Yes, you read that correctly. Today’s list will be a top 10 as Season 5 in its entirety is double the length of the other seasons. I think it’s fitting as the final list, though. This season had a lot of episodes I really enjoyed and it was tough trying to narrow them down. Let’s jump right into it.
10. Red Starved
I’m a sucker for vampire stories involving bloodlust, so this episode appealed to me right away. In this case, Finn, Jake and Marceline find themselves trapped in a cool-looking underground city. Having eaten Marceline’s snacks and forcing Finn to track down food, Jake is forced to watch as Marceline becomes a red-hungry, Gollum-like creature. I had been hoping an episode like this would come about and I wasn’t disappointed. My only gripe was that the humor didn’t quite catch me as it might for others, though there were some jokes that made me chuckle. Overall, not my favorite Marceline episode, but even my least favorites are still enjoyable to me.
9. Mystery Dungeon
This episode’s premise initially made me sure I would despise it. Ice King, Tree Trunks, Shelby the worm, NEPTR and Lemongrab are forced to work together to get through a dungeon. While I liked the adventure side of this plot, I was sure these characters would eventually grate on me. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case, and aside from Ice King this was my favorite appearance by all the others. This was especially true for Lemongrab, who is my most hated character on the show. He seemed a little bit toned down and actually had some jokes that I found myself chuckling at. I liked the ultimate pointlessness of the “quest,” and the final scene was a great cap to a fun episode.
8. One Last Job
This is easily one of my favorite Jake-centric episodes. I even prefer it over “Jake the Dad”, which I felt was good up until the kinda lackluster ending. The episode kicks off with Jake’s daughter Jake Jr. being held for ransom. I liked it from the get-go as we got to see more of Jake being a dad despite his kids being older than him. This one also dives into Jake’s past as a thief and unveils that he even had a gang. The whole episode is a great spoof of heists and has a unexpected twist ending that I won’t spoil here. I liked the gang, especially the Lettuce Twins in particular for their twin qualities and roles in the gang. For one of the more “crime-based” episodes in the series, it was a fun ride from start to finish.
7. Vault of Bones
If “Mystery Dungeon” was fun for an adventure, then this was fun for both an adventure AND video game-esque elements. This episode involves Flame Princess joining Finn on one of his dungeon crawls and getting increasingly annoyed by him always doing things his way, such as backtracking for loot. It was nice to see more interaction between the two that didn’t involve the dangerous physical aspect of their relationship. I loved Flame Princess’ approach to solving the dungeon’s puzzles as there are times when I just want to smash through difficult puzzles as well. I liked the dungeon itself and, while there weren’t many, the creatures within it. All in all, this was a very enjoyable episode with some great nods to video games of the genre.
6. Be More
As much as I love BMO, s/he was one of those characters who got basically no backstory from the start. What you saw was essentially what you got. Well, this episode finally capitalized on that and gave me not only where BMO was manufactured but also a reason WHY s/he was created. I enjoyed the factory and the various BMO-like robots in it. The chase scenes between the security bots and Finn, Jake and BMO were fun and fast-paced. But my favorite part of the whole episode is the ending, when we’re told the purpose for BMO’s creation and see his/her “family”. I thought it was a touching episode for the little bot and delivered some, in my opinion, much-needed depth to the character.
In this episode, we get more backstory on the Ice King aka Simon in the form of his former fiancee, Betty. Thanks to a bit of magic, the Ice King is turned back into a regular human. Unfortunately, because he was kept alive for so long, he starts aging rapidly and is on the verge of death. Through some time travel antics, Betty is reunited with him and tries her best to save him from death. I thought this episode was very heartwarming and I immediately took a liking to Betty as a character. The way everything is resolved felt bittersweet, but it did open up plenty of opportunity for Betty to return once in a while. While that hasn’t happened yet, I’m hoping more is done with her in the future.
4. Earth & Water
I had considered putting “Frost & Fire” on this list, but my enjoyment of that episode was dampened by Finn’s attitude throughout it. However, I can safely say that “Earth & Water” still remains one of my favorite Flame Princess outings. In this, she forms an unexpected but kinda sweet bond with the dimwitted Cinnamon Bun and recounts to him how she came to be trapped in the Fire Kingdom. We get to see her as a little kid and dive more into her backstory, also witnessing just how evil and awful the Flame King is. We also get hints that Princess Bubblegum is much older than she lets on, appearing as her 18-year-old self while Flame Princess is basically still a toddler. My absolute favorite aspect of this one is her asserting herself and overthrowing her father, taking control of the kingdom and not immediately running back into Finn’s arms once she has. Ultimately, this episode seemed to show the very best aspects of Flame Princess as a character.
3. The Vault
This episode plays off an element seen in “The Creeps” with Finn being haunted by a green, ghostly lady. It’s soon discovered that she’s essentially a reincarnation of Finn, and we get to see bits of her life as he taps into the “vault” in his consciousness. This cements Bubblegum as definitely being very old, at least a few hundred years or so. I thought Finn’s reincarnation, Shoko, was awesome and as someone for hire, you can see how she’s at war with herself when she strikes up a friendship with Bubblegum. Her death is also a bit sudden and tragic. This episode also shows part of the past that hadn’t been seen up to that point, namely the early stages of the Candy Kingdom’s creation. I really enjoy these episodes that expand on how the Land of Ooo became what it is, and it also gave Finn a bit of depth outside of what was known about him.
2. Bad Little Boy
Okay, granted, I’m very biased toward the Fionna and Cake episodes as evident from the previous list, and I will admit that this one’s not as strong as both the first episode and the ones under it on this list. However, I just can’t get enough of the genderbent universe and the way they twist the story to be told from different viewpoints. In this case, the story is seen through Marceline’s interpretation and thus features her male counterpoint, Marshall Lee. Seeing as I’m a sucker for vampires, especially male ones, I immediately liked him and his kinda antagonistic relationship with both Fionna and Prince Gumball. I liked the main song song by him and Fionna and thought that despite the lack of an adventure in this, it acted as a good sort of character episode. I especially found it interesting that Marshall Lee seemed reminiscent of Marceline when she first appeared in the show, being not overly nice and very much a trickster. Overall, I enjoyed it a lot and having learned that a third episode will appear soon in Season 6, I can’t wait to see what they do next.
1. Simon & Marcy
Much like “Bad Little Boy,” this episode expands on the events briefly shown in “I Remember You.” It depicts an average, post-apocalyptic day for the Ice King, then Simon, and a young Marceline as they just try to survive the barren landscape. We see the effects of the crown as it slowly makes Simon less and less stable and more forgetful, just as it was mentioned previously. I liked how it shows that Marceline kinda has a sense of what’s happening to him and reacts appropriately to it. There are even two renditions of “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” (the theme from “Cheers”), with one that’s meant to be light-hearted and the other that’s depressingly bittersweet. The ending is also a bit tragic in light of what Simon eventually becomes. While I still prefer “I Remember You” as a tragic episode, this one is still the highlight of all of Season 5 for me for being equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking.
Honorable Mentions: Finn the Dog/Jake the Human, Frost & Fire, The Red Throne, Jake the Dad, Blade of Grass, Box Prince, Shh!
Season 5 had a lot of downs to go with the ups, but there were plenty of gems made between both halves of the season. With that, my lists for each season of Adventure Time are complete. Once Season 6 is finished, I’ll probably pick up my favorites and blog about them as well. Until that time, I hope these have been a good indication of some of the best Adventure Time has to offer.