Last Monday’s episode of Adventure Time, “The Pit”, picks up where “Play Date” left off: Finn and Lady Rainicorn must find a way to retrieve Jake from the dimension of Kee-Oth the Blood Demon, who has mistaken Jake for his old nemesis (and the duo’s father) Joshua. It’s the eponymous time again!
Try as I might, the only thing I could make out was: “Heeey Lady . . . You asked me to make you a video [something something] won’t change his doggy ways . . .”
Oh Kee-Oth, it seems I hardly knew you. You were one of the most metal moments in Adventure Timesince Finn and Jake’s trip to the Nightosphere, and now you’ve been exploded in a cloud of holy water and demon blood, but you had such a great run as a first-rate villain.
What isn’t there to like? You could suck the blood out of a guy from a distance, even your own blood, and make a sword out of it, and you had a great, guttural, tar voice courtesy of voice actor Noah Nelson, who’s right up there with Ron Perlman (the Lich), Clancy Brown (Finn’s bellybutton fear-demon), and Keith David (Flame King). Your house wasn’t the stereotypical demonic house, with flames, or a vomit of colors and patterns smearing the walls, or misshapen denizens – that stuff’s for the Nightosphere and Superjail!. No, you lived in a sparsely furnished cave where you did uh, yoga, in a beautifully rendered broken-glass dimension; a throwback perhaps, to the John Carpenter flick Prince of Darkness where Satan sleeps in a mirror-dimension.
Kee-Oth belongs in that trope-box of villains with ‘Bad Guy from the Good Ol’ Days’ written in marker. In that box, we have speechifying demons, mad scientists oddly eager to explicate their schemes, and flamboyant nemeses more taken with the romance of villainhood than evil for its own sake. The trope is a key theme in a lot of contemporary animation (especially Venture Brothers), and is a handy way of harking back to the innocence of yesteryear’s pop culture, or to darkly contrast that innocence with today’s ‘realism.’
Kee-Oth had that ‘good ol’ days’ relationship with Joshua, clearly, and I found myself empathizing a bit with Kee-Oth as he’s trying elicit the same sort of relationship with Jake, a bit like an older guy taking his buddy’s kid out for a drink – he wants someone to parry his mortal threats with witty comebacks, someone to expound on the hurt he’s about to inflict, that sort of thing. It was a close and complex frenemies relationship; one of Kee-Oth’s first utterances, after all, was something along the lines of “JOSHUA RETURN MY BLOOD TO ME OR BY DEMON LAW I’LL CUT OFF YOUR LOVEHANDLES. C’MON JOSHUA, WE GO WAY BACK, JUST GIVE ME BACK MY BLOOD.” Yeah, that’s a bromance.
With Kee-Oth screentimes comes also a wealth of great Joshua scenes. Finn and Jake’s parents, Joshua and Margaret, are one of many instances where Adventure Time‘s writers hit it out of the park with nostalgia porn. They act the idyllic 50s couples without being hammy, and while having an idiosyncratic energy of their own: Mom’s lullaby music-box, Dad’s demon blood-sword, Mom’s Manual for Raising Beautiful Children, Dad’s Dungeon for Beating and Taunting Finn into Manhood . . .
But Joshua wasn’t the hopelessly-outdated dad – he was a man’s man, from a magical time with soda jerks and a day’s pay for a day’s work. Joshua was an adventurer before Finn and Jake could make boom-boom by themselves; he was mapping dungeons and organizing them by his own Dewey Decimal system; he was summoning demons, imprisoning them, and making off with their loot (with spare time to make wee-wee), all with the same craftsmanship you’d see in your own dad when he’s, I don’t know, building a deck, or changing a tire or something.
Aside from the bromance, the other big half of the episode is centered on Jake and Lady. In fact, we learn far, far more about their relationship than either we or Finn ever bargained for, and at the same time we learned nothing at all – as Finn asked, are they married, is this, like, typical rainicorn culture (the kids do age hyperfast, so I’m getting preggers isn’t quite the same deal probably), or are they living in sin . . . it’s a lotta junk for one little boy-heart to handle.
Whatever the nature of their relationship, it got a pretty hefty strain when Kee-Oth threw Samantha into the pit where he imprisoned Jake to suffer (no dice, Kee-Oth). Samantha is an amazonian warrior-princess-dog who hasn’t seen another man-dog in eons, and demands that Jake either fight or f*** . . . and you know, I’m pretty surprised he decided to fight. Not only does she have a positively Greek physique and a voice as husky and heavy as a battle-axe (provided by Marina Sirtis! aka Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, aka trademark sexy empath), but Jake’s just never been the guy to wrestle with temptation and win. Though he did almost introduce himself as Jay T. Doggzone, his dating manual-writing, ladykiller alter ego, or something like that . . .
Hence, the bloodless and weakened Jake tried to hold his own against Wolf-Xena until Finn and Lady replicate Joshua’s summoning ritual and materialize in Kee-Oth’s dimension, with Finn touting a spankin’ new blood-sword. Or so it seems – Kee-Oth attemps to suck the blood out of the sword, only to find that it was frozen grapejuice blessed by Shelby the worm. Kee-Oth promptly explodes (too, too soon for such a cool villain . . .) and they return to Ooo with Samantha, who recants her vow to vanquish Jake in mortal combat. The crew embrace, Lady loves Jake, Jake loves Lady, Finn loves Flame Princess, Finn is sad, what’s with that final shot of the Treehouse door?