After the insanity of last week's episode of Adventure Time, "James II" takes a chance to slow things down and get to the jokes. And it does a pretty good job of lightening the mood, hopefully serving as a buffer before something that satisfies our collective lust for knowledge. Watching the gang be silly is what made many of us get hooked on this show, but it's the subtext underneath everything that made us fall in love. Though, to be fair, this week may have some subtext of it's own. We'll get into that below.
"James II" starts off with Jake, Finn, and P-bubs out on a run-of-the-mill mad-science expedition. The first thing that's apparent about this episode is how odd it is to see Finn without his right arm. It almost sneaks up on you, and the flower budding out of his arm just barely masks how dark the situation. It's almost as if the above shot is saying, "Isn't this silly? Flowers are for the ground, not the arms of young men!" And the audience just has to stare back, wide-eyed, and say, "We know. It's unsettling!"
Anyway, for seemingly no reason, clone!James shows up and pushes Princess Bubblegum away from the fast-flowing river. He falls in, is sent over a waterfall, seemingly to his death (though I'm not sure why Jake didn't just save him. Lazy pup), and Finn and Jake are sad. The good news is PB can just clone another James, right? She's apparently been doing it a lot. But Bubblegum refuses, proving that she was in no danger and that James was just being reckless. He has to stay dead this time. Yikes, PB! Harsh but fair. With their field trip over, the princess asks Finn and Jake to go to James' house and take care of his stuff, since he won't be coming back. They head off dejectedly, cheering themselves up by remembering all the times James saved the princess. That's when they come across something surprising.
Turns out none of the clone!James died. It was all a ploy because James II was lonely, wanted some friends, and developed a really weird medal-fixation. So to fuel it, he keeps manufacturing situations where he could "save" PB, "die," and the new clone would "earn" a medal. Finn and Jake aren't really upset, but they know Princess Bubblegum will be. But knowing she'll figure it out on her own, they sit back and watch the show. And sure enough, when P-bubs shows up to check on Finn and Jake, she freaks out as all the clone!James book it out of the house
Then the scene cuts back to the wastelands and the hole that Finn, Jake, and PB abandoned the original!James in during the episode "James." It turns out that the goop-mutants transformed original!James into one of their own, and he seems to be leading them out into the world. As they clamber out of the hole menacingly, we all think really hard about where they might be headed. Probably the ice kingdom. That's the only logical option.
Back in the candy kingdom, PB has ordered all her banana guards to capture all 25 James clones. The thing is, they're pretty darn stupid. They have a hard time understanding the difference between clones and brothers, which upsets the princess. But Finn and Jake tell her to chill out and just enjoy the spectacle, like they've been doing. And when the guards ask one of the James clones if he's seen the man in the picture, Bubblegum can't help but laugh. It gets even more ridiculous when all 25 James clones show up before the guards figure out they're the people the princess wants them to capture. After things click for the banana guards, a wacky chase the likes of which we've not seen in quite some time ensues. The best part is when some clones disguise themselves with gloves (yes, gloves), only for the ruse to be broken when they slip off their hands. The banana guards almost got fooled on that one!
Eventually some time passes and the James clones have retreated outside the castle gates, having built an elaborate, sure-fire, rube-goldberg machine that will trap the banana guards. Except it totally falls apart right away (classic James). The jig is up, then, and the James clones are thoroughly surrounded. PB intervenes then, saying the fun is over. She takes James' precious medals and says that they aren't real heroes and don't deserve them. But at that exact moment, the gumball guardians wake up, alerting everyone to the presence of evil. The original James and his shambling band of mutant monsters has finally reached the candy kingdom, which was totally a surprise to everyone.
The banana guards immediately retreat into the safety of the kingdom's walls, leaving Finn and Jake to fight off the monsters. But first they have to rescue the group of candy orphans just loitering, alone outside. This is the episode's comedic high point, where Finn nonchalantly picks up a candy baby and punts her over the walls (3 points!). Jake just lifts them over, robbing the other orphans from what looks like a great time. Probably his dad instincts taking over.
Meanwhile, all the James clones are steaming mad about having their medals taken away. But before they can brood on their injustice for too long, the princess screams out for help. Original!James makes a break for Bubblegum and her life is in danger. As true heroes, all the James clones tackle original!James into submission. One by one, in a line. Even though one James probably would have been enough to get the job done (classic James). Regardless, the mutative properties of original!James cause all the James clones to coalesce into the craziest ice-cream sandwich you've ever seen. It's pretty horrifying, but the day is saved.
Finally having proved themselves heroes, PB re-awards mutant!James his medals. Everyone is happy too, until Bubblegum gives James a new mission: go into the wasteland and never come back. Wait, what? It's pretty harsh of p-bubs to exile poor James after he saved her life, but she does promise to send them a medal every day as compensation. They gladly accept and run into the wilderness, likely never to be seen again (until next season). And once mutant!James is gone, PB says she will not miss him, ending the episode abruptly in classic Adventure Time style.
- PB has always been kind of lax about treating the candy people well, and she often experiments on them without any kind of permission. Oh sure, most of the time she's bubblegum and rainbows, but on occasion she can show some mean streaks. With that in mind, is the show playing the long game with Princess Bubblegum? Will Finn and Jake have to fight against her injustice one day? If you recall, the candy kingdom is abandoned 1,000 years into the future (as seen in Lemon Hope's most recent episode). Something stops her one day, and now the only question is "who?" Maybe she only exiled James because his mutant nature could prove dangerous, but maybe not.
- These goop-mutants will have to be explained soon. They showed up post-mushroom war as a threat to Simon and Marceline and they keep showing up in the show's present time. And with more secrets coming to light, the nature/effects of the mushroom war must be explained. Maybe Betty will uncover the mysteries, as probably the only person in Ooo who would be interested in what the hell happened to the Earth.
- Finn was still confident enough to fight without his arm. It was ineffective, but that was because the mutants melt whatever they touch. So will he still be able to hold his own in combat until his arm situation is sorted out?
- This isn't the last will see of James. He'll probably have random cameos at the least and play into another episode at most. There seems to be some kind of arc of heroism going on with him that isn't over. Will he save the day again in a more significant way? Who knows?
All in all, it was a decent filler episode that left some decent questions for us fans to think over until something more substantial comes our way. But now we have to wait for next week's episode, "The Tower," which will finally get back to the issue of Finn's father. The preview is below for your enjoyment.