Well gang, here they are! The episodes that I would consider to be some of AT‘s biggest failures. I’ll remind y’all of my contingencies for this list that I included in my Top 10 Best Episodes:
- 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 worst of all time. It merely exists as an entirely opinionated listing of episodes that I find to be pretty stink-o 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 left me with a bad taste, 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.
Top 10 Worst Episodes
10. Son of Rap Bear
If there was any Adventure Time episode that even gave me hints of secondhand embarrassment, it would probably be Son of Rap Bear. Adventure Time has always incorporated rap in hints and little tidbits throughout the show’s history, and while there’s definitely an atmosphere of these instances feeling self-aware, there’s also the reality that they just aren’t self-aware enough. Son of Rap Bear is kind of the pinnacle of that lack of awareness, trying to do its best to be hip and goofy at the same time, but trying waaay too hard in the process and feeling laughable at that. It doesn’t really help that this is Flame Princess’s last big role in the series and it’s wasted on a minuscule story that doesn’t really leave us with anything telling about her character. Adventure Time‘s final season had a plethora of somewhat pitiful “shitty dad” stories, and Son of Rap Bear was the first instance that showed this recurring theme didn’t really have anything more to say. Something that would have been cool is if Marceline taught Flame Princess how to channel her feelings towards her father into her music. It at least would have been something different, but instead, we get a really cliched, repetitive story that feels more like a Hanna-Barbera special than Adventure Time.
9. Slow Love
Adventure Time has always, in my eyes, stood out for its unique and interesting one-off characters that always manage to leave a lasting impression. Snorlock is one of those characters that, like many, shows up only to never appear again. Though, I’d say there are some pretty good reasons for that. The entirety of Slow Love encompasses Finn and Jake’s sympathy for this really obnoxiously unsympathetic character that never really warrants any kind of compassion to begin with. It’s one that easily evades my memory – it isn’t particularly funny, nor is it visually interesting, aside from some cool misty shots of the Grasslands. It’s a story that sounds okay from a conceptual stage, but really, there’s not a ton to expand on. It’s just a drawn out 11 minutes of one idea that doesn’t particularly work to the strength of its characters.
8. Gut Grinder
Gut Grinder is surprisingly significant in how generally insignificant it is for Adventure Time standards. And I don’t mean because it doesn’t directly affect the mythos of the series, it just doesn’t really possess any of the charm or delight of a typically fun Adventure Time entry. From a first watch, it already feels like a predictable story without much setting it apart or breaking tropes, and any further rewatches don’t necessarily offer much in terms of humor or visual splendor. This episode did offer up Finn’s memorable line of “justice never sleeps,” but as for the rest of it, it just kind of feels like a slog. It’s a story that’s been done a million times prior, and unlike usual, Adventure Time doesn’t really take a unique twist on it to make it stand out more. It’s definitely the first episode I think of when I think of a forgettable Adventure Time entry. Does… does that make it less forgettable? Hm.
7. Marcy & Hunson
I originally had Son of Rap Bear in this spot, but honestly, after rewatching Marcy & Hunson for the purpose of this list, I forgot how frustrating this entire episode is. The last episode with Hunson Abadeer as character was five years prior to this episode, and it’s pretty noticeable right from the get-go how much time has passed. The staff doesn’t really seem to understand Hunson from a character perspective anymore, and he’s boiled down to just a straight up dumbass. Most of the intricate dad conflict stories in the final season were squandered by making each of these unique personalities inseparable. Hunson’s no longer the devious, sophisticated, conniver that he was in his first three appearances and deviates into a big goofy dork that breaks Marceline’s shitter and doesn’t understand how to not embarrass her at a concert. Marceline has also changed a lot since her days resenting her dad and is more of a blank slate throughout the entirety of these 11 minutes. It’s alright though, because instead of presenting her as the fun and enjoyable character that she was while Hunson was around, she becomes a vessel to spoon feed all the hungry babies in the audience their yummy, yummy Bubbline references! Marcy & Hunson also has the displeasure of feeling like a rehash of the past two entries featuring Hunson and Marceline while lacking what made them unique and interesting. Not to mention this is another episode in the season that shoehorns in the Gumbald family conflict without really having much to say or add to it. Aside from some nice exchanges between Finn and Jake, this one is a definite misfire.
6. Water Park Prank
There was a time when I thought that Water Park Prank was the worst episode Adventure Time has ever put out, but I think I’ve actually warmed up to it a bit over time. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I still think it’s pretty damn bad. BUT, I respect it for what it is. The mastermind behind this episode is David Ferguson, a Scottish animator with a very neat and cute style. Unfortunately, I don’t think his style, writing or design wise, truly fit Adventure Time‘s mold. The main takeaway that I think sticks with everyone is Finn’s design – the eye whites, stretched mouth, and pointed nose are features that make him look super unappealing and unrecognizable. I think the other designs are mostly endearing, but Finn’s is definitely the one that sticks out the most and the one that everybody seems to remember. The script for the episode is also super juvenile, feeling like it doesn’t just quite get Adventure Time‘s humor. I had the same issue with A Glitch is a Glitch, but where I’ve grown to appreciate that episode’s visual flare over time, Water Park Prank is one that doesn’t have me consistently coming back. As I mentioned on my review of the episode, I do encourage everyone to check out Ferguson’s work on his Vimeo. Ferguson is very multi-talented when it comes to tackling different animation styles, and his work is much more fluid on his own terms and not weighed down by network budget restrictions.
5. Princess Day
I always think this one is a shame, because an episode featuring all of the princesses of Ooo in one space is, on its own, a really promising concept. Yet, we’re treated to a needlessly mean-spirited romp that feels like its trying to be poetic in its attitudes of rebellion, but entirely misses the mark. I’ve said it before on the review itself, but this is one of those few episodes that I feel has a really shitty moral for the kiddos watching at home. I’m all for the mindset that there’s no real sense of wholly good or bad when it comes to individuals, but the attitude that it’s okay to do bad shit if they’re only “mistakes,” is really quite jarring. This is the same episode where LSP and Marceline physically assault BP’s guards, hit BP with her own car that they stole, and then end up destroying that same car by the end of the episode. In what sense is that a mistake? Princess Day is an attempt to bring two of Adventure Time‘s most insubordinate characters together to help them relate and connect to each other’s experience, but it does so in such a tone-deaf and unpleasant way that it probably wasn’t even worth it to begin with.
4. The Prince Who Wanted Everything
The Prince Who Wanted Everything is the moment that I realized that I was perfectly fine with never seeing Fionna and Cake again. While the first two entries proved to be satirical, yet sweet riffs of modern day fanfiction, The Prince Who Wanted Everything pretty much discounts that entirely by desperately trying to get us to stay invested in these characters that don’t even really set themselves apart anymore. I’ve mentioned how LSP’s incessant vanity can severely impact the quality of an episode, and The Prince Who Wanted Everything celebrates it in the most unappealing of ways. The jokes and story are just slight variations of everything we’ve already seen from this character prior, with nothing new to add. The Prince Who Wanted Everything also has one of the worst songs in the entire series, which is the first apparent notion that Fionna and Cake probably wasn’t worth salvaging after Sugar’s departure. Aside from Peter Serafinowicz’s strong performance as Lumpy Space Prince, this is one that just feels tiresome.
3. Cherry Cream Soda
Cherry Cream Soda starts out strong in its first minute or two in showing the grieving process of CCS after her husband was killed one season prior, but then it divulges into a confusing, uncomfortable mess that retcons a previous plot point for the sake of fanservice. It’s funny, because I don’t think people were mad because they would never see Root Beer Guy again. I think they were mad only because his death was handled in an unnecessarily tasteless way. I certainly didn’t think the gag death was particularly funny, but I also wasn’t vying for more RBG episodes anyway. He did his part in Root Beer Guy quite well and that’s all I needed to see. So the fact that this episode wants me to care about his comically soap opera-ish relationship is just too much to ask for. I think if this episode took a similar route to Root Beer Guy and showed the realistic struggles of adulthood and having a grip on one’s own identity through CCS’s point of view, it could’ve worked out a lot better. Instead, we get this really pointless resurrection of a character that ultimately amounts to nothing, simply because the series didn’t have the balls to keep him dead.
2. The Red Throne
While many disagree, I honestly think season five’s “Finn is a horny douchebag” arc wasn’t particularly bothersome for myself. I think it’s okay to take characters in a controversial or unlikable direction if it’s done right, intentionally, and is building to a larger developmental path for the character. People seem to think the same for Steven’s role in Steven Universe Future, but like, do you really want these nice characters to be absolutely perfect at all times? The humanity of both Finn and Steven is that they aren’t perfect people, and the best way to show us that is to show them at their lowest points. The Red Throne, however, takes this one step beyond by making Finn practically sociopathic for comedic purposes. Like, there’s being desperate, and then there’s just being legitimately predatory. Yeah, he’s 15 and this is typically when kiddos struggle with their horny demons, but the choice to make it the butt of several continuous gags and jokes just does not work. Nor does it make for something I actually want to watch, especially with a character I love so dearly. Every episode where Finn acts in a manipulative way has some sort of reason or purpose for putting Finn in such a light – his longing for the old days in Too Old, his battle with loyalty in Rattleballs. The Red Throne just seeks to make him as pathetic as possible to show that even a dumbass like Cinnamon Bun looks better in comparison, but there’s a way of doing this that doesn’t completely decimate the foundation of Finn’s character in an attempt for cheap gags. Though, that’s not the episode’s only sin. It’s weighed down by really shitty pacing and an awful, overly long bit of referential humor that I can guarantee 90% of the audience didn’t catch onto. This is also an FP-centric episode where she really doesn’t get to do much unfortunately, because I guess Seo and Somvy were more interested in what other aspects the episode had to offer. Which, unfortunately, were not much, and still leave me with a bad taste in my mouth to this day.
1. Fionna and Cake and Fionna
From one of Adventure Time‘s best seasons, we have one of, if not the worst episode the series has ever churned out. The word “pretentious” has been thrown around a lot about the past couple seasons of AT, but no episode strikes me as more pretentious than Fionna and Cake and Fionna – an episode that so desperately wants to keep these characters as a part of this world that they would throw such an unbelievable doozy into the lore to do so. I guess every citizen of Ooo is just coincidentally a carbon copy of those from the Fionna and Cake TV show? There’s hints by the end of it that this may not be the case, but since nothing else was done with it, there’s very little to the imagination. This also just isn’t a fun episode in the slightest. No good Ice King quotes or moments, a super unremarkable one-off character, standard visuals, and pretty lame Fionna and Cake moments that don’t add much to help stretch out the episode. It’s essentially just an episode that exists to incorporate forced lore that nobody even asked for. Remember in Mystery Dungeon when the show made fun of the idea that Fionna and Cake would cross over with reality? Well, here we are four years later, where the series is doing it for real with complete sincerity! I’m bashing Fionna and Cake a lot on this list, and I really think that while they make for one of the show’s greatest successes, they also embody one of the show’s biggest failures. They emphasize the staff’s collective hubris and unshaken faith in this concept. That, even though Fionna and Cake are so well-received, maybe they don’t HAVE to appear every season. Maybe we COULD just leave it to those two episodes. Considering that I almost never see Fionna and Cake diehards talking about this episode, or even the last three F&C entries, I think it’s pretty clear that even that section of the fanbase had enough. It’s just a shame that it took an entirely bizarre and scattershot idea to finish off Fionna and Cake for good, leaving nothing but bitterness and confusion behind in the process.