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”SPOILER ALERT: ROBOTS AND WHATNOT”
It’s probably prudent to immediately address the falsity floating around the internet about last night’s Futurama being a crossover episode with Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time. It’s not. Sorry. I mean, if you watched, you know but maybe you wanted to check first. An image from ”Leela and the Genestalk” surfaced showing Bender stumble across Jake the Dog and Finn the Human and it made everyone jump to the conclusion that the two Emmy award winning animated series were coming together when it was really nothing more than a glorified cartoon cameo. If Futurama and Adventure Time were really sharing the small screen for an entire storyline I would be racked with excited anticipation but my expectations for this one (thankfully) remained unchanged because I heard Ward shoot down all crossover rumors during his show’s panel at Comic-Con. Not going to happen. Not complaining, just clarifying. It was pretty cool to have John DiMaggio’s two biggest characters interact with each other on-screen though even if only for a few seconds.
”Relax. Let maybe a doctor take a look. Ah, just as I had no idea, you're breaking out in suction cups.”
Unfortunately, that pop culture moment (literally a moment) was still probably the highlight of ”Leela and the Genestalk.” I've been pretty down on Futurama this half of the season with the animated comedy not being up to snuff since its return for the final stretch. The slide is extra disappointing because I felt that the first half of Season 7 was actually quite strong and did deliver a couple episodes that could go toe-to-toe with the classics. The two-part premiere comes to mind. The last two weeks (”Calculon 2.0” and ”Assie Come Home”) were an improvement on the few forgettable ones that came before them but neither comes close to touching the quality of the Emmy winning series at its best. And last night's "Leela and the Genestalk” was just more of the same. Futurama seems to be currently lacking the structural and storytelling brilliance that used to tie each installment together with new episodes spiralling towards an ending instead of wrapping themselves up neatly. Not only neatly, like a great joke from a professional comedian. "Leela and the Genestalk” was like an amusing story about people you know and love from a funny friend.
”I keep telling you, we didn't grow up together.”
This particular story is about a mutant named Leela whose time blending in with humanity (as a normal-ish looking alien) is about to come to an end thanks to some late onset squidification. The episode opens with some weird gag about Bender stealing their neighbor Carlos' ten gallon hat which leads the gang to the local cowboy bar called TEX 1138's. They could have just gone to the bar. While there they engage in a little line dancing which is totally square before they all try their hand at riding the mechanical buggalo. None of the sight-gags are all that inspiring either but they do lead to Leela's turn on the Martian bull and the reveal that she can't let go because she's suddenly grown suction cups all over her hands. I did laugh quite loudly when the guy running the bar game took down the robotic animal with a shot to the head. It was just the right level of absurd. Zoidberg's diagnosis is for Leela to see another Doctor and he turns out to be a little melodramatic. He does inform us that there's no cure for the mutation and the despair sends our heroine underground to visit her mutant parents.
”Holy Rapunzel, Man-Bat. There's a duo here to rescue us.”
Of course, they don't see much of a problem since her mom sports tentacles for arms and even have a guy in mind for her if Leela were to move to the sewer. The Planet Express crew are more supportive of her desire to remain tentacle-less (too supportive for this group of miscreants) and even willing to sell Bessie (THE SHIP) to delay her transformation by months. None of this worked for me, especially Fry's visit to Parts 'N' Crafts where the spoof of Jack and the Beanstalk suddenly starts. Fry's talked into trading the ship for some magic beans even though this is one of those problems without a magic solution. That turns out not to be true with the writer's pulling the ending out of a hat. But first, Leela gets so depressed by the recent change that she runs away from the Planet Express building (office supplies in hand... tentacle), originally heading for the sewer before taking the beanstalk less traveled. Does she encounter a giant? Well, yes but not for a little while. And Stan seems also seems forced into the story. Anyway, Leela finds Momsanto and learns about Mom's plans to use the deluxe apartment in the sky's lax laws on genetic engineering to her advantage. Would you care for a porkupig?
”What time is it?”
Meanwhile, with Leela lost in the clouds, Fry starts to get worried and eats a bunch of taco shells in the bathtub in front of Bender. When Leela's mom calls to check in on her daughter, Fry;s done waiting around for her to come home and sets out with Bender in tow to find his mutating love. Fortunately for the duo, two clues, in the form of the lost girl's boots, literally fall from the sky and then the Jack and the Beanstalk spoof turns into a take on Rapunzel. I did like the Batman reference though, both the visual of Fry and Bender climbing the tower sideways as well as the actual appearance of the crime fighter and his sidekick. Speaking of references and duos, right after Leela shows her new squid-ish self and they break her out of Mom's tower, Bender comes across Jake and Finn. And then they meet Stan the Giant, we're back to the beanstalk. The animation was engaging at least, with the 'tiny' crew members running around the giant's room or Leela's tentacle insanity keeping me interested. Using said tentacles, Leela brings down Mom's sky-lab and right when you think she'll be stuck like that forever (no one did), the tycoon returns with that aforementioned magical solution. Oh, and playing God is wrong. Sometimes.
Futurama returns with Episode 23, “Game of Tones,” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.