So tonight’s episode of Adventure Time is about how two women find a way to become friends with each other through a confrontation with a Sky Witch, which means it is basically awesome in every way. I’m dropping in tonight as a sub for Oliver, and I feel lucky to catch an episode that showcases the relationship between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum—a relationship that always feels fraught, but has evolved into a grudging acceptance that might even be turning into full-fledged friendship.
What’s interesting about both of these women is that they’re both terrible at demonstrating their own vulnerability. Marceline is a thousand-year-old vampire, emotional and aggressive but often only expressive through music. And Princess Bubblegum is—well—a princess, with all of the rights and responsibilities that requires. It’s a nice touch that “Sky Witch” starts with Bubblegum leading her motley crew of soldiers in an exercise designed to fortify the defenses of the candy kingdom. It’s an exercise she has to lead and take responsibility for, so of course no one is taking it terribly seriously (or doing terribly well at it) except she herself. (Guys, she makes a fist with her brain!)
So when Marceline comes to Princess Bubblegum asking for help, she does it in a roundabout way. She doesn’t exactly ask; she sort of tries to approach Bubblegum as an equal, asking if the princess wants to “hang out;” but she needs Bubblegum too badly, and in the crucial moment, she just resorts to asking desperately—almost begging. Marceline needs help, and that’s rare enough that Princess Bubblegum is moved.
But Princess Bubblegum is also vulnerable in this opening scene. You get the impression that Bubblegum’s ever-present sense of responsibility is a terrible burden on her, too; one that makes her lonely. It’s her trying to whip everyone into shape. She wakes up alone and her friend in her wardrobe is a mouse. Is it any wonder she sleeps in her rock shirt, her gift from Marceline? There’s an equality—a mutual recognition—between the two of them that doesn’t quite exist for them with any of the other characters.
Anyway, they go on an adventure. Marceline needs to get into the Sky Witch’s lair. Princess Bubblegum has mad brain skills and casually dismantles Maja’s impressive defenses. Given that Maja is holding Marceline’s beloved teddy bear Hambo hostage, her defenses seem tailored for Marceline. There’s the hedge that requires the trespasser to yield to the path of least resistance; an apparition of Hambo that turns into a trap with sharpened stakes; and a crabbit, a terrible demon-like familiar that tries to tear Marceline in two. But fortunately, where Marceline is weak, Princess Bubblegum is strong. She’s far more able to set aside her emotions and focus on the rational task at hand, which means she can unmake every trap before it’s even sprung. In a beautiful shot she deciphers the witch’s doorway and dives into the middle of a lake that turns into another sky, beneath the surface of the water.
Sky Witch Maja, interestingly, collects these old toys to use as magical totems; the more sentimental value an object has, the better it is for her nefarious purposes. Considering Hambo has saved up a thousand years of love from Marceline, he must be pretty potent. Maja sends her familiar, a crow-rabbit (crabbit, I think), out to fight with Marceline while Bubblegum pokes around. She finds Maja, but before she does, she finds an invoice from Maja to Ash, Marceline’s evil ex-boyfriend who stole Hambo in the first place.
This puts Bubblegum in a quandary. On one hand, Marceline is clearly desparate to get Hambo back, but on the other, a legal bill of sale can’t be breached, even by a princess. But there is something else she has—barter. The final reveal of “Sky Witch” is that Princess Bubblegum sacrificed her precious rock t-shirt—originally Marceline’s!—to get Hambo back.
In the last scene, Maja cackles over her new sentimental object, preparing to dump it in her cauldron, as Marceline and Bubblegum escape through the lake, hugging each other. it’s amazing. Marceline and Bubblegum are both so powerful and yet often so isolated, too. It’s very hard for both to admit defeat. But here they have managed to bare their souls to each other just a little bit. Perhaps Marceline will never learn that Bubblegum sacrificed her shirt for Hambo (though that seems unlikely). But even if she doesn’t, the joke is on Maja in the end. Maja’s sucking the sentiment off of the object given to her, but the sentiment exists within Princess Bubblegum, or rather, between both Bubblegum and Marceline. The princess may have lost a shirt, but clearly, she’s gained a friend.
- “Now, make a fist with your brain and punch against sleepytimes.”
- Marceline says “really” eight times. (I had to rewind and count. It was too good.)
- “My googoomama meter is going babies!”
- Hey, is one of the abandoned toys the blanket from The Brave Little Toaster? Also: Remember The Brave Little Toaster?
- “That girl has like zero self-respect. Haha. That’s mean. Don’t tell her I said that.”
- Not gonna lie, I laughed for like ten minutes when Princess Bubblegum woke up and just inhaled her shirt for a while.
- Pleased that somehow the climax of the episode came down to different interpretations of contract law.