Adventure Time: Why Ice King Is The Most Tragic Character

Despite starting out life as an evil wizard, the Ice King becomes one of Adventure Time‘s most tragic characters by the end of the show. Thanks to fleshing out his surprisingly complex backstory, the self-proclaimed ruler of the Ice Kingdom, whose real name is revealed to be Simon Petrikov, transforms into a sympathetic figure across Adventure Time‘s run.

In the first season of Adventure Time, the Ice King was portrayed as the villain who would stop at nothing in his quest to kidnap Princess Bubblegum and gain control over the Candy Kingdom. He was a blue man with a long beard who wore a comically oversized crown and lived in an ice cave with his horde of penguin minions, led by the formidable Gunther. So how does he end up with one of the most redemptive arcs by the end of Adventure Time? The Ice King at first blush is a one-dimensional villain who mainly serves as an excuse for the adventures of the heroes, Finn and Jake. However, given the series’ penchant for memorable characters, the Ice King was not going to stay simple for long.

Related: Why The Adventure Time Season 11 Comic Series Isn’t Canon

As Vulture points out, Ice King started to develop more complexity as early as season 2. Episodes like “The Eyes” reveal that sadness and loneliness are the real motivations for the Ice King’s endless confrontations with Finn and Jake. Audiences start to see where that sadness comes from in the classic Adventure Time season 4 episode “I Remember You,” in which Marceline the Vampire Queen writes a song with the Ice King. The episode gives a glimpse into Marceline and the Ice King’s shared past in the aftermath of the Mushroom War, where it is revealed that the Ice King used to be a regular man named Simon.

Perhaps the Ice King’s best episode is from Adventure Time season 5 when his backstory with Marceline is given the spotlight. “Simon & Marcy” shows that the Ice King’s powers come from his crown, but they also come at a cost. Every time Simon puts on the crown to help save Marceline from post-apocalyptic dangers he erases a bit of himself and his memory, becoming lost in the “labyrinth” of his mind. Adventure Time is known for its emotional writing, and the episode really highlights the tragic element of the Ice King’s character: he is the way he is not because of any selfish ambition or inherent evilness but because of his selflessness and fatherly love for Marceline. His arc is so sad because it deals directly with his attempts to find a way out of that labyrinth in his mind.

Although he started Adventure Time as a simple villain, Ice King’s tragic backstory made him into one of the best characters on the show. There is a kindness and a sadness underneath his over-the-top exterior that really comes out as the show progresses. The Ice King becomes an incredible character because of the way he represents the difficulties of living with mental illness and self-isolation. Rather than being the evil wizard he initially seems, the Ice King is really just jealous of the friendship that Finn and Jake and the others have and he wants to be involved. Once viewers know more about Simon and his past, that hope for friendship becomes all the more tragic.

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