Welcome back, Prismo! Everyone’s favorite interdimensional dream-being makes his return in “Is That You?”, a time-twisting episode by Jesse Moynihan that does fascinating things with structure while highlighting the imagination and humor that makes this show such a delight week after week. After mourning the death of their friend by eating Prismo’s last pickle during a dream ritual—which seems like a totally normal thing for this episode to begin with because this is Adventure Time—Finn and Jake inadvertently set in motion Prismo’s Plan B, a plot set in motion in the past to revive him in the future if he ever croaks.
Prismo needs Finn and Jake in order to enact his plan, but it requires the performance of the pickle dream ritual two times. The first time pulls Jake into Prismo’s dimension, where he’s groomed to become the new dream-host for his fallen ally, and in order to get Finn to perform the ritual a second time, Prismo makes Jake’s corporeal form repeat old scenes from this show’s past whenever he’s in the setting for that flashback. This introduces a recap element to the episode, including the repurposing of clips from past chapters, but “Is That You?” never feels like a clip show.
That’s because the recap is really more of a greatest hits compilation for Jake, allowing Moynihan to revisit some of the character’s most beloved moments from a slightly different perspective. You get Jake digging up his everything burrito from “Conquest Of Cuteness”, dancing with the bug from “Power Animal,” singing “Bacon Pancakes” from “Burning Low,” and a couple more scenes that have become signature Jake moments. (I’ve sprinkled a few of them throughout this review!) What makes this plot thread especially fun is that it shows the evolution of Jake’s design as it shows moments from past, and you can see how Jake’s silhouette and the shape of his facial features have changed over time.
There’s one extended clip in the episode, replaying Prismo’s death and the Lich’s imprisonment in the Citadel, but Moynihan folds this into the narrative by having Jake witnessing these past events and commenting on how they impacted his mind in that moment. “I remember feeling like someone had peeled the layer away from my brain, and my reality was no longer anchored to any point of reference, and I had to fight to keep from being crushed under the weight of an unforgiving new paradigm of ultimate reality. It was so cool, man!” John DiMaggio handles the build of this line exceptionally well, creating a clear sense of the gravity of this consciousness-altering experience. You feel the weight of Jake’s revelation, but then he immensely lightens that load by expressing how refreshing and cool that encounter ended up being.
I spent a lot of time talking about Billy West’s voice work in last night’s episode, but I made a big mistake ignoring how important John DiMaggio is in making Jake a fully realized character and building the dog’s relationships with those around him. DiMaggio is an actor with a huge range, not just in terms of the kinds of voices he can do, but the breadth of emotion he brings to all those voices. He can play any feeling at any level of intensity, and his elasticity as a performer makes him the perfect person to voice Jake. That level of commitment is a big reason why DiMaggio is such a fantastic scene partner; he brings loads of energy to each scene, and it’s easy for his costars to build on what they’re given when they’re given so much. Jake and Prismo have only hung out on screen a few times, but DiMaggio has such great chemistry with Kumail Nanjiani that it feels like they’ve been best bros for the entire series. And that strong bro bond is what allows Jake to bring Prismo back from the dead.
Jesse Moynihan has an incredible handle on this show’s stylized dialogue—you can hear a lot of the Adventure Time voice in Moynihan’s Forming graphic novels—and he fills this episode with hilarious one-liners and deep philosophical asides that keep the pace racing ahead. This show has a specific way of using abbreviated words and informal word combinations to give the scripts a youthful, carefree energy, and Moynihan is acutely aware of these elements in his script. (Key example: “These picks were made by our friend to be mouth-loved.”) Those whimsical elements of the dialogue provide lightness that contrasts with the darker elements of the script, keeping things juvenile even when the story introduces more mature subject matter.
That maturity takes a lot of different forms in this episode. The structure of the story, with its myriad references in the first half and chronological layering in the second half, is much more complex than what you’d expect to see on a children’s TV show. The structure plays directly into the narrative, too, and eventually the time twisting makes it possible for Prismo’s Plan B to finally be completed when events are manipulated to create a duplicate Jake to take the place of Prismo’s old dreaming host. That’s not a simple story, but it’s presented in a way that makes it engaging and easy to follow, and at the end of this convoluted journey, Finn and Jake have an old friend back in their lives. So welcome back, Prismo! Thanks for the great episode.
- Now I need someone to mash-up “Bacon Pancakes” with the electronic music from the Jake dancing scene. That would be so rad.
- This week, Tim Hwang and Darby Smith debuted their Adventure Time Forum, the self-professed “Leading Journal of Adventure Time Research, Commentary, and Analysis.” It’s an outstanding project that is well worth your time, and you can expect future reviews from me to take advantage of the work done in the assorted essays.
- I’m starting to really miss this show’s female cast. Where the ladies at?
- FINN SWORD. What does it mean?
- “Heh. All these dudes and their lady problems.”
- “What if the whole world was just some goof’s dream? Man, that would be stupid.” Has Jake already forgotten about his experience from last episode?
- “This feels like a trap designed by some kind of mad genius. Wow, hats off to you, sir or madam. Your trap was a success.”
- “It’s like I’m getting Eskimo kisses from an army of angels!”
- “Shut it, Prismo. Heroes risk everything for their friends. Although I admit you’re more Jake’s friend than mine. Sometimes you can think someone is totally cool but you never become besties.” I love this line. Such a great summary of that type of relationship, where you really respect a person, but can’t quite consider them a close friend for whatever reason.
- “Plan B!”