Original Airdate: November 6, 2015
Written & Storyboarded by: Emily Partridge & Luke Pearson
I never thought that BMO would have as big of a psychotic breakdown than the one he had in BMO Noire, but Football gives that episode a run for its money. In a way, both episodes are quite similar; BMO Noire and Football feature BMO suffering from somewhat of an identity crisis, that is masked behind what seems to be nothing more than a silly game. The episodes also operate primarily in BMO’s perspective, leaving a lot up for interpretation regarding how much of what we’re seeing is actually real and how much is a product of BMO’s imagination. While these episodes share the same gist, Football manages to stand alone as its own thing by telling an equally unique and intense story.
I always figured that Football would eventually end up starring in an episode of her own; I thought the exchanges between BMO and his imaginary friend in the first two Graybles episodes were relatively cute, but I always saw this concept as something that could be fleshed out into a scenario where BMO’s imagination once again goes haywire. And that’s exactly what happens here. The little interactions with BMO and Football at the beginning were funny and cute. Adventure Time has really mastered making BMO behave exactly like a child at this point in the series. Granted, it’s a fair stretch from the type of character that BMO started out as, but the commitment that went into this archetype the past three or four seasons has really made such a development seem convincing otherwise. When I think of BMO’s character as a whole, I think of childlike whimsy, and not the snarky accomplice we spent time with in an episode like Guardians of Sunshine. I enjoy both interpretations of BMO’s character, but I’ve grown to be more accustomed to the toddler-esque portrayal that has formed his character most recently, and appreciate the dedication that has reflected on it.
As I mentioned, both BMO Noire and Football focus on a game that has essentially gone too far. Though here, I think BMO’s feelings and attitudes are even more vague and difficult to understand. I don’t know exactly why he would want this, or even if he can control it. The episode does a great job with raising curiosity in terms of just how much of BMO’s “game” is supposed to play out, and how much of it is without BMO’s intention. In addition to that, Football really makes you question whether it is entirely within BMO’s imagination or has some kind of basis in reality. I mean, obviously I think it’s all just a mind game from the bot’s perspective, but in the Adventure Time world, and especially with BMO, you really never know. Football really could be some version of BMO from a parallel dimension, and while that’s highly unlikely, the episode still plays with those conflicting view points for an factor of entertainment.
The visuals are really clever in never showing both BMO and Football talking at the same time. Every sentence is framed in a certain sense of ambiguity. I especially like when “Football” is staring at BMO’s reflection through the mirror, as BMO continuously makes various animated movements, all while Football remains still because the shot only shows the top left half of his body. That was a really smart move; the episode could’ve so easily just gone with the lazy and sloppy route and just had BMO sit still while talking to his reflection, but Adventure Time is much more innovative than that. Emily Partridge and Luke Pearson did a great job on this one from a boarding perspective. Even after being away from the storyboarding phase for quite a bit of time (Pearson left after Frost & Fire and Partridge debuted with The Prince Who Wanted Everything) the two still manage to have a deep understanding of the AT characters and how to properly work with the show’s environment. Similar to Mukai’s work on the past few episodes, it’s nice once again to get treated to the style of guest artists, and both Pearson and Partridge dish out some wacky and unique expressions for each character.
This episode differs from BMO Noire by having Finn and Jake incorporated into the main story. I feel mixed about F&J’s roles overall, as they provide for some really strong moments, and some instances that just stick out to me as kind of weird. First off, I love their willingness to go along with BMO’s game unconditionally. Even when it’s clear that BMO is struggling, Jake still does not break character or attempt to squash BMO’s imagination. The two act as terrific caretakers to the little guy, in both humoring him and trying to ensure that he is physically and mentally sound. Jake’s little speech about having “soul noise” and how it’s perfectly okay to not feel your best at all times was splendid. Though we rarely ever see Jake getting to be a parent to his kids, it’s so lovely that we get these little moments between him and BMO that show what an swell father he would be, if he still had the chance to actually raise his kids. Some of the more unusual instances come from the fact that I felt like the boys were a little too chill at moments. BMO wrecks up the whole Tree Fort and smashes the absolute FUCK outta NEPTR, and Finn and Jake seem totally indifferent to his actions. I mean, I get that the Tree Fort gets demolished on a regular basis, but it seems as though the two were a bit too unfazed by their little buddy’s emotional troubles. And the term “unfazed” could easily be applied to their behavior on the roof, where they just kind of watch as BMO falls off into the river. They aren’t even shown to react to such an instance, nor does Jake attempt to grab him (which he could easily do by stretching out). It’s sort of weird to watch F&J be terrific parental figures in parts of the episode, and then just kind of end up sidelined when BMO’s issues really start to pick up.
BMO’s complete breakdown is delightfully intense. Again, while it’s clearly framed as a figment of his imagination, BMO’s distress still feels very real, and his emotional turmoil is quite compelling. You never really know where the episode is going to go with it, and keeps building and building until the very end, when BMO falls into the lake a cleverly “switches places” with Football. The ending is a simple, but nice resolution, that ties back into the fact that, under all of this baggage, BMO really is just a cute, playful child on the surface. Even with everything going against him within his mind, he’s still able to create a happy ending within the realm of his own imagination.
Other little things I enjoyed in this episode is the fact that NEPTR and Shelby are now considered part of the Tree Fort family, and it’s especially sweet, seeing as how they gradually start appearing more as secondary characters throughout this season. I still cannot believe how absolutely harsh it was for NEPTR to get beat down like that. I mean, the show usually shits all over him, but God damn. Also, I liked the silly addition of the dozens of grapefruits scattered around the Fort. It was quite absurd, and fun to imagine what kind of offbeat adventure brought that plethora of fruit in.
This one is pretty rad, though. It’s genuinely compelling, using its visuals and intense tone to its strongest abilities. BMO is an interesting gem who presumably has the most confusing issues in the entire series, and it’s always nice to see what kind of stories can lend themselves to his wild imagination, as well as his troubled psyche.