Futurama: “31st Century Fox”
The hunt is on and Bender is the hilarious prey.
September 4, 2012 8:49 pmR. Wesley Matheson
For the past week, I’ve attempting to articulate my thoughts on the wrap-up to Futurama’s rather lackluster half-seventh season (Comedy Central announced earlier that Futurama’s seventh season will be split into two, 13-episode half-seasons).
After days of mulling, I indeed came to the staggering, eloquent conclusion that the two episodes were decent. In fact, I’d even expand, if humanly possible, on my own disarmingly poignant insight and say the episodes - “31st Century Fox” and “Naturama” - were decent examples of what Futurama does best when it’s on its game. They offered biting social commentary; some geeky science stuff; subtle comedy combined with a number of hearty laughs; and brief glimpses at the beating heart that once defined our beloved sci-fi series.
Still, the episodes suffer from some flaws that were difficult to overlook, such as its consistently scattered plotting that really takes away from the stories it tries to tell. And the insistence that jokes - no matter how lame - are needed to fill space. Silence is better in many cases where there’s just no natural need for humor (I’m looking at you, ice cream bit). Are comedy series going to hit all the time? Of course not. But Futurama has been in the game long enough to know its limits.
(Note: I will cover "Naturama" in a separate post)
“31st Century Fox,” was witty, interesting, and at times unpredictable. It incorporated a few sharp jabs at the sport of foxhunting, which was a fresh attack if nothing else. Apparently, foxhunting is still a thing today in the United Kingdom and other countries. Touché for bringing that to light. It also overtly addressed the slaughtering of innocent animals, and, perhaps more importantly, comically related how we’re all pretty much capable and culpable of murdering innocent things all the time.
The episode begins when Bender purchases foxhunting garb to replace his Planet Express uniform, which leads him on the hunt with an elite foxhunting club, comprised of uptight, wealthy, British gentlemen (I’ll always appreciate a stab at British elitism, even though it is a very cliché and predictable stab). Leela protests this hunt, of course, but acquiesces once it’s revealed the hunted fox, as well as the pursuing hounds, are robots. This infuriates Bender, who leads a front to free robot animals from such cruelty and is subsequently hunted by the foxhunters.
Much leading up to the great Bender hunt is a bit of a jumbled, rambling comedy. But it’s not unwelcome. In fact, this episode is far more focused than most the show’s recent episodes. The final third, which involves the hunt of Bender, is probably the best time spent on the episode, demonstrating what Futurama's best qualities. Jokes come naturally, the wit is exceptional, the commentary biting, and there’s even a bit of pathos involving a tiny, mechanical fox. You actually begin to feel for the mechanical mammal, which seems to share its heroic, sympathetic persona with many of Futurama’s pitiable animals (damnit, Seymour, you beautiful bastard).
Additionally, most of what Bender says hits, which is a triumph in its own right. In fact, even though much of the episode focused on Bender, our belligerent robot had a more toned-down arrogance than usual. Sometimes episodes centered on Bender lay on the Bender-is-great comedy too thick. And sometimes that Bender-is-great comedy is not actually comedy, but redundancy and obnoxiousness. Here, the writers gratefully find a balance.
And through it all, you note hints of philosophical issues in today’s world. Robot animals are manufactured to lay eggs, made for sport, others raised for slaughter. So are ours. In a sense, we engineer our animals, pumping them full of hormones and doing other stuff I don’t understand to make them tastier or larger. It’s that cleverness to use sci-fi for a bit of commentary that's really a fine attribute to the show. Indeed, like with all good Futurama episodes, the writers are telling us we suck. Just with robots.
Things I failed to weave into the review:
- There’s nothing wrong with these uniforms that a few denim patches won’t fix!
- What’s that weird cat?
- Are you ready to call it a day? Or do you have one more score to settle?
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10