This is one that I’ve been a pretty excited for. Let me start out with a bit of a precursor:
- It should go without saying that everything compiled onto this list is entirely my own opinion. This is, by no means, a compilation of episodes that are considered the most popular of all time. It merely exists as an entirely opinionated listing of episodes that I find to be terrific after years of watching the series. I welcome with open arms constructive debating if one of your personal picks didn’t make the list, but this ain’t an outlet to complain about my list aligning with your own. You’re all good boys and girls, though. I trust y’all.
- Some of you may realize that the choices on my list may not have gotten the number one spot on my season reviews, which is simply because my opinion has shifted over time. In fact, most of the “Top 5” lists for each season are irreversible, or at least the top 3. After much time spent thinking and going over which episodes truly impacted me, I think this list will be the most accurate compilation to date. But again, check back with me in three years and see what I have to say.
Without further ado, I give you my top 10 best episodes of Adventure Time!
Top 10 Best Episodes
Adventure Time‘s lore is rich and expansive, but Evergreen is a testament to how strong it really is. Outside of the fact that it is providing information into one of the show’s longest running mysteries, it just makes for a terrific tale. Evergreen feels like an old children’s fable at heart, with a cautionary message tacked on about respecting and treating the people in your life properly. Evergreen is also the series at its most beautiful, with beautifully crafted background, designs, locations, and lighting that really make the whole thing pop. This one was boarded by Tom and Steve, though Steve admits that it’s really Tom’s baby. I love these two as a team, but I really connect with Tom’s stuff the most. The man is a master storyteller, and I think Evergreen is a passion project that certainly proves how much creativity explodes into his work.
Cloudy isn’t a standalone episode, by any means. It’s apart of the Elements miniseries, and one of the few filler entries of said miniseries at that. That didn’t stop Cloudy from being the strongest episode of Elements, let alone every miniseries to date. Cloudy was spawned from an idea by Pat McHale that came around during the first season. The idea was that Finn and Jake would get stuck up in the sky and just talk for the entire episode about relationships, Finn’s past, Jake’s dog side, where their lives will lead, and so on. Cloudy sticks to most of that, while taking its own creative liberties in how far our characters have come since the beginning. The jokes, story, and interactions are mostly simple in the most delightful way possible, though Cloudy does have a strong emotional core. Jake finally outwardly acknowledges the stress within him that he doesn’t like to talk about because he’s supposed to keep it together. As close as Finn and Jake are, you really get the idea that they’re so much more closer because they’re able to be so transparent with each other. Cloudy is an episode that celebrates these two lovely boys that we’ve come to know for so long, in what is probably the sweetest AT episode of all time.
8. The Eyes
An early example of an episode that really opened my eyes (no pun intended) to the show’s true merit. The Eyes is a hilarious situational episode that pits the boys against a poo-brained horse that won’t stop watching them no matter how many times they try to divert its attention. Confusion and frustration are two moods that I often find the funniest to deal with, and watching Jake and Finn become absolutely delirious as they fail time and time again really never wears on me no matter how many times I watch it. It’s also just a really strong episode that showcases their brotherly bond. Even as they begin to bicker, they recognize that the situation at hand is driving them apart, not each other. Couple that with an Ice King appearance that makes for both a really fun, fast-paced battle sequence, but also a bittersweet revelation from the old coot: that he just wanted to watch Finn and Jake so he could learn how to be happy. I’ve pointed to What is Life? as a key moment in Ice King’s transition into a more sympathetic character, but I really feel like The Eyes kicked it into full gear. It’s both really funny and super sad to hear him admit that he’s still unhappy as the episode draws to a close, and I feel like it’s the perfect, quiet closing to an episode that is otherwise restless. In the best way possible, of course.
7. Time Sandwich
It’s funny because Jake’s self-entitled episode from earlier in Season Five feels almost less representative of Jake than Time Sandwich does. Jake the Dog seems to only really recognize the less than optimistic side of Jake’s personality: his selfishness and his ability to be easily distracted. Time Sandwich focuses instead on the simple kindness of Jake’s character in the most effective way possible. While it’s fun to have the entire gang together in general, Time Sandwich is a hilarious, memorable, and sweet treat. As the band member with the least baggage, it’s really nice to see everyone stand behind Jake, putting their own resilience to the table for something as simple as a sandwich. Even after forming the “ultimate sandwich,” Jake’s first instinct is to share his creation with his friends, rather than to hog it for himself. It’s a tiny moment that really goes a long way in showing why this mission is so important, and even more triumphant when Jake does get his big, glorious win in the end.
6. All the Little People
Certainly the most Twilight Zone-esque episode of the series, All the Little People is a really intriguing exploration of a power struggle during Finn’s formative years. A good chunk of it could have easily been dismissed as mean-spirited, promiscuous nonsense, but the episode is very smart with making Finn’s role as a god more out of curiosity than out of malice. After all, he’s not doing anything to purposely hurt the little people, and there is the consistent excuse that they’re “only toys.” Of course, it still goes to pretty dark places, as Finn soon discovers that his experimenting does have consequences and he is determined to make things right in the end. All the Little People exists not only as a fascinating concept, but as a really neat exploration of the Finn’s entrance into adolescence.
Adventure Time has gotten a lot of flack over the years for being stagnant in its growth and development. While the show’s more ballsy decisions definitely arise later, I still think its early seasons were dedicated to the expansion of its characters. Aside from Holly Jolly Secrets, Incendium is one of the first big 360s for the series, acting as a culmination of Finn’s failed romantic advances towards Bubblegum, and an explosion of raw, powerful bits of teen angst. The two songs within this episode “All Gummed Up Inside” and “All Warmed Up Inside,” are some of my favorite in the entire series, allowing Rebecca Sugar to really nail it in releasing that sweet, sweet emotion that she loves so dearly with the former. Incendium is also quite beautiful, containing some of my favorite imagery and music in the series, namely when Flame Princess ignites the Tree House. It’s also quite funny, featuring two of my favorite side characters in the series: Flame King and Flambo. Along with a pretty strong introduction for Flame Princess, who, even at her most basic and one-note, makes a very powerful impression right off the bat.
4. I Remember You
I know, I know. I’m basic. But I Remember You is too damn good, y’all! It really brings together some of the strongest writing in the series, being essentially a bottle episode that exists to explore the unfiltered relationship between two characters. It reminds me a lot of All in the Family‘s episode Two’s a Crowd, which is primarily a very similar concept – two polar opposites are forced to spend time together and discover an emotional center about the other through their bonding. Except in this case, the bond is already there, Ice King just isn’t able to discover such an element. The songs, per expected, are terrific; some of the best in the series. I know a lot of people who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s really identify with this episode because of its themes, and while I can’t necessarily say I’ve lived through similar experiences, I still think the episode is powerful whether you relate to the situation or not. It’s simply an impactful story that finally tackles the true reality of Ooo’s past and present, helping the show to grow and expand because of it.
3. The More You Moe, The Moe You Know
Adventure Time has always hit it out of the park when it comes to tackling the subject of growing up, and how utterly terrifying the thought of it can be. Normally we see these themes through Finn’s perspective, but The More You Moe, The Moe You Know gives BMO a chance to deal with his own feelings of being forced into growth. The episode really never strays away from some of harsher elements that life often presents – this certainly isn’t your “yeah, everything is gonna be okay in the end!” type of story. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. BMO’s creator is dead, he killed his brother, and he’s left with the uncertainty of his own being. The More You Moe, The Moe You Know is quite explicit in showing that life really doesn’t always end up alright and that there are tragedies that can occur quite literally out of nowhere. It certainly isn’t bleak in its execution, however. BMO is left with the consolation that, as long as he always trusts his own intuition, he’ll be alright. Similar to Herpich and Wolfhard’s other half hour special, Lemonhope, this episode is packed with a lot of cinematic moments – namely any time BMO reflects on what it means to be grown. Its lovely imagery and commitment to the darker aspects of its themes is what makes The More You Moe, The Moe You Know stick out as one of the strongest.
2. You Forgot Your Floaties
You Forgot Your Floaties is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in an animated series aimed at children, and it doesn’t ever act like it’s trying to be anything else. Sadness and loss are themes that the series has been no stranger to either, with Season Six in particular exploring depression as much as possible. While Finn’s own personal turmoil is resolved a few episodes later, You Forgot Your Floaties deals primarily with two people who are unable to cope with the losses that life has dealt them. Magic Man and Betty are two characters that I never thought would make a good pairing, yet they are so ingeniously tied together because of their dedication to their late spouses. At first, I was really sure how to feel about Magic Man being painted as a more sympathetic, human character, but I think the episode’s dedication to showing how madness and sadness are interconnected really goes a long way in showing the intricacies of his past. The scenes from his past with M.A.R.G.L.E.S. always leave me awestruck – I suck Tom Kenny’s dick nearly everyday on this blog, but I think this is surely one of his most standout roles in the series. And speaking of standout roles, this is also one for Jesse Moynihan. This is definitely an example of Moynihan at his most unhinged, as he’s allowed complete creative freedom to go absolutely bonkers. In doing so, he whipped up the show’s most ambitious effort to date.
1. The Hall of Egress
Easily the most interesting 11 minute cartoon I’ve pretty much ever seen. Egress is a simple story that works surprisingly well for its repetitive nature, going to dark places that do a better job of expanding Finn’s growth into adulthood than words ever could. This is an episode that forces Finn into a role of independence after years of relying on those around him to make everything better. It’s his first real step into the unknown as he depends on his own intuition and instincts to help him through. Similar to other Herpich entries, Egress feels almost like a cinematic experience. It’s as creative as ever, with beautiful imagery, an intricate setting, and enough complexities that could allow for hour long analyses on the topic. Possibly Egress‘s best quality is that it’s primarily standalone, and you can pretty much show this to people who have never seen the series and not lose much. This is always my go-to for friends who haven’t watched the show before, and the reaction is usually pretty positive (though slightly confused at the same time). For so long, Adventure Time fans have been craving its ongoing story and nothing else. Egress is an example of “filler” that goes above and beyond just merely connecting to existing threads and provides an example of the series at in its most passionate and creative form.
Stay tuned next time for the WORST of Adventure Time Episodes!