Futurama season seven started off with two new episodes, full of the series' unique mixture of sappy moments and cold-blooded mayhem. Find out what happens when Bender procreates (a second time), and when Fry and Leela have to find a way to meet each other half-way.
The Bots and the Bees
As we said in yesterday's crash course in Futurama-ology, Bender has always been the heartless, immoral one of the group — so it takes a lot to construct an episode in which we see any heart in him.
In the season opener, it takes an even more immoral robot: A slurm-pushing beverage machine named Bev, who after a one night stand with Bender actually beats Bender to abandoning their child, little Ben "Vending" Rodriguez. To everyone's surprise — especially those of us who saw The Beast With A Billion Backs, in which Bender literally drop-kicked his kid into Hell in order to get an army to take over Earth — Bender turns out to be a good father. When the armless Bev reappears and demands little Ben back, they go on the run to stay together.
Bev is voiced by Wanda Sykes, and at first she's a disappointing character. We've seen plenty of hate-them-then-love-them scenarios play out with Bender. It's only during the second half of the episode, when she really gets sociopathic, that the character comes into her own.
But like most like most episodes, it's not the plot that keeps us going, it's the throwaway lines and sight-gags that are the really hilarious parts. In this case, it's Fry glowing brighter and brighter as he drinks more slurm, and ends up nude and glowing like a flashlight. It's also the entire gang rushing to the delivery service address at the beginning, when the Professor puts out the Planet Express signal. And as always we get it in little bursts, like, "You're under arrest for kidnapping and burning raccoons without a license," and the probable most-quoted line of the episode: "Wipe my tiny metal ass."
In the end, plot contrivances put the entire crew back where they were at the beginning, so we probably won't see any character development with Bender. But then again, he's Bender. We don't want to see him develop. Although The Bots and The Bees doesn't have the imaginative scope of the greatest episodes of Futurama, like The Late Philip J Fry and Roswell That Ends Well, it's a funny episode with a lot of pitch-perfect exchanges.
A Farewell to Arms
This episode deals with a rocky area for the series: Fry and Leela's relationship. I have said that Fry's pursuit of Leela was pathetic, and I stand by that. Anyone who gets stuck with walking the woman he loves' pet, while she goes on a date with another guy, and then responds with making her a macaroni art love letter is pathetic. What I haven't stressed is that Leela is, occasionally, a shrieking Hell-harpy whose callousness to Fry is jaw-dropping. They're not a good match, but the series forces them together. It makes for a lot of good conflict, but it's hard to negotiate that conflict without the couple in question bickering constantly.
This episode doesn't entirely succeed, but then it gives them good cause to fight. Fry consistently makes little gestures that are meant to show his love for Leela, but because he has the brain of a microwaved banana, the gestures always up hurting more than helping her. Being Leela, she doesn't react well to this. After a series of mishaps that include Fry losing his only pair of pants down a badger hole and Leela breaking her leg, the crew finds an ancient Martian prophecy that spells doom for the Earth. After the government evacuates people to Mars on an ancient Martian space ship, and Fry shows how far he's willing to go to prove his love for Leela, they all find out that a Martian prophecy would spell doom for Mars, not for Earth.
There are a lot of good things going on in this episode — much of it being the resolution of the Fry and Leela conflict. He's still mostly ineffective, but he's fun and so entirely loves her, that she learns to take it with a little more good grace — even if her arm gets torn off.
But I can't focus on those things, because the government is involved. In Futurama, the elected government of Earth is commanded by the head of Richard Nixon, and he always steals the show. This episode is no different. From choosing Mars as an evacuation site — "It's close, with lots of wide open spaces and no Woodward or Bernstein. That's a plus." — to his naming of the first city they build Dickfrancisco, Nixon is always the most fun character in the episode. Come for the tender resolution between lovers. Stay for the Nixon. And tune in next week for more Futurama. I know I will.