People’s capacity for change has been a recurring theme of Adventure Time’s seventh season, and it’s a big reason why the show has maintained such a high standard of quality. These characters are given the opportunity to grow, and the show is finding rich story material by committing to the changes and seeing where these new paths lead. “Normal Man” actually covers very similar ground as last week’s “Bun Bun,” two episodes that deal with formerly malevolent ex-monarchs confronting their past mistakes, but while Fire King is just starting in his new direction, Normal Man has moved quite a distance from his old Magic Man persona.

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Normal Man is at a point where he’s eager to make amends for his past sins, of which there are many. Magic Man was a giant asshole; he literally threw the Martian people and his brother Grob Gob Glob Grod under a bus by driving a bus over them, and one unlucky Martian has to live life as a barrel of flaming garbage because of Magic Man’s penchant for mischief. There’s a lot for Normal Man to make up for, and he starts by trying to smooth things over with his siblings.

The episode begins with Normal Man using Tiny Manticore to help him reconnect with Glob, who Tiny retrieves from orbit and takes down to Ooo. This plan is foiled when Tiny double crosses Normal Man because of how he had been previously treated by magic man, and Tiny flees to the top of Wild Trap Mountain with glob in tow. Normal Man enlists Finn and Jake to help him reach the top of a mountain that is populated of various threats, and writers/storyboard artists Jesse Moynihan and Sam Alden pack a large number of ideas into the gang’s uphill trek.

I’m a big fan of when Adventure Time embraces its video game influences, and the mountain sequence plays like one long platformer with a bunch of really cool opponents. Much of the action is presented from the side-view associated with traditional 2-D platforming games, and just like in those games, the challenges intensify as Finn, Jake, and Normal Man move further through the space. The action moves very quickly in this scene as Moynihan and Alden throw all these foes at the group, and it’s a dynamic transition into the meat of the episode when Normal Man begins to repair the damage he’s done to his personal relationships.

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The metaphor at the core of this episode is easy to spot: sometimes shitty people grow out of their shittiness and end up pretty cool, but they have to show others how much they’ve changed to make up for being a jerk in the past. All Normal Man wants to do is apologize to his brother and take him back to Mars so that they can rule together like they used to before Magic Man screwed it all up, and Tiny’s meddling forces Normal Man to work even harder to achieve his goal, which shows how dedicated he is to setting things right.

While on a rapid descent to certain death, Normal Man finally gives Glob his sincere apology, and Glob responds to this surprising decency by admitting that he could have been a better brother, too. They both aren’t perfect (although Glob admits that Normal Man has been far, far worse), and admitting those flaws brings the two brothers closer together. It also saves their lives, and Tiny flies to the rescue after he sees how much Normal Man has genuinely changed since the bad old days when he kept Tiny bottled up in his nightmare house.

Normal Man’s new motto is “it feels good to be good,” and it’s a stark contrast from his former unspoken motto of “create as much chaos as possible.” Glob admires this huge shift in his brother, and as they’re careening through space toward Mars, Glob leaves Normal Man behind so he can assume his role as the sole benevolent ruler of the red planet. The people of Mars are initially terrified when they see Normal Man, but he has a plan to win them over too, ending the episode by pulling a container of brownies out of his hat. It’s a far more innocuous magic trick than what he used to perform, and since losing his powers, Normal Man has discovered that kindness and sympathy have their own magical qualities.

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Stray observations

  • This episode is a spotlight for Tom Kenny, who voices Normal Man, Tiny, and Glob, three characters that spend a lot of time speaking to each other. He gives each character its own distinct vocal quality and personality, and it really showcases his range as a performer.
  • The assorted dangers of Wild Trap Mountain: Normal-sized manticores, carnivore plants, camouflaged rock beasts, mind control parasites, archer bandits, this one quiet dude nobody messes with, a dragon ghost, red ants, weekend survivalists, waking dream demons, that squirrel that hates Jake.
  • I’m intrigued by The Quiet Dude Nobody Messes With. I want to know his story.
  • LSP and Lemongrab try to go on a date this week. That couple sounds like an absolute disaster.
  • Finn: “Yo! No dogs on the table. Shoo! Get down, boy! What do you see, boy? Show daddy.” Jake: “I do see something, but you’re making it weird.”
  • “Come on, fool! Come on, get spanked.”
  • “Just a few more laps and I’ll break the jerk world record!”
  • Jonah: “Hey Luke, what’s going on today?” Luke: “Fricking nothing yet.” Jonah: “I know, I just wanna kill and eat someone already.”
  • Squirrel: (Attacking) “Jake! It’s me!” Jake: “Who?!”
  • Tiny: “Why do you sound so insincere?” Normal Man: “That’s just my voice.”
  • “What’s even a boomerang? (Boomerang hits Jake.) Oh my gosh, I’ve been calling them something different my whole life.”
  • “Hang on like hot snot, normal man!”
  • Martian 1: “Calm down? You turned me into a giant starfish!” Martian 2: “You turned me into a barrel of flaming garbage!”

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