„Spendin‘ money is kind of fun!“
Adventure Time boasts such an immersive, fully realized world that it can routinely take an element that has been established for a long time and spin a story around it. The fact that Finn and Jake have been hoarding money beneath their tree house has always been used as a neat joke to show that our protagonists go on adventures for the heck of it – in season six, Adventure Time finally sets out to explore what money really means to the duo.
Finn and Jake just own too much treasure, so they decide to go and spend it. NEPTR recommends Wildberry Kingdom – „a really expensive vacation destination.“ Sounds exciting, right?
Spoilers from here onwards.
The vice that money is usually associated with is greed. Adventure Time chooses to go down a different path, since neither of the two protagonists is characterized as greedy – they have simply accumulated much wealth because they don’t actually use it. In fact, their treasure stash represents the fun they have had up to that point – rewards for valiant deeds, treasures from slain dragons and saved princesses, you name it. The money has never been the point, but instead more of a symbol for their adventurous times. In „Furniture and Meat„, Finn and Jake finally realize that money might be more than that – and it’s great to see them so indifferent about the loss of all their money at the end of the episode.
Instead of greed, power is at the heart of „Furniture and Meat„. Money creates power imbalances, a kind of power imbalance that sneaks up on you. Jake is not generally a sadist – it’s just that when he tries to share his happiness (=money), he fails to see that his exertion of power makes people unhappy instead. Jake sees them willingly make a tradeoff, when in fact it makes people do things that are unhealthy for them – things that physically harm their bodies (eating money), that humiliate them (Jake throwing money at the dancer reminded me of Game of Thrones‚ Joffrey – which is not exactly a flattering comparison), or that invade their privacy.
„Finn, look, I made this gem dance!“, an excited Jake proclaims, enjoying the power the money grants him. But soon, the joy of seeing the gem dance turns into a malicious laugh. What starts out as a passionate dance becomes a sell-out performance in a matter of seconds. A power-crazed Jake nearly loses it: „This is crazy. People do anything for money!“ The show never explicitly mentions prostitution, but the show clearly tackles the issue when Jake defends his actions with the argument of a free enterprise economy from a wary Finn. „They want my sweet cheddar, and I wanna see some sweet stuff in exchange.“ The wildberries choose to sell themselves out, so why not let them? The choice, however, is an illusion, as nobody in the kingdom seems to be strong-willed enough to oppose Jake’s bribes. Soon, however, Jake becomes bored of the small manipulations, and decides „it’s time to push this thing further“ – by finding out just how far the wildberries are willing to go when money is on the line.
The scene in which Finn and Jake enter a wildberry couple’s home and buy off their suspicions with money crept me out, and soon enough it proved to become the episode’s turning point. The idea of burglars invading your house is not scary because of all the valuables they could take, but because of the fear the instill in you, the knowledge that your house is not safe – even once they are gone, your worries won’t be. Finn and Jake create that kind of fear, and they think paying it off with money will solve that problem. The wildberry couple accepts their money and lets their sleeping habits be manipulated by Finn and Jake, thinking that the monetary gains will outweigh the personal slights they incur. Finn and Jake don’t intend to sow unhappiness, but they invariably do – and for what gain? Does it make Jake happy to have the female wildberry sleep on the wrong side of the bed? Does it make Jake happy to sit on wildberry princess‘ head and humiliate her that way?
The answer is, of course, no. Instead, a childlike desire to play tricks on the wildberry people is what drives Jake, without realizing that the fun he has can never be worth the manipulation the people suffer. The episode shows that pranks can be fun, but one has to take into account what the prank means to the people that are being pranked. Finn and Jake have never had problems with finding fun things to do, so certainly wouldn’t need to mindlessly bribe and humiliate the citizens of wildberry kingdom. It’s just like BMO foreshadows it in the beginning: „all this dosh is threatening the integrity of the treehouse.“ Indeed it does, and that’s why it ultimately needs to go.
Despite wildberry princess‘ supremely harsh verdict for Finn and Jake’s crime – crowning them in gold, clearly a Game of Thrones reference – it should be noted that she is right. While chiming them for the abuse of the power of money is a little too much on the nose for my tastes, it’s a great narrative choice in that the two do not go unpunished when their use of their last money goes horribly wrong, because they finally encounter somebody that is above money. I should have seen BMO and NEPTR saving our heroes coming, since BMO’s absolutely adorable Robin Hood costume ties in just too nicely into the episode’s main theme. Still, it’s a great twist that the two robots get to save the poor from the now rich wildberry people.
Having said all that, it should be noted just how supremely funny „Furniture and Meat“ is. I burst out laughing loudly numerous times, with my personal highlight being Jake’s money song. The song is just so ridiculously over the top, and the corresponding animation is golden as well: the gleeful smiles as the strawberry soldiers get bribed, Jake making sure each and every guard is paid off (which looks like a video game, as every guard begins to run into a random direction once given the money), and the blatantly impolite treatment of the elevator guy are all absolutely hilarious. I could watch this sequence for ages and still smile about it.
The rest of the episode isn’t sloppy either, humor-wise. It’s amazing, for instance, that Adventure Time can still come up with inventive Jake transformations in its sixth season. It may have not been the first time Jake transformed into a giant car, but seeing him drive himself while sporting a safety belt (for good measure) is a great source for laughter. Sometimes I complain that Jake’s transformational skills are a little overpowered, but I feel more than appeased when I see the show wisely using these hilarious cop-outs to its advantage: Jake could have easily gotten out of the handcuffs, but having an (awe-) struck Jake pull out the arrow in his shoulder with a miraculous third hand and saw through the ropes with the arrow is infinitely more engaging.
And that is ultimately what „Furniture and Meat“ is: engaging. It’s enticing to claim that the episode belongs to „that rare breed of Adventure Time episodes that effortlessly mingles an engaging story and thought-provoking themes with some nice mythology development and genuinely funny humor“, but fortunately, that kind of episode is not all too rare on the show anymore.
Even more bla:
– BMO and NEPTR have become really good friends now, despite BMO’s originally dismissing NEPTR as different from him – NEPTR is, after all, a robot.
– „I continue to chill.“ Alright, what the Adventure Time Wikia calls the „Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant“ is really one of the show’s weirdest creations. I loved how sincerely he took his duty to guard the vault inside the tree house.
– What’s up with the decompressing chamber, in which wildberry princess is taking a meat bath? Is it because wildberry princess is… spoiled?
– „Keep the change for your families in need“, says a valiant Finn – to an upper middle class family. Very funny, and a great way to show how culturally unaware he is here.
– Love the sly ending: the coin flip should decide who is going to write the apology letter, but since it doesn’t land on either side, wildberry princess will probably stay mad at the two of them until the next time we see her.
– Join me next week for this season’s Fionna and Cake episode. I’m a long-time fan of that pairing, and I hope to write a review that’s a little longer than usual, looking at how the show explores gender politics with its gender-swapped heroes.
Rating: 8,5 out of 10 stars.
„Furniture and Meat“ is an excellent episode: tremendously funny and engaging. It’s difficult to misunderstand the episode’s core message, but this minor quibble is more than overshadowed by the episode’s gleeful energy.