Bender has to deal with mortality after finding out his inspector failed him.
The Planet Express crew participate in a reenactment of the Sithal War (it’s a fight against Sith Overlords) and Bender (John DiMaggio) is “killed.” He keeps laughing as he enacts his death, but Fry (Billy West) says that he wouldn’t find it as funny if he actually died. Bender reveals that he has an automatic backup unit installed, so if he dies he’ll just have his consciousness put into a new body. After the Sith win the reenactment, the crew heads home to recuperate. After Bender brags again about his perfection as guaranteed by Inspector #5, the one who approved his creation, he suddenly finds he’s springing a leak. The Professor (West) determines that the leak is caused by Bender’s missing backup unit, meaning that when Bender dies, it’s for real.
Bender starts to have an existential crisis and starts to rage against Inspector #5 for dooming him to live in this world only to die. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) takes Bender to the Central Bureaucracy in order to find Inspector #5 and leaves Leela (Katey Sagal) in charge of his duties while he’s gone. It turns out that Inspector #5’s information has been deleted, both digitally and in hard copy. Bender calls Mom (Tress MacNeille) to complain about his defect, which leads her to dispatch Killbots to remove the defective unit. Fleeing to a train, Bender and Hermes end up in Mexico, where Bender was built.
Believing that Inspector #5 may still live in Mexico, Bender heads to the Robot Factory, which is now closed. He uses an old directory to find Inspector #5’s house, which is also abandoned. Hermes tells Bender to give up on the search, but Bender breaks down and tells him that he is special and shouldn’t have to deal with the curse of mortality. Hermes consoles him and tells him that he is still special, because no one else will ever be Bender but him. As they prepare to leave, Mom’s killbots attack the building. Hermes manages to hack into the Central Bureaucracy, despite the encryption, and changes Bender’s status to Terminated, ending the Killbot pursuit. Back at the Planet Express office, Leela has destroyed everything through her lack of bureaucratic skills, but Hermes cleans it up with ease. Everyone leaves to celebrate with Bender, but Hermes stays behind to burn the files Leela left… as well as the file of Inspector #5. It’s revealed that Hermes WAS Inspector #5, but that when he was supposed to destroy Bender, he looked into the innocent baby robot’s eyes and decided to give him a chance at life anyway. Hermes watches his file burn away, smiling at his decision to save Bender.
So, this episode almost made my list of the 100 greatest episodes of all time. It doesn’t quite get there because some parts drag, but there are two scenes in this episode that will stick with me forever. The first is when Hermes tells Bender:
“Okay, Bender, you’re mortal. And okay, Inspector 5 screwed up. But that just makes the time you have left all the more precious. Do you really want to waste the rest of your life in a bitter, homicidal rage?”
Bender gets angry and starts punching things, asking:
“Why? Why did he do this to me? All I wanted was a little quality control. But he didn’t care enough. And now I’m gonna die. I deserve better! I’m Bender, damn it! I’m Bender!”
This is one of those perfect moments in a scene. Bender is saying the thing that all humans are doomed to realize: We’re gonna die, even though we always hope that we’re the exception. As children, we’re rarely really cognizant of our mortality, but someday everyone will have that one moment where you realize that you’re going to die. That it becomes real. And Bender’s reaction will likely be your own, trying to find someone to be angry at and blame for our reality. As The Good Place said, “All humans are aware of death. So… we’re all a little bit sad. All the time. That’s just the deal.”
The second scene in this episode, though, is the ending. When we see Hermes burn the folder, it starts a musical montage set to Elizabeth Mitchell’s “Little Bird, Little Bird.” It shows Hermes, as Inspector #5, about to order the destruction of baby Bender, then seeing something in the child that leads Hermes to approve him. We then see that Bender changed Hermes’s entire life, leading him to quit working for Mom and eventually become the person he is in the show. At the end of the episode, we see that Hermes has never regretted it, because he gave Bender a chance at a life, even if it is going to end.
This episode is nothing short of art to me, because it somehow makes the human condition relatable via a robot, then tries to justify it better than most philosophies have managed. Life’s short, but that makes all of the good times more beautiful and important.
It’s definitely when Scruffy the Janitor (David Herman) dies during the Sithal War reenactment. He is “killed” by one of the Sith with a lightsaber touch and then says “The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” before faking his death. This is a line from the film Blade Runner that is said by Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) to the Replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) as part of a praise for how much he has made of his artificially shortened life. Roy, in contrast, wants a longer existence. It’s basically a perfect reference for this episode. The line is also supposedly originally by Lao Tzu, or Laozi, but I actually can’t find a direct source for it in my copy of the Tao Te Ching and it’s not on his Wikiquote page, so I don’t know if it’s true. Either way, it’s a great line for this episode.
See you next week, meatbags.
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