The Amazing World of Gumball Recaps: “The Pressure” and “The Painting”

The Amazing World Of Gumball S01E05 The… by Yu-Gi-Oh-the-offical

“The Pressure” – B

In previous reviews, I mentioned missing the more low-key, easy-going pacing of the early seasons of The Amazing World of Gumball, but I have to admit that what I really miss is the childish interplay between the school kids. A lot. As The Amazing World of Gumball gets more satirical, poignant, direct, bold, and ambitious, it does begin to move away from this particular dynamic of its school kids being school kids – gossipy, confused, bossy, embarrassed, silly, immature, and awkward. Gumball will do a series of episodes that focus on each individual character in the class – a remarkably simple idea that not even The Simpsons has done – but it will sacrifice a lot of the specifics of the classroom setting as it reaches for loftier goals. Those goals are indeed worthwhile, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but these straight-forward, low-key, classmates-being-classmates stories are pretty fun in themselves.

I somewhat get why the made the move away from it though: Masami is usually the progenitor for the conflict, who is introduced here as the stuck-up, manipulative “mean girl” who always wants to be the best and have everything go her way. I will have a lot to say about Masami in the future. For right now though, it’s good enough to notice that she’s the one who takes “control” of the treehouse situation, changing the topic of conversation from the design of the treehouse to boys, and, in order to one-up the various girls’ make-believe boyfriends, sets her sights on Darwin and “forces” him to be her boyfriend. It’s really because she knows he’s easy to work, using her feminine wiles and his panicky sensitivity to maintain an appearance of them dating, just to win that first kiss. It’s all silly, basic stuff, but it’s the show’s easy-going, confident nature that keeps the episode moving.

At this point in the show, the Gumball/Penny relationship (or, more accurately, burgeoning relationship) is a bit of a weak point. Gumball being goofy and nervous in front of Penny has been one thing – the generic awkwardness of a young crush – but here, it feels like a lot of that awkwardness is forced to the side, such that Gumball and Penny come together relatively easily (and, even weirder, without a single other person, girl or boy, really saying anything about their mutual crush). This is mainly done so that it can lead to the point where Gumball and Darwin kiss each other unknowingly, off-screen, but that’s a flat resolution, especially since we don’t see it, and especially after “The Dress,” which really up’d the grossness of a Gumball/Darwin “connection,” way beyond what a kiss would do.

There are some other flaws here too. Darwin needing to come up for air in the pool is just a straight-up writer’s mistake. That Gumball, Darwin, and Tobias are on some kind of friendly-speaking level feels sudden, and while The Amazing World of Gumball is generally on-and-off with how Tobias and Gumball relate, seeing this so soon after “The Third” creates a weird whiplash feeling. The show is still in an “episodic” mode, so there’s some leeway here (The Amazing World of Gumball actively subverts ideas of episodic vs. serialized storytelling; in fact, it subverts and deconstructs storytelling in a whole bunch of ways, but we’re not quite at that point), but it still feels a bit off. Still, “The Pressure” makes the ridiculousness of the situation clear: the whole boys vs. girls dilemma is portrayed as stupid as it is merely by having Tobias and Banana Joe the “villains”. The strained writing and lack of a bigger “point” really holds it back. (I should mention that there is one section that feels a bit sharp: when Rocky mentions how when he opens up to women, this causes them to runaway. It’s a pretty brief but dark reveal, a shade of Gumball’s cynicism skills, but it’s really set up to contrast how other shows uses simplistic “just tell her how you feel!” advice to solve its problems. Here, Musami just manipulates the situation further. Gumball can be, and will be, more sincere and optimistic, but it will not suffer fools lightly – characters will have to commit to that mindset for the show to accept it.)

The Painting – A

And that’s pretty much what they do in “The Painting,” the first fantastic, fully-committed episode of The Amazing World of Gumball’s first season. It’s not a perfect episode. It’s a bit clunky at times, and some of the individual stories feel a bit out of whack, but Gumball’s first season’s inconsistency is actually used to its advantage here. Underneath all the hemming and hawing, the insanity and wacky behavior, Gumball does believe in an authenticity – a true affection towards its central family, despite its broken, dysfunctional nature. And what makes this work is that Anais is indeed being honest here, but also that The Wattersons aren’t simply an anomaly of brokenness. The Amazing World of Gumball makes it clear that the various characters in the world of the show are just as broken, ridiculous, and shitty as our central family, so who the hell are these random people to say how this family should be? Everyone has to live through the same nutty, cartoony world that makes or breaks these characters, and that makes “right, wholesome living” impossible.

There’s quite a lot going on in this episode, and those depths are along the outskirts, just underneath the surface if you know where to look. You’ll notice how Principal Brown immediately comes to the worst conclusion of Anais’ home life after seeing her painting, perhaps a commentary on how school officials overreact to student’s artistic and creative outputs. You’ll notice the constant dismissals of Anais’ objections, which feels both ageist and sexist – that the very creator of the artwork is never given a chance to explain herself. This is also supported by the general idea that Anais is the gifted one in the family, the smartest one with the best chance of success, yet for some reason her work is “art-splained” by others. Yeah, there’s a sense that the environment that Anais lives in may not be the most supportive of her gifts, but honestly, neither is the Amazing World itself. Gumball will do a lot of great work developing Anais, and the reactions to her and her abilities, but the fact that the show is already doing great work this early on provides it a stable foundation to build upon.

For Anais to thrive, Brown more or less guilts The Watterson into becoming a better family, but while we know that’s doomed to fail, we get to see why and how. Not everything is The Wattersons’ fault. Take for instance Richard’s story, who can’t even get through the automated door. It causes him to be late, and he’s immediately fired. Richard has absolutely no desire to work – he screams at Brown for nearly a minute at the mere suggestion – but he will do it for his daughter. That he failed isn’t so much because he’s too stupid to do it; it’s because the “world” literally is preventing him. Think this is an exaggeration? They make this entirely literal in a future episode, and oh boy will we get to that – but for now, understand that despite Richard’s idiocy and laziness, he does try. (In all honestly, The Amazing World of Gumball will have some… problems in how to make Richard work a lot story-wise, and we’ll talk about that a lot too when that comes up.)

Nicole’s story is, admittedly, a bit bland. It makes sense for her as a character, at this point in the show at least, a reflection of her prowess as the homemaker and the breadmaker, although I don’t think it’s clear that Nicole is the only one paying the bills at this point. She destroys the house partly to give her something to do after cleaning it to a spit-shine, and partly because she’s going crazy after being so bored with her situation of domesticity. (Gumball will push that point further later on.) The Mr. Small/Gumball/Darwin storyline splits the middle, with a number of soft but amusing bits in which Small tries to get the boys to focus their anger energy into different outlets, despite them not making sense or actually hurting the kids. The interpretive dance stuff is nonsensical, although Darwin is won over by it, and the paint scene is hilarious if only because the paint actually gets into the boys’ eyes. Mr. Small is an overwrought, ridiculous hippie character, but at the very least a portion of what he teaches does work, so he’s not wholly useless. The entire endeavor is useless, though: Anais finally gets to speak her mind, and she reveals that while, yes, her family has serious issues, she loves them unconditionally. And it’s sappy, but it’s earnest, and even she gets to join in the chaos of dysfunction as part of the Wattersons unit. Principal Brown may not understand it, but it’s not up to him. Anais is happy, and the Wattersons are happy, and that’s what matters.


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  1. #1 by Canais Young on September 4, 2017 - 10:07 pm

    >Gumball will do a series of episodes that focus on each individual character in the class – a remarkably simple idea that not even The Simpsons has done

    I never realized that, though The Simpsons has done episodes focused on someone from Lisa’s or Bart’s class (mostly, it’s Milhouse, Ralph Wiggum, Martin Prince, Nelson Muntz, and, to some extent, those three bullies who look high school aged, but were probably left back [Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney]), but mostly with Bart and/or Lisa present. As for the other kids: you’re right. They’ve never done it before, and if they tried now, given how crappy the show’s quality has gotten for the past…20 or so years…it wouldn’t do any good, as most have moved on to other shows (or stuck to just reliving the show’s glory days by watching reruns from seasons 1 to whenever The Simpsons started to suck [according to most fans, it’s between seasons 8 and 10, though there are some people who think season 11 is when it should have ended because of that “Behind the Music” parody episode that pretty much revealed that The Simpsons are cartoon actors and the show has gotten bad because of behind-the-scenes drama, bankruptcy, run-ins with the law, creative differences, studio executive meddling, etc). Sad that a show like The Simpsons wasted its potential like that. I thought Ivy League comedy writers were supposed to be smart.

    Anyway, back to Gumball (since that’s the closest thing we have to The Simpsons now)…nice review on The Pressure. I thought you wouldn’t like it because the plot felt kinda cliched and the show was still not there yet, but you gave me a reason to rewatch it (I mean, besides the fact that a later episode [“The Name”] would bring up Gumball and Darwin accidentally kissing each other and the two wanting that memory removed when Gumball’s Zach personality is trying to get rid of Gumball…or the fact that Molly the black dinosaur girl would still be in that treehouse in The Void, because this is the only episode prior to The Void where she had anything resembling an important role).

    The Painting, I kinda knew you would like that, since this is the first episode which establishes that the Wattersons are a loving, but somewhat dysfunctional family and someone outside of the family wants them to change or, in the case of “The Egg,” makes them feel bad about it. And yes, it is interesting to watch the part where Richard can’t physically get in the building to apply for a job knowing that the season 2 episode “The Job” has a reason for that.

  2. #2 by Admin on September 6, 2017 - 12:36 am

    It was something I realized when rewatching some early Simpsons episodes. Two whole classes of kids (Lisa’s and Bart’s) but at no point in the 22-plus years the show’s been on the air has those other kids ever registered as real characters (the black kid with the grey hair – what’s up with that?).

    The Pressure reminds me a lot of the mid-South Park years, with the stories of the kids getting involved in their crazy schoolyard shenanigans, before that show shot its load on its pseudo-intellectual politics. Gumball is a solid mix between The Simpsons and South Park, with a superb visual acumen that allows it to really mess with TV and animation conventions. But I’ll get to that in time as well.

    I also want to say that, even though I may not reply to every comment, I deeply appreciate every single reply! Always great to have some underlying support to my heavy-handed analysis.

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