Tag Archive | Tom Herpich

“Come Along With Me” Consensus

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Before checking out this review, be sure you read the segmented analyses of each part of Come Along With Me.

It’s been a while, friends! Hope everyone had a terrific holiday season and a great start to their new year! Following the release of the final Come Along With Me individual review, I was definitely feeling burnt out and needed space from the series and this blog for a bit to rekindle my energy. My enthusiasm for discussing AT has happily renewed, and I’ll be wrapping up the first wave of this blog throughout the next few weeks with some bonus content. Since I’m just getting back into the swing of things, I don’t want to promise any form of heavily stressed deadlines, though this is the order of content you can expect for the next few weeks:

  • Season 9 Review.
  • The Best and Worst of Adventure Time Episodes.
  • Top 10 Adventure Time Moments.
  • Adventure Time Character Analysis.

I’ve batted around a few more ideas for bonus content before, and those ideas are still on the table, but I’d like to focus on the stuff I really want to tackle before possibly over-promising anything too elaborate.

A reminder that my giving campaign is still up and running! If you feel like you got one dollar’s worth of entertainment reading this blog in the past or present, or if you want to support the future of this blog, feel free to throw some cashola my way in you have the extra money!

SUPPORT ADVENTURE TIME REVIEWED!

With that said, let’s take a look at Come Along With Me as a whole! Ever since the release of the finale, I’ve seen nothing but overwhelmingly positive responses about Come Along With Me. Review sites like The A.V. Club and IGN awarded the finale with an absolute perfect score, while several longtime fans and fans who jumped back on board to see how the series ended were pretty amazed. I was pretty much in the same boat, but as time has passed, and I’ve looked at the finale with clear eyes not clouded by hype of everything…

It’s a’ight.

I think there’s a lot to like about Come Along With Me. In many respects, it is a completely inoffensive, loving, and dedicated finale. This certainly isn’t a Game of Thrones situation where the finale is so bad that it hurts both rewatch value and the overall quality of the series, but it is a finale that I find somewhat underwhelming. On a thematic level, Come Along With Me succeeds in following the main mission statement of the series that “the fun will never end,” by portraying the optimistic viewpoint that life and existence still continue regardless of impending doom that so often afflicts humanity (and Ooo-manity, of course). But, when looking at it from a surface or story level, I think there’s still a good amount to be desired.

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Let’s start with the good stuff. The expansion of the 1000+ world that was introduced in Graybles 1000+ is quite impressive. I was initially a bit miffed that this futuristic element was being crammed in, seeing as how the finale was already so jam-packed as is, but I think it really adds a lot to what the episode sets out to say. Shermy and Beth are quite likable, albeit not particularly remarkable. I think they fill the shoes of “two wide-eyed scamps set out to do good,” really nicely. BMO’s presence in the future is also similarly endearing. I think he’s really the only character from the main cast that I would actually like to see this far into the future. Every other character is tied to some form of baggage that would probably devolve them into a gritty, worn-out version of their old self, but BMO is just BMO. His stagnant personality is a perfect fit 1000+ years later. The general layout of the 1000+ world is pretty gnarly. It does a great job at setting itself apart from the past version of Ooo, while still retaining its likable nature. I’ve seen a lot of comments about future Ooo being depressing, though I can’t really can’t behind that. There’s a definitely a more muted color scheme, but its spirit still feels light and playful. And considering that there’s a giant heroic Sweet P. traveling the land, it also still retains its large sense of heroism. After all, the whole point of the finale, as well as BMO’s story, is that there really is no end to anything. Ooo is different from what it once was, and Finn and Jake are no longer roaming around, but their spirit and energy lives on in other brave souls and environments. Like I said, the thematic elements of the episode are quite strong.

Come Along With Me feels very dedicated in its fanservice. Some moments feel like a little bit of a stretch for me, (Shermy singing “On a Tropical Island” was a bit too on-the-nose for my liking) but I think it is quite enjoyable for that reason. BMO’s treasure trove of items from the show’s history is so wide that I’m sure there are some elements that haven’t even been discovered yet. There’s plenty of cool character callbacks, some of which return just for the sense of wrapping up their individual arcs, like Maja and APTWE. The ending montage, in particular, is chock full of characters from the show’s history, as well as important character moments. I’ll throw in the entire montage as one of the great elements of this finale, partly because I never get sick of hearing “Come Along With Me,” and because there’s a couple bits that even got me misty-eyed. BMO sending Moe’s memories into space was a perfect epilogue to Moe’s story that ended in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know, Prismo not being able to bring back Betty was a super clever way of turning the tables on Simon’s tale, and Magic Man coming to terms with Margles’ absence was undeniably sweet. I also really can’t think of a better note to leave Finn’s character on than his mother and the humans finally arriving in Ooo. I still hold close that it would’ve been cool to see Finn and Jake take on their parents’ old job as a way to fulfill their desires of adventuring in a more stable environment, but I think this was a solid way to leave off his story in a relatively ambiguous, yet hopeful, way.

The finale also does have moments that legitimately do grab me in terms of excitement. The third part of Come Along With Me is probably my favorite, mainly because it is this fun, fast-paced, action-packed battle that never really takes a second to breathe or think. This is kind of what I was expecting for most of the finale, and I’m glad it delivered on some level. It gives you an idea of how tense and real the stakes are, even if everything ends up okay, for the most part. I think there’s three moments in the finale that really echo that somewhat hopeless feeling: Jake realizing the destruction after he arises before battling GOLB’s beasts, BMO’s face being smashed up, and the animals watching on as GOLB sucks up everything. There’s a true sense of finality that I do think boosts Come Along With Me into feeling like this big, grand entry. The song “Time Adventure” assists with that, which is a song that I love, though not particularly in how it’s executed within that actual episode. The studio recording of “Time Adventure” is a tune that I genuinely love and one that truly does make me feel something, but the way it’s included in the episode feels a little hollow. I still like everyone joining together in harmony in an attempt to defeat GOLB, but I would’ve like it if we got to hear the song the way it was intended (i.e. with Jake singing the final line to Finn).

There’s also Marceline and Bubblegum’s scene, which explicitly shows that they are involved romantically. Thought this was a super nice treat for people who had been invested in their relationship for so long, and somewhat of a big step forward in LGBTQ+ representation within children’s media. Like I said prior, Steven Universe had beaten AT to the punch YEARS before they had pulled this off forreal, but I think it still feels impactful. Steven Universe always kind of had the excuse that the gems were “genderless” in order to fly by the censors. This is an instance where two female characters are quite clearly portrayed as sexual counterparts, and I don’t think there’s really explanation around it either way.

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Now onto the bad/mediocre material. Surprisingly, I think Come Along With Me is really weak from a character standpoint. All of the main characters, in my opinion, are weighed down either by a story element, or the fact that there’s just too much going on at once, with the exception of BMO. Finn gets severely shafted in the third and fourth parts, being essentially a fly on the wall while all of this cool shit goes on around him, and his main character motivation in the first half is handled poorly. Bubblegum’s story of empathy has a pretty lousy payoff, considering that she really doesn’t end up changing the behavior that got her into such a circumstance to begin with. Jake’s presence is fun, but a bit too distracting in terms of tone at points, and he really isn’t given any kind of overarching role aside from being a bystander. Marceline is once again weighed down by her character only revolving around Bubblegum and Simon and not really getting a chance to do anything independently. As for Ice King, I think it works in everyone’s best interest (or at least a majority of the fan base) that he got the resolution that has been built up for so long, but I still have a couple qualms about how Simon’s return essentially means the end of Ice King, even if Gunter’s role attempts at subverting that.

A lot of these issues tie into the fact that there really is just too much going on in Come Along With Me, as to be expected with a series that’s been on this long and that has so many lingering mysteries. Even the elements that are given a good bit of attention, such as Fern’s redemption, feel all too rushed along for myself to truly get behind. Couple that with the fact that the story, or stories, themselves are not very strong.

The first half hour of the special is dedicated to the Great Gum War. This storyline had already felt kind of clunky throughout the course of season nine, but it really ends up going nowhere in its climax. While the dream sequence is interesting in some aspects, namely the scenes where PB and Gumbald experience life inside each other’s shoes, it feels wasted with the conclusion we get. I’m not even sure what the takeaway of Gumbald’s entire story was. It was originally supposed to tie in to PB’s overall insecurity of being a corrupt ruler, and it seemed like that’s where this episode wanted to take it, but it basically just ends up exactly where she started, trapping her family members in a barren vessel because she doesn’t want to deal with the real issue at hand. Except for Aunt Lolly, who apparently is super sympathetic towards PB for… some reason? Even though the last episode clearly showed that it was all a ruse? Her character is painted with little to no depth and it really shows. Not to mention that her role in the episode makes the entire first chunk of the finale moot, since Finn’s choice to Nightmare Juice PB and Gumbald had no effect on Aunt Lolly’s decision. Yet, the episode acts like Finn was the holy savior even after the fact when his choice only benefited Fern and not the overall war. I don’t get it, man. I could go on and on about how the way Gumbald’s betrayal at the end of Part 2 is written in a very sloppy way, but I think I could forgive the conclusion itself if we actually got something interesting from the war element. Since the development between Gumbald and PB ended up being scrapped, I would’ve at least liked to see some of the excitement that the past two episodes have so desperately built up to. I know its in typical AT fashion to subvert expectations, but c’mon, it’s the series finale. Go big with it! I wanna see Pete Sassafras murder someone.

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The GOLB twist provides for that surface level excitement I had been longing for, but I don’t think it’s especially strong either, which mostly has to do with GOLB as a character. The build up to GOLB’s presence was super mysterious and kind of suspenseful, but when he actually shows up, he’s kind of lame. He mainly just acts as a plot device for absolute destruction. The thing is, I’m not really sure how to make GOLB more interesting. I think it’d be silly if he had a speaking voice or some kind of evil plan, but I feel like another element should’ve been added to make him appear more intimidating. The animation shift to a more sketchy style during his demise was rad as hell, I wouldn’t mind if his entire appear called for some kind of animation shift. Or even just in shading – Come Along With Me is also plagued by really dull colors.

Simon’s story is wrapped up within the last chunk, and ehhh. I can’t really put blame on the staff for deciding that the only decision that made sense was curing Simon after years of build up, and to be fair, the way it’s executed isn’t bad by any means. I just think that Ice King’s character became way too elaborate for its own good to the point where I really didn’t want Simon to come back at all. Ice King is a character that has been shown to grow and develop on his own, so why should he get the shaft? I know that he technically still lives on through Gunter’s wish, but I dunno, it seems like a more complicated issue that was glossed over all too fast for the purpose of a quick conclusion. I do think Betty’s sacrifice was genuinely quite potent, and made for a nice role reversal in Simon and Betty’s never-ending saga.

Fern’s arc also gets a grand conclusion, which is bumpy, but still relatively satisfying. I think Part 2’s redemption story for Fern is way too obvious and unchallenged in how it handles his quick decision to cooperate with Finn, but I ultimately find his death to be quite poignant and a nice sentiment of Finn bidding farewell to his childhood and a part of himself.

Parts Ranked

  1. Part 3 – Just a ton of fun, and the one chunk of the finale that actually had me super invested in everything going on.
  2. Part 1 – A nice exploration of the 1000+ world, and a genuinely suspenseful build in to the faux war that never actually comes into fruition.
  3. Part 4 – A little clunky and awkward in how it tries to quickly wrap everything up as fast a possible, but still provides for a nice ending.
  4. Part 2 – The only part of the finale that I’d say is just straight up bad. Makes the entire storyline of the season feel partially wasted and it just isn’t all that interesting either.

Final Consensus

Come Along With Me is a safe, inoffensive finale, and that’s not necessarily a huge downfall. I think, in its core, it is a finale that had a lot of passion and love put into it. Like I said, there’s really nothing in here that could ruin the series for anyone or is even that deplorable, but I don’t really think that makes it especially good either. It still is very underwhelming in parts, and clearly comes from a staff that really had no idea how they were going to tie everything together. In my eyes, the series has already churned out some episodes that could make for great finales. Faults aside, The Comet did feel like a culmination of everything that Finn had learned up to that point, and a nice conclusion of himself finally finding peace. Islands also wrapped up a lot of long-standing questions, and offered fans an essential answer to who Finn truly is. Not necessarily saying that these episodes should have been finales – I think it would probably drive people insane if The Comet was the series finale. But those are both examples of episodes that set out to tell interesting stories first without the pressure of having every lingering detail figured out. Come Along With Me feels like a hodgepodge of ideas that want to offer ultimate satisfaction, but never really just focus on being entertaining first. Overall, I think it does get a pass for trying its damnedest to make everyone as satisfied as they possibly can be. But for me personally, it’s far from one of AT‘s strongest entries.

“Come Along With Me” (Part 1) Review

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Not a single rip or tear. *sniff*

Original Airdate: September 3, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

And so begins our four week trip through Adventure Time‘s big climax! Going into Come Along With Me was a surreal experience. Adventure Time was this huge, juggernaut series that once seemed undefeatable – it was essentially Cartoon Network’s SpongeBob for a good chunk of the 2010s (until Teen Titans Go! started picking up steam). The idea of a series finale for such a massive show was almost unreal to me, not to mention a show that has sold itself on having many, many, many, MANY hanging threads. When I sat down to watch the long-awaited finale, I went in with a sense of excitement, but also a sense of dread. Adventure Time was, and still is, my favorite series out there, and the idea of its finale not landing was exceptionally stressful for myself. Luckily, upon a first viewing experience, I was very much enamored with its sense of closure and the general care and passion that the crew clearly put in. Upon reevaluation, I still think a lot of what worked on a first watch still succeeded… while other aspects, unfortunately, did not. But before we tackle the contents of the episode, let’s first dive into the intro that precedes it.

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Come Along With Me begins in the distant future that was elaborated upon in Graybles 1000+. Steve Wolfhard clearly had a ball boarding for this sequence, and you can really see just how much of his love for the fallen Ooo really shines through. A lot of the concepts he kickstarted feel fully fleshed out, or at the very least, semi-fleshed out. All elementals are accounted for, including the battling fire and slime beings named X and O respectively, the ice dome that still holds Patience St. Pim, and a bit of a mystery regarding the Candy Elemental. Within the Ice Thingdom, there are pink hands that can be clearly seen behind bars, but there’s also the hooded character watching over the land that has been theorized to be PB. I like how the 1000+ world works in a way that doesn’t reveal too much in terms of what happened to our major characters from the past – they might all be rotting in the ground, or some of them might very well still be kicking. I like the subtlety of playing around with the idea, rather than having it fully spelled out like the Season 11 comics attempted to do. It’s much more intriguing this way. There’s other neat touches, like the rise of the “Pup Kingdom” and the idea that Charlie’s future son rules over it. Again, a lot of stuff that Wolfhard clearly fleshed out in one way or another, which also makes the episode at hand more interesting and quite charming.

Then we’re introduced to Shermy and Beth, the duo that essentially work to capture the essence of Finn and Jake’s bond and heroism. There was never really a ton that went into Shermy’s history or past, but Beth is riddled with a hidden baggage that Wolfhard conducted off-screen. Beth, as revealed in the intro, is the “pup princess,” though her role as a leader didn’t last, as she was exiled and became a fugitive of the Pup Kingdom. She also has the gnarly ability to warp things through her belly-button, carrying on the legacy of her alien ancestor, Jake. Shermy and Beth are both fun and likable. There’s a simplistic charm to their characters that is very (successfully) reminiscent of their adventurous counterparts. Though, I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that they are reincarnations of Finn and Jake. Obviously Beth is related to Jake in some way, but I don’t really think Shermy is supposed to be a future version of Finn. Or at least, that’s not what I took from his character. Heroes, like Finn and Jake, die off eventually, but there will always be a righteous duo in the world that proceeds them. Despite their ancestry, I like to believe that Shermy and Beth are just two cool peeps that don’t have any kind of heroic blood or vital force inside that connects to our former duo, they’re just two close companions that help to lighten up the world through their connectedness and desires for good (even if it involves being a bit rambunctious). Since the series has concluded, I’ve seen a handful of people pitch the idea of an entire show revolving around Shermy and Beth, buuuut I’m not sure if I’d be especially interested in that concept. They’re fun placeholder characters, but I don’t think their creation intends for them to be filled to the brim with depth.

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The further fleshed out version of the 1000+ world remains intriguing in its blend of macabre and goofy developments. It’s definitely bleak, with more muted colors and a sense of degradation, but a lot of its inhabitants are endearing in a way that would even make them suitable inhabitants of the pre-post-post (that’s a doozy) apocalyptic world. Princess Zip exists to show that interaction with extra-terrestrial life has increased after the events of High Strangeness, but also as an example that things have changed drastically, yet not very much, in the thousand years since Finn and Jake roamed Ooo. A barely intelligence alien princess is odd, but in actuality, is it any more odd than a rainbow unicorn fluent in Korean? It feels very real in not changing so much that it’s unrecognizable, but changing enough that clear transitions have occurred over a long period of time.

It’s super silly, but I feel like I can totally get behind BMO being the only character whose status is confirmed in the 1000+ world. This isn’t to say that BMO doesn’t have depth, but he surely is the most static of the main cast. While any other character would probably go through some drastic, grittier appearance change, BMO remains virtually the same with very little physical altercations. I also like the idea that, in a world where technology is constantly evolving, a little robot boy that is likely considered primitive by the standards of the 1000+ is still standing. Of course, it is slightly questionable from a believability standpoint. BMO has been prone to more life-threatening obstacles than any of his other friends in the main cast, and it is somewhat difficult to grasp that the little robot has made it this far. There’s the possibility that he’s always had someone to look after him and upgrade his software over the years, but the independent BMO that we see before us does raise some questions. Like, what if his batteries end up dying? Is he just dead there forever with anyone to put him back together? I’m probably way over-thinking it, but I think almost anything in this type of futuristic dystopian could be subject to skepticism.

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I also love the idea that BMO, er, the King of Ooo, is regarded among Ooo civilians as some kind of legend or urban myth, when really, it just seems like another case of BMO playing dress-up. I was fully prepared to see the self-proclaimed King of Ooo in this episode, as Wolfhard had already pitched around the idea of KOO existing in the far future once before. BMO’s abode (atop the iconic Mount Cragdor) is riddled with various easter eggs from the course of the series. Mentioning each and every one of them would be redundant – they’re all listed out on the wiki page, and I really only identified all of them through this complete comprehensive list. I will comment on the few I find most interesting, however.

  • There’s several items that really make me wonder how BMO even acquired them in the first place: Finn’s discarded grass arm from Escape From the Citadel, the maid from Crossover, Melissa’s license plate from Trouble in Lumpy Space, etc. I’m sure the thought process behind these small cameos was not necessarily to make complete sense, but rather to sprinkle in as many tiny references for the audience to recognize as possible. Though, I think a couple of these may be too ambitious for their own good.
  • Apparently BMO has multiple remnants of his dead friends? Beth picks up Mr. Fox’s skull and apparently the dead Fionna and Cake Omnibus is in there too, haha, holy shit. Not to mention AMO’s empty shell lying about as well.
  • I thought it was super sweet how one of the cards from Shh! was actually framed. BMO considers it a true relic.
  • I kind of wonder if some of the items spotted were not even intended to be easter eggs, like the basketball from Simon & Marcy or a block from The Tower. I wanna believe that they were, but I also think it’s funny to see just how deeply people dug into analyzing even the tiniest of references.

These easter eggs are fun, though perhaps a bit too overwhelming. I mean, BMO has lived 1,000 years after the passing of Finn and Jake, I’d like to think that there would be more unusual or unknown artifacts from years passing that don’t connect to anything that we’ve seen in the series. But of course, I’m being cynical. This made for a fun little game of I Spy that’s main purpose was to engage with fans, and I can’t say I blame it for doing that. I much more bothered by Shermy singing Tropical Island, a song that was sung ONCE in the entire series and never documented in any way. That was a bit too fanservice-y for my liking.

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BMO coming across Finn’s discarded robot arm was both really sad and somewhat humorous. I do wonder what happened to BMO that he isn’t able to remember Finn’s name. I mean, half of the shit BMO owns is connected to Finn in some way. The little guy may have gotten that much dreaded memory wipe that was first referenced in Be More, but I’m not sure if he would be able to recall anything in that case. But, regardless, this moment where BMO can’t fully recollect his former best friend and owner is super saddening, though comforting in the very least that he remembers the history of “Phil” regardless.

As we trek into the actual story of the Great Gum War, I love the immediate sense of conclusiveness as our first scene of past (or present) Ooo is Finn’s spirit animal, a butterfly. In general, butterflies carry a great meaning of hope and endurance, and never have those traits been stronger in Finn than on the brink of war. Even though it doesn’t commit fully, the first act of Come Along With Me feels very dark and desolate, but also very massive. Prominent characters like King Man, Betty, and Maja all converging, as a legion of heroes congregate below, does make the weight of Come Along With Me much more apparent. I mean, the God damned Duke of Nuts is there, for crying out loud! The dude hasn’t shown up in eight whole years. I like all of these big royal figures being there, but honestly, I think they could’ve went one step beyond. It would’ve made my heart happy if literally every princess that has ever appeared was apart of PB’s union, but I can understand that they mostly just wanted to focus on the big dogs. Though, I’m not even sure I fully get behind all of these big political figures standing very clearly at the center of a war. Maybe I’m just politically naïve, but this isn’t traditionally how wars work, right? A president or world leader hasn’t just stood erect on a battlefield in front of their entire army, correct? I can’t really get behind the logic in that. How is Lemongrab gonna be helpful during a full-scale war?

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I do like the continued establishment of each character dealing with the concept of war in their own unique way. I wish it had been a bit more emotive and raw, but Marceline, being the only character present that has consciously survived through The Great Mushroom War, has a nice reflective moment of both understanding the notion of history repeating itself, yet not wanting to relive such a tragedy again. That brief cut to a young Marcy standing before the destruction of the world around her is actually one of my favorites from the entire episode, as a visual representation of Marcy’s true depth of anxiety. PB is clearly fully detached emotionally and isn’t prepared to let her feelings for those around her compromise what she ultimately believes to be right. I kind of thought that maybe she was a bit too detached to Marceline, but then I realized that her comment, “let’s talk when this is all over,” is probably Bubblegum’s most sincerest form of saying “everything will be alright” without actually saying that. Jake, in typical Jake fashion, doesn’t blow things out of proportion with his belief on the outcome of the war, and feels optimistic that maybe everything will be quick and painless. But Finn clearly opines that things don’t have to be this way, and that there must be another way out. I think those involved in the war are clearly either working on PB’s same level of paranoia, a sense of pride for Ooo, or just as a simple allegiance to the Candy Kingdom. Finn, however, while probably slightly selfish in wanting things to remain stagnant, seeks out an alternate opportunity for what he sees is the only way to save those around him, in a paranoia almost opposite to PB’s. Cue the nightmare juice.

I will say, Act I really succeeds on the humor front. Those first few scenes on the actual battlefield are hilarious – even Gumbald whips out some funny lines here and there! I don’t know why they tried to make Gumbald this super serious and intimidating character, Fred Melamed seems more in tune with comedic timing than actually carrying out legitimately threatening dialogue. Gumbald’s whole deal with taunting Bubblegum using a lemon was funny enough, but Lemongrab writing down “un-make me” was the icing on the cake (no pun intended). I also really loved Pendleton Ward’s delivery of LSP’s opening line, “here we go,” as she embraces the war occurring in front of her. It’s super interesting to me that PB’s decision to reconsider was reinforced by her ability to reminisce about her connection to Shoko. Shoko was someone PB cared about during the initial inception of the Candy Kingdom, and she unfortunately lost her before they could become close. She finally had the opportunity to befriend a young pupil when Finn came along, and doesn’t want to risk similar consequences of war befalling him. Her honest emotions outside of her deeper anxieties begin to set in, as she starts to reconsider. It doesn’t last long, however. A back-and-forth with Uncle G. sets her right back into her primitive desires of survival, which triggers our transition into the next act, where 3/5ths of our main cast are officially dead.

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Finn and Gumbald’s poses… Yikes.

The first act of Come Along With Me does a pretty stellar job of establishing the finale’s story, with a well-developed look into the future and genuine tension as the conflict of war finally arises, along with a few good laughs along the way. I think it’s a little disappointing for me personally that Herpich and Wolfhard had a big part in the setup, but not the execution of the episode. At the same time, though, the stuff with Shermy, Beth, and the 1000+ world really is Wolfhard’s baby, and I’m glad he got a chance to see it through to the end. There’s also plenty of terrific visual moments, namely the establishing of opposing sides on the battlefield as dawn breaks. I’m still not positive if, in its execution, Come Along With Me was as big as it was hyped up to be. But this first part does, at the very least, commit to making things feel as large as possible.

Favorite line: “Have fun on the other side of this door!”

“Temple of Mars” Review

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Original Airdate: March 18, 2018

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Weirdly enough, both Hulu and the Final Seasons DVD set list Temple of Mars before Jake the Starchild. Wonder how much that ruined anyone’s experience that was going in blind. Also, this isn’t particularly noteworthy or even likely intentional, but Temple of Mars‘ acronym is T.O.M. Aside from the finale, this is Tom Herpich’s final episode. Heh.

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Way back in 2016, Tom Herpich wrote his sentiments about Adventure Time ending and what was left for the series in its next two years on air in a Tumblr post. In this post, he also mentions that he had recently wrapped up his final board with Steve, of which he deemed “one of his favorites.” I’m still unsure if this was referring to their section in Come Along With Me or Temple of Mars, buuuut I lean more towards the latter. In my own personal opinion, I like Temple of Mars, though it surprises me that Herpich would (allegedly) hold it so highly. It doesn’t really strike me as a culmination of his art house style, and considering that some of my favorite episodes in the series are Mars-centric episodes, I do feel as though this entry doesn’t quite live up to the hype of its predecessors. But, instead of complaining about this episode for what it’s not, I am generally satisfied with it for what it is.

Right off the bat, what Temple of Mars offers strength-wise is stellar character interactions. Having Jermaine return to the forefront is a decision I really appreciate, especially since the series draws so close to its climax. It is weird – there are clear signs that Adventure Time certainly wasn’t ready to come to a close, but there are other signs of it subtly wrapping up other individual aspects, like Marceline and Hunson’s relationship, Jake’s alien side, and Jermaine’s connection to his brothers. Of course, a lot of these characters and arcs aren’t really necessary to the grand scheme of things, but regardless, these are nice little additions that make me feel slightly less sour about the show being canned on such a short notice.

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More than anything, I appreciate that this episode takes time to explore Jermaine and Finn’s connection. In his eponymous first episode, Jermaine’s anger was mainly reflected towards Jake, while Finn mostly stood by as an accomplice. I get the feeling that Finn and Jermaine were never truly close – Jermaine was likely the responsible one, while Jake was the one that Finn would pal around with during his formative years. Before Finn had the chance to truly form a relationship with Jermaine during his transition into young adulthood, the two were practically separated. Jermaine likely regrets the years of being estranged from his youngest brother, and it’s sweet to see that he does remind Finn that he can count on him during stressful times. It’s also clear that Jermaine doesn’t necessarily understand Finn’s behavioral patterns. Finn’s actions are clearly inspired by his inability to allow any other tragedies to bestow his already mucked up mind, but I get the feeling that Jermaine simply excuses it to the observed position of Finn and Jake living entirely carefree lives. Hence why Jermaine refers to the Tree Fort as a “playhouse,” his judgement is still very much there. The included callbacks to Jermaine were welcomed, such as the face mug and the boys’ freezer, though they don’t really stick out in any metaphorical or ponderous way.

Jermaine’s added fear to the idea of going to Mars is both humorous and cute. For years, I’ve referred to Finn as the straight man in a world full of wacky characters, but I do feel as though Jermaine is a straight man’s straight man. As much as he is empathetic and easy to connect to, Finn still really isn’t the brightest bulb or the most “normal” at that (this is the boy that doesn’t blink twice on a wayward trip to Mars), so it’s cool to have a character that clearly represents the surface level elements of a grown adult. The goofy aspects aside, Jermaine does actually have a lot in common with Greg Universe in terms of their humanity. Tom Scharpling really was the perfect choice for ol’ Jerm.

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The reintroduction of Betty and Norm- er, King Man, is pretty delightful, though I kinda wish Finn’s anger towards Betty was spelled out over a longer period. I mean, everything ended up alright by the end of Elements, but it’s strange to me how quickly Finn goes from “fuck yourself,” to “come on this journey with me and my brother!” Perhaps he decided to show some of King Man’s inspired “empathy,” buuuut, I don’t know. In defense of the episode, I’m not really sure how a Betty-Finn conflict would’ve been crammed in to an already jam-packed episode, so I’ll let it slide. It was great to see King Man again, and I’m so glad the show has sought out to acknowledge that, magic-less or not, he’s still kind of a douche. I can’t think of a single way Betty’s punishment would actually help her, and it’s likely to send her into further insanity. King Man technically should be responsible for the state of Betty’s condition (though he’s not entirely at fault), but since he has a nice, cushion-y spot on Mars’ throne, he doesn’t really have anyone to tell him otherwise.

Once inside the temple, we’re treated to an interesting sequence featuring a group of frogs all taking on the appearance of Ice King, except for one stray frog resembling Fern. The Fern frog leaping at Finn, as Finn chooses to ignore it, seems to embody the idea that Finn no longer finds himself stuck thinking about Fern on an endless basis. Though his mind wants him to “remember” and stay in a stagnant state of pain and suffering. Betty, on the other hand, does not choose to move forward. She wants to stay and observe her passing thoughts, as if they hold the key to solving her every living problem, even though the answer isn’t found in her mind, but her ability to shift her attention onto something else. Not exactly sure why frogs were chosen to represent habitual thinking – frogs in dreams are said to represent spiritual and emotional transformation, but I’m not exactly sure that’s what Herpich was going for.

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It is interesting how Jermaine went through perhaps the most stress of his companions, and now he’s in the best shape possible. Granted, I think Jermaine, by his nature, is slightly neurotic and prone to chronic stress. Yet, he was able to find his peace of mind, while his brother continues to struggle with his own personal dilemmas. It just goes to show how far off Jermaine’s accusations are of Finn and Jake living totally carefree lives, even if they are legitimately privileged regardless. This section of the episode also marks the Ice Thing’s first appearance since Graybles 1000+. I can’t help but feel this inclusion was when the staff figured they would have more time to actually flesh out what the Ice Thing is and how Ice King would eventually transform into him, but considering that we’re only two episodes away from the finale, I don’t think that wish was ever fully fulfilled. This section does provide for a bit of fun analysis, in a very small, almost insignificant moment. Betty’s fascination with the Ice King masked frogs shows how truly encompassed her mind is with the Ice King, and how she doesn’t really put any foot forward to try and sway her mind or shift her focus. Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially when dealing with strong emotional trauma. However, Betty’s representation of her current approach at living is summed up quite nicely with her line of, “He’s… changing? Oh no.” This could imply one of two things: 1. Betty is adverse to changing her lifestyle because she is so set on figuring out how to fix Simon that changing her behavior isn’t really an option; 2. Betty is adverse to change in general, viewing it as an inherently bad thing. As seen in her lack of acceptance of Ice King in general, this makes sense as well.

This turmoil builds up to Betty’s confrontation of her past, which is admittedly quite a somber sequence. These last few seasons have done a great job at fleshing out Betty’s madness and sadness, and Temple of Mars is a particular highlight. The idea of choosing to focus on one’s self is additional advice that is easier said than done. It’s certainly what she needs, but she’s incapable of seeing how that’s even possible. Again, I think it ties in really well with the motif of both anxiety and grief – no matter how much you want to get better and shift your focus, occasionally the fixation of your energy is so strong that it’s impossible to even know where to start. Betty takes the first step forward (or, so it seems) into a better life by answering her test with a response of self-healing, rather than desperate manifesting.

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I do think the conclusion is way too hokey for my liking. I know there’s kind of a no-holds-barred atmosphere of the world of Adventure Time where literally anything can happen, but I fail to see how Finn, Jermaine, and Betty’s journey has ANYTHING to do with channeling Jake’s energy so that he would be transported into the temple. It seems like Tom and Steve had decided they wanted to explore the psyche of these various different characters and interactions, and then thought to themselves 10 minutes in that, “oh shit, we’d better bring Jake back.” I was even shocked by Jermaine’s quick acceptance of King Man’s explanation. He’s the straight man after all, it would make way more sense (and also be funnier) if he shot back with, “that’s a load of horseshit,” or something along those lines. The second conclusion, in which Betty realizes her true potential, is quite satisfying. In reality, Betty is way too far gone that it just wouldn’t make sense for her to turn her life around so quickly. It makes sense that she would take away some inspiration, but the wrong inspiration at that. I could’ve sworn that I was watching some bad DVR rip of the episode upon first viewing, because Temple of Mars‘ close takes AT‘s abrupt endings to a whole new level. But, it is a quick cut-off that I enjoy regardless. The entire concept of GOLB being brought back into things is something that’s purposely been left in the dark for quite sometime, and enough to leave a character like King Man speechless, who has spent his life devoted to finding the deity. It definitely had me hyped for the show’s conclusion no doubt, even if I ended up having mixed feelings about GOLB’s inclusion as a whole.

So, while Temple of Mars isn’t exactly the experimental nuttiness that I would expect from a Mars entry, it’s still quite enjoyable. It contains some of the best interaction material we’ve seen all season, and is definitely one of Betty’s best roles to date. Some of the visuals are quite nice, especially the return of the rust-filled void of Mars, and the temple itself. Nice moments of lore here and there, such as Betty’s mention of the Enchiridion, or the foreshadowed idea that Margles is still very much on King Man’s radar. There are some good gags here and there, but others that kind of fall flat. The big build up to Finn’s bald head was a joke I found quite unfunny as a whole, and somewhat of a cheap gag that doesn’t really add much. Regardless, it’s certainly a strong point for the season specifically for its inclusion of great character moments, namely Betty and Jermaine, who truly are the stars of Temple of Mars.

Favorite line: “If anyone else feels like solving any of these puzzles, just jump right in, you know?”

“Ring of Fire” Review

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Original Airdate: December 17, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Though it’s been nearly a year since Adventure Time has ended, I still feel like there’s a ton of divisiveness around the nature of the show’s climax to where I’m not really sure what the truth is. A lot of people have batted around the idea that the execs at Cartoon Network Studios had given the AT staff 16 episodes to wrap the series up, while others have mentioned that, after the completion of Gumbaldia, the crew was given four final episodes to tie up all loose ends. Then of course, there’s the crowd that still believes that Adventure Time wasn’t cancelled and simply “ended on its own terms,” which is simply not true. I get that it’s wishful thinking, but Adam Muto has outright said that he and the staff would have continued working on the series, had Cartoon Network decided to keep it going.¹ Regardless, it is interesting to ponder just how much was planned ahead to definitively wrap things up. A good chunk of this final batch of episodes feels as if they were created without an end in mind, though the one that surprising wraps up an individual character arc the best is Ring of Fire. I’ve seen a handful of mixed opinions towards this one, but I can honestly say it’s the first entry since The Wild Hunt that I’ve pretty much liked all the way through. Adventure Time has largely served as a metaphor for growing up – mostly in allusion to its main character, though other characters have similarly dealt with the grievance of aging, such as Jake, Marceline, and even the world renowned Nurse Betsy Poundcake. In the span of 11 minutes, the life of an entire character is visited, and it really brings up some introspective ideas about relationships, individuality, and what’s most important in life.

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We were bound to get an episode dedicated to Tree Trunks’ relationships with her past lovers ever since they were introduced in Apple WeddingRing of Fire gives a little bit of a taste into each one of them, and essentially uses them as a way to show gradually how Tree Trunks became the person that she is. I’ll never know what it’s like to be ol’ geezer until I actually do, but the general story of Tree Trunks’ life (save for Adventure Time‘s addition of typical absurdity) essentially embodies every story from any female baby boomer I’ve been acquainted with. The freedom of youth, the need for something greater, and the ultimate compliance of settling down. Tree Trunks has clearly lived a very full existence, as demonstrated throughout the episode, and the poignancy of her walk through life is really set by her opening conversation with Sweet P. TT tearing up thinking about her past and present is bittersweet – it’s likely that these emotions come from her feelings of fulfillment in her role as a mother and a wife, but also probably connect to the sadness of her most carefree days being long behind her. It’s both a wonderful feeling and kind of a downer that everything you’ve worked for has finally been accomplished, but there isn’t much room for discovery anymore. Regardless, it’s clear that Tree Trunks’ maturity spans beyond just her past and throughout the series as well. Just a few seasons ago, this same vivacious elephant nearly called off her marriage after only months of being together, and here, we’re treated to a much more grounded Tree Trunks that is even hesitant to get together with her past boyfriend in the sense of jeopardizing what she has currently. That’s where the sweetness comes in of Tree Trunks’ previous emotional moment – that she truly does love and cherish everything that is in her life currently, and is far beyond the idea of jumping ships to whatever else is exciting. I should also bring up the existence of the “Tiny Mammal Kingdom,” which might just be the cutest concept for a kingdom that AT has ever come up with.

Her relationship with her first significant other, Randy (on a side note, GOD are there way too many “Randy”s in Adventure Time. I can’t think of a single more common name in this series than that), is a typical first love scenario. As an 18-year-old, Tree Trunks doesn’t want to tie herself down to anyone, but similarly only knows and is comfortable with the idea of her S.O.. In a much similar sense, Randy is waaay into the idea that his first love is his only love and that, once more, it’s all he really knows. The marriage between the two is hilariously short-lived, as Tree Trunks decides on the wedding day itself that she simply isn’t ready to settle. It’s essentially young love boiled down to its bare essentials; Randy, at 18, already believes that he knows just what he wants for the rest of his life, but Tree Trunks couldn’t even commit to getting past the Honey Moon. It’s primarily a time of discovery and self-actualization, and it very much depicts two people who have entirely different ideas about what they want for their future, which is usually how first serious relationships go. I’m also not sure if it’s incredibly lazy or comical, but in her teen years, Tree Trunks had the same exact old, Polly Lou Livingston voice. It really makes me wonder if she’s actually waaay younger than she appears to be. Reverse PB Syndrome, that is.

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Before it aired, Steve Wolfhard had mentioned on his Twitter that Ring of Fire was “the most sex-mad thing [he] ever boarded for AT.” I think that’s what got people most intrigued by it, but only Tree Trunks’ relationship with Danny ever borders on the line of being overly provocative. Danny is essentially a vessel for Tree Trunks to live out the vivacious section of her life that craves hormonal enticement. Danny’s alluring in a physical sense, but Tree Trunks never acknowledges her need for full intimacy and is attracted to Danny only because he represents the wild/crazy lifestyle that she’s looking for. But, the party life begins to lose its appeal after time, and the need for security becomes more prominent. Tree Trunks was never able to achieve full intimacy with Danny, simply because her needs changed beyond what she thought she ever would desire, and that Danny’s personality proved to be truly ugly on the inside.

I do have to say, the Danny section is probably the most problematic of the episode for myself, and others alike. I don’t really feel like the sauciness promised ever pushes in the direction of being either as hilarious or interesting as it was hyped up to be. Ring of Fire has its scandalous moments, but nothing that tops AT‘s other most sexually driven episodes, such as All the Little PeopleFrost & Fire, or Breezy. The more extreme stuff that we do get to see is just kind of uncomfortable – I could have gone without Tree Trunks harassing her shipmates into bending over for her. Adventure Time has this weird consistency with including harassment towards its male cast that always kind of just feels unlikable or unnecessary (Barb in Web Weirdos, Lumpy Space Princess in Breezy). This section also garnered criticism for including the pirates that were seen helping Martin in the promo art for Min & Marty. I think a lot of people were expecting Martin to show up because of this, but I don’t know if I can really blame the episode for it. I’m assuming Ring of Fire was in production by the time that Min & Marty actually aired, and I’m also assuming that the promo art is not done that far in advance. When making it, Sam Alden may have just included these pirates based on the concept art from Ring of Fire, as a bit of an Easter egg for later on.

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This section of the episode also kind of rewrites Tree Trunks’ backstory in a way. Her debut episode Tree Trunks features her inability to grasp the lifestyle of being an adventurer, but it seems like she knows a hell of a lot from her past experiences. She blew up a friggin’ boat! Of course, I can’t really blame an episode produced seven years prior for that, especially since Tree Trunks was supposed to be dead by the end of it. So I have to turn some of the fault on Ring of Fire as a result. There’s also this weird technical moment when Danny first arrives – his color coding changes twice as if it were sunset, but once Tree Trunks convenes with him, the coding returns to daylight. I’m not sure if this was done for aesthetic purposes, but it’s just kind of distracting for me.

That long tangent aside, the next segment features Tree Trunks’ most frequently mentioned past husband: Wyatt. Wyatt is a pretty pathetic loser, and his star episode Apple Wedding really didn’t hold back with showing that. Still, it’s kind of clear as to why Tree Trunks fell for him, in the sense that he fills that exact sense of security for her that she had decided that she wanted. The love from Wyatt was essentially a given – he’s a really desperate dude and Tree Trunks would probably never have to worry about him deceiving or backstabbing her. Still, while that promise of forever-love is tempting, it comes with its problems when you’re dealt a man like Wyatt. He’s completely dependent on that love for any kind of self-fulfillment, and keeps wanting more and more until he completely drains Tree Trunks of having any individuality herself. He just can’t resist the sweet taste of her delicious pies. Yanno, I use this blog as a writing sample when I apply to jobs. I’m really wondering if my dissection of a children’s cartoon that features an overly-horny elephant is benefiting or hurting my potential future. Food for thought.

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Anywho, that leads us to the climax of Tree Trunks’ martial life with Mr. Pig. Mr. Pig is likely Tree Trunks’ least defined husband. He really doesn’t have much of a personality, and is practically described by his monotonous nature. Regardless, he does represent a little bit of everything Tree Trunks has sought out in the past, at the expense of being slightly underwhelming. With those shortcomings in mind, the culmination of this episode really adds up to Tree Trunks’ acceptance of stagnancy in her own life by finding a comfortable, while not always exciting, alternative.

Ring of Fire presents some narrative issues in its middle section, but I overall really appreciate this one. The message by the end of it is quite obvious: that the simplicities of life can often be the greatest adventure of all. But I do enjoy how it shows that it can take even a lifetime to discover that as well. Often life can seem like a constant battle for significance and deeper meaning, but sometimes the best answers to fulfillment are those simpler elements. Granted, I don’t doubt that Tree Trunks enjoyed her life in her wild and crazy days, and I don’t think this mindset should discourage anyone from living a vigorous lifestyle, but every adventure does come to an end, and ultimately settling into a comfortable position can be a reward on its own. Mr. Pig is the answer to Tree Trunks’ long, confusing life of promiscuity, giving her not what she’s always wanted, but what she’s always needed.

¹ Can’t find the exact quote from Muto where he discusses this process, though he alludes to it here.

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Favorite line: “Hey-hey! Somebody kiss me now!” Oh K.O.O., you delightful dog, you.

“Three Buckets” Review

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Original Airdate: July 21, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Fern’s inception began in Two Swords, and so begins his demise in Three Buckets. The “clone vs. OG” is a story that’s been done a handful of times among popular culture, but Three Buckets manages to stand out in a particularly dark and somber way. This isn’t really even an “evil clone” type of situation to begin with – this is the culmination of Fern’s bent up angst, frustration, and feelings of dejection resulting in his desire to be what he always wanted to be in the first place: Finn.

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The beginning of the episode starts out silly enough. Not only because Jake’s vuvuzela, that he’s never, ever been seeing using after over 250 episodes of Adventure Time, is smashed unexpectedly, but because he opts to buy a new vuvuzela at the “vuvuzela store.” In the Land of Ooo, there is apparently an entire store dedicated to selling colorful, plastic horns. Even better is that NEPTR confesses to the crime of breaking the horn, likely only for the chance to get some much needed attention. The poor little guy gets left out of shopping with Jake and BMO, as well as Finn and Fern’s adventure! He just can’t win. Speaking of dudes who can’t win, Fern begins by showing off his new ability of mimicking the real Finn, which is an ability that makes sense to me for the most part. I still feel really unconvinced that Fern would be able to recreate Finn’s bionic arm, however. That doesn’t make a lick of sense, not to mention that Fern’s right arm in the previous episode formed a flesh limb, so it’s inconsistent as well. I guess the episode wouldn’t have really worked without it, so I’m partially fine with it, though still slightly bothered. I do like how the beginning proves that Fern still wouldn’t be a good Finn even if he tried, or at least the “same” Finn. Fern still has literal demons within him that influence his dialogue and behavior – Finn wouldn’t really be one to “slash the flippin’ faces” off of his friends, after all.

In consistency with the past handful of episodes, the backgrounds here are pretty great. Love the vast meadows with miscellaneous objects scattered throughout (including A-Bombs) and the inclusion of the maze-like ziggurat. Got major Zelda vibes from the setting as a whole. Finn and Fern’s trip together ranges from goofy fun times to awkward and tense. The simple game of rock, paper, scissors really shows just how deep Fern is into his own envy and self-pity. I think we’ve all had those days where the tiniest, most insignificant occurrences trigger a history of negative feelings that send us into utter defeat. Only this time, it’s Fern’s entire life. It’s also kind of fun, in a sadistic sense, to see how much Fern truly resents Finn on every level. Finn’s line regarding his brotherhood with Fern is met with a long, blank stare and a lack of response from Fern. Fern has grown so much hatred towards his counterpart that he doesn’t even have the energy or charisma to manipulate him. He just wants to rid his life of Finn as quickly as possible. On a manipulative level, however, I really can’t decide if I like Finn’s line from a writing perspective. It feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to build up the eventual tragedy when Fern does turn on Finn, but on the other hand, I think it makes sense for Finn to make such a proclamation if he was trying to make Fern feel better for any past grievances. Only in this case, it fails.

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Fern’s kindness extends to the small favor that he at least provided Finn’s favorite meal for him within the stone prison… or at least, he tried to. That brief thoughtful act aside, Fern’s completely sociopathic side begins to come out (with the nice visual edition of his glowing, cursed eyes) as he only offers to provide Finn with resources once a month and practically leaves him to rot. It’s also fitting that Fern pronounces his favoritism towards NEPTR, considering that they’re both outsiders who don’t really get the respect or attention that they desperately strive for. Finn’s response to such a betrayal prompts a lot of interesting solo-convos with himself, starting with the fact that Finn refers to Fern as “grass Finn” rather than the actual name he christened himself with. This really touches on Finn’s more judgmental side and the fact that he may not have ever viewed Fern as an equal to begin with, or at least he doesn’t any longer. Finn bringing up his sensitivity to abandonment was a hilariously sweet moment; I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I always figured that Fern winking at Finn through the wall opening with the added sound effect was a subtle reference to Martin, showing that Fern followed in the footsteps of arguably their greatest enemy.

Upon dicking around during his imprisonment, Finn discovers a hidden feature on his bionic arm that uncovers hidden abilities of the arm installed by PB. It’s weird to me that the princess didn’t tell him beforehand, but still, I really dig how sweet this moment is. I just love socially awkward PB and her inability to understand the basic knowledge of humor, and the fact that it shows how Finn truly has the upper hand (literally) against his clone. Fern may be able to take on the appearance of Finn, but Finn still has strong support from his friends and family that goes far beyond what Fern has been able to accomplish. The only thing that upsets me about these newly discovered powers is that Finn never utilizes the arm’s abilities again! It’s such a shame, as it appears to have some really neat features just from what we saw. Even a “sad marionette” function! I have no idea when that would ever come in handy, but sure.

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I mentioned that this was a particularly somber and dark entry, but it’s interlaced with humorous moments that never feel out-of-place or unwarranted. That being said, I love Finn’s transition into the fight by screaming “YOU DONKED UP,” followed by all of the unintentional responses from PB’s AI. Regardless, the fight itself stays thoroughly tense in its entirety. It’s a battle that isn’t visually appealing by nature, but is competently animated and weighted to feel like a true struggle, unlike the former battle scene in Reboot that was also storyboarded by Steve Wolfhard. The sequence is also coupled with some profound interjections from Finn, such as the clueless, “what ARE you?” when Fern’s demon half takes over, and Finn’s final wish of giving Jake a proper farewell. It’s so lovingly sad that, even in Finn’s potential last moments, he’s still thinking of the person he cares about the most rather than his own immediate safety. Hell, it’s even aggressively sad on it’s own that our main character, who is 16 years of age, is essentially the closest he’s ever been to dying and has no choice but to accept it. Finn’s had many possible life threats throughout the show’s history, but none have felt as real and dangerous as this instance. Once more, Fern is unable to see through Finn’s sadness, because he feels as though his love for Jake is essentially enough. This battle all comes to an end when Finn’s arm enters fatality mode, and slices Fern to bits. It’s already a pretty morbid concept on its own, but the way it’s executed just adds to the blow. Fern’s head slowly twisting further and further into his chest was surprisingly graphic, and really makes this “death” seem even more painfully tragic than it already was.

In typical Adventure Time fashion, extended moments of noise and action are always followed by quiet poignancy. Finn returns home in one of the most heartwrenching exchanges AT has ever churned out. Finn doesn’t even have the words or energy to describe what happened, and how could he? He likely blames the outcome partially on himself and feels as if he could’ve prevented it, but even that might be pushing it. I think Finn is in total shock and can’t even begin to comprehend such a devastating moment. Once more, such a tragic moment is interlaced with just the right amount of humor, as that little devil BMO is ALREADY trying to break Jake’s new vuvuzela and references back to when he also killed his brother in The More You Moe, The Moe You Know. Oh, BMO!

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Like most season finales, we’re left on a hefty cliffhanger that involves the remaining pieces of Fern’s body being picked up by a mysterious stranger. Who is this mysterious stranger? Well, I guess we’ll just have to find out in season nine!! Three Buckets closes out a busy and hectic season properly with a busy and hectic episode. As things began to calm down following the madness of Elements, they have only flared up once more, leading us into an invigorating and… somewhat questionably satisfying… journey to the ultimate finale.

And that’s the end of season eight! Gonna be frank with you all, my schedule is becoming more and more tight and I’m struggling to meet deadlines as efficiently as I once was. After all, I’ve been doing this gig for nearly three years now, and my life has changed a lot since I started. BUT, regardless, I still intend on carrying through to the very end, I just ask for all of your patience as I try my best to balance everything else in my life along with this side hobby. The season eight review and bonus review should be out sometime next week or into the following week, and if I have the time, I might churn out the first few batches of season nine episodes. It’s gonna be somewhat of a relief when I do end up finishing this project, but man, it’s been one hell of a ride thus far, and I plan on putting everything I’ve got into these last batch of reviews!

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Favorite line: “My belzer!” (Okay, so this is kind of a cheat because this episode had a lot of really great lines, but I legit call my stomach my “belzer” religiously because of this one line. It just felt obligatory.)

“Helpers” Review

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Original Airdate: February 2, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Brief aside before we begin here: I’m starting up a podcast! Hosted by myself and my fellow pal _Comic_ from the AT subreddit, the Animation Ambiance Podcast will cover anything from the most relevant of topics in animation to some of the most obscure. We’ll definitely be discussing Adventure Time at one point or another, so if you’re interested in listening to the garbage box I call my voice, subscribe to our channel here!

The moment we’ve all been waiting for folks: Finn finally meets his birth mother in Helpers. It’s a moment that’s much less devastating than when he met his father, but all the more confusing, nonetheless. It’s pretty sad that Finn is never allowed a “normal” meeting with his relatives, though it is really nice to see him so ecstatic when faced with the chance to meet her in general. Like the past six episodes, Helpers succeeds through its execution of world-building, character interactions, and intense lore. Being the penultimate episode of IslandsHelpers essentially ties up all of the loose ends and curious questions we’ve had throughout the miniseries (and the series in general) and helps to build things up for its grand conclusion.

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I’ve mentioned before that I only really get into Susan’s character when she’s able to work off of Finn (which, thankfully, is a majority of her appearances) and there’s a ton of great moments between them in the first few minutes. Even after just gaining her identity back after like, 16 years, Susan still devotes her time and energy into helping Finn fulfill his own quest and return him to his mother in the process. Granted, it’s a bit difficult for me to ignore that Susan is back to normal for the first time in over a decade and she barely even bats an eye about it, which is one of the very few potential  problems I have with Islands in general, but I still think it’s sweet regardless. Susan acts very sister-like to the little guy throughout the episode, and makes sure that he stays safe in what could be an otherwise dangerous place. I similarly love the pacing when Finn is briefly admiring his mother’s thoughts and her image. You can really get a sense for his own optimism in the realization that his mother might actually be a nice, caring person. Of course, this is mostly just speculation on Finn’s part, but it becomes much more rewarding when we discover that his instincts were precisely right.

We also finally get to explore Founder’s Island, which is a really neat location. I like how it’s clearly shown to be futuristic in the way humans dress and use technology, but for the most part, their actions are relatively down-to-earth and relatable in their humanity. There’s still bustling cities, street performers, and kids who skate and hang out together. While the other islands we visited previously got to show off their examples of dystopian futures, Founder’s Island is perfect location to reinforce that “everything stays, but it still changes” by taking us ahead 1,000 years into the future of humanity but still allowing the society to feel very human in the process. Also really dig the fun and geometric character designs of some of the humans. They look straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.

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Jake hasn’t really had a ton to do over the course of this miniseries, and I’m sure he even caught onto that himself, because he is loving the attention that he receives from the humans in this episode. He’s truly hilarious and enjoyable in his performance; it’s very similar to the role that he played in Wheels, though this time, I don’t have to worry about the implication of Jake being a bad dad getting in my way of enjoying it. I especially love how much the humans eat up Jake’s act even when he isn’t being funny… does the flea circus joke actually make sense? I always found humor in how particularly unfunny and pointless it is. I really love how Jake also plays the part of the AT fanatic that believes that Finn must be a hero because of the person the gave birth to him. And I know it isn’t really profane or inappropriate in any context, but I still found it humorously shocking how Jake was able to use the word “placenta.” It’s like that season five episode of Samurai Jack where Scaramouche says “penis,” something just doesn’t feel quite right.

On the off side of things, Finn finally convenes with Minvera, or in this case, one of Minerva’s cyborg companions. It’s really cool to see how much Finn has matured since he met Martin. While his main goal was to just blurt out his identity and to find answers in his previous parental convening, Finn is very careful and precise in cushioning the possible blow for Minerva’s own sake. I’m not saying that he was wrong in his behavior before, as Finn does deserve answers. But it’s clear that he’s more empathetic and understanding of how this type of news can be confusing and hard to process for others as well, and he does so by making it clear that he isn’t trying to put Minnie on the spot. These moments are as nice as they are funny – I adore Finn’s question of “do you need help!?” after realizing that his mother may be in shock. Things quickly go awry when Jake is discovered to be a “mutant,” to which feels like a pretty logical reason for the humans to panic over. They’re essentially conditioned to fear this species, and after overcoming an excessively dangerous virus, the humans likely fear another potential “end” to their own species.

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I also neglected to mention the very small C-plot involving Susan’s conflicted feelings on seeing Frieda again. It’s an arc that gets a lot more attention in the following episode, though it’s executed quite nicely here. I really like Susan’s sentiment of “my friend got hurt… I don’t know if I’m allowed back in her life.” It’s a very mature frame of mind that shows that even asking for an apology on its own may be invasive, because Susan was never given the proper permission or acceptance back into Frieda’s social circle. She’s betrayed her trust, and effectively chose to end their friendship in the process. Though, how in the fuck is Frieda still wearing the same exact clothes after 16 years? Does that chick ever change her wardrobe? On a side note, I super adore Susan and BMO bonding with each other. It’s a totally out-of-nowhere friendship that I really dig.

Returning to our main plot, the scene with the boys imprisoned is pretty tense. I’ve mentioned throughout the course of this miniseries that Jake has been nothing but supportive of Finn in fulfilling his own needs during this journey, but here, Jake is clearly reaching a breaking point. After an entire stressful expedition across the sea that has only led them into more questions than answers, Jake likely has had enough of putting his life and his brother’s on the line when it has only resulted in more issues for the both of them. That changes, however, in a body horror induced sequence where Finn and Jake’s bones are shut down and one of the Minerva bots discovers that Finn is her son. When the two finally convene (in screen format) it makes for the get together that Finn has presumably always wanted, although he isn’t reciprocating it as well as might one think. This, of course, comes from the fact that Minerva’s transformation from body to screen has left her essentially inhuman. There’s no clear evidence as to how much of Finn’s mother is truly in there, though that’s mostly left for the following episode to explore. What Finn wants in Helpers is answers, and that’s exactly what he gets through a bit of haunting exposition about the trials and tribulations surrounding Founder’s Island.

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Minerva’s brief account of everything that happened is, like I said, quite wistful. It brings us up to date on everything we needed to know about the whereabouts of Susan and Dr. Gross, the steps taken after Finn’s disappearance, and the state of the humans and Minerva in general. Sharon Horgan, Minerva’s voice actor, does a terrific job of narrating in a hushed, yet passionate tone, and it’s only made better by Tim Kiefer’s terrific score to accompany it. The sequence also shows just how dedicated of a person Minerva is; even after going through the depressive reality that her once loving husband left with their son, she still remains tirelessly vigilant in ensuring that her people remain in good health, even if that means altering her own self in the process. While we learn a lot from this backstory, it also raises some interesting questions as well. Like, what happened 300 years prior that was “catastrophic”? I was originally under the belief that it might be referencing the implication that Rainicorns used to eat humans, but according to Everything Stays, such a concept had existed years and years prior and may or may not have died out by this point in time. To my knowledge, I don’t think it was connected to any certain event or piece of lore that we’ve been educated on thus far.

This episode closes with the brief implication that Minerva wants Finn to stay permanently on Founder’s Island, as we transition into the final episode of the miniseries. As a whole, Helpers effectively gets us up to date on pretty much everything we wanted to learn about throughout this miniseries and more. The final episode, The Light Cloud, exists primarily for the resolution of several different character interactions, though Helpers is mostly a resolve on the lore front. There’s so much packed into these 8 episodes that they could easily have spread these moments throughout the course of the series, but after watching Adventure Time for so long, this super condensed bomb of information is exactly what I wanted/needed. By episode seven of Islands, I was already feeling the most satisfied I had ever been with AT in general.

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Favorite line: “I love you, but your mom’s a hundred robo-clones.”

“Mysterious Island” Review

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Original Airdate: January 31, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

While The Invitation was mostly focused on its story and Whipple the Happy Dragon was focused on telling jokes and having fun, Mysterious Island is driven in creating an atmosphere, to which it succeeds at. We’re finally treated to our first island of the miniseries, and unlike the others that we eventually come across, this episode doesn’t really seek to make us understand what this island is about. We’re simply presented to a unique and unusual location that isn’t exactly rich with answers regarding its state of being, but are asked to enjoy it and get sucked into it regardless. And that’s exactly what happens.

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Mysterious Island features a lot more subdued, quieter moments than most of the other Islands episodes. While the other entries put exposition and emotion at the center (which by no means is an issue) this one takes its time and allows Finn to figure things out for himself. In a similar fashion to The Hall of Egress, the first half of the episode features Finn making observations out loud in reference to his surroundings. It feels even more like Egress considering that Tom Herpich boarded the first part of this episode, and he really excels with writing for Finn in his complete lonesome. I think it’s really nice, and is somewhat of a coping mechanism for Finn personally. He could allow himself to be completely stressed out about his friends being missing, but he instead chooses to allow the company of his own self to assist him through calmly looking for solutions. His observations are pretty humorous as well, along with his consistent comparisons to “everyday Susans.” In fact, Finn is kind of fucking harsh about Susan’s scent throughout the entirety of the episode, and it’s actually pretty funny. Our little guy is known to be judgmental at times, and let’s be honest, Susan probably NEVER bathes. And there’s the factor that he is looking for her, so it’s probably best that he describes her as in depth as possible. He even added in little stench marks when he drew her – THAT’S hilarious.

I really like the nature of the island in general. I’m always really into these concepts of areas that have a rapidly changing climate, as it feels like there’s so much ground to cover with different backgrounds, landscapes, etc. Upon being captured, I truly love Finn’s attitude towards being faced by a bear. As he mentions, he’s fought the Lich to space and back and has beaten plenty of other space gods… a bear is practically nothing by this point in time. He doesn’t even really antagonize the bear, which is great. Finn simply warns the animal that if he tries to mess with him, he’ll fight back, and that’s exactly what he does. Before the fight escalates, we’re introduced to Alva, the first human of the Islands bunch, and one of my favorites.

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Alva doesn’t boast an especially strong personality, but her mysterious behavior, cute Yoda-ish design, and sweet demeanor is really what draws me into her character. Alva is also Swedish, and I always think it’s a ton of fun when AT utilizes characters of other nationalities and languages. Alva isn’t really a character you need to be constantly translating; unlike Lady, where occasionally she’ll drop a really cryptic line of dialogue, all of Alva’s lines can be easily explained through her behavior and attitude, or through Finn’s interpretations. Alva’s voice actor is Swedish herself, and I know I’m getting way off topic here, but holy shit, her VA is a straight-up babe! Aside from her looks (please read my blog and call me sometime), Helena Mattsson also does a splendid job at capturing the charm and mannerisms of an old lady while only being 34 herself. I enjoy the lengths that Mysterious Island takes to show how foreign this area is – the way Alva pokes holes into each one of her eggsack snacks before they begin to emit steam felt so real to this desolate, quiet land that Herpich and Wolfhard have created. It also felt very Miyazaki-like of the show to give Alva a giant bear as an animal partner. Albert’s pretty neat from his design alone, along with his goofy, cartoon-y facial features and clothing accessories. Come to think of it, every single animal on this island sports boots or shoes of some sort, and it’s another great element that adds to the bizarre mystery of the island. It’s kind of awesome to think that this little old lady is presumably the sole survivor of her entire species within this area of land, and it does seem reasonable enough, as we eventually discover her past history with technology and get to see how she’s on constant look out for trespassers to begin with.

The other aspect that makes this episode so great is Alva and Finn’s relationship. Again, they never even talk to each other, but I love how Finn uses it as an opportunity to observe this land and himself in the process. He even mentions previously identified aspects of his character, like how he isn’t really good at drawing aside from the occasional doodle. His drawing of Alva was legitimately terrible, but in a charming and sympathetic way, because you know the little guy at least put his heart into it. I also enjoy how Alva is very sweet, loving, and curious around Finn. She squeezes his face, reprimands him for playing with a sword, and snuggles up to him when watching the film of her fellow colleagues and humans. Finn is equally as curious around her, and I really appreciate how open he is to just going along with whatever weird endeavors she embarks on. Even after trapping him and squeezing his face, all Finn does is utter a “hi!” which I find to be adorable. I also like how, even after he realizes that she can’t understand him, he still continues to project out loud simply because there’s a lot going on in his mind and he enjoys her general company. Even if those thoughts are about crabs being a form of robot… oh Finn, you special boy.

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The film itself is really well-executed; another somber, silent scene that is pretty effective in showing one of the darker demises of humanity, even for this show’s standards. I know it’s silly that we’re watching a giant parrot wearing boots, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t just a bit chilling that the same exact parrot is shown to have killed someone in the film. This is emotional stuff, but Mysterious Island doesn’t really play it off in a big, dramatic way, to its strengths. I think there’s something much more haunting in the silence and darkness we’re offered. Additionally, it’s sweet that, even after having lost everyone, Alva still isn’t selfish when being face-to-face with the first human she has seen in a long time – she still wants to help him find en hund. If that wasn’t adorable enough, Alva and Finn end up swapping hats, which just charms the hell out of me. Their search pays off, as they do end up running into Jake, who’s less than enthused about the newcomers. Again, it’s nice to see that Jake just wants to keep Finn safe and could give less of a fuck about anyone else involved. He certainly isn’t going to share his portions with just anyone. The end of the episode ends as quietly as it starts, not with a giant conclusion to Alva’s story, but with a transition into the very next episode.

Mysterious Island never seeks to be big or groundbreaking, but just to be a quiet trip to showcase a portion of humanity. It’s cool and realistic to see that humanity is not limited to one segregated island, and, just like within Ooo, there are other humans still alive and roaming about the Earth, just in scarcity. Alva is the perfect specimen for this type of story, allowing us to spend time with her and to unravel her own tragic past along the way. But Alva’s draw isn’t that she’s a tragic character (though she is), but rather a curious, subdued figure that allows Finn to observe and draw conclusions for himself. Mysterious Island is just that: a mostly hushed expedition that put Finn at center stage, as he explores, inquires, and educates himself along the way. The only downside to Mysterious Island, in my humble opinion, is that not every joke works. The humor in Herpich and Wolfhard’s episodes can often be hit-or-miss, and I think there were one or two misses within this entry. I didn’t really find the repeated shots of Albert picking his nose and scratching his butt to be that funny, or the waaay played out use of Finn’s stock scream. Otherwise, Mysterious Island is pretty great in its atmospheric journey through one of the many mysteries of humanity’s demise.

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Favorite line: “Now I can look like an idiot while I freeze to death.”

“Two Swords” Review

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Original Airdate: January 23, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Two Swords takes a step back from the frenzied ambiguity that the previous two episodes had consisted of and takes a moment to add clarity to the current situations at hand. I was initially under the impression that Reboot would bring us straight into the Islands miniseries in the following episode, though this episode interestingly has very little to do with the fallout of Preboot and more so with the fallout of Reboot. Much damage was done to our main and supporting cast, and an entire new entity was unveiled in the process. Thus, Two Swords seeks to sit us down and explain some much, much needed information that isn’t even exactly clear by the end of it, but the show knows just as much. Bubblegum’s confusion is directly identical to our own confusion, as we try and piece together who and what exactly the mysterious grass guy is.

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Right away, this episode starts off with a glorious, triumphant moment that everyone has been very patiently waiting for: Finn FINALLY has a bionic arm! Good Lord, it’s happened! I remember being super stoked by this news when promo images first arrived, though I was equally on edge regarding this concept. I was never as furious as others were regarding Finn getting his arm back in Breezy, but had he gotten an identical arm following the events of Reboot, I’d likely be consumed by my own frustration at this point. I even remember seeing a storyboard promo for the future episode High Strangeness, where Finn was drawn with a normal arm, and being absolutely disdained by that concept. Though, luckily for myself and the sanity of others, the bionic arm was added in the animation process, and Finn remains being arm-less throughout the course of the series. I really enjoy how Finn mentions his numbness to losing his arm a second time, in a way that connects to his tolerance of pain and tragedy. The original loss of Finn’s arm signified his grapple with abandonment and the absence of his former self, though here, Finn seems to spin that loss around into something more positive and exciting overall. He’s learned to live and move on with that loss in his life, so once the arm itself is finally gone, he’s adapted and doesn’t really notice said absence. Really nice motif there.

The contents of this episode really boil down to two informational backstories: Finn’s first encounter with grass Finn, as well as the backstory of grass Finn in general. The first is told in a way that immediately follows the events of Reboot, as grass Finn quickly shifts from his rounded, bushy form into a figure that is more closely identical to Finn’s. I will say this: Grass Finn, as he’s referred to in this episode, is one of my favorite characters in the series. Not only do I love his design, voice work from the talented Hayden Ezzy, and his general demeanor, but he likely has one of the most intriguing and haunting backstories in the entire show, and they never really stray away from such. This is a character who could have so easily been just a copy of Finn (I’m so glad they didn’t just have Jeremy Shada voice him, by the way), but they chose to take him in such a unique direction to the point where he also becomes one of the show’s most sympathetic characters.

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In a way, grass Finn is behaviorally identical to Finn – he’s goofy, true to his friends, and good-natured. I even like how his behavior also brings out a side of Finn we don’t often get to see; while addressing Finn when they first meet, grass Finn is awfully smug about Finn being dressed exactly like him. I don’t think that Finn is generally smug as a person, but I’m not really surprised at the fact that he would have somewhat of an ego regarding his state as one of the most prominent heroes in Ooo. After all, one of Finn’s biggest character flaws that has been present even in his tween days is his more judgmental side, so it’s likely that he does acknowledge his legacy and status to a degree.

The thing that is somewhat terrifying about grass Finn’s existence is that none of what he believes to be real is actually real. Everything he knows about himself and those close to him is essentially a lie, so I really don’t blame him for going off the handle in the second half of the episode. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t with this potential reality at hand? Granted, he’s also being partially possessed by a cursed squid demon from the remnants of the grass sword, so that’s a factor as well, and accurately represent the “inner demons” that exist within him. The scenes between the grass sword demon and Finn Sword are particularly eerie. As I previously mentioned, I think Hayden Ezzy is really talented. Not only does he add a lot of charm and emotion to grass Finn’s character, but also manages to pull off a truly intimidating performance as the grass squid. I feel like the grass squid’s role within grass Finn’s mind could easily be labeled as a justified reason for his volatile behavior, but I think it goes much deeper than just a curse. In general, grass Finn’s darker side only comes out when facing the turmoil of his own existence, so I do believe it’s more of an inability to cope with his own circumstantial state of being, rather than some kind of possession from the grass demon. Just the like the grass sword itself, it only arises in certain states of emotion. For Finn, it was somewhat of a fight-or-flight response, whereas with grass Finn, it channels into his negative emotions of inferiority.

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I also wonder if part of grass Finn’s inferiority comes from the idea that, whenever the grass sword would attempt to help Finn in his time of need, it often lead to more harm than good. The grass sword cost Finn his arm in Escape from the Citadel, refused to cooperate with him in Checkmate, nearly harmed Farmworld Finn in Crossover, and smashed through the Finn Sword in I Am a Sword. Perhaps grass Finn feels somewhat subconsciously responsible for consistently failing to properly get things done, and that guilt continuously plagues to the point of an identity crisis when he begins smashing up the Tree Fort. Upon interrogation, Finn does reflect on what he and PB had chatted about and concluded within the Candy Kingdom hospital. Finn begins to realize that grass Finn likely is the same Finn that once existed within a sword and, essentially, is his own being. This is where Finn decides to give grass Finn a Finn Cake – a symbolic display of respect that places grass Finn on the same level as Finn himself. Grass Finn is reminded of who he is: a “good boy” who enjoys embarking in heroic endeavors. While he doesn’t have himself fully figured out, he’s at least left with the knowledge that he has an idea of who he wants to be. However, Two Swords closes out with a chilling reminder that the turmoil within grass Finn remains very much alive through the existence of the grass demon, simply waiting to be unleashed.

Aside from being an interesting episode of exploration, Two Swords is also filled with many funny moments. I love Jake’s sudden and destructive awakening when he finds out BMO’s in trouble, BMO’s call to Finn about him wrecking the kitchen was hilarious, and the general interactions between grass Finn and Finn upon meeting are great. This one’s also filled with some great storyboarding feats, especially on Wolfhard’s part; Jake following grass Finn around in a circle repeatedly was great, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I love Finn nearly falling on his ass while trying to retrieve a Finn Cake. Dunno, that moment just felt so human and realistic to me.

Overall, Two Swords is a pretty great introductory to grass Finn. It’s funny, dark, and does a solid job of introducing his character in the most interesting way possible. While this episode establishes a lot of grass Finn’s character, I think the next episode does an even better job of working with his character’s strengths and weaknesses.

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Favorite line: “I have a crush on Jake.”

“Reboot” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard 

Preboot alone had already raised several questions and opened new doors for the series in general, so it’s surprising that its sequel episode, Reboot, seeks to answer zero questions and instead manages to be even more ambiguous. Reboot, in many ways, is one big mess. There’s hardly any resemblance of a story, the humor falls flat a majority of the time, and the animation is often underwhelming. Yet, I find myself strangely captivated by this one. Out of every episode in the series, I think I can say with utter certainty that I don’t think I’ve ever been on the edge of my seat more than I was with Reboot. It’s a high-speed, stressful rush that, once started, never really lets up until the very end of the episode when things just… end. It’s likely the most abrupt that an episode of AT has ever closed out, and I think it’s somewhat ingeniously executed. Right when the episode is at the peak of its intensity, things suddenly stop, leaving the viewer (at least, from my personal perspective) wanting even more. AT has always been good at teasing its fanbase for what’s ahead, but with the end in sight, I think everyone was much more optimistic about the unraveling of said mysteries rather than feeling cheated.

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There isn’t a whole lot to analyze or go over for this one, aside from simply emphasizing my points from the intro paragraph. From the moment Susan’s implant goes haywire, the episode transitions into a frenzied, anxiety-ridden sequence, and anxiety-ridden is a pretty decent description to how every character reacts in this episode: Finn must resist the impulse of allowing his grass sword to take over, PB must find a way to save everyone without causing harm to anyone, and Jake is faced with his failure to resist protecting his brother at all costs, even if that means hurting those around him. Of all of these introspective character moments, I think I especially like Finn’s mini-arc. With all of the power literally in the palm of his hand, Finn can so easily allow himself to be saved if he just simply gives into those urges. Though, in his eyes, it doesn’t seem like a viable option. After everything that happened with Finn Sword, I think Finn is afraid to even allow the grass sword any kind of power, in fear of hurting anyone like he previously did. Finn’s fear of hurting others and his inability to properly fight and defend himself in the process progressively becomes a more consistent part of his character as the series continues, and he only continues to struggle with similar circumstances from this point on.

When I appeared on the RE-Cast podcast back in September, I joked that the episode title From Bad to Worse could easily apply to any episode in the series. If I had to pick a more appropriate episode for that title, it would certainly be Reboot. I really love how much the episode plays around with just how strong Susan is, and any attempt to actually stop her only makes things exceedingly more dangerous. I think it’s a little bit contrived that Susan’s chip absorbed the Gumball Guardian’s blast, but even then, I do think it’s fun to watch all of these really strong and not-so-strong characters go against Susan with relatively no chance of succeeding. It becomes a bit repetitive after a while, but I really think it adds to the tension that Susan is absolutely unstoppable, and it really makes you wonder just how exactly she’s going to be stopped.

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AT is a cartoon, so more often than not, pain feels and is executed in a very temporary fashion. For the most part, however, everything presented in Reboot feels kind of gruesome. Rattleballs is smashed to bits, Finn and Susan suffer long-lasting injuries following this episode, and even Jake gets royally fucked up to the point that a ton of fans actually thought he was dead. Like, no kidding. There was a point in time when fans thought that Jake had died 40 episodes before the series finale. While it’s easy to dismiss this theory as ridiculous, it really goes to show how well this episode presents pain and injury. It’s kept mostly light at first with the absurd catchphrase “yubba dubba dubba,” but by the time Jake utters it, it feels more concerning than comedic. Even though Jake is one of our main characters, the stakes within this episode feel so real that you can’t really help but question his well being yourself.

But before he does end up biting the dust, Jake assists his brother in fighting off Susan. The scene in which Finn slides up Jake’s body and transforms into the Jake Suit is legitimately one of my favorite moments in the entire series. The momentum, timing, camera angle, and music are so Goddamn pitch-perfect that it legitimately took my breath away the first time I had seen it, and still does to this day! The fight sequence that follows is less remarkable for its lack in fluidity, but I do somewhat admire it for being a uniquely choreographed battle. The camera pretty much stays in one spot as Jake Suit and Susan perform a number of different wrestling moves on each other, and it’s neat, despite the middling animation. The most tense moment in the episode is easily when Finn’s grass sword does go berserk and begins to crush Susan with all of its might. Again, tying back to what I was saying earlier, we should know that no lasting damages are actually going to happen to Susan, but execution is everything with Reboot and it feels quite stressful and unpreventable. If that wasn’t enough, however, the episode leaves us with one of the biggest “what the fuck” moments in the series, as Finn’s grass sword leaves his body, merges with the Finn Sword, and becomes an entire being in the course of a few seconds. Finn is once again left armless (permanently, this time!) and an entirely separate story arc has now emerged itself into the main story. Once again, in typical Adventure Time fashion, things only continue to get exceptionally crazier and lore heavy down the line.

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So, I really can’t defend Reboot on all levels. Besides its somewhat sloppy pacing and forced jokes, there are some minor to major inconsistencies that this episode presents. I appreciated that they brought back Finn’s immunity to electricity, but what was the point if they have him getting shocked by Susan’s headpiece only a few seconds later? And, in a more pressing issue, Susan’s lab name from Dr. Gross appears to be “Strong,” which is a bit of an unbelievable coincidence. In the episode Susan Strong, Finn simply gave Susan that name because of her physical appearance. Now we’re supposed to believe that it was also her code name all along? Yeaaaah, I don’t buy that at all. It’s right up there with Gunter riding a “G” labeled boat in Orgalorg. However, plot holes and story issues aside, I still have to commend this episode for being as thrilling and entertaining as an Adventure Time episode can be. It’s kind of like how I feel with Star Wars: The Force Awakens… it has its major and minor issues, but it’s such a damn fun ride that I really don’t mind. Reboot is far from a perfect episode, but it’s almost as if it makes up for it by being a perfect experience: a fun, invigorating journey that leaves me wanting more. And I think that’s a pretty fair compromise, especially considering that it is season seven’s grand finale.

So yeah, that’s it for season seven y’all! As always, I want to thank all of you for tuning in and making this such a fun side gig. This year alone, AT Reviewed has racked up almost 45,000 views, which is amazing! You guys rock, and I’m so glad to be sharing this experience with you. Per usual, the review and bonus review will be coming shortly (likely on Sunday or Monday), and I’m excited to announce that I’m back to posting semi-daily reviews and plan on covering at least half of season eight throughout the next month. Stay tuned, y’all! Some of the series’ best entries lie ahead.

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Favorite line: “We need a finger, not a thumb. Finesse, boi!”

“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.”