Futurama: “Viva Mars Vegas”
What happens in this episode hopefully stays in this episode.
August 26, 2012 11:54 amR. Wesley Matheson
Very rarely in Futurama’s history have the robot mafia disappointed. The three mechanic mobsters (Donbot, Joey Mousepad and Clamps) have a consistent comedic style, and the writers use them sparingly enough that they never overstay their welcome. Those are qualities rarely afforded to comedy characters in any series, let alone an animated comedy.
On the other hand, the Wongs - who writers also thankfully use sparingly - are not as funny, and sometimes just outright unfunny. Amy and parents Leo and Inez Wong are vehicles used cleverly to poke fun at class divisions, spoiled heirs, liberal education, Asian people (maybe?), the super wealthy, etc. It’s nothing novel. Many characters function the same way, just in Futurama alone. But sometimes that concept comes off too overt to be witty or fresh (which are two qualities what Futurama really strives for.)
The dichotomy between reliable robot mafia and wavering Wongs pretty much sums up “Viva Mars Vegas,” an inconsistent episode with some lackluster and excessively obvious bits. Despite the promising beginning, the episode seemed to stumble a bit mid-run and fizzle out nearly completely in its finale.
The robot mafia confronts Zoidberg in his dumpster home.
The rambling plot involves Planet Express hitting up the Wong family casino on Mars, employed by native Martians. The Martians, of course, are a nod to our own Native Americans, who own gambling operations across the country. Eventually, they will be given their casino back by Amy. Her one good deed.
Zoidberg gambles with money he recently acquired from the robot mafia, who, in a hilarious beginning sequence -- a space chase involving the mafia and Jar Jar Binks lookalikes -- dropped the stolen cash into Zoidberg’s dumpster, which is his home. This intro was a real treat, and just goes to show that when our loveable mob clan are on screen, the episode is all the more enjoyable. In fact, most of the scenes in the casino sans mafia lacked any wit. Writers seem to give the mafia the best content this episode, while giving others scraps to push the plot along. Or maybe they’re just easier to write.
Eventually, Zoidberg loses the cash to an overlong roulette sequence, which causes the mafia to buy out the casino and the Wong mansion for some reason, which leave the Wongs homeless. In order to get the money back, the characters execute an Ocean’s Eleven-style robbery with a now-invisible Zoidberg. That heist concept plays out cleverly, but is not wholly original. Again, along with having the Martians represent the stereotypically distraught Native Americans, who rightfully own the casino, the heist is too obvious and overdone. It doesn’t exactly reach Futurama standards of originality. It was amusing, but not funny (I honestly don't know if an Ocean's Eleven parody ever will be funny).
Amy leads a hilariously absurd discussion in the undiscovered chart room.
However, the episode was not all missteps and broad attempts at humor. There were some hints of Futurama greatness, especially in a scene that took place in the hitherto undiscovered chart room. That and the episode’s introduction, among a few other bits scattered here and there involving the mafia and perhaps Zoidberg, were delightful examples of escalating absurdity that Futurama can really do well. The rest of the episode was give or take.
It’s not proper to judge Futurama based solely on its uproarious moments, or even solely on its humor, as the show is so much more than that. It can have smart plotting, sharp social commentary, legit science and math I don’t understand, emotional payoffs, and even character development that all add to the experience. Unfortunately, this episode seem to miss on these notes as well. But, as long as the writers know to at least include consistent characters like robot mafia, the show will often hit at least a mid-point and rarely dip below that. It’s more than I can say for most series. It seems now to be just a matter of whether or not the show can progress beyond its plateau.
Things I failed to weave into the review:
- "Vegas if full of fat guys in sandals"
- “Now that’s the God I know” and “God didn’t become God by giving away money”
- “News you can fear” – as seen on a billboard of a local news show
- Anyone else find the few pop culture references (one of which alludes to The Hangover) very grating?
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10