Three heartfelt love stories where everyone dies as nature intended.
September 4, 2012 11:03 pmR. Wesley Matheson
I already included an introduction in my last post for this episode and the previous one, so I’ll jump right into this.
“Naturama” was reminiscent of last season’s finale, “Reincarnation,” comprised of three stories told through different animation styles, including that of Walter Lantz’s black-and-white cartoons, low-resolution video games, and anime.
While that finale celebrated the actual medium of animation, and for that reason seemed more poignant, this one -- a three-part nature documentary that casts the crew as different animals - trumpeted the raw power of nature, bleak and beautiful. Both the finales share a similar format (maybe this is a thing now?), but that’s not all they share. One major theme running through both is a theme to which Futurama always seems to revert: the concept of love. Not traditional human love this time, but hardass nature love.
The first segment plays out almost like an educational video for grade school children (I guess all the segments do to an extent), tracing the lifespan of salmon, primarily Fry and Leela, as they grow, reproduce and ultimately die. Its clever premise emphasizes Fry’s undying love for Leela, which is something I miss so dearly these days.
The next bit casts the Professor as an old, lonely tortoise, seemingly never able to find his mate. The rest of the crew are little birds, following the poor, ancient reptile. Eventually, the professor finds his long lost love (Mom playing an old tortoise) and the mating is complete (Bender’s face as an Iguana, as the professor and Mom begin having disgusting sex, is priceless).
In the final third, Bender is an alpha male elephant seal, or the beach master, with admiring female seals, including Leela and Amy. The emphasis here is on Kiff’s (another seal) and Amy’s relationship. Of all the segments, this may actually be the most well executed. It’s fresh, not as overdone as Fry/Leela, not as predictable, and is a nice reminder that those two, the alien and the socialite, were actually at one point in love.
Apart from displaying the intelligence that goes into writing Futurama, the episode offers a surprising glimpse at the beating heart that used to set the series apart from its animation brethren. Heart is not present in massive quantities these days - not as much as in earlier episodes - but it’s there still. Before Fry and Leela began seeing one another, on and off, that love was always unrequited, a bittersweet feeling viewers knew to expect. Now, it’s grown and devolved all at the same time, which fit so well in this finale - an episode that showed how love is at times mere necessary, a product of our surroundings, but at the same time powerful and selective.
However, before I write more sentences that ostensibly mean something profound about love and cartoons, but in actuality are just empty, florid prose emanating a sense of poignancy while confounding reason in a ploy to avoid criticism, I have to reiterate that Futurama is, first and foremost, a comedy. And while the heart and aptitude was there, the comedy lacked a bit. It’s another case of the premise being a bit cleverer than the content. The jokes were redundant at best and mostly fell flat.
But, hey, Futurama still has heart and this episode let you know that. It still has characters you care about and enjoy, even if they are cast as different animals, from salmon to birds to seals. It’s also is damn unique and willing to branch off every once in a while to do something fun and different. And that’s how shows evolve, like animals -- by branching off, discovering what works, and reproducing that quality. I think.
Things I failed to weave into the review:
- Life is grim and meaningless.
- Scruffy as the walrus was a great little addition.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10