent roles despite the fact that Stakes revolves around Marceline, but it sure is nice to see Peppermint Butler in a secondary role as well, to the point where he does have an active role in the story. I love Pepbut’s explanation of how he kept this arsenal around just in case Marceline went berserk. The little man will really do anything to protect Princess Bubblegum, even if it means slaying her former best friend in the process.

It was kind of annoying to see the boys fumble around and be incompetent, just so that there is some kind of framing device in order for Marceline to be alone. Of course, there are tons of these moments during the miniseries, and this one isn’t as bothersome as some instances are. So I can forgive this moment for now, but it certainly isn’t the last time I’ll be making this complaint.

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Marceline’s confrontation with the Vampire King (and The Fool) is nicely executed, and it does kind of paint a picture of how morally wrong the King actually is in his new lifestyle. While Marceline is rightfully close-minded in not believing the vamp after he treated her in the past, it does kind of leave an impression that sorta makes you question vampirism in general. I mean, it seems fucked up that the vampires suck the blood from animals, but in general, we as humans kill and eat animals every single day. It’s an obvious point, but one I actually didn’t think about much from the inception, to which the Vampire King brings to light. While we’re on the subject of the King, I think he has a pretty neat design in general, but it bothers me to no end that he also has bird feet, similar to Urgence Evergreen. That was a really neat and unique feature to Evergreen’s design, and I feel as though Vampire King sharing this trait makes Evergreen seems less remarkable in the process. But that quibble aside, I do enjoy his various different animalistic attributes.

Marcy quickly staking The Fool was quite amusing, as the Vampire King slickly transports from area to area. Though the battle doesn’t last long, as Marcy is left with the impending dangers that face her good pal Simon within the Ice Kingdom. And we’re left with an exciting promise of an episode-to-episode battle with each vampire.

This one is mostly solid. It has a couple jokes and gags I’m not particularly into, but this is the episode in which I really started to get invested with this miniseries as a whole. It builds a lot of anticipation for what’s ahead, while providing for some satisfying entertainment in the process.

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Favorite line: “Smell my feet, Marceline! You won’t regret it.”

“Bonnie & Neddy” Review

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Original Airdate: November 2, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Bonnie & Neddy is no where near as big and epic as its season premiere predecessors. Though, that’s to be expected: after the satisfying conclusion of season six, this premiere didn’t have any big cliffhanger to work off of, but there were a few lingering plot threads remaining in season six that this episode carries forward. It’s a pretty decent introduction to King of Ooo’s new reign as princess, along with a cute and potentially complex backstory for Princess Bubblegum.

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I’ll dig into the meat of this one first: the backstory of Bonnie and Neddy. While not as captivating as Finn, Marceline, or even Jake’s past history, Bubblegum’s origin story is simple and sweet. After seeing that blob from Simon & Marcy, and for the five people that actually played through Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! in its entirety, (sorry, that was mean) it became pretty clear that PB was some kind of manifestation of said blob, and it’s cool to see how natural and uncomplicated her actual “birth” came about. It is interesting, however, that Bonnie and Neddy are the only two children of the Mother Gum that we ever see in the series. Of course, we eventually end up meeting PB’s “relatives”, but what happened to the other gum children that dropped from the Mother Gum? The Explore the Dungeon game explains (if we are considering it canon) that PB has been protecting the Mother Gum by herself for years, so why were others not spawn from the gum? Again, this is under the circumstances that a game is being considered canon to the story, but I also feel like there’s a missing link to the story regarding the other brothers and sisters that PB spent her time with. Nice to see that this is where her desire to build the Candy Kingdom came from, however.

Regardless, we’re treated to the sweet weirdo Neddy, who clearly seemed to suffer some trauma upon his birth. I think a good amount of backlash was directed at this episode for introducing Neddy so late into the series after never being mentioned prior to this moment, but it seems exactly like Princess Bubblegum to keep the identity of her brother in secrecy so absolutely no one would bother him. I have no problem buying into the fact that Bubblegum would periodically check up on Neddy off-screen. Neddy’s voice is shrill and unpleasant, though not necessarily at the expense of the viewer, at least in my eyes (or ears). Rather than coming off as irritating, Neddy’s cries were helpful elements to show the tragedy of his situation. I dunno, there was something really quite sad about the way he was presented; I think the fact that Neddy doesn’t speak adds a lot to his character, as we never truly know what he’s going through or why he’s terrified. He’s a character I feel sympathy primarily because of the fact that he never really had a choice of whether to be brave or not. Neddy was born into pain, and likely consistently afraid of reliving that pain because of it.

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Thus, I think the relationship between PB and Neddy is rather nicely presented. I like that Princess Bubblegum’s inability to change other people comes into play once again. Along with Lemongrab, PB doesn’t want to alter Neddy’s behavior and try to change him – she knows what he’s comfortable with and what makes him happy, and that’s all that truly matters to her. The message of “people get built different. We don’t need to figure it out, we just need to respect it,” is a genuinely good one to live by. Though, I do wonder if Bubblegum truly did all that she could for Neddy. I mean, was Neddy really a lost cause, destined to suck on a sappy tree branch for all of his eternity, or was his potential and ability to live out a quality lifestyles squandered by the fact that Bonnie never attempted to release him from said comfort zone? And was her decision somewhat selfish, considering that she used Neddy’s sap sucking abilities as a foundation for her kingdom to thrive off of? I don’t really lean especially hard on any end of the spectrum; I’m kind of all for the idea that people should be able to live comfortably and happily in their own little state of bliss, but I also question whether or not Princess Bubblegum actually tried to help conquer or alleviate Neddy’s fears and instead chose to leave them to be suppressed. It’s a consistent part of Bonnibel’s character to not directly try to “treat” the close people around her who are different, and interesting to consider when it comes to how orthodox her response to these issues are. Whether it was at the intention of the episode, it is interesting regardless.

The rest of Bonnie & Neddy is a bit clunky in some areas. I dunno if it was just weird getting back into the booth at the start of season seven, but some of Finn and Jake’s lines come off as especially wooden and stiff. I usually NEVER have this complaint about the two characters, so I don’t know if Jeremy Shada and John DiMaggio were just struggling with the dialogue that Herpich and Wolfhard provided for them, or if they just simply had been away from the characters for a while. Finn’s line, “he really blizzed up all the slizz,” sounds remarkably unenergetic for the typically hammy and over-the-top character. I also thought the humor in this one was a bit weak, and only really started to pick up during Wolfhard’s bits. I like Jake stretching out of his armor instead of just simply removing it, and the bird who gives Neddy an attitude is a gif I’ve been in search of for far to long. The King of Ooo is up to his typical douchebaggery, but he isn’t as funny or conniving as he was in previous episodes. His simple motivation of obtaining money in this one didn’t really make sense to me to begin with… what does KOO even need money for after being the head of an entire kingdom? I guess it contributes to his everlasting desire for greed and power, but it just came off as somewhat shallow and uninteresting for his character. Though he does provide for a relatively funny scene at the end.

So Bonnie & Neddy isn’t without its clunky moments, but it does provide a simple and charming backstory for one of AT‘s most complex characters that I can get behind for the most part. I think it does raise an interesting debate regarding PB’s treatment of Neddy, and one that has me personally conflicted even to this day. It’s a complex issue that’s masked behind a positive and well-intentioned message.

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Favorite line: “I just want consistency!”

“Hot Diggity Doom” Review

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Original Airdate: June 5, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

A few tears were shed from myself after watching this year’s San Diego Comic-Con Panel (which you can watch online here).  A lot of beautiful words were said from the cast and crew who really hit the nail on the head about why the series is so terrific in general: it’s a big, exciting fantasy world filled with truly earnest and passionate characters. With that being said, it’s fitting to rewatch an episode like Hot Diggity Doom, which is primarily set-up for the next episode The Comet, but is also filled with some really nice character moments from Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum respectively. Granted, I don’t think it’s particularly strong in its story, but it makes up for it with a decent amount of funny moments and plenty of nice character moments, mainly from Princess Bubblegum herself.

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An election in Ooo is something I’ve wanted since the very beginning of the series. Granted, I think it totally seemed like a contrived idea in my head, and it still seems like one in this episode, but it plays with this idea to a great extent. It’s equally fitting that the election stars the King of Ooo, as the conflict between PB and himself continues to build. It’s appropriate that Steve Wolfhard boarded the first half of this episode, as KOO is a personal favorite of his, and you can almost see Wolfhard’s excitement while writing for the character. KOO is, as always, a charismatic and likable douchebag. I think he borders on being a tad bit annoying when he actually does pick up a more prominent role in following episodes, but he’s used quite fittingly as an foil for PB and as a charming manipulator of the ignorant Candy People. Though, one aspect that bothered me was how cool Sweet P. suddenly is with being around the King of Ooo. Wouldn’t he still be slightly traumatized by his behavior after threatening to burn down his house? I kind of would have liked this better if King of Ooo was forcing Sweet P. to seem like he didn’t care, but the fact that he really didn’t care was weird in presentation.

The idea of having a princess “election” in Ooo is a very silly and unique concept, but I’m always somewhat curious about just how much this holds as factual from what has already been established. I mean, we’ve seen kings and queens throughout the course of the series: Flame King, King Huge, Lumpy Space King and Queen (though, to be fair, they aren’t citizens of Ooo), Marceline, Xergiok, etc. All of these beings are portrayed as the rulers of their kingdom, even with princes and princesses roaming about. Is there something decreed regarding a certain part of Ooo where princesses like PB, Slime Princess, Hot Dog Princess, and so on are elected officials of their kingdom? Ooo politics are certainly confusing as fuck, and I feel like this added layer only adds to that confusion. It still is a funny and enjoyable concept in execution, it’s just kind of hard to piece together these bits of world building when it comes to the nature of hierarchies in Ooo.

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Most of the fun from this episode derives from PB’s reaction to the whole debacle. Hynden Walch’s acting here is really on point, giving PB just the right amount of snark, and also sincerity in her deliveries. The tone surrounding her behavior is also fitting, seeing as how it starts out quite amusing when Bubblegum does flip her lid, but soon turns melancholic once she realizes her people have effectively turned against her, all while she was working on protecting them from possible disaster. With all that has been building up between the Candy People and PB’s shady behavior, it does feel fitting that the citizens would make a decision this drastic, even while keeping the prophetic dream sequence from Hoots in mind. There’s even a couple legitimate points made, such as James’ mom’s explanation (in a humorously boarded sequence by Wolfhard) of how PB told her son to basically get the fuck out of the kingdom, even if it was warranted. Though I guess that’s actually another problem I have with the way PB’s demotion is presented. I think the entire reason she’s voted out is simply shown as an example of how easy the Candy People are persuaded into swooning over a charismatic stranger, rather than the fact that PB has recently exuded some unorthodox behavior. I would have liked if the episode was a bit more challenging in how it tied back to some of PB’s questionable acts, rather than mentioning a few trivial things that don’t have a ton to do with what the past two seasons have been trying so hard to emphasize. I think a good amount of PB’s own angst regarding the situation is touched on in a meaningful way later on, but it doesn’t feel like her actions truly had a direct impact on her fall as a leader, which would have been a lot more of an intriguing demotion in my opinion.

There’s a ton of great PB moments that follow, however. Her bidding Finn and Jake goodbye was really sweet; even with her pettiness shown in the past, PB still wants Finn and Jake to remain loyal to the King of Ooo and to protect the kingdom. It shows how much PB does care for the kingdom that she was so mercilessly kicked out of, and still wants to see all of the hard work she put into it to remain intact. While we’re on the subject of loyalty, I think it’s really awesome that Peppermint Butler is the one person who remained absolutely true and by Bubblegum’s side throughout the whole endeavor. This was something already touched on in Nemesis, but I can’t express how cool it is that this super complex master of the dark arts is a totally loyal and perfectly self-aware guy who does everything out of loyalty for another being. It’s why I love his character so much: he’s the perfect embodiment of dark and light. I really dig a lot of the quieter moments when the two arrive at Uncle Gumbald’s cabin. Of course, it’s unique to get this kind of name drop of Uncle Gumbald at all. He was previously mentioned in Susan Strong, and the way PB talks about him in this episode, along with the way her sentence is framed, implies that there’s definitely something worth exploring in that category. Though, there’s quite some time before that exploration.

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The rest of the episode is mostly fun shenanigans with Finn and Jake and the Candy People. I like Finn’s really relaxed and natural reaction to the comet approaching, and on the opposite side of things, the exceptionally terrified behavior of the Candy citizens. It’s always fun watching the Candy People in a state of panic, and there are some notably fun bits here, like the Banana Guard trying to throw his spear at the comet, or the trash can smash backfiring and hitting Starchy.

The eventual battle between the mysterious campaign manager and Finn and Jake is decently staged, though for myself, I thought it was pretty obviously going to be Gunter. Maybe it was because I had already seen the TV Guide summary for The Comet, but I knew that Orgalorg had to be incorporated in here somewhere, so the reveal never came off as shocking. The reaction from Finn is amusing, as Herpich provides some rather goofy but still arguably funny bits of dialogue to work with (“what the bing bong, ping pong?!”). This all builds to the inevitable cliffhanger, as PB’s rocket, along with Finn, Jake, and Gunther, head into space to converge with the comet.

Hot Diggity Doom is decent set-up that’s filled with some laughs and funny moments, and the occasional lull. I think some of the problems I listed above could have made the episode a bit stronger if they were addressed, but when taking it for what it is, I still do enjoy this one. I actually do like a lot of those quieter moments I mentioned earlier. The scenes that feature PB and Peppermint Butler in or by the cabin are really nice and calmly executed. And, as I mentioned, Finn and Jake make for a lot of fun in their own sequences after being absent for three straight episodes. It’s a mostly solid entry that provides for plenty of anticipation regarding the true season six finale.

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Favorite line: “I don’t know what a dillweed is.”

“Walnuts & Rain” Review

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Original Airdate: March 5, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich

After a heavy dose of episodes that were either really poetic, heady, or continued the story of a recurring character, it’s nice to have a healthy dose of fluff. Walnuts & Rain isn’t spectacular in any sense of the word, but it’s a cute, little adventure that’s likable and energetic enough to leave a positive impact on me. In the spirit of season six, there’s also allegorical undertones sprinkled in to give the experience a stronger lasting impression.

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It’s once again nice to see Jake and Finn back together, just for the sake of a rowdy adventure. Finn even says “algebraic” after God knows how long. Ice King said it back in Another Five More Short Graybles, which was also boarded by Tom Herpich, but I’m pretty positive Finn hasn’t used the term since way back in Slumber Party Panic (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). As always, the two boys bring a lot of joy and excitement to the screen, and it actually kind of works stronger than ever because of how little they are involved at this point in the season. As swell as most of these past episodes have been, it’s nice to see the two boys who made this series so special back in action. Though their time together is short and few, as they both get separated into different passages, and the main story, or stories are kickstarted by said separation.

Most of the fun of Walnuts & Rain derives from the enjoyable characters and environments that Finn and Jake end up spending their time with. On Finn’s side, it’s nice to see the actual Huge Kingdom after we were introduced to Prince Huge in The Hard Easy. Though, said kingdom actually isn’t ruled by the prince, and is ruled by King Huge, a pretty humorous character who is carried mostly by his great voicework by Matthew L. Jones. King Huge isn’t really given a ton of funny lines or anything of the sorts, but Jones refusal to deliver such dialogue with an indoor voice is what makes his character a surprisingly pleasure. A lot of characters, namely Lemongrab, can often be weighed down by their necessity to shout, though King Huge’s prominent voice doesn’t really come off in an irritating notion, but in a method to display his dignified and important nature. King Huge’s castle, surrounded by sentient steak people and giant food, reminds me a lot of something that would come out of an early Silly Symphony cartoon. Not sure if it’s reminiscent of any short in particular, but the general approach to its environment seems very old-school animation in my book. The King himself actually reminds me a bit of Willie the Giant in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but by size and initial behavior only. The King is actually a bit tyrannical, as his desire to force Finn to stay in his kingdom has practically no basis regarding anything, besides the fact that King Huge believes that doing nothing and being patient will bring Finn great fortune. King Huge’s tendency toward being patient derives from the fact that he has never had to lift a finger to get everything he has ever wanted. King Huge intrinsically believes that the same could be said from everyone else, even though his stance and position in the kingdom are clearly what drives his point forward.

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The same could not be said for 7718 – Seven, for short – the bear who is keeping Jake afloat after he falls into a hole. Seven is a pretty likable dude, whose voice I swore I recognized, but never bothered to look it up till now (he was Enoch from Over the Garden Wall!). Seven’s desire to keep Jake on his carriage may have been somewhat of a selfish desire to have some sort of company after being stuck for who knows how long, but it also likely comes from his desire to not stray from his own game plan. As he describes in his story to Jake regarding how he fell into the hole in the first place, Seven mentions that he had taken the same route nearly 200 times consecutively, until a bee stung his horse and something unexpected happened. Seven likely has anxious tendencies that make him stray away from changing his procedure in life. He believes in patience, simply for the reason that he thinks it’s the only way to properly survive. Jake likely has the right idea by trying to use his stretchy powers to get out, but Seven warns him that something dangerous could possibly happen if he does so, not realizing that the two are stuck in an almost unbearable purgatory regardless. Seven does at least have the right attitude of positivity, and is proven to be correct in his methods by the end of the episode. I also think the bond he shares with Jake is really sweet. Adventure Time has this way of showcasing really mundane and kind of dull characters in an interesting and likable way, and Seven is just one example at that. I also think it’s hilarious how his name is actually Bill, yet he interpreted the wrong way. AT absurdity at its best.

A good portion of the middle is dedicated to Finn’s completely convoluted plan to escape from the Huge Kingdom, which is both hilarious and honestly has exactly the kind of effort that Finn would put into an escape plan. Surprisingly enough, it almost works, only it’s quickly foiled by King Huge noticing exactly what’s going on, which still leads to an exciting chase where Finn gives the biggest “fuck you” in existence by choosing to destroy the clock, rather than to assure himself safety. This one is solo-boarded by Herpich, and I always gush over how well his drawings translate into the animation process. He shows great attention to “squash and stretch” when it comes to how the characters emote, or how action is portrayed in their environment, and it all looks great, mainly when Finn is running and when Seven recalls his backstory. This is one that also incorporates CG into the backgrounds a lot, as season six has been frequently doing, and it looks really nice as always.

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Of course, it all comes to a satisfying conclusion when Jake and Seven finally do land into the Huge Kingdom, and Jake gives King Huge his comeuppance. This allows for the three to escape happily, and Seven can get his hands on a big flippin’ hot dog. Walnuts & Rain is nothing fantastic as I had mentioned, but it’s quite enjoyable in its simplicity and how it takes a step back from some of the heavier stuff that has been coming out recently. A lot of people have compared this to having a season one or two vibe to it, and while I could definitely see that in its focus on a simpler premise, but it still has those tendencies to lean towards a deeper meaning and its desire to be more quiet and atmospheric, rather than wild and hyperactive. Not to say these are bad things, it just shows how much the series has evolved since its beginning. And whether its a season one episode, a season two episode, or a season six episode, Adventure Time still knows how to delight us with likable and unique fluff.

Walnuts & Rain also snagged the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation, specifically for Herpich’s work on the episode. This is the series third Emmy win, and not the last one at that!

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Favorite line: “Man, I don’t give a toot!”