One of my all-time favorite shows, Futurama, is airing its final season this summer. As the Single Malt Movies author, I find it only fitting that I review along with each episode of the season Bender’s primary fuel source – beer. For the season opener, I’ll be reviewing two episodes, as the show had an hour-long premiere. Now, a note for future reference: I’ve never found a consistent labeling of Futrama‘s episodes. This episode has been referred to as s07e14, s07Be01, and s10e01, so I’m just going to refer to the episodes by title. This show has had so many cancellations and half-seasons and movies and reboots and movies that the entire internet has lost track. So confusing, in fact, that I need a beer now.
This week, I review Eurotrash Pilz by Southern Tier brewing company. It’s relatively local, located in Lakewood of western New York. It’s aesthetically pleasing — translucent and golden with a white foamy head. Almost a picture-perfect beer when poured! As a result of such a foamy head though, the beer ends up lacking a bit of carbonation. The taste itself is very earthy. The flavor transgresses from a bread-y flavor with a subtle hint of caramel to a more powerful bitter, grassy flavor. You’re left with a strong garden flavor: crisp, clean, and earthy. Overall, it wasn’t my favorite of beers, but then again, I prefer the darker end of the beer spectrum. The taste and mouthfeel actually weren’t too far off from that of a macro American beer, so if that’s your thing, go for it!
The season (or half-season) starts out in medias res, as if this weren’t the last season ever. The crew is sitting around a table like they’ve always been, discussing their next shipment, which happens to be the delivery of a very delicate and very sharp chandelier. They prepare to load it into the ship, when we run into the following quirky bit of dialogue.
Farnsworth: I just turbo-charged the ship’s matter compressor.
Fry: What’s the matter compressor?
Farnsworth: Nothing’s the matter Fry, now that I’ve turbo-charged the matter compressor.
So, instead of, say, installing seat belts, the professor turbo-charges the ship. Why not go as fast as you can while delivering a glass chandelier? Seems legit. Apparently though, it’s not, and the ship crashes moments after taking off, shattering the chandelier and sending spikes of glass into the crew’s bodies. Because no one saw that coming.
Devastated that the crew has disposed of the slaughterhouse of a ship for scrap metal, the Professor abandons the crew and seeks refuge at the junkyard, and turns the Planet Express into a hot rod. In the meantime, we see the scrapyard destroy a lot of classic cars from old cartoons. After stealing all the parts he needs, the professor goes for a ride to test out his new scrap heap of a ship. But wait — it’s not a scrap heap, it’s just covered in junk! We find this out when some street-racing hoodlums taunt him for “making the roads unsafe for us maniac street-racers!” All of a sudden, the revamped Planet Express sheds its many exterior layers of junk, threatening the street racers. We also get to witness this fantastic exchange: “Yo wrinkles — you got big glasses. I’m gonna call you the professor.” “What? No one calls me that!”
A recurring topic throughout the episode that starts during the race is the childhood abuse that one of the street racers, Minx, suffered through. She’ll have you know at least a half-dozen times though: it was verbal abuse, not physical. After a lengthy car chase involving the police (we see a pedestrian yell “Ironic!” after being knocked over by a police car), Farnsworth pulls a dimensional drift, and that grabs the street gang’s attention. Not believing their loss, they invite the Professor to join their gang.
Meanwhile, Leela has purchased a new ship for Planet Express that’s 100% danger-proof. It’s a non-aerodynamic cube to prevent speeding, it’s got padded walls and even a padded computer monitor instead of a dashboard, and handcuffs disguised as cup holders to prevent you from falling out of your seat. The new ship doesn’t even require the crew to get out of the ship. Just load it up, take a nap, and miss all the amazing inter-stellar views. Completely safe and adventure-free. The new ship is pretty much the minivan of the future, and Leela is the unfortunate soccer mom. Poor Leela.
Aggravated with the lack of captaining Leela needs to offer to the ship, she challanges Farnsworth to a mobius drag strip race after he taunts her for being a slow driver. We get a nice math joke during the race, which is the first time in the episode the writers give us some non-pop culture nerd humor, which is always nice. Even Zoidberg quips, “Hahaha, you kids and your topology.” For those who aren’t aware, a mobius strip is a one-sided 3-dimensional object. One can be created by taking a strip of paper and twisting it once before connecting the ends together. The combination of a mobius strip and Farnsworth’s dimensional drifting leads to Leela and the professor in a head-on collision over Fry’s body, sending them all to a two-dimensional world.
The remaining crew and street gang mourn briefly, but then band together to form the new Planet Express crew, assuming Fry, Leela, Farnsworth, and Bender (who was sleeping in the back seat) have died. The 2-D world brings up some really interesting laws of physics! No one can eat because having the two openings requisite of a digestive tract would split their bodies in two. It’s also impossible to step past things — one must step over them. To our eye, nothing can be concealed and everything is always visible, but all anyone there can see is vertical line segments. Very fascinating. The professor explains to the inhabitants, “If there can be an x-axis and a y-axis, why not a z-axis?” This angers the two-dimensional inhabitants, so they jump into the Planet Express and attempt a dimensional drift to send them back to the 3-dimensional world. Then you get to wonder what expanding past 2.pi dimensions means!
Just before the junkyard scraps the remains of the mobius drag strip collision, the Planet Express tears through the wreckage with the previously flattened crew intact. Bender struts out of the ship with a mouth full of cigars and a candelabra with which to light them all. Hermes acknowledges the emotional 5 minutes that just occurred and the crew speeds off into space to the tune of cool music.
Recap: So, for the season opener, I wasn’t very impressed. The copious references to speed racing movies seemed unnecessary and we saw the physical intricacies of a two-dimensional world only briefly. The episode seemed to have too much pop-culture, not enough science, and no progress in the story line, unless for some reason the street gang shows up in the next episode, but I doubt it. I hope the rest of the last season improves.
Fry and Leela’s Big Fling
The second episode of the half-season is much, much stronger. The episode starts off with Fry and Leela trying to inconspicuously leave Planet Express one afternoon so they can go on a date, unbothered by all of their coworkers. What Fry puts together is really impressive, and he’s as suave as that one time his body is taken over by parasites from ingesting a gas station sandwich. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last long, as they spot Scruffy sketchily mopping up in the corner, unwilling to give them privacy.
Taking a walk in the park instead, they are accosted by Bender on his nightly crime spree, who tries to mug them. Then at Elzar’s Zoidberg tries to make some extra money as a busboy and, well, he’s Zoidberg. Maybe they’d get some peace at Leela’s place, but, alas, Nibbler and his wandering eye ruin the evening. Then targeted advertising saves the day! A hologram pops out of Leela’s arm computer advertising Casa Isolate Eco-Resort, which guarantees them all the privacy they’ll ever need… and at a return-visitor’s discount!
Meanwhile, the Planet Express crew is lost without Leela to captain their ship. They need to make a car delivery to Simian 7: the Planet of the Primates, which happens to not allow humans. Luckily, Bender and Zoidberg aren’t human, and Amy has marmoset pyjamas! What could do wrong with such a capable crew?
Back to Fry and Leela’s last attempt at a romantic getaway together. The resort is fantastic. Robotic hands do everything from moving your luggage to moving your jaw so you don’t have to chew on your own. The two end up skinny dipping in the private resort and, per Fry’s suggestion, play Marco Polo. Of all people, Leela’s ex-boyfriend Shawn (he’s the reason Leela gets a return discount here) answers a ‘Marco’ call, and once again, Fry and Leela are not alone. This finally gives us a change to see how Leela introduces Fry to an outsider, but it doesn’t get us very far:
Leela: I’d like you to meet Fry. He and I are — what would you say we are, Fry?
Fry: Nude and interrupted.
Fry and Leela are one of my favorite couples on television, and I’m always interested in the progress of their relationship. For the sweetest of their episodes, I recommend: The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings, Overclockwise, and The Late Phillip J. Fry. Definitely some tear-jerkers in there.
When Bender, Zoidberg, and Amy (in disguise) arrive on Simian 7, they’ve got a ship load of cars so that the primates can use the tires as office chairs. Everything seems to be going well until they run into an old friend, who immediately recognizes Sparkles the Marmoset as Amy in disguise. He keeps their secret and brings them on a tour of Simian 7.
Back at the resort, we get to see the ever-endearing drunk Fry mope about his girlfriend(?) being saxaphone-seranaded by her ex-boyfriend Shawn. Fry and Shawn get in a fight, but Shawn’s wife Darlene breaks it up. Wait a minute — Shawn wasn’t single the whole time? It turns out he and his frugal self were on vacation with his wife Darlene; they were stranded at the 2-person resort another day because the transportation shuttle broke down.
Watching Gunter give a tour to the crew is one of the more entertaining bits of the episode. The parallels between Earth and Simian 7 is cute. We get a lot of great puns like “Christopher Colobus” and the “Smithsimian” museum. While visiting the zoo, Gunter, Bender, Zoidberg, and Amy stumble upon the Human Habitat, complete with “Quiet! Humans Mating” sign. Yet again, we learn that Fry and Leela are not alone. Sigh. Turns out, the isolate 2-person resort has been a Human Habitat exhibit at the Simian 7 Zoo for quite some time, where primates observe human mating habits and incite drama by combining targeted advertising and conveniently broken-down travel shuttles. Bender, Zoidberg, and Amy not only witness the whole thing, but hear Fry and Leela say some offensive things about the three of them. The episode ends with them deciding whether or not to tell the couple what they saw, because who doesn’t love watching Fry make a fool of himself?
Bender: As fun as it is to watch Fry try and operate his pants, you can’t keep him and Leela here against their will!
Recap: The episode peaks in its adorable Fry/Leela relationship progress at the very beginning, but the rest of the episode is stilled filled with the traditional intelligent, witty humor that we’ve come to love over the past 7 or 10 seasons, depending on who’s counting. It was also nice to see the past characters Gunter and Dr. Banjo, from Mars University. If it’s been spoiled for you how this season (and the show) are going to end, you’ll see how this episode helps build up to that. If the finale hasn’t been spoiled for you, well, I hope you enjoyed Fry and Leela’s Big Fling!