In 2007, a short pilot episode aired that could easily have been dismissed as some wacky nonsense (and probably was), but it caught the animation of us millenials or whoever. Three years later, it became a cartoon - notable for its fast pace, unique art style and unusual idioms and a kind of odd internal logic underlying the wackiness.

Drawing from old-school roleplaying games and post-apocalyptic fiction, Adventure Time probably started the recent comeback of cartoons with a huge secondary audience of ~nerdy~ university students. It’s inspired a ton of shows, of which Steven Universe is probably the most famous but also stuff like Bravest Warriors, Infinity Train, and Danger and Eggs, and you could also make a good case for shows like Gravity Falls and Over The Garden Wall having at least a similar target audience and sense of humour even if they stylistically diverged. I’m probably missing an awful lot!

A trashed up version of the Adventure Time logo.

In its later seasons, Adventure Time turned from wacky humour to favour of longer-term plots, character arcs and a suitably complicated internal mythology for people who like wikis and lore videos, as well as getting increasingly experimental in terms of animation. Most recently it’s turned away from the most out there experimental episodes for long multi-episode ‘miniseries’ such as Stakes, Islands and Elements.

Anyway yeah like you probably know all that if you’re reading some girl on the internet review every adventure time episode.

At time of posting, there are: a pilot, 278 main series episodes, a DVD-only short, four online episodes, five ‘frog seasons’ episodes, and as of a few days ago, a minecraft crossover episode with a different studio. So we’re gonna be going a while.

But lets head back to the simpler times of season 1, when there was no question of ancient artefacts, the apocalyptic war was a background detail, and nobody knew who Simon was. At this point, Finn’s still very much a kid, there to have adventures.

It’s worth noting that there are really rather a lot of episode numbering schemes here. For example, early on Adventure Time episodes aired in back to back pairs, which would get treated as one 22 minute episode. So one way of counting, Season 1 has 13 episodes; another way, 26. We’re going to be following the numbering scheme used by Wikipedia, where each episode number corresponds to one 11-minute segment.

The pilot

Well before we even meet Finn, let’s check out Pen, and the pilot episode that lays out the basic elements of the show. You can watch it here (not the best video quality admittedly, but the production values were much lower back then anyway).

The ‘internal logic’ has not really come into being at this point: it’s more a kind of 2000s-internet ‘lolrandom’ humour - I think what makes it work later on is that they stick to the joke and just kind of use those things, uncommented on, as the basis for future events; sure, Lady Rainicorn speaks Korean, that’s just how it is. (In fact, in this episode, Lady Rainicorn does not yet speak Korean, but makes high pitched trills.)

Pen the Human and Jake the Dog on a garishly coloured green field, with very flat, oddly stretched postures. Pen wears a pale blue tunic and a white hat covering his hair. Jake is a yellow cartoon dog with long jowls.

Anyway, the plot is: in the first minute, Jake connects to the internet with his mind, and him and Finn do a silly dance. Finn Pen is even more prone to dramatic exclamations - including, already, ‘Algebraic!’ - and I think he has a different voice actor. Then Rainicorn shows up: at this point, she belongs to Princess Bubblegum, apparently. They follow her, and find the Ice King - already ‘always kidnapping princesses’ - has kidnapped PB!

The kind of ‘bendable tube’ animation style that would later become established is at this point only partly in effect. The character still bend and move in arcs but they’re less strict about 3D forms I guess?

Anyway a lot of the points of the future show are already here, or become established in this episode. The kind of weird subtextual implied sexual violence of the Ice King kidnapping princesses to make them marry him is here - later on they try and tone that down as much as possible and the Ice King much more sympathetic as a character, but here he’s just a wacky villain. Jake and Rainicorn hit it off, and they will ultimately be married in the show of course!

Jake flirts with 'Princess Bubblegum's Rainicorn', a long colourful unicorn character, while Pen wrestles the Ice King in the background, inside the Ice King's mountain. The Ice King is an old man with a long white beard and blue robe.

Finn’s characterisation is… well he’s a twelve year old kid lol. It’s interesting to see him without the character development he gets in later seasons.

One of the most awkward elements of the pilot is that Finn’s mind gets projected to Mars, where he meets Abraham Lincoln (who tells him to believe in himself). This is, I think, the only time a real historical figure was used by the show; he actually sticks around, appearing briefly in other episodes that touch on Mars, but this is one element I definitely imagine they regretted.

The biggest victim of pilot-characterisation, though, is Princess Bubblegum. Here, there’s nothing of the sweet but not so secretly authoritarian, scientific genius and political leader we later know; she’s nothing but a damsel in distress; Finn rescues her and she rewards him with a kiss.

Princess Bubblegum kisses a shocked-looking Pen on the forehead. She is pink, and wears a pink dress, as well as a simple circlet with a gem on a short stem.

I think if Adventure Time ended up resembling its pilot too much, it would just suck! But what makes it work is that they take this wobbly premise (all the basic elements and many of the core characters, with the prominent exception of Marceline, are here) and elaborate on it and complicate it to the point of absurdity - but a kind of absurdity that makes a weird sort of sense.

Season 1

Episode 1: Slumber Party Panic

So it’s three years later, and the team has a real budget now. Which means: detailed backgrounds, competent voice actors, way more characters…

This episode introduces the Candy Kingdom, ruled by Princess Bubblegum, in the form of a zombie story! A bunch of minor characters make their first appearances.

A brown muffin person - Mr Cupcake - has dropped his wrapper and pointed, while various other candy people look on in varying levels of shock or bemusement.

One thing I noticed going back is there is a lot of innuendo in this episode I don’t remember, from the zombie going ‘give me some sugar baby’, Finn referring to Tree Trunks’s ‘hot buns’ (actual buns in the bread sense in a joke that reminds me of that Wallace & Gromit movie), Mr. Cupcake stripping off… sometimes these kinds of jokes are said to be for parents (since they’ll fly over kids’ heads), but I think maybe they’re already aware of that student demographic?

The frenetic pace of this show is already in evidence. More events are packed into these ten minutes than some movies, I think. That’s probably one of the things that really won this show popularity.

Two vast gumball machine people blow fire over a very blue version of the Candy Kingdom, consisting of various buildings made of candy. In one of their hands, Princess Bubblegum and Finn can be seen.

The idea of the ‘royal promise’, and the reality-altering powers of the Gumball Guardians, is something that’s not really revisited that I remember. Unlike later episodes, where Bubblegum is not just the ruler but the creator and almost goddess of the Candy Kingdom, here she seems to have to answer to the Gumball Guardians almost as much as Finn does.

It’s an amusing and well-paced episode overall - not a bad season opener.

Episode 2: Trouble in Lumpy Space

Ah, LSP… a fan favourite character. A purple floating girl voiced by Pendleton Ward himself, who seems… if I know my American cultural stereotypes at all (and I kinda don’t lol) to be a parody of superficial ‘valley girls’; her world is dominated by makeouts with boys, pointless fighting with parents, dismissing other kids as ‘smooth posers’ and the ‘promcoming’ dance, and she’s endlessly rude and contrary. So, it’s a kind of self-aware joke about teenagers, aimed at those same teenagers, I guess? Combined with some grossout humour.

Finn kicks Lumpy Space Princess away, while imitating her to her friend Melissa on the phone. They are standing in front of her parents' house. The scene is cast in shades of purple and turquoise.

There’s something uncomfortable about the way they have a guy do the ‘silly voices’ for me as a trans girl on some level, but it’s not that bad.

There are some amusing bait-and-switch jokes in this episode about the tension between whether ‘lumpiness’ is really so terrible - Finn acting like Jake is asking him to kill him if the ‘lumpiness’ infection catches, the whole sequence with Finn and Jake trying to get each other to sit on the antidote or not, but overall, it’s kinda eh.

Episode 3: Prisoners of Love

This is the Ricardo episode, right? watches…

…no, I guess that comes later. This is the episode that establishes the ‘Ice King kidnaps and threatens princesses with subtextually sexual relationships’ dynamic in the show proper. It’s… messy.

The Ice King wheels Finn and Jake, who are frozen in a block of ice, past a cell full of princesses in various shapes.

Most of the Ice King’s basic character is already well established here: he’s a sad lonely guy who treats women abusively and threatens violence to get them to give him affection. I think they are trying to teach a lesson to kids or something: they straight up have Ice King get told he’s a sociopath by the Cosmic Owl. Whether the lesson would actually be clear to someone who’s internalised some of those ideas, or whether he’d just seem wacky, isn’t clear.

A naked, floating Ice King, flying by his beard, is confronted by a giant owl - the Cosmic Owl - in a strage yellow space.

This is the first episode where we meet some of the many, many princesses who will become recurring characters: notably, Slime Princess and Wildberry Princess are named. LSP is here too. They still play much the same role that PB did in the pilot: Finn rescues them (though they at least play some part in their own rescue? I guess?) and then Slime Princess offers him a kiss.

There’s a recurring thing here where women are affectionate with Finn and he gets extremely embarassed and uncomfortable. Because he’s twelve, of course! I’m not sure why they keep hammering this plot point.

Episode 4: Tree Trunks

Tree trunks! Another fan favourite character, and one who gets a pretty major role, forms a relationship, raises the baby!Lich… but all that comes later.

This episode serves mostly as an introduction episode for Tree Trunks: she’s a kindly but somewhat absent-minded old woman (…tiny elephant) who lives in the forest, bakes apple pies, and is oblivious to ill intent from monsters.

Tree Trunks, a tiny green elephant, brandishes a bunch of stickers at a large pink wall of flesh with an arm, an eye an a mouth visible.

There’s already some cool weird monster stuff. Finn and Jake encounter a ‘wall of flesh’, and actually cut one of its arms off! And later on they fight a mass of tentacles (a ‘snake armed ruby brain beast’ in Finn’s words). It’s definitely the kind of thing you’d see in old Monster Manuals, and it’s one of my favourite aspects of the show’s milieu.

Finn fights a mass of pink snakes with a blue brain at the centre while Tree Trunks, wearing lipstick, approaches from the side.

Less comfortable is the way this episode treats gender, sexuality and drag. What makes me go 😐 about it is that it’s all basically a joke at peoples’ expense: Tree Trunks puts on makeup and attempts to seduce the brain beast with her ‘womanly charms and elephant prowess’, and later on Finn and Jake wear makeup. The joke is that men/old people are doing this, how uncomfortable. But eh. I feel like the industry has come a long way since 2010 and I am not gonna get too upset this one.

One thing I’m very grateful for is that Adventure Time has no laugh tracks, or even any significant pause for you to take in one joke. Even if things are intended as jokes, you don’t necessarily have to take them that way. I can pretend that in Ooo, gender norms are more relaxed or something… it’s bullshit and not true but whatever.

I doubt they had any plans to make Tree Trunks a recurring character in this episode. At the end of the episode, she bites a crystal apple and gets transported into some kind of crystal dimension: the episode cuts off abruptly, and by the next episode, there’s no mention of it. This will, in fact, be followed up much much later.

Episode 5: The Enchiridion!

This episode introduces what will be a major part of the early season plot - it’s kind of interesting to look back and see how what, when I first watched it, seemed like zany, disconnected events will end up part of a sprawling plot later. Behind the scenes, this was apparently the first episode to enter production after the pilot, which in retrospect, explains a lot.

“This party is sooo crazy!” is spoken in this episode; later on it will be used as a sample on the Frederator (the studio that makes Adventure Time) jingle. Which is interesting to note!

Cinnamon Bun, a cinnamon bun with a weirdly folded face, starts to fall backwards.
Sorry Cinnamon Bun. You'll get another characterisation eventually.

Cinnamon Bun, the candy person whose job is to be embarassing and ‘dumb’ and fail at everything, is introduced here. Later on I think they kind of rethink this, but for the time being… it’s just ‘lol what an idiot’.

Finn rescues PB from a contrived situation, she congratulates him for being his hero… it’s rather had to reconcile this Princess Bubblegum with the ancient ‘candy elemental’ who constructed a nation of artificial people. She seems a lot less mature. Perhaps she’s playing it up for the 12-year-old kid here… anyway she sends Finn after a book about being a ‘hero’, called the Enchiridion.

There’s a weird thing where every episode so far has found an excuse for a title drop or near-title drop, accompanied by a title card.

Finn faces a giant red ogre, which points at him with a petulant expression. The scene is shot from below to emphasise the Ogre's size.

So to obtain the Enchiridion, Finn must face a series of contrived challenges about being a hero, like he rescues a group of imps who immediately start repeatedly ‘destroying old ladies’ (of course, illusory) to create an absurdly exaggerated moral dilemma, putting Finn into a crisis of confidence. I get that it’s supposed to be a kind of parody, but it feels kinda flat to me: sort of trying to have its cake (a story of Finn being challenged in ‘being a hero’) and eat it (by making all his challenges deliberately so contrived as to be impossible to take seriously).

The ‘unaligned ant’ was pretty funny though.

I should probably say something about Mannish Man the Manly Minotaur but… the idea of doing so just makes me feel exhausted. This motif - combining hyperexaggerated masculinity and minotaurs - was, oddly, paralleled in Gravity Falls. (Fuck manliness, incidentally).

Episode 6: The Jiggler

I think I remember this being a particularly memorable episode… it’s the one with the round thing that looks like Shuckle!

It starts with Finn singing in an autotuned voice, because he swallowed a computer! I don’t know if this is just quietly dropped or if we’ll see him lose that computer later.

The Jiggler, two spheres connected by a smaller sphere, with a tiny tube-like floating pair of arms shooting in and out of it in a small loop.
It's hard to capture this super cute animation in a screenshot!

Anyway, the story of this episode is: Finn and Jake acquire a strange little thing they call the Jiggler, which likes to dance, and take it home because it’s cute. It’s got a really cool design, with little arms poking out of various marked holes and a neat symmetry! So much so that I remember it, so many years later.

This is also the first episode where Finn and Jake’s treehouse home is introduced! So that’s cool.

The Jiggler's mother, angry, pulsing into a staticky, spiky form which rapidly jumps to a different hue on each frame.
Such a cool effect!

I really like that a bunch of weird stuff happens in this episode, but there’s an underlying plot logic, and I think some of the visual effects used for the Jiggler are just brilliant. The Jiggler is never revisited again, and I kind of feel like that’s a shame.

Episode 7: Ricardio the Heart Guy

I don’t remember much about this episode but I have a feeling I’m not going to be into it.

It opens with Early Ice King stuff and prodding at the Finn/Princess Bubblegum relationship so I’m already not that into it. (And not just because like, diehard Bubbline… when’s Marceline gonna show up anyway!) But the main arc of the episode is a deep-voiced walking heart called Ricardio. Voiced by George Takei! I knew I recognised that voice from somewhere. (Takei seems to like coming in to voice single-episode villains in cartoons huh… he was that prison guard in AtlA, and a clone general in SWTCW…)

Anyway the major thrust of this episode is Ricardio inspiring romantic jealousy in Finn, and the kid not knowing how to deal with it. I can’t wait for Finn to grow up some.

Finn stands over the fallen body of Ricardio, while a shocked PB arrives in the background. Ricardio is a red heart with arms and legs and a very cartoonish face with giant eyebrows.
This isn't even a particularly informative screenshot, I just think Finn's got a funny expression.

“I think he’s… a villain.” “Why, is it because his face is so foldy and dramatic?” is a cute lampshade. Hanging lampshades is basically this episode’s shtick though. Naturally it has a series of twists; the ultimate resolution is that Ricardio is the Ice King’s accidentally-animated heart, and he wants to extract and sexually assault Princess Bubblegum’s heart which is uh… eesh.

I don’t even know what to make of this episode. I think they later come round to acknoledging how little Finn/PB works as a dynamic (I guess that’s kind of the intent all along because Finn is super immature). But it’s not that fun to watch a 12-year-old boy be really exaggeratedly awkward and 12?

I wonder what kids tend to make of this episode.

Episode 8: Business Time

This episode starts to touch on the show’s post-apocalyptic setting a little bit more explicitly.

But mostly it’s… a parable about capitalism or something?

Four 'businessmen' in suits, with greenish skin and various warts on their faces. They are dancing wildly.
Having just gotten a job, I'd like to say I know the feeling, but... wow guys.

Finn and Jake find some zombie(?) businessmen in an iceberg and, when they beg to be hired, take advantage of their skills to become more efficient at their everyday adventuring. But, they defer more and more to the businessmen, and become ‘fat and lazy’, only to discover that the businessmen are kidnapping people with a giant robot to keep them ‘safe’. ‘Happiness is not a priority’ is perhaps the closest the show comes to making its point explicit? Which is, if you squint, a vaguely Marxian metaphor for the productive forces unleashed by capitalism.

Vaguely.

Jake and Finn slumped on the ground with swollen bellies. Jake is holding his with a fond expression. Behind them are a bunch of like, fluff people or something.

The show’s use of fat is… hmm. Like it’s ‘lol fat = lazy’ on the one hand, but also, neither Finn nor Jake seem particularly upset to be fat, Jake even says he’d miss it. It’s depression to consider whether the same comments would have been possible with female main characters.

Episode 9: My Two Favorite People

This episode is for once focussing not on Finn, or a side character, but on Jake! Specifically on his immaturity lol.

More specifically, Jake in this episode is torn between spending time with his girlfriend, Lady Rainicorn, who now speaks Korean (no subtitles are provided! but fans have helpfully translated her dialogue here), and having wacky adventures with Finn.

Jake cycles up to Lady Rainicorn, who is balanced between a tiny chair in the background and a barn in the foreground.
I adore the little chair.

This is also the introduction of Shelby the worm! A character who will recur throughout the show… I can’t believe Shelby was introduced before Marceline. Anyway Shelby suggests that Jake hang out with both at the same time, and Jake ends up the third wheel.

Watching this episode with the Korean translations alongside definitely really adds a lot.

There’s a kind of uncomfortable bit in this where Rainicorn gets a translator with a bunch of silly voices, and they settle on ‘old man’, leading to immediate misgendering and Jake expressing discomfort. It’s… hmm. I don’t remember there being so much of this.

There’s some good lines in this episode. “I can’t take them off… I guess they’re cursed. Still pretty cool though!”

Oh, and then we get Tiffany. I remember this being bad… but eeesh that transmisogyny. Scare chord, Jake shouting “Tiffany’s… a boy!”, Tiffany spinning round to reveal a moustache.

Jake sitting next to Tiffany, who has a small moustache, a pink shirt and long blonde hair.
Seriously, a scare chord.

I don’t want to make too much of a thing about it because like I remember when everyone (me included) got pissed off at a similar sight gag in Steven Universe and in retrospect that whole affair was way too over the top discourse for a cartoon we were way too invested in, but I do wish cartoons wouldn’t do that.

Anyway there’s like… I hesitate to even call it this but basically there’s a kind of gay subtext: Finn leaps on Tiffany calling him a homewrecker when Jake calls him his best friend. But it’s like, played for a joke. And ends with Finn spitting on Tiffany.

What a crap ending to an amusing opener, to be honest. Tiffany will ultimately be back - though hopefully not with the gender variance played for laughs again.

“I love you because you’re an idiot… you make me feel like a genius” I realise this is just a spin on the ‘idiot man, put-upon wife’ thing but it was amusing. I wish Lady Rainicorn had had more focus herself in this episode, rather than everything being about the feelings of Finn and especially Jake. She needs more screen time. They should do an episode that’s just Lady Rainicorn, all in Korean. (Maybe they will? I wouldn’t put it past them.)

Episode 10: Memories of Boom Boom Mountain

This episode is kinda… forgettable. Toilet humour, ‘lol hypermasculinity’, idk.

Finn decides to help a mountain guy who’s upset that some viking-ish dudes are constantly ‘roughhousing’, due to a traumatic experience when nobody helped him when he was younger.

One thing I’m noticing is that, while not nearly so explicitly about teaching a ‘friendship lesson’ as say, MLPFIM, this show is actually quite didactic at this point. In this case I guess it’s about setting clear boundaries and knowing when you’re able to help people, balancing conflicting needs, that kinda thing. Or like, not getting caught up in someone’s hangups… less charitably, “some people are just crazy and can’t be helped”.

A bunch of burly viking dudes, touching one another affectionately.
Tom of Finland storyboarded this episode.

Anyway Adventure Time takes it in the direction of absurdity, as usual. So you get like vikings punching each other with farm animals strapped to their fists. Then they end up petting each other… bloody hell this is homoerotic! …anyway the resolution is that through a contrived series of Rube Goldberg like arrangements Finn really can solve everybody’s problems. I guess this is continuing the trend of ‘set up for an obvious moral lesson, subvert it’?

This is also the first appearance of Jake’s parents. So that’s a thing.

Episode 11: Wizard

This is where we really get the ‘sorcery’ side of those sword & sorcery influences. Things get kinda Jack Vance in here. But hopefully with less misogyny lol.

The art style is… kinda different? A little bit sketchier?

Finn and Jake go on an interdimensional adventure thanks to uh… a skeleton in a robe offering free magic. I like interdimensional stuff. There’s definitely some cool weird shit: a frog with a bunch of tadpoles inside its mouth in tiny wizard hats. I liked the gag about speaking in unison.

Finn freaks out because his robe is like a dress… accept in, Finn. The power of forced femme compels you…

Jake swallows a stream of white liquid with a blitzed out expression.
Presented without comment.

Anyway Finn and Jake gain a bunch of wizard powers that are never mentioned again (possibly they’re implied to lose them at the end of the episode) and save a scam wizard temple from an asteroid. So that’s a thing.

Finn, with a variety of transformations, flies over a domed temple in a scene lit by an asteroid in stark oranges and reds.
If nothing else, the wizard temple looks cool as hell.

Adventure Time will come back to the subject of wizards much later, in a different way.

Episode 12: Evicted

Ohhhh boyyy… it’s time…

Marceline’s episode! I’m so excited. Finn and Jake may be the protagonists, but Marceline and PB really make the show worth watching.

Marceline the Vampire Queen, a thin teenaged girl with grey skin and two red dots on ner neck, slides in between Finn and Jake inside their treehouse.
I know what you want. Lots of pictures of Marceline.

Anyway she makes a great introduction. I think this is the first time the world is referred to as Ooo as well. Also first mention of the Fire Kingdom! I should probably stop keep track of first mentions. That’s what wikis are for.

This episode is about… squatters’ rights? Marceline shows up and declares she has title to Finn and Jake’s house, and kicks them out. Then does it again. The resolution is… Marceline decides to give them the house. Which kind of fits the general tone.

Marceline plays a bass guitar that's literally a red battleaxe, surrounded by various characters.

Like all the characters in this show, Marceline takes time to grow into her full characterisation I guess! She’s still pretty fun here. I’m glad she’s in the show.

It also has a song. Apparently it is sung by Pendleton Ward and Olivia Olson, the voice of Marceline.

Episode 13: City of Thieves

This is another non-sequitur episode (except in terms of dealing with the general theme of Finn having grand ideas of being a good hero). Finn & Jake find a dead turtle and a tree woman warns them they’ll turn into thieves if they go there. But they go in anyway to find flowers for a kid. OK.

This episode has some cute slapstick animations of all the dozens of different thieves stealing from each other. It’s kinda fun.

Penny, a small girl in a hood with red hair, lying in a pool of water after being cleaned.

Penny’s inevitably a thief herself, taking advantage of them. I rather like her in fact. I don’t remember her coming back but I hope she does!

Episode 14: The Witch’s Garden

I don’t remember this episode at all and I can kind of see why. Jake gets his magic powers stripped by a witch, which means his lower half is like… a human baby? There’s a weird bit where Jake suggests he had a lot more nipples before.

There’s a skeleton ‘mermaid’ harpy thing who explicitly invites Finn and Jake to ‘mate’ with her? How did I miss all this stuff before…

A large flying skeleton with long black hair spits black goo on Finn.
At least it has a cool monster.

At some point hopefully the show will get some other idea than setting up for a moral lesson then immediately twisting or undermining it. It’s getting kinda predictable.

Episode 15: What is life?

Finn and Jake get into a prank war. Which means… it’s time to introduce NEPTR! Which means NEPTR is introduced before BMO gets characterisation as anything other than a games console…

I think this is also the first time a penguin is referred to as Gunther.

Finn holding a large bunch of balloons. Most are smiling, but one has a grumpy expression and a large nose.
"Your blood oath is fulfilled."
"Yaaaay! To the mesosphere! Finally, we can die!"

The balloons… holy shit. I was not ready for that dialogue.

It’s funny… though NEPTR is a recurring character later, I actually totally forgot the events of this episode. It seems a strange basis for a recurring character, but that’s true in general for this show’s characters lol.

Finn hugs NEPTR, a robot mostly consisting of a microwave with a can and treads attached.

One thing they’re underlining in this episode is that Ice King doesn’t just crave romance (which the show’s made pretty clear he’s barely able to conceptualise), but any kind of human connection at all.

Episode 16: Ocean of Fear

This one starts with a dramatic, purpose-prosey quote about fear from someone called Pat McHale. Who’s that? It turns out, the creative director of Adventure Time itself. Heh.

I can’t wait til they stop doing so many fart jokes.

I vaguely remember this episode, where Finn confronts the manifestation of his fear of the ocean. I don’t remember the resolution.

Finn, lying in bed with Jake standing over him, is shocked to discover his room has been taken out to sea, and is collapsing around him.

Anyway I guess this is about exposure therapy and the danger of ‘flooding’ (in perhaps a rather literal sense). Jake basically attempts to treat Finn’s fear of the ocean by taking him out to sea when he’s asleep and waterboarding him. Predictably, it does not go well.

Nearly every episode has had its hyper-exaggerated, detailed faces but this one seems to have particularly many…

Episode 17: When Wedding Bells Thaw

Oh boy, this sounds like an Ice King episode! Let’s hope it’s not too uncomfortable. (It’s gonna be pretty uncomfortable.) How long until Simon and Marcie again?

Ice King comes to Finn and Jake’s house. They attack on sight, but Finn loses… then Ice King reveals he’s marrying ‘someone who wants to marry me!’ and he’s demanding they throw him a stag ‘manlorette’ party.

This does seem to be where the Party Bears come in. Huh, I thought they had their own episode.

Ice King being menaced by a brown scruffy teddy bear with stubble (somehow) while a lighter bear with long eyelashes and a heart symbol stands behind.
CODING.PNG

Anyway cue a montage where Ice King pisses people off and freezes them in various bars and clubs… of course I’m gonna guess now (halfway into the ep) that Ice King isn’t actually getting married, he just wants to trick or cajole Finn and Jake into hanging out with him. …OK not just that, instead they end up trying to persude him to marry, only to discover the ‘marriage’ is coerced after all.

I think they’re already setting up for his redemption arc and transition from ‘villain’ to ‘friend’ (though he’s certainly not very far down that road in this episode) - I guess that was planned from really early on. But, that still means lots of eps of Ice King going on about capturing ‘hot princesses’ and ‘girls’, and I know it’s like, a parody of misogynist ‘heroic fantasy’ genre conventions, but eeeeesh.

Given that ‘forcing people to marry’ is basically a PG way of talking about sexual violence, the sooner this passes the better.

Episode 18: Dungeon

This one’s a nice big homage to old-school D&D, with all the weird monsters - the cat is probably a Displacer Beast, you have floors trying to eat Finn, all sorts of things pretending to be things they aren’t. There’s some very good jokes like the cat’s ‘approximate knowledge of many things’ - it’s a very cute implicit pun as well since I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to recognise it as a ‘misplacer beast’…

The misplacer beast emerges from a cave: a catlike creature with an empty space in its right legs and a weird tentacle thing, with an orange cat head on the end of its tongue.
Such a cool monster!

Princess Bubblegum has a goose in this episode. I think they were still working out exactly what they wanted to do with her; here she seems to have a kind of ‘stern mum’ role, appearing at the end of the story to save the day and tell off a more or less oblivious Finn and Jake for going into the dungeon. (It is nice that she’s no longer being rescued by Finn I guess?)

Princess Bubblegum indicates that Finn and Jake should get on her swan.

The cat monster is voiced by Clancy Brown, who I’ve never heard of before, but does an amazing job.

This is a solid episode, which means ironically there’s not a whole lot to say about it.

Episode 19: The Duke

This one introduces some things like the ‘Grand Conference of Ooo Royalty’ and the ‘Duke of Nut’, which are just like… never followed up on. (Although we’ve seen some of the huge cast of princesses, they don’t yet seem to have decided that Ooo is ruled by only princesses + one Ice King. If they ever do that!)

A green, mostly bald, hairless PB glares at the Duke of Nut, a man in a vaguely Renaissance outfit with a nut for a head, while Jake looks on with suspicion and Finn pleads.
Princess... did that potion make you act out of character too?

PB has a role… mostly to be a huge capricious jerk? I don’t even know. The conflict of the episode comes down to the Duke having a medical condition that compels him to eat pudding.

I feel like too many of the jokes in this episode came down to shouting.

Episode 20: Freak City

This episode. This episode!

The magic man episode!

Finn, as an enormous flesy cylinder with toes at the bottom and his upper body sprouting out the front, prepares to point at burning buildings.
I'm not even gonna try to explain.

This episode I think manages to do a really good job of realising what makes the early show work: basically it’s weird as hell with some wonderfully fucked up imagery of Finn’s body fused with a giant foot, but there’s a structure to it, driving through to undercut every possible moral lesson in favour of ‘this guy is just a jerk’. And like… Jake always wanting to be a foot! ‘You’ll understand when you’re older.’

That said, the ‘message’ - presented with a heavy degree of irony, by Magic Man himself, is that, rather than saying you should help people for a reward, or with no expectation of a reward, that some people are just jerks who don’t deserve your help. I don’t think it’s actually trying to express that as a theme, just make fun of didactic shows. Which, more on that after the next episode.

Finn and various other characters, stacked on top of each other to make something vaguely humanoid and tied up with jake; Gork, the head, breathes fire onto the Magic Man, a green guy in a yellow outfit, who protects himself with a pair of portals.
This all makes sense! You see,

This was one of the few episodes I vaguely remembered, and it lived up to it. I can see why they brought back Magic Man as a recurring character.

Episode 21: Donny

Safety patrol! Is this suddenly Danger and Eggs?

Anyway they meet a ‘grass ogre’ who’s kind of an insecure asshole. So it looks like it would be an episode about helping the ogre become a better person, which means it’s definitely not going to be that, because the whole MO of this show so far has been setting up for stuff like that and then doing something else.

This may be the first time BMO speaks! So that’s neat :)

The little house people were cute… it was cool how when the bank got damaged he was like, a fleshy house shaped bank inside.

A wolf in a blazer and glasses, holding a test tube bubble pipe.

Another mention of the Cosmic Owl. The Whywolves are funny. Naturally the message is subverted: Donny being a jerk is vital to protect the houses, or something. But, he’s become ‘nice’ (read: ‘civilised’, complete with a bunch of class markers).

Donny - a green plant guy, now wearing trousers - sits with a cello next to Jake with a viola, while Finn exhorts him to be a jerk again.
Nice people, of course, play the cello and speak French.

I think they’re doing this kind of thing… to be edgy almost. Super-didactic stories for children can be tiring, of course, but doing the exact opposite just to be ‘bet you didn’t see that coming’… is actually quite easy to see coming when you do it in every single episode.

I think Freak City worked better in a hard-to-define way. Perhaps because there seemed to be more irony to it.

Episode 22: Henchman

Well this one has Marceline in the title card, so I’m excited already!

Marceline is made to seem like a much more explicitly ‘evil’ character in the early seasons. Here, she’s introduced bullying her henchman, an old man. That said, I suspect this guy is an illusion.

I totally forgot how much they pushed the “Finn is a Hero” as like, a role he’s trying to fulfil thing early on. I remembered the Enchiridion, but every episode seems to be driven by Finn trying to do the ‘heroic’ thing. In this case, Marceline convinces Finn that he must do what she says by his ‘code of honour’…

In this episode, a thousands-year-old/teenaged vampire bullies a twelve year old? Marcie, come on…

Marceline slurps the red colour from some old vampire-like guy's tie.
SLORP

There’s a joke here that kind of only works if you forget the last Marcie episode, that she drinks the colour red? Or maybe it’s supposed to be a dramatic irony thing…

Marcie can raise skeletons! That was like… forgotten about at some point?

The Duke of Nuts is back. What are they going for with this guy’s voice anyway?

Marceline floats above a plant monster with Finn's legs poking out of its mouth.
This also happened.

Finn catches on to the joke before too long which I think is a nice way for the episode to go. And it ends with him pranking Jake! So yeah. A happy episode. I’m into this.

God Marceline is the fucking best.

Episode 23: Rainy Day Daydream

A BMO episode! Hell yes!

…maybe not. But BMO gets more than one line!

Anyway in this episode, Finn is menaced by everything Jake imagines coming true, but invisible. Which neatly allows them to mostly save animating that stuff, and so some kind of mime-based slapstick.

Finn chases an invisible troll who stoll his boot. Which is to say, Finn chases his floating boot.
Did this actually save animation budget at all?

Finn imagines a lot of butts. IDK. This episode was… OK.

Episode 24: What Have You Done

Ice King episode, huh… but this time, Finn and Jake, and not the Ice King, incite the action. By kidnapping him.

Princess Bubblegum is behind it! Well, she would be. She gets a cool plague doctor outfit. And gets painted as pretty sinister, ordering Finn and Jake to throw the Ice King in the dungeon and be ready to… torture him? Yikes!

What’s up with the Candy Kingdom anyway? It’s all miasma-y.

There’s an origin to the Ice King presented in this episode, which… given it’s the Ice King, he could totally be making up, because it conflicts with the ‘real’ origin they later reveal. Also… the Ice King’s crown speaks in this episode!?

A giant eye looms above the ice king in his cell.
The Oculus of Rehabilitation. Princess Bubblegum is a... good... person?

Anyway, this episode is about jurisprudence. Also, miscommunication. It’s not bad actually, despite the plot requiring PB to withhold information for no real reason. There are two excellent secret doors.

Lady Rainicorn does in fact seem to be working for PB? She gets to drop this line when the Ice King asks if PB is hitting on him:

으으, 웃기시네! 너는 우리 공주님과 판결 상대도 안 될 그런 가치없는 놈이야! [Eu-eu, ut-gi-shi-ne! Neo-neun u-ri gong-ju-nim-gwa pan-gyeol sang-dae-do an dwel geu-reon ga-chi-eom-neun nomiya!]

Are you joking? You are not even worth my Lady’s disdain.

which is pretty sick.

Princess Bubblegum, riding on Lady Rainicorn, confront the Ice King in front of a colourful sunset.
Gotta have godrays when you drop sick burns in Korean.

Finn mentions says something would be against his ‘alignment’ in this episode, to make the D&D even more explicit.

Oh yeah, and the Ice King really wants to be friends with Finn and Jake. Like that’s his entire arc, but yeah. I thought there was more ‘straight-up-villain’ but that’s already going quite hard.

Episode 25: His Hero

Hey it’s the season finale! Featuring… Billy. I remember this so it’s probably gonna be a two-parter.

Also, first mention of the ‘Lich King’… later just the Lich. With like, an 80s cartoon theme song. OK.

Billy, a blue shirtless warrior guy, kicks the Lich, a robed skeleton with a goat skull, down a flight of stairs.
I'm sure that's the last we'll see of that guy.

He’s got a lisp for some reason? I feel like they’re probably like, alluding to something with this voice… what does the Adventure Time Wiki say?

Billy is voiced by Lou Ferrigno, who also played The Incredible Hulk in the live action TV series from the 1970s.

Lou Ferrigno is partially deaf, which causes his speech to sound slurred. This resulted in Billy speaking with a lisp.

Oh huh. So maybe more of a 70s cartoon theme song… like I know cartoon periodisation lol.

Anyway, inevitably, Billy’s out of the heroism business.

Jake says “I’ve got a secret crush on you, Billy!” …I guess you can be gay if it’s a joke, just not really?

Use of “spaz” as an insult… come on guys.

Finn and Jake look at their handiwork: a formal shoe that lassoos the real cobbler.
Cobbling gone very right.

This is a pretty funny episode though. Even if the ‘moral’ is kinda uh… well like, whatever.

Episode 26: Gut Grinder

So… season finale. Presumably. Opens innoculously enough.

…huh. That was… just an ordinary episode. I guess the tradition of big season finales hadn’t kicked in at this point.

Jake transforms his feet to make them small enough to walk in Finn's footsteps, without altering the rest of his size.
If Felix Colgrave was on the show...

It’s not even like, a good episode. There’s a couple of OK jokes. But mostly it just feels like it’s trying too hard.

It feels like His Hero should be the final episode. Anyway. That’s that?

Season 1

Overall this season was… well, it was decent? Like it’s not a bad cartoon. But it also didn’t stand out all that much? If the show carried on in this vein, it would be kind of forgettable.

Fortunately, it does not do that!

My favourite episodes were… well, the Marceline ones obviously. I kind of have an automatic fondness for Tree Trunks’s episode too, but that might just be because I like Tree Trunks. And Magic Man’s episode remains very memorable.

Of the episodes that don’t feature recurring characters… well, I enjoyed Jiggler, City of Thieves, and Dungeon, all of which had a solid premise and delivered on it.

Ice King is pretty tiring at this point. I guess I’m not into ‘this guy is a pathetic jerk’ all that much. I’m definitely looking forward to PB getting a lot more screen time later.

General points… well, I’ve already mentioned most of them in the above! There’s not a huge amount of character analysis you can do at this point. The show’s main schtick at this point is poking fun of morality tale setups, and ‘wacky!!!’ type humour, which is… well like, it’s OK? But hopefully it will soon find its way into longer-term character development, or going from ‘lol random right?’ to really following through on those absurd premises.

Looking ahead to season 2… well we’re gonna meet Marcie’s parents soon, so that’s already a good sign! And Susan Strong as well… Things are looking up from here, I think!

Let me know what you think of this commentary, if you want more jokes, more thought on characters, more personal reactions… idk. I guess I’ll see what I feel like writing!