The Wattersons are distraught when they learn that all of their past actions have caught up to them. Now they must find a way to get the people of Elmore to drop their grievances against them or risk losing everything that they own – or worse.
The second season of Gumball has been interesting. I thought it got off to a slow start and that, while many of its later episodes were somewhat low-key, it was still a marked improvement over the first season. I admit that it took me a bit to get used to some of the new designs and voices, but the show’s writing stepped up to easily make amends for any losses on those fronts. Because of that, however, I’m not entirely sure why they decided to end the season on this note. It felt a bit dismissive of the fans. I’m sure that wasn’t their intent, but intent is always open to interpretation. It seemed as if the episode too easily brushed aside those who have complained about the change in art style while its sudden obsession with continuity, including the ending which made a mockery of it, comes off as a sting to people like me who called for continuity in order to give the show a bit more depth.
I get that Ben Bocquelet and the others felt that season one looked off. It did, and season two does look more polished. But this kind of professional animation tends to have a certain coldness to it. In season one, the characters seemed very cartoony. They had a ton of unique facial expressions and their movements were often quite literally all over the place. The designs for season two seemed less varied – faces seemed to be recycled more and the characters were usually stiffer. Don’t get me wrong, as I still love the look of season two and Gumball remains one of the best looking cartoons on television, but the people who feel that season one looked better have a legitimate argument. When the characters in this episode commented on how off they looked in season one, and then laughed it off like it was no big deal, it felt a bit condescending.
Personally, my umbrage was more for the continuity plot, as I’ve said. I care about this show. I care about these characters. I don’t like it when episodes don’t matter, because if the episodes don’t matter then there is no room for growth. How often have we seen Gumball and Penny declare their love for one another only to act like they’ve never spoken to each other in the next episode? The status quo is an enemy of growth. I’ve never taken it to the extremes this episode mocks – I’ve never complained about how Elmore magically gets repaired or how Gumball doesn’t get expelled – but things can’t always be forgotten. I know Cartoon Network UK is an entirely different beast, but if Adventure Time and Regular Show can have legitimate character development and occasional references to previous episodes, then why can’t Gumball? I greatly enjoyed many of the references that existed in this episode, such as when Darwin and Gumball shoved Mr. Small into an envelope to top the time they trapped him in a filing cabinet, so why can’t references like that exist in a normal episode outside the confines of this episode’s craziness?
If this episode is a genuine expression of the show’s disinterest in continuity, then I worry about season three. There’s been a whole lot of hype about Penny coming out of her shell and showing her true appearance, but unless things change, she’ll be right back in her shell in the next episode. Gumball isn’t a sketch comedy show. Characters can’t and shouldn’t be tossed around as props. They need to have some degree of permanence – some degree of remembrance. That’s how they grow and that’s how you reward the people who have become invested in the show. People care about Gumball. In season one, they hated how stupid he was portrayed in episodes like “The Goons” and “The Picnic”. They hated how he was emotionally or physically abused in episodes like “The Gi” or “The Robot”. They felt that way because they cared. They dared to care. I just hope that the show gives them reason to moving forward. We don’t know how many more seasons we’re going to get, but even if the status quo is some form of executive mandate cast down from the network, there has to be something that the show can do to show its fans that not everything has been for naught.
I am grateful, at least, that we are getting another season. This was a very dangerous episode to make, and had the show ended on this note, I would have been very unhappy. It wasn’t a bad episode in the grand scheme of things, as it had some great jokes and I really enjoyed all of the references; I was particularly fond of the fight between Hector and Kenneth, even if we barely got to see any of it before the Wattersons ran into their home. But a finale – a true finale – needs to leave the viewer content. I am reminded of Chowder’s finale, when we jumped some years into the future and saw that Chowder had become a successful chef and married Panini. A bit cliché, but it was a nice touch and it served to reward the fans. We got to see that, no matter how many times Chowder messed up, everything turned out well for him and he had a happy life. I can only hope that when the time comes for Gumball to end, I will watch its finale and feel the same way. Until then, I’m looking forward to season three.