I mean, why do most kids TV shows have better coming of age narratives than most films? Case in point: Adventure Time. While the bright colours and funny characters easily appeal to kids, when properly dissecting the show it becomes so easy to see all the deep and wonderful parts of the narrative. Or maybe I’m just overthinking a very good, nostalgic and memeable show and there’s not that much there. Anyway, enough with me waffling, here is some history about the show.
Adventure Time first aired in 2010, a full three years after its pilot episode, on Cartoon Network. The show ran for 8 years until 2018 and had 10 series. Along with the regular series, Adventure Time spawned 2 spinoff series, Distant Lands and Fionna and Cake. And if that’s not enough Adventure Time, there’s the special, Diamonds and Lemons, along with three shorts, The Wand, Graybles Allsorts and Frog Seasons. So there’s plenty of content for fans to revisit in the Adventure Time universe.
The show follows Jake and his best friend/adoptive brother Jake the Dog and their adventures in the Land of Ooo. Now, you might ask what these adventures entail? Mostly saving Princess Bubblegum from the evil Ice King and making bacon pancakes that one time. The show received praise for incorporating LGBTQ+ themes as well as a great coming of age arc, once again proving that kids TV hits so much harder when you rewatch it as an adult.
Best Adventure Time Episodes – Top Ten
10. No One Can Hear You (S3, E15)
While I mentioned previously that Adventure Time is incredibly colourful and vibrant, it also has the ability to be very dark. Case in point: No One Can Hear You. Beyond the creepy title, this episode proves that the show could shock audiences even relatively early into its run. It sees Finn, after being injured by a stag, wandering the kingdom in a wheelchair with a cast on. However, as he’s looking around he finds everyone is missing. No wonder this episode is praised for being so atmospheric and mysterious.
9. Burning Low (S4, E16)
Have I put this episode on the list of the best Adventure Time episodes because of the bacon pancakes song? Yes I have, because it’s just so addictive, kind of like bacon pancakes. Anyway, beyond the song what else makes this episode good? Well, Princess Bubblegum starts growing jealous of Finn’s relationship with Flame Princess. All this escalates to possible world destruction, and all of a sudden I see why they added the bacon pancakes song now…
8. The Creeps (S3, E12)
Who doesn’t love a good haunted house episode? This episode is packed out with a costume party and a whodunnit. All of this reinforces how well Adventure Time handles darker themes. While the whole charade may have turned out to be a prank, it still showed fans that something was seriously wrong with the house. And if that’s not enough, it also sets up a long running question: who was the Ghost Lady in the house? Overall, a very mysterious and solid episode.
7. Jake the Dog (S5, E2)
Not only is Jake the Dog a very good episode in its own right but it also serves as a great finale to the two part series 5 opener. Now, it will sound insane if you haven’t seen it, but it involves alternate realities, mutagenic bombs, Finn transforming into a Lich and then attacking Jake, and Jake sitting in a hot tub eating chips with a cosmic owl and Prismo. If that’s not enough to show how good this episode is, it has a great monkey’s paw ending where Finn remembers nothing of the alternate realities but Jake does. Utterly chaotic yet utterly compelling.
6. Red Starved (S5, E38)
If Jake the Dog shows the insane side of Adventure Time Series 5, then Red Starved shows off the horror/mystery side. Also, if you’ve got a phobia of being underground, sand or vampires then don’t watch this episode. The episode sees Finn having to find food for Marceline the Vampire Queen, while Jake has to stay with the starving vampire. Naturally, this creates huge tension while also breaking the audience’s hearts, given Marceline’s popularity. Why does Adventure Time mess with your emotions so much?
Best Adventure Time Episodes – Top Five
5. King Worm (S4, E18)
Remember when I mentioned Adventure Time’s imagery? Well, not only is this episode’s imagery surreal but it’s also dealing with the idea of hypnosis and fear itself. Honestly, while King Worm may be cute, this episode really highlights the danger he can pose. Also, the show is once again dealing with alternate and faux realities to emphasise that Finn is dreaming, which is brilliant because it just keeps messing with the audience’s heads. And this idea being carried on later in the series is even better.
4. It Came from the Nightosphere (S2, E1)
What’s this? Another Adventure Time episode which has a very catchy and popular song? I never would have guessed… All jokes aside, this is a phenomenal episode which sees Finn agree to help Marceline record a song. The song is about her rift with her father, called the Fry Song. Unfortunately, Marceline’s dad isn’t very happy about the song and starts a mad rampage, which Jake and Marceline have to stop. Despite this, the episode has a very wholesome ending between Marceline and her dad.
Best Adventure Time Episodes – Top Three
3. Tree Trunks (S1, E4)
Now after some of the insanity of previous entries, you’re probably wondering what happens in this episode. Well, it’s a very simple fetch quest narrative where Jake and Finn have to help the titular Tree Trunks retrieve a crystal gem apple. The only problem is that said apple is in a cursed forest. While this may make the episode seem predictable, the incredibly explosive ending really makes this episode shine, and lands it securely in the top three.
2. Everything Stays (S7, E7)
Like other episodes in this list, Everything Stays is part of a larger arc: Stakes. But it still holds up as a very good episode in its own right. What makes this episode great? Well, the fact it continues to flesh out Marcy’s origin as a badass vampire hunter who absorbs the souls of slain vampires. Her mother, Elise, making her first appearance just adds more emotional weight. And that doesn’t even factor in how good the Everything Stays song is.
Best Adventure Time Episode
1. Come Along with Me (S10, E13-16)
And the best episode of Adventure Time is… Come Along with Me. And yes, technically this is cheating, however, this is one, long 44-minute finale which does the series justice. What starts out as Jake and Finn helping Princess Bubblegum battle her creation, Gumbald, soon escalates rapidly. After the trio realise conflict is unnecessary, they have to turn their attention to the larger problem: the evil deity GOLB and its plan to destroy the Land of Ooo. Ooh the stakes are very high here, which is fitting given how it’s the series and show finale. Honestly, I can’t do it much more justice here so you’ll just have to go and watch it…