Original Airdate: September 17, 2017
Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim
Out of everyone in AT‘s main cast, I don’t think a single character’s potential has been wasted more than Flame Princess. I always like to think back to when her character was pitched as if everything was planned out to begin with; “okay, so this girl is kind of chaotic and was trapped in the Fire Kingdom by her dad. Then she starts dating Finn and they’re really happy together. Then they break up after a year and she usurps her father and becomes the ruler of the Fire Kingdom. Then she becomes a really talented rap artist.” Feels like reading from a madlib book. Flame Princess’s “rap God” status feels less like a fleshed out development from her character and more like a desperate cry for her to stay relevant within the world of the series. I was fine when it was brought in as a gag in Bun Bun and even her brief moment with NEPTR in The Music Hole, but this isn’t the type of story that feels like it’s worthy of exploring in the first place. Not to mention it’s handled in a pretty contrived way that never feels like it actually accomplishes anything by the end.
I’m estimating, but about 4 minutes of this episode is comprised of rap tunes that are pretty damn bad. I’m not a fan of rap music in the slightest, but I still think I have a decent idea of what makes good rap and why people are into it to begin with. AT‘s concept of rap is mashing funny words together that rhyme and dishing out child-friendly burns that never actually sink as deep as the characters in-universe try to hype up. AT songs are usually either super catchy or humorous, and these tunes are neither. It kinda feels like the lyrics and rhythm were purposely glossed over for the purpose of developing the story, but if that’s the case, why are there so damn many of them? A show like Regular Show is able to get away with child-friendly raps because they’re intended to be stupid and forced by the main characters. These raps feel like the show was trying to follow down the dumb fun route, but never committed to the actual fun route and just made them seem super lazy and uninspired as a result. It honestly borders on being legitimately cringey.
The rap songs take up a good chunk of this one, which is bad enough, but the story is pretty weak on it’s own. Toronto returns in this episode in what feels like another example of wasted potential. Toronto was a pretty average character from the start, but he truly has no purpose in this one aside from being the token shyster required for the conflict. AT is no stranger to plot contrivances, like the fact that Jake’s stretchy abilities should be able to get him and Finn out of practically any situation, but Son of Rap Bear‘s contrived story kind bugs me. Toronto is standing less than two feet away from Finn and Flame Princess when he reveals his true plans – just burn the fucking documents, Flame Princess! They don’t even try to make an excuse for it. Finn and Flame Princess just stand there in a civil manner as Toronto explains to them how he’s going to take her entire kingdom away from her. Like, what the hell? I previously got annoyed at the writing in The Cooler when Flame Princess unintentionally blew up the Fire Giants, but this instance was just beyond me.
The more “dramatic” turn this episode takes by incorporating Flame King feels equally uninspired. Flame Princess and Flame King’s relationship in Son of Rap Bear feels like a retread of better stories that we’ve already seen in the series. AT‘s “shitty dad” motif has been effective for the most part throughout its run, but there are clear signs that this theme has run its course. Flame King’s strains with his daughter were made interesting in Earth & Water when it was revealed that he refuted her from his fear of being usurped, but the very path he chose ended up leading to his eventual demise. Here, he’s just kind of an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. This is actually a consistent issue I have with season nine as a whole – all of the “shitty dad” episodes feel tired and unoriginal, and this is no exception. The way Flame Princess uses her own turmoil with her father to fuel her creativity feels similarly unoriginal, as it’s literally the basis of a good majority of Marceline’s songs. I just thought, how cool would it be if Flame Princess and Marceline hung out in this episode and Marceline taught her to use daddy issues as a basis for a song? Can’t say if it’d actually be good or not, because it’d still involve garbo raps, but it’d at least be something different and unique.
This episode ends up having a few saving graces. There are some funny gags throughout, namely the notion that Son of Rap Bear literally rapped the legs off of his dad. There’s also this really great visual treat throughout the first few minutes of the episode where NEPTR just stares completely still and smiles right at the camera and it goes on for a long time. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it’s fucking hilarious. NEPTR can truly brighten up any stinker.
And yeah, that’s pretty much what Son of Rap Bear is. Like I mentioned previously, the rapping aspect brings this episode down a ton to the point where it’s almost embarrassing. I watched this in my college apartment when it first aired with my friends, and after endlessly telling them how amazing Adventure Time (they had never seen it), I couldn’t help but sink into the cushion of my seat by the end of it. It also doesn’t help that this is the last solo Flame Princess episode of the series, and man, it frustrates me to no end that this is how her character arc ends. There’s so much that could have been done with Flame Princess’s arc as a ruler that sadly never came into fruition. Sad to say, but FP was likely a character strictly created for the purpose of being Finn’s romantic interest, and once their relationship was no more, the staff really never found a place for her.