The Wednesday of September 4th, 2013 ended up being a touching night on Comedy Central with the proclaimed ‘series finale’ to the revived but once again deceased Futurama. In the episode entitled “Meanwhile”, Pressor Farnsworth builds an invention that alters the fabric of time while Fry attempts to ask Leela to marry him. What is their fate? Will they face their destiny together or apart? And who is a sap that loses ten bucks?
Thankfully, all of these questions are met with bravado of laughs, joy, and yes, tears. I mean, this is the end of Futurama, right? Of course it is.
First, for those who weren’t aware of the series, it is about Phillip J. Fry, frozen on December 31st 1999 and wakes up in the year 3000. There he meets his great-far-distant nephew Professor Farnsworth and his best friend Bender, Dr. Zoidberg, Amy Wong, Hermes Conrad and Turange Leela, a one-eyed alien* who is the subject of Fry’s fancy.
(*) – Spoiler for those who haven’t seen it; For those who have seen it, yes, I know Leela is actually a mutant.
Through the 13 years, Fry has finally wooed Leela and it begs the question of will she finally marry him? But like any guy, the proposal has to be super special. In an opening that is a loving nod to the first few episodes of Futurama by showcasing Luna Park & The Robot Arms Apartments(from episode two “The Series Has Landed” and episode three “I, Roomate”), and when Fry tells Bender he is going to do something amazing for Leela, little does anyone know how it would involve Farnsworth’s new invention that can go backwards in time for 10 seconds. The catch is that you can’t press it again for 10 more seconds.
Naturally, Fry does something stupid and is caught in an infinite death loop, which was one of the episodes biggest chuckles besides Farnsworth using the “time-space continuum” device to steal 10 bucks from Dr. Zoidberg. The infinite death loop that I mentioned that Fry becomes stuck in, resolves itself but with a devastating consequence: while Leela has his answer on marriage (Yes), the device is broken beyond repair. (We later learn Fry gets so frustrated, he hits it a few more times to assure it is broken even more. Insert ‘lolz’ here…)
So now with the device broken, everyone is frozen. No one can move. So what now? Do they stay together? Do they travel the world and celebrate one of the longest honeymoons ever achieved by someone who isn’t filthy stinking rich? And of course the answer is yes. Though, as they travel the world, a weird beam of glowy light passes them by. But the rest of the world, literally is standing still.
In one of the more beautifully touching moments of the series, Fry and Leela grow old together, and this long-time fan, nay, the romantic in me, did tear up a bit. It really nails it home that perhaps, despite it’s use of time travel, life is best spent with the person you love. And if you can do it again, no only with the person you love, but your family on top of that, whether it be by blood or work or friends, well then by god, it is worth it. To give a nod to Lost, but it’s the whole “Live Together, Die Alone” thing, and for Fry, who only wanted Leela, and Leela, to only really wanted to be loved by someone (who ended up being Fry), til their elder years, only to get a chance to do it again albeit with a few small differences? It also posed a great philosophical question as well of “Wouldn’t you?”
The Professor’s appearance/reveal at the end of “Meanwhile” I took it clearly as that they would restart their lives, thus, in case the show ever finds life again, back at the moment Fry broke the button. But upon further insight from the Futurama LIVE! Segment hosted by Chris Hardwick online, both co-creator David X. Cohen and Patric Verrone discussed the ending as being ambiguous but hopefully not as ambiguous as one would seem. Verrone then mentioned how Cohen advised him not to include in the script the line about how pressing the button would reset Fry to December 31st, 1999, something that if you pay attention to, Comedy Central did start to air “Space Pilot 3000” immediately after. Cooler heads seemed to prevailed and Cohen’s suggestion of re-working the line does seem more concrete into advising they’d go back to the beginning of the episode.
But what if it did specify perhaps, going beyond that, like to December 31st, 1999 or perhaps, they’d remain old but it would take them to the beginning of the episode? Interesting thoughts and concepts to be sure, and the Professor isn’t clear that it will 100% work, though it seems pretty evident it would.
Grant me the license to look further into the episode “Meanwhile” than the creators and writers intended but really, Futurama’s series finale not only was a fitting love note to Fry and Leela, but from Futurama to it’s fans. The series, if it doesn’t survive this second or third (or fourth depending on how you look-it) last hurrah, will, like the universe in “Meanwhile” will be frozen in time. We can view it/watch it as much as we want, and like Fry and Leela, age and grow old, but enjoy the world around us.
In today’s society where viewing a tv show can mostly be a solitary construct (in most cases), and a part of me feels like this episode, almost un-sure of the legacy it left, nay, leaves behind, asked if perhaps watching the show all these years was someone lonely for us.
Well, how can you answer that?
“No, Futurama.” I said, as glance over at my DVDs, “I was never lonely. Not even for a minute.”
Now if you excuse me, I need to go fold some laundry. Maybe go back and re-vist some of my friends on a re-run via Comedy Central, or maybe watch some classic episodes on Netflix streaming.
PS: AVENGE US!
FUTURAMA airs on Comedy Central on your local Columbus cable affiliate.
But what do YOU think?
You can read Nick’s additional reviews on The TV King.