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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Adventure Time: "Betty"

Illustration for article titled Adventure Time: "Betty"
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No character on Adventure Time has gone through more change than the Ice King. He began as a princess-stealing villain in the Gargamel mold, but the writers quickly saw the potential in making him an antagonistic ally for the heroes. Introducing his backstory as Simon Petrikov made Ice King the show’s most tragic figure, and as Finn and Jake learn more about their old foe’s past, they become more tolerant of his presence. “Betty” continues the Simon and Marceline thread of previous series highlights “I Remember You” and “Simon And Marcy,” and while it doesn’t reach the same tearjerker status as those episodes, it’s a thrilling episode that takes full advantage of the rich continuity this show has built.

“Betty” is a huge episode for the Ice King, marking a major shift in the character’s future by reconnecting him with his past lover. After encountering Bella Noche, a being of pure anti-magic, Simon Petrikov is finally freed from the insanity-inducing influence of the Ice King’s crown and has the opportunity to right his greatest wrong. Rapidly dying without a connection to magic, Simon calls upon Marceline’s help in opening a time portal so that he can apologize to Betty (Lena Dunham) for driving her away, but things take an unexpected turn once Simon opens the Hambo-shaped doorway.

Simon says he’s sorry, but Betty isn’t content with an apology, jumping through the portal to enter present-day Ooo, where she makes it her mission to find a way to keep Simon alive without the need of Ice King’s crown. Betty single-handedly takes down Bella Noche and is presumed dead in the ensuing explosion, but she’s totally alive, working in secret to find a way to heal her lover.  There are only four episodes left of this show’s fifth season, and “Betty” is a chapter designed to jump-start the momentum by introducing new characters and storylines for future episodes. The big event is the return of Betty, and her quest to free Simon of the Ice King’s influence opens up a lot of storytelling avenues for the future.

Plenty of significant stuff happens this week, but there are also smaller bits of this episode that could be expanded into full stories—like Finn, Jake, and Marceline’s awkward band rehearsal and the gang of wizards that comes to the Grand Master Wizard’s aid when the Bella Noche goes wild. Ron James is a name that is repeated often, suggesting that this smooth wizard MacGuyver will probably get a spotlight in a future episode. The tense interactions during the band rehearsal show the comedic potential of doing an episode that gives those three characters a band, and the Marceline And The Scream Queens comic-book series has already developed Ooo’s music business, giving the writers the opportunity to explore ideas introduced in the comics and create a full circle of synergy.

This show does exceptional work casting distinct voices for guest roles, and Lena Dunham is a perfect choice for Ice King’s young, brainy, headstrong ex-girlfriend. Like her immensely talented co-star Tom Kenny, Dunham finds the emotional truth underneath the absurd situation to balance the drama and comedy of the script. Kenny already finds incredible depth within the wacky confines of his Ice King voice, but the full breadth of his talent is on display during episodes where he gets to play Simon. It’s easy to see how Simon’s weary perseverance would become the obsessive determination of the Ice King when corrupted by magic, and establishing that connection between the two personas has ultimately helped Ice King’s character dramatically.

Adventure Time has developed quite an extensive continuity over five seasons, and this episode is so memorable because it constantly taps into that rich history. The beginning scene features the return of Bufo, Laser Wizard, Forest Wizard, and Grand Master Wizard, and there are some notable cameos later in the episode, including the return of Marceline’s ex-boyfriend Ash, who gets his magic carpet stolen by Simon, and Death, who shows up to snatch Simon’s dying soul. Seeing all these returning faces reminds the audience just how much this show’s world has grown over five years, and the story spotlights the show’s expanded emotional scope. An episode that’s a lot of fun while telling a deeply personal narrative, “Betty” is a sterling example of how Adventure Time continues to evolve.


Stray observations:

  • The Adventure Time comic book had a special #25 issue last week, featuring a slew of fantastic guest artists including Dustin Nguyen, Jess Fink, and Jeffrey Brown. If you haven’t checked out the comic series yet, it’s the perfect place to start.
  • The colors in this episode are spectacular, particularly the pastel sky backgrounds when Betty and Simon are flying on the magic carpet. Also, all the random wizard designs really make me want to see the show delve more into that aspect of this world.
  • I love that moment where Marceline is passed out on the floor after Simon’s call.
  • “So right and tight I get restless leg syndrome about it.”
  • “Y’alls got played!”
  • “A-move the bass a-down.”
  • Marceline: “He’s just kidding. I’m only a thousand.” Jake: “And still lookin’ good!”
  • “Right, whoever you are!”
  • “I don’t want to be the Ice King again. It’s like living with eternal diaper butt.”
  • “Surprise! Tranch!”