Original Airdate: August 6, 2012
Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Skyler Page
BMO Noire is the first true BMO-centric episode of the series, and it quite delightfully blends experimental themes of black and white crime films with a hint of BMO development added in. This episode is essentially working off of everything we’ve learned about BMO so far; despite his childlike wonder, BMO wishes only one thing: to have normal “living” emotions like Jake and Finn. And while BMO does experience feelings deep down similar to his close friends, he still is a robot on the outside, which has kickstarted a lot of inner turmoil that has caused him to be almost borderline sociopathic at times. No matter how cute BMO is, there’s not denying that a lot that goes through his head and his everyday actions are generally fucked up. BMO Noire is essentially the best kind of episode to showcase this aspect of his character; it’s a fun and sweet adventure on the surface, but underneath is a layer of BMO’s dark and tortured imagination.
It’s probably appropriate to start off this review by mentioning that BMO was totally playing with himself at the beginning of this episode. There is just simply no other way around it. The episode wastes no time, however, by immediately setting up the somewhat trivial conflict that is taken completely seriously by our robot friend. The episode pulls off many noir-themed references and homages very humorously as well as effectively. The episode, of course, is completely in black-and-white (something that Pendleton Ward was really psyched about doing), there’s the bit where BMO steps on his controller cord as if it were a cigarette bud, and the dialogue between the characters (or, in this case, the characters BMO has created) is all very 1950’s. A lot of the exchanges between BMO and his imaginary friends, though very amusing, can also be taken completely straight as well. This episode is full of its funny moments, but honestly, I found myself laughing a lot less after watching it this time around. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. I just think anything noir-themed is pretty fucking cool, so I mostly enjoy this one out of admiration for its tone and style rather than believing it’s a straight-up hilarious parody of crime films, and I think that’s how most people feel as well. You can laugh at the fact that BMO is legitimately having a serious discussion about his past relationship with a chicken named Lorraine, but it’s played so dramatically by BMO that it still amazingly kind of works as a somewhat somber tale.
Of course, I also enjoy this one for the aforementioned development of BMO’s character. Throughout the episode, it’s filled with a lot of silly conversations between Ronnie the rat, Lorraine the chicken, Lieutenant Whiskers, and others that exist as talking figures in BMO’s imagination. They start out harmless and playful enough, but BMO’s dream sequence really sheds light to the questionable and histrionic elements of his actions. BMO concocted the entire scheme, meaning he stole from his friend, supposedly “killed” Bebe, put lipstick on F&J’s pet chicken, and knew the entire sequence was all in his imagination.
It makes me question what exactly BMO’s motivation behind this elaborate plan was; was it to get attention from Finn and Jake and appear as a hero like the two of them do? Was it strictly for the cause of going on his own enjoyable investigation? Or, going off of the last reason, was it to ultimately feel more “human”? The dream sequence also suggests this aspect (boarded by Tom Herpich, who always does a standout job with dreams or hallucinations, but this is definitely an exceptional one) as BMO is briefly seen with a human face, the same human face seen in the title card for this episode. I think it once again stresses the fact at how BMO feels like a living creature and desires to be like any living creature, but simply cannot be one with the body he was given and the function he was, supposedly up to this point, made for. BMO will always be Finn and Jake’s cute, baby robot, but with any child, there are layers of hidden trauma and turmoil that I’m sure BMO himself isn’t completely cognizant about. The only thing he is aware of is that he has a conscious desire, without soundly too cliche, to “be more”. This is hinted during his exchange with NEPTR, leading to one of the funniest and most poignant lines of the episode, “no NEPTR, I am not like you.” It’s works as a laugh-worthy “fuck you” to Adventure Time’s most in-universally ignored character, but also as a glimpse into what BMO believes he truly is, and that’s something more than just a robot.
This heaviness is blended nicely with the fact that, once again, it is all in BMO’s imagination. I like all of his interactions with these characters, and how he’s able to effectively converse with Lorraine or Ronnie without them ever responding back. There’s a really great moment where Lieutenant Whiskers hands BMO a confession from Ronnie, and there’s just no way in the fucking world someone actually handed it to him. It just kinda sticks up out of nowhere, which harms the authenticity that all of this episode is just in BMO’s head, but it’s so hilarious that I don’t even really mind. There’s also moments reminding us that BMO is indeed still a robot, like the controller stomping I had mentioned and the bit where BMO splashes his face in water, only for his circuits to smoke a bit. I’m actually really glad Herpich got to work on this one. Not even for a writing reason, but I just feel like his really chunky and squishy drawings of the characters blend nicely with the black-and-white and old-timey feel of the episode. It was a nice stylized choice. Also, huge kudos to Niki Yang in this one. Ako Castuera refers to this one as a “Niki Yang voice acting extravaganza” in the commentary, and that’s pretty much the best way of putting it. Yang does an excellent job of pulling of different, distinct and silly voices for each of the newly introduced characters.
And after all the psychological issues he goes through, BMO is able to have a moment of victory and lightheartedness as Finn and Jake return home from Glob knows where. The staff would oddly elaborate on this subplot later in season five, but we’ll get to that when the time comes. The ending does hint that BMO does want to be more like Finn and Jake and go on adventures like the two of them, so it’s endearing that he’s able to have a brief moment of triumph at the fact that he saved the day, though it was secretly instigated by himself. We do get one final very small, yet effective scene at the end where BMO blushes at the thought at Lorraine, once again showing that he’s much more “human” than we were lead on to believe. Though he’s still a robot at the end of the day, BMO will always have his attributes that make him equivalent to any other lovable, yet troubled little boy.
I dig this one a ton. Like I said, it’s not one that I find particularly hilarious, but it’s filled with great atmosphere and interesting peeks into BMO’s character that I don’t mind at all. It’s silly, yet intense, and a perfect start to BMO’s descent into his own personal issues.