Futurama teaches us why Fry loves being the universe's punching bag

On last night's Futurama, Fry took it upon himself to defend a helpless giant egg, and then he promptly fell in love with the monstrous, acid-spewing bone vampire that hatched from it. Fry really is the ultimate glutton for punishment.

"Fry Am The Egg Man" finds Leela dragging Fry and Bender to a farmer's market after one too many horrendous experiences at Fishy Joe's fast food restaurant. While there, she purchases a bunch of worryingly overlarge, disturbingly overpriced eggs, and for some reason she blackmails the crew into eating them for breakfast with her. Fry backs out when he realizes there's a future living being inside that egg, and he refuses to eat a defenseless creature... He'll wait until it hatches, and then eat it.

Futurama teaches us why Fry loves being the universe's punching bag

But all the time spent protecting the egg teaches Fry to love his prospective pet. That's bad news when the thing actually hatches, as it turns out the creature - which Fry immediately names Mr. Peppy, ensuring they won't be able to just quickly kill the damn thing - is a wild, dangerous beast that pumps acid out of seemingly every orifice. By the time Mr. Peppy is the size of a Buick, it becomes clear that it can't stay on Earth.

So the crew heads off to Mr. Peppy's ancestral home planet, which is basically Space Scotland, a world where everyone is named Angus and the smallest whiskey is served in an aquarium. There, Leela flirts with Angus McZongo, who vows to kill Mr. Peppy should he start eating the bones of the planet's sheep. But when sheep's bones start disappearing, Fry refuses to believe that his beloved bone vampire could be behind it.

Futurama teaches us why Fry loves being the universe's punching bag

"Fry am the Egg Man" is one of those middle-of-the-pack Futurama episodes. It's got a bunch of decent gags, and there's a sense that all our heroes are more or less in character, which has been an issue I've had with some episodes this season. Basically, it's a pleasant way to spend thirty minutes, but it lacks that extra something that made last week's "Möbius Dick" feel special. It doesn't help that the whole thing feels a bit shapeless, as it wanders from the farmer's market set piece to Fry protecting the egg to Mr. Peppy wreacking havoc on Earth to the final trip to Space Scotland.

I keep calling it that, and I really shouldn't - not when its name is probably my favorite joke of the episode. You see, the planet is Doohan VI, and it's kind of ridiculously appropriate to name a planet made up of a Canadian (Maurice LaMarche as main Scot Angus McZongo) and Americans doing lovably bad Scottish accents after James Doohan, the original sci-fi Canadian doing a lovably bad Scottish accent. And as far as over-the-top cultural pastiches go, I'd say Futurama's take on Scotland is one of its more effective, but maybe that's just the damned Englishman in me talking. (For the record, my second favorite joke was also a subtle one - I loved that Bender's Zuban cigars made one of the Space Scotsman keel over while his pet bird was unaffected. It's not often you see a good "canary in a coal mine" gag.)

Futurama teaches us why Fry loves being the universe's punching bag

Actually, what really interests me about this episode is what it says about Fry. If there is a cohesive through line for this episode - and I'm not totally sure there is - then it's a thematic one: specifically, that Fry is the most stupidly trusting and loving person in existence. Everyone Fry shows any interest in or affection for will end up doing him some combination of bodily or psychological harm, whether it's Fishy Joe's and their instant heart attacks (right after Fry got done defending them!), the Amazons at the farmer's market ("I'm scare-oused!"), of course Mr. Peppy, and even Leela, what with her throwing away whatever relationship they have so that she can go after the largely hideous but still sorta manly Angus McZongo.

This is something we've seen before this episode. Hell, it's pretty much the entire crux of Bender and Fry's friendship, which is largely predicated on Fry being indestructible enough to withstand everything Bender does to him. Mr. Peppy is something of a weird mirror of that friendship, and once again Bender actually comes out looking worse in this comparison - they both hurt Fry more or less constantly, but it actually appears that Mr. Peppy doesn't mean to, and does have some genuine love for Fry that he can only express by inadvertently scalding him with acid. Actually, that sounds more like Bender than I had anticipated.

Futurama teaches us why Fry loves being the universe's punching bag

What fascinates me about all this is that it's close to the only clear character trait Fry has left, other than his tremendous stupidity. To paraphrase Professor Lawrence Pierce of the University of Chicago, I think Fry gets stupider ever year! It's hard to imagine the character as he stands now being capable of the real emotional resonance seen in, say, "The Luck of the Fryrish" or the basically sound decision-making on display in "The Why of Fry." It's possible the writers could pull him back from the brink of total stupidity, but he seems pretty far gone at this point.

As such, what we're left with is a character with the emotional register of a not particularly bright puppy, someone so desperate to be loved that he will unconditionally accept anyone who professes affection for him, even if they bathe him in acid or unceremoniously dump him for a greeter at a Scottish pub or do all the horrible things Bender has done to him. Back in "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", Leela called Fry's love of the original Star Trek "touchingly pathetic", and that can be extended to Fry's entire character at this point.

Futurama teaches us why Fry loves being the universe's punching bag

Now, it's an open question whether this actually works for the character. But it does mean Fry is about the only character on the show without any overriding sociopathic tendencies - between "Möbius Dick" and "Yo Leela Leela", even our once straight arrow cyclops has kinda gone off the deep end. There's a certain weird nobility in Fry's idiocy, which was perhaps most clearly encapsulated in last year's "The Duh Vinci Code." And whatever nobility Fry shows in "Fry am the Egg Man", it's most definitely weird.

Still, this episode helped me remember why, on some level, Fry deserves to be called the hero of Futurama, even if he's perhaps the most profoundly incapable hero in the history of science fiction (a few finest hours like "The Why of Fry" notwithstanding). Now I just wonder what Fry's old dog Seymour would think of Mr. Peppy. I suppose we can just be glad that the Futurama writers didn't feel like revealing Mr. Peppy didn't spend the next twelve years on Doohan VI waiting for Fry to return. Now that would have been crossing the line...