Adventure Time: Distant Lands, the new series of specials for the HBO Max streaming service, has some big shoes to fill. The original series concluded in 2018 after 10 seasons and 283 episodes, and while there were plenty of gaps to still potentially be explored, I'd have also been perfectly happy to just see the franchise retired for a chunk of time. The work had been done, and it had been good. And yet, here we are, on the precipice of the release of the first new special, and now that I've actually seen it… Maybe I, like the executives that greenlit the project and the folks that worked on it, actually wasn't ready to let it go just yet either.
BMO, as the name implies, focuses on the titular character's journey to and through a space station somewhere far out in the galaxy. Though the little robot isn't exactly anyone's first choice for a hero, he happily takes on every single struggle he encounters with a madcap mix of delight and dedication. Sometimes that means trying to dig a powerful artifact out of a lost zone, and sometimes that means taking on a greedy tyrant. Sometimes it's as simple as telling someone else that yes, they can and should choose their own name if they like.
The special's biggest strength is perhaps the fact that of all the possible Adventure Time characters to appear in it, BMO is the most innocent and also the most prone to misadventure. There's not much in the way of introspection for the character as he's always moving forward trying to solve whatever happens to be literally in front of his face seemingly without any regrets or thought to what happened just prior to that moment. In one instance, he emotionally insists on going back for something only to be told it's already gone, and without missing a beat he pivots to going somewhere else instead.
It makes for a compelling story where literally anything can occur, separate and distinct from the original series. The rules of this world are fuzzy but existent, and BMO's momentum is never sacrificed to them. No scene or character overstays its welcome, and there's no languishing between moments before the special introduces the next wild and wonderful thing on its agenda. At no point did I ever truly feel as though I knew what was going to happen.
Despite the sometimes seemingly random structure, there is certainly a specific arc in place, and while BMO himself largely remains unchanged by those events, basically everything he touches is better for his involvement. There's something to be said for butting up against a consistently cheerful, delightfully singular little robot, it would seem, as he rubs off on the rest of the cast in only positive ways.
The BMO special is probably not going to blow minds, mind you, but it's a solid watch from start to finish. Fans of the original series should find little to complain about assuming they weren't expecting a major series of cameos as the special comes across as just a much longer, cohesive episode. Hopefully, BMO sets the tone for the other specials while still allowing for similarly offbeat stories without feeling too much like one another. HBO Max could do far worse than allowing different Adventure Time characters to dream of grand adventure.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Adventure Time: Distant Lands - BMO is set to release on the HBO Max streaming service tomorrow, June 25th. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the new specials right here.