“The Hard Easy” S4 / E22
- B+ Community Grade
Wow. 100 episodes of Adventure Time. Who’d have thought Pendleton Ward’s charming post-post-apocalyptic tale of a boy and his dog would not only last this long, but become a cultural phenomenon? “The Hard Easy” is the 100th episode produced and the 101st to air, and the writers don’t go too crazy for the milestone story. It’s a traditional “Finn and Jake fight a monster” episode, but it shows exactly why this show has become so successful with variations on that central idea. The simple yet striking character designs, stylized dialogue, intense action, clever comedy, and generally chill atmosphere combine to create a delightful burst of animated whimsy, light and frothy but still substantial.
It all begins with a hatless, shirtless Finn and Jake at a lousy swimming hole, their day of relaxation ruined by rain clouds. These two never get the opportunity to relax, but its not like they actually want to anyway. As they get ready to leave, a mudscamp (fish with legs) by the name of Woobeewoo asks for their help in saving his town, which has no name but he likes to call “South Woobeewoo.” It is there that our heroic duo learns of the menace of the Mega Frog, the massive green beast that chases the mudscamps from home to first base. The Elder Mudscamp (who sounds a lot like Jonathan Katz, although if anyone has confirmation please say so) delivers a great monologue as he tries to imagine getting eaten by the Mega Frog. The mudscamps are a shy people, and the Elder bumbles through his vocal role play, repeating lines in multiple voices to differentiate his characters. If the Mega Frog’s reign of terror keeps up, the mudscamps will have to move to the city and get jobs, but they don’t know how to do anything cool. Some are learning by trying on different hats, but they have no idea what they’re in for. Finn and Jake decide to save the clueless little guys from lives of urban misery by hunting down the Mega Frog, but they don’t realize they’re the ones walking into a trap.
This episode takes inspiration from fairy tales Hansel And Gretel and The Frog Prince, taking elements from both and putting them through this show’s psychedelic toilet filter. Unlike those two stories, there’s no pesky moral in “The Hard Easy.” Finn and Jake are given a bag of lollies for taking on the mudscamps’ mission, which they use to mark their path in case they get lost. The Mega Frog’s tracks go in circles, so get lost is exactly what they do, walking long after Jake has dispersed the last lollipop. When Finn wonders if the Mega Frog could have deliberately set his tracks to confuse them, Jake tells him that frogs are way too dumb to do something like that, but Jake has a history of underestimating his opponents. Finn puts a lot of trust in Jake’s opinion because he’s his bro, but sometimes, he should just trust his gut.
The comedic highlight of the episode is when Finn and Jake try to start a fire by rubbing sticks together. They understand the general idea of it, but no one has ever taught them that starting a fire is more difficult than just repeated wooden contact, so they go through all sort of different methods to create fire. They throw the sticks, blow on them, yell “friction!” at them, and write “Fire” on the ground, hoping it will spark a flame. The writers mine a lot of humor from the characters’ ignorance, taking a simple gag and building on it to creating a bigger laugh. After a lightning bolt finally gets one of their sticks lit, the pair sees the shadow of the Mega Frog in the distance, putting on war paint as they charge into battle. (Jake’s war paint mustache is amazing, as is the gag when he swipes paint across his eyeball.)
When Finn and Jake attack the shadow, they get their asses handed to them because they’re actually just fighting a wooden structure made to resemble the Mega Frog. That gives Jake an idea: They could create wooden decoys to lure the Mega Frog out into the open, and then they could attack it. Too bad that is exactly what the opponent’s plan is, and the Mega Frog sneaks up on the two and chases them into a small cave. There’s some excellent use of stretching abilities in this sequence, with Jake stretching his legs like a super-pressurized can of Easy Cheese and the Mega Frog contorting his body to fit into the cave where his prey has holed up. While Jake tries to hold back the Mega Frog and its tongue, Finn realizes that the mudscamps were trying to say that they were too shy to kiss the Mega Frog, and that’s why they couldn’t defeat it. That’s where The Frog Prince comes into play.
The last two minutes of this episode are pure spectacle, beginning with Finn’s sprint up Jake’s back, with extra butt-rebounding for added momentum. He leaps off Jake’s forehead and delivers a kiss right on Mega Frog’s mouth, triggering a gorgeously trippy transformation sequence as the frog transforms into Prince Huge. The animation is breathtaking as the frog skin melts away to reveal a human skeleton, which grows nerves and muscles and skin and clothes that form a jolly prince, who has been trying to break his curse for ages. Brian Doyle-Murray, brother of Bill, gives a great vocal performance as the massive royal who doesn’t understand that you can’t break your own curse; someone has to do it for you. Luckily, Finn is totally fine with kissing dudes, because he’s comfortable with himself like that. The episode ends with Prince Huge flying away, leaving Finn and Jake to celebrate their victory before their downtime is inevitably interrupted once again. One hundred adventures later, Finn and Jake are still going strong, and as long as this show keeps turning out episodes like “The Hard Easy,” here’s to 100 more.
- Last week’s Adventure Time #8 might have been the strongest issue yet of a comic that has become an essential read for fans of the series, with Jake stretching himself to become a giant fractal while BMO and Princess Bubblegum jump into giant weaponized robot suits. All this, plus a terrifying back-up story featuring Hot Dog Princess and the demonic Peppermint Butler!
- Frogs have a really subtle smell, kind of like opening a new pack of CD-Rs. Like electric celery, only subtler.
- “I’m so sorry about that. You know we—we secret stink-oil all day out of our awful-sauce glands.”
- “He’s 100 stories of 110 percent 10-speed terror like bam. Like fresh out the grease.”