Title Card for Adventure Time episode "Ricardio the Heart Guy"

Come Along With Me: Adventure Time – “Ricardio the Heart Guy” and “Business Time”

Ricardio the Heart Guy
Air Date April 26, 2010
Written & Storyboarded By: Bert Youn and Sean Jimenez
Review by Katie

Ricardio the Heart Guy is in many ways a representative season 1 episode. We cold open on Finn and Jake fighting Ice King to rescue a kidnapped Princess Bubblegum. We get an “X Time” title card, the sort that were all over the place in these early years before disappearing entirely.

And we also get the introduction of maybe the long-running story beat of these early, mostly episodic years: Finn’s crush on Princess Bubblegum. It’s a sometimes prickly element; we haven’t been given exact ages yet at this point, but it’s obvious Finn is significantly younger than Bubblegum1. These sorts of crushes are common, both in real life and kid’s cartoons. But, at least for me it’s always hard to fully trust them, y’know? There’s external baggage, from a culture that centers a specific type of male heterosexuality so completely that you can never be sure this isn’t just rank wish-fulfillment that ends with Finn Getting The Girl. It’s probably unfair to tag Adventure Time with this, especially in this episode, but I have to lay my cards on the table, y’know? It’d be dishonest not to.

The target of Finn’s jealousy is the titular heart guy, played by George Takei in a very fun guest role. Ricardio has a super detailed face, which is a fun bit of intentionally unnerving contrast to the show’s usual low-detail style. It instantly communicates that, despite Finn’s clear conflict of interest, Ricardio’s up to no good. The plot structure here is a twist on a common structure that is itself incredibly common, the good ole “despite outward appearances, the new stranger is actually a good dude, and you should be less suspicious, except psych he was exactly who you thought he was all along”. I’m rarely the biggest fan of it, and this episode doesn’t do much with the concept. It’s too obvious where we’re ultimately headed.

This face is inherently villainous. No way around it

Still, we’ve got plenty of offbeat charm even with a basic structure. I like the specific weirdness of Ricardio’s goal to cut out Princess Bubblegum’s heart and make out with it, complete with creepy tongue waggles. And I like our heroes ultimately letting the villainous Ice King reunite with his disembodied heart because, to quote Jake, “I don’t wanna watch and old man die on Princess Bubblegum’s carpet”. If this is an archetypical S1 episode, it brings the charms along with the foibles.

Stray Observations:

Oh girl, same
  • Jake channels his inner Spider-Man when swinging around the Candy Kingdom to spy on Ricardio
  • Princess Bubblegum gets a lot of amusement out of Finn and Jake’s pranks here, another recurring element of early seasons
  • PB enters the party from a secret passageway connecting to a dungeon, with Peppermint Butler in tow. The sort of element that hints at the direction both those characters will be headed in the future.

Business Time
Air Date April 26, 2010
Written & Storyboarded By: Luther McLaurin and Armen Mirzaian
Review by Katie

Business Time is ultimately a slight episode, a fun and silly adventure without much meat on the bone. I don’t mean that as an attack; that’s mostly what Adventure Time is right now. But it’s tempting to forget as a reviewer. I mean, an episode about zombified businessmen, seemingly from the 21st century? Who corporatize Finn and Jake’s adventuring, turning it into an impersonal entity causing harm in the name of efficiency and growth? The Marxist reading writes itself. But Adventure Time doesn’t have that on its mind, not yet (wait around a few seasons for Ocarina if that’s what you’re after).

Instead, we have another offbeat adventure, where our two heroes are initially charmed by the businessmen’s desperation to please, whether that be in finishing the work of building a dock-themed obstacle course or taking unwanted kisses from Hot Dog Princess in lieu of Finn. But in the process, they encounter the actual intended takeaway from the episode: if you sand away all the rough edges and difficult bits from life, you might find yourself not really living much of a life at all, killing time with video games and junk food waiting for an adventure to come that you’ve already optimized out of your life.

While we’re avoiding the temptation of putting more on this episode than it was built to bear, we get maybe our most overt signs yet that Ooo exist in some form of post-apocalypse. The episode opens with our heroes salvaging junk out of frozen chunks of ice, and all the junk is manufactured goods from the 20th/21st centuries. Things like bikes, computers, and a concerningly large number of left-foot-only baby shoes. Ooo’s status as a far-future Earth is one of those things that’s at once a spoiler for future episodes that make it more explicit and something that anyone could figure out from the opening title (peep the nuclear bombs in the first shot).

And there’s a temptation when talking about Adventure Time to focus on stuff like this, the dark elements (and boy, are some dark elements coming up) and overtly artsy risks and the sorts of things that confer prestige. And that’s all there, but so are dozens if not hundreds of silly little adventures, where our heroes learn a lesson and yell a lot. Adventure Time is a TV-ass television show, embracing the medium’s unique strengths. It lets you hang out with a vibrant cast of characters over 100s of episodes. Sometimes it’s heavy, sometimes it’s light, sometimes you aren’t entirely sure what you just watched. That’s TV baby!

A non-standard end screen; this show has never been interested in formal consistency, which I appreciate

Stray Observations:

  • Jake using “roast” and “flambé” to differentiate flamethrower settings is an early tell to his love of cooking.
  • This episode is technically the introduction of BMO, Finn and Jake’s sentient video game console. However, she doesn’t get any lines, meaning first-time viewers won’t really know they’ve just seen a character instead of a prop. Don’t worry little buddy, I promise you’ll have more to do in the future.
His arms and legs are really the only hint
  • I love the animation on the gauntlet dock runthrough, a super fun one-shot sequence.