Original Airdate: May 9, 2011
Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Tom Herpich
Heat Signature is an oddball; it was supposed to be aired a week before the season two finale, but ended up being spontaneously dropped from the schedule that night and aired the week following Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil. On the DVD order, it’s placed directly before those two episodes. That being said, I still don’t think it’s in the right order! In the episode prior, Finn and Jake gather everyone together to watch Heat Signature 3, so unless the two boys were blatantly intending to screen Heat Signature’s second sequel in front of Marceline before she had even seen the first one protected by government law, I think there’s some sort of mix-up with production codes here. That aside, this is actually another one of those AT episodes I’ve probably seen the least. I actually didn’t watch it the first time it aired, and kinda thought the preview for it was just some weird fever dream I had for a little while. Much like Henchman though, it’s an episode that continues to develop Marceline’s character and actually outlines some major behavioral changes for the remainder of the series.
I think the premise is actually quite interesting. Finn, as we know, is pretty reckless and willing to throw himself at any opposing force, but it’s pretty crazy how willing he is to be permanently turned into a vampire and sacrifice his stance as the last human. Even Jake, whose fear of vampires has plagued him, is totally willing to get bitten. It actually sort of makes sense if you look at the big picture of his character: Jake’s aging process has burdened him for a large chunk of the series, and with both of his parents passing after a relatively short lifespan, the promise of immortality, along with the fact that he’ll be able to look after Finn and stay with Lady for longer periods of time, just might seem promising to him. It could also just be that being a vampire in modern Ooo is considered super grunge and hipster, I dunno.
Wendy, Booboo, and Georgy aren’t really that interesting. They’re typical bullies with nothing that new or fun about them, but the faux trials they put Finn and Jake through are pretty amusing. I always forget that this is the episode with Lumpy Space Princess and a can of beans (for some reason I usually remember it being in To Cut a Woman’s Hair), and that always gets a big kick out of me. Speaking of kicks, I like the scene where the ghosts brutally kick the shit out of Finn and Jake too. It’s so cruel, but there’s something so painfully funny about the two of them still going along with it. Yeah, Finn and Jake are a bit oblivious to what’s going on in this episode, but for the most part, I think it works. I’m glad they didn’t go the route of having Finn and Jake be super pissed at Marceline for “not believing in them” or some nonsense, the show keeps out any unnecessary drama involving the two boys.
The only necessary drama we need to see is between Marceline and her friends. This is really a true testament of Marceline’s character, and one that sticks with her throughout the rest of the series. For the past two seasons, Marceline’s been portrayed more as a prankster and an anti-hero, but her time spent with Finn and Jake has had an effective result on her improving moral code. If this had been any other person in the past, I do believe Marceline would’ve went through with whatever her ghost friends had in mind. But Marcy’s time spent with Finn and Jake has opened her character up to new levels of understanding and compassion, and it’s really delightful to watch her develop a little more with each episode she’s featured in. I do feel as though Marceline’s character has been toned down a bit more significantly as of Heat Signature, but of course, these were different times. This is primarily the climax of Marceline’s teasing of Finn and Jake, as her character arc shifts focus from the main duo to Ice King and Bubblegum majorly in the next couple of seasons. I think it’s an appropriate ending for this type of relationship she shares, as it’s obvious that’s she’s gained a newfound respect for Finn and Jake that she previously didn’t have before.
So yeah, it’s definitely a goodie. Terrific character expansions, some nice backgrounds and colors, and a decent obstacle to put Finn and Jake through. According to Pen Ward, the actual Heat Signature movie is an animated film in-universe because, if it was considered live action, it would debunk his original theory that Finn’s dotted eyes and lack of nose signify that he’s a mutant. I never bought into that theory… Finn is the Human, dammit! Sorry, Mr. Ward. Can’t stand by you on that one.