Original Airdate: November 12, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar
Onto Jake the Dog! Without going into too much detail already, I think it’s safe to say that this episode is an improvement over the last one. Does that make it good? Ehhh, well, let’s dive deeper.
I did mention at the end of the review that I was anticipating more of Prismo, who to this date is one of my favorite secondary characters, for no other reason than the fact that he’s just a cool dude. I like his laidback, charismatic attitude, his voice work, courtesy of Kumail Nanjiani and his willingness to help others, despite his obligations as a wishmaster. He’s always a very enjoyable presence, and this episode highlights everything that’s so likable about his character, and why he’s so fun to be around. I like his connection with Jake especially, and feel that, besides F&J and PB & Marcy, they make for one of the greatest friendships in the series (yes, I just called PB and Marceline friends. Please don’t verbally eviscerate me).
This one essentially contains an A-plot and a B-plot, so, while I’m on the subject of Prismo, lemme go into detail about Jake’s side of the story. The episode is called Jake the Dog for a reason, it emphasizes some of the most well-defined aspects of his personality: his carefree attitude, his laziness, and his desire to be leisurely and kick back with others. To a degree, I think it does all three of those a little too well. I’m on the side of the crowd that believes that Jake is a little too selfish and a little too stupid in this one for my own liking. I get that the titles Finn the Human and Jake the Dog are supposed to highlight Finn and Jake’s differences: Finn’s nobility, desire to do good, and undying devotion for others contrasts with Jake’s own wants and needs, but at the same time, a large part of Jake’s character is his devotion to his best friend as well. Jake was willing to latch onto the fucking Lich two episodes ago for the sake of the world, and it’s honestly frustrating to watch him so blatantly ignore his brother’s alternate self (who is technically his current self) crumbling around him. The idea that all Jake wants to wish for is a sandwich is quite funny, but not when his friend’s life is on the line.
It’s honestly just poor context for the scenario, because I really enjoy Jake’s time chilling with Prismo and the Cosmic Owl. It’s so silly in its own right – that two cosmic beings are just casually sitting around, eating cheesy snack in a hot tub, and playing board games. It really is an excellent example of what makes each and every character so great in AT; even some of the most highly regarded beings in the universe can be just as goofy and “normal” as our two main boys. I like Jake giving Prismo relationship advice as well, showing us how different Prismo is in regards to Jake’s optimistic and honest relationship with his own girlfriend. I get the feeling that the reason Prismo is so nice and friendly is the fact that he does get lonely. He’s restricted to the confines of his timeline and probably only gets to speak to “singulars” when they want something from him. Prismo finally found someone who’s interested in just hanging out, and not someone who’s using him for his own personal gain.
But, as I said, because of the circumstances, all of the scenes featuring Jake and friends feel unnecessarily cruel and inappropriate in relation to all of the scenes featuring Farmworld Finn. And, unlike the previous episode, I’m actually invested in Farmworld Finn’s dilemma and emotional state this time around. The two stories are interlaced so awkwardly that the combination of humor and drama really kind of falls flat, which is something AT is typically terrific with in terms of blending genres and moods.
I wouldn’t be so critical of it if the Farmworld Finn aspect wasn’t interesting, but this time around, it’s really freakin’ entertaining. I definitely expected tons of apocalyptic references from this episode, but tying the ice crown back into these themes is really intriguing. From the moment that Finn puts it on, it’s changing faster and more drastically than it did for Simon. Why? Well, two possible reasons. One is that Finn is young and still inexperienced, and his impressionable mind was altered faster than Simon, who is full of knowledge and life experience. Second, it could be that, while Simon strongly resisted the power of the crown, Finn accepted it and allowed it to take over his mind. Of course, the simple answer is probably that there’s only so much inner turmoil that could’ve been covered with Farmworld Finn in the course of seven minutes, but it’s still an interesting thought to be analyzed. The stuff we do get with Farmworld Finn is really powerful and tragic regardless.
Despite my complaints that Farmworld Finn was difficult to empathize with in the last episode, it really is tough to sit through the hardships and insanity he experiences, especially with his family. One of the most impactful moments of Jake the Dog is Finn’s conversation with his family. The interactions between Finn and his mother are sad enough, as that connection has proved to be the strongest out of Farmworld Finn’s relationships, but the most effective reaction from his family derives from his baby sibling. Or, more so, Finn’s reaction to his baby sibling’s crying. I love how control of the crown does connect to caring and loving for another being, so when Finn sees that his brother is noticeably upset, he does what he must to save his family from the power of the crown, yet does not take it off. It’s a subtle, but powerful moment that really emphasizes the greatest flaws of the crown: the wearer may be able to save everyone around him/her, but won’t be able to resist the urge to wear the crown.
Once the mutagenic bomb does set off (featuring the infamous animation error of the crown still being placed on Simon’s skeleton) things get even darker and grittier, as Finn beholds a disintegrating Marceline and the mutated remains of his pet dog. Finn’s demeanor and behavior transpire into pure insanity, which is both really entertaining and also somewhat horrifying. I have to give it to Jeremy Shada, this may be one of his best voice acting efforts in the entire series. Not to imply that he’s ever performed badly, but he so magnificently emulates the Ice King mannerisms, as well as the breaking fear and sadness in Finn’s voice, making for a really, really powerful performance. The bit with Finn fearfully crawling back from Jake as he transforms into the Lich cuts me deeply inside. It also raises an interesting question: was the Lich created from the mutagenic bomb, or did he simply arise once again from the destruction of the bomb? As further episodes suggest, he’s existed as long as the universe, if not longer, so I’m assuming he’s been defeated and silenced time and time again, only to arise and cause destruction once more.
Drawing towards the end, in a return to Jake and Prismo’s antics, Jake conducts the perfect wish to ultimately retcon the mishaps around him. It’s a bit underwhelming to have everything return to normal after this entire arc, even if there are lasting effects that will return later on, but unfortunately, we won’t be seeing anything from this selection of stories for quite sometime. So by its end, Jake the Dog does have Jake showing off his heroic side by saving the day for everyone, but sadly, I think it was a little too late in the episode for me to root for him.
When it comes down to it, this one is just decent in my eyes. I know this is one people like a ton, and that’s understandable! As I mentioned, there’s some really juicy bits in this episode. Farmworld Finn’s experiences with the ice crown are more than enough to justify this existence of this episode, with really nice animation, design, backgrounds, emotion, voice acting, and, especially, lore. Unfortunately for me, the Jake parts weaken a majority of the stronger plot points. The pacing, as I mentioned, is really sporadic, and dampen the emotional and intense roots of the A-plot. The ending also feels like the entire journey was worth nothing; I’m not someone who believes that Adventure Time needs to be a completely serialized show and that anything good is strictly plot related, but if you’re going to drop a three-part epic about the Lich on us, I’d expect a bit more of a lasting impact than just returning to the wacky and goofy antics of the characters of Ooo an episode later and not touching on any of these issues for a whole 52 episodes. I’m still satisfied with the bit of excitement we got while exploring the Farmworld, and its content still resonates with me greatly even if the entire episode does not.