Friday, March 29th, 2013

retsuko: (yay doctor!)
I've long been a fan of "Adventure Time with Finn and Jake", and blogged about it several times before, but after the most recent, superlative episode, I feel the need to blog about it again, because this is one of the best things on TV right now, and almost every time I watch it, there's something new/meaningful/different that sticks with me.

The latest episode, "Simon and Marcy", is part of two characters' background story. The Ice King (or, Simon because he was the Ice King) has long been the series' go-to one-shot villain. Like Donkey Kong or Bowser, his motives are simple: kidnap the princess and cause arbitrary trouble for the heroes. (Fortunately, it's been quickly established that some, if not all, princesses in the Land of Ooo are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves.) Marceline, on the other hand, is an ally and friend to Finn and Jake, although her moral code is less rigid than theirs. It's been established previously that Marceline and Simon/Ice King have a history together, and the show is slowly getting around to the idea that they're the two oldest residents of Ooo. Last season's episode, "I Remember You" contained an unexpected moment of pathos when an impromptu jam session that the Ice King insists on turns into a revelation about his past with Marceline, and their survival of the post-apocalyptic landscape together. Marceline sets the Ice King/Simon's last words to music in the clip below:



(Note: apologies for the ad at the beginning, but I figured that the official Cartoon Network youtube upload was less likely to disappear.)

This song is one of Rebecca Sugar's best: it starts off disorganized and strange, but then it builds to an effective crescendo, and the second time through, the meaning becomes fully clear, contrasted with the fact that the Ice King has lost his previous self who wrote the words. (The writers get additional props for breaking up the bleakness of the sequence with the shot of Finn and Jake watching the action, clueless about what's really happening.) This is a lot more emotional depth than I expect from any kid's TV show, and especially one on Cartoon Network. (I cannot lie: the first time I saw this episode, I teared up. There's something about the desperation in Marceline's voice as she grabs her guitar.)

And then, Monday's episode came along, and there was yet more depth and pathos--again, unexpected, but engrossing and touching. I'm not usually a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, unless there's a good amount of time between said apocalypse and the actual narrative. However, for "Adventure Time", I will make an exception: the apocalypse lurks around the edges of the show, yet its bleakness never overtakes the main thrust of the story or becomes overly dark simply for the sake of dark. Character building is far more important to the show's writers than creating a horror movie, although horrific aspects certainly abound.Spoilers ahead. )

While the show isn't flawless overall, it's episodes like this that make the whole thing worth watching. There's so much more to the Ice King than kidnapping princesses and getting thwarted by our heroes. And there's a lot more to land of Ooo than meets the eye. And I should say here that this storytelling was accomplished in less than 22 minutes. There are a lot of shows and movies that could do well to learn how to build a world and/or develop characters in this amount of time, and I'm thrilled that at least one pop culture entity has it so right.

May 2016

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