Original Airdate: September 17, 2017
Written & Storyboarded by: Kent Osborne & Graham Falk
I’ve mentioned this plenty of times on the blog, but Season Nine’s quality is certainly divisive among the fandom. I’ve seen a lot of people defend it for being more serialized and focused on an ongoing story than the previous seasons have been. There’s really no denying this fact: Adventure Time is way more committed to a story arc in its ninth season than it ever has been before. Though, I can’t really say if that’s a good thing or not. Consistent “plot” centric episodes are something that fans have been wanting from the series as early as Season Four, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in that same boat as well. But, as time went on, I really got less focused on wanting a consistent storyline from Adventure Time and just simply wanted to focus on its individual attempts at storytelling, in addition to whether they succeeded or not. After all, a good amount of my favorite episodes are “filler”; Time Sandwich, Little Brother, The Eyes, Jake the Brick – all excellent examples of storytelling at its finest, along with great scripts. The reason I bring this up is because I feel as if an ongoing story somewhat squanders Adventure Time‘s ability to tell really great individual tales. Always BMO Closing starts out as a silly BMO and Ice King adventure, but ends up devolving into an opportunity to continue Uncle Gumbald’s arc. It’s usually kind of cool when Adventure Time‘s “filler” episodes end up being surprisingly important, but this is one example that just kind of feels like the staff didn’t have enough confidence in the original premise to fully flesh it and let it stand alone. And to be fair, they were kind of right. It’s a middling entry that isn’t really remembered for its wacky premise, but instead for the brief instances Gumbald does have a role, without actually furthering the story a ton. Feels like a bit of a cheater entry, with that in mind.
BMO and Ice King’s story just isn’t that fun. Outside of the seemingly ridiculous (yet sweet) premise, there isn’t a ton that’s done with this idea that makes for a humorous episode. I know I mentioned how sweet Ice King and BMO’s connection was in President Porpoise is Missing!, but it doesn’t quite offer a ton of substance here. Ice King is usually great when working off of characters that are his opposite, such as Finn, Jake, or Princess Bubblegum, but the childlike nature of both BMO and Ice King doesn’t really allow for him to have many funny moments when BMO is almost always on board with his antics. Granted, there are subtle moments of IK’s growth that I do get behind; I love that Ice King knows that selling Finn’s baby teeth is clearly a breach of privacy, which is amazing when you realize who we’re talking about. I similarly like how Finn and Jake are much more open to the idea of Ice King casually hanging out with BMO, especially Jake! This is probably the most definitive moment in the series where Jake finally accepts Ice King for who he is, and it’s great. On BMO’s side of things, I don’t really think he provides for many funny moments. Aside from his general lack of knowledge when it comes to how people actually talk (“can you believe this weather?” “how are your children?”) his adventures aren’t nearly as funny as they would seem on paper. I think the comedy just kind of falls flat – they approach Tree Trunks with a very bullshit offer and she happily acquiesces nonetheless. It obviously plays into Tree Trunks’ character, but the conflict within this story is so nonexistent that there aren’t many comedic opportunities to come from it.
Once we get to the Uncle Gumbald stuff, I’ll admit, it’s not half bad. Gumbald’s absolute hamminess as a villain is usually what bumps his character down a notch, but I think he’s kind of well-portrayed here. His foreboding nature is played off really well, especially his introduction where he just silently prepares to smash BMO’s head in with an axe. Fred Melamed also does a great job at carrying out some of the more hushed aspects of Gumbald’s dialogue, though I do feel like his motivations of harming Finn before Princess Bubblegum are… odd to say the least. Finn being built up as the sole savior of PB is something that really doesn’t hold a lot of weight anymore in the series. Maybe if this aspect was executed in Season Two, I would understand it more, but PB kind of has her shit together when it comes to her own protection at this point. In fact, this element doesn’t really play ANY part when this story culminates. Gumbald still plans to destroy the Candy Kingdom even with Finn in the picture. Also, I still have a bit of a problem with BMO selling Finn’s baby teeth. I don’t think it’s an action that’s out of character for BMO, but the episode plays it off way too sadly in how Finn reacts to everything that it just makes me feel sorry for Finn and mad at BMO. It’s kind of similar to another BMO episode, BMO Lost. Jake pops Bubble, which was totally not intended to be mean on Jake’s part, but the way BMO reacts just makes me super pissed at Jake. It’s all about how said emotions are executed. If Finn was just weirded out by BMO snooping into his personal belongings, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But because Finn’s response is so damned somber, I can’t help but be a little miffed.
In general, Finn and Jake have some pretty solid individual moments, per usual: their warming up to Ice King, the way they encourage BMO’s imagination, Jake’s sympathy for Finn after he discovers his lost baby teeth, and their brief moments having breakfast together at the beginning. Though, the breakfast scene was slightly distracting because it reminded me of the similar, and much funnier, library scene from The Real You. The baby Finn teeth creatures provide for humorous absurdity at first, but when it gets down to it, the entire scene is kind of just awkward. The teeth show up, hurt Finn, and then are destroyed a minute later after BMO pulls out hammers from his trench coat that were never even referenced earlier on. As I mentioned, this is a pretty weak conflict that’s carried out by a seemingly even weaker conclusion. Aside from Gumbald’s chalice that later becomes important, I feel as though this episode didn’t actually further much in the story, making Gumbald’s appearance feel shoehorned at the end of the day.
Always BMO Closing is considerably weak. It doesn’t have enough confidence in its A plot that it chooses to focus more on overarching story elements that don’t really even amount to anything. Thus, both stories end up suffering as a result. This episode has its fair share of redeeming qualities, namely Ice King’s development, Gumbald’s portrayal, the cool exploration of his ziggurat, and some of Graham Falk’s drawings are particularly funny. There’s also some neat bits of foreshadowing, like Crunchy’s “Missing” poster outside of Tree Trunks house, or the missing bombs within the field that Finn and Fern explored (which, again, doesn’t really amount to anything). Regardless, Always BMO Closing is an experiment that never feels like it knows what it wants to be. Though, as the next episode will show, some entries can be entirely bad even when they know what they want to be. Woof.