Hello! This year has just been full of surprises. I have managed to produce my slop on a monthly basis for three consecutive months. Talk about record breaking.
So, this is different from what I normally do. Typically, I write around one central topic, but this time, I decided to do a basic Top Ten list. I have not done one in nearly two years, and both attempts at them were quite frankly just terrible. Hopefully, this attempt will be fall less in the realm of awful in more of the realm of decent.
In this list, I will be discussing some of my favorite episodes to air this year. Given that 2018 has been exclusively Season 6 content and this will be the last year to do something like this since the show is ending soon, I figured why not go ahead with it.
With all that said, let us begin.
Be warned: this is fairly lengthy. I would advise turning away now if you are not ready to sit down and read for a while.
"The Candidate" is an episode that gets a lot of flak, and while the episode certainly has some flaws to it, I ultimately found it to be a funny and nicely constructed satirical take on populist elections (or the 2016 election if one must attribute to a specific event). Granted, I should stress I am not the biggest politics buff, but the episode is all good fun nonetheless in my opinion.
What I admire most about the episode is just how nicely set up the plot is. When satirizing momentous political events through a school-aged cast, most shows opt to put the characters through a student council election. There is nothing wrong with that; it is a perfectly intuitive way to go about the subject matter. However, this is where "The Candidate" differs; rather than go for such a typical construction, the episode chooses to place the characters in a locked classroom in which the temperature is quickly rising due to their parents' irresponsible partying. The majority of the students quickly descend into insanity and create a political structure for themselves. It is a unique mean of exploring the idea and speaks to the show's zanier sensibilities.
The cast itself is great here, with most of the characters managing to stay true to their core traits given the life-or-death circumstances of the situation. Gumball, for instance, is still the arrogant and impulsive kid his character is known for, but his arrogance and impulsion are amplified, working to both the advantage of the satire and the plot while never abandoning the core of the character. Likewise, Anais is still the same intelligent yet passive little girl, but now those traits have manifested into her being a rational but ultimately uncharismatic and ineffective leader. Tobias is still a greedy narcissistic jerk, and so on. Even with the satirical nature of the episode, the show manages to keep most of its character integrity intact.
The episode is also helped by the fact that mob mentality is just a fun concept to explore in a cartoon, especially with all the fun embellishments that come with the medium. Even with some of the allusions to 2016 election, a collective group of frustrated people impulsively voting someone into power for the sake of change has such a universal appeal to it, and this episode is no different. Hilarious moments such as the reaction to Gumball's campaign speech or the quick revolt against him use the topic in such fun ways.
This episode is not perfect, however. For some reason, this episode in particular is filled to the brim with "hip" and "trendy" phrases such as "on fleek" and "woke," which just makes it a little harder to stomach. Clare seems to have it the worst in this regard, and most of her lines have me wishing she was not included in the episode. The episode can also be a bit on the nose at times, Idaho's line about socialism and Banana Joe's rant about "lamestream" media being two noteworthy examples. However, these flaws are not enough to bring done what is a uniquely hilarious episode that I find myself returning to in the future.
"The Spinoffs" is yet another entry in Gumball's treasured history of vignette episodes, and personally, I find this to be one of the most inspired ones to-date. The most memorable vignette episodes are the ones backed by inspired premises, and this one is certainly no exception.
Before I begin lavishing praise onto the episode, however, I should first discuss the elephant in the room: Rob. I am going to put it bluntly and state that I am not too big on his inclusion this episode. I have already written about it somewhat in the past, so I am going to keep it brief and say his utilization here is not doing the character any favor and showcases how the crew has failed to properly make use of him since "The Rerun." You know what, however? This episode is not really about him as he is just a framing device. There is just so much going into the rest of the episode that this issue is negligible in this context.
All of the segments included here hit all the right notes, taking advantage of the creative liberties that come with a concept as extensive as a variety of spinoff shows. It shows that everybody on staff had fun crafting this episode, and this fun just oozes its way back to the audience.
One of my personal favorite sketches is Bobert's Kitchen. All of Bobert's comedic mileage is exercised here in a concise and intriguing way. There is just something innately hilarious about a robot failing to understand an activity as creatively inclined as cooking. Coupling it with Felicity's uncomfortable reactions makes this one a treat.
Techno Power Teenage Warriors is another great one, being a fun spoof of the cheesy and commercial nature of cartoons from the '80s. The superfluous summoning of the giant mechs in order to sell a needless number of toys is comical, and the commercial interruptions complete with grainy footage and the "Commercial Break" jingle from "The Tape" makes it priceless.
My absolute favorite is "Everyday Heroes" as it plays Ocho's bizarre condition of having multiple butts completely straight. Ocho goes on random tangents and often stutters about how his life has changed with the most stereotypical inspirational music imaginable much like how these inspirational television segments go about other children in unfortunate circumstances. It is something that needs to be seen to truly understand.
I am not the best articulating about these vignette episodes; honestly, just go back and watch this one. It is a good one.
Two words: Tobias Wilson.
What makes "The One" work so well is Tobias Wilson and just how much he drives the episode. While he is not necessarily one of my favorites, I have always found him to be a nicely written character. He is a subversion of the classical "jerk jock" archetype; he is egotistical and entitled but lacks any of the athletic prowess to justify his attitude. He is at least somewhat aware on a subconscious level as to how pathetic he really is, with him becoming more desperate and self-aware as the series progresses.
All of this culminates into "The One," with the character for the first time actively acknowledging his insecurities in what is the quintessential Tobias-centered episode. Tobias is at his most desperate here, latching onto Gumball of all people. In a last-ditch attempt to put his mind at rest and come to peace with himself, he bases his entire self-worth on his friendship with Gumball, and the antics that ensue from it are ludicrously entertaining.
Of course, one cannot forget to mention the episode's most iconic scene: Tobias going on what is essentially a killing spree for some of Gumball's closest friends...or so he believes. In truth, this is all a delusion he has formed to justify his attachment toward Gumball, and the sheer pathetic nature of it all is just funny. The episode ends on a nice note, however, with Tobias accepting his place in the universe after talking it out with Gumball. It is a nice sendoff for the character.
This is not nearly as big of a component of the episode, but I also enjoyed seeing just how tight the relationship between the Watterson brothers is in the opening. It is always just nice and wholesome to see the depth of their relationship and just how much they really get each other.
My only real gripe with the episode is its ending. In the end, it is all revealed that Tobias stealing the powers of his peers was nothing more than imaginary, yet the final gag involves Darwin struggling under the couch that Tobias threw in his power fantasy. The reason for this is to circle back to an offhanded statement Gumball made about friendships and moving couches earlier in the episode but bringing it up here at the end just clashes with the direction of Tobias realizing and accepting his place the ending was going for. This is something I caught in my first viewing, and even now, it still bugs me. What are essentially throwaway gags should not have such an interference in the ending.
Otherwise, however, this is a humorous episode through and through. It never ceases to make me laugh with its sheer absurdity.
I will try to keep this brief as I have actually already written about this episode in the past; "The Lady" manages to shine as a noteworthy episode from Season 6 through all its surrealism.
As a standalone episode itself, it is a great comedy of errors. The episode is not trying to play a ruse about something as obvious as Richard actually being Samantha; instead most of the humor comes from the characters' gross misinterpretations of the situation at hand. The brothers think their father is having an affair with three elderly women. Richard thinks that his sons want to put an end to his innocent fun out of disgust. The whole group of women actually believe they are being genuine with one another. All of these misunderstandings climax at Maria's house in what is one of the season's funniest scenes. Cap it all off with the ending in which everybody basically agrees to pretend nothing happened, and there is some comedy gold.
As a Golden Girls homage, the episode knocks itself out of the park. The character designs of the women lovingly hark back to the era of The Golden Girls complete with CRT lines, and the humor itself is sure to satisfy those familiar with the source material. Rather than bombard the viewers with references to the show, a lot of the elements are written as if they are from The Golden Girls. Much of the dialogue is right at home with the show while still staying true to Gumball's absurdism, and the plot itself with all its misunderstandings fits nicely with the sitcom era from which The Golden Girls hails.
Something I never discussed in my original write-up is how the conflict adds to Richard's character. It is no secret that Richard is not one's typical "manly man," and to see him struggle with how society does not perceive him as masculine or all that fun to hang out with for that matter adds to him even if it is small. Richard usually tends to be at his best when his traits of gluttony and idiocy are downplayed in favor of his vulnerability and loving nature, and "The Lady" is no exception.
Turns out this was not as brief as I anticipated. The point is that this is another instant classic to add to Gumball's library and is definitely worthy of praise.
"The Schooling" is a romp, with strong comedy that has a sharp satirical edge backing it. If one is looking for some of the season's finest comedic material, then this one is not a bad candidate.
"The Schooling" is a nice showcase of two of the core elements of Gumball's humor: its cynical outlook on society and its animated surrealism driven by its unique world. Both elements function together in the episode to create an end product that can elicit laughter both from how relatable close to home it hits in its look at the realities of minimum-wage jobs and how it plays up those already relatable plights in absurd and zany ways.
The episode takes a vignette structure, with only a light narrative loosely tying everything together. Save for the uncomfortable "Little Timmy" scene, every sketch included in the episode is a success, accentuating the two elements of the show's typical comedy style in unique and memorable ways.
My favorite joke is the bank scene in which Gumball uses his authority as a banker to rob a man dry. It is a reversal of the prototypical bank heist; it is the well-off established banker that steals from the man simply trying to hustle his way through life by drowning him in needless debt, and it is an absolute riot.
The scene in which the brothers deliver the pizza to the pilot is yet another burst of hilarity. What really makes the scene is Darwin's reaction to the callousness of the pilot— he goes into fetal position and begins rocking back and forth. It is something my words are unable to do justice for.
Everything reaching its peak in the montage accompanied by Edward Grieg's "In the Mountain Hall" allows for some of the episode's best gags. "Quick but concentrated" describes them perfectly; all of them move at a fairly fast pace, but whether it is Darwin finding himself having to clip a lazy customer's toenail or the brothers cleaning up after several failed attempts at wooing the lasses, each bit lands a homerun.
Of course, any episode that ends teaching children about the importance of staying in school and showing empathy while still maintaining a cynical roughness to it wins brownie points. My coverage was yet again somewhat lacking given the vignette nature of the episode, but "The Schooling" is just some of the show's fundamentals at its finest. Just give it another watch when possible.
"The Buddy" is a very simplistic episode. It is not trying to innovate or do anything too wacky, but sometimes, a great execution of a simplistic premise is all that is needed, and "The Buddy" assuredly delivers with charm.
The most notable aspect of the episode is that it drops the Watterson brothers as protagonists in favor of pairing Anais and Jamie in the spotlight. For as odd of a pairing it may seem, the two complement each other quite nicely. As expected, Anais is intelligent and has a fair sense of snark to her, but she is also somewhat naive and passive. Jamie, on the other hand, is terrifyingly strong, but her strength is offset by her sporadic and dimwitted nature. On the surface level, this is a fairly basic dynamic with nothing too noteworthy.
However, what I think makes this pairing work so well is the underlying personality trait that links the two together— their social ineptitude. Anais has always struggled to connect with people outside of her family; she oftentimes comes across as much too clingy and usually manages to bring about an awkward presence. Jamie very rarely picks up on social cues; everything is a potential insult and there is no such thing as too much. It manifests in different ways for both characters, but both are far from the best socially. I think this is what ultimately allows for the two to bounce off each other so well and make this episode so charismatic.
The plot itself is also quite nice. The mystery element of the episode never takes itself too seriously, allowing for some fun jokes such as Jamie successfully managing to threaten the monitor or Bobert comically falling apart because he was infected from his romantic endeavors on the library computers. The climactic battle between the librarian and the girls is a joy to watch with the way elements of classic literature come to life in visually insane manners.
The episode also ends on a nice note, giving Anais and her long quest for friends a sense of closure. Anais finally meets somebody, who despite their differences, is one the same wavelength with her. No punches. No last minute jokes. Just a nice wholesome ending.
Sometimes the most enjoyable episodes are the ones not attracting too much attention to themselves, and the existence of "The Buddy" is a prime example of such.
As a Gumball fan, this is one of those episodes I am morally obligated to like lest they revoke me of my Gumball fan license, and believe me, there are already a number of strikes against me. Joking aside, this "The Shippening" in all seriousness is such a fun celebration of the community that has grown over the years, with a loving amount of fan service to boot.
If there is one thing that really exemplifies the indulgent fan-service element of the episode, it the copious number of references to the various fan works that have been produced over the years. The infamous Carball pairing is here on full display complete with lovingly rudimentary artwork. Less popular but still noteworthy parings such as the coupling of Mr. Small and Larry get a shoutout here. Even Gumwin is here with a human AU for the three people into the idea. The fact that Mr. Bocquelet went out of his way to even ask fans for crack pairings just speaks to the crew's dedication in making this the highest form of catering to the fans.
Of course, if the episode was nothing more than fan service without strong contextualization to nicely frame it, then I do not think this episode would have as wide as an appeal. However, everything that occurs in this episode is because of dorky fangirl Sarah writing her fanfiction in a Cartoon Network branded notebook capable of manipulating the fabric of reality depending on what is written into it. The concept of a fangirl having the ability to change the show at will is hilarious and is creative means of tying everything together, especially with the humorous things they do with the concept. The overly verbose prose Sarah produces (which is part of the course for most fanfiction) bring about terrifying results as they literary manifest as opposed to the more symbolic meaning she intended. The climatic final battle against time exemplifies this with some of the episode's best jokes. Whether it be a grammatical error putting a quick end to Bobert’s life or everybody’s birds going out of control, each gag has such fun with the idea of a group of kids terribly playing god.
Great fan service with a strong concept supporting it. "The Shippening" is a lovely testament to the years fans and staff alike have put into the show, and said testament is a blast to watch.
This is technically cheating the parameters of the list as "The Cage" first released in 2017 via Cartoon Network's online services, but I adore this episode far too much to not talk about it. Plus, it did technically make its television debut in 2018, so it somewhat works out in the end.
"The Cage" reminds me of Season 2's "The Sweaters" in the sense that both are parodies of the classical underdog stories that populated the '80s, plot points and all intact. However, where I think "The Sweaters" differs from "The Cage" is the way it achieves its parody. Whereas "The Sweaters" goes about it by contrasting the Watterson brothers' grounded rationale with the over-the-top nature of everyone else, "The Cage" for the most part indulges in the flamboyancy, with much of the humor coming from how awful of an underdog protagonist Mr. Corneille is.
Much like the typical '80s protagonist, Mr. Corneille is weaker than his opponent, lacks much of the necessary experience, and is overall in tougher circumstances than his opposition. However, he lacks the one the trait that offsets all those other things and allows him to triumph: motivation. Mr. Corneille has a faux self-assurance to him; he loves to lie around and pretend that the power of his heart and mind will get him through. He spouts meaningless nonsense in an attempt to sound deep. In actuality, his life is without direction, only choosing to compete in the MMMMA to not even save the school from losing its entire budget and becoming a state prison, but to lay a smooth one on the nurse.
I think the episode's final minutes best demonstrate just how much Mr. Corneille makes the humor work. Mr. Corneille seemingly punches a hole into the wall with ease, and the episode at first seems to be playing it straight as if Mr. Corneille's philosophical musings actually did make him stronger. He goes to the ring ready to fight Joao Diga appropriately donning Punch-Out! inspired robes, with the brothers finally having full confidence in him again. The episode seems to be on cruise control until Mr. Corneille admits to never being a proper MMMMA fighter. He was lying from the start knowing he would get crushed, but his successful go at the wall genuinely convinced him that his lying about actually made him stronger. From the beginning, this has all been about the nurse and covering the fact that he hurt himself from trying to lick his elbow. Everything is only worsened by the fact that the hole he punched in the wall was actually the remnant of a failed prison escape. He never did get stronger, and he is quickly defeated in the funniest moment in the entire episode.
Jokes like this are abundant throughout the episode, whether it be Mr. Corneille training by quietly reading a geography textbook to a parody of "You're the Best Around" from Karate Kid or the man floundering at teaching Gumball and Darwin to fight with their hearts. Coupled with his comical dynamic with the boys and this episode is truly one of the show's funniest.
"The Cage" is a hilarious episode that never seems to lose its comedic luster. As a pure comedy, it really is one of the best the show has to offer even this late into the game.
If there is one word that I think describes this episode's existence, it is "surprising." Very few were anticipating it to be bad, but I believe many were not expecting it to be as memorable and bizarre as it was, for better or for worse. The first viewing overwhelmed me somewhat with sensory overload, but this episode grew one me with each subsequent viewing.
The episode has a bit of fractured structure to it. Plot points that end up going nowhere are common, and the episode's intensity is can fluctuate at any given moment, going from relaxed to intense to unnerving back to relaxed without much room for second thought. It is a very chaotic episode, but it is a very deliberate chaotic. From a meta context, the Watterson brothers find themselves in a battle with the fundamentals of the show itself. The boys wish to enjoy their day without distractions, but the show has other plans, doing anything in its power to ignite a plot and get the brothers to do something.
This is peak self-awareness. Gumball and Darwin have finally caught on that they are the universe's natural magnet for trouble and that they want no part of it. The show, however, will do any underhanded tactic it can to force a plot as it is desperate to fill the runtime with something interesting. Alien invasion. Cursed teddy bears. Time-bending Japanese middle-aged men in school girl uniforms. Name it, and the show is probably throwing it at the brothers to break their resilience and get them to move.
This very freeing concept allows the episode to explore some of the show's most bizarre, creative, and disconnected jokes yet, all while still feeling cohesive and tied together at the same time. The highlight for the episode is the joke in which Gumball and Darwin decide to mentally block out a phone call, causing a cascade of events that somehow ends with the two married to an alien and a man in school uniform hanging out near the couch. Likewise, Gumball's attempt to grab the television remote with his craft grappling device is thwarted by the wind from the universe falling apart.
The madness ends when the show stops being so elaborate with its setups and goes from something as simple as dangling the brothers' family off the deadly infamous bridge, somewhat suggesting that one does not need all the stuff in a world for a plot. Something that is simple gets the job done rather than directionless nonsense.
"The Vegging" is a ride from beginning to end, and even without its ominous ending indicating more is to come, the episode is an amazing standalone package that only gets better with every viewing.
Simply put, "The Faith" is beautiful. This episode is not only my favorite episode from this year or even Season 6 for that matter, it honestly contends as one of my favorite episodes in the entire series alongside gems such as "The Choices," "The Disaster" and "The Rerun," "The Origins," and "The Shell."
One of the most notable aspects of the episode is its slower pace relative to other entries in the series. The show's tried and true fast-paced absurdist comedy style is wonderful and all, but sometimes, it is nice to see the show slow itself down and give its viewers time to really allow everything to sink in. Rather than bombard the duration with gag after gag, the episode allows its atmosphere to be at the forefront.
There is a lovely orchestrated score present throughout most of the episode. The slow tempo helps to generate a sense of dread as well as hopelessness. The heavy emphasis on string instruments such as violin and viola really add to the feel of adventure and make the scope of the episode feel wider.
The black and white colors are used for obvious reasons, but the little visual nuance of the occasional flicker of static as if the footage was antique help to sell the idea of society regressing without Alan's altruism in a subtle way.
More noticeable than the atmosphere and how it encourages engrossing is the song "Life Ain't Perfect" at the end of the episode, easily the most iconic portion of it. Gumball has always had a core of theme of cynicism against optimism. Much of the humor indulges in cynicism and hedonism but buried beneath all that has always been an idealistic belief that keeps things from getting unbearably jaded. It is important to keep expectations low and to be wary of society, but it is also equally important to hope for the best in things, and "Life Ain't Perfect" captures that exquisitely.
The first bit of the song is packed with cynical lyrics dolled up in an upbeat and cheerful melody. Much of the hilarity comes from just how close it hits to home despite the animated exaggeration applied to it, which is typical for the show. However, the song's true power comes in its final part. After Alan complains about how that is doing nothing for his current state of mind, Gumball puts his hatred aside for a moment, and he and Darwin sing in a heartfelt manner about keeping a light shining even in the darkest of moments. The lyrics are beautiful, and the visuals that accompany them make the song a treasure.
Not only does the song give viewers who may be in a dark place an optimistic note to end on, but it also ends the one-sided struggle between Gumball and Alan with optimism. For the first time, Gumball and Alan are finally on the same page, and rather than cruelly yank that away, the episode ends this chapter of the show by beginning anew with friendship, only adding to the beauty of the song. The desire to see life through even with all the trials it throws toward one's way can really bring people together.
Real talk: the episode's timing couldn't have been more perfect on a personal note. I'm not going to bombard you with the details, but shortly after this episode aired, I entered pretty much the worst time of my life. Quite frankly, this year has been pretty bad. Having this episode around helped to reinforce some optimism when the circumstances forced me to be otherwise. At the end of the day, it's just a children's cartoon, but I'm grateful for the crew producing this episode at the right time with the right message. It made those days a little bit brighter.
...Just go watch "The Faith" again. It really is a quintessential Gumball experience.
The Closing Notes
Anyways, thanks for making it this far. I know this was a lengthy read, so hopefully I wasn't too boring. Tell me, what do you think? Anything that surprised you? What were some of your favorite episodes this year?
Special thanks to my younger sister who reviewed this before publication.
Blah blah blah nicole watterson blah
Well, that is all I have for now. Have a great day, and be sure to take care of yourself! :)