Original Airdate: December 17, 2017
Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Aleks Sennwald
I’ve seen a few people bat around their picks for the best Adventure Time episode of Season Nine. The Wild Hunt gets tossed around a bunch, Come Along With Me is the best, and only truly great entry, for many. I also have seen The First Investigation being held in great light, with some people regarding it as one of the best AT episodes out there. In assessing this praise, I sort of sat back, scratched my head, and thought to myself, “Really? This episode?” I know there’s probably a lot of cynicism radiated off of that comment, but I don’t really intend for it to be entirely negative. The First Investigation, though not mind blowing or my exact definition of peak AT, is a delightfully fun entry that plays around with the concept of time-skipping quite cleverly. It also has the perk of being one of the only season nine episodes to focus almost entirely on the relationship between Finn and Jake, and even better, their relationship with their parents.
Speaking of parental relations, Kim Kil Whan returns for one last featured appearance. I was vocal about my dislike of his character in Ocarina, but these past two spotlight episodes for him have helped him to become instantly more likable. Of course, he doesn’t really do anything particularly noteworthy here – but his general trusting of Jake for such a big task, even after everything that happened with his daughter in the previous episode, is pretty sweet. I especially like his awkward, small “bye, dad,” before teleporting out. That’s probably KKW’s strongest foot forward into emotional sincerity. Like I mentioned prior, part of what’s so great about Finn and Jake’s role in this episode is the irresistible sweetness of their characters. Even more important than the goal of the mission is their desire to tell the possible ghosts of their parents that they love them dearly. The show has left Joshua and Margaret’s deaths pretty deep into the shadows, as I think they should, but the context of this seems to paint that their deaths were sudden and/or unexpected. That, or Finn and Jake simply wanted to use the opportunity for a bit of added closure. Either way, it’s incredibly heartwarming.
I have to say, The First Investigation teases me a bit too much. My idea of a pitch perfect ending for the boys was that they would move into Joshua and Margaret’s old office and start up a business investigating crimes and focusing on a bit of a more routine lifestyle than the sporadic nature of adventuring. Finn asking Jake, “how come we don’t live here?” got me a little too excited for what’s to come, so I was sadly disappointed at the idea of this just being a bit of passing conversation material instead of legitimate foreshadowing. However, the conversations that Jake and Finn do hold are really likable and feel genuine. I love the idea that Finn is almost pissed at his past self for putting Joshua and Margaret in the role of caretakers. He’s still too young to understand the pleasures of parenthood, which is why Jake humorously reminds him, “yeah, but they knew what they were getting into.”
The First Investigation takes advantage of its time skipping premise really well – this is the kind of episode you likely have to watch multiple times before discovering all of the various different time gags that were included. The middle section alone is just a non-stop fun, frenzied journey through various different interlaced sections of time that all come together in a satisfyingly cohesive and clever way, like Finn traumatizing Jake with a wet willy, baby Finn seeing a “ghost,” and my favorite – Jake scaring the daylights out of Kim Kil Whan’s employee. Like I said, everything is so tightly packed and interconnected that it’s almost ingenious. It also leads to the (highly anticipated?) moment where Jake discovers the truth behind his unusual birth. I do like Jake’s absolute denial and dismay of the circumstances of his birth, though honestly, this setup up just brings back the bad taste of Jake the Starchild in my mouth once more. It’s certainly not The First Investigation‘s fault, but a byproduct of Starchild‘s failure nonetheless.
This episode also interestingly brings back Clock Bear from Preboot, to which I can theorize was a way of keeping Dr. Gross’s name still in the series. I strongly believe that, had the show kept going, Gross’s return would have indubitably occurred. Clock Bear’s an interesting prop character, because his debut appearance in Hoots certainly shows that he exists to foreshadow something, but I’m still not really sure what that is. Regardless, it is cool to see this plot point brought up again, if it’s not the slightest bit contrived. Clock Bear’s ability to control time seems way beyond what Dr. Gross was capable of, as she was more savvy from technological perspective than actually being able to bend reality. But, what do I know? The show never initially went too in depth with her character, so I don’t have much of an issue buying into it. It also, of course, makes the episode way more enjoyable and intriguing with this element included, with the icing on the cake being Finn communicating that he loves his parents through the ticker-tape. That was just adorable.
The episode comes to a close with the aforementioned convergence of Jake and his alien father, as they take off for a trip into space together. It’s a conclusion that left for much anticipation involving how this would affect the ultimate climax of the series… sadly, it didn’t. But we’ll get to that shortly! I have surprisingly little to say about The First Investigation besides the notion that, well, I like it! It’s an enjoyable romp through time that is nicely woven together with simpler moment. It never fully explores the nature of time to the point where it can be taken as analytical, but it has a ton of fun with the concept regardless. There’s also some nice visual moments and gags as well, namely the broken mirror with the sticky note that says, “you look great!” and Jake’s panicked octopus form. I’m discovering more and more that I don’t really like the way Hanna K. draws Jake; I’m a sucker for the pointed out ears, but the gigantic eyes that she gives him are somewhat unappealing to me. Interested in how others feel about this personalized design. As I also mentioned, it’s just nice to have an episode primarily around Finn and Jake’s connection to each other and their past lives. It’s rare that season nine ever gets this intimate with the boys, so this was a nice surprise and a delightful treat.