This week’s “Corn-Ooo-Copia” of new Adventure Time episodes began with a Jake spotlight, so it’s appropriate that it would end with a story focusing on Finn. Unfortunately, “Dentist” is the weakest installment of the bunch, a conceptually flimsy episode that goes off on strange tangents that never quite cohere into a substantial narrative. Strange tangents are par for the course with this series, but the best episodes are able to use that randomness to take their stories in new directions without losing track of a central idea. Others just end up all over the place, and that’s what happens with “Dentist.”

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Finn has a decaying tooth and is sent to Dentist, an ant colony military boot camp, where he goes on a tour of duty in exchange for full dental rehabilitation, fighting worms and flies with his new partner Tiffany. The same Tiffany that hates Finn because he believes Finn stole Jake away from him. Tiffany threatens Finn for most of the episode, Finn tries to find common ground between them, and then Tiffany disappears after a climactic battle with the queen worm. There’s nothing especially challenging about the story, and while it does offer some development for Tiffany, it rushes through those character beats.

Tiffany’s big plan is to kill Finn during their Dentist mission, then comfort Jake in his time of grief, using his influence to sway Jake to the dark side so that he can become Tiffany’s partner in crime. Tiffany’s fantasy is beautifully animated, and seeing Tiffany and a giant Jake attack a modern urban city makes me hope that one day we’ll see an entire episode set in Tiffany’s mind. He clearly imagines Jake and himself as supervillains, and I think it could be a lot of fun to see this show put through a superhero genre filter for an episode set in a gritty urban environment.

Tiffany argues that he and Finn are polar opposites, and you can see that he’s right based on how he chooses to take advantage of Jake. Tiffany is clearly evil, but Finn argues that they’re both two peas in a pod, an argument that is apparently validated by their skill working together in battle. All it takes is one shared experience for Finn to make a bond with another person, but Tiffany doesn’t share that same attitude. He’s still intensely dedicated to his plan to win back Jake, and while Finn’s kindness does ultimately have an impact on Tiffany’s feelings toward his rival, that change isn’t strong enough to motivate him to save Finn when he’s dangling from a cliff over the worm queen’s gaping mouth.

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“Dentist” may not have the most captivating story, but it’s still plenty entertaining: Lucy Lawless is quite fun as the overly aggressive ant General Tarsal, and Vincenzo Rauso always does great work with those overwrought Tiffany passages. Writers/storyboard artists Tom Herpich and Steve Wolfhard really play up the wordplay elements in Tiffany’s dialogue, and Rauso delivers his silly lines with the perfect amount of juvenile confidence. The big action sequence between Finn, Tiffany, and the worms is thrillingly choreographed, and the music gives it a retro vibe that makes the sequence feel like the boss battle at the end of an arcade game.

But in the grand scheme of season 6, “Dentist” doesn’t make much of an impression.

What is this story about? Is it some sort of metaphor for how expensive health care is in America? If you don’t have insurance, paying for dental repair may feel like a tour of duty for your bank account, but I’m not quite sure how the ants factor in. Something with ants and sugar? I know Michael DeForge, creator of the excellent graphic novel Ant Colony, works on this show as a designer and occasional writer/storyboard artist, so maybe the creative team just wanted to use ants in some capacity. Ultimately, it’s a lot of elements that struggle to form something that engages on the same level as the other episodes this week, ending Cartoon Network’s “Corn-Ooo-Copia” on a low note.

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Stray observations:

  • Finn’s mouth smells like a garden shed. That is a very evocative scent for tooth decay.
  • This episode features an ant by the name of Lt. Gamergate, and now I’m wondering what that could possibly mean.
  • It looks like there’s a Finn inside the Finn Sword that can offer himself advice when he needs it. Pretty cool.
  • “As the miller’s wheel forever outrages the seed, so the good apple boringly receives his neighbor’s worm. And all the corn gets smushed to grease, to grease under the miller’s flipping wheel. You’re getting greased!”
  • “My tooth hurts.”
  • “Tonight: lights out. Tomorrow: your eyes out!”
  • “Bullstuff.”
  • “We’re opposites you and me. Oil and goody goody Snow White baby vanilla bean mitten water. Go Tiffany!”

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