TV Review: Adventure Time (Season 9, Episodes 15-18)
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In “The Wild Hunt”, the episode that was originally planned to kick off the final season of Adventure Time, Finn is still reeling from Fern's dramatic death and can't forgive himself for causing it picking up shortly after “Three Buckets” ended.
Princess Bubblegum enlists Finn to patrol her kingdom at night in search of the monster that has been ravaging her banana guards. However, when the beast strikes again Finn can't bring himself to slay it, because the memory of Fern's death keeps resurfacing.
Hot on the hot fudge trail that the beast has left behind and with the help of the delightfully playful and sharp-witted Huntress Wizard, Finn finds the cave that the beast is hiding out and tries to save the abducted banana guards.
Huntress Wizard’s insightful advice offers a new perspective on Finn’s situation. She tells him that Fern was a bad version of himself that he had to let go of in order to grow and become a better person.
In the end, Finn manages to come up with a coping mechanism and instead of projecting Fern's helpless image on the monsters, he projects it on on the people he has to save. Even though he can't fully overcome his grief and guilt yet, Finn uses it to do some good.
After she shares an intimate kiss with Finn and they joke that he’s madly in love with her, HW inspects the remains of the beast only to discover it's made entirely of artificial candy and through a CCTV camera, a new adversary is watching Finn mildly irritated that he defeated his creation.
The calculating and flamboyant Uncle Gumbald, who made his first formal appearance last episode, crosses "Bananameister" of his list and moves on to the next step of his plan to get to Princess Bubblegum through her boy-hero, Finn.
The way UG views Finn is more akin to how he was at the beginning of the show: an energetic child who wanted to kill every monster he saw rather than the mature and grown-up version we see now who’s worried about hurting the people around him.
The second episode sees BMO and Ice King on their latest play pretend adventure that leads them straight to Uncle Gumbald. Pairing up to work as a door to door salesman, BMO is the closer while Simon carries him dressed in an oversized trench coat, fedora and leather handbag. This whole premise is so silly and a bit of a callback to classic old adventure time (There's even an old title card and this time it's "Potential Customer time").
The first customer is Tree trunks and BMO wins her over immediately with polite pleasantries and successfully takes all her cash in exchange for a broken branch. The next customer is a helpless squirrel carrying two nuts who's terrified by the sight of BMO in his giant trench coat chasing after him and runs away.
They end up lost in the forest and stumble upon a mysterious yet familiar stone fortress. A pink robot-like servant greets them at the door and they come face to face with UG in his science lab.
The hitherto presented as calculating but silly puppet master, Gumbald, is revealed to be quite a scary dude. He's not sold on any of BMO's artefacts including the lint ball (and is about to hack him with an axe) until he hears that BMO is selling a bag of Finn's teeth... which is exactly the sort of thing he could use against him.
When BMO and Ice King return to the Treehouse they are welcomed with a celebration for their first day at work which is cut short by an army of teeth-made baby Finns sent by UG. For a moment BMO feels ashamed and disappointed in himself until Ice King reminds him of his achievements and encourages him to be the great salesman he is and it’s a good thing BMO has just the thing to sell: baby smashing hammers.
While Gumbald's second plan of attack has also been foiled he doesn’t take it to heart, instead, he waits patiently in the shadows for his next chance to strike…
Taking a break from UG and his schemes, “The Son of Rap Bear”presents a rap battle that causes Flame Princess to examine her relationship with her abusive father and learn how to stay true to herself without letting others bring her down.
During a friendly Clam Rap session at the beach with Finn, Flame Princess gets approached by a scamming dog (Re: Toronto, King of OOO's ex-campaign manager). She gets tricked into signing over her kingdom unless she wins the Rap Festade against the notorious SORB: Son of Rap bear.
Finn takes her down to the belly of the beast to learn more about her opponent and they discover that Son of Rap Bear's rhymes are strong enough to tear you apart (he rapped his father's legs off). Feeling insecure, she lacks the experience needed to rap FP travels around OOO.
These fun experiences, however, leave her unsatisfied because in order to find something to rap about she has to dig deeper. She pays a visit to her estranged father, Flame King who now rules over a kingdom of chipmunks because what better way is there to get rapping inspo than to rap about your abusive evil monarch dad?
Sadly he's as much of an asshole, incapable of realising all the pain he has caused her. When she turns up at the Rap Festade, SORB's rhymes and derogatory comments really get to her, until she realises she's a fiery strong young princess who can hold her own. SORB ends up getting roasted (pun intended) for being a sad kid, who tries to leech off his dad's fame.
After this light-hearted yet deeply emotional breather, the four-part special ends with a complex look into the past of one of Adventure Time's most iconic characters as Princess Bubblegum recounts the story of how she built her kingdom (and Uncle). There was no Candy Kingdom safe for Bonnie and her autistic brother Neddy 800 years ago.
Bonnie longed to be around people she could relate to and missed the comfort of the mother-gum (the collective gum womb whence she spawned) so she grabbed a couple of wads of gum, plugged some electrodes on her noggin and zapped them to sentience creating sweet Aunt Molly, sassy Cousin Chicle and, of course, her Great Uncle Gumbald. Piece by piece they helped her build up her house into a small town but not everyone was happy taking orders from her.
In an attempt to challenge the establishment, Uncle Gumbald begrudgingly cut down all the Taffy trees to build his own little cabin because while Bonnie had plans of building a Town of candy, UG wanted to capitalise on their land and build a city of luxury flats. He conspired with his relatives to snake his niece by synthesising a juice to render Bonnie "docile and simpleminded".
After double-crossing his relatives and poisoning them, UG tried to convert Bonnie too but she fought back and ended up turning him instead. Having acquired her first royal subjects, Bonnie stuck with creating more candy people because while dumb and helpless, they would at least keep her company.
As she grew into the intelligent and powerful monarch we know, PB often struggled with her impulse to micromanage and control everyone under her reign but deep inside all she ever wanted was to have a family so that she wouldn't be lonely in this cold nuclear-ridden earth she was born in. After 9 seasons and three mini-series, Princess Bubblegum grew from a cutesy damsel in distress to a flawed and tragic yet always cheerful and kind heroine.
This was a very tightly knit special with episodes that felt connected. Even if they each had a separate story, the major arc was still advanced and has now left us wanting more. Even if part 3 wasn’t about Princess Bubblegum’s Shakespearean evil scheming uncle, it still dealt with similar themes of family and identity and mostly it was great to see so much of Flame Princess in one go, as she’s such a great character.
Bubblegum’s final (presumably) flashback wrapped up her backstory very creatively by joining various dots we already knew while still packing some surprises (who would have guessed Uncle Gumbald was the Punchbowl all along?).
UG is a fun antagonist but not really a personal favourite. I’m more excited for the potential introduction of GOLB, to be honest.
Although, I appreciated that the end of the day he was just another one of her creations that ended up turning against her because he felt he should be an equal rather than a subject to control. That in itself is not bad, but poisoning your relatives and planning to turn your niece and nephew into candy zombies is.