Review: Adventure Time 5.50 & 5.51 „Lemonhope“.

„A debt unpaid is not easily forgotten.“

It is safe to say that Adventure Time is consistently among the most surprising shows on air. You never know what you will get when you tune in to a new episode – and sometimes, you still don’t quite know what you have seen after an episode has aired. „Lemonhope“ sure is a headscratcher, full of tiny random tidbits (sand pirate ship!?), but it is also grounded in a compelling story of a young lemon searching for freedom and a place to call home.

Source: Adventure Time Wikia. I do not own anything, no copyright infringement inteded. This is purely for educational purposes.

Castle Lemongrab has become a totalitarian state, with its inhabitants waiting for their savior: Lemonhope. Too bad the kid is not a fan of that burden at all – after being pressed to help his country by Princess Bubblegum, he instead decides to venture out into some wild adventures…

Spoilers from here onwards.

Lost Lemonhope, longed for freedom above.

Lemonhope“ is a mockery of the trope of „the chosen one“ – the unlikely hero, an everyman, whom destiny chooses to safe his people and become the hero he has always been meant to be. Lemonhope fulfills all of these criteria, but of course doesn’t want to – not because he cannot see himself doing it, but instead out of a lack of compassion. „I’m not too worried about other people, I guess„, he tells PB after having just seen clips from the hilarious „peak of public obedience“ in the Earldom of Lemongrab. He doesn’t understand why he should share his cupcake with Finn, and before he does so he would rather make both of them inedible. In that sense he is very much still a child, one that won’t let other kids play with his toys, and one would assume his arc would encompass to put those selfish interests behind him, learn how to shoulder the dreaded (and oft-mentioned) responsibility, and become his people’s much needed champion – even PB and Finn say so at the end of Part 2. Everything is set up for the perfect happy ending, except that Lemonhope does not become the called-for champion – he never grows up, not even by the episode’s end, nor in a thousand years in the future. Being young forever sounds alluring enough, but Lemonhope’s story tells us it should be anything but.

Lemonhope“ is one of the show’s darker entries. The totalitarian Earldom, with the Nazi-comparison not being a far stretch, is played for laughs, but seeing one of the lemons trying to flee being eaten alive as a punishment is actually quite distressing. Also included in this episode: a raided city, pirates that are never seen alive, and innocent flying whales that are hunted for the loot. But the great darkness that the ironically titled „Lemonhope“ emits has to do with the design of the titular character: Lemonhope looks innocent and almost angelic – the wings in the dream sequences fit to a T – but underneath lies an unquenchable thirst for a place to call home.

It is not Castle Lemongrab, and neither is it the Candy Kingdom – all his duties there are a chore, including the worst of them all: school. It soon becomes apparent that he is the ultimate loner – not because of an inability to connect with other people, but out of the desire to be alone. In his first dream, in which he explores a surreal landscape as a hatched bird, there is nobody but him, and it is probably the most content we ever see him in this episode. When he encounters a raided city, we do not only see lack of compassion – Lemonhope is actually kind of happy to see nobody around. Alas, he never grows out of this phase – when he ends up coming back to save Castle Lemongrab from its tyranny, he even states he only does it to get Finn and PB out of his head. His moral compass is entirely absent – at heart, Lemonhope is a selfish little lemon.

Even when he wanders the world in what one can assume are the one thousand years later that he mentioned to Finn and PB, he is still all on his own. He does not look particularly happy, possibly even having become apathic in all these years in which he seemingly has not found a purpose – in which his search for ultimate freedom has become a meaningless phrase, a nihilistic exercise. The only thing more depressing is the conclusion of what is one of the most gorgeously realized Adventure Time endings in recent memory – Lemonhope finds his old home, with all its inhabitants gone, and feels at peace. PB’s song beautifully underscores the melancholy of Lemonhope’s quest to remain free: all he had wanted was for the people in his life – PB, Finn, and the entire lemon people – to vanish. To free himself of them – when he meets them in his dreams, he is in chains. We humans tell each other to do what makes us happy in our lives, but what about Lemonhope? If loneliness makes him happy, does it also truly fulfill him? His name may just go down as one of the biggest misnomers in history. Once again Adventure Time tells us a tragic story without putting the tragedy center stage by exploring an ambiguous protagonist.

Compassion or friendship, wisdom or love.

The only things Lemonhope cares for, other than the ever-elusive freedom, are his instruments – and the episode has a lot of fun employing it as a weapon. Making friends with giant rats? Sure. Scaring away deadly scorpions with red eyes? No problem. Angering and appeasing flying whales that thrive on dosh? Yep. We had been told Lemonhope was a prodigy in the episode he was introduced, „5.31 Too Old„, and „Lemonhope“ parts one and two put that on great display (although, ironically, the best song belongs to Princess Bubblegum). But of course, Lemonhope’s harp is also a metaphor of his desire for self-expression and individuality, and by extension his freedom. Being different is hard, particularly in the Earldom, and yet Lemonhope stands his ground.  The notion of creativity as a weapon, unwanted in a totalitarian state, was explored in „Too Old“ in more depth, whereas „Lemonhope“ takes a different spin on Lemonhope’s search for freedom.

It is freedom he seeks, sure, or at least so he thinks – but soon he realizes the freedom not to learn how to read or the freedom not to find water aren’t so great after all. And yet he is not able to admit it to himself. The conflict of freedom versus responsibility takes center stage in this episode, but contrary to expectations, it is only rudimentarily resolved: Lemonhope does not truly gain the insight that a life without boundaries, characterized by too much freedom, does not lead to happiness – or does it in his case? There is something unnerving to see him live in a somewhat content manner in the debris of a s(tr)anded pirate ship, all alone except for some rats, even nearly dying of thirst rather than admitting that he needs to find water.

Source: Adventure Time Wikia. I do not own anything, no copyright infringement inteded. This is purely for educational purposes.

In a story like this, there would usually come a character to set our hero straight – and indeed, Phlannel Boxingday mysteriously appears to save the day and teach Lemonhope a thing or two. He sure drops a few beautiful pearls of wisdom on Lemonhope: „a debt unpaid is not easily forgotten“ sounds like it was taken from a Game of Thrones screenplay. „You’re a doer, not a thinker“ is just as aptly perceived, even though Phlannel seems to have a little too high of a regard for the lemon boy – he isn’t really a doer either. Phlannel tries to wake Lemonhope’s conscience, but for Lemonhope, saving the Earldom is just a means to an end. He doesn’t do it for the sake of the people, he just wants to make sure he can sleep well again – and be undisturbed when he escapes reality by delving into lonesome dreamscapes.

It is interesting to see Adventure Time’s take on the raw potential of childlike innocence in the form of poor, sweet, lost, strong, safe Lemonhope, creator of beauty and ugliness too. He has the potential to become a hero like Finn, using a harp instead of a sword – but he decides not to use it to do good. Be it laziness or selfishness, or maybe just his abusive childhood – Lemonhope could not fulfill the hopes that had been put into him. All this turns „Lemonhope“ into a powerful parable of how freedom is a double-edged sword – one that beautifully takes advantage of the show’s rich landscape.


– I had to watch this episode twice to really „get it“, just like last week’s „Bad Timing„. In a way, watching Adventure Time has thus become all the more rewarding – somehow, this super-goofy story about a young, hopeless lemon boy makes me feel more involved than last week’s True Detective season finale. (Admittedly, though, True Detective has had far less episodes to achieve a similar level of attachment to the show.)

– I can’t express just how intriguing the brief glimpses into the future are. What’s up with that tree that Lemonhope stares at in the future – is that the tree of Finn’s and Jake’s tree house? And is that the candy kingdom in ruins? Why is the Earldom still in such a good shape (albeit unchanged), and why is there no dust on Lemonhope’s bed? What I like best, though, is the idea of how the apocalypse is apparently happening in cycles – in the future of Adventure Time’s timeline, everything is devastated once more, after finally having gained access to modern technology again. It’s utterly somber and beautiful, and perfectly goes along with Lemonhope’s story.

– PB sure loves experimenting with her creations. Patching the two Earls of Lemongrabs together is a darn sinister idea – how on earth could she think that’s a great idea?

– I guess that means this was the last we have seen of Lemonhope. I personally don’t mind – he is not a particularly likable character, and he is inherently tied to the Earl of Lemongrabs, who are, quite frankly, the most annoying characters on the show. That’s by design, I know, but they often kill the mood in an unfavorable way – the final confrontation between Lemonhope and the Earls is my least favorite moment of the episode.

– I’m very happy to see this episode be a 2-parter, running for just over 20 minutes, but given the choice, I wish „Betty“ had gained that favor instead.

Conclusion: 9,0 of 10 points.

Lemonhope“ is an endlessly fascinating episode that shows the creative force of Adventure Time on full display. It is astonishing on just how many layers it is working – from the interesting take on the debate of freedom vs responsibility to the fun small random tidbits the show is so renowned for. What’s best, however, is the amount of subtext the show can mine out of each and every scene, fully utilizing the cartoon medium to emphasize the show, don’t tell mantra.


9 Gedanken zu “Review: Adventure Time 5.50 & 5.51 „Lemonhope“.

  1. Something to note is that Lemonhope is very much like Lemongrab. As Bubblegum says at the end loneliness is Lemongrab «Only working relationship model» Lemonhope even scream in the same way as Lemongrab. It’s as if the show is trying to day that both of them are the result of the choices they made and that Lemonhope could have easely been Lemongrab.

    • I’m not so sure I agree. I think PB’s comment on the „working relationship model“ refers to the two Lemongrabs being stitched together – that they, unlike Lemonhope, only (somewhat) work peacefully when literally put together. I took it as the show just being quite cynical with PB’s creation, both the two Earls as well as the lemon race in general.

      I think their contrast also shown in Lemonhope’s love of music, whereas Lemongrab despises such an expression of individuality. If the Lemongrabs have a counterpart, I would say it is Princess Bubblegum herself – she is sort of a dictator herself, and her choice of words in imposing the hero’s fate on Lemonhope is reminiscent of the Earl’s.

      I also noted how little Lemonhope couldn’t help himself but sound like Lemongrab in emergency situations, but I attribute it to their race. On the same note, I feel like the lemon race has turned out to be a giant mistake by PB (their creator), all things considered: they quickly devolved into tyranny, and even the small rebel is a deeply damaged being in his own way.

  2. It was heavy and so fascinating, what the hey! This series sometimes suprise me a lot. I loved that episode and I also love how Adventure Time easily switch between happy silly episodes and dark deep stuff. It’s crazy.

  3. What I got out of the episode is that the lemongrab race is just not social. PB and Finn were totally wrong in trying to get Lemonhope to understand social concepts, because he’s just not that kind of creature. Some animals live in packs or herds, but others spend their lives alone, and indeed are happiest that way. The lemon people are an example of the latter.

    Really, I think the best thing PB could do for them is disband the Lemon Earldom entirely and let all the individual lemongrabs go their separate ways. Even the Earl himself would probably stop caring about not having people to rule over if he wasn’t stuck in a big castle with the expectation of holding a title like „earl.“

    • That’s a great observation. PB is really misguided in that regard, considering she does the exact opposite: instead of letting the two Earls go separate ways, she practically ensures they can never do so by sewing them together. What also supports your theory, if I remember correctly, is that the evil Lemongrab mostly gets infuriated by anything his good-natured counterpart does – so if they’d go seperate ways, they would be alle the happier.

    • Your wrong because lemongrab did live on his own for quite some time and went to the candy kingdom and began stalking the citizens. He wanted to rule over somebody

  4. Pingback: Review: Adventure Time 5.52 “Billy’s Bucket List”. | Blamayer TV

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  6. Note: this episode have a vey large emotional side and metaphor. Lemonhope name: the hope for freedom of the lemons, the hope that isn’t with they more, a selfish(lemon(sour)) hope. The hope of the lemons need to return but their selfish, lemonhope’s selfish, make it don’t happen. When he return cause of his nightmares the people were suffering to much and they needed to think in the others and theirselves, uniting for get freedom. Lemongrab truly means dictature and power over the others, selfish desires of domaing everything.The music as lemonhope’s weapons mean the sentimental efect that this have on people, the way the good fellings atract and calm people and animals. When lemongrab like the bad sound lemonhope do with the flute, he is liking the bad felling of/passed by the hope of the people, like if that make he launchs. When lemonhope uses the harp to kill lemongrab it means the good fellings of the hope, the way the lemons fights for freedom against Lemongrab.

    There are a few more things, but these are mad things of my mind and may sound crazy: PB’s song scared me. More for the images. The peacefull and loving tone with an apocalipce backgrounng sounded like the peacefull of the death(like a rest in peace or loving with the ones that died). Lemonhope have another meaning. Hope is the last to die. As there is no one more to fight, the death of the last one, the eternal peace and „freedom“ of death, the last hope goes with calm and peace. Yep, that scares me when I think about it, but is a really good music.

    Well, end is near, them let’s watch Adventure Time.

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