Futurama Fridays – S3E17 “A Pharaoh to Remember”

Bender manages to scam an entire planet in a bid for immortality. 

SUMMARY

Bender (John DiMaggio) decides to commit a crime that will make him famous, but unfortunately circumstances thwart him when a witness misidentifies him and a building he defaces collapses. The Planet Express crew throw him a fake funeral to celebrate his life, but the crew fails to give Bender the memorial he wants, leading him to be outraged that he’ll be forgotten after he dies. The crew takes a giant sandstone block to Osiris 4, a planet that resembles Ancient Egypt, where they are taken as slaves to the Pharaoh Hamenthotep (David Herman). While Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) are appalled, Bender is more impressed with the fact that the Pharaohs all have such lavish memorial pyramids and statues, meaning they’ll be remembered forever. Bender becomes dedicated to the Pharaoh, telling the slave drivers how to make the slaves work harder and even whip better. Hamenthotep is pleased by the memorial and is about to free the slaves, but dies when a statue’s nose falls on him. 

S3EH - 1Hamenthotep.png
He’s surprisingly not instantly dead from a ton of rock falling on him.

The High Priest (Maurice LaMarche) says that a successor will be chosen from the Wall of Prophecy. That night, the slaves party, but Bender sneaks off and carves a new chapter on the wall. Despite it being so poorly made that even the High Priest gets confused, Bender is selected as the next Pharaoh. Unfortunately, Bender is actually much more cruel as Pharaoh than his predecessor, making them build a statue of him that is 1 Billion Cubits tall, so tall it goes into space, only to tell people that it’s too big because people will remember the statue and not him. The slave drivers and the priests are incensed by this and proceed to tie Bender up like a mummy and throw him into the crypt, claiming he “suddenly died,” to great applause. On his way down, Bender asks for servants, so Fry and Leela are thrown in after him. 

S3EH - 2Pharaoh.png
He’s not a good friend.

It turns out that Bender’s tomb is actually a casino, complete with a bar that contains explosive liquor. Leela wants to get out by detonating the alcohol, but Bender refuses to let her destroy his memorial. Fry and Leela pretend to not remember Bender until he gives in. The explosion destroys the statue, killing Bender’s dream, but Leela reminds him that he’ll be remembered for his cruelty, and he vows to take over Earth. 

END SUMMARY

This is an episode that clearly was designed to supply interesting gags around a ridiculous premise and it pretty much does exactly that. However, in retrospect, this is also one of the first episodes focused on Bender’s quest for immortality through fame, something that would probably hit its peak after the show came back to Comedy Central. 

S3EH - 3Statue
BTW, 1 Billion Cubits should actually be much bigger. It’d go past the moon of Earth.

The theory of extraterrestrial involvement in building the pyramids of Egypt (and other places around the globe) has long been a hallmark of conspiracy theorist lore and speculative fiction. When Fry finds out that the Osirans were in Egypt, he even shouts “I knew it! Insane theories, one; regular theories, a billion.” However, this episode turns this completely on its head by having the aliens reveal that they learned how to build pyramids from the Ancient Egyptians, then amplifies it by revealing that the Egyptians taught them space-travel, despite the Osirans having visited Earth in the first place… somehow. Naturally, Fry doesn’t seem to recognize the inherent problem here, choosing instead to laugh at the fact that mummies scare Abbott and Costello. Also Wolfman. Fun fact I can’t ever pass up telling people: Bela Lugosi, one of the greatest actors to ever play Count Dracula, only played him twice, first in the original Dracula from 1931, then again in Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. You just learned something. You are now better than you were a moment ago, if only a little. You are welcome.

S3EH - 4Thoth.jpg
Also, this is a priest of Thoth, who might be part Ibis.

What’s really impressive about this episode is that it doesn’t actually have a B-plot and yet the pacing always feels on point. It has acts, to be sure, divided by the commercial breaks, but the focus is solely on the Bender plot. Bender first is seeking fame, or rather infamy, for his crimes, but it becomes clear at his “funeral” that it is because he is worried about being forgotten after he dies. He ends up envying the pharaohs for their memorials, but ends up lampshading that it’s a terrible way to try and be remembered when he names the Pharaohs as “Anopsis… Pleotut… Whatshisname… he was the greatest of them all.” After all, can you name who all of the pyramids are dedicated to? I mean, there’s the Great Pyramid of Cheops, but that’s only one of the three big ones, and that’s only 3 out of over 100 pyramids. We truly do remember the memorial rather than the man or woman. Which brings me to the one reference that the episode seems to intentionally avoid making:

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

That is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” and I think it’s possibly the most direct reference to the theme of this episode (and also Breaking Bad‘s). It’s a poem about a statue of Ramesses II, an Egyptian Pharaoh, which was found in the desert. The theme of the poem is that ultimately even the most magnificent empire, like that of Ramesses, something so huge that the world had likely not seen anything on the same scale before then, will eventually just be dust. Sic transit gloria mundi, motherf*ckers. How is that not something that comes to mind in this episode, which ends with Bender’s statue being rendered in the same shape as the statue that inspired the poem? 

The other thing is that this episode is just really freaking funny. Almost all of the jokes work, in my opinion, which helps to balance out the ultimately kind of depressing subject matter. Overall, just a really well-done episode.

FAVORITE JOKE

Hard to pick in this episode, except that it’s not, because nothing makes me laugh as much as the wall of prophecy, in which the priests are exceptionally candid about what they’re doing, while concealing it in chanting and ritual. 

S3EH - 5Prayer.jpg

High Priest: Great Wall of Prophecy, reveal to us God’s will that we may blindly obey.

Priests: [chanting] Free us from thought and responsibility.

High Priest: We shall read things off you.

Priests: [chanting] Then do them.

High Priest: Your words guide us.

Priests: [chanting] We’re dumb.

S3EH - 6Prophecy.png

This is like someone consulting their horoscope while also stating outright that it’s just so they can pretend that there is more order to the universe. I love it.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 48: A Leela of Her Own

NEXT – Episode 50: Anthology of Interest II

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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jokeronthesofa

I'm not giving my information to a machine. Nice try, Zuckerberg.

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