Since debuting on Cartoon Network in 2010, Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time has become one of the network’s highest rated shows, appealing to both kids and adults with its expansive, aggressively adorable universe and unpredictable stories. For those that haven’t seen the series before, here’s the general idea: Jake the Dog and Finn the Human live in a treehouse in the magical land of Ooo and have a lot of fun adventures together. It’s like a combination of Candyland, Super Mario Bros., and Ren & Stimpy. Surreal sight gags combine with fart jokes and physical slapstick to give the show a wholly unique sense of humor within the realm of children’s television, but the writers also display a talent for telling compelling, emotional tales within the goofy setting.
The fourth season premiere, “Hot To The Touch,” picks up immediately after last season’s finale, with Finn enlisting Jake’s help in winning the Flame Princess’ (FP) affections. In the episode’s 10 minutes, the writers create an apt metaphor for pubescent dating, as Finn and FP struggle to make a relationship work. After being rejected by the Finn made out of Jake’s skin in “Incendium,” FP no longer trusts him, and all Finn’s efforts to comfort her are misinterpreted as hostile actions. Neither of them are ready for any sort of relationship, but Finn has been known to act first and think later.
Like anyone with a crush, Finn is blind to the flaws of the girl he dotes on. To Finn, FP is as innocent as the steam off a puppy’s nose, searching for ham in the snow. Fire is the perfect element for a hormonal teenage princess, and FP can’t control her emotions, burning everything in her path as she reacts to Finn’s advances. In junior high terms, Finn is the shy, awkward boy just discovering an attraction to the opposite sex, and FP sees his anxiety and mistakes his intentions. When the boy tries to adjust his strategy, in Finn’s case dousing FP’s flames, the girl reads it as an attack, and the cycle continues all over again.
Finn is at an age where he’s going to start longing for a companion that isn’t his dog, but he doesn’t quite understand the feelings he has for FP. He tells her that he just wants to hug her and sit on the couch and play BMO with her, which are all things that he can easily do with Jake. There’s an extra physical element at work that Finn doesn’t want to admit, but ultimately, the thing that prevents FP and Finn from being together is that they can’t have any sort of intimate relationship.
This show loves music and callbacks, and this episode accomplishes both with an appearance from NEPTR, the Never Ending Pie Throwing Robot that Finn gave sentience to in “What Is Life?” While digging through a dump to find material for fireproof suits, Finn and Jake find NEPTR behind a loaf of old bread; he’s been hiding since they started a game of hide-and-go-seek 15 months, four days, and nine hours ago. While helping them build their suits, NEPTR sings a short rap about pleasing his creator, a perfect little musical interlude at the midway point of the episode.
After FP goes full-on Dark Phoenix, Finn breaks down into tears and instantly gains FP’s sympathy, but none of her affections. FP realizes that Finn is a water elemental—he secretes water the way she shoots flames—and that they can never be together because they’re polar opposites. Going back to the junior high comparison, did anyone ever have really embarrassing cry in front of all their classmates growing up? I did, and while it certainly earns you compassion, it’s not the best way to get your crush to notice you. Finn gets his hug at the end of the episode, but it’s bittersweet and also just plain painful. As Finn watches FP leave, Jake asks him how the hug felt. “It hurt,” Finn replies. It’s unclear if he’s talking about his cheek or his heart.
- Great physical comedy courtesy of Jake this episode, whether he’s putting out a fire with his giant-sized butt (toasty buns!) or having his face molded like putty by Jake.
- Anyone checking out the fantastic Adventure Time comic book from Boom! Studios? It captures the tone of the show perfectly while somehow turning in even crazier stories.
- “Nah, man. I peeped beyond her burning gaze, and noshed hot lunch with her soul.” The dialogue on this show is somehow both silly and sophisticated.
- “You cannot tell, but I am giving a thumbs up.” NEPTR is so adorable.
- “Ha ha. We are as one, creator.”
- If you guys want to see Adventure Time as a weekly TV Club, let us know via comments/ Twitter/carrier Iron Owl.