Original Airdate: November 28, 2011
Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Bert Youn
Jake’s mortality and relationship with death have been very prominent features of his character over the years. His aging process, to say the least, is convoluted. Nobody can really figure it out how it works; even Jake himself has trouble putting the pieces together with just exactly how old he is. That said, Jake’s fear of growing older is significantly more prominent than his actual fear of death. He more so fears outliving the ones he cares about most and losing his sense of edge and mellow behavior than dying, which he seems to welcome with open arms as long as it’s in a fantastical and mythical fashion. The New Frontier revolves heavily around Jake’s intrigue of fate and destiny, and does so by raising some increasingly interesting questions about whether what he’s doing is ethical or not.
I love anything with the Cosmic Owl, and aside from Prisoners of Love, this is his big debut as the dream wanderer of prophecies and foreboding outcomes, something which we come to realize that Jake is all about. The croak dream itself is really heavy-handed and atmospheric; I love all the little details of space, along with the rocket ship and Banana Man floating around, as well as the orchestral choir that gradually builds overtime. It’s a bit curious that the Earth is actually full in Jake’s dream, but considering that he doesn’t ever actually end up in space, it doesn’t necessarily feel like a continuity error.
It’s hard to say whether Jake’s behavior in this episode is rational or not; on one hand, it feels like a very selfish decision for Jake to allow himself to die with his thirteen-year-old brother left behind and his loved ones completely unknowing (I mean, he doesn’t even bid Lady goodbye. Harsh!) On the other hand, it’s sort of difficult to disagree with him being so open and unafraid of dying and what’s destined to come for him because most people are naturally afraid of dying. It’s a bit of an interesting balance between wanting Jake to stay with Finn but also wanting him to fulfill his destiny that was prophesied. I mean, then again, how does one even bounce back from a prophetic dream of death? Was Jake supposed to just wait patiently for the day when he eventually dies? It becomes more relatable when analyzing all of the various layers of Jake’s burdens, fears, and his general acceptance of the future that’s to come.
Finn is written terrifically for this one. His entire presence is purely sympathetic from beginning to end. We really don’t wanna see our little guy lose his best friend, and his undevoted desire to protect Jake and decrease all chances of him dying are really endearing. I especially love the moment when Finn hopelessly begs Jake to let go of the rocket. It’s not overly dramatic, but it’s a really heart wrenching, heavy scene that really allows the audience to see both sides of the argument. Again, Jake seems selfish by leaving Finn behind, but he’s merely accepting the future in front of him instead of being wildly in denial. However, Finn legitimately needs Jake by his side, and is still too young to accept death so calmly. He’s already lost Joshua and Margaret in his lifetime, which only makes him more opposed to losing his closest relative that’s still alive.
The ending resolves any dark or uneasy feelings towards Jake’s attitude by helping him to realize the one thing that’s more important to him than his own life, and that is the life of his best buddy. It’s a sweet resolution, and one that acknowledges that, while Jake is perfectly fine accepting his fate, he wants Finn to continue to live a successful and satisfying life even if he can’t be by his side. It also leaves a bit of ambiguity for the future of the series and Jake’s life, as we’re left with the possibility that, at some point, Jake will relive his croak dream once more. Of course, it’s a scary thought for both Finn and Jake to swallow, as unpredictability can often be most frightening. Finn and Jake are all about living in the present, however, and are able to get through fearful outcomes through humor and goodwill.
This episode also introduces the Banana Man, voiced by “Weird Al” Yankovic. I do really love Banana Man’s eccentric and quirky personality, but I think there are better examples of episodes where he’s utilized better than he is in this one. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy his weird mannerisms and extended dance moves (Pen Ward admitted that this episode came up a little short, so he just added longer, drawn out sequences of Banana Man dancing), but “Weird Al” is such a unique and interesting talent choice that you’d think he’d have a couple of more lines and even a song or two. But, like I said, there are better examples of spotlight episodes for Banana Man, and this one works just fine on its own.
This is also a really funny episode. While Finn and Jake’s interactions are quite tension-packed given the circumstances of Jake’s dream, there are still plenty of silly, fun moments for our main duo. I especially love Finn’s exchange about Banana Man walking into the sun (he really can be such a doofus sometimes), Finn’s ability to start a fire with his bare fucking hands, Jake’s explanation of how Glob World works, including the blatant disrespect he shows BMO by leaving an ice cream-filled pizza sandwich on his head. For as dark as the topic of the episode is, it’s still filled with fun, wacky jokes and character moments that really help lighten up some of the bleaker moments.
The New Frontier is a very enjoyable one. I love the headiness of Jake’s prophetic dream and all of the philosophy behind his decisions in the long run. It’s one that opens up a gateway for future opportunities regarding the fragility of Jake’s life, and the increasing importance of Cosmic Owl-centric dream sequences. There’s even a bit of lore when regarding The Great Mushroom War, as Jake mentions that rocket ships haven’t yet been reinvented. It makes sense with the world of AT that the only gateway to space would be portals and magical entrances, which means that rocket ships aren’t even really needed. It’s one that’s extremely amusing, but also thought-provoking at the same time. Something Adventure Time has really mastered.