Ever since Simon Petrikov’s former fiancée Betty was introduced to Adventure Time, the series has toyed with the possibility of healing Ice King of his crown-induced madness. The tragedy of the character is that he sacrificed his sanity for the chance to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, but maybe there’s a way for him to have immortal power without losing his mind, especially now that Betty has the power of Magic Man at her disposal. That may be what happens in “King’s Ransom,” which involves Betty initiating a plot that allows her to reprogram Ice King’s crown.
We don’t know that Betty is responsible for Gunter’s kidnapping until the final moments of the episode, and the majority of the plot follows Ice King as he enlists Finn and Jake’s help to track down his missing best friend. In typical Ice King fashion, he’s completely delusional about how others see him, but his delusion that Finn and Jake are jealous of him and Gunter’s relationship is what guilts Finn and Jake into helping him. If they refuse, they’re confirming his false claim, so they help him investigate and accompany him to the location on the ransom note left at Ice King’s place.
“King’s Ransom” is a very traditional episode of Adventure Time, with Finn and Jake travelling from point A to point B to achieve some sort of goal, and encountering some of the other characters of Ooo along the way. The majority of the action has Finn and Jake hunting down foxes to retrieve Ice King’s crown, which is especially difficult because each fox has a foil replica of the crown to confuse its chasers, and the fox hunt features some great comedy bits via the seven clones that Jake creates to make the job easier.
Writers/storyboard artists Andres Sallas (making his debut in these roles after serving as a supervising director for many episodes) and Hanna K. Nyström (whose only other Adventure Time credit is “Everything Stays,” the second and best part of the Stakes miniseries) have a lot of fun playing with Jake’s form in this episode, and the transformations are both visually striking and very funny. The multiple Jakes are used for slapstick comedy during the fox hunt as they run into each other and get caught in the cords connecting them to Jake-prime, but they also create a bold abstract pattern when we see the action from a distance and the intersection of all the various Jake-lines.
After the fox hunt, the multiple Jakes converge to form a safari jeep in a super cool transformation, and one of the big laughs of the episode comes when Jake transforms out of the jeep shape, sending Finn and Ice King careening out of their seats. His shapeshifting is also used for visual puns, like when he turns his body into a piece of cake after he says taking Ice King over a pit of lava will be a “cakewalk.” There are so many opportunities for comedy in Jake’s shapeshifting, and it’s nice to see this creative team take full advantage of that.
While Finn and Jake are chasing their foxes, Ice King goes after one that isn’t involved in the action, terrorizing Mr. Fox by crashing into his home right as he’s getting comfortable in his bed. Mr. Fox can’t believe how soft and warm and perfectly molded to his body the bed is and wants to stay in it as long as possible, so all it takes for Ice King to shake Mr. Fox is messing with his state of perfect comfort. It’s a hilariously low-stakes interrogation, with Ice King intimidating his subject by throwing a pillow on the ground and pulling on the sheets, but it gets the job done, revealing details that lead Ice King closer to Gunter.
After the Mr. Fox scene, there a short break in the action to show an unknown figure messing with the circuitry on Ice King’s crown, which is the first indication that this episode is about healing Ice King. That idea becomes stronger when Ice King starts to look like Simon Petrikov the longer he’s away from the crown, and any moment where it feels like Simon is returning is a victory for the character. Eventually Ice King makes his way to Betty and Gunter, burning his hands and feet on lava-heated rocks as part of the humbling process, which continues when he encounters the shadowy mastermind and begs him to give him Gunter. He shouts that he’d give up a million, bazillion crowns in the world for one Gunter, and this heartfelt confession inspires Betty to reveal herself and return Ice King’s crown and friend to him.
The crown feels different when Ice King puts it on, but we’ll have to wait to discover the long-term effects of Betty’s manipulation. The possibility of a more rational Ice King could be interesting, but the character’s manic energy and wacky personality are what make him so much fun. “King’s Ransom” spotlights those aspects of the character while exploring the necessity of his friendship with Gunter, and if this episode ends with a new beginning for Ice King, it also functions as a fitting send-off to who he was before.
- I really like the discordant strings in the score during Ice King’s interrogation of Mr. Fox. It adds a lot of tension and drama to a pretty silly scene.
Finn: “What do you think, Jake? Should we check out the Ice Kingdom for clues?” Jake: “Or, we could get a really good night’s sleep, and start fresh and early in the morning!” (Finn glares.) (Jake honks.)
- “Yeah, what? You guys act like you ain’t never heard of no ransom note before.”
- Ice King: “The last time I saw Gunter, I was yelling at him for pooting. But it wasn’t Gunter who pooted! It was me!” Finn: “Hey, man. You can’t blame yourself.” Jake: “Everybody poots.”
- “These foxes think they can outfox Ice King? Time to pay a visit to a foxy old friend.”