“All In” begins with a flashback to Anne’s days at school with Sasha and Marcy. The three are called to the Principal’s office for pulling a prank. While Sasha and Marcy get off with a warning, Anne is assigned an essay on who she wants to be. As usual, Anne was a pushover, complying with the prank passively because her friends wanted her to. In assigning the paper, Principal Murphy tells Anne that you have to make the right choice rather than the easy one. In the present, Frobo busts everyone out of the dungeon, and they plunge to Earth as Andrias invades. Hop Pop recognizes some of Andrias’ forces as the giant herons who ate Sprig and Polly’s parents. The group is reunited with Anne’s parents and Mr. X, all of whom have been planning for Anne’s return and the invasion. Anne and Sasha choose their school as the base of operations. Meanwhile, Marcy is imprisoned in the Core but doesn’t realize it, as King Aldrich shows her around the fantasy world she’s always dreamed of. Andrias looks back on his friendship with Marcy as the Core praises him for finally redeeming himself. The Plantars cannot face the herons until they try to eat Anne’s parents; then, they spring into defensive action. As Marcy ventures further into her perfect world with abstractions of her friends, Sasha, Grime, Yunan, and Olivia storm the castle.
The Plantars knock Andrias’ collars off the herons and mesmerize them using the Plantar Family Hunting Dance, AKA the one invented by Leaf in Andrias’ youth. Aboard the castle-ship, Olivia and Yunan distract the robots so Sasha and Grime can confront the Core. Andrias challenges Anne to single combat, offering to call off the entire invasion if she wins. Anne rises to the occasion, facing the King as the world watches. Grime charges at the Core to buy Sasha time, but this has disastrous consequences, as Darcy slices his arm off. In the Core, Marcy realizes nothing is real when Sasha and Anne say they want whatever she wants. She rejects the dream world and refuses to join the Core. On Earth, Sprig drops Leaf’s letter, and Mr. X decodes it with his spy glasses. Sprig rides one of the herons to Andrias and reads the letter to him, getting through to him at last. Darcy notices this development just as it has Sasha subdued. This moment of distraction is all Sasha needs as Grime kicks her sword to her. She rises and slices the Core from Marcy’s head. Andrias gives up the fight, allowing Anne to plow through his circuits, revealing that he’s mostly robotic after all these years. He tells Anne to save Marcy, and she goes back into the castle to find her friends. The team decides to return to Amphibia and sort things out while Anne’s parents stay and promise to tell the girls’ parents they’re safe. In Amphibia, all seems well as Lady Olivia announces the big victory, and Anne tells Sprig they can face whatever change comes together. However, an ominous red moon surges towards Amphibia in the distance.
Wow, what an episode! I had no idea this week’s episode would be this long or that it was directly preceding the series finale. It makes sense; having two hour-long episodes at the end for a total of 18 episodes amounts to the same runtime as having 20 half-hour episodes. I love how they bookend this story with Anne’s memories at school. It illustrates just how far she’s come as a character, and I love getting background information in this show. The struggle “All In” highlights for Anne is relatable to me, as I’ve struggled my whole life to tell people no or stand up for myself. We also get a great deal of backstory for the Plantar family in this episode, as it’s finally confirmed that Leaf is their ancestor. We also learn what happened to Sprig and Polly’s parents, an event the show has only subtly hinted at or tiptoed around before.
This is where one of my favorite things about this show, and “All In” specifically, comes in: the relationships. Amphibia does such a great job of developing relationships between its characters, both central and minor, that it leaves me thinking other shows could learn something from it. The big group hug between the Boonchuys, Plantars, and their allies nearly got me teary thinking about how far these characters have come. But even a character with relatively little screen time like Leaf can be an integral and satisfying part of this huge conflict. The show had me watery-eyed again when Sprig’s reading of Leaf’s letter transitioned into her writing it. Leaf has only been heavily involved in one previous episode, “The Core and the King,” but her message to her friend and seeing her grow old and make a life with a family was just magical. Leaf’s words for Andrias serve as a significant theme for Amphibia and the message of this penultimate episode: to live life openly, trusting people and loving them without regret. This and Anne’s speech near the end brought to mind Harry Potter telling Voldemort that he feels sorry for him. Like in that scenario, Andrias has shut out any love or joy he may have found in life. His father’s overbearing control in his youth is an explanation but not an excuse or justification for his actions. I also appreciate that he knows that, though. The show makes no excuses for him as he shouts that Leaf’s message is too late after everything that has transpired. I thought from the beginning there was something soft in Andrias that he was suppressing, and it’s satisfying not only to be right but to see it handled so well. The other big idea in “All In” is the concept of change. Disney has been tackling this theme a lot lately, from blockbusters like Frozen II and Toy Story 4 to Tangled: The Series. It is sad to think about Marcy being separated from her friends and Anne from the Plantars. But Anne’s assertion that no distance or time can sever these bonds was sweet.
The designs in this episode are killer. King Aldrich with the Core’s eyes is a disturbing image I never knew I needed to see. I’m not sure which was more menacing, this visage looming over Andrias encouragingly or shouting at Marcy in anger. Although it’s a short little scene, I loved seeing how the friendship between Andrias and Marcy grew, no doubt reminding him of Leaf and Barrel. His desperation to save his one remaining friend manifested itself in harmful and bizarre ways, like making Marcy into Darcy, the Core host body. Creepy beyond words. There are also some gorgeous shots and clever transitions, like when Anne charges at Andrias, and it shifts to Sasha slashing at Darcy. The animators are throwing everything at the wall, and I’m living for it. What are we going to do after next week? I’ve got other shows to watch, like Young Justice and The Owl House, but both visually and thematically, Amphibia is in a league of its own. Although I couldn’t find a good image to illustrate this, “All In” sports quite a bit of anime influence. The design of Andrias’ armor and especially the sounds it makes gave me Evangelion vibes. I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that the crew was inspired by shows like Attack on Titan or Ghost in the Shell.
“All In” is a magnificent episode and an excellent build-up for what’s to come. I hope characters like Teri and Dr. Jan get to do more next week because the sense of community and friendship among the characters is one reason I love this series so much. The story, voice acting, and animation are above reproach in the lead-up to what should be an emotional finale.