Adventure Time stands out because it is completely unpredictable. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve reached the seven-minute mark of an episode and wondered how the hell the story got to this point from where it started, but that impulsive absurdity is also what has sustained this show and kept it fresh for five seasons. “Wizards Only, Fools” is one of those glorious episodes where the writers have a wealth of ideas that they are able to turn into one cohesive yet frantically madcap narrative, delivering an episode that provides mental stimulation for adults while satisfying all the sensory needs of children.
This episode has silly costumes, crazy wizards, platformer sight gags, philosophical discourse, and a prison shiv battle; it’s basically everything you’d want in an Adventure Time episode, except it’s missing an awesome Marceline musical number. The writers tackle topics ranging from alternative medicine to prison life to the differences between science and religion, using magic as a substitute for a belief system. It’s crazy in the best way possible, building in intensity until there’s no other option but for the characters to put everything on deep freeze.
Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum are the Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman trinity of Adventure Time; Finn is the resilient human, Jake is the guy with superpowers, and PB is the badass woman that can totally hold her own without her male companions. It’s been a while since there’s been an episode that focused on this central trio, and “Wizards Only, Fools” spotlights the group dynamic that makes these characters work so well together. Finn and PB have a romantic attraction that is still evolving, and although they’re just friends in this episode, there’s a suggestion that Finn still holds a flame for her. I wouldn’t be surprised if Finn and PB end up together once he’s matured a few years, since it’s beginning to seem like he’s the only person that would be able to handle PB anyway.
As we see in this episode, Jake is the perfect counterpoint to PB, standing for magic and the wonderful unknown while PB is all about cold, hard facts. Finn is fairly relaxed, but he’s nowhere near as carefree as his bro, who approaches life from the whimsical perspective befitting a nearly indestructible shape-shifting dog. He likes to believe that his situation is the result of magic because there’s more fun in the mystical unknown than in the reality of scientific mutation, and his philosophy disagrees with PB’s beliefs.
The science versus magic conflict is ignited by Starchy refusing to take PB’s cold medicine because his belief in magic requires him to heal himself with a spell. When PB patronizes Starchy, he and Nurse Poundcake are outraged by her insensitive behavior and berate her for disrespecting another person’s beliefs. There are certain religions that prevent people from receiving certain medical treatments because they are against the belief system, from Catholicism’s stance on abortion to Jehovah’s Witnesses that can’t receive blood transfusions. Starchy will only accept a cold spell, so PB calls on the services of Finn and Jake to help her score in Wizard City.
I say “score” because PB is essentially trying to buy from a dispensary without her medical marijuana card. She needs to get an alternative medical treatment without the proper authorization, and when she gets caught stealing with her fellow conspirators, they get thrown in jail. (Also, that magic store guy has stereotypical pot dealer voice.) PB is given the opportunity to prevent a prison sentence by admitting that wizards rule, but her pride combined with her scientific bias creates a headstrong opinion that can’t be swayed.
That’s when the episode goes all Oz, throwing PB, Finn, Jake, and Abracadaniel into the hellish wizard prison. To give a good idea what wizard prison is like: Finn gets a pair of underwear thrown on him while Jake gets stabbed with a fork when they’re just walking down the hall. PB tries to act all cool, but when Abracadaniel challenges her to a stab fight, she shows just how pissed off she is by attacking the wizard with the talon in her soup. When she refuses to kill him, the other inmates move in to make her pay for her cowardice, forcing her to use the cold spell they stole from the magic shop.
In the end, PB realizes that magic has its uses, like serving as a distraction to grab Starchy’s attention so that Finn can hold him down and she can give him the shot she wanted to administer in the first place. Her tolerance will only go so far, and eventually, she’s going to do what is best for her patients regardless of what their personal beliefs are. Pieces of entertainment are often called roller coaster rides, but in the case of “Wizard Only, Fools,” it’s an apt description. The episode ends where it begins, but that cyclical journey is full of twists and turns that are whole lot of fun.
- There’s a great platforming sequence after PB jumps out of the magic shop window, switching to a side-scrolling view as she bounces on rooftops and swings to the ground on an octopus cloud.
- With shades of last week’s great pharmacist monologue, Ice King delivers a hilarious rambling speech on PB’s recorder where he admits how long it has been since anyone touched him because he’s the saddest even when he’s not on screen.
- Yeah, those wizards straight up murdered that guy by turning him into a stick.
- “Just rip one of these babies open, and you’ll be like ga-gaw!”
- “Is PB straight up naked right now?”
- “Bubblegum. I hereby challenge you to an honorable prison stabbing… to the death!”