Ice cream helicopters are circling a hostage situation and the Banana Guard is on full alert at the start of “Princess Cookies,” an episode that starts mid-adventure and never loses momentum. Donald Faison guest stars as the mentally unstable titular character, an orphan with a vendetta against Princess Bubblegum for laughing at his wish to be a princess like her when he grew up. All grown up, Princess Cookies (PC) is holding a local store hostage until he’s given a crown of his own, and Finn and Jake go undercover to rescue the candy captives.
“Princess Cookies” is one of the strongest episodes of this season, jumping immediately into a high stakes situation. In Adventure Time, high stakes mean lots of laughs, and this episode is one of the most quotable of the season, thanks in large part to Faison’s wonderful performance as PC. This is a story about a man who was told he could never accomplish his dream, held a bunch of people hostage, tried to kill himself, and ended up in a mental institution, but the imagery and language work together to mine comedy from an intense situation.
Because this is a Candy Kingdom hostage situation, it is going to be inherently cute, and this episode serves up heaping scoops of adorable with delight drizzled on top. Jake disguises himself as a milkman (although he wants to be a mailman) and Finn dresses in all black to act as Jake’s shadow, and the sight of Jake in his sweet little milkman outfit is just the start of this episode’s “aww” moments. I’m pretty sure he’s only a milkman so that the animators could fill the background with tiny candy people sipping milk from glass bottles because it’s the cutest thing ever. Finn as Jake’s shadow leads to some fun physical comedy as they navigate the store, and there’s a great visual gag at the end of the episode that reintroduces Finn after disappearing for most of the episode.
While Finn takes care of the PC’s chocolate chip henchmen, Jake tries to get into his head, and ends up switching allegiances after hearing PC’s story. As a child, PC tried to make friends with the other kids at the candy orphanage, but they were too depressed to dance with him. Then one day Princess Bubblegum came to the orphanage and everyone became happy, and when Bubblegum asks a young PC what he wants to be when he grows up, he tells her that he want to be a princess like her. “And she laughed in my face, man!” PC recounts with tears in his eyes. “She laughed at me!” Donald Faison is absolutely fantastic in this episode, delivering his absurd lines with a passion that helps sell the drama of the scenario. These are just a few of the great PC lines:
- “No Princess, you are problem. The problem princess!”
- “Who the heck are you? I’m gonna smash your face!”
- “Come on guys, let’s dance it up!”
- “You’re magic!”
- “I glubbed up!”
After sharing his history, PC calls for back-up that has been taken out by Finn. PC flips out when he realizes that he’s all alone, but Jake calms him down by telling him he can start his own kingdom. When Jake goes to discuss these new plans with Princess Bubblegum, she initially shoots it down, but caves and gets PC a horse to escape on. Except it’s a trick horse, prompting Jake to become PC’s accomplice as he carries the criminal to safety. Jake tries to convince Finn that PC is a good guy dealt a bad hand, but his defense comes out as jumbled word salad: “He’s only trying to be what following how his dreams make you wanna be, man!” Finn’s “WHAAA?” reaction is perfect, and it’s the perfect example of this show uses comedy to diffuse a tense situation.
Finn is knocked off Jake as he charges to the cliff where PC makes his final stand, and the storyboarding of this sequence apes the type of direction you’d find in an old Hollywood western. To build tension during PC’s final speech, the screen constantly flashes to shots of the Banana Guard’s rushing feet, and visual details like a flock of birds flying behind PC as a single tear drops down his face signify a shift into a less madcap tone for the plot. Thinking about this episode in regards to how it reflects a problem of everyday youth, the story is all about being a friend for someone before it’s too late. That’s a heady issue, and before PC throws himself off a cliff, he tells Jake: “Thank you for your help, but it’s too late for me. I’ll never be a princess. At least for a moment, you made me feel like a princess. It was wonderful. Thank you, Jake.” Then he steps back and falls to his would-be death if he weren’t a cookie.
PC is put back together and put in a mental institution, and the episode ends with Jake bringing a gift for his new friend: a crown from the “grass kingdom.” When the rest of the candy patients see the crown, they all bow to their new princess, and it’s a really beautiful moment to end a fantastic episode on. There’s an “it gets better” vibe to the final scene, although it’s unlikely that PC will never get out of that mental institution. That contrast between a bleak situation and literally candy-covered everything else is what Adventure Time is founded on, and “Princess Cookies” embodies that idea masterfully.
- If you did not pick up last week’s Adventure Time #5, you missed one of the best comics of the entire year. Not only do you get a story where BMO pits Finn versus Jake for a cupcake, but there’s an amazingly trippy Paul Pope story in which our duo goes on an adventure through the consciousness of a comic book creator. And Marceline And The Scream Queens comes out next month!
- Finnja Strategies: (1) Throw milk in opponent’s face, yell “Alvin’s hot juice box” to disorient, attack. (2) Lure opponent in Baby Snuggle-Ghost Night Light trap, yell “Alvin’s hot juice box to disorient, attack.
- Instead of holding a gun to someone’s head, PC threatens a marshmallows life by holding a mallet to his head. That’s gruesome.
- Can anyone explain the trick horse to me? That was weird.
- “How about I give you a big cowboy hat? Then will you give up the hostages?”
- “It’s about to turn crazy nasty. Hello.”
- “That cookie is a menace.”