Tag Archive | Tom Herpich

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

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Original Airdate: December 3, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Favorite line: “I think I just killed someone”

 

“The Dark Cloud” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Favorite line: That dope Finn quote I mentioned above.

“Vamps About” Review

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Original Airdate: November 17, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bonnie & Neddy” Review

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Original Airdate: November 2, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Favorite line: “I just want consistency!”

“Hot Diggity Doom” Review

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Original Airdate: June 5, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Walnuts & Rain” Review

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Original Airdate: March 5, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Visitor” Review

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Original Airdate: February 5, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

A lot of people were disappointed by The Visitor, either because it wasn’t raw and emotional enough (this was aired side-by-side with Steven Universe‘s On the Run after all, which was a terrific episode) or because many felt we didn’t learn anything particularly new about Martin. While it’s true that Martin is pretty much still just an irredeemable asshole, it does at least show how much Finn’s attitude towards him has changed over time. Finn no longer simply wants to force his dad to be in his life, nor does he want to extract revenge, but Finn still seems, at the very least, confused. He still doesn’t completely understand why Martin is such an utter piece of shit and why his father abandoned him, and Finn doesn’t have any idea about the truth behind his origins. This episode answers some of those questions… with mostly unsatisfying answers… but I’ll defend The Visitor in that I think it’s a very intriguing interactive episode between Finn and his father.

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The episode begins with another dream sequence to add to Adventure Time‘s absolute dream fetish quota. As usual, the sequence is pretty stellar and trippy, with allusions to Finn’s childhood self and the nature of his being. The sperm-y comet in his dream directly leads him on a path to Martin, as Finn carries his buff baby self. As the baby clings onto Finn and asks him to hold tighter, Finn responds, “it’s okay, I won’t ever let you go.” I saw this both as an allusion to Finn never giving up his childlike innocence, and also his failure to let go of his past history as a baby. Finn is still deeply affected by the fact that he was abandoned as a child, and he simply wants to know what the reason is behind that abandonment. It takes a long bit of time for him to truly move on from this aspect of his life. He acknowledges his statement in his mind by thinking, “that’s true.”

When finally confronted with his father once again, Martin seems as scummy and conniving as he did in Escape From the Citadel. The first shot we actually see of him depicts Martin eating the contents of a baby bird’s egg, and promptly spits the feathers out of his mouth once Finn enters the tree. Isn’t he just delightful? Martin also once again tries to divert Finn’s attention away from himself, though he fails entirely, and Finn figures his scheme out. The one difference between Martin’s original appearance and his role here is that he isn’t trying to get away from Finn with every chance that he gets… though he does try to at some points. Here, I think Martin is at least trying to bond with Finn, but he’s doing it entirely for himself, and not for Finn’s well-being. He wants to make himself believe he’s putting in the work of being a caring father, but doesn’t actually seem to care if he is one or not. And again, it seems as though he’s trying to find as many distractions as he possibly can; after crash landing on Earth, he immediately wants to return to space once more, because nothing beneficial is around for him on Earth. Or at least, that’s what he thinks.

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During this meeting, Finn isn’t entirely angry or furious with his father. He had gotten over the fact that Martin was the reason he lost his arm initially, and knows that revenge won’t bring him any form of satisfaction. Though, this doesn’t stop his general disgust from showing as Martin tries to hug him after tricking Finn into thinking he too lost a limb. Finn is rationally upset because he feels as though he can’t trust Martin for anything, and he’s only more-so disappointed by the fact that Martin assures him that he’ll never be able to tell the difference. One of the cleverest bits of Martin’s character is that you can never tell if he’s being sincere, or completely lying. Stephen Root’s work with Martin is great, because every line comes off as genuinely charming and affectionate, even is he’s being a complete asswipe. It’s an effect that not only works on the characters in this universe, but on the audience as well.

The villagers that Martin and Finn come across are pretty charming; their designs are super simplified, but their nature and character traits are actually somewhat profound. I kind of love that they’re smart enough to know that they’re being tricked, though they want to help out as much as they can just because they’re simple nature has allowed for them to become altruists. It’s pretty cool to see citizens of an area in Ooo who aren’t blatantly stupid or irrational, and some who are actually quite bright and humble in contrast. Fun fact: almost all of the guy villagers are voiced by Tom Herpich, and almost all of the girl villagers are voiced by Tress MacNeille.

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Most of the episode revolves around Martin manipulating the villagers into doing deeds for him, and while it’s relatively one-note, it’s all pretty funny to watch. I love seeing Finn’s absolute dead-pan reactions to all of Martin’s endeavors. The best part of it all is easily the party he throws for the villagers, in what is supposed to be a happy celebration, though everyone in sight looks like they’re either in pain, or absolutely miserable. Really paints Martin to be like an absolute monster, as it should. Even when he’s trying to do something for others, he still always selfishly puts himself first.

Though at the party, he does set aside time for his son, as Finn begins to grow introspective and wants to know some details about his past. Martin initially bats around the questions aimed towards him, though quickly grows to being genuine when he does acknowledge how much it means to Finn. This is probably Martin at his most sincere, and likely the most sincere I’d ever want to see him. Though as he proves, he can’t even really conquer sincerity the right way, as he just vaguely glances over key details in the story of Finn’s early days. It does add a bit of depth to Martin’s character, as he acknowledges that talking about Finn’s mother “stresses him out.” Again, not much is given when it comes to the concept of Finn’s mother, though we can at least gather that Martin did truly care about her at one point, and it’s a touchy subject for himself. It can be concluded that he’s the type of dude who has grown to eliminate anything even remotely stressful from his life, simply because, after all the traumatic things he’s been through, he doesn’t want to experience anything quite as emotionally taxing again. He does pull off the gist of Finn’s story quite nicely, and ends with, “I always planned to come back for you, but I didn’t.” Martin acknowledges this statement by mirroring Finn’s line earlier, “that’s true.” It’s a small, but huge moment that shows that, while Martin is a polar opposite in comparison to his son, the two do share at least one aspect of sincerity. Of course, Finn’s statement was about never letting himself go, while Martin’s statement related to actually letting Finn go, but it’s the one moment where Martin is completely and utterly honest with his son, and while it doesn’t lead to any actual development in Martin’s character, (which I wouldn’t want to see anyway) it does at least offer us a single scene in the grand scheme of things where the two characters are able to be somewhat real with each other.

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This doesn’t last very long, as Martin plans to leave on his ship (christened as the “Minnie”!) after leaving the entire village in absolute despair. He attempts to ditch Finn without even saying goodbye too, but also in a rare moment for himself, he invites Finn to come along with him in space. Granted, I don’t think this invitation is met with the same sincerity that his previous interaction was; I think Martin simply wants to use Finn as an ally and then to ditch Finn when he is no longer of use to himself. Finn is smart enough to now to know this truth, and instead of joining Martin in an attempt to either get closure or to bond with his father, he chooses the path that he knows and one that has benefited him in his toughest times: being a hero. And it also means sending his father directly into space, as far away from Finn as possible. Finn no longer feels like he needs Martin’s validation or love to move on with his life; Finn has a handful of other emotional support options to fall back on, and he realizes that his dad is genuinely a bad person. It certainly doesn’t make Finn whole completely, but he’s continuing to develop on himself by choosing to eliminate negative influences from his life, rather than to bounce back on them. In the end, he reigns a hero once more, but is confused about the lack of an actual comet that appeared in his dream. Little does Finn know, the actual convergence of a catalyst comet approaches shortly.

The Visitor is a good combination of funny and sad moments, with most of its poignancy reflecting just how awful Martin is to Finn and that Finn is still primarily deeply confused. It does end happy, however, with a positive step forward in Finn’s life path, and one that continues to increase his affirmation for life in general. Granted, I can see how a lot of people were disappointed with the lack of actual answers we got with Finn’s backstory, though I think I’m more so satisfied knowing that those answers are confirmed later on in the series. As is, The Visitor is an entertaining entry that focuses on the differences between Martin and Finn, yet cleverly also touches on their few similarities.

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Favorite line: “Everything is ruined. Everyone is fat.”

“Evergreen” Review

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Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

Original Airdate: January 15, 2015

That beginning transition from the opening title with Finn and Jake to the title card with Gunther and Nina is all we really need to completely engross us in a prehistoric version of the world of Adventure Time, and the first pre-Mushroom War episode to date. This is a pretty huge episode, and it doesn’t really take its time explaining anything. It immediately throws you into an entirely new, but familiar world, yet it’s another example of what season six does so well. By this point, we’re somewhat used to episodes that don’t focus on Finn and Jake, and as long as the characters and stories are interesting, we don’t truly feel the weight of their absence. This episode is not only big in its scope, but it’s also somewhat significant in how this episode was practically written entirely by Tom Herpich. While Andres Salaff directed it and Steve Wolfhard assisted with some bits and pieces during the storyboard process, Herpich conceived the story for this episode entirely on his own – a rarity for the series in general. Though, I couldn’t think of a better person to put at the helm of Evergreen. Herpich is one of the greatest storytellers in the series, both visually and writing wise, and he’s able to tell a tale that is heartwrenching, and serves as one of the most lore-heavy episodes of the entire series.

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Even if Finn and Jake aren’t in the episode, their identities are still captured through the presence of Gunther and Nina, who aren’t exactly like their human counterparts, but still manage to capture some of that charm. For instance, Gunther is a pretty goofy kid with a good heart who only wants to serve for what is right (Urgence Evergreen) even if that means he can often times get wrapped up in his own conflicted behavior. Nina shares virtually no similarities to Jake aside from her appearance, but doesn’t do much to impact the story in any way either. She’s simply there to be Gunther’s loyal companion, as Jake is to Finn. Gunther is enjoyable by just how much his childlike inspiration consumes him, which, like many other characters in the AT universe, is attributed to some terrific voice acting. Pamela Adlon voices Gunther, whose voice is likely most well-recognized from King of the Hill, and she does a spectacular job of giving Gunther the right amount of energy and heart behind his lines.

It always surprises me just how serious and straightforward this episode is. That’s not to say it’s devoid of lighter and funnier moments, but this is the type of episode that is entirely more focused on creating an enticing story and an apprehensive atmosphere than trying to force laughs from the audience, and I commend it for that. The convergence between Evergreen, Chatsberry, Slimy D, and Balthus is entirely foreboding. The “funniest” aspect of this meeting is the fact that the elements in the Adventure Time world are fire, ice, candy, and slime, which are both hilarious and kind of awesome bits of lore to add to the series. In a world where candy is so dominant, it nearly makes sense that such a heavily focused aspect of the series would have some sort of elemental nature, and helps the Adventure Time world to stand apart even more from other fantasy worlds. Sure, they could’ve gone with the already well-known classically defined elements, but in the surreal and unusual world of Adventure Time, this seems the most fitting. The elementals are all really well-designed and portrayed. It’s a nice touch having Keith David voice Balthus, though it’s a little disappointing in hindsight, seeing as how Flame King didn’t end up being the fire elemental. Having Alan Tudyk voice Chatsberry was sheer brilliance, seeing as how he previously voiced King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph. And of course, Tom Kenny does a standout job voicing Evergreen. I know Kenny is used rampantly throughout western animation, so it’s a given that he’s a talented guy, but it’s his distance from the more goofy and cartoony inflections through his characters in AT that truly define how much range Kenny has. He’s able to capture Ice King, Simon, and Evergreen, who all relatively have the exact same voice, in unique and diverse ways, giving each character a specific identity. I also gotta give props for his design; he sorta just looks like a more disheveled and ominous Ice King, but the random inclusion of chicken legs helps to provide Evergreen with interesting mythological properties.

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The entire middle of the episode is dedicated to showing Evergreen and Gunther’s relationship in great detail. The connection between the two is simple, yet telling: Evergreen is so consumed with his own ego and desires to save the world (but mainly himself) from impending dangers that he doesn’t recognize Gunther’s desires for love and compassion, or at least doesn’t care. It’s made very clear from the beginning that Evergreen is a loony survivalist who really only wants to preserve himself and his legacy, but doesn’t care for those around him or their well-being. Gunther is quite the opposite; he cares for Evergreen and respects him probably more so than he does for himself. But Evergreen doesn’t accept Gunther’s niceness and loyalty, and views Gunther more as a prop or a servant to help him to carry out his more tedious deeds. Evergreen simply manipulates Gunther by bringing the little dino boy under his wing, only to make Gunther feel inferior and as though he’ll never be able to achieve any success as long as Evergreen is around. And Gunther feels just that, as his undying loyalty to his master causes him to feel increasingly low about himself. So much so that Gunther’s need to do things the way Evergreen would causes him to make the same behavioral mistakes that his master does. When his mission to gather water is failing, and his pet Nina attempts to help, Gunther smacks Nina aside and shouts “Nina, no!” It’s probably one of the darkest moments of the episode to see this cute little creature tossed aside so aggressively, and even a bit depressing that we watch this goofy character mirror his idol’s abusive behavior.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but good God does this episode just look beautiful. Once in Magwood’s volcano, the eruption of different reds and oranges illuminate the screen, and the way these colors reflect through the characters just makes everything look like one big visual treat. And keeping in the realm of variety, those reds switch to harsh greens when the catalyst comet grows closer, giving the entire location a feeling of trepidation. This is probably the best example of using color to shift atmosphere in the entire series, and it really gives the entire episode a cinematic feel. There’s also some solid bits of animation, mainly with the way Magwood interacts with its surroundings, and when Evergreen nearly melts while in its cave. The design and different forms of Magwood are inherently interesting in general, ‘specially since it kind of resembles Tree Trunks, despite the fact that it is supposedly a dog. Would not be surprised in the least if this resemblance was on purpose – this episode was storyboarded by Tom and Steve, after all.

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The battle inside Magwood’s cave is all pretty awesome and the stakes do truly feel high (Magwood even kills the poor, old Ice Imp!) but the real clincher is the way that Evergreen responds to Gunther’s actions. Though Gunther was noticed by Magwood, his distraction gave Evergreen an opportunity to rejuvenate and to successfully steal the jewel off the Magwood’s head. But Evergreen doesn’t acknowledge this, as the only thing he knows is that Gunther disobeyed his orders. Despite having essentially saved the day, Gunther is left only with the impression that he disappointed his main hero, as he solemnly drops his head before a dramatically placed fade-to-black.

The hectic climax begins to build as the catalyst comet grows closer, and it becomes more obvious what the comet represents. As the ice tower is shadowed by the color green and the comet continues to fall with two twirling horns, it’s pretty apparent that said comet represents the Lich. The Lich’s history began to become a little confusing at this point, as most people were conflicted as to whether the Lich’s origins were brought about through the mutagenic bombs during the Mushroom War, as opposed to a deadly comet. Though, these next few episodes, and the rest of the series in general, make apparent that the Lich simply represents anything that embodies mass death. He is the entity of ending all life, whether it be a deadly comet offering nothing but extinction, or a harmful nuke used in the brink of a war. It makes his presence much more frightening and deadly.

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It’s nice to see that the ice crown’s creation ties back into Ice King’s statement in What Have You Done? that he built it with the magic that he stole. Once again, the writers outdo themselves by touching on previous plotholes early on in the series and correcting them without retconning anything. After a reckless encounter with Magwood, Evergreen is left in a state he isn’t quite used to: being completely powerless. For once his life, he cannot rely solely on himself, and must turn to Gunther to do so. Following Evergreen’s orders, Gunther must put on the crown and focus on his deepest and truest wish. However, as Gunther places the ice crown on his head, we’re reminded of Chatsberry’s words earlier in the episode:

“This wish may see things in you you cannot see yourself. Can you truly say you know your heart’s truest desire?”

Evergreen never told Gunther what exactly his truest desire should be, and Gunther is left with nothing but his own inhibitions in that regard. Sadly, Gunther does get his wish: to be just like his master Evergreen. What Gunther didn’t know, however, is that it meant being an obnoxious, loud, egotistical maniac. Had Evergreen taught Gunther how to use magic as he said he would, or if he even just treated Gunther as a genuine person, Evergreen possibly could have saved the lives of himself and others, but he failed to do so simply because his own negligence backfired on him. It’s a cautionary tale to show how important it is to treat others with care and respect, as that failure to do so could lead to the worst possible results. And it’s genuinely somewhat uncomfortable to watch Gunther transform from his wacky, dumbfounded self into a completely lunatic. Again, it’s one of the darkest endings to any Adventure Time story to date, only lightened by a somewhat comedic realization that it was all a dream sequence of Ice King’s… or was it? Obviously we know that said events actually happened, just as how we know that the events of Joshua and Margaret Investigations were legit. Annnnd, just when the episode feels as though it couldn’t get even grimmer, we’re left with the sole image of a comet heading directly for Ooo. Knowing what we know now, that “comet” isn’t as disastrous as we once thought, but the ending still strikes as an impactful and alarming conclusion to an episode that is pretty unnerving on its own.

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But as off-putting as it is, Evergreen is Adventure Time’s storytelling at its absolute finest. Like I said, it’s mostly straightforward, but I honestly think the way it’s told and and the message that’s carried across makes it feel like a fable of some sort. I could easily see this working as a story from Grimms’ Fairy Tales, because its characters and writing are so strong that they could also stand alone from the AT universe. But, in the spirit of it being in AT’s world, Evergreen is able to build on its lore so significantly. We learn more about the ice crown, catalyst comets, the elementals, the Lich, and life before Ooo all in the course of one episode. It packs so much into one neat package and doesn’t feel at all like it’s trying to cover too much territory. Plus, the visuals are GORGEOUS, as I mentioned, which helps Evergreen to feel like one big source of eye candy. This is one that I think hits home on almost every level: its characters, story, visuals, atmosphere, scope, worldbuilding, and so much more. Evergreen is truly one of Adventure Time’s most ambitious efforts to date, and it feels like a big jump forward for season six, as well as the series, as a whole. 

Favorite line: “Gettin’ fat. Gettin’ fat, right?”

“Dentist” Review

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Original Airdate: November 28, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Never in a million years would I think that a trip to the dentist could go hand-in-hand with military service, but Adventure Time continues to defy my expectations. Dentist is definitely one of the most uniquely clever premises in the entire show, and makes for a pretty enjoyable episode as well. Granted, there are aspects that weigh it down, but none that truly squander its strongest elements.

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I should first start off by saying I have no trouble believing that Finn would develop a cavity. That boy barely bathes as it is, you expect me to believe that he brushes his teeth two to three times a day, let alone at all? His fear and denial of going to the dentist, or as the episode simply puts it, “going dentist,” is something I think that anyone can relate to. A typical tooth appointment is painful enough, but being left behind by your friends in a hole with a pile of rotten butter and snakes? Sounds absolutely brutal. I do think the episode presents the actual issue in an appropriate way. Bubblegum’s statement of “Finn, this is literally serious,” kind of puts into perspective how untreated cavities can actually become a much more urgent ailment than one would expect. They can legitimately cause you to die. I really don’t think kids’ shows emphasize that enough. Though PB and Jake do leave Finn in the state that he was exactly trying to avoid, I do appreciate the sympathy and help that Jake attempts to provide beforehand. There’s that nice little moment between the brothers when Finn crashes through the Tree Fort, and Jake lightly pats his head sympathetically. Sweet moment between the bros.

Upon his descent into his true destination, he finds himself in an ant military base, which is a really fun and humorous setting for the episode. Andy Daly and Lucy Lawless provide some great voice work as the drill sergeant-esque commanders, and Finn proves to be just as entertaining, by being partially confused but also going along with the whole shtick. The entire concept of dentist is so convoluted, but it also almost makes sense: dental care is exchanged for brief military service. I guess this is Adventure Time’s version of insurance? Also love the goofy characterization that Steve Wolfhard specializes with when it comes to Finn’s character; it can make Finn look downright brainless in an episode like Lemonhope – Part 1, but it also can add a childlike charm to his character, as Dentist aims at executing. The repeated dialogue of “my tooth hurts,” provided for a decent laugh.

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Tiffany (Oiler) also returns in this episode, and I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of Tiffany, as I’ve mentioned in the past. I think his long-winded monologues are more tiresome than funny, and his insistent urge to constantly shout his lines can get a bit grating on the ears. The latter doesn’t really come into play this time around, though the former is emphasized to extreme lengths. Don’t think any of his speeches hit home in this one, though I think his presence is definitely more tolerated when working off of Finn, rather than Jake. There’s an interesting connection of jealousy, as well as Tiffany simply not understanding Finn’s relationship to Jake. Tiffany pretty much just thinks that Finn stole Jake away from him, and probably doesn’t realize that the two are literally brothers. I also enjoy how Finn isn’t really vindictive or hateful towards Tiffany, he’s just pretty genuinely pissed off by him throughout the entire experience. Even when Tiffany attempts to stab him, Finn is just like, “dammit dude, can’t you wait till we’re done with our duties?” It’s hilarious and kind of sweet to see just how passive and cordial Finn can be even with people who hate his guts. There’s also a great moment where Finn interacts with the Finn Sword, and the tiny Finn within the sword refers to himself as “Finn Mertens.” This is the first mention of Finn’s last name since Finn the Human, and even then it was used by Farmworld Finn and not by Finn himself. I think this is a nice subtle reference to the fact that Finn had actually learned things about himself through his wish that the Lich never existed. Afterall, Jake never retconned the wish that Finn made, as he simply wished that the two would safely return to Ooo. Finn had likely subconsciously learned his last name without even realizing it, just as he subconsciously developed the skill of using his flute. Nice detail.

The action sequence in which Finn and Tiffany fight off the worms is just awesome. Tom Herpich never fails when it comes to unique camera angles and dynamic action shots, and there are plenty of those here. Watching Finn quite seamlessly slice through giant worms was great, providing for some pretty violent sequences, but none that prove to be overly gruesome. The bit where Tiffany nearly allows Finn to fall into the worm’s mouth provides for some decent drama; I actually like the side of Tiffany that is soft-spoken and morally confused, and it’s cool to see that he actually chooses the right of non-involvement instead of directly causing Finn to die. Of course, it doesn’t justify his actions, but it’s a step up from his usual vengeful behavior, and it’s nice to see that he’s still a deeply troubled adolescent who clearly does blame Finn for all of his problems. I really thought this was the best example of Tiffany’s turmoil being shown in full detail, and one of his better moments at that. Of course, he does get his comeuppance for all the wrongful things he’s done when Finn knocks him into the Worm Queen’s mouth. Though, I call bullshit with the way it was presented. Finn is launched into a stalactite, and then falls sideways into the wall and bumps Tiffany. It looks far too awkward for me to buy into.

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Finn does get a happy ending as his teeth are all replaced. Though, I always thought this bit was odd: they replace all of his teeth except the one that’s missing on the top? It’s kind of a silly idea, though I wouldn’t really want to see Finn with all of his teeth as it is, and God forbid that Cartoon Network would have to create a Finn action figure with a whole set of teeth. It is cool to see that Finn does show a bit of sadness at the thought of Tiffany’s demise. Even with everything that Tiffany put him through, Finn still deeply sympathizes with the lad and wanted things to work out for the better. The two would later reunite, in what results in more-or-less the same outcome. The ending itself was cute, as the Candy Kingdom citizens celebrate Finn’s return, knowing that he would be perfectly okay in the end. Only he can’t talk about it, because there are fly spies everywhere. Fly spies!

Dentist is good fun. I think it boasts a pretty strong story and has some solid action sequences and a quirky environment to carry it through. Granted, Tiffany is still pretty annoying, and weighs down the episode just a bit. Though, I thought his interactions with Finn were enough to justify his presence in the episode, and add a bit of poignancy to his character. But overall, Adventure Time makes for one of the most enjoyable dentist visits possible, even if that’s not saying much.

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Favorite line: “A common mistake—you were expected to arrive with snacks and a flashlight. Either way, you’re here.”

“Ocarina” Review

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Original Airdate: July 17, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard

We haven’t seen much of Jake’s children after their debut episode a season earlier, aside from recurring appearances of Jake Jr., a brief scene with TV, and a cameo of all the kids at Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s wedding. Ocarina brings the attention back to all of the pups, with specific focus on Kim Kil Whan. This episode goes through great lengths to showcase how negligent Jake can be as a father, though not through his own intentions. Jake does love and care for his pups, he simply has trouble reaching out to his children because he doesn’t understand fatherly expectations. Jake likely doesn’t understand how to help his kids, and has insecurities whether they actually need him or if he’d be intruding on their lives. It’s a bit of a difficult situation that clearly makes Jake look like a deadbeat in the eyes of some, namely Jake Jr. and especially Kim Kil Whan. I really expected Jake to be presented as unlikable in this one, though I think Kim Kil Whan comes off as much more of a jerk. He’s pretty relentless in his treatment of Jake, and even if Jake was as bad of a father as he suggests, his actions are still pretty vengeful and harsh regardless. Despite this, I think the conflict is still interesting in how it takes both Jake and Kil Whan’s perspectives into account, and presents likely the most complicated relationship among Jake and his pups.

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The pups all hanging out together on their birthday was a delightful treat, especially because it is the sole opportunity in the ENTIRE series for them to actually interact! Yeah, aside from their debut episode, this is the only time in the series we actually see the kids interacting with each other, and while I wish we could have had more scenes like this, it’s good fun regardless. It’s cool to see a character like Viola, who hasn’t had any chances to develop in the past, deliver a couple of lines. And it’s cool to see how all of them view their father; Jake Jr. has spent the most time with him, and while she respects him, she understands that he isn’t the best father. T.V. downright resents him, while Viola dramatically glorifies his existence. Charlie is the only one without defined feelings about her father, and she wouldn’t even have a speaking role of her own for another whole season.

Kim Kil Whan perhaps has the strongest feelings of angst toward his father, as he doesn’t downright hate him, but believes that he is not a model citizen and is without goals and aspirations. Kil Whan views him as an absolute loafer who doesn’t possess quality values because of his carefree lifestyle. The truth of the matter is that Kim Kil Whan knows as little about his father as Jake knows of him. Kim Kil Whan is simply going off of his basic knowledge based on the amount of time he’s actually spent with his father, and has automatically deemed Jake as an irresponsible person. What Kim Kil Whan fails to realize is that Jake’s irresponsibility certainly makes up a part of his personality, though, not all of it. Jake struggles to understand responsibility because he’s never been in a situation that has required him to be entirely responsible. His one main stance of authority throughout the years is his role as Finn’s guardian, though that even comes with its fair share of brotherly nonsense.

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Kim Kil Whan’s ultimate procedure to help Jake get off of his lazy ass is selling the Tree Fort to various renters, after buying the deed from Marceline (in her first appearance this season). The idea of stealing Jake’s house is cruel on its own, but giving him and Finn the worst possible spot in the fort is exceptionally malicious. I think Kim Kil Whan’s sympathy is kind of killed by just how extreme and mean his actions are. Pressuring Jake into adopting a more traditional adult lifestyle is one thing, but literally forcing him out of his own home to do so seems entirely apathetic. I don’t necessarily bring this up as an actual flaw of the episode, but I think it’s certainly hard to like Kim Kil Whan as a character through all of the cruelty he puts Jake through. Jake, with all of his flaws, is still sympathetic and likable because we know that he cares about his children, he simply does not know how to express that love. Kim Kil Whan only wants what’s best for himself, and completely disregards the happiness and quality of life of his father in the process. Kind of hard to like the guy, because he’s not even especially fun in his dickish-ness, but again, I think his situation in relation to Jake is still pretty well-defined. I like how far he’s trying to go to change Jake into a better version of himself, but simply does not understand how Jake functions as a person.

While sharing the Tree Fort, Finn and Jake must deal with the absolute insanity of having roommates, who are, for the most part, newly designed background characters. Pretty cool to see a whole bunch of unique characters we’ve never seen before, when the episode could have so easily recycled random Candy Kingdom citizens to fill these spaces. But, per usual, Adventure Time takes that extra effort even when it’s not even necessary in terms of the story. These quirky one-offs are all pretty cool, namely Mr. F and Mr. B, who have increasingly large feet and buttcheeks respectively. And nothing could have prepared Finn and Jake for their incarceration after simply using soap in (what was) their own home. This is the type of episode where I really wonder what BMO was up to, but I’m probably overthinking it. Perhaps he was on a camping trip with Air that weekend.

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Finn’s certainly dumbed down in this one, but in a way that I actually find more humorous than distracting. Herpich can often write him in a manic way where his goofiness either comes off as somewhat out of place or downright hilarious, and this one falls more into the latter. Finn really isn’t the brightest bulb in the shed, and he doesn’t really have people around him to teach him about how the real world works. Thus, he has no idea what a deed is or what it means to possess ownership of property. This failure to understand the world is slightly improved, once Jake tells Finn a tale about how rule making actually came about. The sequence is competently animated, and sums up quite fascinatingly how rules were only created to essentially help people in power, and everyone else was doomed only because of their circumstances of not being on the “right” side. It’s a message that has come off as controversial for some, and even I think it’s a bit too political for Adventure Time to tackle, but I think it’s more so a product of Jake’s perception, and was intended to be subjected to debate. I still think it’s a little weird coming from Jake, as this episode emphasizes just how much he cruises through life, but it still makes sense regardless. Jake really has never had a sense of power in any sort, so he likely feels inferior to those more powerful than him that oppose him. AKA, Kim Kil Whan.

The feud continues as KKW consistently combats Jake’s efforts to get out of his sticky situation. As F&J strategize how they’re going to get out of said situation, Finn suggests that maybe the boys should actually consider getting jobs. It’s one of three moments where Finn considers taking on a more adult form of labor; he considered actually becoming a cop in Candy Streets, wonders if he should take on a paid opportunity in this episode, and later ponders taking on his parents’ company in The First Investigation. Though Finn hasn’t made any significant steps forward in this development, it is a sign of his maturity regardless that he does ponder such a scenario, it just so happens that he’s already committed to protecting Ooo. Perhaps the series will end with Finn getting an actual job, which would be a fitting conclusion to this ongoing motif.

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As their plans continue to backfire, Jake falls into the brink of despair as he fails to understand why exactly KKW resents him. This is where Jake’s failures as a father are most apparent: he is unable to pick up on social cues between his children. Jake does not understand what exactly he’s done wrong because he’s unable to completely understand his children. Granted, KKW isn’t exactly an open book, but Jake very rarely senses emotional turmoil unless it is completely out in the open. KKW’s more secretive emotional state has left Jake with very little to work with or understand what exactly Kim Kil Whan wants from him. I wouldn’t be surprised if, this entire time, Jake legitimately believes this is based on a financial disagreement. It isn’t until Finn puts the idea in Jake’s head that KKW may have some unexplained issues that Jake begins to realize the possibility of such a dilemma.

During their convening at KKW’s house, Jake’s attempt to comfort his son is done in the most “Jake” way possible: he humorously dances over to his son and presents him with an ocarina, as he repeatedly says “I love you” over and over again. The gift is once again a failure on Jake’s part to understand his son, though it surprisingly works. Kim Kil Whan doesn’t accept the gift as actual incentive, but realizes the heart and novelty that was put into said present. As Jake mentions he never even looked for a job, Kim Kil Whan begins to understand and accept that his father’s behavior is just a product of his personality, and his lack of a professional lifestyle is what makes Jake so vulnerable to be caring and lovable. Though KKW is disappointed with his father’s failure to take on responsibilities, he at least realizes that he is loving. This is KKW’s biggest and most important takeaway from his father thus far. And as they bid goodbye during that entirely poignant and muted shot, theytwo are left with a different level of respect for each other: Jake respects his son for accepting his gift and giving him his house back and KKW respects his father for being a genuine person. Inside his house, Kim Kil Whan confides in his wife that his plans simply did not work out, to which his wife responds with sympathy. KKW’s wife likely thinks Jake is a deadbeat as well, though, as Kim Kil Whan got to know Jake on more than just a surface level, as the audience of Adventure Time was able to do throughout the years, he realizes what a kind-hearted soul his father is, despite his flaws.

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The ending was originally much sadder, as stated by Steve Wolfhard. KKW mourns over how childish his father’s behavior is, and as his daughter Bronwyn asks who he is speaking of, KKW simply responds with “nobody.” I think this would have definitely been profound and impactful, but it’s best that the show does acknowledge that, while Jake is far from the best father, he at least tries. In the Adventure Time world, there are so many fathers who just don’t give a shit, and while Jake has had numerous different reasons for not being the most competent dad, he’s proved that having a genuine attitude can sometimes be enough. Kim Kil Whan knows that Jake will never be able to be the most earnest or competent father as himself, but he’s left knowing that, even through his lack of provision, Jake is still filled with love. Which is why the positive outcome of this episode is so appropriate. I still think Kim Kil Whan’s actions are a bit too harsh for me to actually grow any kind of affection for the character, but the issues presented in this episode are quite interesting. I like how much the episode battles back and forth with Jake’s quality as a father, and almost leaves you wondering if he is a good dad by the episode’s end. Many will say yes, and many will say no. Regardless of what you think, the episode presents a lot of different parental issues that are well-explored and insightful, leaving us with scattered information to draw our own conclusions about Jake’s most complex relationship.

Favorite line: “I love Dad and everything, but he’s only ever met me twice.”