The Adventure Time Episode for all the Perfectionists Out There

“Do you ever feel like, no matter how hard you try, you’re still nothing but a disappointment…?” Pep poses this question in Adventure Time’s “Wizard City.” It caught me off guard because I’ve felt that way, too. I wanted to write this summary-esque article to bring it some attention.

“Wizard City” was released in Sept. 2021 as a conclusion to the mini-series Adventure Time: Distant Lands. The episode follows Pep. In the original series, Peppermint Butler is a powerful dark wizard. However, his body resets back to a child with no memories of his previous life; only Peppermint Butler’s pesky ghost remains. Now, Pep must rediscover his magic abilities and reclaim his title as a dark wizard. Along the way, he grapples with self-worth, questions his will to live, and discovers satisfaction in hard work.

Pep’s lack of self-worth becomes clear when he compares himself with Spader, a bully with impressive magic skills. In one example, their teacher asks the students to transform an egg. Spader amazes Pep with his flying, three-eyed egg; all Pep can manage is a simple color change. Frustrated, he resorts to dark magic, but when it comes time to show the class, his egg explodes.

I understand how Pep feels, and I’m sure many students do, too. Pep associates academic success with self-worth. Whenever he fails, the ghost of Old Peppermint Butler scolds him, saying, “You absolute loser. You think you’re going to become me by slinging some baby egg spells?” Pep feels the need to excel in school or he’s a disappointment to Peppermint Butler. So when deciding between honest work (which takes time) or dark magic (which launches him ahead in skill level), Pep takes the easy way out.

The pressure from Ghost Peppermint Butler becomes too much, however, and Pep wishes himself out of existence. After being accused of Spader’s mysterious disappearance, Pep becomes an outlaw. With nowhere to go, he hides at the bottom of a dumpster and pleads with nearby ants to “lick [him] out of existence.” Honestly, I felt that. I relate to Pep because of how he feels like a failure, and I know many students probably do, too. When they just can’t seem to get anything right, and all they feel is alone.

Luckily, Cadebra is always there to redirect him. In the climax of the episode, Pep is given the ichor (monster fluids that either kill the drinker or turn them into a powerful wizard). Cadebra pleads with him not to drink it; even if he has to work harder to achieve success, “[he’ll] own it.” Cadebra convinces Pep that he shouldn’t outperform everyone if it means using shady methods. Instead, he should celebrate the little achievements, like turning his egg rainbow-colored. Ultimately, Pep accepts that becoming a great wizard will take time, but the long road ahead doesn’t sound so bad “when you have a good travel buddy.”

Overall, I thought this episode was a pleasant surprise and a perfect example of how hard-hitting, personal topics aren’t just for kids, but for all human beings. If you want to watch “Wizard City,” it’s streaming on HBO Max.