Tag Archive | Distant Lands

“Together Again” Review

Original Airdate: May 20, 2021

Written & Storyboard by: Hanna K. Nyström, Anna Syvertsson, Iggy Craig, Maya Petersen & Serena Wu

Together Again was easily the most anticipated Distant Lands special for me personally. Come Alone With Me still stands as a decent cap for the original series, but it left me a bit unsatisfied with how Finn and Jake, the core of Adventure Time, were mainly sidelined for story purposes. That being said, I may have went into this one a little too hyped. The story that I thought I was going to get in Together Again was very different from what actually happened, and I couldn’t help leaving this episode a bit disappointed. I was mainly expecting it to be about Finn’s life during the timeline of Obsidian, his grief over the loss of his brother, and his eventual acceptance of his passing after a shared epiphany. That being said, I’ve watched this special several times since my first viewing with a different perspective – it’s unfair to view it through the eyes of my own personal bias, so I wanted to give myself a chance to appreciate it for what it is. And, lo-and-behold, I got that chance. Together Again really is the solid conclusion to Finn and Jake’s brotherhood that I was still truly craving even after all was said and done. That being said, I think some of the initial criticisms I left with after a first viewing haven’t completely dissipated, but I’m still feeling mostly optimistic.

I know it’s only been like, two years, but seeing that classic Adventure Time opening, along with the traditional title cards, was a bit too nostalgic to resist. I think it’s all the more fitting that the remainder of the opening is set up like a classic Finn and Jake entry. I will say that the entire beginning of the episode is a little underwhelming for me in terms of capturing that classic AT spirit. I know that it’s all just a hallucination, but I felt as if there wasn’t enough dedication to truly making it feel like Season One Adventure Time. It’s a little bit too low energy and the characterization of Finn and Ice King just doesn’t really seem on par with what you would expect from the time period it’s supposed to take place in. Ice King’s a little overly sinister and Finn doesn’t really capture his youthful energy. I feel as though it would’ve been a stronger tribute if some of these beginning elements have been fine-tuned. That being said, it’s a fine opening that makes it pretty clear early on that it isn’t actually from that time period; there are snowmen that look very similar to Gumbald and Peacemaster, and Finn’s voice is very clearly… pubescent. What it boils down to is Finn’s continuous attempts to keep the light adventuring going so that Jake doesn’t have to leave. Probably the biggest emotional takeaway from Together Again comes when Finn has to once again deal with the idea of Jake “dying” in a very disturbing way. The panic that Finn begins to experience is genuinely heartbreaking, and as much as I emphasized that I originally wanted this episode to be about Finn accepting Jake’s passing, the episode makes it very clear early on that Finn really never did. Or if he accepted it, it still tore him up a lot. And honestly, I do feel like that’s much more appropriate than what I wanted. As sad as it is, the idea that Finn was really never the same after Jake passed away just feels… right. It would make me personally more comfortable to see Finn acknowledge and accept his brother’s passing because I want to believe the lil guy would be okay even after such a tragic event. But this special emphasizes again and again and again – it fucking hurts, and even if he lived a life where he had things that brought him fulfillment, he still never was able to feel full after Jake passed. Damn, man.

The longer I think about it, the sadder I get, so let’s keep this sucker goin’. Seeing Finn as a withered old man is a decision that I really didn’t expect the team to take, but because his scenes are left so vague, it really doesn’t give much info into Finn’s life. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because while this episode continues AT‘s trend of keeping things mysterious, it also slightly hurts the realism of the episode in the process. Or confuses it, at the very least. For the entirety of the episode, Finn is actually an elderly man, but takes the appearance of his 17-year-old self. It’s weird in that sense because, in his 70+ years of living, we don’t really see anything indicative of major changes in Finn’s behavior or what he’s been up to, so his developmental state comfortably sticks with what is recognizable for viewers. Finn even alludes to this when choosing his appearance. You could argue that Finn being reconnected to Jake brought back his youthful sense of self, but I dunno, it’s super difficult to keep this mystery up when literal decades have passed by and outside of a few throwaway lines, Finn doesn’t exhibit any signs of growth outside of what we are already familiar with. I don’t necessarily see this as a major flaw – I don’t really think it would be particularly fun to see Finn acting like an old, whimsical coot for the entirety of the episode. I still can’t help but feel like it’s slightly gimmicky in its presentation regardless.

As much as Together Again presents itself as a climax of Finn and Jake’s journeys together, it also weirdly offers closure for some very random Ooo inhabitants. Mr. Fox and Tiffany are both given conclusions to their individual “arcs,” per se, and it’s kind of awesome, actually. I peruse through old reviews sometimes to see how my perception has changed overtime, and I kind of have no idea why I was so passive to Tiffany in the past. At this point, I think it’s hilarious that this intended one-off character became a fully realized, Shakespearean anti-hero who only ever wanted the love of a momma and poppa. I was a bit miffed that all of these other characters were coming in to mooch off of Finn and Jake’s time, but I really think these additions, such as Tiffany’s arc as mentioned above, help add a layer of fun to the special in general. He’s finally gets to be blood-brothers with Finn and Jake! As I also mentioned, Mr. Fox gets his big day in the limelight. I especially like how far Mr. Fox has come, because he’s pretty much the least notable side character in the series for any casual viewer. But here he is in Together Again, in all his glory, as he’s now the official ruler of the Land of the Dead, even after all he wanted was a cushion-y pillow. As always, M.F. would be nothing without Tom Herpich’s terrific performance. Something that never quite gets old to me is how it feels like Herpich isn’t really even voice acting, but just stumbled into the booth and started reading a script. That sounds incredibly harsh, but I promise you all that I mean it in the most flattering way necessary. Because there are too many to mention in their entirety, here’s my personal favorite callbacks and cameos throughout the special:

  • Jake’s clap from James Baxter the Horse! Kinda wish they didn’t call extra attention to it, because I feel like it was instantly recognizable otherwise.
  • I like that Mr. Fox, after all these years, is seemingly still carrying a torch for Boobafina. It’s time to move on, man.
  • I believe this is the first time in the series/any form of AT media where Jake is confirmed to be a reincarnation of Shoko’s tiger. Always was assumed, but cool to have that additional confirmation.
  • It was super sweet to see Finn interact with Joshua and Margaret as his adult self, but I think the icing on the cake is that he could care less about seeing Jermaine. Nobody cares about poor Jerm.
  • Peppermint Butler being the new princess is both very interesting and cryptic. I doubt this implies Princess Bubblegum’s death, assuming that the disguised figure in Come Along With Me‘s opening was her. It is interesting to see all of the additions to the castle in general, adopting many elements of wizardry and dark magic. Wondering if this will be touched on at all in Wizard City, though I’d think likely not.
  • Choose Goose appearing AGAIN! Considering that the trailer for the next special also includes his voice, it’s amazing to me that nearly half his appearances in the entire series will derive from Distant Lands. Is this spin-off bait just waiting to happen?
  • Clarence and Ghost Princess living it up big time in 50th Dead World.
  • Tree Trunks living it up big time with all of her man slaves in 30th Dead World. Also featuring Polly Lou Livingston’s last performance before her death. Rest in peace, you lovely gem.
  • Wyatt NOT living it up in 1st Dead World. He really is the worst.

In general, the exploration of the Dead Worlds is super gnarly to me. This worldbuilding in general feels like something that Adventure Time has wanted to do for years but for whatever reason it never got past the conceptual stage. A portion of this story was actually adapted from an outline Jesse Moynihan worked on back in season three that was initially going to be Ghost Princess, but it was revised to have a smaller story. I really thought the gorgeous backgrounds in Together Again were works of ghostshrimp, but it was actually two other designers that did a fantastic job: Udo Jung and Julian De Perio, who both worked on BMO. I really love how each Dead World, even the unnamed realms, have a unique and abstract feel to them that you really can’t decipher if it’s peaceful or threatening. It also kind of makes you wonder how each works on an ethical standpoint – clearly the 1st Dead World is equivalent to Hell and the 50th is comparative to Heaven, but is there any true “ranking” that goes into the other Dead Worlds? If I had to guess, I’d say placement in a prospective Dead World connects to the values of the deceased. 37th Dead World feels like Tree Trunks’ meadow residence with added luxuries, while 45th Dead World appears to just be a very Homeworld-esque suburbia for loving families. Or, at least in this case, the Dog family. That being said, it kind of makes you wonder how some folks ended up where they did. You can’t tell me that my boy Choose Goose deserves to be rotting with Maja.

We’re introduced to the offspring of Life and Death in this episode, simply named New Death. New Death is a bit of a pain in the ass throughout the run of this one. His rebellious teenager personality is amusing at first, but quickly tires out after a period of time. He really doesn’t take up a ton of time in the special itself, but any time he shows up, his presence really doesn’t add much, outside of a killer design by Iggy Craig. The one bit I did find genuinely intriguing from him was the moment at his demise when he solemnly mentions his mother’s name. Feel like it was surprisingly a bit ballsy to give him one moment of humanity before he is legitimately destroyed. Of course, the late Miguel Ferrer sadly could not reprise his role as Death, but it is cool seeing more into Life’s perspective. Life is another aspect of the special that feels like she was always meant to have a larger role in the series, but it just never was able to come into fruition. Her realm is similarly gorgeous, with lush ocean colors permeating throughout. I find Life’s personality as a sweet but relentless ruler that you do not want to mess with a lot of fun – it gives you a pretty good idea of why she had married Death in the first place.

I’ve been batting around with a lot of the less major stuff up to this point, so let’s get into the meat of this episode: Finn and Jake’s connection. I do feel like everything that is portrayed with Finn and Jake’s relationship in this episode gets the emotions right, but not always the characterization. Let me elaborate: nothing in this episode feels out of character or unlikable for the boys, but it also feels like there’s something slightly off or different about their individual roles. I think I could honestly just say this about Distant Lands in general, however. Considering that the writing staff is completely different, with the exception of Hanna K. Nyström, it’s really no wonder that this feeling arises, though I can’t entirely put my finger on it. There’s something a bit less goofy about it and slightly more straightforward when it comes to the humor and dialogue of Distant Lands that just feels lacking of a certain spunk and identity the original series had. Even certain lines, such as Finn’s “because it’s no jerks allowed!” felt especially corny for him to exclaim. It still captures the heart of Adventure Time, but I think any media franchise that runs for a period of time and changes teams majorly is going to run into this problem. Hell, comparing season 8 of Adventure Time with season 1 is literally comparing two radically different shows with radically different teams. Even the lack of Tim Kiefer is very apparent. Amanda Jones does an okay job at composing the score for the special, but there’s really nothing about it that connects to the essence of what Kiefer was doing. I really hate to complain, because nothing Distant Lands has done so far has been anywhere close to bad or disrespectful to the original series, but I think it’s one step at showing how much one team over the course of a few years really defined the series (Jesse, Tom, Pen, Steve, Ako, Rebecca, Somvilay, Seo, Adam, Graham, etc.) and how, as more spin-offs and reboots come into fruition down the line, it’s likely that the magic of the original will never truly be replicated.

But my bullshitting aside, I do think that the team behind Together Again did their damnedest to really paint a beautiful story among AT‘s baby boys. This is probably the most emotional we ever see Finn in the series, and I think it pays off super well. Finn and Jake’s brotherhood has always been the heart of the show, but Together Again really stresses how much Finn was never able to fully live the same again after Jake’s passing, and I think it makes total sense. Finn probably wasn’t that old when Joshua and Margaret passed, so Jake essentially doubled as both a brother and parent to Finn for so many years. That grief of losing someone is something that really never fades, and Together Again is genuinely relentless in showing that. It was especially devastating to see that Jake doesn’t initially recognize Finn, as he continues to fall into breakdown category. That poor boy just needs a squoze from his brother. Despite it being quite difficult to stomach, I do think that it ultimately makes sense that Jake would let go of all earthly possessions, as alluded to throughout the years in his desires to fulfill his croak dream. I’m sure it wasn’t something that he was consciously okay with from the start, but he let go as a means to find his inner peace and allow for his destiny to truly unfold. Finn, however, has never really been the destiny or holistic type; his true meaning in life comes from his dedication to others. It does make me wonder what Finn’s connection to the 37th Dead World is, considering that it was left mainly ambiguous in Sons of Mars. Since Jake initially ended up there, I wonder if it has something to do with selflessness. Jake chose to stay alive rather than fulfill his destiny on Mars because Finn needed him, and Finn likewise died on some sort of rescue mission it seems. That, or it’s where original Death would send people that he was tight with.

Although only about half the special focuses on their brotherly bond, there are tons of highlights throughout: Jake letting loose a toot while they try to be incognito, Jake offering caring advice when Finn feels at fault for New Death’s scheming, Finn’s admiration for Jake’s mermaid bod, the reunion of the Jakesuit, and many more. Even their overly aggressive fight is super endearing in their continued desire to protect and aide each other. And of course, one of their most cherished, shared activities is a good old-fashioned Lich fight! I gotta be honest y’all, I went from really not liking this shoe-horned inclusion to kind of digging it. I was pretty done with the Lich after his appearance in Whispers, where he was no longer intimidating and felt like he was about effective as any other villain in the series. Here… he’s still not very intimidating, but Ron Perlman’s voice acting is almost impossible to not be impressed by at all times. The Lich gets a few solid lines, namely “the spawn of life and death is a creature without purpose, fit only to be a pawn in my eternal quest to end all life.” Even though he is quickly disposed of, it seems apparent at this point that, like Life and Death, the Lich will always be around as an entity of destruction and death. And truthfully, I feel like the only appropriate way to cap off Finn and Jake’s role in the series is to have the Lich as the final big bad. The Lich was the first true trial in their journey as adventurers, and it feels appropriate that he would be their last as well. The ending is probably the highlight of the entire special. Once again emphasizing Finn’s need for Jake in his life, it’s super touching that Jake would give up a lifetime of enlightenment just to live with his bro again. Even before he joins, the tight hug Finn gives Jake shows that he’s probably not fully committed to letting go of his reincarnation dreams with Jake, and Jake has his own epiphany that the strength of his brotherhood outranks any type of Glob destiny that awaited him.

Together Again isn’t a perfect AT episode for me personally. Some of the character dialogue feels a little clunky, there’s maybe a bit too much fanservice, and it lacks that certain spunk of the original series that I had mentioned. But it’s so committed to being a love letter to everyone that cared so dearly about Finn and Jake that I really can’t have too much of an issue with it. Come Along With Me felt like a big jumbled mess that wanted to tie up any loose ends that it could in the span of an hour, while Together Again is very much committed to the heart of AT itself that it feels much more akin to a finale than the prior entry. So far, I think it’s probably the strongest of the DL specials, and a wonderful way to cap off the spin-off series as a whole.

… Oh yeah, we still have Wizard City. Huh.

Favorite line:All I ask is for permission to use your bones…for a spell.

“BMO” Review

BMO

Original Airdate: July 25, 2020

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström, Iggy Craig, Laura Knetzger, Anna Syvertsson & Adam Muto

Before we start, I wanted to plug a project from my friend, Paul Thomas. Paul has written a really neat account of Adventure Time‘s production history, storytelling mechanics, and its fandom. I also contributed a small portion to the book as an interview piece in the fandom section, under my full name, Eric Stone. Though I haven’t been able to read through it fully yet, it’s a really detailed and packed novel that I think any Adventure Time fan should surely check out. You can read this novel here!

Welp, here we are kiddos! Most fandoms have to wait like, 10 years for new content after an original IP ends, the AT crowd has been blessed with new stuff only two years down the road! The sweet part about this is it probably wasn’t too hard to wrangle up most of the original crew (as of this episode, we have Adam Muto, Hanna K. Nyström, Jack Pendarvis, Andy Ristaino, Benjamin Anders, Anna Syvertsson, Laura Knetzger Michael DeForge, Jesse Balmer, Amber Blade Jones, the Frederator crew, and Tim Kiefer as returning members; correct me if I missed anyone) and the style is able to remain pretty true to the original, with some added upgrades. And for the most part, BMO does manage to capture that AT feel more than I was originally expecting from it.

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As a precursor, I’ll mention that it’s good to be back in this role. I truly have missed talking about AT in any capacity, and honestly, it really took new content to get my motivation back again. It is definitely strange to be talking about it in this position – I had reviewed each episode long after their initial airdate. There’s a large community of cartoon reviewers that can probably get to this faster than I can and likely say everything that I would have already said otherwise. That being said, I hope that I continue to add a layer of freshness to these reviews and that there is still a desire for open discussion around this blog and its themes. That aside, let’s get down to the good stuff.

Distant Lands immediately sets itself apart by having a distinct opening that feels slightly alien in comparison to any AT content that we’ve seen prior. Despite its namesake, Distant Lands doesn’t borrow from Adventure Time‘s opening credits much at all. It appears each special will have its own unique opening, with the additional interstitial beginning that features a quick bombardment of past AT characters and moments. Lack of lyrical accompaniment aside, BMO‘s intro does follow the standard that most AT opening titles follow – it’s a sweeping journey, filled with familiar sounds, and an eventual climax to the central focus. This beautifully crafted CGI intro was animated by Encyclopedia Pictura, a film and animation studio that has worked on some really gnarly stuff, including music videos and bizarre, but beautiful, short films. Their attention to bright, vivid colors and smooth designs make me truly crave a fully guest animated 11 minutes from them, but I suppose we’re past that point… for now. The ending credits also feature a cameo of AstroBMO, which is a real life BMO that was sent into space!

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I was initially a bit cautious about BMO having his own 44 minute special. With some clear exceptions, BMO is very much a comic relief character. She certainly has her depth and isn’t only good for jokes, but BMO isn’t necessarily an “epic” character by any means. Not to mention that Adventure Time has really only dabbled with the 44 minute formula once before with Come Along With Me and… yeah, that was a bit messy. I will say that the two aspects of the special I was most concerned about were actually some of the strongest elements. BMO, per usual, is his usual lovable self. Even if his dialogue isn’t laugh-worthy, it is undeniably charming. BMO’s bizarre dialogue and tendency to not understand structural sentences really never tires itself out, which could be chalked up to solid writing, but it’s also just Niki Yang being the absolute best at what she does. I don’t think I praise her enough on this blog, but Yang’s dedication to really embodying the character and knowing just how to hit all of the right notes for a successful delivery always pay off so well. I think voice actors very much embody their character and cannot be replaced, but there are surely occasional issues with delivery that can sink certain impactful moments for individual characters. I feel like Yang almost never skips a beat – almost because BMO’s inflections are, by nature, slightly monotonous, but I mean that in the most loving way. Even when just speaking in her natural voice, Yang recognizes how to add an extra bit of gusto every single time she gets in that recording booth.

BMO’s silly opening monologue is lots of fun, and it’s a great way to showcase all of the visual elements that this special has to offer. BMO alone gets a pass for being absolutely gorgeous – Adventure Time has never looked so good! The lush colors and richer backgrounds (though somewhat of a departure from the original series) felt like breath of fresh air. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Adventure Time has never looked bad (okay yes Seventeen exists. I know, guys) but the increased budget that Max has allowed for is certainly noteworthy and quite frankly exciting. Imagine what a Finn and Jake adventure is gonna look like on a high budget! Impressive colors and animation aren’t the only new element in the visuals department that BMO brings to the table – or in this case, an old element – the return of the eye whites! Eye whites were retired from the series around season two because Pen felt that it took viewers out of the universe and made characters feel less “human.” BMO is drawn with them as he transcends into The Drift, and while I’m not the hugest fan of them myself, it is kind of nice to see them back in this fashion. It’s a visual element that does add to Distant Lands‘ clear interest in expanding on the design of the original series. ALSO, it’s around this point that we meet Olive, one of the cooler characters that BMO dishes out. In typical AT fashion, Olive’s simple design is her biggest strength, being both very charming and intriguing from a minimalist perspective. Olive also provides for some gnarly shapeshifting moments, easily filling in Jake’s shoes while he’s absent.

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After we get this establishing piece with BMO and Olive, we’re treated to another establishing piece within the Drift, where we meet the other featured characters and settings of this special, which are some of the weaker bits, in my eyes. Elaborating on what I said about the visuals above, the backgrounds within the Drift are gorgeous. They certainly are a bit of departure from what we’re used to seeing from the original series – Ghostshrimp’s backgrounds were filled to the brim with every possible apocalyptic Easter egg and neat hunk of junk that he could imagine, while the background artists clearly focused on more interesting textures and attention to color for BMO, and that works just as well. I was surprised to see just how thick some of the outlines were within several backdrops – really makes the whole thing feel like a comic in motion. Which… I suppose is exactly what animation is. Hmph.

It’s here that we’re introduced to Y-4 (later known as Y-5) who is… okay! I actually think her design is very cute and she’s competently portrayed by Glory Curda, but her character isn’t really super compelling in any way. That’s not to say that she’s bad! I didn’t actively dislike any aspect of her personality or arc, but it never really managed to grab me in one way or another. Her relationships with other characters end up putting her in pretty predictable spots, namely that her obedience to her parents would end up causing a tiff in her newly found friendship with BMO, and that her relationship with her parents would ultimately come to a resolve when they recognized the error of their ways. It’s all stories that we’ve seen in other movies and shows before, and while none of it is done badly, it’s not the type of story that I feel is captivating for me personally. I do have to give Adventure Time credit where its due because, while the parents that don’t trust their child is a trope that’s been tackled before, it’s a bit new to Adventure Time. Parental figures within the original series are usually just straightforward really shitty or astute moral guardians. Here, these parents act shitty, but it’s both resolved and tackled in somewhat interesting way regarding their unbridled faith towards governmental power.

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The aliens we see throughout this special, namely the Shells and the Elves, are decently fun. They have the same goofy disagreements that would be commonplace in Ooo, yet are unique in their foreign designs. I do think AT‘s character team is really smart with understanding what works for different settings; I don’t know what it is about the Elves and Shells, but they just feel like beings that wouldn’t really be fitting for Ooo, even if it is an open world for all kinds of weird inhabitants. These aliens feel akin to On the Lam, in the way that they aren’t a complete departure from AT‘s style, but feel off enough that they wouldn’t necessarily be roaming the Earth either. It’s also fun to see how, despite the fact that they’re portrayed as the antagonists, BMO’s kind of the asshole that gets in THEIR way, and the episode has a lot of fun with that. BMO is most fun when he’s only interested in satisfying his own needs and gives zero fucks about anything else. That’s not to say she isn’t still sweet and lovable, but anything that doesn’t directly inconvenience her isn’t really an issue. This also leads to one of the funniest moments in the episode, in which BMO is lauded for single-handedly saving everyone in The Drift… with the exception of the Elves’ leader. Let us also not forget the BMO is the one who caused this breach in the first place!

Y-5 and BMO’s relationship is pretty similar to the E.T. type kinship that has become commonplace in cinema and television, but it is, at the very least, delightful. They have some pretty humorous back-and-forths, with a highlight being BMO’s sass anytime Y-5 tries to question or contradict him. As they begin to explore The Drift further, we’re treated to a decent amount of world-building. I don’t think The Drift is especially mindblowing or distinctive from any other fictional space station, so it’s the AT charm that really helps set it apart from any other generic location. I love the parrot merchant shouting, “buy my eggs! Buy my eggs! Or I swear to Glob, I’ll eat them myself,” and the squidlike alien that wants to eat his space lards. Again, it’s cute how everyone treats BMO as this really noble and heroic icon when he clearly is just speaking from a child’s perspective. He likes the cute space lard, so he’s going to protect the cute space lard. That’s really all there is to do it. Long live BMO and her love for the name Ricky.

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Two characters I actually had completely forgotten about before rewatching are Sweetie and Darling, the heist bugs! I feel guilty even saying that because, while their designs are pretty unremarkable, they are plenty of fun. BMO’s second big task in the Drift is a rescue mission after a communications hub floods. This is one of my favorite bits of the special, namely because of how fluid the animation is throughout the entire sequence. There’s a ridiculous amount of motion during the scenes that feature Y-5 swimming, with so many little fun details that are easy to miss, such as BMO riding her head like a cowboy as she tries to communicate with her parents. It’s a scene that, again, would likely be an afterthought in terms of visual flair when Adventure Time was on a television budget, but now we’re on HBO, bitches! It really helps add to the general frantic nature of the sequence, and really pays off as a visual delight.

The main conflict really sets in when BMO is sent on a governmental mission by Hugo and Mr. M. Hugo is somewhat in the same realm of Y-5’s characters, though I’d say that Y-5 probably has more going for her. He’s mainly just there as plot device for villainy to take place – I’m not even entirely positive that I fully understand his story or his plan. So, he was a human who sought to survive the apocalypse of mankind by traveling out into space and he made a compromise with aliens to remove the humanity of himself and his crew. That succeeded… but also caused some sort of societal collapse? And then as they were drifting through space, Olive picked them up and warped them into the Drift, and then Hugo decided to proclaim himself as the leader? It’s an arc that, unless I’m missing something, feels like a haphazard attempt at world-building and doesn’t seem concise in its characterization or the timeline it wants to set up. Were Hugo and crew members just floating through space for hundreds of years? I dunno, I guess it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s cool we get to learn more about the other options of humanity following the Great Mushroom War, and the best part of all? The entire backstory sequence is animated by David freakin’ Ferguson himself! It was really nice seeing his style back once again, especially with the manner in which it was utilized. I’m glad that, despite the overwhelmingly negative reception Water Park Prank got, Ferguson still got the chance to come back and share his unique artwork with a mainstream audience. You da man, Ferguson!

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Mr. M, on the other hand, is a really interesting side villain, mainly because of the fact that he quite obviously is none other than Martin Mertens! Well, maybe not entirely obvious, but enough information is presented to draw up a conclusion. I really like the fact that, despite the fact that Mr. M is very clearly supposed to be Martin, the episode never outright has him reveal himself. There’s the certain bit of anticipation throughout the special that he will be exposed, but you never truly get that full satisfaction, which in turn makes the payoff even more satisfying. It personally reminded me of the visual gag of Dr. Princess dressing up as Science Whyzard, only with much more purpose and attention this time around. There’s several different indicators that Mr. M is Martin Mertens, including quotes that he’s used before previously, the fact that his feet are very clearly human, and the namesake alone. There are some additions that I don’t really care for, like the fact that Mr. M jokes with Y-5’s parents about being called out for their deadbeat nature. It’s throwaway line that’s only used to further identify Martin, but since he didn’t have a tumultuous relationship with his son at this point in the timeline, it just doesn’t really make sense. Of course, I’ll discuss more about the fact that this special is a prequel later on, but might I just add that I’m glad it is, because if Martin’s cosmic destiny just meant he was a grifter in space elsewhere, that would be really fucking lame.

The eventual tiff between Y-5 and BMO is played out in a way that mirrors this type of trope in most buddy-buddy stories, so it doesn’t feel particularly enticing when you can kind of seeing it coming from their first interaction together. Thankfully, the drama isn’t played up too much, and BMO has lots of funny lines to make up for it, including “I have no feelings,” followed almost immediately by “you make my feelings happy!” It does help provide for a solo BMO journey into the Jungle Pod, which ends up making for the best parts of the episode. I standby the idea that all of BMO’s strongest moments are just when he’s alone and chatting to himself. Or, in this case Football, who increasingly becomes a coping mechanism to help BMO deal with the thoughts and fears inside of her head. This mechanism of placing her own fear onto her imaginary friend only gets BMO so far, as she finds herself in certain danger pretty quickly. The winged crabs were also a nice touch for this special, which I’m pretty sure was a reference to Abstract, was it not? When Jake’s alien form sprouts wings, BMO accuses Jake of being a “crab.” Maybe I’m digging too deep, but I thought of this almost immediately. It’s a shame Crusty died as quickly as he lived. R.I.P. my man.

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Things take a very dramatic turn when BMO is ripped apart after taking the Jungle Pod’s crystal, where we are treated to what feels like a classic AT bad trip. In a similar fashion to BMO Noire, Niki Yang delivers each line as she normally would for BMO, yet the framework of the scene helps it to come across in a much more unnerving fashion. Because of BMO’s role as a child, any mention of death or substantially dark topics come across in this really uncomfortable fashion, and I mean that in the best way. Like previous BMO entries such as BMO Noire, BMO Lost, and The More You Moe, The Moe You KnowBMO understands how to balance the humor of the character, as well as the very dark reality that he’s only a mere child in a very threatening world. BMO’s colorful subconscious returns during his “death” and reminds him of the inevitable: that he is just a lil kid in a big world that’s often times difficult to navigate. Again, I think it’s kind of a familiar path for this type of story to take – the hero discovers he/she is in over their head and temporarily admits defeat. But since it’s portrayed in such a dark, visually interesting matter that only AT could pull off so well, I really don’t mind it at all.

The climax of the episode, which involves Y-5 rebelling against her parents in order to save BMO. It’s where we meet CGO, who had appeared earlier in the episode for a brief moment, and heard singing the Frasier theme song. I do like how the major connections to the old world are mainly drawn through theme songs of classic sitcoms. CGO is a fun little bot herself, kind of reminding me of a toned down Carroll. Her introduction also provides for a genuinely emotional moment in the episode in which Y-5 breaks down into tears after learning the truth about Hugo. It’s a small, quiet moment, but it’s quite impactful. Y-5 is essentially learning that everything she has worked hard for to achieve, whether for herself or for her parents, has virtually been for nothing, and that the only one who could have saved her might be dead. AT‘s sadness is usually confined to these quiet, ambiguous moments, but Y-5’s sadness takes the Steven U route of being heavily tearful, which hits pretty hard. Of course, BMO ain’t dead though, you dumb babies!! He is revived in the midst of Y-5’s breakdown, and the two travel to save The Drift together.

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Hugo is outed, and though I don’t think his plan is entirely fleshed out, his argument against the citizens is pretty interesting. It’s not really a good argument; Hugo’s essentially just saying that the citizens of The Drift are just as selfish as him because they didn’t really care about what happened to it as long as they were able to leave. It does tie into the fact that civilization and humanity in of itself is predominantly selfish, and Hugo believes he’s truly just one of those citizens that happened to have made it out on top. The climax comes together in a pretty satisfying way, as the many minor characters that we’ve met throughout this special team up to stop Hugo from destroying The Drift. Y-5 also makes amends with her parents, which does feel earned in the sense that her parents feel like decently rational people by the end of it, despite their shitty ways. And best of all, Olive gets what she always wanted – and presumably Hugo as well – a friend!

The ending of BMO closes out with the biggest surprise and possibly the biggest delight of all: it was a prequel! For the first time ever in AT‘s history, we get to see a toddler version of Finn and a teenage version of Jake! It’s a really sweet twist that makes any qualms that I would have with the story, such as Martin being a space grifter, essentially moot. Though I’m not necessarily free of qualms with this twist. A lot of people have brought up that BMO’s characterization is way different in BMO than it was earlier in the series. I would somewhat agree with this, though not necessarily entirely. I don’t think BMO was ever really that uniquely different early on in the series, besides being a bit more robotic and snarky. He still had a sense of childlike wonder, it just wasn’t fully realized yet. Even then, he’s frequently referred to as a “sassy robot” in BMO, so the snarky aspects of his character really aren’t all missing entirely. I will say that one issue I do have with the continuity is that I think it kinda stinks that BMO was going on these massive adventures before he even met Finn and Jake. The early days of BMO’s journeys involved him mainly playing with himself (hardy har har) and making his own fun/drama. Hell, the events of The More You Moe, The Moe You Know are acknowledged as his “greatest adventure ever,” yet he was traveling through time and space since the beginning? A little hard to believe.

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Overall though, I quite enjoyed BMO, even more so on my second watch! It isn’t perfect – the story and characters feel a bit cookie cutter at times and there’s never really a point, aside from the ending, where you feel like you don’t know where the general structure is going, which isn’t usually that commonplace with Adventure Time. But it’s a thoroughly fun and endearing special that succeeded way beyond my expectations. I really didn’t think a silly BMO entry would be able to hold a 45 minute period, but it does so tremendously well, and BMO is actually the best part of it! Shouldn’t have doubted the lil guy. This definitely was a great start to reignite my interest and love for the series, and though it probably could have been stronger on certain levels, it was a fun, beautiful, and sweet journey that has me pumped for the future of Distant Lands.

Favorite line: “He died as he lived: sucking big time.”