“The Cooler” Review

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Original Airdate: December 4, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

I had actually started to miss Flame Princess’s character during this point in season six. I definitely don’t love Flame Princess by any means, but I had grown fond of her over the course of season four and five, and knew that it was inevitable that she wouldn’t be appearing as much. It is nice to see, however, that her star appearance in this episode has absolutely nothing to do with Finn, which is exactly the type of spotlight I wanted for her character. And it doesn’t disappoint, developing on the already established dynamic between FP and Princess Bubblegum.

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The cooling of the Fire Kingdom provides for some pretty funny interactions between its citizens, which is a given, as no Cole Sanchez/Andy Ristaino episode is without its laughs. Among of the funniest of these citizens is the guy who can no longer fit in his pants and the two brothers who tragically merged bodies with each other. The cooled down kingdom in general looks pretty awesome; we’re so used to seeing the Fire Kingdom engulfed in red, orange, and yellow, but The Cooler provides for a more subdued landscape, shadowed with gray and blue color schemes. It’s a nice shift from what’s expected from this location and helps set the mood for the rest of the episode.

One of the most noticeable changes in Flame Princess’s character is how she’s drawn to look more mature and adultlike. Of course, this is more-or-less a complement of Cole Sanchez’s storyboards, as Andy Ristaino resorts to a squishier, more rounded depiction of the character in the second half of the episode, but Sanchez’s efforts still pull through as effective. I like seeing her more competent and comfortable in her role as a ruler, and it’s the first time we truly get to see her from a political viewpoint. In fact, the entire conflict in the episode could be interpreted as a political standpoint, and while I previously mentioned back in Ocarina that I thought AT should never incorporate politics, I think it’s handled in this one relatively open-ended. Politics can be especially tricky with any show aimed at children, just because any topic that leans one way or another can easily come off as propaganda and fail to be challenging in the slightest. OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is another great series currently airing on Cartoon Network, but one of its episodes suffered from the reasons aforementioned. The Cooler cleverly presents the conflict based on how each character featured would act in a situation that could possibly imply war, and feels much more in touch with Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum’s behavior rather than trying to force a direct message that seems out of character.

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It’s also pretty cool to see Flame Princess’s family back again! They had previously made a brief appearance in Jake Suit, but they get a true chance to shine in this one. I really love all of their quirky personalities; Aunt Agnes and Randy are two likable dimwits, and Flint is enjoyable in his hot-headed personality. Flint somewhat represents the side of society that simply thinks destroying/invading other bodies of land is the easiest solution in times of crisis, though it is pretty cool to see that this idea is not immediately turned down as completely irrational. Of course, Flint is hot-headed and beyond reason, but Flame Princess states that she’s prepared for any type of action if it means protecting her kingdom, which I thought was actually kind of nice to see that violence isn’t immediately shut down. FP hasn’t been opposed to violence in the past, and it makes sense that she wouldn’t be opposed to it in the present either. Yet, she has grown to be more intelligent, and knows how helpful Princess Bubblegum could be as an ally. Her desire to do what is best for her kingdom also helps to connect her character to Princess Bubblegum later on, showing that the two aren’t so different in motivations. Really adds depth to her character. Contradicting intelligence, however, is Cinnamon Bun, who seems to be back to being slightly incompetent in this episode. It’s strange, because I guess you could attribute this to the cooling process, but later episodes have showcased CB outside of the Fire Kingdom and he still retains his newfound intellectual abilities. I’ll let it go for now, though, because it at least makes sense in the present moment.

The connection between Flame Princess and Bubblegum is presented quite interestingly in this one. Keeping in touch with Flame Princess’s flat-out honesty, I enjoy how she tells PB upfront that she genuinely does not consider her a friend and that she merely wants to keep things professional and non-personal. And who could blame her? Though FP originally went along with PB’s experimentation in Earth & Water, she later discovered how untrustworthy PB can be and quite “devious” at that. Princess Bubblegum doesn’t really do anything to disprove this theory during her meeting with Flame Princess, as she uses manipulation and the promise of friendship as a means of trying to get FP to let her guard down. Of course, this fails, though PB would later use this manipulative behavior in a different way once the two come across the Sleeping Fire Giants.

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The backstory of the Fire Kingdom is briefly explained through Flame Princess’s very first song, A Kingdom from a Spark. It’s all cool stuff, and adds significance, as well as great power, to the identity of the Sleeping Fire Giants… I only wish the song had been a bit less awkward. Yeah, I’m not really a fan of it. Jessica DiCicco’s singing voice isn’t awful by any means, though the tune of the song itself isn’t really presented in a catchy or interesting way, and the lyrics just feel like a jumble of mismatched sentences that don’t even really deserve to be in a song sequence. I think I would’ve liked this bit better as spoken word, as it would make for a less uncomfortable experience overall. Though the song is there primarily to distract FP from Bubblegum’s tinkering in the background.

I think Bubblegum’s fears and paranoia of Flame Princess possibly using the Fire Giants to blow up the kingdom are very much well-defined and reasonable, even though she is clearly wrong and beyond her boundaries. Though, isn’t that kind of cool as well? Bubblegum is obviously shown in the wrong for dismantling a weapon that could potentially destroy the Candy Kingdom. Again, the episode does its damnedest to spread across a message that exemplifies the importance of trust, rather than the disregard for potential violence. Flame Princess would likely never consider the destruction of the Candy Kingdom because of her ties to Princess Bubblegum, and even taking into consideration the feelings of Cinnamon Bun and his relations to the Kingdom. PB put herself and her kingdom in an even further state of jeopardy by simply not allowing her fears to subside. Though again, this isn’t really totally despicable for PB herself. She cares for her kingdom and wants to make sure it is in the greatest state possible, even if it means that her methods of protection become self-destructive.

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What brings this episode down a slight notch is the entirely stupid way the Sleeping Fire Giants are disposed of. Like, there’s the somewhat believable way it’s carried out when Princess Bubblegum uses her shield to block FP’s shots, but there’s moments where Flame Princess COMPLETELY misses PB and knocks two Fire Giants out instead. I get that she lost control of her anger, but this form of recklessness just made her seem completely oblivious. I have trouble that Flame Princess would be careless enough to destroy the one thing that she went on and on about its importance.

Bringing it back down to the more rational side of things, Bubblegum finally comes clean and reveals that she was the one behind the cooling process, which upsets FP. For the longest time, Princess Bubblegum has looked at her tendency to spy on others and her manipulative attributes as mere quirks and nothing more, though this is the first time someone is directly calling her out on being a shitty person. PB likely has acknowledged in the past that she may be going too far with her invasiveness, though she always had the reassurance that everything she did was for her Kingdom. Only now is she realizing that the consequences of her actions not only cut off potential allies, but potential friends as well. FP was willing to give Princess Bubblegum the benefit of the doubt and to trust her, but PB has become so disconnected and out of touch with people that she couldn’t even manage to be respectful and trustworthy. It’s this realization that causes PB to allow one Sleeping Fire Giant to remain, in hopes that Flame Princess will understand where Princess Bubblegum is coming from. Honestly, I think PB is let off a bit too easily, and I think it would have been slightly more effective if Flame Princess just passively let Bubblegum go, leaving her with her own fears and anxieties of the future, but without direct validation of safety. Granted, I think Flame Princess’s more understanding side is used to her advantage, as she finally reveals her first name: Phoebe. It mirrors Bubblegum’s question earlier in the episode, and shows that Flame Princess is willing to consider Bubblegum her friend, if she merely chooses an honest path over one of deceit and shadiness. And look at that, she got Ice King in on the whole thing too! Thought that was a pretty hilarious reveal, by the way. Though would Ice King logically be able to produce frost in the heated atmosphere of the Fire Kingdom? It’s up for debate.

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The episode does leave off centering around PB’s lingering feeling of discomfort, and it finally has her coming to terms with her invasive nature. She cuts the line completely to her security system, with a promise of never returning to her spying nature. I think it’s a pretty effective moment in PB’s developmental path, and it really doesn’t come across as too irrational for her character. It doesn’t downplay the importance of general surveillance, but shows that PB is starting to realize that she doesn’t need to keep an eye on every individual member of her kingdom at all times. Finn and Jake are free to serenade each other with the Food Chain song as much as they like, without PB watching their every move. It’s a huge jump for her character, and though she chooses to make the right decision, the latter half of the season would prove that this choice may have been too little, too late. Even if Peebs is willing to change, it will take a lot for her Kingdom to notice and accept these changes.

The Cooler isn’t perfect, but it’s thoroughly entertaining and capitalizes on a truly interesting dynamic. Again, I didn’t think this episode tried to preach anything too heavy on the political side, as it focused more on showcasing how its two lead characters treat honesty and respect. This would be Flame Princess and Princess Bubblegum’s last episode interacting with each other, though it’s a perfect time for their characters to separate, as Bubblegum becomes consumed with her own identity crisis. Flame Princess is the most brutally honest character to face off with Bubblegum’s shady nature, and The Cooler uses this conflict to its advantage. It’s Flame Princess’s only star role in season six, and though that’s somewhat of a sad thought, I think her presence is used in the best way possible, and helps her to develop by diverting her attention away from Finn.

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Favorite line: “I’m PB! I spy on everybody. No big D!”


“Dentist” Review

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Original Airdate: November 28, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

Never in a million years would I think that a trip to the dentist could go hand-in-hand with military service, but Adventure Time continues to defy my expectations. Dentist is definitely one of the most uniquely clever premises in the entire show, and makes for a pretty enjoyable episode as well. Granted, there are aspects that weigh it down, but none that truly squander its strongest elements.

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I should first start off by saying I have no trouble believing that Finn would develop a cavity. That boy barely bathes as it is, you expect me to believe that he brushes his teeth two to three times a day, let alone at all? His fear and denial of going to the dentist, or as the episode simply puts it, “going dentist,” is something I think that anyone can relate to. A typical tooth appointment is painful enough, but being left behind by your friends in a hole with a pile of rotten butter and snakes? Sounds absolutely brutal. I do think the episode presents the actual issue in an appropriate way. Bubblegum’s statement of “Finn, this is literally serious,” kind of puts into perspective how untreated cavities can actually become a much more urgent ailment than one would expect. They can legitimately cause you to die. I really don’t think kids’ shows emphasize that enough. Though PB and Jake do leave Finn in the state that he was exactly trying to avoid, I do appreciate the sympathy and help that Jake attempts to provide beforehand. There’s that nice little moment between the brothers when Finn crashes through the Tree Fort, and Jake lightly pats his head sympathetically. Sweet moment between the bros.

Upon his descent into his true destination, he finds himself in an ant military base, which is a really fun and humorous setting for the episode. Andy Daly and Lucy Lawless provide some great voice work as the drill sergeant-esque commanders, and Finn proves to be just as entertaining, by being partially confused but also going along with the whole shtick. The entire concept of dentist is so convoluted, but it also almost makes sense: dental care is exchanged for brief military service. I guess this is Adventure Time’s version of insurance? Also love the goofy characterization that Steve Wolfhard specializes with when it comes to Finn’s character; it can make Finn look downright brainless in an episode like Lemonhope – Part 1, but it also can add a childlike charm to his character, as Dentist aims at executing. The repeated dialogue of “my tooth hurts,” provided for a decent laugh.

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Tiffany (Oiler) also returns in this episode, and I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of Tiffany, as I’ve mentioned in the past. I think his long-winded monologues are more tiresome than funny, and his insistent urge to constantly shout his lines can get a bit grating on the ears. The latter doesn’t really come into play this time around, though the former is emphasized to extreme lengths. Don’t think any of his speeches hit home in this one, though I think his presence is definitely more tolerated when working off of Finn, rather than Jake. There’s an interesting connection of jealousy, as well as Tiffany simply not understanding Finn’s relationship to Jake. Tiffany pretty much just thinks that Finn stole Jake away from him, and probably doesn’t realize that the two are literally brothers. I also enjoy how Finn isn’t really vindictive or hateful towards Tiffany, he’s just pretty genuinely pissed off by him throughout the entire experience. Even when Tiffany attempts to stab him, Finn is just like, “dammit dude, can’t you wait till we’re done with our duties?” It’s hilarious and kind of sweet to see just how passive and cordial Finn can be even with people who hate his guts. There’s also a great moment where Finn interacts with the Finn Sword, and the tiny Finn within the sword refers to himself as “Finn Mertens.” This is the first mention of Finn’s last name since Finn the Human, and even then it was used by Farmworld Finn and not by Finn himself. I think this is a nice subtle reference to the fact that Finn had actually learned things about himself through his wish that the Lich never existed. Afterall, Jake never retconned the wish that Finn made, as he simply wished that the two would safely return to Ooo. Finn had likely subconsciously learned his last name without even realizing it, just as he subconsciously developed the skill of using his flute. Nice detail.

The action sequence in which Finn and Tiffany fight off the worms is just awesome. Tom Herpich never fails when it comes to unique camera angles and dynamic action shots, and there are plenty of those here. Watching Finn quite seamlessly slice through giant worms was great, providing for some pretty violent sequences, but none that prove to be overly gruesome. The bit where Tiffany nearly allows Finn to fall into the worm’s mouth provides for some decent drama; I actually like the side of Tiffany that is soft-spoken and morally confused, and it’s cool to see that he actually chooses the right of non-involvement instead of directly causing Finn to die. Of course, it doesn’t justify his actions, but it’s a step up from his usual vengeful behavior, and it’s nice to see that he’s still a deeply troubled adolescent who clearly does blame Finn for all of his problems. I really thought this was the best example of Tiffany’s turmoil being shown in full detail, and one of his better moments at that. Of course, he does get his comeuppance for all the wrongful things he’s done when Finn knocks him into the Worm Queen’s mouth. Though, I call bullshit with the way it was presented. Finn is launched into a stalactite, and then falls sideways into the wall and bumps Tiffany. It looks far too awkward for me to buy into.

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Finn does get a happy ending as his teeth are all replaced. Though, I always thought this bit was odd: they replace all of his teeth except the one that’s missing on the top? It’s kind of a silly idea, though I wouldn’t really want to see Finn with all of his teeth as it is, and God forbid that Cartoon Network would have to create a Finn action figure with a whole set of teeth. It is cool to see that Finn does show a bit of sadness at the thought of Tiffany’s demise. Even with everything that Tiffany put him through, Finn still deeply sympathizes with the lad and wanted things to work out for the better. The two would later reunite, in what results in more-or-less the same outcome. The ending itself was cute, as the Candy Kingdom citizens celebrate Finn’s return, knowing that he would be perfectly okay in the end. Only he can’t talk about it, because there are fly spies everywhere. Fly spies!

Dentist is good fun. I think it boasts a pretty strong story and has some solid action sequences and a quirky environment to carry it through. Granted, Tiffany is still pretty annoying, and weighs down the episode just a bit. Though, I thought his interactions with Finn were enough to justify his presence in the episode, and add a bit of poignancy to his character. But overall, Adventure Time makes for one of the most enjoyable dentist visits possible, even if that’s not saying much.

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Favorite line: “A common mistake—you were expected to arrive with snacks and a flashlight. Either way, you’re here.”

“Jake the Brick” Review

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Original Airdate: November 26, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne

Jake the Brick, like Is That You?, is a concept that just sounds incredibly nonsensical on paper. I mean, Jake shapeshifts into a brick? That’s the best idea they could come up with? Jake the Brick actually derives from a game of exquisite corpse that Tom Herpich doodled up during a writers’ meeting, and Kent and the crew found it so humorous that they decided to make an entire episode out of it. Yet, the idea of Jake being a brick as the main story of an episode is a mere farce; the episode is really about Jake simply narrating the life of a bunny, and how it interacts with its environment. This story sounds even more boring, but it’s executed in such a way that I think is just brilliant. This is Kent Osborne’s first solo-board, and likely his best episode of all time.

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The beginning of the episode is likely one of my all-time favorite AT moments. Finn walking through various areas in the Grass Lands, while we’re treated to some absolutely lovely backgrounds (this episode is chock full of ‘em) and Tim Kiefer’s chill score in the background is the very definition of zen. Reminds me of those lo-fi videos on YouTube that play nice electro-jazz music while a looped AT video rolls in the background. The atmosphere is pure bliss, and it’s always fun to just see Finn breathe and relax in his environment. Despite his anxieties and personal issues, he really does embody the playful, laidback teen that we’ve all come to love so much. In addition to that, he even has his own little motif going on in this one, as he continuously attempts to toss various items into a trash can, though fails at doing so. It could be tied back into the overall theme of failure followed by an ultimately satisfying outcome, but I just like to think that it gives Finn his own simplistic conflict to get through. And just like the somewhat mundane issue presented in the episode, Finn’s unexpected success in the end is just as rewarding.

When coming across Jake, it’s pretty clear our lovable dog friend is in some type of mood, and it borders on the existential side. If Jake was ever shown in partake in some kind of weird, ambitious midlife crisis, I think this would be the greatest example of such a thing. It’s hard to say what exactly Jake wants to experience, as I don’t think his silly desire to be a brick in a wall is something he considered on a surface level. As he states later, “Who cares about being a brick in a wall of a fallen-down shack? There’s something bigger than that, and the bunny has answers.” We all know how calm and welcoming Jake is when it comes to death, and I feel that Jake the Brick finally has him come to terms with his own fascination with the great beyond, as he acknowledges that life is much more than just waiting on the entire world to perish. And for Jake, that’s huge!

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There’s something about Osborne’s take on the characters that just always feels incredibly sweet to me. Osborne really seems to capture the non-cynical nature of the AT world to a tee; I thought it was absolutely adorable how upset and worried BMO is for Jake, along with the little pat on the head that Finn gives him, and the fact that Finn is so impressed and captivated by Jake’s narration that he puts it on air for all to hear. Of course, this could have so easily turned into a “get rich fast” scheme, or an opportunity for Finn to embarrass Jake, but these characters are much too caring and compassionate for such a behavior, and Kent is very much aware of that.

The beginning of Jake’s narration encapsulates more of those delectable backdrops I mentioned earlier. The shift from daytime, to evening, to nighttime beautifies the entire environment. The atmosphere in general is quite mellow, as John DiMaggio reads off a smooth and relaxed description of the woodland area around him. DiMaggio himself should have won some type of award for his role in this episode; he embodies everything that shows like Planet Earth and The Blue Planet set out to do, by showing off nature’s wonders, with a competent, cool voice at the helm. Animation in general is a great medium to tackle such an idea, and I really haven’t seen any other show carry out an idea like this the way Adventure Time does. Granted, I’ve seen spoofs and parodies of such documentary series, though none that are as earnest and dedicated as Jake the Brick attempts to be. And the cinematic moments in these bits are great, using slow fades to transition into some unique, soothing shots.

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As the night continues into a harsher rain, Jake keeps his cool as he continues to narrate the journey of a bunny, with dozens of Ooo citizens now listening in. It’s both hilarious and undeniably sweet that all of these various random characters would listen in to hear Jake talk about a bunny, but it is really nice to see all these various people who are so different in many ways have some sort of common interest, all tied back to our main character. Without even trying or knowing it, Jake has brought together so many people with the simple power of his words. Jake believes that secluding himself as a brick will help to show him the meaning of life, though he’s already proven said meaning by connecting to the people around him in outstanding ways. There’s so many great callbacks here that it would be redundant to mention every single one of them, so I’ll just call out my favorites:

  • Really loved seeing Lady and T.V. playing cards together. T.V. is pretty clearly a homebody, and I get the feeling that Lady embraces that and looks upon him without judgement.
  • Sweet P’s first reappearance since Escape From the Citadel, and his cute little jammies.
  • Colonel Candy Corn listening in with a full globe of Earth in his quarters. Just how old is this guy?
  • Rattleballs rebuilding his motherfuckin’ bros. I would love if this army of Rattleballses came into play in the finale.
  • Abracadaniel having a “Buff Wizards” magazine next to his exercising bike. They’re not even being subtle here.
  • Lemonhope’s wild adventure on an eagle.
  • Betty doing research in a cave with the letters “M+M+S” written on a piece of paper. Great foreshadowing.

The music and visuals during Jake’s narration are also just splendid. Love the uplifting little acoustic guitar tune that plays as the beavers assist the bunny, and the cute animals in general are all just so charming. Also, props to see the sea lard back in action. The lard species takes a big step in prominence this season.

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The ending that ties it all together is also really nice. I love just how extremely invested these citizens get to the point where they’re all wearing “I ♥ Bunny” t-shirts. As a viewer, I could never fully understand the tensity behind the bunny’s situation, though the way everyone reacts to it really draws you in. They care about this one bunny so much that it effectively makes the viewer care about it as well. And, through it all, Jake realizes that his lifelong ambition just simply isn’t worthwhile. There’s tons of life out there and it’s time to experience it just like this one bunny. In the wildness of Ooo, it’s nice to see something so uncomplicated having such a positive impact on this world.

I think Jake the Brick is just terrific. It’s so calming, cool, and enjoyable, and creates an atmosphere unlike any other episode to date. Granted, it’s not an absolute person favorite, but it does everything so well that I have to commend it regardless. It has beautiful scenery and music, features incredible voice acting from John DiMaggio, is overall just a thoroughly pleasant experience, and checks up on most of our favorite characters, some of whom we haven’t seen in quite some time. This episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Short Format Animation, and I can’t think of a better standalone episode from this season to win such a category.

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Favorite line: “No, man, bricks don’t stay in touch!”

“Is That You?” Review

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Original Airdate: November 25, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan

Looking at Is That You? from its premise alone, it easily could have tanked. A quasi-clip show episode that once again defies the status quo by returning Prismo to his former state and centered around a wildly convoluted and barely understandable story created by Jesse Moynihan? Yeah, this one just sounds like a dud on paper, but one that is actually quite awesome in execution. Really proves just how successfully Adventure Time is able to pull off any type of story, no matter how cliched or ridiculous it might sound.

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As for Prismo’s revival itself, I’m not sure that it’s actually entirely necessary. I mean, Prismo appears about three more times in the series (one of which is a flashback), and Crossover is the only episode where he contributes to the actual story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Prismo, but I wish his revival actually played a bigger part in the grand scheme of things. It seems more like a copout when characters in this series are brought back simply for the sake of being brought back, with the most prominent example being Root Beer Guy. Though, as I mentioned, there’s an episode like Crossover that absolutely cannot exist without his presence, so I guess I’m contradicting my own point. And, the way he’s actually revived in this episode seems completely in line with something that Prismo would do/plan. Get the feeling Jesse really understands and enjoys Prismo’s character.

Prismo also finally gets a proper memorial service, and unlike how Billy’s death wasn’t acknowledged for an entire span of a season, this gap of time actually feels like it makes sense. Jake isn’t one who takes to death too lightly and would rather stay in denial than to actually deal with his close friend passing away. The service is certainly emotional for Jake, but it’s once again presented in such a goofy and hilarious way that it avoids being too lamentable. Adventure Time has this really great way of making light of darker situations, though it (usually) never feels tasteless or awkwardly placed. The way Finn and Jake send off Prismo is likely exactly how Prismo would want to be remembered.

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I think it’s a given that any show that has at least 300 episodes would have a clip show or a recap episode at some point, and Adventure Time has done both, while cleverly subverting tropes and never actually hitting on cliches. Jake’s time-lapsed self recreates some of his all-time best moments, including everything burrito, Bacon Pancakes, and his techno-tuned dance moves from Power Animal. The best part is that the episode actually recycles the exact poses and animation from said episodes, which can really make for some hilarious night-and-day scenes. It’s also quite endearing; just look at that uncomfortably wonky shot of Jake saying “tough boysss!” from Crystals Have Power and compare it to Jesse’s mostly stellar work now. He’s really come a long way since the beginning. The moments themselves are a funny tribute to some of Jake’s greatest hits, and even funnier is that each sequence ends with Jake fucking exploding. It’s a gag that never truly gets old, and it’s even more enjoyable to watch Finn go from being absolutely terrified from such an occurrence to being totally numb to the whole situation.

Speaking of which, it’s nice to see Finn getting some action once again (though not in the Breezy sense)! He had major appearances in the past ten or so episodes, like Ocarina and Ghost Fly, but this feels like the first time in a while that we’re seeing things through his perspective once more. There’s that great shot as he wakes up from his nightmare and notices the now browned thorn on his hand, reminding us and himself that his physical and metaphorical scars still remain very much in tact. Though the episode doesn’t really focus too much on Finn’s own baggage, as he’s more preoccupied with the wellbeing of his brother.

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And booooy, is Jake’s journey a doozie. It’s an Inception style trek through space and time that feels almost impossible to follow entirely. Essentially, the present version of Jake takes the place of Prismo’s resting spot, where he’s left to sleep before Finn wakes him up, assuring that the present Jake is kept alert while the past version of Jake once again takes his place in the bed, so current Finn can then approach the past Finn and stop him from waking past Jake up, assuring that the two will still be intact even after Prismo’s reincarnation. And if you had trouble following that, believe me, so did I. But the great part is that I don’t really care that I don’t fully understand what’s going on. Finn and Jake, and even Prismo, aren’t even sure they comprehend their surroundings, which is reassuring from an audience perspective and kind of just helps us to enjoy the journey regardless, which is a ton of fun.

The backgrounds in this one are LUSCIOUS. I could’ve sworn from the various staircase-style layers that Derek Ballard actually had some sort of part in designing the backgrounds for this one, but per usual, it’s Chris Tsirgiortis and Derek Hunter, who, also per usual, do a magnificent job. These backdrops aren’t especially complicated in nature, though their lush, painted color schemes and simple, boxed layout make them really aesthetically pleasing. I totally don’t agree with the notion that Adventure Time is the best show to watch while high, because I feel like that undermines its quality even during sobriety, but even then, this is the perfect episode in that category. It’s calming, cool, and bizarre in all the right ways, and really captures the more chill side of Jesse’s trippy writing style.

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Speaking of which, Moynihan also squeezes in some decent philosophy. Jake is mostly used as an observer in this one, but in a way that’s quite enjoyable. I love all of his little observations, especially his acknowledgement of, “what if the world was just some goof’s dream? That would be dumb.” Dunno about everyone else, but I always thought that touched on the ongoing belief that Adventure Time would end up just being one big dream sequence, which, as this episode states, would be incredibly stupid. Glad the audience isn’t the only one to think so. I also believe Jake thinking out loud is cool because it provides for some rare introspective moments from his character. Though it feels a little too eloquently put for Jake to state, his monologue during the Lich sequence is just great.

“I remember feelin’ like someone had peeled a layer away from my brain, and my reality was no longer anchored to any point of reference, and I had to fight to keep from being crushed under the weight of an unforgiving new paradigm of ultimate reality.”

Never would have thought those words would come out of Jake’s mouth, but it really just shows how in tune to his surroundings that Jake is. Though he’s easily distracted and somewhat absent minded, Jake really does soak in everything he possibly can when he’s invested in particular situations. The Lich aspect of the clip show is also a great reminder that the Lich is still very much alive, even if he’s subdued. Adventure Time has these great little moments sprinkled throughout seasons 6, 7, and 8 to remind us of just how evil the Lich is, even if he isn’t actively cognitive.


And of course, there’s also Prismo, who set up the entire plan. As always, Kumail Nanjiani does just a super job of portraying his character, and he may just be one of my favorite voice actors in the entire series! He captures the whimsy, charm, and detached nature of Prismo’s character all in one tone, and it always feels like he’s putting his all into Prismo even if he doesn’t have to emote much. The connection between Jake and Prismo is as strong as ever, and even Prismo and Finn form a more heartwarming connection. I love Finn acknowledging that he and Prismo aren’t truly close friends, though they just simply have a strong mutual respect for each other. I think we all know that type of person in real life, and Finn sums it up quite nicely. The icing on the cake is the ending, when Finn essentially kills himself to help to revive Prismo. In a long stance of stagnation in Finn’s life, I think this is just the kind of action that truly shows how heroic he remains. Even with his aforementioned scars, Finn is still willing to put others before himself, even if it means possibly sacrificing his own being. Granted, I think a lot of people could look into this in a much darker perspective, but I don’t think Finn willingly almost ending his life relates back to his own depressed feelings. He simply realizes that Prismo once took a bullet for him, and wants to repay that favor, and he’s rewarded in the best way possible: with a sick new sword. The Finn Sword may be my favorite sword in the entire series; it’s polished, clean, and wholesome, just like Finn himself! I think it’s the perfect visual representation of Finn as a character, and has possibly the biggest effect on the actual story out of all of Finn’s swords, aside from the grass blade. It’s a terrific welcoming back ceremony for the Pris-man.

This one’s just sheer awesome. It takes advantage of everything it has going for it, and though it has some aspects that could have easily come across as pretentious or even cliched, they’re presented in the absolute strongest and most unique ways possible. This is Jesse’s second solo-board in the series, and it fairs much, much better than Something Big. While complicated, Is That You? boasts a thoroughly cohesive story that brings back a very enjoyable character, and celebrates some of Jake the Dog’s greatest moments. And, in a bomb of episodes that goes out of its way to celebrate Jake’s character, this is quite the spectacular tribute.

Favorite line: “These picks were made by our friend to be mouth-loved!”

“Everything’s Jake” Review

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Original Airdate: November 24, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone

The Futurama Reunion Special – er, I mean, Everything’s Jake is a relatively enjoyable episode the centers around a wildly creative premise. Granted, I don’t think it’s a story that is executed in the funniest or most entertaining way possible; for an episode that utilizes Magic Man as an instigator of the main conflict, the stakes feel generally low. Though, it has its shining moments, mostly on a visual aspect.

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I do like how Magic Man is used in a similar way in which he appeared in All the Little People. He sets up the main conflict, though he has virtually no role in the rest of the episode. His riddle in this one is as follows:

“The waffle doll shall fall

Lest you eat the yellow dough.”

It’s probably his most nonsensical brain teaser to date, though it’s pretty obvious what its message is: unless Jake eats the yellow dough (a bagel?), the waffle doll seen within the store in his belly will continue to fall, due to his stomach quakes. It’s notable as well that the doll within the store is the only thing NOT yellow, or any variation of the color.

And this episode is certainly swamped with the color yellow, but in a surprisingly pleasant way. The Jake city itself is pretty damn detailed, and I appreciate this was fleshed out in such a way that makes it feel relatively huge. It would have been so easy to keep the visual appeal of Jake’s insides as simplistic as possible, but there are buildings, highways, laboratories, and fields galore. I also like the bit of choppiness in the linework that makes the area feel more like Jake, as well as the way characters interact with their surroundings. The stickiness with each character’s steps is really a nice detail, showing that they aren’t really able to function without their connection to Jake’s body.

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The characters themselves all look really bizarre and unique! I was actually under the impression that this episode was boarded by Cole and Andy, though I was surprised midway through when I realized that it’s a Somvilay and Seo episode. They both did really great with this one! I’m typically fairly critical of their drawings, even in better episodes like Blade of Grass, though aside from their signature chubby cheeks, you’d hardly even guess that it’s them behind the scenes.

As for the major characters of the episode, I think it’s impossible to discuss them without noting that they’re all portrayed by legendary voice actor, Billy West. Referencing my earlier gag, he carries over three of the voices he used in the series Futurama when performing as Goose, the Mayor, and Dr. Adamkinson. West is one of my all-time favorite voice actors, so his presence is certainly welcomed on my all-time favorite show, but I think his potential is actually a bit squandered by the fact that he’s only using pre-disposed voices. I mean, it’s cool to see West and DiMaggio reunite again in the voice acting world, but I feel like the characters aren’t really able to be fleshed out because they merely feel like references. Granted, I think anyone unaware of Futurama’s existence will be able to enjoy this one just fine even if they aren’t in on the joke, but I just felt like I witnessed West playing different characters throughout the episode than actually watching authentic, interesting characters. It’s one of the few times in this show that I find the voice acting quite distracting from the actual story, and I feel bad because I do love West’s inflections. Regardless, I think said characters have their moments.

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Goose is a cute character. I appreciate his overly melodramatic relationship with Jake (I actually would have thought it was funnier if Jake completely forgot about Goose by the end of the episode, though his traumatized exterior is still amusing), and he has a pretty irresistibly adorable design that almost makes him appear as an off-brand version of Jake. Dr. Adamkinson is, as mentioned, a pretty direct reference to Professor Farnsworth, though he’s still quite amusing to watch. I love the hilarious fake-out interaction he has with his “dad” before he leaves (who is voiced by Tress MacNeille; it really is a reunion special!!) and his heady surface-world interaction with a Cthulhu impersonating Finn.

I think the other issue with this is that the focus never really feels like it’s on Jake, and I don’t believe the characters are especially strong on their own to hold up the episode. This episode could have been a lot stronger, in my opinion, if the conflict of Jake being trapped in his own body was emphasized more heavily. I think Magic Man’s role seems somewhat pointless in the aftermath; he always appears to fuck shit up or teach some kind of lesson, and it doesn’t seem like either really came into play. Jake briefly is imprisoned, though it only takes a mere distraction from Goose to actually get him out. Just seems like a misuse of Magic’s character. Though, Jake destroying an entire civilization for the sole purpose that he was hungry could be an underlying result of his shenanigans. Only Jake would be able to pull off such a motive.

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But I’ve ranted long enough, because I’m being way too harsh on this episode. It’s a light, harmless Jake adventure. I think the problems I do have with this one are more on the personal side, and the only general complaint I do have is that I think there could’ve been more opportunities for humor. Otherwise, it’s a casual and fun visual journey into an interesting new realm, with some mildly interesting and quirky characters Jake meets along the way. Also, almost forgot to mention that Jake was knitting a hat for Finn and a sweater for BMO at the beginning of this episode, that BMO is later seen wearing in the episode. Cute!

Favorite line: “Hey, I got a for-real important question: do you like cereal in your cake?”

“Ghost Fly” Review

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Original Airdate: October 28, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Graham Falk & Cole Sanchez

Ghost Fly is essentially a “Halloween” episode that was used to fill the gap between Joshua and Margaret Investigations and Everything’s Jake, which aired roughly three months between each other. This was the longest gap between AT episodes for a while, and I truly mark this period of time as AT’s downfall in terms of popularity and treatment on the network. More month to two month long gaps became frequent, individual promos started to vanish, and it became apparent that, for whatever reason, Cartoon Network just didn’t care for the show as they once did. But I’m going off on a tangent; Ghost Fly is a refreshing return to form after so many episodes of Finn and Jake hanging on the sidelines. Granted, it suffers a bit from a weak premise, but it still decent fun regardless.

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One thing I like about the beginning of the episode is the fact that it starts out raining, though has no actual role in the story. I know that sounds like a weird bit of information to mention, but I always like environments and backgrounds that are casually presented and don’t necessarily have any effect on the actual world. Often rain is only used in animation to set the mood or have some sort of purpose in the overall story, but I enjoy how Adventure Time is able to have these subtle moments without rhyme or reason. As I mentioned, it is quite refreshing just to see the boys hanging out and enjoying each others company. It’s almost as if we’re paying a visit to them and seeing how their lives have been going since their last adventure. Finn’s reading up on his fanboy-ish interests, BMO’s continuing to practice his martial arts abilities, and Jake is suffering from a nasty case of restless leg syndrome. Jake is generally presented as the star of this one, and I enjoy seeing him in a bad/funky mood for a change. From Joshua and Margaret Investigations to Jake the Brick is one big bomb of Jake episodes that feel insightful on so many levels of Jake’s character. It’s almost as if the staff realized how much attention Finn was getting the last season, and wanted to continue to flesh out Jake’s character as well. Of course, we don’t get anything too heady; Jake isn’t the type of character that needs to be really dramatic or introspective, but the show finds great ways of continuing to develop his character without necessarily making him have Finn-level psychological issues.

Here, Jake deals with stress and moodiness, but in a way that’s both humorous and fun for his character. Seeing him so frustrated for seemingly no reason is quite enjoyable, and shows that even a relatively carefree, happy dude like Jake is susceptible to his own moments of contempt. Only contributing to these feeling is the fly who descends to a Limbo-style plane after being killed by Jake, which drives the main plot of the episode. The concept of a ghost fly chasing Finn, Jake, and BMO around the Tree Fort is another pretty simplistic idea at the hands of Graham Falk that doesn’t lead to a ton of great comedic opportunities, but one that certainly doesn’t reach the lows of Sad Face either. Ghost Fly does, at the very least, star a cast of characters I can get behind and enjoy unconditionally. In addition to that, it’s also notable that this is the first Graham Falk episode in which he had help from a partner, that being Cole Sanchez. While upon rewatching, Sanchez’s drawings are pretty noticeable in terms of style differences from Falk’s (Falk tends to mimic the season one models of both Finn and Jake more so than other storyboard artists), though the writing and humor styles of both writers seem to blend quite cohesively. And there certainly are a fair share of funny concepts and ideas in this one, but none that hit the mark especially hard.

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I think the main premise in general is especially unremarkable. The ghost fly itself doesn’t benefit from an interesting character motivation, voice, or design (though the ghost sheet he sports is pretty cute). The character of the ghost fly is exactly as one would expect, and though it can be silly how much BMO and Jake hype up the threatening nature of this creature (apparently ghost flies cause polio?), I don’t think the ghost fly itself is an inherently interesting foe. The tiny scythe it carries around makes it a formidable threat, though I’m not sure I fully get behind that aspect of its character. I mean, in the Adventure Time world, are ghosts able to inflict actual pain onto living beings? It seems like that is contradicted in Ghost Princess, as well as even in the earlier stages of this episode, where the fly casually phases in and out of Jake’s body. I can even get behind his possession of Finn, though I have trouble believing that the fly would actually be a legitimate threat after all the rules the show managed to set up around the nature of ghosts. I think it would have made more sense, as well as opened up more humorous opportunities for the episode, if the ghost fly simply tortured the boys by buzzing back and forth, unable to be touched/killed. This would have also tied into Jake’s stressful angst, which barely has a part in the remainder of the episode.

Granted, this one isn’t without humor. I actually think the scene with Peppermint Butler is a really great addition as both moody and absolutely hilarious. It’s nice to see Pepbut back in his element after his star role in Nemesis, and even more funny that a dark, twisted being like himself has his limits. Without his bag of mystic objects, he almost immediately flees and throws himself out the window, a hysterical response that even shows a bit of his humanity. It’s also cool to see him being utilized by the other main characters for such deeds; Finn and Jake, who were previous uneducated on Peppermint Butler’s true nature, now seem to both acknowledge it and kind of adopt it into their own lifestyles, and allow Pepbut to be so open and laidback about such a topic.

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There’s also that bit of Graham Falk weirdness that doesn’t always translate to good humor, but is interesting, as well as mildly confusing. After years of watching this one, I still have no idea what the hell the joke is supposed to be when Finn accidentally turns his circle into the shape of a woman. I guess it’s mildly funny in terms of obscurity, though I’m more perplexed than amused by it on each viewing.

I think the best part of Ghost Fly is the connection made between the ghost fly and its desire to fulfill unfinished business. It’s cool to see this element of the Dead World brought back once again, and Jake briefly being killed by BMO to visit the ghost fly’s plane of existence is a ton of fun. It’s pretty sweet in its visual quality, as everything is engulfed in a light blue transparency, and the tension does feel relatively high, since the ghost fly proves to be a decent threat within his own plane. Though the true icing on the cake is when, after the fly receives said unfinished business, he is immediately squashed by Jake. Which really raises the question: where do ghosts go if they’re killed by other ghosts? Do the go to a NEW plane of existence, or are they disposed of all together? In that case, I feel bad for that table that was reaped by the ghost fly. Rest in pieces.

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The way the episode ends is truly the highlight, however, as BMO’s overconfidence in his own martial arts abilities failed to save Jake, and he had to be revived at the hands of Dr. Princess. It’s hilariously dark to think that Jake could have legitimately DIED over such an instance, and adds to list of the many different ways that Jake has nearly ceased to exist over the course of the series.

This one is decent fun. It’s certainly unremarkable; out of all the season six episodes, this one usually comes to mind the least. It isn’t bad by any means, but there’s not much that helps it excel either. As is, it’s a simple breather episode that acts as an opportunity to revisit the lives of our main heroes. It might not be particularly great, but it’s refreshing regardless.

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Favorite line: “They carry diseases, such as tuberculosis, polio, dysentery. They leave those little fly doodies on your soul!”

“Joshua and Margaret Investigations” Review

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Original Airdate: August 14, 2014

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino

It’s actually quite funny; in the handful of instances we’ve seen Joshua and Margaret in flashbacks or pre-recorded messages, Memories of Boom Boom Mountain was the only instance in where we actually saw them together, even with how brief it may have been. It is heartening, however, to see that we get to see an entire episode based around the time before Finn, Jake, or Jermaine were in the picture. And Joshua and Margaret Investigations may just be the funniest example of world-building to date.

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The way the story is presented through Jake’s birthday celebration is just great. The birthday dance and chant among Finn, Jake, and BMO is a celebration that’s only goofy enough for the Tree Fort boys themselves. I also like how inexplicable the birthday celebration is, with a singular candle since not even Jake likely knows how old he is by this point. The use of Jake’s birthday as a framing device is also a fun idea, especially how the device itself is revealed to be a complete mislead by the episode’s end. And that mislead is completely okay, because it allows for more flashback type episodes in the future that don’t necessarily rely on the perspective of other characters to tell said story.

From the start of the flashback, it’s already pretty easy to get a feel for the type of relationship that Joshua and Margaret share: they’re stereotypes of the classic American family, complete with old-school values and 1940’s Mid-Atlantic accents. Though even then, I think they stray from that formula a bit. They’re far from the dynamic of Ralph and Alice Kramden from The Honeymooners; Joshua is still shown to have some asshole-ish tendencies, but is a genuinely mild-mannered and a very caring husband, so much so that he doesn’t want Margaret to be in any sort of stressful activity during her pregnancy. Margaret also does not play the role of subservient housewife. She’s very much involved with the investigation business and is as determined as her husband to solve crimes, so much so that she’s willing to put herself in a possibly dangerous situation to prove she’s still got it. But aside from their main characteristics, it’s important to note that Joshua and Margaret are just fun in nature. Their dialogue is very catchy and energetic, and their relationship feels very believable. They aren’t overly schmaltzy or, adversely, temperamental. It really just feels like they know each other, and they have each other’s back in any given situation. Not a second goes by where their love feels unbelievable, yet they don’t need to consistently pronounce said love for it to feel authentic.

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A lot that goes into Joshua and Margaret’s characters can also be owed to their voice actors, Kent Osborne and Maria Bamford (respectively, of course). Bamford is obviously renowned for her terrific voice talents in and out of the series, though I think Osborne is generally less known in the voice acting department and deserves recognition as well. Osborne really nails not only the accent, but the charm and witty exterior of Joshua’s character. He knows exactly how to give Joshua life, to the point where nearly everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, even when it’s not intended to be. Of course, it helps that Andy Ristaino and Cole Sanchez crafted some terrific dialogue for this episode, to which really goes hand-in-hand with Bamford and Osborne’s performances.

Part of the fun with this one is just observing what Ooo was like 15 years earlier. It’s not quite like the gaps in time we’ve seen with episodes such as The Vault or Simon & Marcy; this one allows us to see what has changed in that period of time, as well as what hasn’t much at all. Of course, it’s never mentioned that this flashback takes place 15 years earlier, but anyone who has been watching for some time is able to draw their own conclusions based on several factors. There’s that nice reference to “a fire goblin burning through the Candy Kingdom” which is obviously referencing Flame Princess’s experience as a baby, as well as Marceline harassing sheep and cattle in the Grass Lands, possibly signaling that this was the point in which lived in the Tree Fort. There’s all kinds of neat touches like that and they continue once Joshua and Margaret head over to Tree Trunks house.

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I love how Tree Trunks is still noticeably ancient, having little to no changes to her overall appearance or voice. Though, I wouldn’t really expect a character of her nature to change in stature over the course of a decade-and-a-half. What was different, however, was Tree Trunks’ relationship status, as she painfully suffered through Wyatt’s neediness. Wyatt, once again, is a delightfully pathetic character who only cares for his own satisfaction, and is constantly craving his wife’s “pie.” The double entendre alone shows what a selfish and desperate character Wyatt is, only emphasized by his hilarious mention that it’s “the only good part of his day.” What a sad little loser Wyatt is. There’s also the subtle mentioning of “Lieutenant Candy Corn,” showing that Colonel Candy Corn didn’t always hold such a rank. Nice detail.

The conflict really arises when the currently unnamed Warren Ampersand appears and faces off with Joshua and Margaret. Joshua’s infliction from the shapeshifter provides for some of those asshole tendencies I mentioned earlier to arise. He is pretty quick to blame Margaret for his issue, and melodramatically accepts his death without even considering the possibility of surviving. I appreciate how this is a consistent aspect of Joshua’s character; he’s a terrific husband and (future) father, though his values and belief systems are often viewed as flawed, such as his interest in hunting demons or his belief that his boys should be “tough” and never cry. It’s fun to revisit this part of his character, and to see that it wasn’t forgotten over the course of a couple seasons. Though, in his state of pain, Margaret gets a true chance to shine. This is after she finds a viable serum to cure Joshua’s infliction in a book she’s reading, which I’m going to leave here, because the page is absolutely hilarious.

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After this, we’re treated to a delightful “suiting up” sequence, where we’re able to see Joshua and Margaret’s sweet artillery room. There’s some gems in there, like the reappearance of the Demon Blood Sword, and even a PokeBall! Suppose demons weren’t the only thing that Joshua hunted? Regardless, it’s nice to see Margaret in this kind of solo role. Aside from Jake the Dad, this is really this only instance of Margaret having such a role on her own, and it’s nice to see that she’s equally as badass as Joshua. Granted, she has some restrictions and is a bit more reserved, but she isn’t afraid to put herself in danger, or even throw a few punches or two. And it’s exactly that which confronts her with the shapeshifter, who is easily thwarted by her fake sympathy. Though the retaliation from Margaret was likely not what the shapeshifter was expecting, his goal is already in motion. My guess is that the serum would not be able to prevent the creation of Jake regardless, and that what was set into effect by the shapeshifter was inevitable. The shapeshifter returns to his dimension to simply sit back and let the future set in.

Speaking of the inevitable birth, the scene where Margaret reconvenes with Joshua is legitimately suspenseful on both accounts. The way Joshua is drawn, with pulsating blue veins running through his body, is off-putting in all the right ways and really gives you a sense of the pain he’s going through. Likewise, I’ll never know what it’s like to be pregnant, but I can nearly feel Margaret’s pain in said situation. This agony builds up to Jake being birthed from Joshua’s head, in a mildly humorous sequence where Jake serenades his parents. Granted, I think this is a bit too goofy and doesn’t make a lot of sense with consistency. In Dad’s Dungeon, Jake isn’t even able to speak, and in Jake the Dad, his voice is obviously different as a child. I know it was strictly for gag purposes, but it’s a bit too distracting for me to get entirely behind, no matter how funny it is. But it is Jake after all, so I’ll let it slide. I do like how it connects all the way back to The Witch’s Garden, in which Jake mentions that he got his stretchy powers from a mud puddle. Here, he’s born in a puddle, which didn’t give him those powers, though it’s the first time he can ever remember having them. Another small detail that goes a long way in terms of world-building.

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So the dog parents essentially both give birth to an individual baby: Jake and Jermaine. The ending successfully ties together a lot, and feels like a very satisfying introduction to Jake’s backstory. Though it’s brought back later on in another interesting fashion, I was willing to assume that the events of this episode weren’t going to be addressed again, which I was always content with. Joshua and Margaret Investigations sets up an opportunity for more to come from this development, but also ties it up in a satisfying way regardless with Joshua deciding to never tell Jake of his true nature. It’s another flaw on Joshua’s part, as it causes some legitimate issues within Jake’s own identity later on, though knowing what type of an effect such obscure information would have on him, Joshua would likely rather keep it a secret. Regardless of these actions, Jake remains content on his birthday, blissfully unaware of the true basis of his powers or how they will effect him in the future.

This episode is just jam-packed fun. It takes two already established characters and just adds so much more to their lives in an entertaining way. It also effectively carries out Jake’s backstory, which is unique in the fact that, while it isn’t the most uncomplicated tale, it isn’t deep or dark either. Regardless of the circumstances of his birth, Jake is still born into a family that cares and loves for him unconditionally. All that is added is just a really cool element of history regarding the nature of his stretchy powers, and that’s all I could ask for. Joshua and Margaret Investigations builds on the Land of Ooo quite successfully, while managing to carry across a pure feeling of fun all the way through.

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This might be AT at its most quotable, so I have several favorite lines this time around.

Favorite line(s): 

“These steaks are tough and stringy. Like you!”

“He takes a punch, you zig when you should’ve zagged, and oops! Junior takes a knock to the noodle, comes out with the shiner the size of a grapefruit.”

“Well, those tracks are as phony as a three dollar bill.”

“Do your worst, you masher.”

“The only monster here was this man’s appetite for his wife’s pie.”

“You’re about as fine as a canary in a cat mine!”

“I’ll show that peepsie the pepper!”

“Hey, where’s the fire, kiddo?”