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The Beginning of the End for Adventure Time

The time has come at last, Adventure Time’s Season 8 has begun. Right off the bat, the season starts with two weeks and 14 episodes, 6 of which I’m going to cover right now. The rest make up the “Islands” miniseries, to be reviewed next week. Anyway, let’s not waste any time because the show sure as hell doesn’t.

Two Swords

The season premiere picks up where Season 7 finished. Well, it actually opens with the Candy Kingdom and everyone in hospital, but Finn recounts the happenings on the beach to PB, giving us a quick recap of what we’ve already seen, as well as what we haven’t yet. The stuff we already know is not just a copy and paste of the previous episode, thank Glob, but a cleverly animated sequence. After that comes the birth of Grass Finn, the product of the grass sword merging with Finn Sword. At first, he acts like he is Finn, much to the real one’s and Jake’s dislike, but the episode reveals that he’s not quite the same as Finn. Even Bubblegum fails to recognize that at first, although in her defense she hadn’t actually met this new Grass Finn yet.

Watching the two Finns struggle with identity is the most interesting aspect of the episode, after all, that was the point of it. Grass Finn has a very filtered perception of who Finn is, and as the story goes on we see why. This character is actually the combination of the Finn who lived inside the sword and the grass demon of the sword and they’ve been wanting to get out ever since “I Am a Sword” happened.

The result is this new character, who at first thinks he’s Finn but he’s not entirely like his human counterpart. The grass demon says “when we get out of here, let me do the talking,” but I’m not sure that ended up being the case. It is mostly Finn in there, with his memories and personality, though the grass demon obviously affected the birth of this new character and so he’s not sure how to act. He says things like “I’m a 100% hero”, which is very much what a younger Finn would say, but Finn as he is now? Not so much. Grass Finn can’t grasp that he’s not, indeed, Finn, or at least that he’s not more valid than the human Finn.

As for human Finn, he has a better understanding of what’s going on. By the end of the episode he’s ready to accept this new situation, although nothing shows how he matured more than how he deals with the loss of his arm. As PB’s testing his new robotic arm he’s very relaxed about it, it doesn’t affect him nearly as much for the second time. Granted, after the build up this had he was bound to just accept it sooner or later, but this sudden loss must have affected him. It makes sense for Finn not to be that traumatised though, maybe he knew that the arm he gained in “Breezy” was just borrowed time. Even still, he showcases how much better he is at dealing with problems.

“Two Swords” is the combination of, well, the two most recent swords Finn had, but because both were sentient it becomes this fusion of a character who struggles with finding his way in the world as much as Finn has during the past couple of seasons. It’s very much an introductory episode to this new character and the dynamic he has with others, but a good one with some classic Adventure Time comedy.

The one criticism I have of the episode is the robotic arm that I’ve already mentioned. How Finn deals with it is handled well, though it did feel like a good old Deus Ex Machina to even have the arm. Sure, Bubblegum explains it when she says she’s been working on it since the last time Finn has lost his arm, and it’s certainly not less believable than the solution to the problem we got in “Breezy”. Still, they could have spent a little more time explaining it.

Do No Harm

The first two episodes aired together, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a two-parter. Both deal with this new entity, Grass Finn, yet I think “Do No Harm” can absolutely be considered on its own. It’s Grass Finn and regular Finn taking different paths, the former trying to live as a human with Jake while the latter, feeling guilty about what happened to Susan, is trying himself out as a Doctor. This second part is mainly the comedic subplot with Finn’s existential crisis as twists to it. But Grass Finn’s crisis is far greater than that.

As the episode goes on, Grass Finn gradually realises that he can’t be just like Finn, and not just because he’s made out of grass. Jake does his best, bless him, but by the time they get to the grass maze he’s realised what this is about. Grass Finn has so many questions towards his creator, which is a nice, though a painful parallel to how Finn had a lot of unanswered questions towards Martin. And just like Finn, his grass counterpart doesn’t get the answers he so desperately wants. He doesn’t get a simple answer to the question “who am I” and instead he has to figure it out on his own, just like Finn has been doing.

Grass Finn basically goes through the seasons of development Finn has in 10 minutes and then decides to find his own path under the name Fern. As far as character introductions go, I would say these two episodes did a more than decent job at establishing Fern and steering him in a direction. We’ve yet to see what that means exactly, but there are great things in store for this character. I do believe these two episodes, the second one in particular, didn’t make good use of the time, which is usually not a problem with Adventure Time, their pacing is excellent.

Anyway, “Do No Harm” did its job and ended up being an entertaining episode—a nice follow-up to the first one.

Wheels

Sometimes the show can forget that it’s Adventure Time with Finn and Jake and focus much more on Finn, where it’s made obvious that he is the real protagonist. Nonetheless, we do have Jake-centric episodes, and ever since Season 5 some of these involved his pups. Now that we are in the penultimate season, it’s time to go one step further and have Jake interact with his granddaughter, Bronwyn, who is the daughter of Kim Kil Whan and his wife, Pat the bear. No one saw this coming during the first couple of seasons, that’s for sure.

“Wheels” was another opportunity for Jake to grow and show how he can be mature but he fails miserably. He does try at first with Kim Kil Whan but when it comes to Bronwyn, all he sees is an opportunity to show off and prove how cool he is. This follows up the events of “Ocarina”, where even KKW realised that he can’t change his dad, and so “Wheels” doesn’t even try after Jake established that he just wants to be the cool grandpa. Bonus points for consistency there and for not trying to force development on a character. If Finn’s arc is growing up, then Jake’s is never truly maturing.

Kim Kil Whan, who was the jerkish but well-intended son in “Ocarina” is the still kind of cold but understanding father here, and Bronwyn is introduced as the typical teenager who wants to impress others and is more interested in skating than studying. She and her father come to a compromise by the end, proving that they are good without Jake’s help. I would like to see more of Bronwyn because I feel like she could do with some more development, and she certainly seems like a character full of potential, so let’s hope that happens.

“Wheels” continued the theme of Jake’s puppies but took it to another level with introducing a new generation, and in many ways was so fitting for this penultimate season. This is the final big chapter of the show and so there’s something real about Jake being a grandpa (but still wanting to be cool) and the “kids”, Bronwyn’s friends calling the 16 year-old Finn “old”.

This is all perfectly covered in good comedy, so it doesn’t become too depressing of a thought, just something to think about. Another random bonus point to the episode for having Bonnie and Marcy hanging out next to the Bottomless Pit of Love.

High Strangeness

Nothing felt like a better combination of what the show used to be at the very beginning and the direction where it’s going than “High Strangeness”. Especially when I look back at Season 1, it’s all random weirdness and the wtf factor all over the place, and then from Season 4 on there’s that sense of hidden depth. It also had a Season 6 feeling to it, what with outer space and the dark undertones.

The weirdness was mostly there thanks to Tree Trunks. As much as I like to say that there’s no character who causes more bizarre moments than Lemongrab, Tree Trunks is up there on the scale. Her involvement in the episode is one of the reason why my initial reaction was that of PB’s below. It’s a good thing I’ve already rewatched “High Strangeness”, because otherwise it would be a bit hard to talk about without getting stuck on the weirdness.

During this episode we find out about the alien husband and children of Tree Trunks as well as Bubblegum’s new space colonization program. “High Strangeness” brings these two together and the result is a plot that actually makes sense and is thought-provoking, under the utter nonsense. It’s interesting how it was Tree Trunks who knew what was going on all along and how despite her residual anger with PB because of “Apple Wedding”, she still helps with the space program. I do think she’s a completely bonkers character, but that was a surprising twist to her character. As for Bubblegum, I can’t wait to see how this new project of her will end up.

It’s also worth noting that during the episode we saw the return of Starchy’s secret society from “Nemesis”, the Veritas Brigade, which is basically a group of people being extremely paranoid about PB and wanting to bring King of Ooo back. Starchy has been against Bubblegum for seasons and it seems he’s hell bent on proving just how shady she is. After it’s been building up for so long this storyline is bound to lead somewhere and personally, I think it’s going to be golden, whatever the outcome. Especially considering how Bubblegum is not the same person she was when “Nemesis” happened. But in any case, the sign Tree Trunks made was a bit of an exaggeration and surprising move, even by AT standards.

Just your regular kids’ show

Horse and Ball

This is another one where I have to say it’s good that I’ve seen it twice before writing about it. At first, “Horse and Ball” seemed like a minor character episode that doesn’t affect any bigger plot and doesn’t have much to offer in terms of depth and food for thought. After I had a second go at it, however, I had to reconsider and came to the conclusion that “Horse and Ball” is up there with other so-called deeper episodes.

James Baxter returns in this episode and he’s here to cheer everyone up, as always. When he suddenly ends up without his beach ball Finn, Jake and BMO do their best to cheer him up and get a new beach ball so he can continue his career. “Horse and Ball” explores how he’s an artist and how people rely on him to make them feel good about themselves, but at the same time it also has Finn be selfless and tell James Baxter to do what he does for himself.

We get a relatively long sequence exploring the backstory of James Baxter that details how he left a society full of working horses to become “Games Bookstore”, pronounced as James Baxter. This persona was the result of him trying to cheer up a little bat and then he continued cheering everyone up, presumably thinking that this was what he was meant to do instead of being part of the society he left behind.

He’s compared to the other artist that appears in this episode, Raggedy Princess, whose poems make people feel sad and so they avoid her, but she keeps making the art she wants to make regardless. James hasn’t been doing what he really wants to in a long while and so when he loses his beach ball he freezes and doesn’t know what to do. But the thing, he’s been doing this James Baxter act for others and not himself, so when Finn helps him realise that he rejects the beach balls he’s been given and starts dancing (in a beautifully animated sequence) for himself.

I wasn’t a big fan of the original “James Baxter the Horse” episode, but “Horse and Ball” is a nice sequel to it. I do hope it sets a precedent for what a standard minor character episode is in these last two seasons. This just proves that Adventure Time doesn’t have to focus on main characters and bigger storylines all the time because it can do these quieter ones well too. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with “Horse and Ball”, at least for the second time.

Jelly Beans Have Power

This was without a doubt the episode I was most looking forward to. As a continuation of the elementals plotline (not to mention a Bubblegum-centric episode), “Jelly Beans Have Power” had a lot to deal with it, and I’d say it did live up to the potential. I’ve seen Adventure Time do more with their 11 minutes, but what happened during this episode was still enough, for now.

The episode highlights all the essential parts of who PB is, which is fitting considering how it was an episode about her doubting herself and wondering about that. She experiences envy and frustration and doesn’t deal with it perfectly but still tries and even accepts magic to a certain degree. That was what I was most looking forward to, how she, who absolutely refused to accept the validity of magic in every situation, is going to deal with the fact that she possesses magical powers.

Peppermint Butler and PB’s previous life, Chatsberry help her with it and, unbeknownst to her, Patience St. Pim is also encouraging her to explore her powers. It will be interesting to see where the whole elementals story is going, but I suppose this is something they are leaving until at least this season’s finale, if not the series finale. In any case, PB does eventually figure it out how to work around magic and in an epic scene uses science to overcome the problem.

Her hubris once again causes problems when the unlocking of her powers hurts some of her citizens. By the end, it’s not just the conflict between her scientific mind and magical powers, it’s also her priority of saving her kingdom but unwittingly hurting them when she gets full of herself. The episode ends with her full of regret and the reveal that it was all part of Pim’s plans, as well as the promise that this is only just the beginning.

Overall, this was a strong beginning for Season 8. I have to be frank and say I didn’t enjoy the first couple of episodes as much as I did with Season 7, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t all entertaining and quality episodes. It seems to me that these six episodes established the tone we are to expect from this new season and I have to say I like that tone. It had a little bit of the very beginnings and continues Season 7’s trend of not being awfully heavy, but also keeps up with the characters and how they developed. We’ll be much smarter once the season properly begins and we see more of it, but based on these six episodes I would say that Adventure Time is still rocking it.

Next up is the new miniseries, “Islands”, we’ll see how that one lives up to the previous one and the expectations.


Images courtesy of Cartoon Network

Author

  • Szofi

    Szofi is gradually exploring the depths of animation fandom and she is currently reviewing Doctor Who. Recent graduate, cereal enthusiast, frequent traveller.

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