Adventure Time is an ambitious Cartoon Network show that balances its fantastical absurdities with long-spanning narratives. In-between the 10-minute episodic adventures concerning (mis)adventures of Jake the dog and Finn the human lies a looming war between the Candy Kingdom and the nation of Gumbaldia.
The crazy thing is that it all ties into Princess Bubblegum’s god complex since she created the opposing nation’s ruler, Uncle Gumbald. And that’s not even mentioning allusions to the world’s past conflicts like the Great Mushroom War. This all-ages show has a few emotional and narrative layers within its zany offbeat portrayal of a post-apocalyptic earth, as well as make you wonder if the Land of Ooo is really a cheery place to live in (short answer: hell no).
With the series already coming to a close, we should touch a bit about this landmark series that introduced us to the work and imagination of Pendleton Ward, whom you might know from his debut work The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. Here are our favourite episodes in no particular order.
Rainy Day Dreamday (Season 1)
Do you want to see Jake’s powers at work when he’s bored? Look no further as he takes a spin at the “Floor is Lava” game when Finn mocks his love for imagination.
“Imagination is for turbo-nerds who can’t handle how kick-butt reality is”. Don’t ever say that when you’re with a temperamental shape-shifting talking dog voiced by Bender.
What Was Missing (Season 3)
The truth hurts, and this episode is a testament to that. When the group’s sentimental items were stolen by a creature, they have to perform a piece of honest music to get it back. This episode also hinted at a long-running story arc: the past relationship between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the vampire.
But really, we’re all here for the happy group song the team performs, and it’s heartwarming.
Marceline’s Closet (Season 3)
Adults watching Adventure Time do get a kick out of Marceline and the jokes surrounding her. If you want to see how the writers of this show hit the limit as to what they’re allowed to put in a kid’s show, this episode is the hallmark of their talent.
Marceline fans, this one’s for you.
I Remember You (Season 4)
This is one of the more emotional episodes of the show; it focuses on Marceline and her memories of the Ice King. There’s a reason why there weren’t any episodes starring the two together, and this one episode is the reason why.
It’s an episode that deals with painful relationships and an effective metaphor for folks who had to cope with a relative suffering from dementia. There aren’t that many kid’s shows that deal with this in a subtle and poignant way within a 10-minute runtime.
Dungeon Train (Season 5)
Finn throws himself in a fight against a train filled with monsters because he wants to avoid dealing with a recent breakup. Yeap, that sounds like what most of us go through in life: finding a mundane and engrossing activity to forget about real life and its problems for just a few moments.
It also highlights the dangers of relying on coping mechanisms: pretty soon you end up alienating people around you and live in solitude, as well as pushing away your friends because you just want to be on your own.
Princess Cookie (Season 4)
A hostage situation in the Candy Kingdom escalates when Jake sympathizes with the perpetrator and proceeds to help him escape. Said perpetrator is an orphaned cookie who turns to a life of crime after society rejects him. And his one goal? It’s to be a princess just like Princess Bubblegum.
Part social commentary and part heartwarming (kinda) episode, these are the sort of episodes that make you wonder how far the writers can push the G-rated envelope and get away with certain themes. It also shows their skill in turning an absurd premise into a touching one. On that note, the land of Ooo is indeed a harsh place to live in.
Food Chain (Season 6)
In which Jake & Finn metamorphosize into animals and concepts and have their adventures drawn by a Japanese animation director. This episode emphasizes the many surreal aspects of the Adventure Time series in the best way possible.
Not many kid’s shows have our protagonist transform from bacteria to a giant universe by a magic-wielder prankster. No moral or emotional turmoil here; just good clean stoner image fun!
Astral Plane (Season 6)
Adventure Time can also go into the meditative side of things, such is the case of the sixth season episode “Astral Plane” where Finn has a literal “out of body experience” and contemplating on the meaning of life. The weirdness and surreal nature of the show is still intact, don’t worry -there’s a cloud people rave and a Mars catastrophe in-between the soul-searching.
It’s a whole episode where Finn checks out the mundane problems of Ooo’s denizens and thinks hard about what it means to maintain your own version & vision of your life.
The Islands Episodes 1-8 (Season 8)
Finn, Jake, Susan Strong, and BMO go off far away to an island with humans. This adventure eventually leads to Finn meeting his mother who ends up ruling one of the largest human colonies with high tech stuff. Oh and the group comes across a VR haven, a spell-casting sea snake thing, and Susan Strong’s backstory.
The final few episodes of this saga is an exaggerated cautionary tale of what happens if a country ends up forsaking freedom of emotion for comfort and security. Kinda like a jacked-up version of Singapore, if you want to go straight for the nads. All these 8 episodes are saying is that a little chaos and adventure in your life may put you in danger, but you’ll miss out on new experiences and a little fun.
Let us know what your favourite Adventure Time episodes are!