In “Jake the Starchild”, after an entire lifetime of absence, Jake’s biological alien dad Warren Ampersand has returned to bond with him before he dies, and Jake must fulfill his destiny in defeating an ultimate evil. Nothing sketchy about that, right?
The scenario about Jake being a long-lost chosen one is transparently fake, but Adventure Time revels in the obviousness, using it as a chance to really embrace the tropes. Jake appreciating the “great sci-fi fantasy vibe” is awesome, as is appreciating the incredibly out-of-date stereotypical “perfect kids’ room”. The audience is allowed to enjoy all this, while at the same time trying to figure out what exactly evil dad’s evil plan is.
The first real clue is when Jake gets exhausted using his shapeshifting as the key to unlock a door. It is, admittedly, a pretty complicated puzzle–but we’ve seen Jake stretch literal miles, using his own body as a marker to navigate a complex labyrinth. With alien dad becoming healthier as Jake ages, it’s clear he’s stealing his vitality– but how?
Turns out, it was with the ‘Proud Pop’ and ‘Best Son’ belts, which were sapping Jake’s energy every time he shape-shifted. The rest of the world, down to the people in it, were just the father using his own shape-shifting to sell the illusion. Alien Dad explains this gleefully to his dying son, as he has done hundreds of times over, but only now he feels the first glimmers of remorse. This leads to one of the best jokes the show has had for a long time: “Maybe this is the feeling your kind calls… lowkey affection. I lowkey affection you, son.”
So much of the humor in “Jake the Starchild” relies on the audience knowing that Jake is hedonistic and oblivious, and therefore missing the obvious evil trap. In the end, though, we’re reminded that Jake is cleverer than he often shows. When he brings Evil Dad in for one last hug, he swaps the belts. Then he goads Warren into stretching, allowing Jake to regain his drained youth.
Considering how so much of Jake’s recent character development has been centered around his fear of growing old, it’s a really nice bit of plotting. Jake is confronted by his greatest fear and overcomes it, showing a level of acceptance he didn’t previously have.
Of course, it’s things like that which make me think that if any of the main characters are going to kick the bucket in the upcoming series finale, it’ll be Jake.
Drained of energy, Warren isn’t beaten just yet. When Jake lets slip that he has children of his own, the alien opens a dimensional rift with the intent of meeting his grandkids and sucking their energy out.
While I’ll probably never stop being bitter that we didn’t get more time with Jake’s puppies as, well, puppies, the righteous fury he displays in “Jake the Starchild” in defending his children goes a long way to filling that void in my heart.
That said, it is pretty depressing to see him stranded on a desolate, alien planet with no way to get home. I hope he does, and I hope he gets his pretzel.
Author: Laura B
Lover of fantasy and science fiction, fascinated in how they impact the real world. Professional writer and science communicator.
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