Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Comet Has Arrived to Ooo

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Season 6 of Adventure Time began with an action-packed two-parter and then continued exploring Finn’s newest problems, but then quickly went back to standalones, which resulted in a rather unbalanced first part to the season. Looking at all the 43 episodes together results in an even stranger picture that ultimately presents us with many enjoyable and thought-provoking episodes, but somewhat fails to come together as a whole. It begins right off with AT’s most daring attempt at a long storyline, which worked out in some ways and not so much in others.

“Evergreen” is a massively important episode that’s just a flat out treat for long-time fans, especially those interested in backstories. It introduces Evergreen, the original Gunther, the four elementals, and the Catalyst Comet. Yeah, that is a lot to deal with in just one episode, but I would say “Evergreen” manages. It’s an obvious Cerebus Retcon for the Ice Crown but one that works, and the comet is just mentioned so it doesn’t get carried away with explaining that as well. As for the elementals, it is the best possible way to first establish that there are four main elements in this word. As someone who spent 7 years being obsessed with Avatar (the good one) before watching this episode, it did take me a while to accept fire, ice, candy and slime as the four elements, instead of the traditional ones. It does fit the world AT has built, although sometimes I still wonder about slime. Fire and ice obviously make sense, candy is acceptable because of the importance the Candy Kingdom has in the show, but slime? The Slime Kingdom has never been that prominent, so this seemed like an odd choice, and I hope the last seasons address this. But back to the episode itself, “Evergreen” sets the precedent for later Season 6 episodes do their own Cerebus Retcon (as the show clearly has the Syndrome by now), but it works best here. It’s just the right balance between exposition and a story on its own.

“Astral Plane” also works, mainly because it’s a heavily character-focused, philosophical kind of episode. In fact, it gets so existential that Finn ends up quoting Nietzsche, which should give you an idea about how deep “Astral Plane” went. Although what Finn said is quite literally true, Glob is dead (along with Grob, Gob and Grod), which creates its own complications. The concept of the Catalyst Comet returns and is now explained in more detail, even though what Glob died for was not the real one. So that’s one part of the story, but the other is that philosophical one, as Finn floats over Ooo and considers nothing less than the meaning of life, the beauty of creation and the point of continuing to live after that. I would say this is all really freaking deep for a kids’ show, but I think we’re all over the point where we’re still pretending it is one. Finn’s journey fits in with his emotional one, and some of the best scenes are when he wonders about the life of other characters. Ice King, Marceline, Mr. Fox, and Bounce House Princess all make an appearance, and while the former two obviously carry around heavier emotional baggage, it’s still nice to see multiple points of view.

“Gold Stars” is somewhat less heavy than the previous two, though it still has its significance to the season. It’s the first major appearance of the Lich as Sweet P, who has been adopted by Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig. It’s Sweet P’s first day at school and he’s getting bullied because of his appearance, so it’s not hard for the King of Ooo and Toronto to trick him into helping them rob people. By the end, the Lich surfaces and scares off the two scumbags, and a bizarre but fascinating contrast between the king of the dead and this innocent boy emerges. It’s incredible but the show did manage to transform its most terrifying character into a genuinely sweet and naive baby. I was feeling so sorry for Sweet P throughout the story and was almost glad to see the Lich come to his defense. This character might just be the best thing to come out of the Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig storyline. Well, Sweet P and “Apple Wedding”.

In “The Visitor” Martin returns and lands in Ooo, after Glob died to save Mars, thinking he was the Catalyst Comet. He meets Finn and it’s not the family reunion he had hoped for but the one he should have expected. The thing is, with every episode Martin is in he proves that he can sink even lower and you can find it in yourself to hate him even more. His selfishness reaches a peak, his absolute disregard when it comes to any other sentient being is astonishing, and the way he behaves towards Finn is just worse than Hunson and Flame King ever managed, combined. He’s an absolute nightmare, but thankfully Finn spends the episode proving that he’s different and just sends Martin off to space in the end, having had enough. It’s not the final step of letting him go, but a start.

The Earl of Lemongrab, third edition returns, or rather makes his first prominent appearance in “The Mountain”. I made sure to point out when talking about Lemongrab episodes that his presence automatically makes Adventure Time’s already weird approach downright disturbing. If we were to measure it by characters, there’s the Tree Trunks type and then at the end of the scale there’s Lemongrab. But “The Mountain” takes a different approach than previous stories, and it’s fitting since this is a new Lemongrab. “The Mountain” could be interpreted in a myriad of ways, one is that the Earl is searching for enlightenment as Finn follows him. It’s that and a lot more, but there’s no way I could properly discuss all of it, so I’m not even going to try. Instead, I’m just going to mention the brilliance of the three mirrors the mountain presented both Lemongrab and Finn with, and how that scene just screams to be overanalyzed. My personal favourite was the first mirror and how it tempted both of them with love: Finn with the lost love of Flame Princess and the Earl with the motherly love of and connection to Bubblegum.

“Dark Purple” is a long time no see moment for Susan Strong. The main importance of the story is that we finally see her head under the hat, and we see something that proved to be crucial in Season 7 and probably in the upcoming miniseries. “The Diary” is the chance for another one of Jake’s kids to shine and this time it’s T.V. It’s a fun and exciting episode, even though it doesn’t really explore the dynamic between father and son like the episodes with the other puppies did. “Walnuts & Rain” is one of those standard weird AT episodes that don’t make much sense but you just roll with it. “Friends Forever” is another look at Ice King’s miserable and lonely life. Even though it’s a perfectly enjoyable episode, it doesn’t add much to his story, only elaborates on facts we already knew about. It also makes the earlier episode, “Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe!” look odd in comparison.

“Jermaine” is a much more interesting one as we finally get to know the mysterious third brother. There’ve been mentions of Finn and Jake’s brother here and there, going back all the way to Season 2, but now it’s time for him to become a properly fleshed out character. It’s a delightful familiar dynamic we get between him and his brothers and we see how there’s a lot of built up bitterness in him. The story concludes with him finally letting go of Joshua’s stuff that he’s been protecting for all these years and as a result also letting go of his envy when it came to his brothers. It’s a well-executed episode and I only hope that we’ll see more of Jermaine in the future. Whereas “Jermaine” was something we’ve been waiting for for years, “Chips and Ice Cream” was completely unexpected. Dismissing it as just one of the weirder ones doesn’t do it justice, it’s just a straight up hella confusing story and one that might have a hidden meaning, but if yes then it’s buried deep under layers and layers of bizarre moments.

This was the most normal part of the episode

When I was rewatching the episodes and making notes to myself, I wrote this about “Graybles 1000+”: significantly less shocking for the second time, but still. I guess I summed it up for myself, especially with that “but still” part. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that when I first watched this episode I freaked the lump out. I remember thinking that this was the darkest, most messed up episode yet. Looking back now it really is significantly less shocking, but still. When talking about the latest graybles episode I mentioned how previously they’ve been the lighter and softer ones, compared to the increasingly darker and edgier standard episodes. “Another Five More Short Graybles” took a step in the direction of changing that when it featured the Lemongrabs, but that was nothing compared to this episode.

Cuber himself and his storyline have an actual role in this one and it’s mainly thanks to this aspect that “Graybles 1000+” haunted me for days after watching it. The graybles themselves have the same tone the earlier ones did, even though the theme is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and that one segment with PB is pretty darn scary (but we could dismiss it as just Season 6 Bubblegum). What really makes the episode hit home is that we see a grim future of Ooo, thanks to Cuber making his way through it. All of the Candy Kingdom now lives inside the Prize Ball Guardian, Marceline is probably still alive and living in her cave, and instead of an Ice King the Crown is now an Ice Thing, flying around in the destroyed kingdom of ice. I think it was this last scene that scared me the most, because the implications are nothing short of terrifying. Sure, we can hope that it’s not Simon but just the Crown living on its own, but you never know. Oh, and there’s also the fact that Cuber murders several people in cold blood in these 11 minutes, and comes out of it thinking himself the hero.

“Hoots” doesn’t lift the mood, it’s our look at the daily life of the Cosmic Owl. It’s amusing to see how he went from this mythical creature to just another guest character and “Hoots” in particular highlights how he’s like a mortal in many ways. He endangers the citizens of Ooo by chasing a pretty bird lady in their dreams, and as it was established a long time ago, if the Cosmic Owl appears in a dream it will come true. Obviously, that’s what happens here, as the bird lady manipulates him into entering Princess Bubblegum’s dream and then ruins it. The CO even says that he feels manipulated but also that he’s okay with it, in true AT style. “Hoots” ends up foreshadowing the season finale in two major ways: the fall of PB (and the Candy Kingdom, which can still potentially happen) and the true nature of Gunter, who was the bird lady all along.

“Water Park Prank” is the real odd one out of the season. As another guest-animated episode it is bound to be just that, but in this particular case it’s an extreme example. Even though there were lighter parts to it, Season 6 in general feels rather grim and ominous, and especially now that we are the last few episodes. “Hoots” just proved that, and the episodes that follow are all about setting up the finale. The fact that “Water Park Pranks” comes in the middle of all this just creates an ever bigger imbalance than other guest-animated episodes tend to. It is perhaps the silliest, most light-hearted of them all, which in itself is not a problem. As much as I love it when Adventure Time gets deep, we need to keep in mind that theoretically, this is still a kids’ show. And even the wider audience needs those episodes when they can just lay back and not think about what they are watching for an episode or two. With all that being said, “Water Park Pranks” feels extremely out of place, and even though as an episode on its own it’s alright, I can’t help but feel like they really shouldn’t have put it here.

“You Forgot Your Floaties” takes us back to the main plot as well as that of Magic Man and Betty. The impact of the episode is enormous, by the time it ends Magic Man transforms into Normal Man and Betty into Magic Woman (or Magic Betty). It gives us the first proper look at Magic Man’s past and gives him a second chance, as well giving an interesting twist to Betty’s quest of curing Simon. If that wasn’t enough, it introduces the idea that all magic users possess certain levels of magic, madness, and sadness, and even takes Finn and Jake out of the picture for a while. What a heavy episode. Not that the following ones are any different, as “Be Sweet” begins the chain of three episodes that directly lead up to the two-parter finale. It’s back to Sweet P and also LSP this time as she’s asked to look after the Pig-Trunks baby while the parents are out. Catastrophe ensues, of course, because this is LSP and unfortunately she doesn’t seem to get much character development. Mind you, this episode might just finally help steer her in a different direction, and it was good to see that she and Marcy are still good friends, but in a season where the major redeeming quality is character development you would expect the show to do more for a main character. We don’t see much of that, and so the one takeaway from the story is that Sweet P warns everyone about the comet approaching.

“Orgalorg” is a curious one. On the one hand, it’s the huge revelation that Gunter is actually the Breaker of Worlds, an ancient alien with the intention of using the Catalyst Comet to destroy everything. He’s Orgalorg, and a good few minutes of the episode are dedicated to explaining exactly why we should find that revelation to be scary. On the other hand, this makes the whole huge revelation much less significant than what the creators probably hoped for. The thing is, the observant could have seen Orgalorg in “Gold Stars”, but that’s it, apart from that this is the first time we ever hear about Orgalorg, two episodes before the finale, where he’s the big bad. The foreshadowing with the comet worked in “Evergreen”, but this time it doesn’t necessarily work with Orgalorg. It’s just not enough time to truly view him as a dangerous antagonist. The Lich worked and he worked for several seasons, but “Orgalorg” is not exactly the perfect set-up for the season finale. Personally, I would have rather seen the Lich resurface thanks to the arrival of the comet, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Sweet P anyway.

“On the Lam” is another one that’s just for setting up the final two episodes, although it should be said that unlike “Orgalorg”, it does actually have its own plot. It’s all about Martin again, and once again he proves that he’s even worse than you imagined. The entire episode is set outside of Ooo and honestly, it ended up having a really sci-fi feeling to it, at certain points it even reminded me of Star Wars. After this it’s back to Ooo, however, as the Catalyst Comet finally approaches and the characters meet what’s been preparing for them all season.

What I love about the two-parter is that the first episode, “Hot Diggity Doom” is more about PB than anyone else, whereas “The Comet” is undoubtedly Finn’s. These two had more attention for the last season, arguably last two seasons than any other character and it’s only fitting that they both reach a milestone. For Bubblegum it’s a slap in the face as the King of Ooo, of all people, replaces her as the princess of the Candy Kingdom. While she’s preoccupied with the comet she failed to realise that thanks to her recent shadiness the Candy People don’t adore her as much as they used to, and they are stupid enough not to see KoO for what he is, so even though it’s a monarchy they democratically vote for him to be the new princess. PB’s first reaction is understandable rage and she points out how dumb everyone is, but when it comes to her own citizens she’s forced to face the fact that she made them like this and then consequently failed to take good care of them. It’s a brilliantly executed episode because you know that it does serve her right, after all that she’s done (and all that she failed to do), but you still feel sorry for her. Well, at least I did, but we all know by this point that I’m biased. The sweetest moments come when Pep But is worried for her and then follows her out of the castle without a word, what a loyal butler. This is the only way PB’s Season 6 arc could have ended and the perfect opportunity for her to grow during later seasons.

“Hot Diggity Doom” doesn’t forget about the comet or Orgalorg either and so “The Comet” continues with that storyline. Finn reunites with his dad, meets Orgalorg and the Catalyst Comet, all of that in space. While Jake’s premonition dream comes true, Finn stops Orgalorg with good old grass sword and reasons with the comet. Instead of choosing to go with it and basically become a cosmic entity (as he was in a previous life), he chooses to stay on Ooo with everyone he loves, while Martin accepts the comet’s offer. In the end, he doesn’t give his son a decent explanation as to why he abandoned him, but Finn learns to accept that and let go, going back to Ooo to deal with more important things. It’s a more or less satisfying end to the Martin the Dad saga, certainly more satisfying than Orgalorg’s defeat. As I said he wasn’t an intimidating antagonist to begin with, so it didn’t come as that much of a surprise. After such a hype, even the comet itself was a bit of a disappointment, and so the saving grace of the finale and the season overall is Finn’s (and PB’s) character development.

Season 6 is a bit of a controversial one when it comes to the fandom. It’s in no way a bad season, but the show has almost lost itself and its simple yet lovable humour. At times it was trying too hard to bring in these grandiose concepts and it ended up feeling rushed, and compared to these the more simple episodes felt like fillers. That’s not the feeling you should get with AT. Even though I did praise the show around Season 3 and 4 for becoming heavier on continuity, perhaps this is where the line should be drawn and where the show should return to its origins. The character bits were amazing in the season, again, especially PB and Finn and how their arc came to end and how it can be continued later on, and there was a nice theme of letting go going on. It’s a theme that Season 7 will continue, as well as helping the show find its way again. Because Season 6 didn’t end on a cliffhanger (or at least not on an obvious one like the previous few seasons) the next one can start going in a different direction and we can relax for a bit, not focus on some long and complicated storyline. As you can guess I actually enjoyed the vast majority of the episodes, they were no bad just mediocre ones, but I can see why the whole season was a bit off to a lot of fans, especially if we view it as a whole.

Images courtesy of Cartoon Network

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