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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Adventure Time: “Bad Little Boy”

Illustration for article titled Adventure Time: “Bad Little Boy”
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The phenomenon of Fionna and Cake is one of the most fascinating aspects of the Adventure Time craze, and despite only appearing in one episode, the gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake have quickly become two of the most beloved characters on the show. Looking back at “Fionna And Cake,” it’s a story that fully evokes the sunny whimsy of this show’s early seasons. The animation is bright, the plot is packed, and the fantasy action is balanced with comedy, music and character-based emotional drama. Because the writers only have 10 minutes to spend in their world every couple seasons, Fionna and Cake’s episodes are filled with what makes this show great. This series has evolved since their first appearance, embracing the darker, melancholic elements of this world as it further explores the history of Ooo. “Bad Little Boy” reflects that shift as Fionna and Cake have adventure time with Marshall Lee, a brooding boy version of Marceline voiced by Community’s Donald Glover.

Fionna and Cake are products of the Ice King’s imagination, but he’s become incapable of telling coherent stories anymore. The episode opens with an absurd chapter under Ice King’s command, featuring Fionna and Cake riding a giant laser-shooting Gunther to get the Enchiridion from the dolphin-throwing Doctor Prince. The imprisoned princesses forced to listen to Ice King’s horrible fan-fiction wonder if this is some new kind of torture, and Marceline shows up to give the princesses something they want to hear. The stories do great work showing the different ends of the Adventure Time spectrum; Ice King represents the arbitrary randomness of this show’s worst episodes, while Marceline embraces the quirky heart of its best.

The popularity of Fionna and Cake has helped broaden this show’s audience, and like Marceline, this show’s writers adjust the story to have greater appeal to female viewers. Not to over-generalize, but stories geared toward females tend to have a heavier emphasis on relationships, and both Fionna and Cake episodes have had a romantic bent. Their first story was about self-worth and not being defined by a relationship, and “Bad Little Boy” looks at how to deal with a manipulative flirty guy with a dark side. Marshall Lee isn’t the prim and proper Prince Gumball, and both Fionna and Cake become enthralled by his smoldering charisma and smooth musical skills. They join Marshall for a freaky nasty party in LSP’s backyard showcasing this show’s gender-swapped cast, including a mustachioed LSP, grandpa Tree Trunks, and Cinnamon Bun in a dress. Marshall Lee isn’t going to take Fionna on a Monochromicorn ride through the clouds, and his idea of a date is a house party at a friend’s place.

Marshall has a secret weapon to make Fionna swoon, and she finds herself falling for him when he begins to sing. She feels free around him, and she literally lets her hair down when Cake (wearing Fionna’s hat) jumps off her head and starts dancing with Marshall. Music has become an integral part of this show, and like the rest of this episode, the songs have more of an edge in “Bad Little Boy.” “Good Little Girl” begins with a traditional cheerful melody, and then transitions into spoken word that takes advantage of Glover’s experience as a rapper. Glover is a great choice for Marshall, bringing suaveness to the character’s voice that hides insecurity underneath. Marshall tries to warn Fionna of his true nature through song, but when she still doesn’t believe that he’s a bad guy, he starts to get more aggressive. He eggs her on by saying that she’s hanging out with him because of romantic attraction when in reality she just appreciates his friendship, and to prove that he’s not friend material, he steals Cake (“Unexpected!) and makes Fionna fight a horde of beat-boxing skeletons.

Like his female counterpart, Marshall Lee keeps people at a distance, probably because of all the relationships he’s lost since becoming immortal. He has feelings for Fionna that aren’t reciprocated because she’s not ready to be in a relationship yet, so he tries to manipulate events to make her feel what she doesn’t. After Fionna takes out all the skeletons and rescues Cake, Marshall makes it appear that he has impaled himself so he can get a declaration of love from his girl before he dies. Fionna freaks out and tells him that she gets that he flirts and it's funny, but that this is a completely inappropriate time and she wants him to drop it. The voice acting on this show is spot-on, and Madeleine Martin gives Fionna’s voice a youthful energy but also a pubescent scratchiness, like her adult voice is trying to make its way through. In both Fionna and Cake episodes, Martin has had small speeches where she recites the message of the episode, and she delivers them in a way that feels spontaneous and not at all preachy. After watching their episodes, it’s easy to see why Fionna and Cake sparked a comic book miniseries along with tons of merchandise, cosplay, and fanart. Both installments have been extremely well-told stories, and it’s hard to believe that these characters have only been onscreen for about 20 minutes total.

Stray observations:

  • Where did Cake get that spaghetti? Where did Doctor Prince get that dolphin? Ice King’s story actually seems pretty awesome.
  • BMO has no dialogue, but he does give an adorable thumbs-up when Fionna splits an apple over his head with an axe.
  • Ask Marshall and Fionna: There’s no scene partner quite like a flapping pair of giant cat buns.
  • I saw Madeleine Martin on Broadway in August: Osage County, one of the best theater experiences of my life. That girl can act.
  • The vampire bat design on this show is so perfectly horrific, and I love how Marshall keeps his hipster hair after transforming.
  • The end of this episode reveals two ice statues of Fionna and Cake in Ice King’s basement. Do we think Fionna and Cake will ever make their way to the real land of Ooo? Do fans want to see that happen?
  • “Ice King, stop, please. This story is terrible.” I would not mind if Maria Bamford’s Slime Princess got more screen time on this show.
  • “Wild Berry, don’t pretend. I know you like the silver foxes.” Followed by alternating shots of eyebrow wiggling from Ice King and all-consuming fear from Wild Berry Princess.
  • “Delivering daisy chains to the fluffy people not enough for you?” Uh…what?
  • “Oh my, looks like you almost skronked up my dome piece.”
  • “Ehhh, it is wet.”
  • Marshall: “What a wad.” Fionna: “A gumwad.”
  • My favorite line of Marshall’s song: ““I’ve got demon eyes, and they’re looking right through your anatomy.”
  • “Glob, Fionna. You’re like the realest person I’ve ever met.”
  • “Ow, my cheek meat!”