The best of the galaxy’s inspiring do-gooders
August 21st, 2022
Created by Craig McCracken in 2013, this cartoon about two traveling space creatures combined the action of The Powerpuff Girls with the simplicity of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends. And while Disney cancelled it before it ventured into uncharted territory, it still ranks with Gravity Falls and Adventure Time as one of the best cartoons of the 2010’s. Rather than review the entire show like TheCartoonGamer did, I’ve created a list of the best episodes in its two-season run. While ten episodes are the standard for countdowns, an additional five speaks volumes of the show’s quality with a few honorable mentions. These episodes run eleven minutes out of twenty-two, but both halves will be included if there’s a connection. They’re artistic, they’re zany, and they’re out of this world, these are the top 15 Wander Over Yonder episodes.
#15 The Good Deed
The entire premise revolves around Wander and Sylvia (Jack McBrayer and April Winchell) spreading good deeds around the galaxy. One can imagine the consequences should this backfire. When Wander and Sylvia feed a starving rabbit a carrot, it inconveniences someone using said carrot to bait his animals for transportation. From there, it becomes a series of unfortunate events as each attempt to right a new wrong worsens the situation. Seeing the conflict build to an explosive resolution shows the strengths of comedy in animation. The quick editing adds to the speed and timing with each new disaster coming out of nowhere. That single frame of Wander and Sylvia’s gaping jaws never gets old as good intentions turn into latent dysfunctions. Add a last-minute misfortune with Lord Hater (Craig Ferguson), and this kicks off the first season with a bang.
#14 The Rider
Wander and Sylvia are certified best friends, but what happens when she feels deprived of the action in their adventures? Enter the Ryder (Will Arnett), Sylvia’s old partner who recruits her to rob Lord Hater’s stolen treasure for the people. As the adventure continues, Ryder’s intentions hide a devious endgame, but he’s sich a likeable scoundrel that we can root for him and distrust him. Part of that lies in Will Arnett’s voice acting as he smooth talks his way through any situation using charm, guns, fists, or all of the above. Bringing up Sylvia’s past adds a new dimension to her history and growth while witnessing Wander getting pushed to the side because he’s not as aggressive tugs at the heartstrings:
The space battles ramp up the stakes as it goes from laser shootouts to a game of chicken that still keeps the laughs going. The lesson learned from both parties helps deal with differences in any relationship while the Star Wars references will make anyone happy after the sequel trilogy. Throw in and ending that foreshadows a more sinister threat for the next season, and this adventure goes to the stars and back in delivering an entertaining story.
#13 The Lonely Planet
Wander and Sylvia come across and sentient planet (Kari Wahlgren) who immediately takes a liking to Wander and a disliking to Sylvia. She tries separating the two through her ever-changing ecosystem, but it’s not enough to keep Sylvia down. It’s amazing how much emotion is telegraphed in the environment, especially when Sylvia bears the majority of the cruel yet hilarious slapstick. From the mountains to the rivers to the plant life to the ocean, everything is either a scenic wonder or a hazard waiting to leave bruises and scars. It’s also chilling to see the relationship of Planet Janet and Wander blossom, and what happens when he starts to catch onto her dark side as the imagery becomes more jagged. This breaks the cliche of the naive character not knowing any better when something is happening behind their back. It also strengthens Wander and Sylvia’s friendship when the going gets tough, and the resolution with Janet is emotionally twisting once everyone comes to their senses. It’s an episode that promises the world and does not fail to deliver on a silver platter.
#12 The Family Reunion
After a new threat in season two proves difficult to defeat, the duo takes a break when Sylvia introduces Wander to her family. Wander gets to know her sport obsessed brothers and untrusting grandmother, but Sylvia and her mother appear to be on bad terms. Expanding on a character’s background is always a treat, and this doesn’t shirk as the Flintstones’ inspired home is quaint and quiet from the usually tough villains. Seeing the different interactions between the family members brings a new appreciation to Sylvia’s background after getting to know here for one season. We also see Wander become more assertive when the arguing gets out of control, again, breaking the cliche of overly positive characters by showing they can be human with anger and frustration. Best of all, the ending wraps up the dilemmas in a sentimental bow as mother and daughter have an eye-to-eye. It’s one of the best endings of the series after getting to know these tough as nails relatives with a soft interior.
#11 The Fremergency Fronfract
During a dentist appointment, Lord Hater becomes dizzy under the effects on pain killers. Knowing he’s not himself, Wander takes the opportunity to hang out with Hater and show him the benefits of being good. Wander and Hater have always been polar opposites, but this shows what would happen if they started out on the same side. The range of expressions on Wander are so imaginative when he realizes the endless possibilities of bonding with his arch nemesis. The same is true for Lord Hater who take an opposite approach to life with his over-the-top personality. It shows how these two could be cohorts under different circumstances. Sylvia’s backstabbing plan contains a huge payoff when things return to normal. The same goes for when Wander and Hater eventually part ways in a teary-eyed moment that doesn’t get the last laugh because Hater’s return to the dark side is delayed for just a few minutes. All capping off with one of the best subversions of the it was all a dream approach when the last of Hater’s positivity disintegrates. Hater might no remember the entire experience, but the audience won’t forget it anytime soon.
#10 The Gift 2: The Giftening/ The Gift
At the end of season one, the stories became more serialize and the animation more experimental. This out of order two-parter proves that. The first half takes on a horror vibe as Hater’s watchdogs are infected with happiness with the arrival of anonymous gifts. The second half reveals it to be a Christmas special with Wander and Sylvia delivering presents to everyone, including Hater’s Watchdogs. These whiplashing tones complement each other perfectly as it shows the lengths Wander and Sylvia will go to spreading positivity, even with their enemies. Seeing the tone morph from something out of Alien to a cheery holiday celebration brings out the best in both genres. Lord Hater going full Tex Avery on his expressions and exercise is one of the highlights in both story and animation. It’s also enjoyable to hear Wander justify giving presents to his enemies despite Sylvia trying to reason with him. Whether or not it is Christmas, this episode can get anyone in a jolly mood.
#9 My Fair Hatey
In this musical episode, Wander educates Hater on how to woo Lord Dominator (Fred Tatasciore and Noel Wells), only for both of them to get a reality check on her character. This not only shows how pathetic Hater’s love life is, but also how Wander can be too optimistic when judging character. Given Disney’s renaissance period, it’s fun to see a show tackle a musical format starting with the title reference to My Fair Lady. The pairing of Sylvia with Commander Peepers (Tom Kenny) leads to all kinds of catchy jokes and tunes. Even the self-aware commentary adds its own flare through each song and dance number. It all leads to Lord Dominator’s showstopper “I’m the Bad Guy”:
Not only is it a catchy villain song but it also shows why she is a worthy antagonist. She’s as spontaneous as stereotypical valley girl, yet efficient in her plan to destroy everything the heroes and villains hold dear. The stakes are upped as she solidifies her power over everyone even when Wander tries in vain to appeal to her nonexistant heart. The animation is upped to near cinematic levels along with a large color pallet. Though it ends on a somber note (pun intended) after plans go array, it sets up the coming clash concerning the fate of the galaxy. And to filmmakers who want to make musicals in the future, this proves why voice talent like Tom Kenny, April Winchell and Noël Wells will always have stronger vocals than any popular celebrity with no practice.
#8 The Cartoon
Told in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Lord Hater’s watchdogs create a propaganda cartoon to impress Lord Dominator. This cartoon within a cartoon fuels Hater’s unquenchable ego as it flip-flops between his standards. The comments from Hater and the Watchdogs add to the enjoyment as the story goes out of its way to make the characters nothing like their “real world” counter parts. The animation brilliantly satirizes the 1970s cost cutting tactics that cheapened the art form until the 1990s. The ending adds more unconventional storytelling that knows how to utilize Hater’s incompetence to benefit the comedy. And the cherry on top? The single greatest meme that any artist can relate to, nuff said:
#7 The Breakfast
Told in a split screen presentation, this shows the morning routine of both Wander and Lord Hater as they prepare breakfast. While it might be distracting watching two stories at once, the way it connects the events is a fantastic story telling technique that only animation could accomplish. It’s also fun to see both characters in their time off and how they view the world differently, especially when Hater wastes so many fancy dishes prepared by the culinary expert, Commander Peepers. There’s a scene where they literally view a situation as a glass half full or empty. Even Wander deals with his share of problems thanks to his need to please people. If a good breakfast doesn’t help to start your day, then this episode will do the trick.
#6 The It
Lord Hater gets entangled in Wander’s game of Tag, much to the annoyance of Commander Peepers. From then on, it becomes a game of patience as Hater tries to tag another person to be It. We know Hater is a big man-child despite controlling a massive army, but to have this take higher priority over surpassing the greatest rogue’s gallery since Batman shows why he’s one of the funniest bad guys compared to the lackluster twist villains during Disney’s 2010 movies. It also highlights why Commander Peepers is a worthy sidekick to his childish boss. He prioritizes Hater’s needs first, but often loses his temper from the always piling obstacles. In fact, the episode “The Axe” shows how pathetic Hater is without his second in command. But what puts this episode ahead is how Peepers adapts to the inconvenience. It even helps him conquer the galaxy only for everything to crumble at the last minute. It’s fast paced, it’s surprising, and best of all it never fails to humiliate one of the best sidekicks in Disney history.
#5 The Day/The Night
These two are grouped together because they flow as one continuous story. In the day, Sylvia attempts to break Wander out of Lord Hater’s prison while he sleeps like a Snorlax. In the night, Wander returns the favor by keeping quiet while Sylvia rests. What makes both episodes work is the trade-off between the leads. As Sylvia navigates enemy territory, the innerworkings of Lord Hater’s ship like the washing machine and the locker room pave the way for unexpected laughs and escape montages. Afterwards, the amount of pain Wander endures to keep his friend from waking up feels like a mine field in how sound effects are amplified by the situation. A bead of sweat sounds like a giant splash, a chirping cricket sounds like an untrained violinist, and a beaver sounds like a chainsaw. It’s fun seeing the shoe on the other foot after Sylvia goes through hell and back to save her friend. Everything comes together by the end with the oddest twist in the series that’s still being debated online. Nevertheless, this cycle of calamity never ends with this two parter.
#4 The End of the Galaxy
Of course, the final episode needed to make the list as the fate of galaxy hangs by a thread with Lord Dominator destroying everything. Everyone bands together to save their home, even the heroes and villains. The pieces are set and the battle rages on. Even Lord Hater becomes more intelligent with his last stand. Wander trying to turn Dominator to the good side, even at the risk of his own life, ups the drama as Sylvia and crew hold down the fort. The reason this is not number one is because this was not intended to be the series finale, so it didn’t go all out like other shows, and sadly the cliffhanger will never be resolved. But as an unintended final journey with these characters, it goes out with a triumph.
#3 The Party Poopers
Wander and Sylvia attend a fancy dinner party to acquire wisdom on how to defeat Lord Dominator. But Wander can’t help but laugh at their hosts because their faces are (pun intended) the butt of every joke. Seeing how far Wander can hold his laughter before exploding like a nuclear bomb adds both comedy and tension since the High Gnee council adheres to a strict code of politeness and manners. As childish as the jokes are, the toilet humor does not take center stage despite all the brown nosing. When the last laugh blows its cover, everyone is in shock. But seeing who succumbs to it is priceless. Add another twist during the test, and this is a party that leaves everyone in stitches.
#2 The Hole…Lotta Nuthin
A black hole threatens to engulf everything in the galaxy until Wander’s finger plugs it up. While Sylvia tries to find a substitute to free him, Wander deals with hunger, isolation, and the arrival of Lord Hater. And the rest of the episode is a complete roast of the main character. Anyone who despises Wander’s over positivity can relish in Hater’s revenge that drives the orange protagonist to depression. He doesn’t hold back and takes every chance to make his worst enemy miserable, which is both sad and hilarious. It also shows the great chemistry these two have with each other despite being on opposite sides. But of course, Hater’s fun backfires without giving away the ending. Throw in one of the best troll faces in animation and it shows how season two elevates the series as one of the best of the 2010’s.
A hero enlists Wander and Sylvia to help him save a princess from a troll. It’s another great deconstruction of the prince saving the day trope pioneered in Shrek and Frozen.
Wander turns the tables on Hater by throwing a prison party and making him jealous. Going under the disguise as Lord Rager, Hater has a night out with his prisoners that ends with the best hangover.
The Heebie Jeebies
Taking on a Silent Hill vibe, Wander and Sylvia venture into a dark forest. This is the only time we see Wander’s fear and it acts as a great Halloween episode.
This penultimate episode where Wander and Sylvia try to save a flower from dying at the hand of Lord Dominator. It’s intense, funny and leads to Wander’s saddest moment when they don’t succeed in the end.
And my favorite Wander Over Yonder episode is…
Wander and Sylvia get trapped in an endless void where they can do anything they want, which perfectly sums up why this is the best episode. While The Cartoon put more emphasis on the medium, this puts more emphasis on the artistic possibilities. Trapping two characters into a realm of emptiness is a sink or swim situation for any dynamic duo, and this proves what they’re capable of together. April Winchell goes full Peg from her Goof Troop days as Wander gets lost in his imagination. Logical reasoning is pushed to the side to enjoy anything that comes to mind. Even a couple of still frames hide a few easter eggs that need to be still framed in order to catch. It’s this kind of creativity that shows how much this series thrived on both artistic complexity and narrative simplicity. This episode stands alongside other cartoons with a similar premise like Duck Amuck and should be studied for visual storytelling for any aspiring animators looking to make the impossible a reality. The only limit is your animation.