Original Airdate: January 7, 2013
Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard
Puppies, puppies, puppies!! The birth of Jake and Lady’s puppies has finally arrived. It’s a triumphant tale of Jake taking on the trials of parenthood and learning how to be the perfect father for his children… that’s all wrapped up in 11 minutes. Yeaaah, I’m not one to usually mind AT’s battle with the status quo, as I feel like they always make up for it with more interesting topics and stories down the line, but like most people, I was disappointed with how this episode concluded. I think we get a lot of good bits in the future with how Jake never really learned to be a father or even got a chance to become comfortable around his kids, but that doesn’t really excuse the fact that I think this arc was dropped a bit too quickly. Especially since Jake being a father is really interesting!
The introductory scene with the pups is a ton of fun. It’s both cute and hilarious, with Jake constantly sobbing over the birth of his babies, as well as Finn’s horrendously positioned “best unkle” shirt (at least he’s street smart…). The individual introduction to the pups is a lot of fun as well, with designated title cards and visuals surrounding each reveal. The best part is the fact that they have pretty much nothing to do with the actual personality of the puppies, besides Viola. TV’s reveal is surrounded by geese, while Kim Kil Whan has a designated hot dog covered with relish below his name. You can tell Steve Wolfhard had a lot of fun working with the puppies and developing their individual personalities before they even had their own star episodes.
My favorite aspect of the beginning, however, would be Jake and Finn’s interactions when it comes to Jake no longer living at the Treehouse. By his behavior, it seems clear that Jake was hesitant to even mention the possibility of him leaving the Treehouse before to Finn, mainly for the fact that, well, Finn is still a baby to Jake. Though brothers, Jake has become somewhat of a father figure to Finn, or, at very least a legal guardian, and I get the feeling that coming to terms with the fact that he would no longer be taking care of Finn was just as upsetting to Jake. I gotta wonder, though, was Finn just kind of supposed to fend for himself? I mean, he’s only fourteen. Perhaps being a minor in Ooo isn’t really a big deal anymore (I mean, we’re supposed to believe that Tiffany just kind of lives on his own, right?) and Finn’s service to Bubblegum means he never needs to worry about financial issues or anything. That is why Finn and Jake never have to worry about money, right? That’s a subject for another day, I suppose. But, back on topic, I also really like Finn’s reaction to Jake leaving. Finn’s noticeably upset at first, but acknowledges that this is something that Jake has to do and Finn can no longer be the most important person in Jake’s life anymore, to which he calmly accepts. It’s a very emotionally mature moment for the little guy, and I do like how they didn’t draw out Finn’s sadness too much. After all, the focus of this episode should be on Jake and his babies.
I definitely went into this one a bit nervous, because I really just assumed Jake would be a deadbeat dad who would rather be kickin’ it with Finn than devoting anytime to his children. But here, he’s the exact opposite! And it’s really, really endearing. This episode’s strongest quality is simply how likable Jake is written to be, and it makes sense as to why he would want to be such a renowned and protective father. It’s clear he very much respected and appreciated the way that Joshua and Margaret raised him, so it’s a sweet tribute to see him sport Joshua’s hat and utilize Margaret’s manual to help him raise his pups the proper way. It’s sweet to watch him so proudly take on being a father, and to try his best in every aspect to be the best dad possible. As if Jake and Lady weren’t already the cutest couple on this show, I love how Jake takes on the role of both parents and allows Lady to get some much needed sleep. It’s just really reassuring to watch him be so determined to do something; as we’ve seen in the past, Jake is easily distracted and has huge issues with focusing, yet the episode never detracts from his main objectives by making him seem unfocused for a cheap gag. He’s portrayed as alert, ready for any danger, and consistently helping out, which is a really nice change of pace.
I also like how Jake’s main issue with having kids is from caring way too much. You’d think that the duties of being a parent would wear down on him more, which they technically do, but it’s more of his paranoia and irrational fears that get the better of him. Again, it’s sweet to watch him have so much concern for his children that he willingly suffers for them, and would rather play it as safe as possible than to expose his children to something dangerous. Honestly, though, I think everything is portrayed in a really empathetic light for Jake. I don’t really see him overreacting, Finn was literally kneeling on Kim Kil Whan and Charlie and smashing Jake Jr. and TV together! I’d be fucking stressed too! I think everything is presented in such a way that Jake is clearly over-analyzing everything, but he still has very legitimate reasons to be concerned. Even if his babies were just sleeping, I’d be hella concerned my babies were dead as well. It captures the fears of parenthood very accurately, and the concept of how much you should protect your children definitely comes into question.
Now, despite Jake being written exceptionally well in this one, I have to say that the biggest issue with this episode is simply that it’s not very entertaining. I know that’s a broad statement, but the reason is lacks entertainment value is because the conflict is incredibly thin. I mean, you have Jake who is concerned that his babies might get hurt in some shape or form, but it’s very clear that nothing is going to actually happen to the pups. Then you have Mr. Fox and his squadron that want to eat babies, but it’s very clear from the first scene they appear in that they aren’t a competent threat. Even if they were, they don’t even end up interacting with the babies, so there’s even less tension going on there that makes the entire last half just kind of… dull. You also have an incredibly exhausted Jake trekking around throughout the second half, and that alone kind of makes the experience a lot more middling and tiresome. There are some funny jokes sprinkled throughout, like the conversation between Mr. Fox and the foxes (that Herpich voice will never wear on me) or Jake frantically trying to save his kids from the dangers of the forest, but otherwise, there just isn’t anything that fun or interesting going on.
When it finally comes down to the climax, where the lovely Kristen Schaal appears to lend her voice talents to Jake Jr., I think the conclusion that Jake comes to in regards to his mom’s manual is… somewhat disheartening. I was just saying how sweet it was for Jake to adopt his mother and father’s methods when it comes to raising his kids, but now he’s decidedly ditching them just because he recalls a time when he was a child and had a situation with a snake under control? It’s really weird writing here. Like, we spend the entire episode sympathizing with Jake’s decisions and the way he protects his children, but suddenly we’re not supposed to empathize with him anymore because his beliefs on protecting his children are wrong because they can fend for themselves. Buuuut, isn’t the only reason they can fend for themselves because they are now spontaneously older in a day’s length? And was it really so wrong of Margaret to be protective over Jake because they were facing a fucking snake? I dunno, the wrap up was a little too confused for my liking. I think they had a good thing going with just showing that you shouldn’t spend every second of every hour protecting your children from possible dangers, but in the end, it kind of comes off as “protecting your children is stupid because they can handle themselves.” Wha?
And of course, the very ending that returns everything to the status quo. Couple of things: One, I have no idea what Finn is doing with BMO’s controller in his mouth, nor do I ever want to know. Second, I don’t hate this ending as much because I now appreciate the direction that has been taken with Jake awkwardly not really knowing how to be a father to his kids, and the adult personalities of his individual children, but I still have to acknowledge that I do think it’s rather lazy and disappointing that they didn’t further experiment with Jake being a father. I mean, nothing really has to change. You can still have Jake casually hanging out with Finn the next episode with no mention of his children at all. I don’t really see why it was so entirely necessary to return things to exactly how they were at the beginning of the episode, because I think they could’ve ended it with Jake continuing to raise his pups and still involve him in nearly every standalone episodes in the future. Even if Jake moved back after a season or half a season, I wouldn’t have minded it as much. I would’ve liked to see a bit more on this topic and not just the evolution of the pups in a short 11 minutes.
Overall, this one was a bit dull. It probably would have been cliched and predictable, but I think this one would’ve been more compelling overall if Jake did eventually let his guard down, and then his kids were in actual danger of some sorts. I can’t say it’d be good, but certainly more entertaining. Jake’s loving and caring behavior is certainly enough to justify this episode’s existence, and there are some decent jokes sprinkled throughout, but Jake the Dad is brought down significantly by it’s plodding story, confused moral, and lazy conclusion. I don’t mind it as much now, because as I mentioned, I do really like Jake’s sadness over his children growing up too fast, and the interesting episodes revolving around said pups that we get in the future, but still, this isn’t one I’m particularly crazy about.