Friday, July 19, 2024

Reboot of an Adventure

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Season 7 of Adventure Time has been very good so far, mainly thanks to the “Stakes” miniseries, but the 12 other episodes were all somewhere between “fun” and “exceptional”. If anything, the second half of the season only became even better. While rewatching the episodes the title cards kept surprising me, it hasn’t been that long since I first watched the episodes and yet I forgot just how many amazing episodes followed each other this season. Hardly any of them can be dismissed with a simple “it was alright”. No wonder though, as it was announced while this season aired that there would only be two more to the show, so this is Adventure Time preparing for the final few acts.

Right off the bat there’s “King’s Ransom”, the continuation of Betty’s quest to cure Simon. This saga is made more interesting by the fact that Betty got turned into Magic Woman last season, so her tinkering with the Crown might not be as safe as the regular Betty would like. We don’t see the consequences of that just yet, “King’s Ransom” is mostly about Ice King desperately trying to save Gunter and actually acting quite brave and dignified for once. That is until he discovers Betty, when he temporarily reverts back to his pathetic old self. Such a shame, but the episode still did a great job of highlighting his more admirable qualities as well as his odd friendship with Finn and Jake.

Out of all the episodes in this second half of the season, “Scamps” is the most easily dismissable. It’s fun but nothing special and doesn’t live up to the setting’s potential. “Crossover” however is a big one, almost unbelievably so. It takes on the huge task of resolving the Farmworld plotline, which was left hanging all the way back at the very beginning of Season 5. Prismo’s urgency does make you wonder why he’s only dealing with this now, but apart from that there’s not much to criticise about “Crossover”. It acknowledges how Finn forgot about this and then deals with his feelings about his alternative self and his family, which is a nice little addition to all the Finn-centric episodes of the season. In an impressive move “Crossover” resolves the Farmworld plotline, but opens up an even bigger one with the Lich’s hand now being part of all realities. The whole thing has a Doctor Who feeling to it again, but I’m starting to think that’s just what you get when Prismo is around.

“Crossover” starts an avalanche of episodes that make it their goal to delve deep into Finn’s character, and so right after it we get “The Hall of Egress”. Out of the myriad of episodes focusing on our protagonist and the hardships of growing up, “The Hall of Egress” is perhaps the best example. It also belongs to the now long line of AT episodes that leave you confused upon first watching it and could be interpreted in a million different ways. It makes all those artsy live action movies run for their money, that’s for sure. To me “The Hall of Egress” fits in perfectly with how Finn’s been growing for the past couple of seasons and is therefore mainly about him growing up and slowly but surely entering adulthood. It’s just done in such a bizarre yet fascinating way that once again makes you wonder how on Earth are children supposed make sense of this.

If “Crossover” hints at Finn longing for a family, more specifically a dad and “The Hall of Egress” is his journey of growing up, then “Flute Spell” is the tale of how his romantic life is going. Surprisingly well and maturely is the answer that this story presents us with, Finn reaches a level that even Jake can’t comprehend anymore. Huntress Wizard, a character who’s been popping up here and there gets a major role in “Flute Spell” and ends up becoming Finn’s newest lady friend, although they both agree that “exceptional beasts like [them] cannot fall in love, that is the secret of ordinary people”. It’s all a bit cryptic and a bit of a shame for HW to go, but it is impressive how Finn agrees with her and lets her go. It’s a true testament to how much he’s grown.

“The Thin Yellow Line” is more laid back but an exceptional episode nonetheless. I actually loved it even more when watching it for the second time, I found that even though it’s not one the deepest episodes, there were plenty of stuff to consider when watching it. For starters, it’s back to the Candy Kingdom, and even though we’ve had a few episodes set there since PB got her throne back, “The Thin Yellow Line” came closest to actually dealing with what her character development means for the kingdom. It’s a story about the importance of art and individuality but also the story of how the Candy Kingdom citizens and more specifically the Banana Guards view Bubblegum.

It was absolutely fascinating to watch how the Banana Guards fear and respect PB as if she was some kind of a god, and then there’s Finn who can only conclude the myths by saying “but [she’s] nice”. It captures the difference between the Banana Guards (and CK citizens) and Finn perfectly. The Banana Guards were desperate for PB to come back, during the first half of the season we saw how they view her as a kind of mother figure (rightly so) and how they admire her. Now we see more of the fear and the distance between the ordinary citizens and Bubblegum, who’s put on pedestal. Meanwhile, there’s Finn, who even after everything still thinks of PB as this person who’s just “nice”, and although now he views her more as a boss than as a crush of his, her shady business still doesn’t bother him. In the end, PB herself admits her mistakes and forms a new kind of connection with her guards. It’s also worth noting that while some of what Banana Guard 16 said about PB, such as the genocide of the Rattleballs was true, there was some obviously false stuff there, like the imprisonment of Neddy, which makes you wonder what kind of legends go around about Bonnie in the kingdom. Also, Marceline appeared on the mural, and it’s really important to note that. For science.

Anyway, let’s forget about attempted genocide

Even better than “The Thin Yellow Line” is that next up is another Bubblegum episode, one that continues the Crown, the Betty and the Bubbline sagas. Well, with the latter it’s more a case of throwing all the obvious signs of dating they can in there without actually stating the obvious. But that obvious is so evidently there that it’s not even up to debate anymore. Season 7 was extremely indulgent when it came to the romantic subtext between Bonnie and Marcy and “Broke His Crown” is just the cherry on top. It’s just there, everything has been said before. I mean, come on, apart from the standard nicknames Marceline calls her “B-Bell” and “Bon-bon”, not to mention the word “girlfriend” being uttered (or more like shouted) by Peebs. It’s borderline disgustingly cute.

Apart from the fact that their relationship is at its most obvious yet, “Broke His Crown” offers us an insight into their post-”Stakes” relationship. Marcy drags a reluctant Bonnie to have dinner with Ice King, proving that she’s one of the very few who can make PB stop working for a while. Perhaps more important than that, “Bon-bon” proves that she cares about Marceline enough to not just leave her kingdom (even if only for a short period of time) but also actively seek Ice King’s company. Given their disturbing history, it’s no wonder that she’s less than enthusiastic about the idea. But she gave in and even started calling him Simon, as Marceline requested. It’s also proof to how much they’ve grown in “Varmints” and “Stakes” that they are able to poke fun at their past differences.

Anyhow, “Broke His Crown”, while an excellent episode for their ever growing relationship, is not all about Bubbline. It’s essentially the sequel to “King’s Ransom” where Bonnie and Marcy travel to the Crown to discover what Magic Betty did to it. It’s a huge revelation that all the people the Crown has possessed live inside its circuits as AIs, including Simon. We get a heartwarming scene between him and Marceline, which almost makes up for their lack of interactions in “Betty”. Gunther returns and Santa has a cameo, because why not. It turns out that Magic Betty installed a virus, but the power of love convinces this AI to stop messing with the Crown. Simon and Betty are totally another OTP by the way, the purest of them all, and I think I can safely say that we’re all rooting for them to find a way. All in all we’ve yet to see the true consequences of “Broke His Crown” or the whole Betty saga in general, but what a nice addition to it.

“Don’t Look” was the point where I started wondering about just how seriously good all of these episodes are. So far in this half of the season only “Scamps” was what I would call mediocre but all the others are just so good, and “Don’t Look” might just be the best of them all. Yet another Finn-centric gem, it focuses on how he sees himself and others. More than that, his new magic eyes literally transform people into what he sees them as. Some of the transformations are sweet and heartfelt, like when Jake becomes an older brother (and later a wise old man) and above all when Ice King turns into Simon. As Jake states that’s simply just beautiful, even though the eyes couldn’t get his memories and personality back, it’s still heartwarming to see that Finn thinks of him as Simon. Other transformations are a bit random, like Shelby becoming a nerd and Starchy a thief and then a “butt”, and then there’s PB as the “teen boy heartthrob”. She even gets a new snapback, how about that.

The eyes cause Finn a real crisis though when Neptr becomes an inanimate microwave and he starts transforming himself, into something that looks suspiciously a lot like Martin. How he starts doubting himself is heartbreaking but also fascinating to watch, and in the end he once again proves that he’s nothing like his dad. Even though we knew that already and this boy has been through enough, I can’t help but appreciate how the show has Finn doubt himself. This is a character who started out firmly believing that he’s super good and can’t do evil.

“Beyond the Grotto” is another guest-animated episode and it might just be one that we can consider to be canon. It’s treated as a whole new world that Finn and Jake stumble upon, and as strange as it is, it does fit into the AT universe. Needless to say, the part with the alternative Marceline was particularly enjoyable. “Lady Rainicorn and the Crystal Dimension” is what it says on the tin. It was about time that Lady got an episode to herself, or at leats one without Jake and Finn. It’s interesting how they connected the rainicorns and the crystal dimension, I do hope we see more of that in the last two seasons, we’re bound to, now that T.V. has moved there. Lady also deserves more attention, she’s proven now that she can carry a story (even if we need subtitles to be able to understand what she’s saying).

“I Am a Sword” is back to Finn and the ongoing saga of him and his swords. This time around we take a closer look at Finn Sword and he actually is Finn, as in a person who can talk and feel and make better decisions than the one using the sword. The normal Finn’s reckless behaviour leads to him losing the sword and then destroying it with grass sword, so in the end all that’s left is a traumatised Finn and his ominously glowing sword. It’s one of those stories that were much more effective the first time around, and now that we know where the story is going it’s not that shocking anymore. Regardless, the episode had a good pacing and was a huge deal when it first aired.

“Bun Bun” is the perfect episode for Cinnamon Bun to showcase how much he’s grown. It’s especially staggering when we see Bun Bun, this new character who’s essentially how CB was in earlier seasons. Her innocent and childish behaviour only worries Cinnamon Bun and amuses everyone else, and it ultimately leads to an odd friendship between Bun Bun and the former Flame King. Could this be the start of his redemption arc? I certainly hope so, or that we’ll see more of him in any way. In the meanwhile “Bun Bun” was also the story of how Finn and Flame Princess properly discussed what happened back in Season 5. Even Phoebe realises how much Finn has grown, who’s finally ready to apologise wholeheartedly. While I enjoyed the CB and Bun Bun part of the episode, this was most definitely a highlight for me.

“Normal Man” is the former Magic Man’s first appearance after his powers got transferred to Betty, and what a change it is. It’s a great start for what is almost a whole new character and it’s full of promises, as it all ends with Normal Man going back to Mars. As he says, “it’s a start”. Now, it could be argued that two season before the end we don’t need starts anymore, we should start tying up loose ends, but I would say Season 7 can still start new storylines and character arcs and get away with them, assuming that the last two season will deal with these properly. The story of Magic Man and Mars is not exactly new, so I have faith that it will work out.

“Elemental” is even more ambitious. It’s the continuation of what “Evergreen” introduced, the incarnations of the four elementals, but also a brand new storyline for the residents of Ooo. Patience St. Pim awakes from her hibernation and reveals herself to be the ice elemental, as Ice King is merely just the product of an earlier incarnation’s crown. Princess Bubblegum, Flame Princess and Slime Princess turn out to be the candy, fire and slime elementals, respectively, and that comes as no surprise at all. What is a mystery is where this is all going, because there’s obviously something big building up here and “Elemental” was only the beginning of this huge new arc. By all means, it was a good episode, just obviously one that’s setting up bigger things.

“Five Short Tables” is the delightful return to Aaa, and back to its beginnings in a sense that it’s once again Ice King telling his fanfiction. This time around it’s also combined with the structure of the grayble stories and it works really well. It is a shame that Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t voice Prince Gumball this time around, but all the others are once again spot on, especially Butterscotch Butler. It’s a huge difference in tone from the previous grayble episode, but a welcomed change that fits in with the established tone of genderbent stories. After “Bad Little Boy” and “The Prince Who Wanted Everything” it was nice to focus on everyone a little, and we even got a fanfiception in the end.

“The Music Hole” is back to Finn who can’t get over the loss of Finn Sword. The whole of Ooo gathers around to cheer him up with the Battle of the Bands, where he’s the judge. We get some fantastic musical numbers out of the competition, special shout-out to Marceline’s cover of Mitski’s “Francis Forever”. I’d like to see more of this band, just Marcy, LSP and Death chilling out. But the real importance of the episode is how Finn finds the Music Hole and thanks to its sound he’s able to let go of his feelings. It’s an emotional yet smooth episode that acknowledged the effort Finn’s friends are making to cheer him up but also states that he needed something else, someone else. Fits in with where he’s going this season perfectly.

Someone help this child

“Daddy-Daughter Card Wars” is finally the time for the last of Jake’s puppies, Charlie to get a day in the limelight with her dad. She turns out to be a very interesting, if a bit creepy character, but the majority of the episode is not about her. Jake steals the show with competitiveness when it comes to Card Wars, but ultimately manages to let go of his immature tendencies after Charlie helps him out. One of the best things about the Jake and puppy episodes is that he has a different relationship with each of them and they highlight different aspects of him, as shown here.

After all this all that’s left is the two-parter finale, “Preboot” and “Reboot”. The first part is our introduction to Dr. Gross and her hybrids, all with impressive, if a little bizarre, character designs. Tiffany returns because that’s just what he does, which is the reason why I’m not convinced that he’s gone for good now. But all the characters aside, the point of “Preboot” is planting the idea that Finn is not the last human, even apart from the occasional and questionable ones we’ve seen so far, there are more. It’s all about setting up the scene for the upcoming “Islands” miniseries, but because it does work as an episode on its own I’m not complaining.

“Reboot” continues the story but also steers it into a different direction, with Susan and her programming being the focus. In “Preboot” she was revealed to be one of the creations of Dr. Gross (a human who’s been modified) and now we see what her purpose was. The whole episode is Susan showing just how Strong she is and almost succeeding in dragging Finn to a mysterious island, defeating Jake, Rattleballs and picking a fight with grass sword in the process. This is when we forget the whole Susan and humans and islands drama and get back to the saga of Finn’s swords for a moment. It says a lot about Adventure Time’s continuity and complicated storylines that the episode switches like that between two of the most important ones. No probs, the story keeps on going.

The season ends on a giant cliffhanger when grass sword merges with the destroyed Finn Sword completely and the two create a completely new creature. This ensures that the new season will begin with addressing this problem before it can deal with the issue of the humans and the island, but that’s not forgotten either. In around 22 minutes this two-parter manages to be a huge milestone for the show urges it to take a different direction in its last two seasons. Was it the most daring story the show has ever produced? Heck no. But in many ways, it could be a reboot, for example for Finn, and after all the majority of the series is about him. No season has proven how much he’s capable of like Season 7 did, and so the final episodes just had to be about bringing two of his storylines together.

Season 7 hit that note that Season 6 couldn’t and even Season 5 struggled with. When talking about Season 4 I said that it might as well be the best season of the show, but if that’s the case I would consider this one to be a close second. I think it’s safe to say that it gave faith to people who’ve lost interest during Season 6, it brought back the old fun and also introduced a new feeling to Adventure Time. Needless to say, I loved it. Was it absolutely perfect? Of course not. Every season needs its weaker episodes, but even when it came to those they were alright. “Stakes” helped Season 7 be as good as it ended up being, but that wasn’t the only reason for its success. It’s well put together and did what it needed to as the antepenultimate season.

Images courtesy of Cartoon Network


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