You know, it’s actually kind of strange that Futurama ended in 2013. It still feels like it could come back at any time, which is ironic poetic considering the finale. This season has all that fumbling about with the Fry/Leela relationship finally pay off; the very concept of them being together isn’t a joke anymore, and in fact forms the basis of this season’s best episodes.
THIS SEASON’S WORST EPISODES
“Saturday Morning Fun Pit”
“Ha ha ha, I do enjoy a well-buttered floor.”
“It’s funny how we never get tired of the word purple. Ever.”
“Excellent plan, Profestro. That’ll blow them straight to he – ”
This is another three-concept parody episode, but sadly it’s pretty weak. The concept is solid: three parodies of three Saturday morning cartoons (which isn’t actually a thing anymore, but whatever). Unfortunately, most of the jokes are lazy, cheap shots – there’s jokes about Shaggy being a stoner, for god’s sake. The only really great part is the wraparound; the premise is that Nixon and Agnew are watching these cartoons, and in the third segment Nixon is directly editing and commenting on the action, which reduces me to tears.
“Leela And The Genestalk”
“So how many cures are there for this disease?”
“Wow. I’ve never been up this high before. Well, outer space, I guess.”
Hypothetically, this could have been a brilliant episode; the premise is that Leela’s mutant heritage is causing her to mutate further as she gets older, giving us some prime Leela/Fry romance stuff as well as body comedy-horror. Sadly, the energy of the episode never quite kicks into gear.
“Professor, what have you done to the Planet Express Ship? And why are you wearing a leather labcoat?”
“Look! Up there! There’s some up!”
The first two acts of this episode are fun but nothing special, as the Professor joins a Fast And Furious-esque gang while Leela gets obsessed with safety, only to become a soccer mom (Fry and Bender going to karate class cracks me up). It’s in the third act, when the crew end up in a 2D universe, that it crosses into brilliant; I wish we could have had an episode of that instead.
“T: The Terrestrial”
“This truly is the Golden Age of television.”
“SOS? Those are the letters that Fry knows!”
Any time we spend with the Omicronians is time well spent. Unfortunately, the plot is structured around a weak E.T. parody, so it feels pretty disposable, though it does have a good subplot about Bender’s love for Fry, plus all the love-powered bikes crack me up.
“Game Of Tones”
“I thought that ship wouldn’t get here for two weeks?”
“Exactly! And you’ve been asleep for thirteen and a half days!”
“Your mom died hundreds of years ago! Get over it!”
If this were any other show, I would consider this one of the best scifi setups ever, combining Inception-style dream exploring with a terrifying spin on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, as Fry must explore his memory to find out where he remembers a melody from in order to stop an oncoming ship playing music. Unfortunately, he ends up wrapped up in the idea of seeing his mother one last time. It’s everything great about Futurama, with one slip: because Fry’s mother was never more than a one-joke character, I’m not invested in Fry’s need, and it never quite humanises her the way it did Yancy or his dad. Also, it randomly turns Seymour into a Family Guy reference, complete with Seth MacFarland cameo, which is hilariously cruel to me.
“Fry And Leela’s Big Fling”
“Finally, just the two of us.”
“Yeah, I knew it was on one of these albums.”
“After they said I had an obnoxious ego?! Me?! The magnificent Bender?!”
All the ones under Masterpieces are great, but this is my all-time favourite of the season, and definitely a top five overall. It’s the payoff of all the hard work that went into Fry and Leela and their relationship. The trust and rhythm they’ve built up means this episode could never have happened before now, as they decide to go on a retreat to spend time alone together; they even have a plausibly brief time of conflict as Leela’s old boyfriend is there, meaning we get a situation where Fry could believably be the one who’s huffy as Leela politely indulges Shawn. But it’s also one of the most gloriously fucked up premises the show ever did, as in a twist on the ‘human zoo’ trope, they’ve unknowingly signed up to be exhibits in a human habitat on the Planet of the Primates (which leads to the single funniest background sign gag the show ever did: “The Blue Ass Group”). It all leads up to a brilliant ending punchline in a show that doesn’t really go in for ‘all the pieces coming together’ plot like that.
“Forty Percent Leadbelly”
“Shall we adjourn to the porn folder?”
“Hammer? That should be easy to rhyme. You done time in the slammer?”
“Been to Alabama?”
“How’s your grammar?”
This brings back Bender’s occasional wish to be a famous folk singer, but as opposed to having his robotnessism inform the songwriting, it has the songwriting get blown up into something further because of his robotnessism. Stories becoming true is old hat; stories becoming true because of a giant 3D printer is something new.
“The Inhuman Torch”
“You boys must have hero in your bones! And you, ma’am, must have heroine in your veins!”
“Zoidberg! Quit turning us on and go polish your nozzle!”
We begin with a scifi exaggeration of the various mining accidents that happened around the time this episode was written, which leads to the crew becoming firefighters. As this is the last season, it’s tempting to think of individual episodes as goodbyes to each of these crew members, and this works well as an effective swan song for Bender. He is, in many ways, a grownup version of Bart Simpson with fewer attachments and even fewer reasons to hold his inhibitions back. But underneath his impulsive destruction is a deep need for attention, and underneath that is a sincere love for Fry. This episode pushes us down further and further into him, as he first becomes delighted with the image of being a hero, and then is forced to give it up to actually be a hero for Fry. That’s about as heartwarming as you’re gonna get with this guy.
“Now what are we supposed to do at the office instead of work?”
“How about talking to each other?”
“That’s what bathtime is for!”
“I’ll have to start at the bottom.”
“But Fox already said no!”
“I meant live theatre!”
As you know, Bob, Calculon was killed off last season. Luckily, this is a ridiculous scifi setting, so it just takes a single act to resurrect him from the dead – Hermes’ complaints about the decreasingly scifi approach to their methods aren’t as applicable as “That just raises further questions!” but it’s pretty funny. Continuing the swan song thought, by putting Calculon at the centre, it feels like a goodbye to this particular strange setting as a whole – as well as All My Circuits, we stop in at Robot Hell. Also, I’ve gotta start working “God’s wounds!” into conversation more.
“Assie Come Home”
“Does anyone else find this delivery suspicious?”
“Nope. He’s too dumb and I don’t care.”
“They stole everything but my mouth and eyes! Guess they didn’t like all my screaming and winking.”
We said goodbye to Bender on his own, but this is a goodbye to the one thing he loved more than himself: his ass. The very premise of centering an episode around Bender’s ass is hilarious in itself, and we get a really fun set of adventures as he goes to get it back, climaxing in an image equally heartwarming and absurd and cynical.
“Murder On The Planet Express”
“No wonder my urine smells like a meal!”
“I didn’t know we had a panic room.”
“Me neither! It really could have come in handy! Like fifty times!”
When Cowboy Bebop parodied Alien, it combined it with a totally unrelated other game. When Futurama does it, it interpolates other movies (like John Carpenter’s The Thing – that is truly a horrifying alien they create) and builds an emotional arc around the crew learning to trust one another again, and ends with a dark, dark final set of jokes.
“Stench and Stenchibility”
“It’s like Comic-Con in a submarine!”
“The rest of you might as well give up now, because I’m gonna take home the… Hey, what’s my grand prize gonna be?”
“Oh, there’s no prize, Dorothy. Unless you count the satisfaction of winning.”
“It. Will. Be. Mine.”
It’s strange to have the final episode be a Zoidberg episode, and even stranger to have it be about giving him a human girlfriend, as if to make up for all the years of abuse. It’s strange and strangely conventional for being about a the romance between a disgusting alien and a British woman with no sense of smell, but it mostly works. It also has a B-story about Bender entering a tapdancing competition, which includes the best elevation of a random background character in Randy.
“Seeing Leela fly off the Hexadecapus and crash through the Moon dome and survive inside a stuffed animal by breathing a balloon was a dose of reality.”
“Oh my gosh! This is all so sudden after thirteen years.”
“I guess it’s just us for all eternity.”
“What do you say? Want to go round again?”
Well. I can quibble with parts of this as a finale. It bothers me that Fry and Leela completely take the stage, leaving everyone else to float around the end of the show, even lovable third wheel Bender. And it should irritate me that the whole thing is basically wiped from existence at the end. But the mixture of emotion, hilarity, and scifi nonsense has left me feeling warm and melancholic and amused all day. The image of Fry trapping himself in an endless series of deaths until Leela is left inured to the whole thing is one of the funniest and blackest moments of black comedy in the entire show; the fact that Fry and Leela have worked their way up to the point where they could spend eternity in an empty universe together is inspiring. Trapped in frozen time is something that’s always been played for horror, but these two together can turn it into one last big adventure; when the Professor appears to fix everything and turn back the clock, it’s not wiping out this adventure. It’s promising thousands more that we’ll never get to see.
“YOU WERE IN A ZOO!”