On last Monday’s episode of Adventure Time, “Betty,” Ice King reverts to Simon Petrikov after a wizarding catastrophe and tries to reconcile with his lost love Betty, before his weakened human form loses its strength completely. It’s the eponymous time again!
“Betty” is the Feel-centric episode we’ve all been waiting for, in which the mostly depressing, occasionally revolting Ice King assumes his true form as Simon Petrikov, tragic Lovecraftian scientist and father figure to the emotionally unstable Marceline the Vampire Queen, and does the episode deliver? For the most part yes; episodes like this really put the screws to the writers. They have to navigate that knife’s edge between Feels-fulfillment while retaining the freewheeling narrative style that sets Adventure Time head and shoulders above its peers. It takes precious time out of those 11 minutes and 11 seconds to include all the requisite plot points, and of course, the maudlin-factor necessary to Feels-isodes can blow up in the writer’s face if it drags on the levity. But Ako Castuera and Jesse Moynihan perform admirably, and manage to thread in a heavyweight conflict and a few bright gags to balance it all out.
The episode opens with Ice King spying on the doings of wizard-trio Bufo, Laser Wizard, and Forest Wizard, the same group that tried to sacrifice Abracadaniel way back when, and whose machinations have been hinted at repeatedly but never detailed. Their grand scheme is the resurrection of the evil entity Bella Noche (there’s a helluva moniker), who promises them the secret to Antediluvian magic, but instead betrays them by negating their magic, and threatening to engulf Wizard City and possibly all of Ooo. Here’s the first of many tangents: by ‘Antediluvian,’ I wonder if they mean pre-Mushroom war technology, which is frightening to imagine since it was an actuality in “Love Games,” or pre-historic in terms of our timeline, which would be a potentially mind-blowing link between their future and our past. But anyhow, negating everyone’s magic means it’s the end of the Ice Crown, and the rebirth of Simon Petrikov into Ooo: “This must be it, man. I’ve crossed into some new, super-insane zone where I feel I’m just normal again . . . Or maybe I’m just normal again.”
My initial reaction was that from here on out, the episode takes a ridiculously brisk pace that threatened to adulterate the emotional impact of Simon’s return. It was slightly jarring to see him launch almost immediately into action; I was expecting at least a tiny scene, a panorama shot maybe, of Simon surveying the strange landscape of Ooo and wondering how long he’d slept as a sociopathic ice-hermit, and where Marceline and Betty were. But I suppose it’s to be expected, as there’s a ton of ground to cover in this episode, which got me to wondering why they didn’t make it a two-parter, similar to “Finn the Human” and “Jake the Dog.” The villain is totally there: Bella Noche poses a considerable threat to all of Ooo, where magic grows like daisies, and the absence of which would mean a return to Farmworld probably. With an extended episode, the emotional content could’ve been deveoped at a more relaxed pace without sacrificing precious screentime and gag-potential. The story arc is a central one at this point, and merits that level of attention, but “Betty” still manages to work as-is.
Simon retains scraps of memory from his time as Ice King, and manages to make his way back to the Ice Kingdom to retrieve his trademark John Lennon glasses in the The Past room. The writing desk in the room hides a passage to a vast library, presumably assembled by Simon before he lost his bits completely. At this point, he’s aware that the Ice Crown was the source of his madness and his inhuman longevity, and that he’s withering without it. The reason for his big rush (and for the episode’s pacing also) is that before his demise he wants to reconcile with Betty, the wife he’d left behind in the past, and driven away in the winter of his madness. In the library he locates his old textbooks on magic rituals, and also a polaroid of Marceline as a child, which gives him the idea to use Hambo’s sentimental energy to open a portal to the past so that he can speak to Betty. Whew.
This marks the third episode in which Hambo takes centerstage, or more specifically, the sentimentality behind Hambo which everyone (Ash the ass, Maja the Sky Witch, and now Simon) wants to harness for their own ends. Which leads one to wonder: what’s the big deal, what’s the mojo of sentimentality that makes it a currency of power, as an ingredient for potent wiz-biz, even as fuel for time-bending apparati? It’s a piece of symbolism that cuts to the core of what Adventure Time is all about: a conception of nostalgia, sentimentality, and childhood memories as a foundation of personal strength, but also the danger of sentimentality’s perversion towards utilitarian means, ie as a selling point, or a cultural fad, which threatens to invalidate or otherwise cheapen such an experience. Marceline’s love for Hambo is the genuine love, the sort of token of personal connection that can sustain the psyche through heavy weathering. I’d go so far as to say it explains the ethos of all responsible children’s programming: that the adult is ruled by the child inside, and that this fact can go a long way towards understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses.
The reunion between Marceline and Simon finally happens, and its impact is debatable. On one hand it’s a bit underwhelming, as they exchange hugs and meaningful greetings and that’s about it, before Finn asks Simon if he remembers all the beatings he suffered from F&J (“I have . . . bruises . . .”). But again, there’s a lot of ground to cover, and the fact that Marceline’s wearing the same overalls/t-shirt outfit as her child-self makes for a great reference to the past they’ve shared together. Once the time-portal opens, we see a distraught Betty huddling behind a wall as the ice-mad Simon blasts blue bolts everywhere amidst screams of “Where’s my Betty, where’s my princess?” Yeah, the episode isn’t all that rushed. There’s definitely emotional heavy-hitters in there, especially when Betty echoes Marcy’s line: “Simon, don’t leave me like this.” At which point the portal opens, and Simon appears to say his last goodbye and his acceptance of her abandonment. Then, through a twist that was more surprising than it should’ve been (I feel like an idiot for not anticipating it, actually), Betty leaps through the portal into the present. Duhh.
Betty plans to restore the Ice Crown’s power to buy time until she can find a cure, and unexpectedly, Simon is heavily opposed. As they ride back to Wizard City on a stolen magic carpet, and with Death riding beside them telling Simon how lucky he is to die as not-Ice King, Simon begs her to let him perish as a human instead of returning to the asylum that is the Crown. But Betty’s can-do attitude causes him to relent. By the end of the episode, Betty proves herself as a literally ass-kicking character, as she drags Simon’s butt to safety every step of the way, and sails into Bella Noche’s anti-magic cube to karate kick her in the face. Simon’s reluctance to wear the crown again makes more sense when his powers are restored, and we see Ice King wandering cluelessly, wondering who threw a party without him. He doesn’t recall a thing that happened, as he relates to an imprisoned Muscle Princess: “Just my luck, right? Black out for a day, and meet the woman of my dreams.”
The episode ends with Betty watching Ice King get wailed on by Muscle Princess, and going off into Ooo to search for a cure. She’s left in Marceline’s boat, as a survivor of the Ice Crown’s influence, but this time there’s hope for Simon Petrikov yet.
Much thanks to adventuretimewiki!