Futurama turns Bender into a god, and somehow all hell doesn't break loose

Yesterday's Futurama found Bender on the path to omniscience, as an attempt to improve his video game abilities made him a robot god. Meanwhile, Fry tried desperately to salvage things with Leela...even if he's not sure what those things are.

"Overclockwise" was written as a potential series finale if Comedy Central had not picked the show up again - next week's "Reincarnation" is out of continuity, so it wouldn't have counted - and there's definitely the sense that everyone pulled out all the stops for this episode, just in case it really was the last. I can't quite call it a classic - I don't think any from this batch quite qualify - but it was still excellent, an episode full of big ideas, good gags, and some nice open-ended closure for Fry and Leela.

The episode begins with Fry, Cubert, and Bender losing horribly at their video game World of World War II 3, mostly because Bender's hand-eye coordination is hopelessly obsolete. Cubert decides to overclock Bender and ramp up his efficiency, which works great except for two minor issues. One, this comes to the attention of Bender's manufacturer Mom, who is out to enforce any and all voiding of her warranties with extreme prejudice. Two, Bender can't stop overclocking, and soon he's on the road to godhood.

Meanwhile, Leela can't figure out why she's still with Fry - albeit in an on-again, off-again capacity - or why she is still at Planet Express. When Cubert and his legal guardian the Professor are arrested for the illegal Bender modification, it appears that the company is finally finished for good, and so Leela decides to leave and become a real estate agent in deep space. Fry is desperate to get her back, and he appeals to the now omniscient Bender for help, but it's not at all clear that the newly deified robot still cares enough about human concerns to help out.

As would have been richly appropriate for any Futurama series finale, there's a big scene in a courtroom, as the Hyper-Chicken and Judge Whitey (two of my favorite side characters) help navigate the totally legit and not at all trumped up charges against the Professor and Cubert. It's not a cast reunion on the same sort of level as we've seen in previous would-be finales - there wasn't nearly enough CALCULON!!! for my tastes, I must say - but it was nice to bring back those two and Mom for some final silliness. And it's kind of great that Bender had to become omniscient to come up with such a nonsensical solution.

Futurama turns Bender into a god, and somehow all hell doesn't break loose

Indeed, the whole idea of overclocking Bender into omniscience is a fun one, and it makes for a bunch of good moments. Bender's convoluted defense plan against Mom's drones - it involved a microwavable turkey and a badminton court, so you know it's good - was a work of genius, and the ultimate payoff when he asked Dr. Zoidberg to move a couple feet over was excellent.

Making Bender into a god brought the show into territory previously explored to tremendous effect in "Godfellas", and it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity that the newly omniscient, galaxy-burping Bender didn't bump into that also all-powerful entity we met back then. John DiMaggio's work as Bender the god was pretty sublime, taking our lovable sociopath and turning him into someone who really does seem to have abandoned all human emotions...at least until that jerk Randy is mentioned.

The other big thread of this episode is the Fry and Leela relationship. The episode seems to kind of throw up its hands and admit that Fry and Leela as any sort of couple doesn't really make any sense, and that there really isn't that much to say about it beyond the fact that Fry loves Leela, and Leela can probably do better, maybe. Here, the show is again a victim of having to write so many different potential series finales.

The fact of the matter is that the perfect capstone to their relationship was all the way back in "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings", with the crude, holophoner versions of Fry and Leela walking off into a poorly drawn sunset. It was bittersweet, maybe, but it probably took their relationship as far as these two characters could ever logically be made to go. The Lars story in Bender's Big Score served as a very nice epilogue to that moment, but really, I don't think this show ever could have managed to write a proper, long-running romance between these two characters.

By my count, I'd say only three episodes of the new run really do anything with the Fry and Leela relationship. It formed the backbone of the show's "Rebirth", it was used to powerful emotional effect in "The Late Philip J. Fry", and it was pushed in the most hilariously disgusting direction possible in "The Prisoner of Benda." Perhaps not coincidentally, those last two episodes are by far the best episodes of the show's latter-day run (and "Rebirth" is up there as well), but other than that, the writers have seemed content to stick Fry and Leela in the background.

Indeed, that remains much the same in this episode, as Leela just up and leaves for a good stretch of the episode, and Fry is very sad about it until godlike Bender saves the day in the way only godlike Bender can. The final scene, as Fry and Leela read over what the rest of their lives will be like together, is a sweet moment, and would have functioned nicely if this was indeed the series finale. I'll admit, I feel like it's hitting pretty much the same emotional beat that the end of "The Devil's Hands" did, but I won't be churlish - it's an effective moment, even if it draws most of its power from the twelve years we've spent with these characters as opposed to anything that's really concretely shown in this particular episode.

Ultimately, if this had been the last ever episode of in-continuity Futurama, I'd say the show would have been able to bow out with a nice bit of dignity and a fine episode to its name. (As these things go, it would have been a slightly better finale than Into the Wild Green Yonder would have been, so there's that.) But that's moot, as this isn't the series finale. Hell, it isn't even the season finale, and I'll be back next week to see Futurama's "Reincarnation" and give my final thoughts on the season.