In last night’s episode of Adventure Time, “Joshua and Margaret Investigations,” it’s Jake’s birthday and he’s reminiscing about Joshua and Margaret, Finn and Jake’s mystery-solving parents from the earlier days of Ooo, in an origin story that takes a turn for the interdimensional. It’s the eponymous time again!
Joshua and Margaret, parents of our human and dog protagonists, charmed fans from the outset with their adorable, fast-talking, 1940s speech and mannerisms: they’re the archetypal ‘golden era’ parents, from a time when dads drank scotch and busted perps with their dukes, and moms wore pillbox hats and busted perps with their crossbows. Any viewer worth a damn knows Joshua’s Season One appearance by heart: “You just kissed a boom-boom baby–so don’t expect anymore sugar from me, sweetheart, until we wash your dirty, dirty face.” “Joshua and Margaret Investigations” continues that characterization, but amazingly renders it a sidenote compared to Jake’s birth. Spoilers: the episode is a better tribute to Alien than Prometheus ever was.
The story comes to us via Jake-flashback, where we see Joshua and a pregnant Margaret in their urban apartment, practicing combat maneuvers, feeding each other steaks, and planning for the future of both their family and the family business: ‘Joshua and Margaret Investigations,’ receiving distress calls by ticker tape like proper Golden Age crimebusters. It’s the nuclear family as envisioned by a child raised on action cartoons, basically.
Joshua’s main concern isn’t Kee Oth at present—it’s how to keep his hotheaded wife out of serious scrapes until birthing day arrives. He passes on the tougher cases (disguised references to both Marceline and Flame Princess: a ‘sheep-chasing Vampire girl’ and a ‘fire goblin burning down the Candy Kingdom Forest) before settling on countryside small fries: something’s been stealing pies from a certain pie-making maven in the countryside.
It’s fun to note that Joshua and Margaret lived alongside the Candy Kingdom and older characters like Colonel Candy Corn and Tree Trunks, meaning certain characters may have more information regarding Finn and Jake’s parents. Not that it’s any sort of secret, but establishing them within the Ooo-verse tightens the continuity in world-enlargening ways—we could be getting reveals about Finn and Jake’s mom and pop from basically any older character now. It’s also interesting to note that the couple lives in a relatively intact area of pre-Mushroom War Earth, unlike most everyone else, and one that looks a lot like San Francisco at times.
After picking up the ticker-tape call, we get a classic, cringe-inducing Tree Trunks conversation regarding concealed MILF-jokes and a very pathetic ex-husband named Wyatt, whom you may remember from Tree Trunk’s marriage to Mr. Pig, in which Wyatt asked BMO to move in with him. And you may remember BMO fleeing into the bushes with abject terror on his face. It turns out Wyatt’s been stealing the pies, but more importantly, there might actually be something lurking in the nearby woods. While the tracks look real enough, Joshua opts out for the safety of his dear pregnant wife, who says to hell with it and charges into the woods regardless, because what’s a little pregnancy to a noir detective-y couple?
In the underbrush, Joshua assumes full-on guard-daddy mode, shooing away a creepy four-eyed, cross-mouthed cat that takes a strange interest in Margaret’s burdened belly. Shortly afterwards, the two are attacked by a humanoid version of the cat-creature, and when Margaret’s swollen form gets stuck between two saplings, Joshua intervenes and ends up within its clutches. The monster takes a moment to survey his smooth, tangerine head, makes a satisfied sound, then chomps down. Margaret manages to wound and frighten it off with a hat-pin, and carries the injured Joshua back to their urban apartment.
At home, Margaret frets in the kitchen while her husband stoically eats his last meal of sandwiches and OJ before unsheathing a sword: “Mmm, good last meal. Ok well I got bit by a monster, a creature of the night. We both know what comes next for me, just make it snappy darling.” Instead of beheading her beloved, Margaret consults a Book of Poisons from the shelf, the pages of which reference both the WHO (the existing World Health Organization) and the apocryphal suicide of Cleopatra by snakebite, both very real references to pre-war Earth, in an era of Ooo where our nursery rhymes look like arcane incantations to Ooo-folk.
It’s these little imageries and details about the couple that contribute to their popularity, and also their vivid mythology: their home city looks like a Cold War worst case scenario, their speech is straight from silver-screen Hollywood (when America still held the pretense of a homogeneous society), and their sheer resilience–all these things situate Joshua and Margaret as a symbol of old-fashioned good parenting and the kind of childhood that most people only dream about–an environment so safe and nurturing, and guardians so strong and able. Finn and Jake never remember them but with the most loving reverence: “Haha, yeah, Mom and Dad . . .” And again, this is all in spite of the fact that they live in the future of a failed America, a failed Earth that bombed itself so hard that a wonderland came out; yet here they are still, feeding each other steaks, taking drives into the country, and providing for their children. Joshua and Margaret represent a dream out of the past that prevailed even into the darkest imaginable future.
Back at the apartment, Margaret is unfazed by her husband’s hard-nosed resolution to honorable suicide. She promptly puts him to bed and plans on returning to the woods to extract the creature’s venom and hopefully cure Joshua before his head-wound gets too gnarly. A pull of a candlestick-switch reveals a hidden armory to make Buffy or Bond blush–check out also the Pokeball on the right-hand wall. Armed with a satchel of ninja stars, a crossbow, and elegant headgear, she heads back into Tree Trunks’ woods.
The creature’s wounds leave an oozing Predator-style residue, making a trail leading towards a ruined bank in the middle of the woods called Pantheon of Savings, a mysterious tidbit that proves more interesting later. Inside, Margaret finds the usual reception desk and banking furnishings, but also heaps of baby paraphernalia, and the lurking creature hiding amongst them. It proves frustratingly nimble however, able to glide and shapeshift easily to avoid her crossbow bolts, much like a certain sausage-shaped, orange dog.
Margaret manages to land a lucky shot on a pile of baby toys, and the resulting avalanche pins the creature to the floor. Before she can deliver the final blow, it shifts into the form of an infant, and though Margaret is taken with the idea that it’s a harmless adolescent something or other, its shifty-eyes say otherwise, and its ability to mimic her tears of concern are even more worrisome. Before you mistake her for some mothering caricature of her sex though, Margaret punches its lights out, harvests its venom, and hurries on home.
While she’s gone, the creature looks deviously satisfied and shapeshifts into a floating, abstract form like an ancient martian brooch, with a pattern inscribed on its belly resembling a womb, with two red arrows pointing to each other . . . With a throaty cackle, it opens a portal into some lava lamp dimension and disappears.
Back at home, Margaret finds Joshua missing and their apartment in shambles, and tracks the devastation to an open window, where her husband is reeling in pain in a dark alleyway—all the while, the baby in her belly is eager to birth itself, and she’s huffing like a water buffalo with every step. When she reaches him, she finds his head wound swollen to a pale blue welt that’s trying angrily to extricate itself from the rest of his body. The couple is in simultaneous labor, but Joshua’s arrives first: the welt bursts, there’s a splash, a dropped vial of venom, and . . . a tiny Jake is dancing and singing in a puddle before abruptly falling asleep, in a double reference to both Alien and the Alien parody at the end of Spaceballs where the xenomorph bursts out of John hurt and show-tunes its way down a diner counter. The scene ends with the couple’s dumbfounded, silent faces.
The next day, the happy new parents are strolling in the park, twin babies in a carriage, and you realize what totally just happened: Jake was birthed whole from Joshua’s head as the apparent offspring of the creature and Joshua, like Athena from the head of Zeus in some obscure tie to ‘Pantheon of Savings’ for fan theorists to dissect over and over—more pressing though, is that Jake technically isn’t related to Margaret at all, and is in fact part interdimensional alien, which explains his ability to shapeshift and stretch, though it’s much cuter when Jake does it.
The design on the creature’s chest back in ‘Pantheon Savings’ (two arrows converging in a womb) suggests that it’s a species designed to fuse with other lifeforms, thus opening a slew of plot possibilities and future Jake-centric episodes to look forward to. As they said in the episode, no one knows just what the hell Jake is anymore, but his creation looks more like deliberation than an alien wham-bam-thank-you-Joshua: judging from its behavior in the forest, it looked perhaps like it was sizing Joshua and Margaret up, determining their suitability as hosts. And for anyone keeping score out there, Finn and Jake now have one crappy, space-faring, runaway parent apiece.