“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!”

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