As Finn is further launched into adolescence, Jake is further launched into fatherhood. The birth of daughters Charlie, Viola, and Jake Jr. and sons T.V. and Kim Kil Whan haven’t fundamentally changed Jake’s life, and up to this point, his featured children haven’t been totally fine with that.
Kim Kil Whan longed to see Jake grow up the way he had, and Kristen Schaal’s Jake Jr., conversely, wanted to grow up the way Jake did to make her father proud. The first thing that jumps out at me about “The Diary” is that it’s the first time we’ve seen Jake settled into being a good father.
Here’s our first take of Jake’s son T.V., voiced by Dan “Tina Belcher” Mintz, keeping us just one Eugene Mirman short of the Bob’s Burgers kids being fully represented among Jake’s offspring (and I don’t think we’ve heard Charlie speak yet). And as with many Mintz characters, T.V. is more or less Tina: awkward, sassy (“uhhh…statute of limitations”), susceptible to fantasy, fascinated with the ideas of young love, and so on. After his parents get him away from his video games for a second, he finds himself enveloped in an incomplete diary of one “BP” (I wondered for a few seconds if it was Betty Petrikov’s; it’s not).
During the sequence where T.V. collides with BP’s reality, I’m taken aback by just how much Adventure Time‘s art is intertwined with the comics many of its storyboarders create. Obviously, you have Jesse Moynihan and Michael DeForge, and this episode was worked on by Jillian Takami (whose brilliant This One Summer recently became the first graphic novel to receive a Caldecott Honor). Ooo is a world of zero limitations, and it takes minds like this to really stretch that to its visual limits.
As fans keep trying to answer questions about Adventure Time‘s past and future, “The Diary” feels like a perfect commentary, right up to Jake remarking on a heart-shaped tree: “Yeah, it’s pretty heavy-handed.”
The episode is spent crafting theories out of nothing that make no sense (and sometimes, as with the crab hand (?!) turn out to be true!), parsing through every clue, and trying to squeeze as much story out as possible. As they pick up a letter that BP wrote to her beloved Justin, Jake wonders: “Maybe we shouldn’t read this.”
I’m so glad they did: “Dear Justin, I’m not sure you’ll ever read this letter. Maybe I’m writing it more for myself, anyway. Do you know when you’re little and the future feels really far away? You don’t know what it looks like. You just hope you’ll have stuff figured out by then. You’ll know exactly how to act and feel. You’ll have conquered all your fears, and you’ll never feel dumb or uncomfortable. You don’t think about how you’ll actually get there. The middle parts, between now and then, the middle parts suck, which is why I split, I guess. Okay, so riding out your teen years in a cave is pretty dramatic, but do you know how much reading you get done in a cave? I figured out a cure for my crab hand!”
Then Jake and T.V. look in on Nurse Betsy Poundcake, who grew up in a cave and became a nurse through her self-imposed isolation, in spite of her romance with Justin never blooming.
And alongside giving such dimension to a character we’ve never thought twice about, Adventure Time tells us something about how we seek stories from stories. Jake thinks of Justin and says to T.V., “That guy must be pretty sad, huh? Hey, you wanna go find him?”
T.V. now knows that this isn’t a missed connection, but a resolved story. The story can’t be continued simply by further demanding answers from it.
Similarly, we could try to figure out who in Ooo Justin is. But all we can truly do is keep watching and living and see if he shows up. He might. He might not.