After being sidelined for much of the back half of Adventure Time’s sixth season, BMO has received quite a bit of attention in season 7. “Football” delivered a psychological thriller rooted in BMO’s dynamic with his female alter ego that lives in the bathroom mirror, and the two-part “The More You Moe, The Moe You Know” did remarkable work telling a story about maturity, identity, and the desire to hold on to youth while expanding on BMO’s origin. (I actually think that two-parter is more successful than Marceline’s Stakes miniseries when it comes to looking to the character’s past to take them to new emotional places in the present.)
BMO’s recent revelations haven’t made dramatic changes to his personality, though, and “Angel Face” has BMO returning to his usual mode of adorable naïveté, but with a darker edge as he takes on the titular role of the cowboy Angel Face. It’s a more traditional BMO episode than his other spotlights this season, one that focuses on his highly active imagination and his penchant for performance. As we saw in “BMO Noire,” BMO likes to transform the world around him into a stage for his unique brand of solo theater, which he performs solely for his own pleasure. As BMO grows up, his performances are becoming more elaborate, and “Angel Face” has him enlisting his friends’ help for a “live-action cowboy roleplay adventure,” which is a just fancy way of saying “western.”
When BMO was younger, these solo excursions were his way of coping with loneliness when Finn and Jake were off on their own, far more dangerous adventures. He was basically the child that created make-believe scenarios while his parents were away at work, and those make-believe sessions were the creative sparks that grew into flames of artistic passion over time. BMO has taken his craft to the next level in “Angel Face,” and he’s putting a lot more time and effort into bringing his vision to life. He’s also employing his friends to play parts and perform crew duties rather than relying on his imagination, which allows him to dramatically expand the scope of the production.
BMO understands the importance of financing in entertainment, and “Angel Face” begins with a sequence showing BMO creating the currency he pays his cast and crew with: Special Sentient Sandwiches. BMO delighting in cooking a sandwich from sentient ingredients that he abuses and murders is a hilarious bit of dark comedy, and it’s fascinating to see how writers/storyboard artists Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim balance cuteness and strangeness in this sequence. They find an interesting new angle to approach this show’s anthropomorphized characters, and it’s one that emphasizes how ruthless BMO can be when he’s working on his art. As we learn later in the episode, there are high stakes in procuring the ingredients, but Jake loves Special Sentient Sandwiches, so BMO does what needs to be done to guarantee Jake’s participation in a key western role: the cowboy’s horse.
Horses are notoriously difficult to draw, something Xayaphone and Kim mine humor from during Jake’s initial transformations into BMO’s steed. The first shape is especially pathetic, basically an elongated oval with long legs and a long tail, but BMO refuses to mount something so crude. Jake then stretches into a much more recognizably equine shape, but rather than using Jake’s eyes for the horse eyes, Xayaphone and Kim use Jake’s eyes for the nostrils, centralizing his face at the end of the horse’s snout, which allows for cleaner expressions from the character model.
There are some really great visual gags with Jake’s horse face, but my favorite comes shortly after BMO destroys the town of Dead Goat Gulch and kicks his spurs deep into Jake’s horse-flesh, creating the most realistic horse visual yet when Jake’s face reacts to the pain. Jake’s horse shape gets more specific over the course of the episode, and by the time BMO and Jake leap into action for a shoot-out with Me-Mow, Jake looks like a really sharp cartoon horse. It’s a very clever way of showing Jake’s new commitment to BMO’s adventure, which only comes about because he finds out Me-Mow has kidnapped Finn.
BMO is an extremely aggressive writer/star/director/producer. At the top of the episode, he successfully negotiates Jake down so he gets less sandwiches per hour. His voiceover narration hits western clichés hard and his performance as Angel Face has all the gruff bravado of classic film cowboys. In an effort to make himself a more bombastic action star, BMO completely destroys the town set that NEPTR has spent the last three months building (in exchange for a Finncake), and then he slaps NEPTR around after he complains. BMO’s singularly focused on telling this story his way, and he gets his way until he runs out of funds to pay his essential co-star.
Thankfully, there’s another key element of production that is in BMO’s favor: luck. Jake is finished playing the horse when there are no more Special Sentient Sandwiches, but on their way home, BMO and Jake discover Me-Mow and Finn, providing the perfect staging ground for the climax of Angel Face’s adventure. There’s a big shoot-out and BMO nearly goes down when Finn hits Me-Mow in the back of the head with a huge rock, and it’s telling that the most thrilling aspect of BMO’s story happens when he’s forced to relinquish control and trust fate to guide his plot. Like we saw with LSP in last week’s “Summer Showers,” there’s danger in having too much control of a piece of entertainment that is a communal effort, and BMO ultimately does his best work when he’s put in a reactive position.
- Special Sentient Sandwich recipe: one free-range Humpty Dumpty egg, scrambled; one fine aged Cheddar Man, melted; homemade ketchup, which is sugar forced down the throat of a tomato that then vomits it out as a red sauce; a fresh pepper fart; dancing parsley; two slices of face bread.
- Even the scent of the Special Sentient Sandwich is sentient. A sentient scent is such a great visual gag.
- Me-Mow’s blowgun of snake darts is an amazing weapon.
- BMO sings a song about being a lonely robot cowboy, which is cute, but not an especially catchy tune. The song in Stakes is far superior.
- “Oh yeah. It tastes alive.”
- Jake: “I did try! Horses are hard!” (Stretches into a more equine shape.) “How’s that?” BMO: “Ehn. It reads.”
- BMO: (whispering) “Steady girl.” Jake: “Wha?” BMO: “I’m going to mount you now.”
- “Hey, Jake. If you can hear my internal monologue: I’m going to kill you.”