Original Airdate: August 14, 2014
Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Andy Ristaino
It’s actually quite funny; in the handful of instances we’ve seen Joshua and Margaret in flashbacks or pre-recorded messages, Memories of Boom Boom Mountain was the only instance in where we actually saw them together, even with how brief it may have been. It is heartening, however, to see that we get to see an entire episode based around the time before Finn, Jake, or Jermaine were in the picture. And Joshua and Margaret Investigations may just be the funniest example of world-building to date.
The way the story is presented through Jake’s birthday celebration is just great. The birthday dance and chant among Finn, Jake, and BMO is a celebration that’s only goofy enough for the Tree Fort boys themselves. I also like how inexplicable the birthday celebration is, with a singular candle since not even Jake likely knows how old he is by this point. The use of Jake’s birthday as a framing device is also a fun idea, especially how the device itself is revealed to be a complete mislead by the episode’s end. And that mislead is completely okay, because it allows for more flashback type episodes in the future that don’t necessarily rely on the perspective of other characters to tell said story.
From the start of the flashback, it’s already pretty easy to get a feel for the type of relationship that Joshua and Margaret share: they’re stereotypes of the classic American family, complete with old-school values and 1940’s Mid-Atlantic accents. Though even then, I think they stray from that formula a bit. They’re far from the dynamic of Ralph and Alice Kramden from The Honeymooners; Joshua is still shown to have some asshole-ish tendencies, but is a genuinely mild-mannered and a very caring husband, so much so that he doesn’t want Margaret to be in any sort of stressful activity during her pregnancy. Margaret also does not play the role of subservient housewife. She’s very much involved with the investigation business and is as determined as her husband to solve crimes, so much so that she’s willing to put herself in a possibly dangerous situation to prove she’s still got it. But aside from their main characteristics, it’s important to note that Joshua and Margaret are just fun in nature. Their dialogue is very catchy and energetic, and their relationship feels very believable. They aren’t overly schmaltzy or, adversely, temperamental. It really just feels like they know each other, and they have each other’s back in any given situation. Not a second goes by where their love feels unbelievable, yet they don’t need to consistently pronounce said love for it to feel authentic.
A lot that goes into Joshua and Margaret’s characters can also be owed to their voice actors, Kent Osborne and Maria Bamford (respectively, of course). Bamford is obviously renowned for her terrific voice talents in and out of the series, though I think Osborne is generally less known in the voice acting department and deserves recognition as well. Osborne really nails not only the accent, but the charm and witty exterior of Joshua’s character. He knows exactly how to give Joshua life, to the point where nearly everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, even when it’s not intended to be. Of course, it helps that Andy Ristaino and Cole Sanchez crafted some terrific dialogue for this episode, to which really goes hand-in-hand with Bamford and Osborne’s performances.
Part of the fun with this one is just observing what Ooo was like 15 years earlier. It’s not quite like the gaps in time we’ve seen with episodes such as The Vault or Simon & Marcy; this one allows us to see what has changed in that period of time, as well as what hasn’t much at all. Of course, it’s never mentioned that this flashback takes place 15 years earlier, but anyone who has been watching for some time is able to draw their own conclusions based on several factors. There’s that nice reference to “a fire goblin burning through the Candy Kingdom” which is obviously referencing Flame Princess’s experience as a baby, as well as Marceline harassing sheep and cattle in the Grass Lands, possibly signaling that this was the point in which lived in the Tree Fort. There’s all kinds of neat touches like that and they continue once Joshua and Margaret head over to Tree Trunks house.
I love how Tree Trunks is still noticeably ancient, having little to no changes to her overall appearance or voice. Though, I wouldn’t really expect a character of her nature to change in stature over the course of a decade-and-a-half. What was different, however, was Tree Trunks’ relationship status, as she painfully suffered through Wyatt’s neediness. Wyatt, once again, is a delightfully pathetic character who only cares for his own satisfaction, and is constantly craving his wife’s “pie.” The double entendre alone shows what a selfish and desperate character Wyatt is, only emphasized by his hilarious mention that it’s “the only good part of his day.” What a sad little loser Wyatt is. There’s also the subtle mentioning of “Lieutenant Candy Corn,” showing that Colonel Candy Corn didn’t always hold such a rank. Nice detail.
The conflict really arises when the currently unnamed Warren Ampersand appears and faces off with Joshua and Margaret. Joshua’s infliction from the shapeshifter provides for some of those asshole tendencies I mentioned earlier to arise. He is pretty quick to blame Margaret for his issue, and melodramatically accepts his death without even considering the possibility of surviving. I appreciate how this is a consistent aspect of Joshua’s character; he’s a terrific husband and (future) father, though his values and belief systems are often viewed as flawed, such as his interest in hunting demons or his belief that his boys should be “tough” and never cry. It’s fun to revisit this part of his character, and to see that it wasn’t forgotten over the course of a couple seasons. Though, in his state of pain, Margaret gets a true chance to shine. This is after she finds a viable serum to cure Joshua’s infliction in a book she’s reading, which I’m going to leave here, because the page is absolutely hilarious.
After this, we’re treated to a delightful “suiting up” sequence, where we’re able to see Joshua and Margaret’s sweet artillery room. There’s some gems in there, like the reappearance of the Demon Blood Sword, and even a PokeBall! Suppose demons weren’t the only thing that Joshua hunted? Regardless, it’s nice to see Margaret in this kind of solo role. Aside from Jake the Dad, this is really this only instance of Margaret having such a role on her own, and it’s nice to see that she’s equally as badass as Joshua. Granted, she has some restrictions and is a bit more reserved, but she isn’t afraid to put herself in danger, or even throw a few punches or two. And it’s exactly that which confronts her with the shapeshifter, who is easily thwarted by her fake sympathy. Though the retaliation from Margaret was likely not what the shapeshifter was expecting, his goal is already in motion. My guess is that the serum would not be able to prevent the creation of Jake regardless, and that what was set into effect by the shapeshifter was inevitable. The shapeshifter returns to his dimension to simply sit back and let the future set in.
Speaking of the inevitable birth, the scene where Margaret reconvenes with Joshua is legitimately suspenseful on both accounts. The way Joshua is drawn, with pulsating blue veins running through his body, is off-putting in all the right ways and really gives you a sense of the pain he’s going through. Likewise, I’ll never know what it’s like to be pregnant, but I can nearly feel Margaret’s pain in said situation. This agony builds up to Jake being birthed from Joshua’s head, in a mildly humorous sequence where Jake serenades his parents. Granted, I think this is a bit too goofy and doesn’t make a lot of sense with consistency. In Dad’s Dungeon, Jake isn’t even able to speak, and in Jake the Dad, his voice is obviously different as a child. I know it was strictly for gag purposes, but it’s a bit too distracting for me to get entirely behind, no matter how funny it is. But it is Jake after all, so I’ll let it slide. I do like how it connects all the way back to The Witch’s Garden, in which Jake mentions that he got his stretchy powers from a mud puddle. Here, he’s born in a puddle, which didn’t give him those powers, though it’s the first time he can ever remember having them. Another small detail that goes a long way in terms of world-building.
So the dog parents essentially both give birth to an individual baby: Jake and Jermaine. The ending successfully ties together a lot, and feels like a very satisfying introduction to Jake’s backstory. Though it’s brought back later on in another interesting fashion, I was willing to assume that the events of this episode weren’t going to be addressed again, which I was always content with. Joshua and Margaret Investigations sets up an opportunity for more to come from this development, but also ties it up in a satisfying way regardless with Joshua deciding to never tell Jake of his true nature. It’s another flaw on Joshua’s part, as it causes some legitimate issues within Jake’s own identity later on, though knowing what type of an effect such obscure information would have on him, Joshua would likely rather keep it a secret. Regardless of these actions, Jake remains content on his birthday, blissfully unaware of the true basis of his powers or how they will effect him in the future.
This episode is just jam-packed fun. It takes two already established characters and just adds so much more to their lives in an entertaining way. It also effectively carries out Jake’s backstory, which is unique in the fact that, while it isn’t the most uncomplicated tale, it isn’t deep or dark either. Regardless of the circumstances of his birth, Jake is still born into a family that cares and loves for him unconditionally. All that is added is just a really cool element of history regarding the nature of his stretchy powers, and that’s all I could ask for. Joshua and Margaret Investigations builds on the Land of Ooo quite successfully, while managing to carry across a pure feeling of fun all the way through.
This might be AT at its most quotable, so I have several favorite lines this time around.
“These steaks are tough and stringy. Like you!”
“He takes a punch, you zig when you should’ve zagged, and oops! Junior takes a knock to the noodle, comes out with the shiner the size of a grapefruit.”
“Well, those tracks are as phony as a three dollar bill.”
“Do your worst, you masher.”
“The only monster here was this man’s appetite for his wife’s pie.”
“You’re about as fine as a canary in a cat mine!”
“I’ll show that peepsie the pepper!”
“Hey, where’s the fire, kiddo?”