“Preboot” Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Aleks Sennwald
“Preboot” Directed by: Adam Muto (supervising), Sandra Lee (art)
“Reboot” Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard
“Reboot” Directed by: Elizabeth Ito (supervising), Sandra Lee (art)
At the conclusion of season six, I found writing a review for the finale “Hot Diggity Doom”/”The Comet” to be particularly difficult. While I eventually came to appreciate the sort of message that the show was trying to get across with the season six capper, I found the two episodes to be somewhat marred by the show’s poor handling of the grass sword arc, as well as the overarching plot concerning Finn’s father.
While I doubt that the show’s writers and producers were listening as I screamed at the clouds, it does seem that those behind the show realized the issues that somewhat affected the season six finale, and they attempted to learn from their mistakes. As a result, the season seven two-part finale, “Preboot”/”Reboot” succeeds in many of the areas that “Hot Diggity Doom”/”The Comet” didn’t.
Our story begins at Beautopia. Due to the low tides, several new areas of the ruined mall are revealed, and Finn, Jake, and Susan decide to go exploring to look for pre-Mushroom War artifacts. While poking around an old arcade, Jake accidentally causes a giant ship to emerge from the earth. A platform extends from its hatch, and out walks… Tiffany?
Last we saw of Tiffany, he was eaten by a worm queen in the sixth season episode “Dentist.” He apparently survived and was given a robotic arm. He leads Finn, Jake, and Susan into the ship, which is decked out in sleek sci-fi gadgets. Thanks (presumably) to her head-implant (last seen in the sixth season episode “Dark Purple”), Susan is able to access a secret lab that leads directly to the commander of the ship-lab: Dr. Gross.
We later learn that Dr. Gross is a cybernetically enhanced human, who uses her knowledge of science to ‘upgrade’ and ‘enhance’ life. She has a ‘menagerie’ on board the ship that showcases a freakish display of hybrid animals (e.g. a scorpion-chipmunk, a mouse-shark, and, perhaps best of all, a clock-bear “who knows what time it is”). Dr. Gross then takes her guests into an examination room, and gives them lollipops, which are actually laced with some sort of muscle paralyzer. With her guests-cum-victims unable to move, she proceeds to explain how she will forcibly perform surgery on them so as to upgrade them and make them ‘better.’
The moment that the show introduces Dr. Gross, something is off. At first, she attempts to play the part of the eccentric but well meaning scientist, but once the gang steps into her menagerie, it becomes perfectly clear what type of character Dr. Gross is. Whereas many individuals (like Princess Bubblegum) believe you can use knowledge of the natural world to make a better world for people, Dr. Gross believes she can use her knowledge of the natural world to literally make her patients ‘better.’ This is evidenced by the song that she sings to Finn and Jake:
Evolution’s a natural process But it’s not exactly the fastest You can reach your potential with just a little help.
Her idea of ‘help,’ however, is to restrain her patients and forcibly ‘upgrade’ them, whether they consent or not. Adventure Time has always held a somewhat pessimistic view of scientism (for instance, Princess Bubblegum’s Nazi-esque experiments are almost always painted in a very negative way), but “Preboot” heavily espouses the romantic idea that nature is better than any form of cold cybernetics (And this theme is carried into “Reboot” where Susan turns into a violent and unfeeling seeker by technology).
Back in the lab, Dr. Gross takes off Susan’s hat and discovers the implant on the side of her head; the doctor recognizes the circuitry, and reacts as if Susan is some sort previous—and potentially dangerous—experiment. At that moment, Susan reveals that she never ate the lollipop and is thus able to move. She grabs Finn and Jake, and the three make a break for it. But when Dr. Gross’s menagerie is activated, however, things are looking bad for our heroes. Luckily, at the last possible second, Tiffany steps in and prevents Dr. Gross from chopping up Finn, Jake, and Susan for use as “spare parts.” Our heroes barely escape in the nick of time, and Dr. Gross’s ship (with Dr. Gross and Tiffany still on board) explodes deep underground. The detonation frees all of Dr. Gross’s various creatures, but unfortunately, a giant electric eel decides to head straight for the Candy Kingdom. Finn, Jake, and Susan give chase.
The eel emerges near the Candy Kingdom, and in the resulting showdown, Susan is zapped. After Finn touches her head-circuit, she seems to ‘reboot,’ temporarily disposes of Jake, and then attempts to seize Finn. Finn and Princess Bubblegum escape to the Candy Kingdom, but Susan gives chase. Thanks to a choice blast from a gumball guardian, Susan absorbs an inordinate amount of energy and swells up to a terrifying size. She manages to grab Finn and take him to the beach (the same beach wherein the Fear Feaster first manifested, in the season one episode “Ocean of Fear”).
Jake eventually tracks the two down, and a huge fight ensues. In the resulting scuffle, Jake is injured by an anchor that Susan pulls out of the ocean, and Finn’s grass sword awakens and attacks Susan, eventually breaking her head-circuit. With Susan defeated, Finn tries to take control of his grass sword, but it detaches from his arm, grabs his Finn sword, and turns into a cocoon that gestates a bizarre grass golem. And with that, the episode ends.
“Reboot” is a very action-heavy episode, and perhaps one of the most action-heavy we have gotten since the Stakes miniseries. In fact, the episode is almost one giant fight scene (albeit, one giant fight scene with a beginning, a middle, and an ending). It’s exciting and engaging. In many ways, it reminds me of the action-heavy “Escape from the Citadel,” another one of Herpich and Wolfhard’s episodes and perhaps one of the best installments the show has ever made. But while that episode ends on a sad note, “Reboot” ends on a very mysterious note. Just who is that grass sword guy, and what was that eldritch-esque creature in the Finn sword?
Ultimately, both “Preboot” and “Reboot” do an excellent job of keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. The answers given are not clear-cut, but there’s just enough provided to make the whole ordeal satisfying. And with the reference to the “Island” and the other humans, the show is setting up for a game-changing eighth season.
And that’s what I like most about these two episodes. They take many disparate plot threads from the last few seasons (e.g. Susan’s implant, Finn’s grass sword, the existence of other humans) and weave them into one cohesive and exciting narrative that builds to a full but enigmatic ending. I’m excited for season eight! “Hot Diggity Doom”/”The Comet” didn’t really provide that same level of excitement, because the two provided a decent but rather limp resolution to several important narrative threads.
“Preboot” and “Reboot” are also enjoyable for another reason: character callbacks. A whole slew of characters make cameos in these two episodes, ranging from the brief (Nurse Poundcake) to the substantial (Tiffany, Susan). Perhaps the most unexpected callback is that of Rattleballs, who emerges from the shadows to save Finn from Susan. Sadly, for poor Rattleballs, Susan breaks him to thousands of pieces, presumably killing him. While many other characters have been brought back from death, I have a feeling that Rattleballs is going to rest in pieces for the rest of the show. ‘Tis a pity, as he was a great character (and voiced by the hilarious Rainn Wilson).
In the end, “Preboot” and “Reboot” have all the ingredients of an excellent episode of Adventure Time: exciting fight sequences, character callbacks, answers, and most importantly, a great cliffhanger that makes me want more
Mushroom War Evidence: The beginning of “Preboot” explicitly features Finn, Jake, and Susan searching for pre-Mushroom War artifacts in an abandoned arcade. In “Reboot,” Susan pulls up a giant anchor, presumably from a shipwreck.