Original Airdate: July 30, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar
Burning Low opens to Finn and Flame Princess acting like a couple and almost completely ignores the past events of Hot to the Touch. It seems like a jarring change to have her previous episode end so vague and profound and then quite abruptly switch to lovey-dovey and endearing. In addition to that, it doesn’t really add anything that new to Flame Princess’s character. Through the entirety of this episode, FP herself only has a total of, like, 7 lines. We do learn a bit into why she had been locked up for several years of her life and the potential dangers that she could cause in her relationship with Finn, though it’s really never elaborated on any further. That said, it’s not really supposed to be a developmental Flame Princess episode, but instead release the turmoil that’s been building inside Finn ever since he let go of his infatuation with Princess Bubblegum. It does a great job of showing both sides of the situation, namely that Finn finally revealed his feelings toward PB after four seasons of build-up.
First of all, this episode was the biggest fucking tease of all time by Cartoon Network. They really hyped the shit out of this one as if Finn, PB, and FP were going to be apart of some big love triangle that seemed 100% out of some 12-year-old’s fanfiction. Luckily enough, the staff chose a much more interesting direction that led to a pretty obvious misleading, but one that brought out the best in both Finn and PB’s characters.
Princess Bubblegum is clear, concise, and to a point about how she feels: she simply doesn’t want Finn or Flame Princess, someone who she has kept protected and sheltered from the world since she was a baby, to get radically hurt whether it be physical or mental. The only thing unusual about her point is the fact that she doesn’t draw a specific line about whether she believes Finn and Flame Princess should stop dating or just cease all connections completely. She repeatedly asks Finn to not “see” or “hangout” with Flame Princess, and if she means that he can’t engage in anything physical with Flame Princess, it’s completely understandable that she wouldn’t want to see either get hurt. Though, if she wants Finn and Flame Princess to stop hanging out all together, I have some difficulty getting behind that. Does she believe that the idea of Flame Princess and Finn hanging out at all could end disastrous because they eventually will want to give into those desires, or is it also somewhat of a jealous motherly/friendly tuition that she simply isn’t ready to see Finn dating yet? The latter seems more selfish, but I’d be surprised if that wasn’t just slightly a bit of her reasoning. After all, the ending shows that she does feel some jealousy seeing her little friend develop romantic feelings that don’t lean towards herself, which, again, I don’t think is anything out of character or unusual for her. I’m sure PB had very positive intentions to make sure Finn and Flame Princess remained as safe as possible, but also did enjoy the attention that Finn has solely given her over the years and will miss it. Bubblegum deeply cares about Finn, and watching him grow up is both a rewarding and also a tough experience for her.
The jealousy aspect really stems from Jake, however, who basically instigated the entire conflict of the episode. It’s not unlike him to entirely disregard something important that PB intended for him to pay close attention to, and I find it even more fascinating that, essentially, he was right the whole time. As I mentioned, PB’s intentions were aiming at everyone’s best interests, but Jake wasn’t wrong in believing what he did. Problem is that he accidentally almost caused the death of Flame Princess, but Finn is also at fault for not sticking around while PB was trying to talk to him. Even if Jake did kickstart Burning Low’s conflict, he makes up for it by continuously sticking by Finn’s side throughout the episode. The scene at the beginning where Finn and Jake discuss love and tiers (the tier 15 bit is so infamous now that I’m sure it goes without mentioning) is surprisingly really funny and cute, and the bit where Jake finally blows up at PB for everything she had put Finn through in the past was both heartwarming and intense. Despite Jake and PB having a relatively civil connection, he has no shame in completely blowing up at her for all the emotional turmoil and stagnation Finn had experienced in the past. PB and he have never had the best relationship when it comes to what is best for Finn, and this is the first time they’re really put at odds.
But the icing on the cake is, of course, Finn blowing up at PB. It’s a really powerful moment for Finn to finally get his emotions for the princess out, and that he’s able to do so when his integrity and patience is tested. Finn knows that it would be entirely unfair for himself to give up everything he’s worked for in the past few weeks to be with someone who wouldn’t give him the time of day, and that he deserves better. It really shows how much he’s grown from developing a real, mutual relationship, and that he knows that he never wants to go back to feeling how he did when he was infatuated with Bubblegum.
These three perspectives are really what carry the episode through, and make the end result a very raw, powerful experience. That doesn’t mean that Finn and Flame Princess’s relationship is covered poorly, however. I do think that Finn assisting FP in building a new house (where Marauder Village coincidentally used to be) was a very cute sequence, and just very sweet to see Finn in a relationship where he’s receiving mutual care and respect. Made me really happy for the little guy. The bit with Flame Princess bursting through the core of the Earth was definitely an intense sequence, but didn’t quite ring with me as much as the rest of the episode did. Maybe it’s just because I enjoyed the introspective looks at how the Finn-PB relationship has escalated and shifted overtime that when it came back to the FP-Finn relationship, I just wasn’t nearly as invested.
But what we have is an excellent display of anger, jealousy, empathy, and even more turmoil that has built up amongst our main characters throughout the years. It’s really intriguing to see them all act so honestly and brutally with each other, not out of hate, but out of care for one and other and for themselves. It also goes without saying that this is one that is loaded with some of AT’s most iconic moments, whether it be the tier 15 scene or Bacon Pancakes. Yes, this is where Bacon Pancakes all started. And obviously it’s been played out profusely over the years (in one of my favorite renditions here), but it still strikes me as an extremely charming and enjoyable tune. Sugar was especially nervous about this one because she figured it was going in the direction of being way too random and absurd to the point where it was making fun of itself, but I never got that kind of vibe from it. It never seemed too embarrassingly self-referential and always struck me as especially delightful. There’s also the bit with Jake videochatting a silly character by the name President Porpoise, who later receives an entire episode dedicated to him much, much later on.
This one is just a collection of terrific character interactions and development based on the past sequences of events that led up to this point. For all the people who wanted to see more of Flame Princess and Finn’s relationship in depth, this probably wasn’t especially satisfying, seeing as how FP’s physical instability never really plays a large part in the story again and she’s barely even in it. Though, for anyone who has been anticipating the relationship between Finn and PB to have somewhat of an official close, like myself, it’s all the more rewarding.
Favorite line: “You’ll make it to Tier 5, where she’ll let you discover all fifteen feet of her long, beautiful stomach.” (I don’t wanna know what Jake and Lady do in private)