Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Adventure Time: “A Glitch Is a Glitch”

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David O’Reilly is an artist that experiments with the medium of 3-D animation to create short films that are absurd, surreal, and entrancing, making him an ideal fit for the world of Adventure Time. Cartoon Network has been very secretive about “A Glitch Is A Glitch,” written and directed by O’Reilly and fully animated in 3-D, simply promising that it would be an episode that blows everyone’s eyeballs away. My retinas are still intact, but this is certainly one of the most memorable episodes of this series, taking the animated insanity to a new level. From the very start, it’s clear this story is going to be a mindfuck, as Finn talks about how boring animation is and how animators have no life, earning him a punch in the face courtesy of the invisible force pulling the strings. And it only gets stranger.

“A Glitch Is A Glitch” falls on the far end of the weird spectrum, which is saying something with a show as odd as Adventure Time. Using one of his preexisting videos of a girl eating her own hair as a jumping off point, O’Reilly creates a fascinating episode that evolves into a bizarre Adventure Time creation myth. The Ice King’s latest plot to win Princess Bubblegum’s affections involves him sending Finn and Jake a computer virus that will rewrite the universe so that there’s no one left on Ooo but him for PB to love, allowing O’Reilly to utilize the glitch effects that have lent his work an unnerving instability. As residents of the Candy Kingdom are wiped from existence, Finn and Jake decide to jump into the universal source code to save the universe, finding success by turning to the video that started this mess in the first place.

With Adventure Time, I like to imagine the reactions of people who randomly land on episodes like “A Glitch Is A Glitch” while channel surfing. They see what looks like a 3-D children’s show that is pretty shabby looking compared to most of the other 3-D series on the air, and they probably think their TV connection is going in and out because of the glitch effects, which even appear in the title sequence. And when Finn and Jake dive into the universal source code, O’Reilly goes balls to the wall to deliver increasingly psychedelic images. This show often has an acid trip vibe, but this week’s episode is aggressive in creating a mind-bending experience for the viewer. The transitions in and out of the universal source code alone are enough to make you think someone slipped something in your drink.

It’s rare for Adventure Time to give complete storytelling control to one artistic voice, but this episode makes a case for more experiments like this in the future. The Adventure Time comic books have had great success allowing creators to tell stories in this universe with their own unique voice, and it would be very cool to see more Adventure Time episodes done by people who don’t regularly work on the show. One of the negative consequences of that is that the story is more distanced from the greater narrative of this series. For example, I’m assuming that because this is a standalone episode, I shouldn’t look too much into PB and Jake’s tomfoolery at the end of the episode, which has Jake cheating on Lady with PB’s hand. It’s probably just O’Reilly making a joke around the elasticity of their bodies, but I also like the idea that Jake might be having an illicit affair.

A lot of the humor in this episode is built into the 3-D animation, like the hilarious gag of a donut freaking out because his face won’t stop morphing. Some moments are just O’Reilly showing off with the form, like the “One Second Later” screen that becomes a multi-second showcase for 3-D effects. O’Reilly has a good handle on this show’s sense of humor, especially in regards to Princess Bubblegum, who goes after Ice King with a candy horse tranquilizer gun when he infects the world. When Ice King tells PB that she has to love him because he’s the last person on Ooo, she reminds him that she’s still around and starts making out with her hand. PB’s an independent woman, and she won’t let anyone tell her whom she has to love.

Once inside the universal source code, Finn and Jake face an evil techno-Ice King that can only be defeated by Finn following the example set by the earlier video and eating his own hair. It’s a completely random conclusion, and the only thing I can really theorize is happening is that O’Reilly is using Finn and Jake as a stand-in for the Ouroboros. The serpent that eats its own tail is a symbol for the cycle of life, and by eating Finn’s hair, Finn and Jake are able to recreate the world by overloading the virus. Everyone lives happily ever after in this new Ooo, except for Ice King, who is doomed to spend eternity trapped inside the walls of a house. As he gets bit by the Snakepion, his fate reflects that of the Norse god Loki, who is punished for his crimes in life by being chained to a rock and having snake poison dripped on his face. Or something. I don’t really know what happens at the end of this episode.

Stray observations:

  • In his Random Roles interview, John Dimaggio mentions that Tom Kenny calls Adventure Time “this generation’s Yellow Submarine.” Discuss.
  • While more in line with this show’s last foray into 3-D animation, “Guardians Of Sunshine,” the Adventure Time comic book recently concluded a video game-influenced storyline following Finn, Jake, and Marceline as they cure BMO of a computer virus. It’s filled with Easter Eggs for fans of old-school RPGs and side scrollers.
  • Princess Bubblegum has mastered her Ice King repelling technique, and now, she just pokes him with a stick until he goes away.
  • If you thought last week’s episode was sad, just wait until you see Jake’s heartbreaking memory montage of his right hand.
  • Who would watch a show about Finn’s head, Jake’s torso, and the Snakepion? I would.
  • “Man, I don’t have the patience for this animation junk. Whoever does this must have no life whatsoever. (Punches himself in the face.)”
  • “I’m going to take care of it too.” PB and her candy horse tranquilizer gun make me smile.
  • “I can’t help you, goofballs.”
  • “Check out my cool hand!”
  • “I’m still into this. (Kick.) Still into it.”
  • “Have you been playing basketball in someone else’s hockey rink?"