Doppelgangers. Immortal personifications of evil. I’m not talking about the new Twin Peaks, but the latest episode of Adventure Time, which has Finn and his plant doppelganger, Fern, working together to prevent Sweet P from becoming the Lich. There’s always been a tragic inevitability at the core of Sweet P; he might be an adorable giant toddler right now, but one day he’ll succumb to his destiny and become the embodiment of evil. That day comes in “Whispers,” and despite the child’s attempts to flee his fate, the Lich—in the form of a disembodied hand that last appeared in “Crossover”—always finds a way back to him.
Writers and storyboard artists Sam Alden and Polly Guo foreshadow the coming of the Lich from the very start as Finn and Fern go fishing in a cemetery, surrounded by skeletons. Death permeates the visuals of this episode, particularly through the recurring motif of skeletons that are peppered throughout most of the environments. Finn and Fern’s fishing trip is interrupted by Sweet P running out of the forest, and after calming the child, the two heroes learn about the monster that is haunting him. Every night, Sweet P hears the monster whispering bad thoughts to him, and when he falls asleep, he dreams of one thing: the Lich’s face emerging from total darkness.
The contrast in the voices of Ethan Maher (Sweet P) and Ron Perlman (The Lich) says a lot about the fundamental nature of both of these characters. Maher’s voice has a childish innocence and softness that makes Sweet P very lovable, and when the character is overcome with fear, you want to comfort him. Perlman’s voice is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum: rumbling, coarse, and disquieting. It’s a voice that sounds like it’s emanating from the depths of hell, which is why Perlman was such an inspired casting choice to play Hellboy. That character had some charm and a sense of humor, but the Lich is pure evil, giving Perlman the opportunity to go even further with the malevolent intensity of his voice. Sweet P and the Lich sound completely different, and this episode uses that severe contrast to unnerve the viewer by layering the two voices together when the Lich begins to assume control of his reincarnated self.
Sweet P’s arc in this episode is one that ties very heavily into the maturation process for children, specifically in regards to the development of their sense of morality. I have a child relative that went through a phase very similar to what Sweet P deals with in this episode, where he struggled with impulses that made him want to engage in behavior that he knew would be considered bad by authority figures at home, school, and church. It wasn’t “end the world” behavior like Sweet P, but it was still behavior that forced him to consider the morality of his actions, which caused him quite a bit of anxiety. This is a challenge for children that are just starting to self-actualize, and there’s often a fear that they won’t be able to overcome “bad” impulses and lose the trust and respect of the people in power.
Children have to decide whether or not they want to give in to those impulses, and even though Sweet P is under a supernatural influence, his fate is still his to determine. When Finn is about to be defeated by the Lich’s hand, Sweet P shows up and pretends to assume his evil destiny so he can get close enough to the Lich to slay him. Sweet P refuses to be the “king of ruin,” and realizes that the Lich is just a naughty hand that wants him to control him. Sweet P is stronger than the temptation to be evil, but I have the feeling this isn’t the last time Sweet P will have to wrestle with the devilish spirit at his core.
“Whispers” advances overarching plotlines while also creating a compelling character conflict as Fern is overcome with insecurity that turns into jealousy toward Finn. Fern can’t do anything right. He failed to protect Ooo while Finn and Jake were on their Islands adventure, and in this episode, he has horrible luck while fishing, can’t hold down the Lich’s hand when it tries to escape, and fails to keep Sweet P from running away. Fern only knows failure while Finn succeeds at everything he tries, and the grass demon inside Fern compels him to take action so he won’t be living in Finn’s shadow anymore. The episode ends with Fern deciding that he should be the only Finn, and as Sweet P escapes the darkness inside, Fern succumbs to it. There’s a new villain in Ooo, and Finn should watch his back so he doesn’t end up with a grass sword in it.
- The creepiest skeleton arrangement is definitely the tied up skeleton in a tree with another skeleton holding the rope. What exactly happened there?
- How to handle a personal crisis “librarian style”: A gentle “shh”, remind the person they’re in a library, give them a kiss on the cheek, tell them they can renew the book and bring it back next week. No more crisis!
- I love the moment when Sweet P announces, “I too am doom,” and then throws himself down the hole that Finn so gracefully descended earlier. Hearing Maher deliver that line is very funny, and the humor of that moment is amplified by the clumsy fall, which ends with a dramatic landing that has two streams of water flowing behind Sweet P.
- “Sometimes being a good dude ain’t about not dinkin’ it. Learn from your dinks.”
- Sweet P: “The monster.” Finn: “Was it LSP?”
- “You didn’t hear me scuttling around. Foxes are silent hunters. I mean jeez, do you know how rude that is? Agh, I’m gonna be brooding about this all week.”
- “Why did Mr. Hand call me son? Was that my monster daddy?!”
- “I can’t come to the phone right. I’m either hanging with Finn, my kids, my GF, or I’m dead.” I laughed very hard when Jake listens to this episode’s climax on his voicemail and has no idea what is going on.