Another week, another episode of Adventure Time with barely any Finn and Jake, and I have no problem with that at all. I’ve brought up comparisons between Ooo and Springfield in the past, and seeing this show expand outward and away from its lead cast has me thinking even more about The Simpsons. My interest in that series waned as auxiliary characters moved into the spotlight, but I’ve only become more invested in Adventure Time as it spends more time exploring different corners of its fantasy universe.
Scope is one of the major differences between the two shows, with The Simpsons existing in a world that is primarily grounded in American suburban life while Adventure Time has built whole planets and alternate dimensions populated by beings that can take any shape. When The Simpsons spotlights a background character, it’s usually just offering a different perspective of Springfield, but when Adventure Time spotlights a background character, it takes viewers deeper into the show’s mythology and reveals new aspects of the characters and environment.
The demonic Peppermint Butler is put front and center in “Nemesis,” an episode that has some very interesting things to say about why parents protect their children from negative influences. Pep-But is the nemesis of a scarred, broken man that goes by the name of Peacemaster, who needs something to blame his problems on and chooses dark magic and those who practice it. He’s a member of the Veritas Brigade, a secret society dedicated to vanquishing the forces of darkness in the Candy Kingdom, but his main occupation is being a dad to three kids that are totally into all the things that he hates.
Rainn Wilson returns to this series to voice Peacemaster, and he’s a delight, digging into the heightened language and punching each word to make Peacemaster a total blowhard. “So… a tinkerer, eh?” Peacemaster says when he first appears at the Veritas Brigade, commenting on one of his compatriots’ new dimension disruptor invention. “Fiddling at the fringes of unknown realms. Tell me—Kenneth—will you be ready when the flames of those evil places consume everything you hold dear?” Everything about Peacemaster is way over-the-top, including his freakout about the dark forces that have taken over the Candy Kingdom, which makes it all the more hilarious when he abruptly ducks away from the meeting because his kids sent him a text from the minivan.
The juxtaposition of inflated emotion with low-key humor is an essential component of this show’s DNA, and Peacemaster’s situation embodies that contrast. He arrives on the scene looking like a battle-worn warrior with a bandaged face and a metal cast on his arm, but he’s really just a frustrated father that doesn’t know what to do with his rowdy kids. I’m guessing that his kids are probably responsible for all the damage done to his body, and he blames their behavior on a dark presence in the Candy Kingdom rather than taking responsibility and disciplining his children.
I come from a Baptist family, and I’ve seen the dramatic lengths parents will go to keep the influence of Satan away from their children. Curfews, mandatory church visits multiple times a week, no television or internet, all limitations placed on kids in order to maintain a sense of order in the household that is based in religion on the surface, but is more accurately based in parental power. Sure, there may be a legitimate fear that the souls of these children are at risk, but in the case of Peacemaster, he’s primarily concerned with finding a peaceful life when his kids want anything but.
The fascinating thing about this episode is that Peacemaster’s logic is flawed, but his suspicions about dark forces in the Candy Kingdom are completely true. Pep-But is definitely aligned with the underworld, and he’s brought everyone in the Candy Kingdom over to his side by making them his friends. When Peacemaster reveals Pep-But to the rest of the Veritas Brigade, they refuse to fight him because they won’t turn against a comrade, which might come back to bite them in the butt if Pep-But ever goes full-on evil and tries to destroy them all.
Pep-But practices the dark arts, but “dark arts” is an umbrella term for all the things Peacemaster is afraid will interfere with his parenting. In his efforts to protect his children, he picks a fight that he cannot win, and Pep-But makes sure Peacemaster feels the consequences. First, he turns two of Peacemaster’s kids into monster-children, forcing him to love the very things he hates, and then Pep-But orders Peacemaster to drop his pants, act like a chicken, and eat dirt off the ground. It’s a degrading scene that shows how despicable Pep-But can be when he goes too far, but the kids get a big kick out of it.
In the end, Peacemaster is forced to get rid of his bag of charms and live a life with two children that are even harder to control than before. That’s the problem with being overprotective: the harder you try to shield someone from outside influences, the more attractive the influences become. By picking a fight with these larger forces, he leaves his kids vulnerable and they become transformed, putting Peacemaster in a position where he’s probably wishing for the rowdy tykes he had before this all started.
- Rainn Wilson is already around to voice Peacemaster, so it just makes sense to throw in a Rattleballs cameo. He’s training Finn and Jake on holding their breath underwater, which is their only appearance in this episode.
- I love the penciled teleportation sequence in the astral plane. It’s a beautiful effect that has a very raw, visceral impact, and it comes out of nowhere in the middle of an episode that otherwise stays within the boundaries of this show’s usual style.
- How to use a dimension disruptor: push the button, turn the dial, rub the pickle.
- Science is back! Yay!
- Giving a character named Peacemaster a magic pacifier is a brilliant design choice.
- “Pep But! Start brewin’ up some chamomile tea so I don’t stress out!”
- “PB, you can’t teach a butterfly to bark.”
- “You going stinkhouse, baby?”
- “Your dirty hobo birthday tricks won’t save you long time! You hear?! (Pause.) You still here?”
- “My Dark Wizard Gobbler poots evil souls into the void.”
- “Look, Pappy! Dark magic!”
- “Wait, stop. I took it too far.”
- “Dada? Can I go to the park and eat flies?”