Bender dies and his spirit seeks revenge. Also, Ghostbusters.
On Parade Day (the day with all the parades), Fry (Billy West) dives in front of a runaway float and saves a human, letting a robot die in the process. Bender (John DiMaggio) yells at him because this act indicates that Fry values human life more than robot life, something Fry admits is true. Bender threatens to kill himself, but the crew point out that he regularly says that and never does it. When he goes to the suicide booth, it turns out that the booth is Lynn (Tress MacNeille), one of Bender’s exes. Lynn kills Bender, leading the crew to believe that he really did commit suicide.
Unbeknownst to them, Bender is now a ghost. He doesn’t realize it at first, until the Robot Devil (Dan Castellaneta) tells him he’s dead and haunting the computational cloud. The Robot Devil offers Bender a deal: scare Fry to death and Bender gets to live again. If he fails, then he spends eternity in hell. Bender discovers that, although Fry can’t see him, he can possess technology and use it to scare Fry. The crew don’t believe Fry until Bender takes control of Leela’s (Katey Sagal) wristlojackimator. They call in the robot Gypsy (MacNeille), who tells them that a robot ghost is haunting them. The Reverend Preacherbot (Phil LaMarr) is called in to banish the ghost, which ends up working by providing Fry with a “sacramental firewall” that keeps Bender 20 feet away. Bender pushes through the firewall and possesses it, using the software to project horrifying images onto Fry, causing him to have a heart attack.
Bender returns to the Robot Devil to collect, but it turns out Fry is still alive. Fry is sent to the Amish Homeworld, where electronics are forbidden, so that he won’t get shocked again. As Bender tries to kill him one last time, Fry laments that he misses Bender and that he now respects robot life. So, Bender stops trying to kill Fry and follows him to the Amish Homeworld to watch over him. When the rest of the crew comes to visit Fry, the Robot Devil also comes to visit. He tricks Bender into scaring some oxen, which causes a giant dome to roll towards Fry. Bender possesses the Robot Devil and uses his body to save Fry. This leads Fry to head home and Bender to head to Robot Heaven. However, Bender annoys Robot God into kicking him back into his body.
I love almost any episode with the Robot Devil and this is no exception, despite how little he actually appears in this one. The idea that the Robot Devil bears a grudge against Fry for taking his hands in “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings” is amusing because it’s so petty. He’s literally got an entire underworld to run, but he also still complains about how his hands smell like candy corn because of Fry. The episode also takes a bunch of shots at some of his previous appearances, mostly his tendency to punctuate everything with a song. This time he does make it much more clear that the songs themselves are actually a big part of the torment of Robot Hell, including the fact that he’s rehearsing the exact song that he played for Bender in his debut episode. Admittedly, he does manage to rhyme pyrrhic later when improvising, so he clearly has a lot of talent.
The concept of a robot afterlife has long been played with in the show, but this is the first time that we consider the ramifications of Artificial Intelligence existing as data outside of a physical body. I think this is a fun reflection of how much technology developed during the run of this show, because when the show started cloud computing had only been in its infancy, and wasn’t really commercially viable until after the show was cancelled the first time. However, by the time this episode was produced in 2010, Amazon and Google had both started to offer cloud computing services. If computer science were to advance to a certain point, then it is possible that the cloud could eventually process, transmit, and store an amount of data that is greater than the sum total of a human, or artificial, consciousness. Maybe it is inevitable that, like Bender in this episode, we’ll find out that we can create afterlives for our own consciousness. Am I saying this episode is a prequel to Black Mirror’s “San Junipero?” Yes, yes I am.
There are a number of other fun future touches in this episode that round it out. I think it’s hilarious that the Amish eventually move off-planet in order to maintain their lifestyle, but that, due to the passage of time, they still end up advancing technologically. Rather than just barns, they now live in geodesic domes. There’s a day dedicated solely to parades because there are too many holidays, which makes sense when you consider that Earth has been unified for hundreds of years. Also, this episode only makes sense because we learned in “Lethal Inspection” that Bender is mortal.
Overall, I think this is one of the better episodes of Season 6.
This one is going to hurt a bit. I think my favorite joke is when Hermes is going to call someone to “bust” the ghost of Bender. When asked “who you gonna call,” he starts to say Ghostbusters, but is interrupted by a voice that tells him that the number he is dialing has been lame since 1989. Why 1989? Well, I think there are three reasons: First, that’s the year that Ghostbusters II came out and, let’s be fair, that movie is not as good as the first. While I don’t think it’s a bad movie, it still represents a controversial sequel to an amazing film. Second, in 1989, Ghostbusters was supposed to release a game on the Atari 2600. This ended up being so late in the Atari cycle that it was never actually put out, a sign that the franchise was behind the times. Last, Arsenio Hall stopped voicing Winston on The Real Ghostbusters in 1988, so I think we can agree that was when the cool started to leave that show and therefore the franchise. Still, I do love the hell out of the original.
How you start is important to getting popular, but how you finish is the key to being a legend. After all, who wants to sit through 75 hours of a show for a giant letdown? Here are ten series that managed to really stick the landing.
Runner-Up: My Finale (Scrubs)
The Show: John “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff) is a doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital with his best friend Chris Turk (Donald Faison), Turk’s wife Carla (Judy Reyes), his girlfriend and fellow doctor Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke), his mentor Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley), the head of the hospital Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), and his nemesis the Janitor (Neil Flynn).
The Finale: Okay, this is only a runner-up because I am not willing to deal with people sending me messages that say “technically, the show had another season,” followed by me slapping my face in frustration and saying “Then why did they call it Scrubs: Med School? How come it changes location, most of the cast, and central character?” But, the DVD release still says Season 9, so… fine. It’s not the “finale.” That’s particularly sad because I think it would be a strong contender for the number one spot here if it was. Unlike many great finales, this one didn’t rely on any kind of subversion or loss. Instead, this episode gives its main character, J.D., the exact send-off that we probably hoped he’d get.
It probably stands out because of the last 5 minutes of the episode, when J.D. starts to walk out of the building, and the show, and is suddenly surrounded by every guest from the show’s run that they could manage to fit and afford. As he walks down a literal memory lane, he finally stands at the exit, and we see a projection of the future he’s headed for, filled with love, happiness, and friendship. It’s a happy ending that never feels too cheesy or overdone.
10) The Last Show (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
The Show: Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) is a single woman who is an Associate Producer for WJM’s 6 o’clock news, starring Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). She works alongside Executive Producer Lou Grant (Ed Asner), and head writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod). Mary’s best friend is Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), Rhoda’s nemesis who is also Mary’s friend is Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), and Mary’s friend who works at WJM is Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White). The other main character, introduced later, is Georgette Baxter (Georgia Engel), Ted Baxter’s girlfriend.
The Finale: For a show that contains what I consider to be the single best episode of all time, it’s pretty impressive that it managed to end with what was, for a while, considered the “gold standard” of finales. It was a regular exhibit in screenwriting courses. The creators of Friends said it was a major influence in how they wrapped their show. The key is that it really is an ending for the characters as well as the show. When a new station manager (Vincent Gardenia) takes over WJM, he decides he wants to fix the 6 O’clock News ratings. Unfortunately, he determines that the only person worth keeping is Ted, the person who repeatedly causes the show to tank. Everyone else is fired, devastating Mary. To cheer Mary up, Lou Grant arranges for Rhoda and Phyllis to visit her (both now had spin-offs), with both offering vastly different methods of support for Mary (and hatred for each other). Ultimately, Ted tries to do a sincere send-off, but instead quotes the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Everyone says goodbye, resulting in a group hug that no one wants to break, giving rise to the hilarious image of the entire team moving together in order to get tissues. Mary ends up smiling at the good times and turning off the lights on the set.
The key to this ending is that everything goes wrong for all the right people. Everyone who has spent years cleaning up Ted’s mistakes gets fired because of Ted, but because they kept making him look good, Ted keeps his job. He tries to protest the firings, but ultimately backs down when threatened, leading to Murray saying “When a donkey flies, you don’t blame him for not staying up that long.” When Lou tries to cheer Mary up, she calls in two of her friends… who hate each other and fight viciously. When Ted tries to be sincere, he just quotes a completely unrelated song. That’s what made the show great, watching people deal with all of life’s crap and unfairness with a laugh and a joke. It was the best way to end the show.
9) Come Along With Me (Adventure Time)
The Show: Adventure Time follows the journeys of Finn, the last human (Jeremy Shada), and his adopted brother Jake the dog (John DiMaggio), through the land of Ooo. They usually are accompanied by Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch) and Marcelline, the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson), and sometimes the Ice King (Tom Kenny).
The Finale: The last episode of this show takes place far in the future from the normal timeline and the show now apparently stars two new characters named Shermy (Sean Giambrone) and Beth (Willow Smith), who appear to have a similar relationship to Finn and Jake. They go to meet with the King of Ooo, who is revealed to be BMO (Niki Yang), Finn and Jake’s AI game system. BMO tells them the story of the “Great Gum War,” what the show had been building to for a season, then tells them of the coming of GOLB, the anti-God of that universe. Ultimately, the war is averted and the world is saved, and Shermy and Beth take up the mantle of Finn and Jake.
The reason this is on this list is mostly because it contains three great elements. First, the Great Gum War is literally averted, rather than fought. Finn ends up convincing both sides of the war to stand down, and does so by forcing each side to view the situation from the other’s point of view. This represents the culmination of Finn’s growth from a boy to a man, finally realizing that violent solutions propagate violence, but that forgiveness can bring true peace. Afterwards, Shermy, now representing young Finn, complains that he thought the War would be more important, like the end of the world, only for BMO to casually say “no, that’s what happened next.” Second, after the apocalypse is averted, Shermy and Beth, acting as audience surrogates, ask BMO what happened next, only for BMO to respond with “Eh, y’know. They kept living their lives.” I think this may be one of the most perfect summaries to end a show. It’s not a bland “happily ever after,” but it is a way to tell everyone that, even though life goes on, this story has hit the end. However, the true ending is Shermy and Beth taking the pose that Finn and Jake take in the title screen, meaning that the adventure will always continue. Lastly, we see Marceline and Princess Bubblegum finally become a couple. Given how much crap the show had gotten in the past for even hinting at this, I love that they decided “we’re at the end, let’s go for it.” This finale summed up everything that was good about this show.
8) One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation)
The Show: The series follows the lives of all of the people who work for or are associated with the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana: Idealist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), her husband Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), her Libertarian boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), her coworkers Tom (Aziz Ansari), April (Aubrey Plaza), Garry (Jim O’Heir), Craig (Billy Eichner), and Donna (Retta), as well as April’s husband Andy (Chris Pratt), and Leslie’s best friend Ann (Rashida Jones) and her husband Chris (Rob Lowe).
The Finale: By the end of the series, everyone is leaving and no one works for the Parks Department anymore. However, Leslie asks everyone to help her when a man asks them to fix a swing near his house. As they work together to navigate the bureaucracy to repair the swing, the show flashes forward and shows how almost every characters’ life progresses. We see Garry get a happy ending after being the sad sack for most of the series, Donna turn her success into helping children with her husband (Keegan-Michael Key), and Tom become a celebrity through writing a bestseller. Ron is shown to retire from his business to run a major park with Leslie’s help. April and Andy start a family and Leslie and Ben both become successful politicians, with one of them implied to eventually be president.
This episode should be terrible. It’s saccharin beyond anything else the series had done up to this point and it’s little more than an extremely elaborate “and they all lived happily ever after.” However, the way in which their flash-forwards are told give us a real picture of how all of these people, despite drifting apart, are always bonded by the events of the show. Even though they live in different parts of the world, they’re still a family and they always will be. Moreover, the world we see in the future is a hopeful and just one, with Leslie, who has always been thwarted by the stupidity of Pawnee, becoming governor of Indiana. We see a world where, despite still having problems, we find a group of people who are fighting for the right thing, even if they all disagree on what that is. To drive it home, Leslie even quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s line “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is to work hard at work worth doing.” We see a future where that kind of dedication is celebrated, and that’s what really makes this episode work.
7) Basil the Rat (Fawlty Towers)
The Show: Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) run a hotel in England. Basil is an angry jerk obsessed with class mobility, always trying to become one of the elite, but his own incompetence usually dooms him. His staff includes the sensible Polly (Connie Booth) and the hapless Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs).
The Finale: A health inspector (John Quarmby) informs Basil that the state of Fawlty Towers’ kitchen is below standard. If they don’t fix the problems in 24 hours, the hotel will be closed. At the same time, Basil discovers Manuel is keeping a pet rat, named Basil, in the kitchen, having been sold it as a “Siberian Hamster.” Basil tries to get rid of it, but Manuel protests and he and Polly hide it in the shed. After Manuel foolishly lets the rat back into the hotel, Basil the human poisons a veal shank in an attempt to kill the rat, but the shank gets cooked by accident. After every customer, including the returning health inspector, orders the veal, hilarity ensues. Eventually, the health inspector is handed the rat, but the cast attempts to cover for it as the episode ends.
The key to Fawlty Towers was the incredible combination of tight writing and amazing physical performances. Each episode typically took Cleese and Booth six weeks to write, which is probably why there are only twelve of them in two seasons over five years. This episode is the pinnacle of that, because all of the beats in the episode have to be precisely timed in order to keep the tension building. In the meantime, all of the characters have to keep scrambling and covering for their actions as they keep trying to find Basil the Rat. It also helps that this episode is the opposite of what Basil Fawlty had been hoping for. Rather than becoming an elite establishment, his hotel is almost closed down for being a dump, and at the end of the episode, it seems extremely likely that it will be shut down. Rather than a happy ending, we get a shot of Basil, having passed out from stress, being dragged unceremoniously from the room.
6) Weirdmageddon (Gravity Falls)
The Show: Gravity Falls is a town filled with strange happenings and mysteries. When two kids, Dipper and Mabel Pines (Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal), come to stay with their Great Uncle “Grunkle” Stan Pines (Alex Hirsch) for the Summer at his Mystery Shack, they get caught up in the town’s weirdness, along with Stan’s two employees Wendy (Linda Cardellini) and Soos (Hirsch). Their greatest enemy is a dream demon named Bill Cipher (Hirsch).
The Finale: The final episode begins with Bill winning. He has finally figured out a way to enter the real world in his true form and he immediately reveals himself to be one of the most horrifying villains ever to be featured in a show for kids. He and his gang start to wreak havoc upon the town, until Dipper, Mabel, and the surviving cast fight back. Ultimately, they’re able to trick Bill into entering Stan’s mind, which they then wipe, destroying him as Stan’s dream self punches the demon out of reality. Then, finally, the Summer ends and the kids have to go home in a tearful goodbye.
The greatest strength of Gravity Falls was that it always focused on how the characters felt and what they were going through internally more than externally and this finale is no exception. The strength of the episode isn’t just in finally showing us the power of Bill Cipher and having the team overcome him, it’s that the last 20 minutes is just having a slow, sad, emotional goodbye from all of the characters to the two kids that changed the town so much. We see some nice flash-forwards explaining that most of the characters will be okay, and still be the eccentric oddities that we came to love, but also that everyone will be separated in their own lives. Maybe they’ll be together again one day, but it seems likely that this is the end of this story. It ends with a cryptogram that deciphers to: FADED PICTURES BLEACHED BY SUN. THE TALE’S TOLD, THE SUMMER’S DONE. IN MEMORIES THE PINES STILL PLAY. ON A SUNNY SUMMER’S DAY. I’ll admit that I still tear up reading that, because it’s just that adorably sincere.
5) All Good Things… (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
The Show: It’s the 24th Century and mankind has spread itself among the stars, meeting new life forms and threats along the way, and forming the United Federation of Planets. The top ship among the Federation fleet is the Enterprise-D, captained by Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Along with crew members William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn), Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Picard explores the unknown along the Final Frontier.
The Finale: Picard finds himself unfixed by time, his mind jumping between the present, twenty-five years into the future, and seven years in the past, just before the show’s pilot. These jumps are random, making people think he’s going mad. In the present, he goes to investigate a space anomaly. He then uses a jump to convince his future ex-wife Beverly to travel to the same anomaly, which is happening in the future as well. In the past, he declines to go to the anomaly so that he can have the encounter at Farpoint with Q (John de Lancie), an omnipotent being who threatens humanity. However, it turns out that Q is actually causing Picard to jump through time, telling him that solving the mystery of the anomaly is the only chance to save humanity. Picard discovers that investigating the anomaly is actually what causes it, and sacrifices all three different versions of the Enterprise to stop it. This is revealed to be Q’s test and that Picard passed, saving humanity.
It’s one thing to manage to tie in the themes of a show with the finale, it’s another to literally tie the entire series together into one single cohesive expression of what the show is about. Star Trek has always been about humanity at its best; challenging the unknown, exploring the unexplored, bettering themselves for the sake of being better. This episode reveals that the entire series, from the Pilot to the end, was a test of whether humanity can evolve, with Picard as its focus. Picard proves not only that he can solve a four-dimensional problem, but that he and his crew are willing to sacrifice themselves in three different time periods in order to save the universe. It proves again that humanity has limitless potential both scientifically and socially, if only we can evolve beyond our selfishness.
The Finale: Fry (Billy West) decides to propose to his longtime flame Leela (Katey Sagal), and uses a device that rewinds time by 10 seconds (and has a 10 second recharge time) to set up the perfect proposal. Unfortunately, he ends up breaking the device, trapping him and Leela in a frozen world. Together, they live a long and happy life, until they’re discovered by the Professor, who fixes the device. He warns Leela and Fry that when he undoes the time freeze, it’ll take them back to before the episode started, with no memory of the events. Fry and Leela agree that, while they enjoyed growing old together, they both want to do it all over again.
This show gets bonus points because Futurama actually had four separate finales: “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings,” “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” “Overclockwise,” and then this one. Despite having tried to wrap the show up multiple times, I am always impressed that this one is, in my opinion, the best of the four. It’s not just telling us that Fry and Leela will ultimately find happiness, we get to see them being happy together, with each of them clearly influenced by the other for the better. It helps that so much of the episode is really funny before that. We see Fry messing around with time in a number of fun gags, a throwback to the pilot, and Fry dying multiple times to the point that Leela starts to get bored with it. It’s a solid set of comedic scenes that turn into a sincere and emotional third act, which is basically what Futurama did at its best.
3) Goodbyeee (Blackadder Goes Forth)
The Show: Each season of Blackadder featured Rowan Atkinson as a different descendant of the Blackadder family. This one was a Captain in the British Army during WWI. He was commanded by the incompetent General Melchett (Stephen Fry) and his nemesis Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny). Each episode features his attempts to get out of actually having to fight, usually involving Blackadder’s incompetent aides George (Hugh Laurie) and Baldrick (Tony Robinson).
The Finale: Blackadder finds out that there’s going to be a full-scale attack the next day, meaning that he, along with all of his soldiers, will be running all-out into No Man’s Land. Since all of them will likely die, Blackadder pretends to be crazy in order to get sent home, but it fails. He tries to contact the British High Command to get sent home, but it fails as well. Darling is sent to the front line, despite his attempts to protest, while Melchett sits miles back. George and Baldrick discuss their losses during the war in a humorous way, until finally George admits that he’s afraid of dying. Blackadder and the rest of the group go over the top and are killed, with the shot fading to a silent poppy field.
It was a tradition for each season of Blackadder to end with death, usually that of the entire cast, but it was always done in a comic fashion. This entire season had frequently played off the massive casualties of World War One as a dark joke, which set everything up to do a similarly humorous or absurd conclusion to this season, but instead, they played it perfectly straight. It’s a sad, somber, painful ending to the show. It’s a subversion of the nature of the series, but it fits the theme of the season, that war is hell. The show sacrificed its own cast to make sure that people remember that the price of war is blood and tears.
2) Felina (Breaking Bad)
The Show: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a chemist who finds out he has terminal cancer. He decides to partner with his ex-student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to make meth in order to provide for his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and his son Walt, Jr. (RJ Mitte). He does surprisingly well, eventually becoming a kingpin.
The Finale: Having managed to lose most of his money and betraying Jesse in the last season, Walt threatens former partners to leave a fortune to his son and decides to “make things right.” He rigs a machine gun to a mechanical arm and tries to make amends to his wife for all of his misdeeds, having a conversation in which she points out that his actions were always about him, never the family. Walt goes to meet the Aryan Brotherhood members holding Jesse hostage and uses the machine gun to kill almost all of them, with him and Jesse killing off the survivors. Walt is mortally wounded, but dies smiling surrounded by meth cooking equipment as Jesse escapes.
This episode works on so many levels. First, the title is an anagram for finale and a reference to the song “El Paso,” which mirrors the events of the third act. Like the subject of “El Paso,” Walt dies in the arms of his beloved: Meth. Second, it mirrors the pilot, both beginning and ending with sirens headed for Walt. In the pilot, Walt declines to shoot himself, but here, he dies by a shot from his own gun. Walt even dies in the same outfit he wore in the pilot. Third, it provides a satisfying conclusion to a series that was constantly escalating tension by doing exactly the opposite, being a quiet denouement for Walt after one last blaze of glory. The show was always building towards his death, and Cranston’s final moments on-screen send the character off in exactly the right way.
1) The Last Newhart (Newhart)
The Show: Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart) is a writer who moves to Vermont to run an inn with his wife Joanna (Mary Frann). While Dick is a relatively normal and sane person, the town is populated by eccentric people whose inability to operate within the bounds of reality constantly drives Dick crazy.
The Finale: After years of putting up with the locals, the entire town is purchased by a Japanese tycoon who wants to turn it into a golf resort. While Dick and Joanna make a show of wanting to keep the town the same and refuse to leave, literally everyone else takes a huge payout and vacates. Years later, Dick and Joanna now run their inn in the middle of a golf course. All of their former neighbors pay them a surprise visit, but quickly drive Dick crazy until he gets hit in the head with a golf ball. He then wakes up in bed… as Dr. Bob Hartley, the main character of The Bob Newhart Show, next to his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). He reveals that the entire series of Newhart was just a dream he had, something that annoys his wife when he reveals that he was married to a beautiful blond.
This finale should be terrible, because the idea that the whole series was a dream would normally be stupid or seem like a cop-out. However, The Bob Newhart Show was a series about Bob Hartley questioning his own reality and Newhart was a series where everyone somehow played by rules that defied any established rules of logic, except for Bob Newhart’s character. It not only made sense that Newhart was a dream of someone who constantly questioned reality, it made MORE sense than any other explanation. Bob Hartley always defined himself as the “only sane man” in his life, so he still does that in his dreams. Bob Newhart essentially spent 20 years setting up this punchline across two different series and it served as a perfect finale for both of them. I think it’s telling that after Breaking Bad ended, Bryan Cranston did a “fake ending” where he wakes up as Hal on Malcolm in the Middle that was inspired by this. When the second best ending has to pay tribute to something, you know that thing has to be the best.
Let me know if there are any others that you think I should have added by posting in the comments or on my Facebook or Twitter.
After his incompetence causes a massive number of issues in the staff, the Planet Express crew demands that Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) fire Doctor Zoidberg (West). Farnsworth refuses, saying that Zoidberg is an expert in alien biology. It’s revealed that Zoidberg was assigned to accompany Farnsworth on a mission to kill a “Tritonian Yeti” decades ago. During the trip, Farnsworth became infected with hypermalaria, a horrible disease that can remain dormant for decades. After Zoidberg helps Farnsworth kill the yeti, saving the Professor’s life, Farnsworth hires Zoidberg so that Zoidberg can kill him if he starts to suffer from hypermalaria.
In the “present,” Farnsworth starts to show signs of the disease, so he tells Zoidberg that he has to kill him, but that it needs to be by surprise. After a number of failed attempts, the crew catches Zoidberg trying to kill the Professor and imprisons him. However, Zoidberg discovers a white hair on a lab coat, which leads him to realize that the Professor doesn’t have hypermalaria. He escapes to meet with Mom (Tress MacNeille), who is revealed to still have the Tritonian Yeti’s head. The Professor tells the crew that Zoidberg was trying to help kill him, so they build a giant Rube-Goldberg-Esque murder machine. As it goes off, Zoidberg returns to reveal that the Professor actually has Yetism. The Professor turns into a yeti, but Zoidberg cures Farnsworth using the former Yeti’s pineal gland. Zoidberg and the Professor celebrate as friends.
I have a soft spot for episodes in which Zoidberg actually gets some kind of positive treatment, because he was always one of my favorite characters and he usually gets the short end of the stick. In this episode, we finally find out two key things about the character: Why he was hired and that he actually is pretty good at his job. The only problem is that his job is not actually what his title would indicate, because while he is a good doctor for alien biology, he doesn’t know anything about human anatomy. While it’s odd that he didn’t learn anything about human medicine in the ensuing 80 years of employment, I guess I would counter that most people don’t learn skills outside of their job or hobbies. Since the Professor was never going to fire him, and was his friend, there really wasn’t that much of an incentive to care about being a good human doctor. Also, you have to be a little impressed that he can keep removing and replacing spinal columns without killing anyone.
The idea of hypermalaria is similar to certain slow viruses or latent diseases, like rubella or chagas disease, but ironically not malaria. While malaria can recur if untreated, recurrences are usually lighter than the initial attack. The idea of having a lifelong condition that can spontaneously kill you, however, is one of Futurama’s darker bases for a gag or a story set-up. Of course, there was no chance that they were going to kill off the Professor, so the ending was kind of inevitable, but having Zoidberg save the day was still nice.
Overall, I admit this is in the bottom half of Futurama, but I still have a soft spot for it.
Fry’s illnesses that Zoidberg causes at the beginning of the episode. First, he gets Simpson’s jaundice, a disease that makes him look like a character from the Simpsons, who are famously all yellow. Then, he turns orange and becomes grumpy, getting a condition called Garfield syndrome, like the comic cat. This is caused by an organ rejection, which I think is a reference to the fact that most hospitals do scheduled organ transplants on Monday so that the patient will have full staff for as long as possible. Garfield hates Mondays, so he hates the organs. Next, he gets “Muppet gangrene,” which makes him act like Kermit the Frog. He rightly states that it’s not easy being gangrenous, like Kermit would say it isn’t easy being green. Lastly, he gets an unspecified disease that makes him look like a Smurf. I think this is a subtle reference to Fry being near dead, because turning blue is a sign of not having enough oxygen.
It’s the grey goo scenario, but the goo is drunk off its nano-butt.
The Professor (Billy West) unveils his newest invention, the Banach-Tarski Dupla-Shrinker, a machine that can create two smaller copies of anything that it scans, and can be fueled by any other matter. The Professor asks Bender (John DiMaggio) to fold his sweaters, but Bender decides to duplicate himself so that each of his copies will only have to fold a single sweater. Bender places the Dupla-shrinker into his torso, eats a bunch of matter, then duplicates himself. Bender tells each of the smaller duplicates to fold the sweaters, but they don’t, instead just hanging out and drinking with Bender. The three join Fry (West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) on a delivery, where they mock a giant’s (Patton Oswalt) ugly appearance. Fry, naturally, tries to console the giant, which enrages it, making the crew have to escape. Back on Earth, Bender asks his duplicates for cigars, so they make copies of themselves using the copy of the scanner in their torsos to divide the work further. These four, similarly, keep finding reasons to divide themselves, resulting in Planet Express being overwhelmed by small Benders.
Bender is fine with the army of mini-hims, but the Professor explains that the Benders will keep duplicating until they consume the entire planet. The Planet Express crew hunt down all of the mini-Benders and believe they got them all, only to find that they missed one. That Bender quickly multiplies into a ton of subatomic Benders, which move as a grey goo. Eventually, the Bender army consumes all of the alcohol on Earth, which leads the Professor to hypothesize that they’ll soon die from lack of booze. However, the Benders start making alcohol directly at the molecular level, eliminating all the potable water on Earth. As a result of water becoming booze, the Earth gets wasted. The giant arrives on Earth and is insulted by all the drunks, leading him to go on a rampage. Fry asks Bender to save them, since he’s still sober. Bender contacts all the nano-Benders and tells them that he’ll fold the sweaters if they help him get rid of the giant. They form a giant bender and defeat the monster. Bender asks them to help him defeat other monsters, like poverty and disease, which leads them all to abandon Earth to avoid dealing with it. The day is saved, sort of.
I’ve always been a fan of media dealing with the Grey Goo scenario, because it seems like one of those inevitable threats in the future. There are more of them than you would think. As exemplified here, the Grey Goo scenario is the idea that a series of microscopic robots, able to alter matter on the subatomic level, could, in theory, duplicate to the point that they consume all of the available matter on Earth. It’s often viewed as a cautionary tale about the dangers of creating nanotechnology or artificial intelligence. This episode creates a humorous twist on a sci-fi apocalypse, something that is pretty much perfect for Futurama.
Perhaps the most bizarre thing in the episode that I keep coming back to is how Bender defines work. Bender views folding two sweaters as doing 2 things, whereas beating the giant is somehow only doing one-quintillionth of a thing, because the Benders all do it together. It’s like an embodiment of the idea that “The lazy man works hardest.”
Overall, not a bad episode. I do like Patton Oswalt’s portrayal of the giant with anger issues, although he doesn’t get used enough.
In a rarity for the series, I think the best joke is the device that drives the episode, the Banach-Tarski Dupla-Shrinker. The name is a reference to the Banach-Tarski paradox, which states that if you split an object up into a finite number of pieces composed of an infinite number of sets of points, then you can reassemble the object into two separate copies of itself that are equal in size to the original. Obviously, we cannot get this to work in reality because of conservation of matter. This episode would seem to solve that by having Bender consume matter in order to make the clones. While instinctively you might think that you’d have to use the material of a full-sized Bender in order to make 2 half-sized copies, that’s not the case. Since each of the clones is ½ of each of the previous generation’s dimensions, that means each one is, in fact, only ⅛ of the volume (½ length x ½ width x ½ height = ⅛ volume). So, to create 2, you only need ¼ of the mass of the previous model. It’s a fun play on an existing math paradox, so it was a gimme for the best joke.
Welcome to Future Crime, where the computers use hand motions and the deaths don’t matter.
Fry (Billy West) is sent on a prank delivery to the cryogenics lab, something that he apparently has had happen dozens of times. He becomes depressed about his perpetual status as a delivery boy, but then he witnesses NNYPD officers Smitty and Url (West and John DiMaggio) bust Roberto (David Herman). This inspires him to quit Planet Express and enroll in the police academy. He ends up graduating and is partnered with Url. After working the streets for a while, Fry and Url are promoted to the Future Crimes Division by Chief O’Mannahan (Tress MacNeille). Meanwhile, Leela and Bender (DiMaggio and Katey Sagal) try to do the deliveries, but find each other too grating without Fry as a buffer.
In Future Crimes, Fry and Url are introduced to the cybernetic oracle, Pickles (Herman), a human-robot hybrid whose brain is programmed with the brain cells of all of humanity’s greatest detectives. Pickles’ mind can predict crimes before they happen, a la Minority Report. Fry helps prevent a murder, but then, when alone in the department, Fry sees a future vision of Bender burgling Hedonism Bot’s (Maurice LaMarche) cellar for a priceless bottle of liquor. During the vision, Fry shoots Bender. Trying to avoid this, Fry tells Bender not to do it, but ends up inspiring him to do the crime. Fry then sees what happens if he doesn’t shoot Bender: Bender shares the booze with the Planet Express crew, but they all die due to the potency of the alcohol, meaning if Fry doesn’t shoot him, everyone dies.
Bender does the heist as envisioned and Fry arrives, but Bender decides not to steal anything. Fry claims that he changed the future, only for Pickles to arrive and reveal that this was all a ploy to steal the liquor himself so that he could drink it and kill his human brain. Fry attempts to shoot Pickles, but that ends up hitting Bender. Pickles then shoots Fry and drinks the liquor, killing his brain. The Chief and Url reveal themselves and Fry and Bender show that they’re wearing protective vests. Fry had realized that Pickles was lying to him because Bender would never share alcohol. Fry is fired for warning Bender about the crime and heads back to Planet Express, where he is promoted to “executive delivery boy,” a meaningless title.
This episode is one of the better parodies in the series. It’s based on the story and movie Minority Report and manages to mock a number of the goofy things that were featured in that film, from the use of balls as a way to indicate pre-crime to the psychic floating in a bath to the weird hand-waving computers. Much like that movie, the end of this episode actually points out that most of pre-crime is pointless, because once someone becomes aware of the future, they can choose to change it, but the show does it in a ridiculous way. I always appreciate when the parody and the original prove the same themes.
The part that doesn’t age well, particularly as I write this during some nationwide riots against police in 2020, is how the episode makes jokes about the ease of getting through the police academy and the expectation of police violence. A particularly cringe-worthy line, at least at present, is when Url tells Fry not to stay up too late, because “We gotta lotta people to shoot tomorrow.” Yikes.
Overall, though, the episode makes me laugh. Some of the jokes are a little too dated, particularly the whole Avatar parody subplot, but you can enjoy the pre-crime story even if you don’t know Minority Report.
Look, it was always going to be the joke about Erwin Schrodinger going on a police chase. It’s the least subtle physics joke that the show ever made, because it focuses on the famous “Schrodinger’s cat” thought experiment, which supposedly invalidated the Copenhagen model of quantum mechanics. Schrodinger says that he has a cat, some poison, and a caesium atom, which means that the cat is in a superposition of alive and dead until you collapse the wave function. However, the reason I actually find it hilarious is because after the cat attacks Fry, URL looks in the box and says “there’s also a lotta drugs in there.” It’s that final touch of realism that makes the absurdity so much better for me.
It’s time to hunt the deadliest game: Space Whale. Why do people think it’s Man?
Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) is celebrating the anniversary of the loss of his first crew, aside from Zoidberg (West), who doesn’t remember what happened to them. He orders the current crew to pick up their memorial statue. Due to Leela (Katey Sagal) noticing a grammatical error, the job takes longer than expected and requires the crew to fly back via the Bermuda Tetrahedron, the very same place that the first crew was lost. They find the wreckage of the first Planet Express ship and inspect it, only to find out that a giant space whale ate it. The crew is attacked by the whale, which eats one of their engines and then the statue they were delivering. Leela resolves to kill the whale. She orders the crew to use “Solar Sails” to propel the ship and starts trying to hunt down the whale using 19th Century techniques. Amy (Lauren Tom) becomes the harpooner and Bender (John DiMaggio) mans the crow’s nest.
During a “spaceberg” storm, Bender gets injured trying to catch one of the “bergs,” which turn out to be giant diamonds. Leela refuses to save him, leading the crew to mutiny against her increasing insanity. While they try to perform a rescue, the whale returns and swallows Fry, Bender, Hermes (Phil LaMarr), and Amy. Leela attempts to kill the whale with a cheese knife, but gets swallowed. Zoidberg escapes back to Earth. Inside the whale, Leela meets the former captain, Lando Tucker (David Herman), and is told that the whale feeds on obsession, the kind that is found within spaceship captains. Having mostly drained Lando, it will now eat Leela. However, after Leela gets absorbed into the whale, she pilots it back to Earth, having overpowered it with her obsession. The crowd kills the whale and all of the whale’s victims reunite with their loved ones.
This episode should be terrible, since it’s just a space parody of Moby Dick, a book that is famously difficult to adapt to film. However, they actually put enough effort into keeping it humorous that it ended up working out, and even played with the themes of revenge and obsession in an interesting way. Rather than having her obsession consume her at the end of the story, Leela’s obsession with doing her job is actually what saves the day. She then admits that her revenge against the whale was what made it a monster… only to change her mind and have people kill it out of revenge. Having Leela go crazy like this is actually pretty solidly within her character, so unlike many other parody episodes, this worked out organically.
I love the concept of the 4-D space whale. It exists outside of our concept of reality, seemingly moving through time and space at will, but only emerging into 3-D space in order to hunt and, apparently, breathe in vacuum. While that may seem like an insane concept, if the whale were to exist outside of time, then normal cause and effect would not apply to its biology. Rather than filling its lungs with air, it always has air in its lungs and has to find a way to exhale while static in time. “Inhaling vacuum” might somehow also explain how it can accelerate through space.
Overall, I like this episode pretty well. It’s a fun diversion that has no real impact on anything else in the series.
It’s a countdown:
3) I love that Inez Wong says “My days of joy and luck are over, guess I gotta quit that club.” This is a reference to the Joy Luck Club, a book whose movie adaptation featured Inez Wong’s actress Lauren Tom. Just a fun line.
2) The Tom Baker version of the Doctor from Doctor Who emerges from the space whale. Given that the Doctor is also a time-traveler via the TARDIS, it makes sense that the whale might be the only thing that can attack the TARDIS in flight. Later, Doctor Who actually had an episode with a space whale, so that’s a fun bonus.
1) The title of the episode, Mobius Dick. It combines Moby Dick with the mobius strip, a non-orientable surface. It’s such a funny term that it was my nickname in Mu Alpha Theta mathletics in high school. I have so many regrets.
Bender gets stuck in witness protection and Zoidberg gets some respect.
The Planet Express crew makes a delivery of a set of clamps to the estate of the Donbot (Maurice LaMarche) of the Robot Mafia, which are, naturally, for Francis X. “Clamps” Clampazzo (LaMarche). The delivery is also the day of the Donbot’s daughter’s wedding, leading Bender (John DiMaggio) to gatecrash. During the celebrations, Bender meets the Donbot’s other daughter Bella (Tress MacNeille), and starts making out with her in the stables. While there, Bender witnesses the Robot Mafia beating up Calculon (LaMarche) for owing them money. Bender ends up telling the police about it, leading them to tell Bender that he has to testify in open court. While they try to hide Bender’s identity, the machine malfunctions and the Donbot realizes who is testifying against him. While the jury is about to convict the Donbot, Calculon arrives and, under mob threats, says that he attacked himself. Bender is put into witness protection.
Planet Express starts looking for Bender’s replacement, leading the Donbot to send Clamps to take the position, hoping to track down Bender. Fry (Billy West) quickly tries to bond with Clamps, who goes by Francis, despite Clamps’ constant anger towards Fry. However, Zoidberg (West) becomes angry at Clamps, because people seem to prefer the clamps to Zoidberg’s pincers. Eventually, the crew makes a delivery to the moon, where they find Bender, now living under the identity of Billy West (HA! I get it). It turns out that Billy’s memory contains no traces of being Bender, only of his life as a farmer married to the Crushinator. Despite that, Clamps still tries to kill Billy, only to be stopped by Zoidberg, who cuts off Clamps’ clamps. However, Bella, angry that Bender is cheating on her with the Crushinator, arrives and kills him. The crew goes to mourn Bender at the pizza place next to Planet Express, only to find that Bender is working there. It turns out Billy West was just an innocent robot. Since the mob thinks he’s dead, Bender comes back to work.
So, I really don’t think highly of this episode. It’s premised on Bender testifying against the Donbot, something that seems out of character, particularly after the police refuse to give Bender more money. Bender is a career criminal and a coward, so it strains even the rather loose character continuity of this show to have him do this. The out of character moment is even weirder because the show points out that Bender is a criminal in the episode as a gag. Also, the idea that there are identical bending units has already been done multiple times, including twice with Flexo, which makes it weird that the crew is insisting that Billy is Bender. You’d think they could check his unit number or something. I realize these are weird nitpicks, but when you have to really stretch character traits to make the plot work, maybe just write another plot.
I will say that I love Zoidberg’s role in this episode. After having been the brunt of so much ire from the other characters in the show, it’s kind of nice to see Zoidberg being the hero. It also helps that Zoidberg’s concern in this episode is actually kind of understandable. Zoidberg is a terrible doctor, and everyone constantly points it out, so it makes sense that he’d cherish the thing that he is still appreciated for. It’s also fun to see him stand up for himself so fiercely, including his angry swearing.
Overall, not the best episode, but not the worst either (since that was last week). A big problem is that the episode also isn’t super funny.
The funniest thing in this episode is probably the trial, particularly the scene in which the initial judge appears. He begins to state that he will not suffer any form of intimidation, only to be assassinated in the middle of the statement. He is immediately replaced by a mob-friendly judge who is otherwise identical. The timing and delivery of everything about this switch is pretty much perfect, including the judge deferring to the Donbot about whether he should recuse himself.
See you next week, meatbags.
PREVIOUS – Episode 89: The Futurama Holiday Spectacular
A trio of tales of holiday not-so-fun from the cast of Futurama.
There are three different segments to this episode.
First, it’s Xmas and the crew are preparing to deal with the attack of Robot Santa Claus (John DiMaggio). Fry (Billy West) feels depressed that Xmas has changed, but can’t quite figure out what he misses. Santa then shows up and attacks the crew while singing a song about Christmas Trees. The Professor (West) takes the crew to the Svalbard seed vault to get Pine Tree seeds in order to try and revive the extinct species. They get the seeds, but it turns out they’ve been contaminated by the nearby Germ Warfare Repository. Fry plants it anyway and it grows until Richard Nixon (West) steals it and plants it on the White House lawn. When it is lit, the tree grows enormous and starts to sprout explosive pine cones. Each cone makes a ton of trees which continue the process until trees are everywhere, making the Earth oxygen-rich. Bender (DiMaggio) promptly ignites the atmosphere and kills everyone. Merry Xmas!
After Xmas is over, the crew are destroying undelivered gifts, but Bender complains that people ignore the Robot Holidays, like Robanukah, meaning he has to work. In song, Bender tells them that Robanukah needs petroleum oil in order to hold a fembot wrestling match. After it’s determined that the Earth is out of oil (after Bender oils the fembots up for a month), Bender has the Professor build a drill to get to the center of the Earth for more oil. After dealing with an albino humping worm, the drill gets crushed by pressure. Bender, the only survivor, amuses himself by singing for five hundred million years, discovering that the crew has become petroleum oil. He heads back to the surface, but finds that the fembots are still wrestling without the oil, an apparent Robanukah miracle.
Hermes (Phil LaMarr) invites the crew over to celebrate Kwanzaa. At the dinner table, Zoidberg (West) asks about Kwanzaa, leading Kwanzaabot (Coolio) to show up and sing about it, but also to advise them that they need real beeswax candles. Due to colony collapse, the Earth no longer has bees so they head to the Space Bee hive. Unfortunately, the space bees are suffering from parasites that make them racist, so Hermes uses the principles of Kwanzaa to help the Queen save the hive. He succeeds, but that just unites the bees against people, leading the bees to make the crew into candles.
Also, everything was sponsored by Gunderson’s nuts.
This is usually considered one of the worst episodes of Futurama and I am sad to say that it is earned. I don’t actually know if this is the worst episode, but it’s in my bottom five for sure. A big part of it is that it’s a holiday special that is based around creatively killing off all of the main characters in each story, something that never feels right. Killing off the entire cast of a comedy show can be hilarious (ask Blackadder), but none of these are particularly funny. They’re either too sudden or too disturbing to be funny, or both. The running gag of being sponsored by a nut company isn’t much better.
While the idea of having a song for each of the holidays isn’t bad in itself, the songs aren’t particularly funny or entertaining, with the exception of Coolio’s presentation about Kwanzaa. Given that most of Matt Groening’s shows, including this one, have great original songs, the letdown is all the greater.
Overall, this really isn’t that funny, and that’s pretty much the greatest sin the show can commit.
Honestly, I laugh less in this episode than almost any other. I think the only line that always gives me a chuckle is when Kwanzaabot breaks through the wall and Dwight calls him Kool-Aid. However, that might be due to Family Guy doing so many Kool-Aid gags that I honestly just enjoy an animated Kool-Aid reference. \
Leela and Fry lead a devolution revolution… featuring DEVO.
The Planet Express crew are hired for their 100th delivery to the wealthy Mrs. Astor (Tress MacNeille). She invites the crew to a fundraiser for the United Mutant Scholarship Fund, which is revealed to be a way to keep mutants segregated from humanity. When tempers start to flare, Fry (Billy West) accidentally tells the guests that Leela (Katey Sagal) is a mutant living illegally on the surface. In response, she is banished to the sewers. Fry tries to appeal to the city, but accidentally gets the rest of the crew, minus Bender (John DiMaggio), who is throwing an epic party, banished as punishment for harboring Leela. Fry tries to empathize with Leela’s plight now that he’s been in the sewers, but Leela tells him the only way he could understand would be to mutate himself in the toxic lake. He avoids jumping in, angering Leela further.
While wandering the sewers, the crew finds the wreckage of the Land Titanic, a bus that was designed to be like the Titanic and which sank under the surface. On board, they find a Quantum Force Gemerald which shoots out powerful energy blasts, and a passenger manifest. Fry, unable to sleep due to his fight with Leela, walks into the toxic lake and mutates horribly. Sick of living beneath the ground, Leela organizes a revolt. Fry and Bender bend the West Side Pipeway so that all of the sewage in New New York goes back to the streets. Mayor Poopenmeyer stores all of the sewage in Madison Cube Garden. When Leela leads the mutants to the surface to demand equal rights, Mrs. Astor, a blatant anti-mutant racist, has her butler attack the mob by sending a wave of the sewage. Fry appears and uses the Quantum Gemerald to save the crowd. He then reveals that the passenger list to the Land Titanic included Mrs. Astor’s husband Mr. Astor (Maurice LaMarche) as well as mutants. Leela’s Grandmother appears, revealing that she was on the Land Titanic and that Mr. Astor gave her his seat on the “life car.” This leads Mrs. Astor to ask the mayor to let mutants onto the surface, to which he agrees. Fry and Leela kiss, but Fry suddenly is sheds his mutated outer layer, revealing it to be a mutated Mr. Astor. The crew head home to party and celebrate their hundredth delivery.
This is one of the rare Futurama episodes that actually has long-lasting ramifications on the series. After this episode, mutants stop being restricted to the sewers, so even background shots start featuring them. Honestly, I can’t think of any other episode that so easily divides the series by the events, and that’s including the films. Given that we saw the mutants first in the beginning of Season 2, it’s strange to think that we made it through 3 and a half seasons without seeing any of the non-Turanga mutants on the surface. I guess it made sense to make such a big change on what they consider the 100th episode.
This is also one of the many episodes that tackles a social topic, although in this case the metaphor is so broad that it could easily be applied to any number of groups that have been oppressed in the past. The episode references the Million Man March, and the subsequent Million Woman March, with the Million Mutant March, but also references the 1969 Stonewall Riots with the title, as newspapers covered Stonewall with the image of a sign that said “Homosexuals are revolting.” Basically, just a reminder that segregation is segregation and oppression is oppression, no matter what the reason or the group. If we start drawing lines based on race, sexuality, or number of eyes, we are inherently reducing the humanity of someone.
The only thing I really don’t like about this episode is that the ending is mostly a bunch of quick coincidences that wrap everything up, rather than someone actually realizing how horrible it is for mutants to be oppressed. Fry ends up being perfectly normal again, Leela’s back on the surface, and all it really took was one rich woman asking the Mayor. They try to sort-of apologize for it by having Zoidberg sarcastically say “Hooray, a happy ending for the rich people,” but it’s still kind of depressing that equality is won by making a single wealthy woman feel empathy, rather than any societal recognition.
Overall, though, still a good episode. Also, I love that Devo are presented as mutants.
It’s this call and response:
Dwayne the giant head mutant: “Are we not men now?”
Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo: “I’m forty percent potato, but close enough!”
I love this because it’s like four layers of humor. “Are we not men now?” is part of the first Devo album title, Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!. That album’s title comes from Devo’s song “Jocko Homo,” which takes its name from an anti-evolution work in the 1920s and focuses on the idea that humanity is de-evolving, the inspiration for the band’s name. However, “Are we not men?” is taken from the movie Island of Lost Souls, which is an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau. “Are we not men?” is the call and response that the anthropomorphic animals of the island chant when they say what distinguishes them from animals, before ultimately devolving back into them. So, this is drawing a parallel between the concept of man as just an elevated animal and the idea that mutants are just the natural step of humanity after it de-evolves. The next part, “I’m forty percent potato” is just a reference to the fact that Devo’s fans are called “spuds.”
Did we need an episode that is about the marital problems on Omicron Persei 8? Yep.
Lrrr, Ruler of the Planet Omicron Persei 8 (Maurice LaMarche) is once again fighting with his wife Ndnd (Tress MacNeille); this time it’s over his lack of world-conquering aspirations. He invades Earth, but lands in Comic-Con and is mistaken for a cosplayer. After he fails to conquer anything, Ndnd kicks him out. He heads to the Planet Express building looking for shelter. Suffering from a mid-life crisis, Lrrr gets “horn extensions,” new clothes, and goes out with Bender (John DiMaggio) to a club where he almost hooks up with a young “trans-species” woman named Grrrl (Katee Sackhoff).This leads him to realize that Leela (Katey Sagal) is right and that he needs to get back together with his wife. The Planet Express crew uses the head of Orson Welles (LaMarche) to do a version of War of the Worlds to fool Ndnd into thinking that Lrrr conquered Earth, but accidentally fools Earth into surrendering.
In a subplot, Fry (Billy West) attempts to write a comic book, but continually makes the hero character either too overpowered or completely ineffectual. His work is degraded by the entire staff and fails to impress Leela. The only thing people like about it is that it has ads for goofy products in the back, some of which are the Professor’s (West).
While Lrrr rules over Earth, Leela constantly chides him about being honest with his wife, which leads Ndnd to become suspicious of them. Grrl returns to try and win Lrrr’s affections, but Ndnd zaps Grrl with her own ray gun. Ndnd says that Lrrr sleeping with Grrl doesn’t bother her, but Leela nagging Lrrr does, because that’s a wife’s job. Ndnd challenges Leela to Rrrmrrrmrrrfrrrmrrr or consequences, the Omicronian rite of deciding. Lrrr is given a ray gun and told to shoot one of the women. He ends up firing at Leela, but Fry jumps in the way and gets disintegrated. Ndnd affirms her love for Lrrr because he fired at Leela and they depart. Grrl returns to try again, leading them to realize that the ray gun she brought was just Farnsworth’s teleporter ray, so they find Fry safe, having finally completed his comic book, which Leela thinks is pretty good.
Maurice LaMarche does a lot of the heavy lifting in this episode, for which he won an Emmy. Not only does he play Lrrr, but he revives his famous impression of Orson Welles, having previously used it in Pinky and the Brain, Ed Wood, The Critic, and The Simpsons. He’s essentially the go-to Orson Welles voice and, in this episode, he nails it once again when he starts criticizing the script to the fake invasion in the way that Orson Welles famously criticized the Ad Copy for Findus Peas in the 1970s. If you haven’t heard the original, I’m putting it here. It’s absolutely amazing.
This episode mostly benefits from having such a generic A-Plot that they could really play around with it. They end up with a ton of top-tier jokes because of that freedom. An episode based around the Honeymooners-esque Lrrr and Ndnd on the rocks has been done multiple times, but this is the first one where they actually seem to separate, so it’s the first one where we really see how Lrrr is on his own. It turns out that he needs someone to nag him to feel whole.
Overall, it’s a solid episode.
Much of the Comic Con of the future could be in here, particularly the fact that multiple characters cosplay as other characters in the show, but the best gag is probably the fake version of Futurama that Matt Groening presents at Comic Con. It’s called “Futurella” and it takes place in the future year of 4000. We find out literally nothing else about it, because Fox cancels it about 10 seconds into the first episode teaser. Groening and the staff can only admire how much Fox has streamlined cancelling TV Shows. They follow this up by mentioning Joss Whedon, because let’s remove all of the subtlety.