I’m a big fan of Adventure Time. Such a big fan that I’ve watched all 274 episodes an unholy amount of times and manage to find “Oh my crease” funny every fucking time. While that may reflect poorly on my mental well being, it shows just how much Adventure Time has to give—it’s enjoyable time after time. Series targeted to young audiences are often swept aside and overlooked as silly, shallow, and uninteresting. However, Adventure Time disproves this theory with its handling of abstract and philosophical subject matter, heavy topics of grief, guilt, and disassociation, and totally absurd humor. If you want a show in which one episode centers around Finn the Human’s ascendance to the astral plane and another focuses on a juggling horse named James Baxter, then this is the show for you. It’s just so good. But like every long-running animated series, it can be hard to figure out which episodes are truly worth watching (though, in my opinion, all of Adventure Time is worth watching). Look no further! I present to you: the best of Adventure Time.
1. I Remember You (Season 4 Episode 25)
One of the most emotionally charged episodes in the whole series, “I Remember You” takes a look at Simon/Ice King and Marceline’s relationship. Simon’s memory loss and magic-induced insanity plague Marcy, who knew Simon before his change. It is an intimate and painful look at how difficult it can be to watch a loved one’s mind deteriorate (Simon, in particular, represents Alzheimers). The song they create together in the episode is incredible, heart wrenching, and proves the simple and beautiful point that even if someone is no longer who they once were, you can still share the little things with them. The line “Please forgive me for whatever I do, when I don’t remember you” gets me everytime.
2. Finn the Human/Jake the Dog (Season 5 Episodes 1&2)
This two part introduction to Season 5 is essentially the core of the show in terms of plot and lore. In Prismo’s Time Room, Prismo grants Finn one wish to stop the impending doom of the world. Finn wishes that the Lich (the manifestation of the inevitable death of all things) had never existed, thereby transporting himself to a parallel universe in which the Great Mushroom War that created Ooo—and subsequently, the Lich—had never happened. Without his memory, Finn must save the world from the same fate that created his own home. If it sounds confusing, it’s because it is. However, it’s essential for anyone who really wants to know the show and its characters, and it’s some real world building genius. Plus, we get some fun bro moments between Prismo and Jake in the Time Room where they talk about lady problems and pickling.
3. Be More (Season 5 Episode 28)
When BMO’s core system drive malfunctions, Finn and Jake take him to the MO Factory in the Badlands to get him fixed. Here, we witness the lifelessness of robotic bureaucracy. Ultimately, what makes the episode so worthwhile is the discovery of BMO’s purpose. As Moe, the creator of all the MOs, tells the gang, BMO was created to take care of his son. When Moe didn’t have any children, he set BMO off into the world to find his own family—to maybe take care of someone else’s son. He made BMO understand love; he made BMO to Be More. Makes me cry android tears.
4. Sky Witch (Season 5 Episode 29)
“Sky Witch” is my personal favorite episode of the whole series. It follows Marceline and Princess Bubblegum on their journey to retrieve Marcy’s stuffed monkey, Hambo, from Maja the Sky Witch. It’s one of the first episodes where we see how much PB and Marcy mean to each other, hinting at their romantic past and deep sentimental connection. Furthermore, as an episode that doesn’t focus on Finn and Jake, “Sky Witch” really allows PB to become her own complicated and full character. She becomes active instead of passive, and it’s great to watch. Finally, beyond all of the juicy character stuff we get, “Sky Witch” is just such a fun look at the different types of magic in Ooo—Maja’s dark witchcraft that messes with time, space, and perception, PB’s logic and “science”, and Marcy’s demonic abilities. Plus, it has one of the best lines in the series: “My googoomama meter is going babies.”
5. The Vault (Season 5 Episode 34)
Finn is being plagued by nightmares of a radioactive woman. To help him address the problem, Jake forces him to enter his Vault—the mental compartment Finn created to put “stuff he can’t handle.” In the Vault, Finn rockets through his past lives and lands in one in particular, where he is a hired criminal named Shoko. It’s a fascinating look at ancient Ooo and, despite being a journey into the past, contains an insane amount of foreshadowing. For example, Shoko is missing her right arm, which Finn later loses in the episode “Escape from the Citadel” (S6E2). Finn’s past lives reflect a lot about Finn himself and the immense challenges, both personal and cosmic, that he will have to face. I also just really like the little green banana guards, I think they’re cute and clever. Choice line from the episode: “Hey girl, sniffin’ around for that chedda?” (Spoken by the leader of the Bath Boy gang)
6. Is That You? (Season 6 Episode 19)
More Prismo! After Prismo gets croaked by the Lich (“Wake Up” S6E1), he creates a plan for Finn and Jake to revive him via time loops and their dreams (Prismo was previously kept alive through the dreams of an old man). To be completely honest, as a stand alone, this episode will make absolutely no sense but it’s a really important follow up to the events that occurred earlier in the season and introduce the Finn Sword, which will have its own significance later on. The episode shows the sacrifices true friends make for each other, regardless of how close they are. As Finn puts it, “Sometimes you can think someone is totally cool but you never become besties.” It’s a feeling I’m sure we’ve all had. This episode makes the list simply due to the fact that it’s important to the plot and frankly, I like it and this is my list. Plus, when Jake is stuck in the time loop there are lots of fun callbacks to past episodes. Choice line from the episode: “These picks were made by our friend to be mouth loved.”
7. Astral Plane (Season 6 Episode 25)
Finn has an out-of-body experience one night and floats all over Ooo and into space in his astral body. As he watches people and creatures live their lives believing that no one is watching, he starts to contemplate life and creativity. He floats past Marceline as she sings melancholically up in the crepuscular stratosphere and asks “Is that where creativity comes from? From sad biz?” He floats further. He witnesses the birth of space lards and drops one of the heaviest lines I’ve ever heard: “If just being born is the greatest act of creation, then what are you supposed to do after that? Isn’t everything that comes next sort of a disappointment? Slowly entropying until we deflate into a pile of mush?” That’s the tone for this episode. It feels like the kind of conversation I have with my other creative friends when we’re feeling contemplative and depressed, and yes, I absolutely love it. This episode just hits different. And we even get an answer to Finn’s question, though it’s a bit vague. It’s not enough to simply create or be created—you have to nourish and protect that creation in order for it to grow. Creation is never a static act.
8. Jake the Brick (Season 6 Episode 20)
Ever since he was little, Jake wanted to see what it felt like to be a brick in a brick shack when the brick shack fell down. So he spends an unspecified but probably lengthy amount of time as a brick. In his boredom, he takes to poetically narrating the goings-on of the creatures around him a-lá David Attenborough. “Jake the Brick” is just a really nice and calming episode that I go to when I need a breather. Sometimes we all just need to be a brick in a brick house watching the struggles and triumphs of a bunny, waylaid by a summer storm. It makes you feel like you can through the storm yourself. Choice line from the episode: “Mother Nature has not just knocked on the door. She has come in, sat down, and poured herself a drink”
9. You Forgot Your Floaties (Season 6 Episode 38)
This is the only episode on this list that heavily features Magic Man, which is a real shame. I could make a whole other Weekly List about Magic Man quotes because I love that psychopath. The premise for the episode is that Betty (Simon’s girlfriend from the past who entered the present via portal) is attempting to change the Ice King back into Simon by utilizing the Magic, Madness, and Sadness that runs through all magic users. To do so, she needs to channel Magic Man’s magic, though he does not know her intentions and is simply trying to take over Mars. Once again, without the proper context, this plot summary probably feels similar to having a stroke. However! It’s super plot-significant, Magic Man turns Finn into bread which is hilarious, and it has some of the best dialogue in the entire series. For example…
Magic Man: “I see.”
Betty: “You see what?”
Magic Man: “The coconut crab who swims in your neighbor’s pool at night. Maybe Simon’s in there too. Who else holds their breath in there, Betty?”
Betty: “All magic users swim in the loomy gloom.”
10. Come Along With Me (Season 10 Episode 13)
Ah, the finale. This one hurts. It’s less the plot, which focuses on the Great Gum War and the second coming of Golb (the embodiment of chaos), than it is the characters themselves that make this episode so meaningful. Marcy and PB’s canonizing kiss, Betty’s sacrifice, Fern’s fate, and so, so many callbacks that remind us of the good times, the fun adventures, the laughs—it’s enough to make any girl’s eyeballs leak. I’m a real sucker for a corruption arc where chaos seems on the verge of victory only to be halted by real love and friendship. It’s cheesy, I know, but it makes you feel like there’s a little bit of good in the world—and that it matters. As the extended version of the closing credit song that has played since episode one rolls over a montage of all of our favorite characters re-learning how to live post destruction and war, there’s a feeling of loss and fulfillment. It’s as BMO sings to calm Jake down, “Time is an illusion that helps things make sense. So we’re always living in the present tense. It seems unforgiving when a good thing ends, but you and I will always be back then.”
Honorable mentions: The Creeps (S3E12), BMO Noire (S4E17), Puhoy (S5E16), Betty (S5E48), James (S5E42), Dentist (S6E21)