Even after seeing the promo a dozen times, I wondered how “BMO Noire,” the latest episode of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, would reconcile the traditional elements of the film noir genre—the moody black-and-white photography, the gorgeous-but-deadly dames, the overwritten tough-guy narration—with the series’ whimsical world and usual wacky atmosphere.
As the show started, however, the premise suddenly made perfect sense. A previous episode (“Five Short Graybles”) revealed that, when Finn and Jake leave the treehouse, the robotic BMO’s imagination runs wild. This time, Finn whines about a missing sock as he walks out the door, inspiring BMO to play the hardboiled detective (instead of talking to his reflection and pretending he can pee). He assigns various household animals roles in his fantasy—a mouse becomes the petty criminal, a cat the no-nonsense cop, a lipstick-smeared chicken the manipulative femme fatale—and embarks on an adventure brimming with betrayal, lost love, and moral ambiguity.
It’s the little touches that really hold the tale together, though—how BMO “stamps out” the plug of his controller like a cigarette butt, how fellow-robot NEPTR seems to share in the delusion (maybe the chicken’s name really is Loraine), or how one of the “cops” swats at a passing fly while making thinly-veiled threats. It’s nice to see that the creative folks behind Adventure Time can continue to experiment while also remaining true to the characters that fans have grown to love.