Image: Cartoon Network

Back in last season’s “Evergreen,” Adventure Time introduced the four Elementals of prehistoric Earth, beings that represented the elements of fire, ice, candy, and slime. No mention has been made of the Elementals since them, but that changes with this week’s “Elemental,” an episode that introduces an intriguing new villain to the series. Patience St. Pim is the Ice Elemental from the time just before The Great Mushroom War, a time that looks an awful lot like the viewers’ present. Voiced with manic intensity by Lauren Lapkus, Patience is a hyperactive character whose behavior belies her name, and she won’t stop moving once she’s released from the ice sphere she’s been frozen inside for millennia.

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In classic Adventure Time fashion, “Elemental” begins with a small, frivolous problem that gets crazier as the episode continues, and writer/storyboard artist Kent Osborne has been with the series so long that he has a deep understanding of this story progression. The episode begins with Starchy entering his house after winning the Golden Shovel (the Candy Kingdom’s premier award for gravedigging excellence), and as he goes to hang up his tuxedo, he’s terrified to find that all his hangers have been stolen. Cut to the Banana Guard’s headquarters, where the phone lines are being inundated with calls about stolen hangers, a mystery that Princess Bubblegum asks Finn and Jake to solve.

Finn thinks they have better things to do than hunt a hanger thief, but PB suggests that maybe an evil demon stole the hangers. She wrong and the culprit is just Ice King, who steals all the hangers so he can fish his keys out from the crack in his mountain home, but the case does lead Finn and Jake to a much more perilous situation as they venture into that giant crack with Ice King. Patience’s ice sphere is deep in the core of the mountain, and she’s set free when Ice King buzzsaws his way through the shell, unleashing a dangerous new force on Ooo. It all begins with some stolen hangers, because in the world of Adventure Time, no problem is too small to not eventually lead to a mystical being terrorizing the planet.

Patience emerges from the ice with immense curiosity about the other Elementals, whom Ice King realizes are Princess Bubblegum, Slime Princess, and Flame Princess. She easily convinces Ice King to abduct the princesses, and once she has them assembled, Patience reveals the secret history of the Elementals, which began when the first slime crawled out of the ocean. This sequence shows quick flashes of various Elementals through time, and like last week’s mountain sequence, it’s a barrage of cool ideas and designs that viewers only see for a very brief time.

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I’ve grown very fond of these moments when Adventure Time creators can let their imaginations run wild with a rapid succession of strange visuals, providing basic descriptions but never lingering long on any one idea. That rapid-fire history of the Elementals ends with Patience and her friends back in the days before The Great Mushroom War, a magicless time when the Elementals didn’t use any of their power and just hung out and drank coffee. It’s rare for Adventure Time to flashback to the world just before The Great Mushroom War, and it’s especially eerie that the world is basically the one we currently live in. Patience is able to escape the coming cataclysm because she’s has supernatural powers, but the rest of us won’t be so lucky.

That’s some dark shit, but “Elemental” is actually a very funny episode that showcases Kent Osborne’s skill for physical comedy. My favorite moment of the episode is a prime example: After PB fails to fire a stream of jellybeans at her captor, Patience laughs and pulls out her cell phone to get a picture of PB’s pitiful face, not noticing the one lone jellybean that has traveled into her path. As she turns around to get her phone charger, Patience trips on the jellybean, falls into the sailboat, and flips it over, snapping off the mast and sending it crashing into Flame Princess’ ice casing. This slapstick comedy bit lands with maximum impact because it arrives at a moment when the stakes are at their highest, and Osborne does great work building tension to amplify humor throughout the episode.

The highlight of “Elemental” is Osborne’s storyboarding for Patience, and her constant movement makes her especially dynamic on screen. Patience’s eyes are covered, removing a key expressive element from her character, but Osborne more than makes up for it with her physicality. Patience is expressive with her body, and she’s compelling because her movement exaggerates her feelings in a way that we don’t normally see on this show. You get a very engaging character when you pair that movement with the heightened emotion of Lapkus’ vocal performance, and hopefully Patience will become a more prominent fixture as the series continues.

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Stray observations

  • I love the pipe cleaner figurines Patience has on her sailboat, one for each of her elemental friends that didn’t join her.
  • The calm guitar as Ice King slowly chisels at PB’s ice shell does really nice work reflecting his emotional state in that moment. He’s totally at peace in this extremely strange situation.
    Slime Princess’ abduction is by far the funniest: Ice King freezes her and then swoops down like a bird of prey and grabs her with his feet while his beard flies him away.
  • “Have you considered folding?”
  • Finn: “It’s pretty quiet out there.” Jake: “Yeah, but not so much in here.” (Farts.) Finn: “Aw, Jake. No!”
  • “Yeah man, you have like one muumuu and you’re wearin’ it.”
  • “Do you know what this extra square footage means when I decide to sell?!”
  • “No rest for the sexy!”
    “It was scary to think about perishing. But then I was like, ‘Hey what if we don’t perish?’”
  • “This world is crazy, right?! You’ve got weird old wizards and talking dogs—yo, dogs didn’t used to talk! Did you know that?”

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