This Adventure Time: Distant Lands review contains spoilers.
Adventure Time’s ending had a poignant, satisfying sense of finality to it while at the same time implying there were many more unseen adventures yet untold. With such a great finale, there are certainly ways Adventure Time could be brought back that would feel disappointing. In fact, there are already ongoing Adventure Time comics that explore the further tales of Finn and Jake’s post-show escapades (and there’s another comic series about Marceline, too). I tried to get into them, but the magic and fun of the TV show just doesn’t translate well to the page and, yeah, there is something a bit lame about the series’ ending being undercut by the characters just going on some more adventures afterwards.
The first of the four-episode special, Adventure Time: Distant Lands, deftly sidesteps this problem by being fully disconnected from the concluding events of the show, proving there are, indeed, many more stories to be told in this universe, but that they work better when they’re standalone. The other reason this episode succeeds so well is that it is called “BMO” and it stars BMO.
Voiced as hilariously and adorably as ever by Niki Yang, it’s a total no-brainer to have BMO reintroduce us to Adventure Time. Everybody loves BMO. How can you not love BMO? But, you may ask, can BMO sustain a 45-minute episode of his own without any of the rest of the Adventure Time gang? Yes. Obviously, yes.
An amazing quality of Adventure Time is how, as it went on, it became so malleable in its storytelling. It could do goofy, one-off fantasy/sci-fi adventures, or go with more emotional, dramatic arcs told over multiple episodes. It somehow almost always managed to hit the right balance of sincere and silly to be engaging and moving while never getting bogged down in its own sentimentality and/or lore (I’m looking at you, Steven Universe and also Pendleton Ward’s other show Bravest Warriors). So, this longer episode isn’t a stretch. Besides, BMO has already had an adventure roughly this long before (the two-part “The More You Moe, The Moe You Know”); it was just a question of whether the same thing could be pulled off with BMO transplanted into an entirely new world called the Drift, far from the familiar comforts of the Land of Ooo.
Adventure Time: Distant Lands makes it work by filling the vacuum left by Finn and Jake with a new hero named Y4, who is later renamed Y5, so we’ll go with that. Y5 is a hesitant, inexperienced adventurer, which provides the basis needed for BMO to enter her life and force her along a hero’s journey of character growth. It’s a solid story structure and Y5 is a likable protagonist. It helps that she’s a cute bunny.
It’s also neat to see Adventure Time explore a setting unlike Ooo. The same silly, cute vibe lives on in how the characters are never fully serious, but the Drift is a much more grounded, tragic sci-fi setting compared to the colorful fantasy world of Ooo. It’s a lot like a Tatooine or maybe something out of Dune, except it’s the fun, Adventure Time version. As it was in some of the best episodes of the series, there’s a bleakness under all the fun, not to mention some pretty serious themes explored. The story ultimately concerns the people of the Drift collectively coming to recognize their Elon Musk-esque tech capitalist overlord is destroying their world and that they can only rely on each other.
The story and world never get too overbearing because of the silly optimism that runs through all of “BMO.” No surprises here, but most of that silly optimism comes from BMO, who remains the rare case of a cute, comic relief character who you can always stand more of. There’s a lot of funny moments, but the bulk of it absolutely comes from BMO, who happily gets a ton of screen time. Literally almost everything BMO says is a memorable one-liner. “You like what you see, huh?” “It’s just garbage trash!” “Back home, I would only walk this far by accident.” “But I’m so cute.” And that’s just a small sampling.
It would also be a crime to bring back BMO and not have a BMO song, so there is one (which brilliantly rhymes “Martian soil” with “pot to boil”) and, of course, we all want to see BMO talk to his alter ego, Football, and, heck yes, we get some of that good Football action, too. Though the main character arc here belongs to Y5, there’s some good emotional BMO moments and even a harrowing bit where all seems lost for the little guy.
If you’ve been wondering what happens next in the Land of Ooo, “BMO,” the first installment of Adventure Time: Distant Lands, won’t answer that question for you and it’s probably better that way. Instead we get a standalone, sci-fi BMO story, featuring lots of BMO being BMO. This is a fun, funny, and occasionally moving first episode, which bodes well for the rest of this limited return series. The only thing that worries me is I expect the remaining episodes will feature far less BMO.