Today's Episode Brought To You By The Letter O
Yeah, I translated the letter from the alien language alphabet into its English equivalent, you find a way to type it out! Or even copy and paste it! Anyway, Season 7A of Futurama ended just as it began, with back to back episodes and now the Comedy Central animated series won't return for, well, at least a few months. Bad news everybody! Okay, now back to the good news, those aforementioned two installments of the animated comedy that aired as part of the midseason finale last night and first up was Episode 12, "31st Century Fox." Hm. The name sounds awfully similar to Futurama's former home, perhaps a certain network is the target of a few jabs? Not by the sounds of the synopsis which has Bender fighting for robot fox rights against the one and only Sir Patrick Stewart. No pressure, it's only the first part of the two episode midseason finale! Actually, that does sound unimportant. To the hunt!
"Hey, what's Bender wearing instead of that crap?"
"31st Century Fox" opens with the Planet Express ship making a seemingly triumphant return but the perfectly attired Professor Farnsworth and Hermes aren't yet aware of the horrors that befell the crew's uniforms. That's what a happens when you battle with ... but since the reckless Professor of one year ago agreed to new uniforms, not to mention his just got destroyed by the alien beast, it's time to go to the Garment District in search of new duds. The shop, 'nvasions 'N Such Space Uniforms, is run by a fellow alien from the planet Decapod 10 but his offering of a macaroon split 7 ways is too stereotypical even for Zoidberg. After trying on several iconic uniforms from Star War, Blade Runner and, regrettably, Zardoz, they settle on tomorrow's clothes for yesterday's prices. Actually, it's the order that rash one year ago Professor made and the uni's look so good, Amy would be happy to be caught dead in them. Leela loves the permanent hero's pose while Fry would be satisfied if his fists weren't stuck to his shirt.
"Ah yes, fox hunting. If there's one thing I know, it' everything about it... what's that weird cat?"
Oh, back at the garment shop, a certain look caught Bender's eye and instead of rocking the new uniforms like the rest of the crew, he strolls into the office wearing completely different threads. Fox hunting threads for a cultured fox hunting robot. And before Leela can mount her high horse, a horse that will probably be used for some pleasant jaunting - otherwise known as watching canines rip foxes to shreds - Bender tells her to take a look at her Zebra print ship cover instead of passing judgement and join him. He said join him! The episode uses a nice Bender versus Leela structure to begin with before a clever twist will soon set them on the same side (only to change again) and put the robot front and center. When they arrive at their first hunt, Bender readies his freshly stolen NNYPD mount while Leela readies her sign, tweaked from her recent, and conveniently close, Ox protest. Enter the Dork Master of the Hunt, Sir Patrick Stewart.
"You humans always say you don't want to see violence but you know you do. I defy you not to watch!"
Bender's ready to get things going, whipping out his hammer a little prematurely, but the thrill is in the chase which is why the animal gets a 30 minute head start. Yes, it would be easier in the cage. The bugle sounds, the steeds ready, the dogs barrel and then Leela, with her goddamn sign, pops up out of nowhere and halts the hunt. For, like a second, before the Hunt Master kicks her to the curb. Sorry, the ditch. This is about the same time Fry finally catches the fever, realizing that they do nothing but leisurely ride while the dogs do all the tracking and killing for their amusement. Fry's along for the ride on this one, partaking in the hunting and then opposing it, just a man blown' in the wind and watching the two most important people in his life come into direct confrontation. If either of their piss poor attempts at hunting or protesting weren't just a series of pitfalls and traps, he might be more invested in one side or the other. I must say though, for a minute, when the dogs had the fox trapped, it was pretty intense and grim.
"Fox news everybody!
And, as always, Futurama managed to push the boundary and then finesse their way out of it by having the fox be a robot. This also allows the narrative to twist with Leela literally passing the protest (sign) on to Bender, a pretty trusting move once we learn just how much that sign means to her... like, way too much. The bending unit wants to kill al humans, and doesn't mind killing at least some animals but robot animals? That's too far! And when will the bot on bot violence? Hunt Master Stewart assures him it won't be with the dogs and then, in a bizarre but amazing gag, transforms his horse into a helicopter only to send it crashing into a nearby tree. Will he rue this day? He'll validate parking, that's certain (another great sight gag). Back at home base, Bender has assembled everyone for the first every meeting of B.A.R.F. in order to find some injustices that actually do exist and then Benderize them. The real problems aren't that convincing either, since the robot chickens were made for their cubicle, egg factory lives and setting the shooting gallery ducks free doesn't exactly work wonders.
"You sir, have been outfoxed... I spent all night on that."
That doesn't stop the 'Mission Accomplished' banner from going up (the gag is getting a lot of mileage, might be time to retire that gem) even thought there is one more score to settle. Bender arrives just in time to take the bugle from snooty and start his campaign to liberate the robot fox, with Leela backing him up with an injunction that at least allows them a day in court. The next match cut is brilliant but still bested by the Judge removing his robe and running out from the bench astride his horse after the motion is destroyed. Bender's not giving up, and after a couple of ice cream promises (way there and way back visits) he recruits Leela and Fry to help steal the fox as well as plant him in its place. Gasp! Yes, the weekly hunt will have to be cancelled because without a fox there is no prey... right? The clever muttonchump has other plans and Bender is soon caught in the middle of the most dangerous game. Now, should he take the dark forrest or the fair meadow. Because of the bot's incompetence, not to mention the Hunt Master's sportsmanship, he's given an additional 30 minutes to run. Any parting words?
"I can't watch... enough."
While Bender's stuck being hunted by the pretentious brigade, the fox was anointed mascot of the Planet Express team until they stumble across his messing with all their stuff. Like ripping up their brand new uniforms, pissing in Fry's territory and, oh god, chewing on Leela's sign. Before the Professor can take him out with a Get Smart reference, the fox escapes and winds up on his way back to New Jersey being following at shot at a la The Thing. Meanwhile, Bender isn't faring so well as the hunted, rubbing his scent off with a porcupine, getting mauled by cats, slicing off his own finger and eventually getting snagged by a trap. The fox arrives just in time to confuse Bender (two caterpillars having making love?) and keep him company while he awaits his doom. And hopefully the fox dies first. Instead he chews the robot free his heel behind for the Hunt Master to be right on, not to mention his recognizable middle finger. Springing a trap on the Hunt Master, Bender turns the tides and can't stop watching the fox maul his attacker to death. Or at least to the reveal that he was in fact a robot all along! That's okay to kill right?
"No. Killing of any kind is, I don't know, well, let me think about this... I guess it's okay."
Not the finest example of Futurama, but "31st Century Fox" was a pretty fun and smart episode that put Bender in the spotlight while still making time for a cleverly complementary subplot for Leela. Unlike the Bender centric installment from the seventh season premiere ("The Bots and the Bees") which leaned toward sweet side of the series, "Fox" was the robot at his more insensitive and crusading side. The one that joins an exclusive club then tells them all to bite his shiny metal ass (or whatever his ass happens to be made of in a given episode, more on that to come) only to find it on the line. untimately altering his perspective. It was strong storytelling starting with Bender against Leela before they both lose their way leaving the the issue completely muddled in the end. I guess Futurama's stance on killing - humans, animals, robots, robot animals, robot humans - is that there is, like most things in life (and death) no clear cut answer. The Hunt Master's head sure looks nice hanging on the wall though.
Futurama returns with Season 7B sometime in 2013, presumably on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. The recap for "Naturama" (Season 7, Episode 13 and the second back in the back to back finale) will be up this afternoon.