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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A lackluster Adventure Time season premiere needs to get its message straight

Illustration for article titled A lackluster Adventure Time season premiere needs to get its message straight

The nearly five-month gap between Adventure Time’s sixth and seventh seasons is the longest period this series has ever gone without new episodes, and the show’s momentum as a cultural force has taken a considerable dip as a result. Steven Universe is now getting the kind of press and social media attention that Adventure Time garnered at the height of its popularity (and rightfully so because it’s a fantastic series), but Cartoon Network is committed to proving that there’s room for more than one clever, heartfelt, mythology-heavy 10-minute series in its line-up. This month is jam-packed with Adventure Time goodness, starting with a week of new season 7 episodes and continuing with the debut of the Marceline-centric Stakes miniseries two weeks from today, and while “Bonnie And Neddy” isn’t the strongest season premiere, it’s a competent transition into the new status quo.

The most exciting change this season is that Andy Daly’s King Of Ooo (K.O.O.) has replaced Bonnibel Bubblegum as the “One True Princess Of Ooo,” which quickly turns out to be a horrible decision for the Candy Kingdom. Daly’s intense passion and total commitment to goofy, absurd material has made him one of the great talents of the contemporary comedy scene (see: his myriad podcast appearances and his Comedy Central series Review), and it makes him a perfect fit for Adventure Time’s immoral, egomaniacal monarch. Bubblegum wasn’t the perfect ruler, but she had noble intentions behind the ethical mistakes she made to keep the Candy Kingdom safe. That’s not the case for the selfish, profiteering K.O.O., who sees his current position as a way to expand his wealth without any regards to how his actions affect the lives of his citizens.

For Finn and Jake’s first mission as K.O.O.’s royal guard (outfitted in swanky, but clunky new suits of armor), they’re tasked with entering the only area left unscoured by the new Princess during his treasure census: the tree atop the Candy Kingdom. Once inside, they encounter a trio of mushy, incompetent Banana Guards protecting a candy dragon that powers the kingdom by sucking nectar from the roots of the tree and turning it into candy juice that is used for power, defense, and recreation, and K.O.O. immediately thinks of a way to commodify this resource. He plans on charging “a mere pittance for every single drop” and hopes to build up enough of a candy juice surplus that he can start exporting it to other kingdoms, but when he tries to get the dragon to increase productivity, the dragon freaks out and flies away, introducing a genuine crisis for Finn and Jake to fix. And for that, they need Bubblegum.

The Bonnie and Neddy of the episode’s title are the former princess and the candy dragon, who turns out to be her brother. They both spawned from the same mother-gum, but they had very different introductions to the world: Bonnibel has a smooth, painless birth as she drips off the mother-gum into a puddle, but Neddy lands on a rock when he drips off, causing trauma that influences his behavior for the rest of his life. Neddy is someone born with an extreme developmental disability, and Bonnibel is the family member that takes care of a sibling that can’t take care of himself. The ultimate message of the episode is empathy for people that are wired differently, but Bubblegum’s actual treatment of her brother isn’t very admirable.

Neddy is calm when he’s sucking tree nectar, so Bubblegum sets up a life for him where that’s all he does, locking him away so that no one can interrupt his feeding, which also conveniently powers the entire Candy Kingdom. Because this is the very first time Neddy has ever been mentioned on the series, the writers give the impression that Neddy has been a non-entity in Bubblegum’s life, and the only reason she gives him attention after six seasons is because he’s broken out of the happy cage Bubblegum. put him in. While the explicit message is that people should understand and accommodate the unique circumstances of others, the implicit message is that people who are different should be completely isolated from others and exist in a bubble that keeps them safe and content. It’s a better situation than what K.O.O. has planned for Neddy, but there’s still something very sad about Neddy being cut off from his sister’s affections to serve as the power source for the Candy Kingdom.

Writers Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard struggle to come up with a captivating reason to bring Neddy into this world, and while he’s a way to explore Bubblegum’s past, there’s not very much substance to this episode’s flashback to her and Neddy’s birth. The mother-gum introduces some interesting future storytelling avenues concerning the origin of the pink blob and the possibility that Bubblegum and Neddy have even more siblings out there in the world, but the flashback’s purpose in this episode is to provide a simplistic breakdown of their sibling dynamic. The plus side is that it shows an effort on the creative team’s part to delve deeper into Bubblegum’s history, and removing her from her princess duties puts her in a position where she’s able to reevaluate her life choices and decide how she’s going to move forward. “Bonnie And Neddy” stumbles a bit in its efforts to flesh out Bubblegum’s character, but it sets her on an introspective path that will take her to more meaningful places later in the week.


Stray observations

  • Limitations placed on members of K.O.O.’s royal guard: guards can’t own property or operate children, must render all treasure and wives to the sworn princess.
  • Is that a roll of toilet paper under Finn’s chin? It looks very uncomfortable.
  • I don’t care if it restricts his stretching, Jake’s new heart-shaped armor is adorable and he should wear it as often as possible.
  • Banana Guard #1: “I forgot the riddle.” Banana Guard #2: “That’s O.K.” Banana Guard #1: “I love you.” Banana Guard #2: “I love you.” Banana Guard #3: “I love you guys.” The Banana Guard is so useless.
  • “It’s pretty quiet, huh?”
  • “Oh no! I just want consistency!”