Tag Archive | Joshua

“Joshua and Margaret Investigations” Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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This might be AT at its most quotable, so I have several favorite lines this time around.

Favorite line(s): 

“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?”

 

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“Dad’s Dungeon” Review

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Original Airdate: February 6, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Pendleton Ward, Adam Muto & Natasha Allegri

Dad’s Dungeon is just too fucking rad. It incorporates pretty much everything that makes Adventure Time so great: big laughs, great visual gags, terrific animation, beautiful colors, layered backgrounds, fantastic interactions between our main duo, and a big heart at the very center. This one collabs some of AT’s biggest talents, with Adam Muto, creator Pen Ward, and Natasha Allegri at the helm. It was originally going to exclusively be boarded by Pen, but he needed extra help as the process went along. That information alone shows you how much of a passion project this one really was; Pen has rarely ever boarded during his original run on the series, and he really only does so when he thinks something’s particularly silly or cool to be working with. All of the boarders did an awesome job of keeping the episode so simple in its plot that it harks back to the old days, but also keeps things fresh and new with elements we haven’t seen much of yet. It’s a fun dungeon themed episode, but at the center is a very interesting dynamic between Finn and his adoptive father.

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This episode is one that I consider funny and energetic from beginning to end. From the very first scene with Jake asking Finn and BMO to come up with suggestions regarding what he could shapeshift into, you’re immediately sucked in by the boys’ wacky antics, and it only continues full force from there. There’s a ton of really strong visual gags, including Jake jumping through the treehouse and posing as he lands, from Finn’s dynamic jump into the actual dungeon. There’s even a brief moment where, while in the dungeon, Jake briefly switches back into his cheetah form for no contextual reason. I really love these “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” AT jokes that the series has become so good at adding in overtime. It really makes every rewatch more worthwhile, as you’re able to pick up on more subtle gags occurring in the background. In addition, it’s filled with great jokes and lines, primarily from Joshua. His 1950’s accent provided by Kent Osborne will literally never get old to me, and pretty much anything he says gets a chuckle out of me (“The whole Kazoo!” “Cover your ears, Sue!” “You’re both squishy babies!”). I specifically love the absurdity behind him reminding Jake that he can’t hear any of his messages, yet anticipating all of Jake’s possible answers and responding back to him anyway.

The connection between Joshua and Finn in this one is particularly strong. The relationship between F&J and Joshua has really never been explored in great detail, so it was kind of neat as is to get some development on a connection between two characters that we really haven’t gotten a chance to see yet. It’s pretty interesting, mostly because I think Joshua is the most positively represented father figure we’ve seen in the series up to this point, and actually of all time in that regard (though you could argue Lady’s dad is a pretty good guy, but he tried to fucking eat Finn that one time). That being said, I think Joshua’s morally ambiguity has come into questioning at times. For one, he blatantly steals from demons for no other reason than besides the fact that they’re demons. Specifically in this one, he labels Finn as a whiny crybaby even though Finn is a literal baby at the time. It has a strong psychological effect on Finn as you would expect, and it’s debatable on whether Joshua’s actions are out of irrationality or his failure to understand the human culture at all. It’s clear that Jake is definitely more emotionally mature than Finn is, but even then, it may be that his ability to hide his deeper emotions and stresses came from his father to begin with. So Joshua’s desires to toughen up Finn may just derive from his methods of dog culture on how he feels Finn is supposed to act as a teenage boy. It might also be an elaborate setup. From Joshua’s pre-meditated answers to Jake, it could be concluded that he knew exactly what was going to happen, and used his backlash towards Finn as a possible way to motivate him. Or it could even just be that he’s the typical macho dad that believes that boys shouldn’t ever cry for the course of eternity. It’s really something that I think can be analyzed and allows you to draw your own conclusions. I also really love Finn’s desire to please his dad as well; it kinda shows that, even though it seems like he is, Joshua isn’t actually a jerk. Finn wouldn’t value him so much as a father, as well as his opinion, if he was just an asshole. It’s clear that Joshua was a caring and cool father, and that his respect and love is very important and well-appreciated by Finn.

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The dynamic between Jake and his father is great as well, mostly because Jake isn’t simply just a slave to Joshua’s wishes. I like that he initially goes along with Joshua’s orders simply out of curiosity and respect for his dad, but later loses trusts in his opinion, and ultimately chooses to side with Finn in the end. It’s a really sweet move for Jake to choose his brother above all, and even decide that, while he loves his father, the emotional state of his brother matters more to him. It’s evident that Jake is certainly more in touch with his sensitive and compassionate side than his father, and would rather care for his brother than to watch him suffer.

The dungeon in this one is dope. I love all the different aspects of it, from the burgers and hot dogs monsters (some really amazing animation sequences during this part!) and when Finn and Jake eventually reach the portal of flowers. The bit with the Fruit Witches is probably my favorite part of the entire episode. It starts out as a really beautiful scene: the colors are nice and lush, the music is soothing and pretty, and the general atmosphere is very calming and laidback. Once one of the Fruit Witches takes a bite of an apple, things go batshit insane in the craziest way possible: the Fruit Witch is wrapped with vines until she becomes an apple, is brutally eaten by her accomplices through demonic mouths on top of their heads, and the entire area grows dark gray and threatening. It’s a really amazing contrast that sets you up for two completely jarring moods: light and relaxed, and dark and frightening. Everything in this dungeon is pretty well-designed too; really love the extra detail to the Fruit Witches, especially during their transition, and even the gross monster that Finn and Jake encounter. I love how everything Pen draws blends grotesque and cute so perfectly together.

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The final climax is terrific as well: the beast Finn faces is awesome in its design, and the darkened lighting of the room helps the colors of the characters (as well as that totally kickass demon blood sword) stick out even more prominently. The final message from Joshua is too sweet. It’s a crowning moment of heartwarming that through everything, Joshua simply set up this dungeon not out of sadism for Finn’s mental and physical help, but out of love. He knew that Finn would love the dungeon, and even through his struggles, he’d be able to make it to the final stage. It’s a moment of beauty that leads into the final battle between Finn and monster, complete with Joshua’s awesome mash-up rap. It also segues into Finn obtaining his brand new possession: the demon blood sword! One of my favorites of Finn’s swords in the entire series, it’s by far used the most, and is frequently a key item from this point on.

Goddamn, this episode is cool. It has pretty much everything you could ever ask for in an Adventure Time episode, as well as doing so much more. I have very little to even nitpick in this one: I love pretty much everything from beginning to end. The connection between Joshua and his sons is so great; I love how, even in its rocky introduction, it still remains one of the strongest father-son relationships in the entire series. The dungeon setting always makes for a pretty bangin’ setting, and considering AT‘s strong roots to Dungeons & Dragons, you know these are the kinds of episodes that the staff (especially Pen) have a lot of fun with. Dad’s Dungeon is also Adventure Time at its absolute funniest, and the characters and visuals do their damndest to carry it through entirely. It’s certainly one of the most riveting dungeon experiences Finn and Jake have faced, and one of season three’s greatest efforts as well.

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Favorite line: “But(t)s are for pooping!”