Saturday, June 22, 2024

All About Relationships in Ooo

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The first half of Season 5 was tame compared to what is still to come. The double season saved up most of the crucial character and plot points, which resulted in very few breathers compared to the amount of Wham Episodes they managed to cram into just 26 overall. In fact, this second half of Season 5 gets so deep into worldbuilding and new arcs that it’s on the delicate line of becoming too much, which is perhaps one of the reasons Season 6 crossed that line later on. But first things first, let’s finish up with Season 5 before talking about that.

I can’t really call “Jake Suit” a first episode, even though Season 5 is officially broken down into two parts, it’s still the middle of the season. If I were to consider it a beginning it wouldn’t be a hopeful one. As the whole episode is about Finn and Jake effectively hurting each other it does give off some very uncomfortable vibes, and even though “broness” ultimately prevails, as it always does, it is far from being a pleasant episode to watch, at least for me. “Be More” is quite the opposite, it’s all about family after all. How Finn and Jake care for BMO and how they were created to be the best robots can offer. It’s refreshing and also timely that we finally got an origin story for BMO. It can be said that at their core, both “Jake Suit” and “Be More” are episodes about relationships, and indeed that’s the theme for the whole of the (half)season, if we have to choose one. The upcoming episodes are just confirming that.

An obvious Cerebus Retcon, but still pretty neat, right?

“Sky Witch” is one of the most obvious ones. Almost two years after “What Was Missing” first aired it was time for Princess Bubblegum and Marceline to have another episode together. Oh yes, it was about time. And now there’s no Finn, Jake, BMO or Door Lord, it’s time for some quality girl time. Marceline asks for PB’s help as she’s looking for Maja, the sky witch, who still has her beloved Hambo after Ash sold it to her. At first, the slight tension Bubblegum and Marceline is still there, and as PB makes fun of Marcy’s love for her teddy bear you start seeing the feelings from “What Was Missing” resurface, but before long the pair finds what they were looking for and there’s no place for arguments. It all ends with Marcy ecstatic to have Hambo back, and PB glad to have helped her. Well, if only it was that simple.

There are multiple ways of looking at “Sky Witch”, one is saying that it’s just fanservice after the creators saw how popular the pairing had become because of that certain Season 3 episode. There’s also the side that says it was genuine development for both of them, and then there’s the fact that the events of this episode actually help with two rather big storylines, and both are connected to the precious possessions that appeared here. A few paragraphs later I’ll be talking about how Marcy will sacrifice Hambo for the person she got it from, Simon, and then in Season 6 The Shirt™ will also come back to haunt PB. That debunks the pure fanservice argument, so let’s take a look at how “Sky Witch” developed the relationship between Marcy and Bonnie. It does seem like Marceline’s main reason for turning to PB is because she thought she could be the most helpful on her quest, but even the fact that she’s willing to ask her is a major improvement compared to her hostile behaviour in “What Was Missing”. As for Bubblegum, well, as far as I can tell the whole story is mostly from her perspective.

“What Was Missing” focused more on Marceline’s side of things, what with “I’m Just Your Problem” and all that, and it was only at the very end that PB’s true feelings were hinted at. It happened through The Shirt™, so it’s only fitting that it returns here. In fact, it turns out to be something of a Chekhov’s Gun and ends up as the thing that gets Marcy Hambo back. Throughout the whole episode we see how willing Bonnie is to help Marceline, and despite a few tense moments the two share there seems to be a genuine bond (re)forming between the two. It is eventually through The Shirt™ that the good old gay subtext from “What Was Missing” returns. As if the opening scenes with PB waking up weren’t enough, the conclusion of the story is that Maja doesn’t need Hambo’s sentimental affection when she can have PB’s shirt instead. The shirt that, if I can remember correctly from the 48 times I watched “What Was Missing”, she got from Marcy. The Shirt™.

How very… platonic

Adventure Time wikia tries to put it like “oh, it’s more valuable because it’s more recent”, but let’s face it. After “Memory of a Memory” revealed how important Hambo was to Marceline, after AT spent its two most successful episodes establishing how important Simon was to her as a father figure and how he gave her Hambo, it went on to say that The Shirt™ meant more to PB than that. This also implies that Marcy means more to Bubblegum than Simon does to Marcy. Simon freaking Petrikov. Combine this knowledge with the above-mentioned opening scenes, from PB’s morning routine to the picture of her and Marcy in the closet (Visual Puns, yay) and you have the very unambiguous message of how much Marceline means to Peebles. It’s not necessarily romantic, if you want to intentionally overlook the signs, but it is the next step that helped us get to gems like “Varmints” and “Broke His Crown”. On a relationship level, “Sky Witch” made it clear that they are going for the development between these two. “What Was Missing” and the two-year long radio silence on this front didn’t guarantee this, but this episode finally did. And go for it they shall, even if it’s taking them long.

“Frost & Fire” has even bigger consequences, as it’s all about Finn and Flame Princess. If “Sky Witch” is the rekindling of an old, broken relationship, then “Frost & Fire” is the end of a new one. After a season and a half of being together, the young pair breaks up thanks to Finn acting like a proper jerkish boyfriend. Come on Finn, you’re better than that. Except, during this period of his character development he’s not really, and he has to deal with the consequences. After he spent their whole relationship worrying about FP being born evil and basically wanting to change her (even though there was not much wrong with her, only her family), now Finn started manipulating her because of a dream he had, which was basically a strongly implied wet dream. Even worse, she causes fights between her and Ice King, where both get hurt in the process and the whole Ice Kingdom is in ruins by the time Flame Princess is finished. Poor Simon, he’s the other victim of this episode, aside from Flame Princess, who takes Finn’s effective betrayal to heart and asks for time to think. As everyone tells him so, Finn really blew it this time, and this was only one step of the long process of him growing up.

If only he knew in this moment that he messed up

As if what he did in “Frost & Fire” wasn’t enough, “Too Old” comes in and shows another series of bad moves on his part. The whole episode is a blatantly obvious parallel to “Too Young”, and yes, that’s right, this also means the return of the Finn and PB ship. Now that Finn’s first real relationship sunk, it’s back to Bubblegum, because surely that’s a good idea. It’s made clear throughout “Too Old” that PB’s not interested in Finn’s attempts at flirting at all, and it’s only in the end that it really dawns on him that this was a really bad idea. Apart from the fact that she’s simply just not interested, Bubblegum is indeed just too old for Finn, and not just because it’s becoming more and more heavily implied that’s centuries old. Their priorities clash and they are clearly on a different emotional level (hell, that was the problem even with Marcy and Bonnie’s relationship, and Marceline is much closer to her in age). By the end of the episode this ship, too, is sunk beyond repair, at least in the romantical sense, and so Finn is forced to face the consequences of how much he screwed up with Flame Princess.

Before talking about that I must mention the actual plot of the episode, because it had one besides the relationship drama. “Too Old” is the latest addition to the Lemongrab saga, where we see how the two Lemongrabs lead after their argument in the latest grayble story. By the end Lemongrab 1 goes completely berserk and eats his brother alive, who’s had a change of heart and now wants to stop the original Lemongrab. The whole castle is suffering but they are not without hope, literally, as Lemonhope escapes with PB and Finn, so that the Lemon People can look forward to the day he might return and end their misery. It goes without saying that the whole storyline turned very dark, and that’s saying something because everything involving Lemongrab was already deeply disturbing. Thanks to this development “Too Old” also becomes the story when PB gets called out on all this basically being her fault as let things escalate into this madness. All her fault indeed.

“Earth & Water” is the perfect follow-up to these two episodes. It holds both Finn and PB accountable for their actions and allows Flame Princess to develop her own individual storyline, along with, surprisingly enough, Cinnamon Bun. I’ve never been a big fan of the latter because hopeless comic reliefs stop being entertaining after a while, but as of Season 5 CB finally gets the long-awaited character development he needed and joins Flame Princess in her quest for badassness. As of the end of the episode, they usurped the Flame King, who turned out to be an even worse father than we suspected, and so FP and CB begin their journey in leading the Fire Kingdom together. What a satisfying end for both of them, while Finn still struggles with the idea of his mistake being forgiven but not forgotten and while Bubblegum loses a citizen and the trust of a potential ally. I would argue that she actually saved the life of Flame Princess by forcing her dad to imprison her instead of letting her die, but the point here is her moral ambiguity.

Two episodes after the break-up she already has her own kingdom, damn

“Time Sandwich” is a well-deserved breather after these heavy episodes, and it’s a rather satisfying one where Jake, with the help of his friends, outsmarts the jerkish Magic Man. The chill doesn’t last long because up next is one of the most crucial episodes in the show’s history so far, “The Vault”. “The Vault” answers some old questions and opens up so many new possibilities in the process, I still find it hard to believe that it was only 11 minutes long. It’s the story of Shoko, Finn’s past life and how she met her end and why she needs Finn to make amends so she can rest in peace. The theme of relationships returns with the majority of the story being about how Shoko met Princess Bubblegum, back when the Candy Kingdom was still being built, and how they became friends. Not only this finally confirms that PB’s “like a bazillion years old” but also serves as an explanation as to why Finn feels drawn to Bubblegum despite the pair of them not working romantically. Then there are the smaller bits, like reincarnation officially existing in AT’s world, the Comet, and the foreshadowing with the arm again.

It’s only logical that another breather comes next, “Love Games”, where Slime Princess and the Slime Kingdom get a day in the limelight, although at the end of the day it’s about Finn not being able to get over Flame Princess. We even get the best song since Rebecca Sugar’s departure. “Dungeon Train” follows that line and has Finn return to his monster fighting days to get his mind off things, while Jake is acting like the worried big brother he is. “Box Prince” is not explicitly about Finn’s wallowing anymore and it also happens to be one of the dullest and most unforgettable of the season. “Red Starved” is the first Marceline episode since Season 2 not to deal with her past in some shape or form. It’s more about Jake being kind of a jerk and Marcy being pushed over the line as she’s starving. It’s also a pretty light and soft one, especially compared to the last time Finn, Jake, PB and Marceline all appeared in the same episode together. Bonus points though for the revelation that Finn is colour blind and for the fact that Marcy finally got to drink the red from Bubblegum’s pretty pink face. I promise it wasn’t as weird as it sounds.

Well… maybe it was a bit weird

“We Fixed a Truck” is the return of Banana Man, once again a nice and light adventure. “Play Date” started out as one too, a day in the limelight for Ice King and Abracadaniel, after the former’s home was destroyed because of Finn they hang out at the Treehouse. Their innocent and childish fooling around turns the story upside down, however, and calls for a sequel to the episode. They summon Kee-Oth, the demon whose blood is in Finn’s sword, who gets his blood back and kidnaps Jake, thinking that he’s Joshua. “The Pit” is mainly about Finn and Lady Rainicorn teaming up to save Jake, who’s pretty chill about the demon being hell bent on getting revenge. The real importance of the two-parter is not Kee-Oth though, but the fact that he got his blood and therefore the sword back from Finn, forcing him to search for another one. As harmless as “Play Date” was at the beginning, it sets off a chain of events that will form the very core of upcoming seasons.

“James” is once again on the heavier side, although purely from a character perspective. It doesn’t add much to the bigger picture, apart from establishing that the zombie creatures that chased after Simon and Marcy are still around. It is crucial to Bubblegum’s character though, as the whole story is there to add yet another layer to the Princess’s already questionable morals. The whole episode is PB recognizing a tight situation for what it is and using cold logic to calculate the best possible outcome. Despite Finn’s attempts at being heroic and Jake being paranoid and pointing fingers at the innocent James, it’s Bubblegum who has everything under control. She makes James sacrifice himself so that the others, the ‘more valuable ones’ can escape. Apart from having a sci-fi feeling to it, “James” is an excellent example of PB’s quite frankly scary morals. Even Finn and Jake start realising as of this episode that she’s not the nice little princess they thought she was. She’s more than willing to do what needs to be done.

“Root Beer Guy” is the introduction to the titular character, who’s appeared a few times here and there but never spoke. It’s from a perspective that we’re not used to and is definitely a refreshing one to see. Following this is “Apple Wedding”, the wedding between Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig. A whole bunch of characters turn up to be part of the event and there’s plenty of quality Adventure Time comedy going on. The most important aspects of the episode are two characters, who don’t happen to be the bride and groom. One of them is the King of Ooo, who makes his debut as the performer of the ceremony, and the other is Bonnibel Bubblegum once again. It’s not just because I happen to love her, but also because this is another crucial step towards her later character arc. Enraged that Tree Trunks wants the King of Ooo instead of her to officiate the wedding, she breaks several of her own laws to prove that he’s a fraud. When she’s proven wrong (well, not quite, but everyone thinks she’s wrong) she sends not only KoO to jail, but everyone who disagrees. Geez, way to go princess, someone doesn’t like it when her authority is questioned. Bonus points to the episode because Jake’s playing his viola again to recreate Pachelbel’s Canon. Excellent choice of music there.

Look at my problematic fave, look at her go

“Blade of Grass” and “Rattleballs” are both continuations of the sword saga. During the former, Finn gets his new grass sword, which seems to be just a tad bit too keen on being the perfect sword for him. In “Rattleballs”, the titular character teaches him how to use his new weapon, and the episode also turns out to be another great addition to the ‘PB is hella problematic’ ongoing saga. It turns out that genocide is not beyond her, which is not even that surprising by this point, but as a sign that she’s not that ruthless the story ends with her sparing the last remaining Rattleballs. “The Red Throne” is another chance for Flame Princess to shine, she has to face her evil father as he takes the throne back from her. She asks for the help of Finn simply because she knows he is a hero after all, but the real hero of the day is Cinnamon Bun, who not only helps FP but basically vows to stay by her side as a loyal companion. It’s a real Took a Level in Badass moment and one that finally made me like CB as a character. We also see that FP is now mature enough to see Finn as a friend and ask for his help, but he’s far from being ready to accept the situation. Poor Finn.

“Betty” is a huge one in so many ways. It’s the return of Simon (the real, sane Simon Petrikov), the solution to the mystery of Betty’s disappearance, the conclusion to the Hambo saga, the reunion of Simon and Marcy, and most important of all, Simon punching Marcy’s ex, Ash in the face. So much happens that if anything, this would have deserved to be a two-parter, but it’s only the beginning of a brand new and exciting storyline. Betty starts working on a way to save Simon from the Crown and as of now, that story is still on-going and the source of many precious moments. As I said, it’s also the end of Hambo, which is more than bittersweet. After PB sacrificed The Shirt™ to get Hambo back to Marcy, now Marceline sacrificed Hambo to get Betty back to Simon. It’s yet again a huge story for relationships and one of the most heartfelt ones. Just like PB sacrificed the shirt she got from Marcy to get Marcy herself back, in a way, now Marceline sacrificed the thing she got from Simon to help the real man, and thanks to that sacrifice she might get him back one day.

“Bad Timing” could have been one last breather before the inevitably heavy end of the season, because what else would you expect an LSP episode to do other than let you laugh and enjoy the story without having to worry too much. But nope, this is a new AT and the opposite happens. Lumpy Space Princess finds herself a new boyfriend, one she seems to genuinely care about and he likes her too, but LSP ruins it with her possessive jealousy. The whole thing turns incredibly dark in seconds, and by the end even PB, who spent the season showing how tough she is, is in need of a drink. The annoying frame that surrounds the episode throughout? It makes sense by the end. It’s not that this is the darkest Adventure Time will ever get because the very next story goes further, but for a Lumpy Space Princess episode it was quite shocking.

About that next story though. “Lemonhope” parts one and two are, of course, the continuation of the Lemongrab saga. PB is keen on educating little Lemonhope and preparing him for his destiny, but he doesn’t want any of that, he just wants freedom while Lemongrab rules his citizens like the Ooo version of Kim Jong-un (seriously, Castle Lemongrab turned into North Korea). He escapes but can’t be truly free until he’s paid his debt towards the Lemon People and helped them defeat Lemongrab. In the end, Lemongrabs 1 and 2 get resewn into a new version of the Earl, who PB hopes will be more stable in the long run. As for little Lemonhope, his job is done, and he only returns to the castle about a thousand years after, which guarantees a tearjerker scene with a surprisingly beautiful lullaby and a glance into Ooo’s future. Thanks to this last scene, the nightmares Lemonhope has, “Phlannel Boxingday” (who many people suspect to be Bubblegum herself) and the overall implications, “Lemonhope” is a truly spectacular piece of television.

To finish it all off comes “Billy’s Bucket List”, which finally deals with the fact that Billy is indeed dead. It took the characters quite a while to realise that, although it is somewhat explained by the fact that Finn was busy growing up and making mistakes while Jake is still in utter denial. As a final tribute to his hero, Finn decides to complete Billy’s bucket list, which involves hanging out with ex-girlfriend Canyon, a fascinating new character, and facing his old fear of the ocean. The real point of the episode, though, is clearly to introduce a brand new story arc and leave the season on another cliffhanger. All things considered, having Billy tell Finn about his dad is one of the smoothest ways to go about it and leaves plenty of questions so that the new season can answer them.

Dad the Human

Season 5 ends with the promise of another interesting dynamic being the focus of the next one, after having already explored many aspects of relationships. Even more so than the first one, the second half of Season 5 contained an impressing number of Wham Episodes and undoubtedly brought storytelling in Adventure Time to a whole level. It’s clear that the pace is only getting faster and the stakes higher, even though we’re only halfway through with the series. While all in all Season 5 is quite enjoyable and does present many fascinating concepts, it begs the question: what is the next season going to be like? Maybe a little too intense?

Images courtesy of Cartoon Network

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